WHAT TO DO IN SWITZERLAND – FUN ACTIVITIES
- 1 WHAT TO DO IN SWITZERLAND – FUN ACTIVITIES
- 2 TRAVEL TIPS FOR SWITZERLAND
- 3 BEST THINGS TO DO IN SWITZERLAND
- 3.1 Chasing Waterfalls
- 3.2 Visit Cities
- 3.3 Explore Towns
- 3.4 Discover Villages
- 3.5 Go Hiking
- 3.6 Do Boat Tours
- 3.7 Discover Lakes
- 3.8 Hop on a Train
- 3.9 Road Tripping
- 3.10 Visit Museums
- 3.11 See Vineyards
- 3.12 Do Some Winter Sports
- 3.13 Walk over Suspension Bridges
- 3.14 See Gorges
- 3.15 Snap Pictures of Castles
- 3.16 Enjoy the Mountain Views
- 3.17 Sleep in a Mountain Guest House
- 3.18 Make Friends With Cows
- 3.19 Watch a Move at an Open-Air Cinema
- 3.20 Experience Adventure
- 3.21 Coffee With a View
- 3.22 Eat Swiss Chocolate
- 3.23 Cool Down in Caves
- 3.24 Visit a Lido
- 3.25 Watch a Sunset
- 3.26 PIN ME FOR LATER – AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN SWITZERLAND
Heading to one of the most gorgeous countries in the world and wondering about the best things to do in Switzerland? Well, find out about the top things to see and do in beautiful Switzerland – there are so many epic things to experience that it can feel overwhelming.
Without a doubt, Switzerland has a lot to offer its visitors. Most know about the stunning nature, with mountains throughout the country, including the mountain ranges of the Alps and the Jura, pristine lakes, colorful small towns, vibrant cities, traditional Swiss villages, waterfalls, and of course, pristine lakes wherever you look.
Though I have been to Switzerland numerous times and have traveled to many parts, Switzerland still amazes me every single time, and here are my tips for your Switzerland itinerary.
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TRAVEL TIPS FOR SWITZERLAND
Before talking about the most fun things to do, I share some quick travel tips, so your trip is as smooth as possible.
- Switzerland is located in Europe, but it is not part of the European Union (so citizens from EU countries might have to pay customs when shopping in Switzerland).
- Four official languages are spoken in Switzerland German-speaking part (north and east), while the southwest speaks French, and Italian is the main language in the southern part of Switzerland. Some, but few, people speak Romansh – however, many people speak (basic) English (at least in the areas with tourists).
- Swiss Francs are the main currency, but Euros are accepted in many shops and credit cards (though American Express is accepted in fewer shops). However, I recommend having some Swiss Francs with you at all times.
- Yes, Switzerland is expensive, so I have written an extra post on “how to save money in Switzerland.”
- Water in Switzerland is drinkable from the tap. There are also many water fountains offering fresh water (so always have an empty bottle with you to refill), and it is actually delicious.
- It does matter whether you decide to road trip Switzerland or if you travel Switzerland by train – both ways are great. Switzerland has an amazing public transportation system – you can get to the most remote area by just using public transportation (seriously, there are just a few exceptions). The public transportation system in Switzerland is reliable, punctual, and clean. It is not cheap, though, but if it is your only means of getting around, then I recommend using the Swiss Travel Pass for tourists.
- Road tipping in Switzerland is amazing, too. Check out my road trip tips for Switzerland, and check out my post on things to know when driving in Switzerland.
- Walking and hiking in many parts of the country is a great way to get around – at least for short distances.
- Switzerland is a very safe country. I, personally, never take any extra precautions and actually tend to be less cautious than in Germany. However, I am careful, and I always exercise common sense but feel fine wearing luxury brands or walking around in the evening/night. But, in the last five years, I have been visiting with my dog – and though he is small – he does a great job as a watchdog, so this makes me feel even safer. If you are a solo female traveler, always be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to where to go.
