The first thing you might think of doing in Switzerland is skiing, but a summer holiday there can be just as much fun – that's why we picked the country as one of our top places to visit in 2019. Here are ten things to do in Switzerland during the summer months in the land of peaks, lakes and chocolate.
1. Explore the Aletsch Glacier
At 23km, the longest glacier in the Alps is an amazing sight, estimated to hold enough water to give everyone on earth a litre a day for more than four years. Discover the area for yourself on one of the many walks on offer in the region, lasting from a few hours to a few days. Alternatively, take the easy option and hop on a cable car ride up to the Aletsch Arena, a vast mountain bowl at around 2,000 metres where the three car-free resorts of Riederalp, Bettmeralp and Fiesch-Eggishorn are located – all great bases for hiking, biking and climbing.
Aletsch Gletscher is the longest glacier of the Swiss Alps © ExpediTom/Shutterstock
2. Hike the Eiger Trail
Starting from Eigergletscher railway station, this hiking trail leads you past views of the 2,472m-high Lauberhorn and the Kleine Scheidegg pass connecting it to the 3,967m-high Eiger mountain. You can also see the beautiful Grindelwald valley before hiking below the Eiger’s north face to the end point at Alpiglen station. Open from late June to October, the Eiger Trail is 6km long, although there's also a shorter 2.5km Eiger Walk.
Hikers on the The Eiger trail © Bob Pool/Shutterstock
3. Join the Fête de la Musique, Geneva
This annual three-day festival fills the streets of Geneva with some 50 stages over the summer solstice. From pop and opera to techno and jazz, most musical genres are covered, along with dance performances and other arts events. All events are free and festival goers take over the lakeside and parks as well as the city centre, making this one of the most inclusive things to do in Switzerland this summer.
When? The 2019 Fête de la Musique runs from 21st-23rd June.
4. Get a taste of the Vevey Wine Festival, Vevey
If you haven’t heard of Swiss wine, maybe it’s because they keep most of it for themselves – which might tell you something. Drive past the lovely Lavaux vineyards overlooking Lake Geneva, and you’ll see how big the local industry is. Every 20 years (you read that right), the Fête des Vignerons in Vevey celebrates winemaking traditions dating to the 18th century that have been recognised by Unesco for their importance to cultural heritage. This is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Switzerland this summer.
When? The 2019 festival is from 18th July to 11th August. If you're missing out this time, make sure to mark your calendar for the next edition in 2039...
Vineyards in Lavaux against Geneva lake, Switzerland © PixHound/Shutterstock
5. Rock out at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Montreux
Every year Lake Geneva echoes to the sound of music with the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival, now in its 53rd year. As well as jazz, expect to hear blues, rock and pop. Past headliners have included Nina Simone and Charlie Mingus and this year sees Elton John, ZZ Top, Joan Baez, Janet Jackson, Chick Corea and Thom Yorke among the many other stars on stage.
When? The 2019 festival runs from 28th June-13th July
Chillon Castle near Montreux, made famous in Lord Byron's poem The Prisoner of Chillon © cge2010/Shutterstock
6. Plug into the Gurten Music Festival, Bern
This four-day event sees some 60 live acts and 60 DJ's playing everything from electro and punk to hip-hop and rock. As well as top international acts, the festival showcases the very best in Swiss talent. Cashless, green and boasting great views from its mountain setting, no wonder it’s now one of Switzerland’s biggest music events. The 2019 Gurten Music Festival line-up includes Lauryn Hill, Twenty One Pilots, Rudimental, Editors and Tash Sultana.
When? 17th-20th July
7. Go traditional at the International Alphorn Festival, Nendaz
If you want a complete immersion in Swiss traditional culture, from yodellers and whipcrackers to folk-dancers and Swiss wrestling, this is the event for you. Of course, the highlight is the Alphorn competition (a several-metre long horn traditionally used in the mountains), where the best players come to compete. Once used to herd livestock, these ancient horns can be heard over a distance of up to 10km.
When? 26th-28th July
Alphorns were originally used to herd livestock © Olga Niekrasova/Shutterstock
8. Get happy at the Interlaken International Street Artists Festival
Gauklerfest (“Jugglerfest”) Interlaken brings comedians and clowns, acrobats and jugglers, magicians and musicians from all over the world to show off their talents in the streets. Entrance is free at the three-day event, with many family-friendly activities on offer and plenty of food while you enjoy all the performances.
When? 26th-28th July
9. Ride the Glacier Express
Despite its name, this scenic railway has a leisurely pace at odds with the name; it’s often called “the slowest express train in the world”. Running between Zermatt and St. Moritz through the heart of the Swiss Alps, past villages, waterfalls, peaks and dramatic valleys, the Glacier Express – complete with panoramic windows – is one of the world’s great train journeys.
When? All year round
First Cliff walk, Switzerland © thenoseynomad/Shutterstock
10. Test your nerve on the First Cliff Walk
This 400-metre-long footbridge clings to a rock face on 2,166m-high Mount First, before twisting out 45 metres over the scenic valley below. It’s a thrilling panorama for anyone who can control their vertigo. Reached by a 25-minute cable-car ride from the resort of Grindelwald in the Jungfrau Region, you can also try some ziplines here or hike around Lake Bachalp.
When? December - October
Top image: The famous Landwasser Viaduct in the Canton of Grisons, Switzerland © Peter Stein/Shutterstock