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20 of the Best Places to Visit in Switzerland — From Quaint Villages to Glamorous Cities

From tiny medieval towns to iconic ski resorts, here are 20 of the best places to go in Switzerland.

best travel videos switzerland

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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.

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“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

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

Oeschinen Lake

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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.

Lavaux Vineyard

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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 .

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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. 

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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.

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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.

Rhine Falls

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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.

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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.

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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.

Related Articles

12 of the best things to do in Switzerland 

Kerry Walker

Dec 5, 2023 • 13 min read

best travel videos switzerland

Experience the best of Switzerland with these top things to do © nycshooter / Getty Images

No country has it all, but the Swiss are justified in feeling pretty smug about their lot.

In Switzerland almost every drive , train journey , boat trip or cable car ride has an element of the epic, taking you to thundering falls, gorges, valleys hidden deep in the mountains or World Heritage vineyards. Cities with medieval old towns, big-hitter galleries and extraordinary cultural collections are often just a whisper away from vivid turquoise lakes and the glacier-capped Alps. The stride between urban and outdoors is effortless.

Whether it’s floating down the Rhine in Basel, admiring Paul Klee’s punchy art in Bern, hiking below the mighty Matterhorn, feeling the thrill of ice at the Aletsch Glacier, or sipping Chasselas wines in the terraced vineyards of the Lavaux as the last sun touches Lake Geneva, these are some of the best things to do in Switzerland .

Scenic view of Rhine embankment with people swimming in the river in Basel, Switzerland

1. Float down the Rhine in Basel

At the point where Switzerland, Germany and France converge, Basel dives into creative waters when it comes to avant-garde art and architecture, with a raft of galleries right up there with Europe’s best. But this city also likes to let its mind drift. 

Cue the Rhine, where office workers ditch their suits to take a dip, and families gather for a city swim on weekends. A novel way to see Basel is to grab a Wickelfisch (a fish-shaped waterproof bag to keep your stuff dry), make for the river banks in Kleinbasel, then strip to your bathers and float past city landmarks as the current carries you gently downstream. If you prefer to keep your head above water, rent a stand-up paddleboard or join a tour with Birs73 . Locals like to end their dip socially, with drinks and a sunbathe at a buvette (riverside bar), especially on hot summer days.

Planning tip: Hop in just below Museum Tinguely to float 3km (1.8 miles) down the Rhine, or plot your own route by taking a look at the map . You can buy a Wickelfisch at the tourist office in central Barfüsserplatz.

2. Stargaze from your bed

It’s a night silent enough to hear your own heartbeat. Up in the Alps, darkness falls and the only sound is the gentle chime of cowbells. Constellations and distant planets sprinkle the sky like handfuls of glitter. Sound beautiful? It is. Harnessing the wild, Million Stars Hotel is a huge collection of open-air, one-of-a-kind sleeps across the country, where you can slip back to nature and enjoy a little pre-bedtime stargazing.

But we’re not just talking canvas here. These imaginative overnighters are ones that you’ll be raving about for years to come – from beautifully made-up beds plonked on top of remote mountains to a stylishly converted gondola on the edge of a crag, a bed under an apple tree and a “beehive” pod with views of Eiger’s mile-high North Face. And with this being Switzerland, they are not just clever but comfortable, too.

Planning tip: As each place only sleeps two, advance booking is highly advisable. Most are open from July to October.

A woman stands at the edge of a river looking upwards at a multi-arched viaduct

3. Ride the Glacier Express

No country nails rail travel like Switzerland, where little red trains (polished and perfectly on time) chug from valley to peak with ease, leaving you to swoon over the Alpine scenery from the comfort of your panoramic carriage. Evoking a golden age of travel, Switzerland’s train journeys are hands down some of the world’s finest.

The big one everyone is eager to do at least once (and with good reason) is the Glacier Express , which crosses over the Furka, Oberalp and Bernina passes on the eight-hour ride between Zermatt and St Moritz in Graubünden ’s Upper Engadin. Riveting views of meadows, forests, fast-flowing turquoise rivers, canyons, castles, big-shouldered mountains and glaciers keep you glued to the window. The entire journey is a remarkable feat of 1930s engineering, but special mention goes to the Landwasser viaduct – the gravity-defying six-arched bridge that leaps between Tiefencastel and Filisur, and the Oberalp Pass (2,033m/6,670ft), harnessing the true wilderness of the Swiss Alps.

