Beautiful cities and lakes. Magnificent mountain resorts. Secluded Alpine getaways, and some of Europe’s most scenic train journeys. Given that it’s not possible to see everything Switzerland has to offer in one trip, the experts who brought you The Rough Guide to Switzerland have compiled the best things to do in a destination you voted one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
In a word: plenty. Plenty to leave culture-loving city-breakers booking a return trip, and plenty to inspire nature-lovers to come back to delve deeper into Switzerland’s stunning landscapes.
If you’re an active type, sports and outdoor activities in Switzerland are varied and rewarding for all ages and ability levels.
Culture vultures wondering “what can I enjoy in Switzerland?” won’t be disappointed, either. From global music gatherings, to traditional Alpine folk fairs, festivals in Switzerland are frequent, often fabulous, and always fascinating.
In fact, with such a packed cultural calendar, deciding when to go to Switzerland is no easy task. Though arguably best known as a world-class winter sports destination, Switzerland also isn’t short of great things to do in summer.
For foodies, eating and drinking in Switzerland has much to commend it, too, and the same goes for those travelling in Switzerland with kids, with a range of accommodation to choose from.
The good news is, whatever you fancy doing, getting to Switzerland, and getting around Switzerland, is easy, efficient and affordable. All the better for experiencing some (or all) of the best places to visit and things to do in Switzerland.
Situated south of Bern and Lucerne, with the Jungfrau region at its heart, the legendary Alpine area of the Bernese Oberland offers classic Swiss scenery and challenging hikes.
It’s a place of high peaks, sheer valleys and cool lakes that’ll take your breath away — figuratively and literally.
Browse more places to stay in the Bernese Oberland.
Dominating the horizon above the world-class skiing, snowboarding and hiking resort of Zermatt in the canton of Valais, no mountain in the world is so immediately recognizable as the Matterhorn.
Indeed, in most people’s minds the Matterhorn stands for Switzerland like the Eiffel Tower stands for France, with activity and accommodation centred around the pretty little village of Zermatt.
Discover more places to stay in Zermatt and the Matterhorn.
Poised astride River Limmat, adorned with over a thousand medieval and modern fountains, and oriented towards Lake Zurich, Zürich offers visitors world-class galleries and museums.
Switzerland’s largest city is also great for fine dining, atmospheric cafés, beer gardens and nightlife.
Explore more accommodation in Zürich.
A short trip west from Schaffhausen, the Rhine falls, Europe’s largest waterfalls, are truly magnificent for their impressive breadth (150m) and the sheer drama of the place.
With the spray rising in a cloud of rainbows above forested banks, turreted Schloss Laufen sits on a cliff directly above the falls to complete the spectacle.
Explore more places to stay in Schaffhausen.
Switzerland’s wine industry is modest, but a couple of regions produce some impressive vintages, most notably Lavaux, near Lake Geneva.
The best road to follow through the Lavaux is termed the Corniche, which winds scenically through the vineyards between the main lakefront traffic road, and the autoroute and Lausanne–Bern train tracks on a higher terrace.
Local trains along the lakefront line are plentiful, meaning you can hop on and off at will.
Find more places to stay in Lavaux.
Tiered above Lake Geneva and crowned by a stunning Gothic cathedral, Lausanne is a beautiful city with a lively street life and fascinating museums.
Often described as Switzerland’s San Francisco, Lausanne is attractive, interesting, worldly, and knows how to have a good time.
Discover more places to stay in Lausanne.
Awe-inspiring scenery and impressive terrain make Verbier one of the top ski destinations in Europe.
Located in the canton of Valais, few places in the world offer such a breadth of possibilities as Verbier. Alongside the world-class skiing, hiking in Verbier is one of the best things to do in Switzerland.
Find more accommodation options in Verbier.
Surrounded by lakeside country 34km southwest of Bern, Fribourg is one of the most enchanting spots in Switzerland.
The medieval Old Town is set on a forested peninsula, while its prestigious university generates a lively cosmopolitan vibe that’s tangible on the streets.
Fribourg also lays claim to serving the best fondue in Switzerland, which is really saying something. It's certainly a great place to discover some of Switzerland's best eating and drinking experiences.
Find more places to stay in Fribourg.
