Best things to do in Switzerland

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 15.09.2022

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.

What is there to do in Switzerland? The best things to do in Switzerland

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. 

Lauterbrunnen village in Switzerland © Gaspar Janos/Shutterstock

Hiking is among the best things to do in Switzerland © Gaspar Janos/Shutterstock

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.

Hike the Bernese Oberland

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.

    Where to stay in the Bernese Oberland

  • Best for foodies: Hotel Krone, Thun. Steps from the river, on the Old Town square, this has two fine restaurants.
  • Best for luxury: Grandhotel Giessbach, Lake Brienz. A palatial four-star overlooking the Giessbach falls.
  • Best for couples: Gstaad Palace, Gstaad. A fanciful hilltop confection with lavish bedrooms and dinners.

Browse more places to stay in the Bernese Oberland.

View of lake Thun in Switzerland © 9MOT/Shutterstock

Lake Thun in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland © 9MOT/Shutterstock

Explore the iconic Matterhorn

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. 

    Best places to stay around Zermatt and the Matterhorn

  • Best for atmosphere: Kulmhotel Gornergrat. Uniquely atmospheric, and currently the highest hotel in the Alps.
  • Best for glamour: Grand Hotel Zermatterhof. One of the finest hotels in Switzerland.
  • Best for cosy comfort: Hotel Allalin. Service is outstanding in this modern hotel with folksy décor. 

Discover more places to stay in Zermatt and the Matterhorn.


Seeing the magnificent Matterhorn is one of the best things to do in Switzerland © Shutterstock

Absorb culture in Zürich

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.

    Best accommodation in Zürich

  • Best for culture vultures: Alma Hotel. An upmarket designer hotel focused on sustainability.
  • Best for couples: Hotel Kindli. One of Zürich’s most charming small hotels.
  • Best for nightlife-lovers: Pension Furdich. Backing onto a park, this is close to funky bars and clubs.

Explore more accommodation in Zürich.

city-fraumunster-church-limmat river-zurich lake-zurich-switzerland-shutterstock_379522807

Zürich, Switzerland © Shutterstock

Feel the rush of the Rhine Falls 

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. 

    Best places to stay in Schaffhausen, near the Rhine Falls

  • Best for families: Vienna House. A new-build hotel near the station; larger apartment suites have kitchenettes.
  • Best for views: Hotel Kronenhof. This pleasant central hotel in the centre offers fine fortress views and food. 
  • Best for couples: Hotel Park Villa. An atmospheric old mansion on the edge of the Old Town. 

Explore more places to stay in Schaffhausen.  

Rhine Falls and Schloss Laufen, Switzerland © maloff/Shutterstock

Visiting the Rhine Falls and Schloss Laufen are among the best things to do in Switzerland © maloff/Shutterstock

Taste Lavaux wines

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

Lines of trellised vines by Lake Geneva in the UNESCO listed area of Lavaux © mountainpix/Shutterstock

Lavaux vineyards © mountainpix/Shutterstock

Get lively in Lausanne

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.

    Best places to stay in Lausanne.

  • Best for couples: Angleterre & Residence. A classy waterfront hotel in eighteenth-century mansions.
  • Best for luxury-lovers: Beau-Rivage Palace. With ten-acre waterside gardens, this is one of Switzerland’s finest.
  • Best for families: Elite. Located on a quiet street, this is Lausanne's top mid-price option.

Discover more places to stay in Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland © Shutterstock

Lausanne, Switzerland © Shutterstock

Winter sports in Verbier

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.

    Best places to stay in Verbier

  • Best for families: Ermitage. This well-run option provides unexpected value in the centre.
  • Best for couples: Hotel Bristol. Friendly, cosy, quiet and very central.
  • Best for quirky charm: Hotel les Touristes. An endearingly eccentric, quiet hotel.

Find more accommodation options in Verbier.  


Verdant Verbier in Valais, Switzerland © Shutterstock

Feast on fondue in Fribourg

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.

    Best places to stay in Fribourg  

  • Best for affordability: Hotel du Faucon. An excellent-value little hotel in the Old Town.
  • Best for couples: Hotel de la Rose. Housed in a seventeenth-century building, this is cosy and comfortable.
  • Best for foodies: Le Sauvage. In a sixteenth-century townhouse, this has a fine restaurant. 

Find more places to stay in Fribourg.

Swiss traditional cheese dish fondue © Shulevskyy Volodymyr/Shutterstock

Feasting on fondue comes recommended in Fribourg. It's also one of our things to do in Switzerland © Shulevskyy Volodymyr/Shutterstock

Tour Lake Lucerne

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.

    Best places to stay in Lucerne

  • Best for peace: Seehotel Kastanienbaum. Located in a village outside the city, this has a lovely lakeside terrace.
  • Best for romantics: Wilden Mann. Set on atmospheric Old Town lanes, this dates back to 1517.
  • Best for budget travellers: Backpackers. A laidback lakeshore hostel with pleasant dorms and doubles.

Explore more places to stay in Lucerne.  

Aerial view of Lucerne skyline and Lake Lucerne © Benny Marty/Shutterstock

Aerial view of Lucerne skyline and Lake Lucerne © Benny Marty/Shutterstock

Ride the Rhätische Bahn 

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. 