Planning tip: If you want to save a few francs, regularly scheduled services plying the same route can be just as enjoyable and significantly less expensive. Break up the journey by using cheaper SBB trains and overnighting along the way.

4. Hike in the Swiss National Park

For a taste of the Alps before tourists rocked up, head southeast to the Swiss National Park in Graubünden’s Lower Engadin valley, where the mountains nudge their way over into Italy. Easily accessed from the quaint villages of Scuol, Zernez and S-chanf, Switzerland’s only national park is a 172-sq-km (66-sq-mile) visual feast of rushing streams, high moors, pastures, glaciers, larch, pine woods and lakes. Here, nature has been left totally to its own devices: no trees are felled, no meadows are cut, and no animals have been hunted since the park was founded in 1914.

The only way to properly see the park is by chucking on boots and heading for its trail-laced heart. If you only have time for one walk, make it Lakes of Macun, a 21km (13-mile) day hike from Zernez, leading to a high Alpine plateau splashed with 23 lakes that shimmer topaz and sapphire. If you prefer, you can join a guided walk with one of the park rangers (you can book these at the visitor center in Zernez). With an expert in tow, you stand better chances of spotting rarities like wild edelweiss, ibex, chamois, golden eagles and bearded vultures.

Planning tip: Camping is off-limits, but you can stay the night at the gloriously remote Chamanna Cluozza . At 1,882m (6,174ft) above sea level, this is quite possibly the off-grid log cabin of your wildest Alpine dreams. The hut is reached on a moderately challenging 3½-hour uphill hike from Zernez. Bring your own sleeping bag.

Two people take a small boat out on a lake at the edge of a scenic city

5. Boat across Lake Lucerne

There are higher mountains in Switzerland than those lining the fjord-like shores of Lake Lucerne , but none are more enshrined in flag-waving Swiss myth. Boat across the emerald waters of Lake Uri and you’ll glimpse Rütli Meadow , the hallowed birthplace of the Swiss Confederation in 1291. You can also experience the Tellskapelle , a tiny, frescoed chapel that is said to be where the apple-shooting hero and beloved Swiss rebel William Tell escaped from the boat of his Hapsburg captor, Gessler.

Legends swirl like storm clouds over the mountains on the doorstep of Lucerne . Since 1889, the world’s steepest cogwheel railway has been rattling up to 2,128m (6,981ft) Mt Pilatus, where the restless ghost of Roman prefect Pontius Pilate is said to still roam. Never mind the spook stories – you’ll be captivated by the views reaching as far as Germany’s Black Forest on cloudless days. Its beauty rival is 1,797m Mt Rigi (5,895ft), famous for its painterly sunrises and sunsets and once a source of fascination to JMW Turner, who painted it in three different moods.

Planning tip: Lucerne makes an appealing base for exploring the lake, with its Old Town, medieval wooden bridge and promenade strung along the lakeshore.

6. Take the Eiger Express to Jungfraujoch

You’ve got to hand it to the Swiss – they are always ahead of the game. Since 1912, a little red train, fueled by hydro-power from the outset, has wound its way up to Jungfraujoch , Europe’s highest train station at 3,454m (11,332ft), blasting through the icy heart of Eiger. Just recently, the journey has become even more eco-friendly with Grindelwald’s Eiger Express , a super-speedy tri-cable gondola that covers the first leg of the journey using its wheels to generate green power. The ride will make you gasp out loud as you float above the landscape, with spruce forests and log chalets giving way to a realm of rock and ice. You’ll get so close to Eiger’s beastly, mile-high North Face that you’ll feel as though you’ll slam right into it.

At the top of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Jungfraujoch, temperatures drop and the world is always white. You’ll be wowed by the view from the Sphinx observation deck, reaching across a sea of snow-capped, 4,000m (13,123ft) peaks and the 23km (14.2-mile) swirl of the Aletsch Glacier while Germany and France hover in the distance. The frosty Ice Palace is a wonderland of ice tunnels and sculptures – they are impressive today but must have been even more so back when mountaineers first hacked them out by pickaxe in the 1930s.

Planning tip: Bring warm layers and boots, particularly if you fancy the 45-minute stomp to Mönchsjochhütte , Switzerland’s highest serviced mountain hut.

A road winds through mountains with many tight bends and switchbacks

7. Drive the Furka Pass

You won’t be able to tell if it’s the stomach-flipping hairpin bends or the gob-smacking views that make your heart beat so wildly on this high, twisty, up-and-over-the-Alps drive from the isolated valley of the Goms in Valais to mountain-encrusted Andermatt in Uri – the gateway to southeast Switzerland. 