- The Best Time to Visit Switzerland: Switzerland makes a great destination for any time of the year. However, if you are into skiing and other winter sports, naturally, winter in Switzerland is the best time to visit (though you can also do winter sports in some parts of Switzerland throughout the year). Summer is a very popular time to visit, though rain and cold days are not uncommon, even in July/August. Winter and summer are the most expensive times in terms of accommodations, so visiting in fall or spring might be great choices, as well. I probably would avoid late October and November and also March and April.
- Here are more Switzerland travel tips.
- Where to Stay: Here are my favorite areas and hotels to stay in Switzerland.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN SWITZERLAND
Okay, here are some fun activities to do in Switzerland (they are in random order).
Waterfalls are probably not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Switzerland, but Switzerland is home to the biggest waterfalls in Europe.Which waterfalls should you visit in Switzerland? There are many, many waterfalls to see in Switzerland. Here are some of my favorites.
- The Rhine Falls, one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions, located in Neuhausen/Schaffhausen and close to the German border, is worth a visit.
- I love the Giessbach Waterfalls at Lake Brienz (find out more about the hotel with waterfall room view)
- The Staubbach Waterfalls are another famous choice in Lauterbrunnen and the Trümmelbach Falls.
However, if you are road tripping, you´ll see many more gorgeous waterfalls along the way. I spotted the most on my way from Zurich to the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you´ll eventually stumble upon them!
Well, Switzerland´s cities are not the biggest. But they are big enough to give you a nice city feeling, so add a city visit to your 5 days in Switzerland.Most of the cities in Switzerland have well-preserved old towns as well, which should be on your list when exploring the cities as they are popular points of interest in Switzerland.
Which cities to visit?
- My favorite city is Zurich. There are many cafes and (vegetarian) restaurants, good clubs, and plenty of shopping options (the Bahnhofstrasse is the most expensive shopping street in the world). Of course, Lake Zurich is just a beauty: by the way. Each city has its own lake and, often, even has its own “home mountain.”
- Though I personally love Geneva, it cannot hold a candle to Zurich or Lucerne. Geneva is the city to see if you are interested in learning about international politics (the United Nations has one of their main offices in Geneva, and the International Red Cross Committee is based there).
- Basel is the art city in Switzerland. You cannot go wrong with visiting if you love old towns or enjoy museums of all kinds.
- Bern is one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. It is located near Zurich. It makes a perfect day trip to see bears (yes) and explore the old town.
- Last but not least: Lucerne is one of the most beautiful cities in the country. It is surrounded by stunning scenery and beautiful Lake Lucerne.
You cannot leave the country without visiting at least a handful of cute, colorful towns in Switzerland.In Switzerland, each town has its own charm, and believe it or not. They are indeed very different and unique. Appenzell has its own extraordinary architecture, and Stein am Rhine has its own, btw, fantastic style.
If you must visit the most beautiful towns in Switzerland, I am sure you will fall in love with Switzerland. Besides the two mentioned towns, you should put a few more towns on your itinerary:
Which towns to visit:
- Schaffhausen is one of the most colorful towns in Switzerland. It is located near the Rhine Falls and makes a perfect day trip from Zurich.
- Thun is one of the most beautiful towns. It has a really pretty market square and beautiful castles to visit.
- Zermatt is probably one of the most famous places in Switzerland. Though the town center is really tiny, it is worth seeing at any time of the year (so it is not only a perfect winter destination).
- Rapperswil is a rather unknown place located on the shores of Lake Zurich. This small town is a perfect stop if you do a Lake Zurich boat cruise.
- Stein am Rhine offers striking architecture – one of the most unique and impressive buildings are in Stein a Rhine in the northern part of Switzerland.
- Solothurn is a hidden gem in Switzerland. Rarely visited by international visitors, it has a very special charm.
