Switzerland is a country for everyone. From exciting ski trips down the Alps to relaxing dips in a Badi, there are tons of options whether you are a local or a first-timer. Here are some of the best things to do in Switzerland!
Switzerland is probably one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world. Long known for near-perfect scenery and surrounded by the majestic Alps, this small European country is on every world traveler’s bucket list. Despite its size, however, there are endless adventures to be had in Switzerland. It’s also home to some of the world’s best everything – hotels, spas, chocolates, museums, shopping, transportation.
It’s not just travelers who enjoy the wonders of Switzerland, as the locals are also well satisfied. The country is consistently ranked in the top 10 countries with the best quality of life. Unfortunately, most good things don’t come cheap: Switzerland is also one of the most expensive countries in the world.
Thankfully, there are many things to do in Switzerland as a traveler, even for those that are on a tight budget!
Everyone who has ever visited Switzerland will have their own favorite experiences. But, if you’re a first-timer to this Alpine country, here are 15 things you absolutely must do:
- 1. Take To The Slopes In Zermatt
- 2. Stand At The Top Of Europe
- 3. Paraglide In Interlaken
- 4. Hike With The Family To Bachalpsee In Grindelwald
- 5. Bungee Jumping, James Bond Style
- 6. Get The Ultimate Pampering Experience At La Réserve, Geneva
- 7. Explore The Waters Of Lake Geneva On A Historic Steamboat
- 8. Take A Dip In A Badi
- 9. Enjoy The View On The Glacier Express
- 10. Learn About The History Of Switzerland
- 11. Retail Therapy At Bahnhofstrasse
- 12. Go Wild At The Swiss National Park
- 13. Wine-tasting In The Vaud Region
- 14. Cheese-tasting In Gruyeres
- 15. Take A Chocolate Tour Maison Cailler
- Other Tips & Advice
1. Take To The Slopes In Zermatt
What’s a trip to Switzerland without hitting the slopes? Snowsports in Switzerland is one of the best things to do even if you’ve never even held skis in your life. With over 230 kilometers of slopes all over the country, skiers and snowboarders of all levels are welcome. There are many amazing places to go skiing in Switzerland, but the most iconic place is resort town Zermatt.
Nestled at the foot of the famous Matterhorn, this carless town is a great base for many kinds of Swiss experiences. It obviously has a great vantage point of the Matterhorn’s iconic peak, which can be seen when you go skiing, hiking, or even just enjoying a drink at the cable car station of Sunnega. There are also tons of ski schools in Zermatt for beginners and the Apres Ski scene is something to look forward to.
You may even get to enjoy the sport during the summer, as Zermatt has a few runs open all year round!
2. Stand At The Top Of Europe
Maybe not literally, but as the highest station in the whole continent, Jungfraujoch is the highest point most people can go to. At an altitude of 3,454 meters, the journey to the station is an experience in itself. The cog railway from Kleine Scheidegg is steep but the views of the Jungfrau region are breathtaking. It’s one of the most popular trips visitors take in the Bernese Oberland for ice exhibits and panoramic Alpine views. There are viewing platforms for panoramic sceneries with the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Monch peaks in a clear view. There are museums and exhibits, restaurants and shops, and hiking opportunities for just about anyone who visits.
3. Paraglide In Interlaken
Interlaken is called the adventure capital of Switzerland, and that’s for a reason! With two breathtaking lakes on both sides and the Alps just a stone’s throw away, practically every outdoor activity in Switzerland can be done from Interlaken. One of the best things to do in Switzerland and a particularly popular adventure sport is paragliding. Flyers are paired up with professionals and jump off a local hill to get a bird’s eye view of the amazing Alpine scenery. Paragliding in Interlaken is available almost all year and at different times of the day, each one offering unique perspectives of the Alpine town below and 4000m peaks all around.
4. Hike With The Family To Bachalpsee In Grindelwald
Hiking through the Alps can last anywhere between one hour to 15 days. Many mountaineers scale rocky and challenging Alpine mountains and take expeditions around glaciers. There are also many hiking trails in Switzerland that goes through forests and meadows with mountain huts in between to rest in. It’s one of the best ways to experience the country’s great outdoors up close and personal, even with kids in tow. Several hiking trails around Switzerland are great for the whole family. One of the most beautiful and accessible hikes is right above Grindelwald, at the summit of the First Cable car.