Drive the 31km (19-mile) Furka Pass from west to east to maximize the drama as dark, craggy peaks and glaciers fill your rear-view mirror. If you have a bit of a Bond moment behind the wheel, it’s no coincidence – this road starred in the car chase scene in the 1964 movie Goldfinger. As you swing dizzily around switchbacks, the road tops out at the 2,429m (7,969ft) Furka Pass, where you can peer across the lunar rockscape of a wind-battered plateau to the deeply crevassed Rhône Glacier and its ice grotto before the long, sweeping descent to Andermatt.

Planning tip: The road is open roughly from June to October (depending on snow) but check conditions before heading out.

8. Get active in Ticino’s valleys

In the sultry, parle Italiano canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland, it’s the lakes that get all the love. But dip into Ticino ’s hidden valleys and you’ll lose the crowds and find the region’s true pulse. Here glassy, jewel-colored rivers float past chestnut woods and incredibly pretty granite hamlets cresting hilltops (including Switzerland’s smallest, Corippo , with a population of just 15). And after a day’s hike or bike ride, you can kick back on the vine-swathed terrace of a rustic grotti (tavern) for polenta and brasato (beef braised in red wine) with a glass of the beefy local Merlot.

The wild, woody Valle Maggia is a magnet to mountain bikers and hikers, laced with 700km (435 miles) of trails, including the challenging 52km (32-mile), six-day Via Alta that spotlights the region’s best. For more adventure, head over to the rugged Val Verzasca, bisected by its namesake emerald river and crisscrossed by the Sentiero Verzasca trail. Every Alpine activity imaginable is offered in this valley, from hiking and cycling to rafting, bouldering, paragliding and bungee jumping from the 220m (656ft) Verzasca Dam, which starred in the opening scene of GoldenEye . Swissraft makes it happen.

A crowded street on a summer's day in the old town of Thun, a popular tourist destination in the canton of Bern.

9. Have a culture fix in Bern

You might have an I-can’t-believe-it’s-the-capital moment roaming the streets of Bern , with its refreshingly easygoing vibe, parks and alfresco cafes, resident bears and lush backdrop of hills. The city is certainly a looker, situated on a sharp bend in the startlingly turquoise Aare River, encircled by gentle hills and with views of the snow-frosted Alps on crisp, clear days. And you can get your cultural kicks here, too. 

Begin with a romp around the Altstadt , Bern’s medieval, cobbled, arcaded, flag-bedecked heart. Here you’ll spy the ornate Zytglogge clock (come at four minutes before the hour for the glockenspiel parade), the 15th-century Gothic Münster (hike up its lofty spire, Switzerland’s tallest, for far-reaching views over the rooftops) and many folkloric fountains, including the Kindlifresserbrunnen , depicting a giant snacking on children.

Museum-wise, Bern is a treat. Tour the apartment where Einstein lived and the magnificent Kunstmuseum , home to Renaissance masterpieces, Monets and Picassos. Make the short hop out to Renzo Piano’s bold, wave-like Zentrum Paul Klee to see the color-charged works of Swiss-born German artist Paul Klee.

Detour : Break up sightseeing with a wild swim in the Aare River. When the weather warms, join the Berner for a cooling downstream float. 

10. Ski or hike below the Matterhorn

Nothing sums up Switzerland’s outdoor-loving spirit better than the Matterhorn, the peak that has broken many a rock climber’s rope (and soul) and has a chocolate bar (Toblerone) shaped in its honor. Arrive in Zermatt on the train that chugs from Täsch. Like those who have come before you, you won’t be able to stop yourself from obsessively gawping at that mountain. 

And who could blame you? Razoring up above the Italian border in southern Valais, this 4,478m (14,691ft) fang of rock and ice is utterly mesmerizing, especially when seen from above. You can ski, hike or climb in its pyramid-shaped shadow by riding the world's highest-altitude 3S cable car to 3,883m (12,739ft) Matterhorn Glacier Paradise , on the Klein Matterhorn, with views reaching deep into the Swiss, French and Italian Alps. 

For close-ups of the melting ice, hook onto the two-hour, 6.5km (4-mile), moderately challenging Matterhorn Glacier Trail. When the flakes fall in winter, you can pound the powder on 360km (223 miles) of ski runs, some of which dip over the border into Italy and nearly all of which offer distractingly lovely views of the Matterhorn.