- Montreux is not really a town – rather a promenade with tons, tons of flowers, and stunning Lake Geneva.
After adding towns and cities to your list, do not forget to visit the cute little villages that make up Switzerland´s charm.
There are plenty of lovely villages, and you´ll surely stumble upon some eventually, but instead of relying on stumbling upon some eventually, make sure to plan in some time for those cute villages.
Villages to visit:
Some of my favorite best Swiss villages are:
- Lauterbrunnen is known as THE outdoor place fr adrenaline junkies in Switzerland. However, it is also a beautiful village with tons of activities for people of all ages and fitness levels.
- Appenzell is another gorgeous gem with colorful buildings and interesting buildings.
- Mürren is one of the car-free villages that you can only visit via hiking or by using the cable car. This makes it a quite tranquil place (if it wasn’t for the visitors) for people of all ages.
- Grindelwald is a perfect village to visit in winter – but it is not only a perfect ski resort but also a very cute town with amazing views of the Swiss Alps.
If you want to do something locals do, you have to hike.I used to hate hiking – and then I hiked in Switzerland. And my world turned upside down. Hiking here is the next level – do not get me wrong, I am still no expert. But you cannot experience hiking here with hiking in other parts of the world. Check out my post with tips for hiking in Switzerland. luckily, Switzerland has hiking trails for each person. So, there is no shortage of opportunities.
Where to hike:
- Flims is the perfect place to hike for beginners – and though it is an easy hike, you will see three amazing places along the hike.
- Ebenalp and Aescher is another easyish hike (though quite steep) and perfect if you want to see the famous mountain restaurant.
- The Lake Oeschinen hike is probably one of the most iconic hikes in the country – and after doing it myself, I can say the views are worth it.
- My favorite hike in Switzerland was probably hiking around Gelmersee – it is a beautiful hike and still a little gem.
Wherever you are, there will be places to hike up – most often, you´ll meet some (Swiss) hikers along your way.
Do Boat Tours
My addiction to boat tours is probably not normal. However, I cannot imagine that anyone would NOT LIKE a boat cruise on one of Switzerland’s beautiful lakes.I have done so many on so many occasions, but I will likely never get enough of them – and that is for many reasons.
My top tip for things to do in Switzerland…go on a boat cruise. There are many great (literally) lakes in Switzerland, and boat tours are possible on basically all of the bigger lakes.
Best boat cruises:
- My favorite boat cruises in Switzerland are the ones on Lake Brienz – there are many fun stops along the way
- Another top thing to do in Switzerland is to hop on a Lake Thun cruise – plan in a full day for that tour to get out at many stops and see what the shores of Lake Thun have to offer
- Lake Lucerne (or Vierwaldstättersee in German) is also perfect for long boat cruises – plan in enough time to hop off some stops like Weggis or Vitznau.
- Do a boat tour on Lake Zurich. If you do the 4-hour boat trip tour, you can get off in beautiful Rapperswil and spend a few hours there before heading back (as you can see, boat tours also bring you from one place to the other).
- Lake Geneva is awesome, AND there are little lounges in the first class – so perfect for a nice nap as well. I recommend planning in 1 day so you can hop off in Nyon and Montreux.
The best: most boat tours are free with your Swiss Travel Pass. Without a travel pass, the prices vary strongly. A day pass for Lake Brienz is about 100€ (one of the most expensive tickets for boat rides, though). Seriously, boat cruising is one of the best activities in Switzerland. Find out more about tours on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
Aside from the mountains, the lakes are the most stunning things that Mother Nature has created in Switzerland, so it does not surprise that one of the top things to do in Switzerland is to check out lakes.
You´ll find every lake color you can imagine. However, each lake is amazing and unique. Though not all of the lakes offer boat cruises, they are all worth to be visited. Few more lakes that I absolutely love and are Lungernsee and Zugersee.
