The 8 best places to visit in Switzerland
Switzerland is known around the world for its chocolate, cheese, charming towns and scenic landscapes. Everywhere you turn, you're treated to a little bit of history and a little bit of nature's beauty, as well as plenty of mouthwatering cuisine in between.
1. Jura Mountains and Lac de Neuchâtel
In the dark forested hills along the French-Swiss border, the Jura Mountains are a natural wonder. This peaceful region has a beauty all its own: meadows of green, ancient forests, rocky outcrops overlooking a trio of lakes against an Alpine backdrop and slow-paced villages and valleys little changed in centuries.
Begin with a road trip. Kick off at the Jura Vaudois Nature Park for hikes with dress-circle views of Lake Geneva and Gruyère cheese tastings at rustic Alpine huts. Swing north to Lac de Joux, the watchmaking village of Le Sentier, and Vallorbe, honeycombed with Switzerland’s biggest (and most impressive) limestone caves.
Bern often pops up in those I-can’t-believe-it’s-the-capital trivia questions, but frankly, Switzerland’s first city deserves more love. The cobbled, flag-bedecked medieval Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage treat, with 6km (3.7 miles) of covered arcades, cellar shops and bars, fantastical folk figures topping 16th-century fountains, and the eye-grabbing Zytglogge. Framed by wooded hills and split in two by the turquoise Aare River, this red-roofed city looks good from pretty much every angle. It’s pure storybook stuff for kids, too, with its giant who snacks on children (the Kindlifresserbrunnen) and resident bears.
3. St. Moritz
Considered "the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism," St. Moritz welcomes travelers with world-class skiing, swanky hotels and top-notch restaurants. In addition to offering downhill skiing trails so highly regarded that the town has hosted the Olympics twice, St. Moritz features excellent spots for cross-country skiing, sledding and winter hikes. Come summertime, the area invites outdoor lovers to golf, bike, hike or enjoy water sports and swimming in the surrounding lakes.
4. Swiss National Park
Switzerland has just one national park? Yes, we know it’s a shocker, but trust us, it’s a good one. Snuggled away in a remote corner of the country’s southeast on the border with Italy, the 172-sq-km (66-sq-mile) Swiss National Park is the Alps in overdrive: a nature-gone-wild spectacle of high moors, forests, wildflower-freckled pastures, waterfalls, jewel-colored lakes and mountains as high as the sky, where ibex, chamois, marmots, deer and golden eagles roam and fly free.
With medieval castles rising high and the Alps rearing beyond, good-looking Bellinzona is a taste of the best of Italy's best food and culture in Switzerland. You’ll find a generous splash of Italian flair in its historic center, woven with flower-draped alleys, Renaissance churches and cafe-rimmed piazzas that brim with life, laughter, clinking glasses and the out-of-tune toll of countless campaniles.
Tourists may not be as familiar with Montreux as they are with its Lake Geneva neighbors, which makes this Swiss town such an undiscovered gem. Quaint Montreux features a waterfront promenade dotted with flowers and trees, a medieval castle and a charming old town, not to mention a statue commemorating Freddie Mercury (Queen recorded multiple albums here from 1978 to 1995). Montreux is also surrounded by vineyards and hosts a popular open-air jazz festival every summer, while the holiday season brings the festive Montreux Noël market.
Popularity wise, poor old Basel barely gets a look. But that’s a mistake. Straddling the Rhine, this city has everything going for it: world-class art in some of the country’s best galleries, a hot food scene, avant-garde buildings bearing the hallmark of Pritzker Prize–winning architects and an upbeat cafe culture.
8. Swiss Alps
Everything you've probably ever heard about the Swiss Alps is true; it's a destination so phenomenally beautiful that everyone should visit at least once. From the jagged peaks to the lush valleys that seemingly go on forever to the charming medieval mountain towns that overlook glacial lakes and rivers, this Alpine region of Switzerland offers one-of-a-kind scenery. When you're not admiring your surroundings, spend some time hiking or skiing the mountains' trails. No matter which resort area you choose as your base, don't skip the world-renowned Swiss après-ski experience to wind down after a day on the slopes.