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When you close your eyes and think of Switzerland, what do you see? Is it snow-capped mountains? Perhaps a verdant valley punctuated by springtime wildflowers? Or maybe it’s a quaint Swiss city filled with cultural attractions and world-class restaurants. No matter which vision comes to mind, all of them are right — because Switzerland is all that and more.
“Switzerland is small, yet we have four official languages, and every single one of the 26 cantons (states) is unique and has something different to offer,” Catja-Camilla Straub, a tour guide with GatyaGoes, shared with Travel + Leisure. “There are different ways to explore and experience Switzerland, and there is something for everyone’s interests: the outdoors, activities, luxury, a large number of festivals, food, culture, and history.”
Straub isn’t the only one to see the nation’s remarkable beauty. “Switzerland can offer you all Europa has to offer in one country,” Tim Wehrle, a tour guide and underwater archaeologist in Zurich, said. “From lonely mountain valleys to a Mediterranean flair in the south of Switzerland, from busy nightlife to historic town centers, you can find everything in Switzerland.”
Ready to see it all? Here are 20 of the best places to visit in Switzerland.
“Zurich is a small gem with only 450,000 inhabitants, yet it’s the largest and most vibrant city in Switzerland,” Straub shared. Zurich may be best known for its banking and shopping, but, as Staub noted, it “actually has a rich history dating back to the Romans.” Staub recommends seeing it all and learning everything you can on a walking tour with a local like her.
Mount Rigi Kulm
Make your way to the top of Mount Rigi to get a view of three countries at once. The mountain, located between Lake Lucerne and Lake Zug, offers views of Switzerland, France, and Germany at the top, which you can reach by taking a train or hiking all the way.
Lake Lucerne offers some of Switzerland’s most fantastic views. The glittering lake stretches on for 43 square miles, offering visitors the chance to hike around it, boat through it, or stay at any number of fantastic hotels lining its shores to enjoy the view.
Make your way about an hour northeast of Lake Lucerne to the town of Rapperswil, which sits on Lake Zurich. The town is known for its abundant roses in the spring and summer and for its medieval architecture, including its very own castle.
History lovers, this one is for you. Ticino, a town in southern Switzerland, is home to not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites — the Bellinzona castles and Monte San Giorgio. Come explore them all year long, dive in the lake in summer, or take to the mountains for a ski trip in winter.
Tucked between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, travelers can find the town of Interlaken. It’s well known as an adventure-lovers paradise, offering the chance to hike, ski, paraglide, skydive, and more through the majestic mountain range surrounding the town.
Quinten, which sits on the shores of Lake Walen, is the place to be for those who love to see everything on foot. The entire community is car-free and offers spectacular views throughout its terraced neighborhoods lined with vineyards overlooking the Churfirsten mountain range.
Want another car-free adventure? Head to the picturesque town of Appenzell in northeast Switzerland. The small community of just 7,000 full-time residents is known for its hand-made cheeses, best enjoyed with a picnic out in the rolling green pastures.
Montreux, positioned on the shores of Lake Geneva, is loved for its palm-lined promenade, castles, and gorgeous alpine vistas. It’s also the place to be over the summer when it hosts the annual Montreux Jazz Festival, which is worthy of planning an entire trip around.
If you’re into cheese, you’ve likely heard the name Gruyère before. Visit its namesake town, located in southwest Switzerland, to dig into the cheese-making tradition and to visit its fairy-tale streets surrounded by a positively bucolic landscape.
Explore another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Switzerland with a visit to the glacial Oeschinen Lake. Like many places in Switzerland, this lake comes flanked by snow-capped peaks and alpine meadows, and it offers more than its fair share of outdoor fun, including everything from hiking and biking to ice fishing in the winter.
Wine lovers will adore visiting Lavaux Vineyard, the nation’s largest contiguous vineyard area that goes on for nearly 2,000 acres. The vineyard is yet another one of Switzerland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which comes with the added bonus of gorgeous views and divine wine tastings.
Want to feel like you’re on top of the world? Head to Stoos, a town located at 4,265 feet. The entire (car-free) town is adorable, but the coolest part is its funicular railway — which holds the record as the steepest on Earth — that takes guests some 2,400 feet high in under 10 minutes.
Find a little slice of luxury in St. Mortiz. The high-end town marries some of the best skiing in the world with some of the best shopping. It’s got glitz, glamour, and plenty of bona fides to back up its reputation as a winter sports heaven; St. Moritz hosted the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympic Games.
Geneva, the second-largest city in Switzerland, is renowned for its international organizations like the United Nations European headquarters and the International Committee of the Red Cross. It’s also a spot where travelers can find luxuries galore, including high-end watch shops selling some of the most exclusive pieces on Earth.
Feel the power of Mother Nature at Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall. Visitors can marvel at the thunderous waters from viewing platforms, and those feeling more adventurous can take boat trips for a closer experience. Just make sure to wear something waterproof.
Zermatt, which sits in the shadow of the Matterhorn, is one more car-free village that combines rustic charm with high-end amenities, including some of the best skiing in Europe. Of course, guests can explore the mountains all spring, summer, and fall by hiking and biking, or just enjoy the town’s fantastic (year-round) shopping opportunities.
Bern, Switzerland’s capital, offers an enticing mix of old and new. The city has retained much of its medieval architecture and cobblestone streets, now the setting for world-class dining venues, boutiques, and beer gardens, all worthy of visiting on your next trip.
Find a little taste of Italy in Lugano, the largest Italian-speaking city in Switzerland (which counts Italian among its four official languages). The Swiss city offers more gorgeous promenades to stroll, along with delicious Italian-influenced restaurants and an art scene that can’t be beaten.
Swiss National Park
Get one more taste of Switzerland’s incredible natural beauty with a visit to Swiss National Park, located in the Engadin Valley. The park encompasses 68 square miles, making it a fantastic place to explore. While on a hike, see how many animals you can spot, including the park’s resident marmots, ibexes, and golden eagles.