Switzerland things to see and do

Tourist offices

Switzerland Tourism in the USA

Swiss Center, 608 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY 10020-2303, United States
Tel: (212) 757 5944.

Switzerland Tourism in the UK

30 Bedford Street, London, WC2E 9ED, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7420 4900.

Things to see and do

Admire Switzerland's traditional Appenzell villages

See the Switzerland of old with a drive through rustic Appenzell, the most traditional canton, with its picturesque villages of ornately painted houses set in lush, rolling landscapes. Säntis is Appenzell's most famous peak, with memorable views over six nations: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Basler Fasnacht carnival

Go to Basel for the Basler Fasnacht (a pre-Lenten carnival), with three days of grand masked parties and street parades with fancy costumes. One of the highlights is the impressive lantern display, which is even more illuminating with the city’s lights switched off. In front of the City Theatre there is a fabulous Fasnacht Fountain.

Book a date with the medieval library at St Gallen

Elegant and ancient, St Gallen is blessed with a baroque cathedral whose famous Abbey Library is now a UNESCO World Heritage treasure. Go to the historic town of Brig to see the most important baroque castle in Switzerland or head for the small town of Romainmotier to discover its 11th-century Benedictine monastery.

Brave the bear pits of Bern

Visit the capital city of Bern on the Aare River with its medieval heart of unique 11th-century arcaded streets. It’s also famed for its 13th-century clock tower and ancient bear pits, which are found at the eastern edge of the old city. A reminder of the capital’s ursine emblem can be seen throughout Bern on flags, statues, stained-glass windows and souvenirs.

Capture history at Chillon Castle

Chillon Castle is the most famous castle in Switzerland. It enjoys a spectacular location on the eastern edge of Lake Geneva, near Montreux, with the Dents du Midi mountain in the background. Built in the 13th century, visitors can see the famous jail and learn of François de Bonivard, the castle's most famous prisoner.

Climb Little Matterhorn in a cablecar

Take Europe's highest aerial cable car up the Little Matterhorn at Zermatt, then ski back to the car-free village on one of the longest ski runs in Europe. Or head to the small town of Engelberg, where the world's first revolving cable car ascends Mount Titlis, the highest lookout-point in central Switzerland.

Explore the beautiful Berner Oberland landscape

Explore the Berner Oberland, a major tourist area that flourishes with spectacular scenery including famous peaks (Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger), mountain lakes, alpine streams and wild flowers. As well as Europe's highest railway, the region is home to such celebrated resorts as Adelboden, Grindelwald and Interlaken.

Fall for rail travel on the Glacier Express

Travel by train through stunning Alpine scenery on the Glacier Express. At the very heart of Switzerland, one of Europe's greatest rail journeys winds over arching viaducts and through the Rhine gorge. Ride it from St Moritz to Zermatt (or vice versa) and don’t forget your camera.

Feel rejuvenated and rested at Graubünden

For a virtuous holiday health kick, spend time at one of Switzerland's many climatic health resorts. The Graubünden resorts of Arosa, Davos, Klosters and St Moritz are renowned the world over. Interlaken, near Bern, is another celebrated health resort and the gateway to the Berner Oberland.

Lace up your hiking boots

Join the Swiss in their favourite pastime: hiking. There are over 50,000km (31,070 miles) of marked trails to explore, with hiking times marked on signposts, and colour-coding according to difficulty.

Make a beeline for Basel

Discover the ancient university and trading city of Basel. Straddling the Rhine between the Jura region, Alsace in France and Germany's Black Forest, it is a centre of art and research. Don't miss the Art Museum, the ancient red sandstone Münster or the kinetic wonderment at the Jean Tinguely museum.

Make the most of the many Mountain sports

The mountains are the perfect place to get active, with ice climbing, ski touring, snowboarding, deep-snow skiing, heli-skiing and glacier walking. Top ski areas include Portes du Soleil, Klosters, Zermatt, Saas Fee and glamorous St Moritz, which also offers snow-polo, the Olympic Bob run and the Cresta run.

See both sides of Lausanne

Lausanne's highlights include the Cathédrale Notre-Dame and the Musée Olympic (Olympic Museum). While a stroll along the promenade of the old Port d'Ouchy reveals a slower pace of life, the city’s vibrant side can be found among the contemporary architecture of Flon, where boutique shops, cinemas and evening entertainment has replaced derelict warehouses, buoyed by the town’s two universities.

Tackle Switzerland's cycling trails

Cycling is not necessarily as strenuous as the mountainous terrain might suggest, but those with the leg power will want to ride the trails around the Matterhorn. There are 3,300km (2,046 miles) of well-marked interlinked trails, and most of them offer easy cycling. Many railway stations offer bike hire.

Take a scenic road trip to Ticino

Explore the southernmost tip of Switzerland, the lovely, Italian-speaking region of Ticino. Follow the road from the Alpine valleys through Bellinzona with its three medieval castles, past the sweeping Contra Dam (the site of the James Bond Golden Eye bungee jump) to the Locarno and Lugano, the celebrated lake resorts of Southern Ticino.

Take to the water on the splendid Swiss Lakes

Enjoy a lake cruise or ferry trip on the likes of Lake Geneva, Lake Constance (with visits to towns in Germany and Austria) and the picturesque Vierwaltstättersee at Luzern, where paddle steamers link up with various mountain railways and cableways. For a little more adventure, take a kayak out on Lake Zürich.

Take your pick of Valais's peaks

Whether you climb up them, ski down or just capture them on camera, the Valais region (the valley) possesses such lofty glacial peaks as the Dufourspitze (4,634m/15,217ft), Dom (4,545m/14,917ft), Weisshorn (4,509m/14,793ft) and the Matterhorn (4,478m/14,698ft). Popular resorts here include Saas Fee, Verbier and Zermatt.

Tour Geneva on two feet

Discover Geneva's ancient city centre on foot, especially its crowning glory, the Cathédrale de St Pierre; a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture. Near Lake Geneva, the flower clock in the Jardin Anglais, with over 6,500 blooms, pays homage to Geneva's watch industry.

Unearth the old and the zany in Zurich

Explore Zurich, Switzerland's largest city. The old town, Altstadt, is especially picturesque. See the gothic Fraumünster, with its stained-glass windows by Chagall; the imposing twin-towered Grossmünster cathedral; the Swiss National Museum; and the modern art collections at the Kunsthaus Zurich. The Dada artistic movement began in Zurich, enjoy its quirky output at Cabaret Voltaire.

Visit Switzerland's tastiest village, Gruyères

Visit one of Switzerland's most photogenic villages, Gruyères, home to the nation's most famous cheese, to explore its castle, Château de Gruyères and various cheese factories. Nearby, take a barge to the medieval ruins on the Isle of Ogoz.