Though they are not that famous, they are absolutely stunning. If you road trip (or train travel), you´ll pass them when traveling from Zurich to Interlaken. If you get the chance, hop off the train and spend some time at the less popular lakes as well.
If you like to have a lake almost all to yourself, I recommend Lake Sufers. I never fail to have a break when I travel from Zurich to the Italian-speaking part (apart from some fishers, I rarely see any soul at all).
Some are located in a park, and entry has to be paid (Blausee, Lake Cauma, Lake Cresta, etc.), but most are free to visit. They are so extremely clear and clear that even I swam in a few of them (and that says a lot).
Lakes to visit:
I have mentioned a few lakes above, and here are a few more lakes:
- Lake Brienz – a real gem with striking colors and beautiful villages along the shores.
- Lake Oeschinen is often considered the most beautiful lake in the country.
- Lake Zug is not as famous as other lakes in the country, yet it is a beauty and worth a visit.
- Blausee is one of the smallest lakes mentioned here, yet its color is so unique that it is a top lake in Switzerland.
- Lake Maggiore is a gorgeous lake in the southern part of Switzerland.
- Lake Cauma (which you can see in the picture above) is one of the most beautiful lakes and yet not that popular with international visitors.
Hop on a Train
While it often scares me to embark on a train in many other parts of the world (naming no names), train travel in Switzerland is fun, and so I highly recommend it.The first time I traveled from Zurich to Lugano 8-9 years ago, I was awestruck. The scenery is one of a kind, and ever since then, train travel has been an awesome activity I do in Switzerland. I recommend getting a Swiss Travel Pass and exploring Switzerland by train.
For more window view pictures of my train travel experience, read my review of the Swiss Travel Pass.
P.S. With the Swiss Travel Pass you also get a discount on many activities, so check if you can save money with it, too!
Most scenic train rides:
- Bernina Express is probably my favorite train ride (in summer and winter), and this is when train riding becomes phenomenal. It takes you from Chur in Switzerland to Poschiavo and then even to Tirano in Italy by crossing the Swiss Engadin Alps.
- Glacier Express is the slowest express train in the world – but with that window views, you will be in no rush: It connects Zermatt and St. Moritz via Andermatt in the central Swiss Alps.
- Golden Pass Line is another amazing train ride experience taking you from Lucerne to Montreux.
This is not a contradiction – road tripping through Switzerland is as much fun as train travel, and I would bite my tongue rather than choose one over the other.Road tripping allows you to discover Switzerland on your own path and stop wherever you like – believe me, there will be many spots you will want to stop.
The Grand Road Tour gives ideas on where to drive and which places are the most scenic – each route has its own charm, and while I am – normally – not the biggest fan of driving, I cannot wait for my next Switzerland road trip.
Best places to Drive:
- Driving around Lake Lucerne (Axenstraße) and the way from Lucerne to Weggis and Vitznau has always been a pleasure.
- In Interlaken, it is around Lake Thun that makes any road trip lover happy.
- There are also many, many mountain passes that are so much fun to drive (including Furka Pass, SustenPass).
The Italian-speaking part of Switzerland is also awesome, though a bit more difficult to drive. I loved the route from Locarno to Valle Verzasca the most. Check out my quick guide on driving in Switzerland.
Well, traveling with a dog means I cannot visit museums. Still, at least one museum should be on your Switzerland itinerary (my first pick would be the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva), but you can choose from more than 900 museums to visit in Switzerland.If you prefer to spend your time outdoors, you could visit the Ballenberg museum in the Jungfrau/Interlaken museum, one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions.
Most museums are free of entry with your Swiss Travel Pass. P.S. Basel is the best city to go to if you are interested in museums and art – find out more about Basel here.
One of the best things to see in Switzerland are the vineyards.
Though I do not care about wine, the views of vineyards in Switzerland are amazing. You´ll find vineyards in many parts of Switzerland, and the most beautiful and biggest is probably in the area of Montreux – for the best view, get to Chexbres and enjoy (views on Lake Geneva are inclusive). Wine lovers can book a wine tasting.
