For the lovely alpine landscapes and picturesque villages with fairy tale charm, it’s hard to beat Switzerland. The emerald valleys, glaciers, snow-capped peaks of the Alps, sparkling blue lakes and picturesque lakeside hamlets imbue this landlocked nation with fairytale beauty. Snuggled up amid mountain valleys and lakes are world-class international resorts and a long list of things to do, including hiking, biking, rock climbing, paragliding, skiing and sledding.
Travelers come here for the breathtaking scenery, but are charmed by the many cultural attractions. Steeped in history, cities like Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich offer excellent galleries and museums, historic buildings and renowned music festivals. Bern is the capital with a stunning medieval old town hugging the hollow of a river. Germany, Italy, Austria and France border Switzerland, and their languages and customs imbue this country with multicultural sophistication.
From the Italian architecture of Ticino dotted with palm trees to the dialects of Swiss German and Romansh derived from Latin, Switzerland can sometimes feel like several countries in one, but for which it is famous is all with the elegant packaging and punctuality.
Plan your trip and explore the best sites with our list of Switzerland’s top tourist attractions.
1. The Matterhorn
Switzerland’s iconic pointed peak, the Matterhorn, is one of the Alps highest mountains. On the border with Italy, this legendary summit rises to 4,478 meters, and its four steep faces are located in the direction of the cardinal points. The first summit of 1865 ended tragically when four climbers died during the descent. Today, every summer thousands of experienced climbers come here.
The charming village of Zermatt lies at the foot of this mighty peak, a leading international resort with horse-drawn carriage rides, quaint chalets and world-class restaurants and hotels. To preserve the quality of the air and the peaceful atmosphere, motorized vehicles are prohibited in the village.
In winter, skiers can descend more than 300 kilometers of slopes. In summer, swimming and tennis are popular activities as well as biking, climbing and hiking in the surrounding mountains. Summer glacier skiing is also available.
2. Jungfraujoch: the summit of Europe
One of the most popular things to do in the beautiful Bernese Oberland is the train trip to the Jungfraujoch, the ‘summit of Europe’, with an observation deck and science observatory perched at 3,454 meters. The longest glacier in Europe, the Grand Aletsch Glacier begins at Jungfraujoch and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The famous Eiger Trail from the Eiger Glacier Station to Alpiglen clings to the rocks at the north face foot.
Other popular walks include Öpfelchüechliwäg, the high altitude trail from Holenstein to Brandegg through alpine pastures, flower fields and forests, Panorama Way to the first sunny slope, facing south and the Gletscherschlucht (glacier gorge). Those less active can take gondolas and cable cars to panoramic viewpoints over the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Picturesque Grindelwald is a glacial village in the Jungfrau region, which makes an ideal base for adventures in the surrounding mountains. It is nestled at the foot of snow covered mountains and is one of the oldest and most popular resorts in Switzerland. High above this alpine valley sits the diadem-shaped Wetterhorn and the steep north face of the Eiger, one of the most spectacular and difficult climbs on the planet. Between the mountains lie the two sparkling glaciers of Grindelwald. For the best views, Faulhorn, at 2,681 meters above sea level, offers breathtaking panoramas of giant peaks.
Nestled between Lake Thun in the west and Lake Brienz in the east, Interlaken is one of most popular summer holiday resorts in Switzerland. In the center of town, Höhematte is an urban marvel with 35 acres of open space. Cafes, flower gardens and hotels surround the Höheweg, the main boulevard across here with breathtaking mountain views. The mighty peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau above the city provide excellent opportunities for alpine adventures. Hiking, rock climbing, rappelling and kayaking are top notch activities.
More than 45 mountain railways, cable cars, chair lifts and ski lifts transport visitors to the surrounding countryside and provide ample opportunities for sightseeing from above. In winter, skiers and snowboarders can take their pick from the surrounding resorts and cross-country ski along the extensive trail network. In summer, the paragliders depart from Beatenberg-Niederhorn.