Planning tip: If you have some climbing experience under your belt, you can climb your way to the top with an Alpine guide .

A person hikes on a vast glacier as the sun shines down

11. Admire the Aletsch Glacier  

As you journey into the remote Goms valley in Valais , the Alps take a turn for the wild and the hamlets are pure Heidi stuff with sun-blackened chalets and flower-freckled meadows sweeping up to whopping mountains. The Matterhorn gets all the fuss, but just as arresting is the Aletsch Glacier , the jewel in the crown of the Jungfrau-Aletsch region. Powering past wispy waterfalls, rock spires and the dagger-shaped summit of Aletschhorn (4,193m/13,756ft) like a six-lane glacial superhighway, this 23km (14 mile) swirl of deeply crevassed ice is the longest and most voluminous glacier in the Alps.

Observe the glacier from the viewpoint, or – for close-ups – hit the trail on the 17km (10.5-mile), five- to six-hour hike from Fiescheralp to Bettmeralp where every bend in the ice reveals phenomenal views and the odd Valais Blacknose sheep. If you prefer instant thrills, wobble across the Aletschji–Grünsee Suspension Bridge, which straddles the 80m-deep Massa Gorge.

Planning tip: Reaching the glacier is part of the fun. From Fiesch, take the cable car up to Fiescheralp, then beyond to Eggishorn for your first glimpse of the mighty Aletsch.

12. Walk among vines in Lavaux

In the country’s western crook, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lavaux vineyards are heaven on earth to oenophiles. The world’s steepest vineyards stagger up the terraced hills above Lake Geneva . If you’ve never heard of them, it’s because the hand-picked wines are so select and small-batch that the Swiss keep most of them to themselves – few bottles ever reach export.

Before hitting the caveaux (wine cellars) for a petite dégustation (tasting), brush up your wine knowledge. It’s said that these grapes are blessed by three suns: the one in the sky, the one on the lake and the one radiating heat from the dry-stone walls. The main grape is Chasselas, a very old variety producing crisp, flinty white wines with a fresh, citrusy nose. The fruity reds (Gamay, Pinot noir and Salvagnin) make up just 20% of production.

You can drive the meandering roads that loop around 40km (25 miles) of shore or take the Lavaux Panoramic Train , but you’ll get a better feel for the Lavaux by heading out on foot. Little trails dip into the vines everywhere, but top billing goes to the 11km (6.8-mile) trail from St-Saphorin to Lutry, where you’ll take in stirring views, pretty villages and welcoming cellars.

Planning tip: For a great primer on Lavaux wines, stop off at Vinorama in Rivaz. Housed in a strikingly revamped bunker, the lakefront center speeds you through the wine-growing process, and you can sample dozens of different wines in the Espace Dégustation.

This article was first published Sep 20, 2022 and updated Dec 5, 2023.

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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. U.S. News considered factors like sights, culture, accessibility and variety of things to do, plus traveler and expert input, to calculate the best places to visit in Switzerland. Peruse the list below, and vote for your favorite spots.

Appenzell District

Jungfrau region.

best travel videos switzerland

Interlaken's unique location between two lakes – Lake Brienz and Lake Thun – makes it a breathtaking spot for a vacation. Here, you can spend hours hiking various trails, taking in the castle-studded shores of Lake Thun on a boat cruise or gazing at the surrounding mountains from the Harder Kulm observation deck (accessible via a funicular). To see more of the region's stunning scenery, go for a ride on the Schynige Platte Railway or sign up for a paragliding or skydiving excursion.

best travel videos switzerland

Travelers looking to ski or snowboard in the Swiss Alps should head to Zermatt. This small, car-free town in the middle of the Alps is famous for housing one of the world's most famous attractions — the Matterhorn (a peak so popular that it inspired a Disneyland ride) — and Switzerland's highest ski resort. Novice and expert skiers and snowboarders can spend the bulk of their vacation hitting the slopes, which showcase incredible mountain views. After shredding powder, visitors can ride the Gornergrat train, pick up a slab of homemade chocolate from a local shop or savor cheese fondue at a traditional Swiss restaurant.

best travel videos switzerland

Picturesque Lucerne sits on Lake Lucerne in central Switzerland, framed by snowcapped mountains and medieval buildings. This beautiful city's old town is home to historic attractions, lively town squares, boutique shops and old churches. Top attractions include the Musegg Wall and its towers (the preserved fortifications date back to the 13th century) and Europe's oldest wooden covered bridge, the must-see Chapel Bridge, which was originally built in the 1330s. Those looking for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure can also ride a cable car to Mount Pilatus for stunning views of Lake Lucerne and plenty of activities at the top.