The Bachalpsee hike takes less than an hour to complete. It offers fantastic views of the Jungfrau region and ends at the lake. The shores of the lake are the perfect place for a picnic. The bright blue water, together with the mountains reflected in it, will be truly unforgettable.
5. Bungee Jumping, James Bond Style
Another adrenaline-pumping activity popular among thrill seekers in Switzerland is bungee jumping. Of course, you could do just any kind of bungee, but why not take it to the next level – literally. The Goldeneye Bungee, also known as the 007 Bungee, is nicknamed after its appearance in the opening scene of “Goldeneye”, where James Bond performed the same jump.
It takes place at the top of the Contra Dam in the Verzasca Valley. At 200 meters high, this is also the highest possible bungee jumping spot in Europe. Try the jump at night for a more dramatic experience, as the surrounding mountains are illuminated by the lights from the dam.
6. Get The Ultimate Pampering Experience At La Réserve, Geneva
The ultimate in luxury travel, Switzerland’s wellness spas are unlike anywhere else. Sure, the views are unmatched, but the real allure behind the country’s swanky retreats are the innovative treatments that go hand-in-hand with the fountain of youth that everyone seeks.
When it comes to the ultimate in pampering, however, you can’t get any grander than at La Réserve in Geneva. Its five acres of property on Lake Geneva creates a unique sense of privacy and serenity. The spa offers a whole range of wellness activities and fitness amenities, but its wide range of anti-aging and beauty treatments are what keep its high-profile roster of clients coming back.
7. Explore The Waters Of Lake Geneva On A Historic Steamboat
Cruises are a popular way to explore some of Switzerland’s largest lakes. There are many trips you can make and at different times of the day, but a more iconic cruise must be done on 20th-century steamboats found on Lake Geneva. One of the biggest operators on Lake Geneva is CGN, and they have six Belle Epoque steamboats sailing on regular cruises during the summer.
If you opt to go for a cruise, head to the beautiful Chateau de Chillon, one of the only medieval castles in Europe that was never captured. Built on an island rock on Lake Geneva, it served as a summer home to royalty and also granted access to important trade routes. The castle is accessible on cruises from Geneva, Lausanne, or Montreux.
8. Take A Dip In A Badi
Ok, so a cruise might be too expensive for some, but Alpine lakes can be enjoyed completely free of charge. The waters are clean and clear and perfect for swimming in the summer. While you can simply walk into the water from the shore, why not do it in style in Zurich? The financial capital of Switzerland is usually associated with banks and huge institutions, but this city knows how to relax and have fun, too.
Badis are swimming areas set up on the edge of Lake Zurich and Limmat River. Some, like the Letten along the Limmat, is free to enter if you want to simply enjoy the water. There are also bars set up at the Badis, and some turn into full-blown outdoor clubs at sunset.
9. Enjoy The View On The Glacier Express
Switzerland may have the most efficient modes of transportation in the world, but it’s not the only reason train rides are fun. These journeys are another way to explore the country as it crosses different towns and cities, especially if you don’t have the time to make a stop on each one. Trains are usually fitted with panoramic windows for passengers to take in the full view of the beautiful Swiss landscape.
Among the different train journeys, the Glacier Express is the most popular. It travels between Zermatt and St. Moritz and is said to be the slowest express train in the world. The whole journey takes eight hours, but passengers don’t mind. As the Glacier Express carefully navigates narrow valleys, tight curves, 91 tunnels, and 291 bridges, amazing views of Alpine peaks, gorges, rivers, and meadows gently pass by for passengers to enjoy. The train ride is comfortable and there are a restaurant and bar on board.
10. Learn About The History Of Switzerland
Switzerland has over 900 museums covering any topic imaginable. From cultural history to unusual collections, there are many places to satisfy anyone’s curiosity and interest in the many aspects of human history. Despite the many options to visit, definitely make time for the country’s landmark, especially the museums.