Do Some Winter Sports
Switzerland is one of the best countries to do winter sports. I only did have one winter sports holiday. Guess in which country I tried all those different winter sports? Of course, it was in Switzerland.
Some places allow winter sports even in the summer – Jungfraujoch or Klein Matterhorn have winter sports activities of all kinds. In the winter, Switzerland becomes the dream destination for ski lovers.
Best places to ski:
Oh, that list would be too long to list all the amazing ski resorts in Switzerland. Click here for the best places to ski in Switzerland.
Walk over Suspension Bridges
Switzerland’s best views are from the mountains’ summit, but if you prefer it to be less high, check out a few of the amazing suspension and panorama bridges all over Switzerland.
In 2017, the world´s longest suspension bridge opened near Zermatt ( I will let you know how it was once I visit), but many more stunning bridges are worth visiting.
Which Suspension Bridges to Cross:
- Trift Suspension Bridge has probably been the scariest bridge ever that I have crossed. Check out my detailed post on Trift Bridge.
- The Handeckfall Bridge is another thrilling bridge but less scary than the one in Trift.
- Sigriswil Panorama Bridge is very family-family and perfect for people of ages (unfortunately, there is an “entrance” fee.
Switzerland has some amazing gorges which await your visit.
Switzerland has some amazing gorges which await your visit. The Trümmelbachfälle (waterfalls) is located in a gorge. More great gorges to visit: Aare Gorge and Gorner Gorge.
- The Rhine Gorge is a different kind of gorge, and you have the best view from above or from a train. It is one of the best tourist attractions in Switzerland – in my option though totally underrated.
- The Aare Gorge is a section of the Aare river and carves through a limestone ridge in the Bernese Oberland.
Snap Pictures of Castles
Though Switzerland is often considered a winter wonderland fairy-tale, the castles in Switzerland seem to be in the shadow of the mountains and lakes (or shorten it: in the shadow of stunning scenery).
However, there are beautiful castles in Switzerland that should be on your Switzerland itinerary.
Famous Castles to Visit
- Chateau du Chillon in Montreux is indeed a beautiful castle on Lake Geneva’s shores.
- Schadau Castle is pinkish, a color you rarely find in Switzerland
- Thun Castle in Thun offers some of the best views
- Castel Grande in Bellinzona dates back to the 13th century and is in the Italian-speaking part of the country
Enjoy the Mountain Views
I am still not finished. I have a few more great things to do in Switzerland.Hiking is a great way to get up a mountain (in theory…).
However, if you are not a hiker (and some mountains cannot be hiked), you can, and should, enjoy some amazing mountain views. Many great mountains offer cable car rides up, and a trip to Switzerland would not be complete without having visited a mountain summit in at least 2000 meters height.
My favorite train ride up was at Brienzer Rothorn, but there are many more to enjoy, like Klein Matterhorn, Mount Pilatus, and Mount Rigi.
Jungfraujoch is probably the most famous mountain trip – though expensive, it is still an awesome trip, and it does not come as a surprise that it is one of the most popular Switzerland attractions.
Find out more:
- Check out prices for a trip to the Jungfraujoch here
- Check out prices for a trip to Mount Titlis
- Check out prices for a trip to Mount Pilatus
Sleep in a Mountain Guest House
When in Switzerland…spend a night in a mountain guest house. A night in a guest house is probably a unique experience in Switzerland.
Most mountain guest houses are not really fancy, but sleeping in one was an incredible experience, and I cannot wait to spend more nights in the mountains.
Ebenalp Guest House on Ebenalp was my choice – a choice I did not regret. Compared to “normal hotels,” the prices are moderate as well. Do not forget to pack warm clothes for a night; it gets cold at an elevation of 1,800 meters (I learned it the hard way), and the heater might not work.
