Things to see and do in Switzerland
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Attractions in Switzerland
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. You can also choose from guided tours that focus on themes like Geneva's beautiful parks and gardens, buildings of the UN and the International Organizations or on Geneva's old town with its long history.
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.
Climb Little Matterhorn in a cablecar
Make your trip a memory of lifetime and 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.
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.
Take to the water on the splendid Swiss Lakes
Enjoy a lake cruise or ferry trip on the likes of Lake Geneva, Lake Zurich, Lake Brienz, Lake Constance (with visits to towns in Germany and Austria) and the picturesque Vierwaldstättersee 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.
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.
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. In 2017 St Moritz is host city of the Ski World Cup for the fifth time.
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 9,000km (5,592 miles) of well-marked interlinked trails, and most of them offer easy cycling. Many railway stations offer bike hire.
Lace up your hiking boots
Join the Swiss in their favourite pastime: hiking. There are over 65,000km (40,389 miles) of marked trails to explore, with hiking times marked on signposts, and colour-coding according to difficulty.
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. The mountain Hoher Kasten (1795m/ 5889ft) is also worth a visit.
Visit Switzerland's tastiest village, Gruyères
Visit one of Switzerland's most photogenic medieval villages, Gruyères, home to the nation's most famous cheese, to explore its castle, Château de Gruyères, three museums and various cheese factories. Nearby, take a barge to the medieval ruins on the Isle of Ogoz.
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.
Take a scenic 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. Or take the panoramic train Gotthard Panorama Express to Ticino through the Gotthard base tunnel.
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. Learn about papermaking and book printing at the Basel Paper Mill.
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 the Brienz-Rothorn-railway, which is over 125 years old, the region is home to such celebrated resorts as Adelboden, Grindelwald and Interlaken.
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 a UNESCO World Heritage treasure. Today the library is open to the public and also functions as a museum. St Gallen's old town is pretty with decorative town houses from the 16th until 18th centuries.
Brave the bear pits of Bern
Visit the capital city of Bern, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, 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.
See both sides of Lausanne
Lausanne's highlights include the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, the Musée Olympic (Olympic Museum) and the Musee de l’Art brut which exhibits outsider art. 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.
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.
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.