Lying at the geographical and spiritual heart of Switzerland, Lake Lucerne is the country’s most beautiful and dramatic body of water, and the ultimate slow travel destination.
At the lake’s western tip, Lucerne is a stunning city steeped in history and a natural gateway to Central Switzerland.
Explore more places to stay in Lucerne.
Graubünden, in the southeastern corner of Switzerland, is the setting for Europe’s most spectacular train rides, and one of the most remarkable rail networks in the world — the Rhätische Bahn.
It’s travelled by the famous Glacier Express that runs from St Moritz and Davos to Chur, and then west over the Alps to Zermatt.
Discover more places to stay in and around Chur.
Located in the northeast of Switzerland, Appenzellerland is a beguiling and deeply traditional region — think charming villages, beautiful mountain scenery and old customs.
While Appenzell village is the main draw for its quaint, traditional air, there’s also plenty of good hiking in the area, with routes crossing the slopes towards the rocky peaks of the Alpstein.
Explore more places to stay in Appenzellerland.
Switzerland has a long tradition of carnival, a time when thousands pack into cities for parades, music and merrymaking.
Arguably the most famous of Switzerland's carnivals happens in Basel, where thousands of residents gather at 4am in the freezing cold, awaiting the four chimes of the city clock that kick off Baseler Fasnacht.
Basel is well worth a visit outside Carnival season. An ancient Rhine-side city straddling the French and German borders, it boasts medieval architecture and one of Switzerland’s best art museums, the Fondation Beyeler.
Browse more of the best places to stay in Basel.
Upmarket Montreux is spectacularly located, drenched in sunshine and protected by a wall of mountains.
From the end of June to mid-July, it serves as the stage to the globally-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival that attracts world-class jazz, blues, soul, dance, rock and world music performers to the ritzy lakeside resort.
Check out more places to stay in Montreux.
The nearest thing the world has to an international city, Geneva is little more than town-sized, but in the most stunning of locations.
Quiet and calm, it’s a place to take in cultural attractions and wander elegant streets before heading down to the waterfront to relax.
Explore more of the best places to stay in Geneva.
Located in the canton of Ticino, Lugano offers a slice of Italian Lakes-style romance, with majestic waterfront villas gazing out over blue water.
Basking on a south-facing bay of Lake Lugano, and framed by wooded hills that rise sheer from the water, Lugano might be less famous than neighbouring Lake Como, but it’s smaller, cleaner and sexier.
Look at more places to stay in Lugano.
Exploring the pretty Lake Geneva region by train or boat offers opportunities to hop between lakeside villages, vineyards and beautiful cities.
Economically and politically, Lake Geneva is the strongest of Switzerland’s French-speaking cantons. Among its highlights are Lausanne, Vevey, La Gruyère and La Côte.
Originally achieving fame as a health resort, Davos counts Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among its illustrious former patients.
Today it’s most known for its fresh air and consistently excellent snow cover, with lush countryside giving the town a new lease of life in summer. All of which means, it's a great place to experience some of the best outdoor experiences in Switzerland.
Female travellers might also want to read up on exhilarating women-only adventure experiences in Switzerland.
Discover more places to stay in Davos.
The most pristine part of Ticino, Alto Ticino (Upper Ticino) is a region of wild, lonesome valleys cutting into the landscape on the approach to the high Alps.
Located north of Bellinzona, and dotted with rustic stone-built hamlets teetering on steep slopes, if getting off the beaten path is your aim, exploring Alto Ticino is one of the best things to do in Switzerland.
Find more places to stay in Alto Ticino.
Bern, Switzerland’s uniquely attractive capital city, has a medieval street plan that’s unchanged for five centuries. As a result, it’s Old Town is UNESCO-protected.
Of all Swiss cities, Bern is perhaps the most immediately charming. Crammed onto a steep-sided peninsula in a crook of the River Aare, its quiet, cobbled lanes are lined with arcaded buildings.
Browse more best places to stay in Bern.
For more inspiration and information, read The Rough Guide to Switzerland. Our Switzerland travel tips will also help you plan your trip.
Not a fan of planning? Consider booking a hassle-free tailor-made trip to Switzerland, with customisable itineraries curated by local experts covering everything from unforgettable highlights of Switzerland, to touring the Grand Circle.
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Header image: Bern, capital of Switzerland © 4kclips/Shutterstock