Make Friends With Cows
Make new friends. Swiss are known to be a bit reserved in general…but not so the cows.Though I am a vegetarian and have a dog, that does not mean that I am actually an animal lover (probably because of my Afghan heritage). Most animals actually scare me – so do the cows, which are numerous in Switzerland. Seriously, they are basically everywhere!
However, Swiss cows are lucky enough to spend their lives in nature, and if you are outside the cities, you´ll most likely stumble upon them. Take some pics – and befriend them. After all, they help produce that awesome Swiss chocolate, and if you do not befriend them, they might not make any more for you (or worse: not for me).
Where to See Cows:
- You will just see them everywhere outside the city center
Watch a Move at an Open-Air Cinema
One of the best things to do in Switzerland in summer is to visit an open-air cinema.
In summer, you will see advertisements for open-air cinema everywhere – it is one of the main events for locals. The weather might not be your best friend, but if you are lucky and it does not rain, enjoy a movie night at the open-air cinema. The best: open-air cinemas are even in small towns.
So tiny, yet so much to do. Switzerland is a paradise for outdoor sports lovers, and so it doesn’t surprise that going on an adventure is also one of the top things to do in Switzerland.Paragliding, glacier hiking, bungee jumping, or even base jumping (though I definitely do not recommend the latter). You can do any adventurous activity in Switzerland.
Coffee With a View
Whether you are on a mountain peak or at one of the (relatively few) high buildings in Switzerland: take your time and have a coffee. These views are one of a kind, so take the time for a break, get a drink and enjoy the views.
There are often guesthouses and restaurants on mountain peaks that come with a view, but some high buildings offer great views (in Switzerland, I prefer the first option, though).
Eat Swiss Chocolate
I am vegetarian and do not like raw cheese – not the best conditions to survive in Switzerland. Though I definitely cannot recommend eating any Swiss cheese, I definitely think that Swiss chocolate is DELICIOUS. You can even do your own chocolate and visit Chocolate workshops.
I did one workshop in Interlaken, and while it was fun, the highlight was that I was allowed to take three bars with me. They did not last long, but delicious things probably are not meant to last, right?.Bad news: Swiss chocolate can be extremely expensive.
Good news: Lindt is not the most expensive chocolate in Switzerland, but it is my favorite. So plan to replace some meals with some tasty bars of chocolate.
More good news: Vegan chocolate is quite common in Switzerland. It is dark chocolate – which is actually even very healthy, so enjoy!
Cool Down in Caves
In summer, the best thing to do in Switzerland is to visit a cave on a hot day when it is hot.
Switzerland has a few gorgeous caves. I recommend planning a visit to one of the caves on a very hot day, so you can cool down and learn about a different aspect of Switzerland. Surely, this is not an activity for those who have claustrophobia, but if you don´ make sure to add at least one to your Switzerland holidays.
My favorite caves are the St. Beatus Caves – the guided tour is definitely recommendable. Plus, outside the caves, amazing views of Lake Thun await you (seriously, the view is so amazing, so I have visited twice in the last 2 years).
Visit a Lido
Lidos are great places to swim. However, I mentioned that it is super safe and fun to swim in the Swiss lakes and rivers. Swimming in a lido is another great way to relax and cool down.
Lidos are natural swimming pools in the lakes and rivers, often watched by guards and fenced. Some have a pool, as well. You can get in for just a few Swiss Francs and have more “security” than at the lakes. Since I have my dog traveling with me, we actually get banned from visiting Lidos.
Watch a Sunset
Sunsets in Switzerland can be amazing. However, you should do some research on where to watch the best sunset. My tips for an incredible sunset: Vitznau near Lucerne (especially from Mount Rigi) and from a boat on Lake Thun (there are sunset boat cruises).
Okay, those were my tips for the best things to do in Switzerland. Believe me, if I say you could spend weeks and months in the country and would be amazed every single time because Switzerland is a show-off and likes to showcase its beauty!