There’s the Swiss National Museum made up of the National Museum Zurich, the Castle of Prangins, and the Forum of Swiss History. Here visitors can learn about cultural history and the evolution of Swiss life. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva documents the evolution of humanitarian effort all over the world, including the gruesome past that some communities had to live through. Some speciality museums focus on some of the more interesting origins of art and culture – the UN in Geneva, The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Bodmer Museum in Cologny, and CERN in Geneva.
11. Retail Therapy At Bahnhofstrasse
Shopping will always naturally be a part of any vacation or travel, and Switzerland offers different experiences for different shoppers. There are small boutiques usually found in the Old Town, weekend markets, flea markets, malls, and souvenir shops. However, no matter what kind you want and the budget you’re on, a stroll down Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich is a unique experience.
Deemed as the most expensive retail property in the world, Bahnhofstrasse is lined with exclusive luxury boutiques from both local and international designers. Needless to say, shopping here requires really deep pockets, but it’s a fancy street with delightful displays. It’s especially enchanting to walk through the street at Christmas where window displays are extra bright and cheery for the season.
12. Go Wild At The Swiss National Park
Covering 170 square kilometers of protected land in the Engadine valley, the Swiss National Park is a great education destination for children and families, and for anyone interested in nature preservation. It’s the oldest park in the Alps founded in 1914. Visitors are strictly required to keep to the hiking paths to avoid disturbing the land, flora, or fauna. However, with 80 kilometers of paths to explore, there are plenty of opportunities to encounter wild animals and a huge variety of Alpine plants and flowers. There are different excursions and guided tours on offer, as well as museums and information centers along the way.
13. Wine-tasting In The Vaud Region
Swiss wine is not globally popular, but it’s not because it’s not good. In fact, it’s so good that almost all of Switzerland’s wine is consumed in the country itself. The little that’s left for export is swiftly snatched up by Germany and neighboring countries. One of the best regions for wine is Vaud, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Lavaux Vineyard Terraces.
The vineyards wrap around the slopes facing the shores of Lake Geneva. The oldest vineyards were traced back more than 15,000 years ago. Today’s winemakers have preserved much of the traditions of Swiss wine productions. At certain times of the year, the region holds open cellar days for visitors to explore the beautiful vineyards and sample the best wine the country has to offer.
14. Cheese-tasting In Gruyeres
One of the most iconic Swiss products is cheese. And let me tell you as a local, the Swiss take their cheese very seriously. Every year, 180,000 tons of cheese are produced, most of which are made with raw Alpine milk. For a more immersive cheese experience, visit the town of Gruyeres where the specialty is, you guessed it, Gruyeres cheese. This hard yellow cheese is traditionally used in fondues.
La Maison du Gruyere is one of the top cheese producers in the region, and the dairy factory is open to visitors for both tours and samples of fine Swiss cheese. Visitors go through exhibits that talk about the history of the cheese and the process it goes through, including a look into the factory floor to see how the cheeses are made in real-time.
15. Take A Chocolate Tour Maison Cailler
We can’t have a “best of Switzerland” list without the mention of chocolate. There are master craftsmen of fine Swiss chocolate in many regions of the country. However, the most legendary is Cailler, Switzerland’s oldest chocolate brand. It produced its first chocolate in 1819 in the small town of Vevey by Lake Geneva.
Today it is located in Broc in a stunning building called Maison Cailler. Here, visitors can take a chocolate tour on the history of Cailler chocolates with many tasting opportunities. At the end of the tour, visitors are treated to a buffet of different Cailler chocolates with no limits – you can eat and taste as much as you want. This is probably the best way to end any kind of trip!
Other Tips & Advice
There are so many exciting things to do in Switzerland! Here are a few tips that might be helpfor for your trip.
Best Time to Vist Switzerland
If you are planning a trip to Switzerland there are a few things you need to keep in mind to make the most of your trip.
First, yes, summer has the best weather, but it is also the busiest time of the year – with schools being out most of July and August. So, if you want to save a little money and skip the crowds, I recommend fall as an awesome option.
September is great, but often rains a lot, however, October is another great month – although somewhat cooler. Especially higher up in the mountains!