    Best places to stay in Chur, capital of Graubünden

  • Best for couples: Freieck. A comfortable Old Town hotel in sixteenth-century buildings.
  • Best for foodies: Hotel Stern. Smart Old Town hotel with quality service and an excellent restaurant.
  • Best for budget travellers: Viva Hostel. A modern, lively hostel with a range of rooms, some en suite.

Discover more places to stay in and around Chur.

Glacier Express passing Oberalp Pass © Swiss Tourism

Riding the Glacier Express is one of the best things to do in Switzerland © Swiss Tourism

Explore Appenzellerland

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. 

    Best places to stay in Appenzellerland

  • Best for foodies: Hotel Appenzell. A gabled building on the square with spacious rooms and friendly service.
  • Best for rustic charm: Gasthaus Hof. An old-fashioned hotel with traditional dining room.
  • Best for luxury: Romantik Hotel Säntis. A member of the Romantik group, this has the swankiest dining in town.

Explore more places to stay in Appenzellerland

Appenzell, Appenzellerland, Switzerland © Sina Ettmer Photography/Shutterstock

Appenzell, Switzerland © Sina Ettmer Photography/Shutterstock

Celebrate Basel carnival

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.

    Best places to stay in Basel

  • Best for weekend-breaks: Teufelhof. An outstanding boutique hotel in the heart of the city.
  • Best for big occasions: Trois Rois. One of the oldest, grandest hotels in Europe.
  • Best for couples: Au Violon. Set on a hill, this has cosy rooms above a quiet courtyard.

Browse more of the best places to stay in Basel.

Fasnacht Carnival of Basel © Schweiz Tourismus/Christof Sonderegger

Basel's Fasnacht Carnival © Schweiz Tourismus/Christof Sonderegger

Make merry at Montreux Jazz Festival 

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.

    Best places to stay in Montreux

  • Best for luxury: Le Montreux Palace. This legendary hotel is set in its own gardens on the lake.
  • Best for couples: Grand Hôtel Suisse-Majestic. Cheaper than Le Montreux Palace, this is a belle époque beauty.
  • Best for good-value elegance: Villa Toscane. A fabulous Art Nouveau creation on the Montreux waterfront.

Check out more places to stay in Montreux

Chillon Castle, Geneva Lake, Switzerland © FenlioQ/Shutterstock

Charming Château Chillon near Montreux © FenlioQ/Shutterstock

Get to know Geneva

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. 

    Best places to stay in Geneva

  • Best for families: Hotel Central. An affordable hotel with great-value rooms for three, four and five people.
  • Best for couples: Les Armures. Understated luxury defines this Old Town treasure.
  • Best for budget travellers: Geneva Hostel. A lively hostel with 12-bed dorms and en-suite doubles.

Explore more of the best places to stay in Geneva.


Geneva's iconic Jet d’Eau © Shutterstock

Fall in love with Lugano

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. 

    Best places to stay Lugano

  • Best for couples: Hotel Federale. An atmospheric, good-value Old Town hotel.
  • Best for families: Lugano Dante. A quality four-star in a converted townhouse.
  • Best for big spenders: Splendide Royal. Traditional public spaces and rooms characterise this classic.

Look at more places to stay in Lugano

    Top trips and tours in Lugano

  • Taste regional specialties on a self-guided food tour
  • Venture beyond the city on a funicular ride to Monte San Salvatore — Switzerland's Sugarloaf Mountain.

Lugano, Switzerland © Shutterstock

Discover Lake Geneva

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. 

    Top trip in the Lake Geneva region

  • Gourmands visiting Gruyères might want to explore the medieval village on a cheese and chocolate tour.
Aerial view of the medieval Gruyere castle, Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland © lsantek/Shutterstock

Magical, medieval Gruyere castle © lsantek/Shutterstock

Get active in Davos 

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.

  • Best for good-value comfort: Alte Post. A two-star with simply furnished rooms and convenient location.
  • Best for Art Nouveau elegance: Schatzalp Hotel. Some rooms in this former sanatorium offer Jakobshorn views.
  • Best for affordable elegance: Edelweiss. This 1912 hotel is one of the more affordable places in town.

Discover more places to stay in Davos

Rough Guides tip: To increase your chances of a great holiday, read how many days you need to spend in Switzerland.

© Switzerland Tourism/Bergfuhrer Davos Klosters

Davos © Switzerland Tourism/Bergfuhrer Davos Klosters

Amble Alto Ticino

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.

View of Castelgrande from Montebello Castle of Bellinzona, Ticino, Switzerland © elesi/Shutterstock

Montebello Castle in Bellinzona, Ticino, Switzerland © elesi/Shutterstock

Meander medieval Bern

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. 

    Best places to stay in Bern

  • Best for luxury: Innere Enge. With Art Nouveau style and epic views, this hosted Empress Josephine.
  • Best for character: Hotel Marthahaus. A cosy hotel-pension on a quiet cul-de-sac near the Old Town. 
  • Best for budget travellers: Bern Backpackers/Hotel Glocke. An Old Town fixture with dorms and good facilities.

Browse more best places to stay in Bern


Bern, Switzerland © Shutterstock

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.  

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Header image: Bern, capital of Switzerland © 4kclips/Shutterstock

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 15.09.2022

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