Switzerland is more than the Alps
World-famous for its mountains, there are far more places to see in Switzerland than the Alps. But let’s start there, because one of your five highlights of your trip will be traveling in the famous Swiss Alps. The two cities closest to the Alps are Geneva and Bern, and of the two Bern is the more picturesque. From either city, though, you can get to the most famous sights in the Swiss Alps.
- The Matterhorn, one of the highest peaks in the Alps and the most symmetrical, looms over you and provides a photo moment from several towns, but especially from Zermatt (see below).
- The Jungfraujoch is Switzerland’s highest train station, and also is the highest altitude train station in all of Europe. You can take a cog wheel train to the top, and from there you’ll get a great view (weather permitting) of Jungfrau, Mönch, and the Aletsch Glacier.
- Train rides through the Alps give you miles of breathtaking views – meadows, mountains, and tiny villages. Check out Best of Switzerland with Trafalgar for a trip that includes Alp travel.
Interlaken gives you views and the most charming towns to walks ever
Of all the places we visited in Switzerland, Interlaken was our favorite. In summertime the wildflowers are everywhere, the town is walkable, and around every corner there’s timber houses, parks, and hiking trails. You can take many easy day trips from Interlaken, which is surrounded by the Alps but not in the mountains itself. Click To Tweet
- Take a boat trip on one of the two lakes (Interlaken sits between two lakes, thus its name)
- Visit Harder Kulm for spectacular views
- Spend a few hours in Höhematte Park, city center (a favorite place for hang gliders), see the flower clock, and explore the cafes and hotels surrounding the park.
Visit Zermatt for mountain peaks, skiing, and more
Zermatt, located in the southern part of Switzerland, sits at the base of the Matterhorn and is well known as a center for hiking, skiing, and mountain climbing. If you’re not into those sports there’s still plenty to see, and it’s definitely worth a visit. The central, historical part of Zermatt is a car-free zone. Zermatt is the highest ski resort in all of Europe, and attracts visitors from all over the world during its ski season. I think of it as the Aspen of Switzerland – lots of chic shops, good restaurants and bars. In summertime you can hike for days under the towering peaks of the Alps. Be sure to take the train ride (about half an hour) up to Gornergrat. Trafalgar’s Best of Switzerland trip takes in Zermatt as well as Zurich, Bern, Lake Geneva, Chillon, Zermatt, St. Moritz, and Interlaken, with a few stops in between.
Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva
What’s more fun to explore than a medieval castle built on the side of a lake? Chillon Castle was built beginning in the 11th century, and was first mentioned in writing in 1150. The tours of the castle include many activities and special guides for children. Click To Tweet Chillon is built from a boulder that sits deep in the lake, and has been added to for centuries since its beginnings. Its position was critical, as it could oversee and control the passage point between northern and southern Europe. Make sure to see the massive “big rooms” with views of the surrounding mountains as well as the underground vaults. For details about visiting Chillon Castle visit the castle’s website and click to have it translated into English at the top.
Visit the medieval city of Lucerne
Lucerne, which sits on Lake Lucerne, is filled with medieval history and quaint buildings. And you can’t miss the watch shops that line the main streets, either. Lucerne’s old town is called the Altstadt, and while you are visiting there you’ll see the remains of a 14th century rampart, the Museggmauer. But Lucerne is probably most famous for its covered bridge, first build in the 1300’s, which goes from the Altstadt over to the river bank of the Reuss River. The bridge’s name is the Kapellbrücke or Chapel Bridge. We walked through it several times, loving the views. It’s easy to find a guided city walk and hear about the history of Lucerne while you enjoy the views and fresh air.
Five more places to see in Switzerland
It’s hard to visit Switzerland without taking time to shop. The Swiss are an inventive people so you’ll find things you’ve heard of all your life.
- Swiss Army Knife – the flagship Victorinox shop is in Zurich.
- Swiss chocolate – try Max Chocolatier in Lucerne.
- Swiss watches – the largest watch shop in Switzerland is Bucherer’s. It’s almost overwhelming but definitely great window shopping!
- Cheese fondue sets (these are called caquelons in Switzerland) – Stay away from tourist places and go look at Coop supermarkets or a local hardware store.
- Absinthe – Check out Paul Ullrich in Zürich.
If you have not been to Switzerland and are looking for a good tour with things handled for you take a look at Trafalgar’s Best of Switzerland, or contact me for other options. We’ve had boots on the ground in Switzerland, and are happy to advise and book for you.
Plus don’t forget to pre-order the NEW Frommer’s complete guide to Switzerland!
Is this article helpful for you? Please use the social share buttons and share it out. Thank you!
And be sure to join our email list for periodic messages about travel.