best travel videos switzerland

This lakefront city on the Swiss-Italian border offers visitors a unique travel experience. Because Lugano shares waters with neighboring Italy, the city features a mix of Swiss and Mediterranean influences in everything from its cuisine to its architecture. Plus, Lugano boasts unforgettable panoramas. Visit Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè, both of which you can reach by funicular, for bird's-eye views of Lake Lugano and the city. Or, spend a few hours hiking the Olive Grove Trail or strolling the gardens of Ciani Park. If you'd rather lounge on a beach, head to Lido di Lugano.

best travel videos switzerland

Zurich is a cosmopolitan financial center, a foodie haven and a romantic European city that appeals to all types of travelers. A vacation here should include spending time admiring Lake Zurich, exploring the trendy bars and Michelin-starred restaurants, meandering through Lindenhof park and exploring the city's distinct neighborhoods. Join well-heeled shoppers (or just admire the window displays) on Bahnhofstrasse, a world-famous exclusive retail boulevard. While here, be sure to sample the famous dark chocolate Champagne truffles from specialty chocolatier Teuscher.

best travel videos switzerland

Visit the medieval town of Gruyères if you want to feel as if you've stepped back in time during your next trip. Its good looks (think: car-free cobblestone streets, fountain-filled squares and a 13th-century castle) create an old-world ambiance you're bound to love. Plus, the town is world-renowned for its Gruyère cheese, which you can sample and learn more about at a local cheese dairy or cellar. Sampling chocolate is also a must-do here, so be sure to check out a chocolate factory or attend a chocolate workshop while in town.

best travel videos switzerland

Like its neighbor Lugano, Locarno is located in the Ticino region near the Italian border. This quiet, small town is surrounded by stunning scenery (it sits on the shores of Lake Maggiore in the foothills of the Alps), and since it's the warmest destination in Switzerland, you'll have plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and explore. Be sure to stroll through the picture-perfect main square, Piazza Grande, where the city hosts several summer festivals, and trek to Madonna del Sasso, considered sacred among Roman Catholics. Then, head to the Verzasca river valley to swim or bungee jump.

best travel videos switzerland

Appenzell captures the essence of Switzerland with rolling hills, a car-free village and well-preserved customs. Visitors can take in the scenic landscape of the Appenzell District (located in the northeastern part of the country) by taking a cable car to the oft-photographed Aescher guest house, picturesquely built into the rock face, or hiking the region's "experience trails" like the Gonten Barefoot Trail and Appenzeller Kapellenweg, which weaves past 11 chapels. Meanwhile, the tiny village of Appenzell boasts quaint, frescoed shops and Museum Appenzell, which highlights the region's traditional crafts, folk music and art.

best travel videos switzerland

You'd be hard-pressed to find a small town that boasts more charm and incredible scenery than Brienz. Located in the stunning Bernese Oberland region, Brienz sits on the northeastern shore of Lake Brienz, which features gorgeous turquoise water and is flanked by towering evergreen mountains. Some of the best ways to soak up the awe-inspiring setting include strolling picture-perfect Brunngasse (often proclaimed the most beautiful street in Europe), riding the Brienz Rothorn Bahn (which traverses a steam rack railway) and taking a boat tour to lake attractions like Giessbach Falls.

best travel videos switzerland

Set along the banks of crystal-clear Lake Geneva in western Switzerland, this city is known for its incredible views and as the headquarters of the Red Cross and the United Nations. Geneva is also home to some iconic sights, including the Jet d'Eau (one of the world's tallest water fountains) and an old town with cobblestone streets and picturesque squares. While exploring the latter, be sure to check out the Saint Pierre Cathedral, which features Roman, Gothic and neoclassical details.

best travel videos switzerland

The capital of Switzerland, Bern sometimes gets overlooked for flashier Swiss cities like Zurich and Geneva. But Bern holds many charms, including an old town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) featuring the iconic Zytglogge clock tower, Renaissance-style fountains and a Gothic cathedral with the highest spire in Switzerland. The city also boasts many museums – several dedicated to Albert Einstein, who lived in Bern when developing his theory of relativity. Head to Gurten mountain – which you can reach by funicular, by bike or on foot – for sweeping views of the city below.

best travel videos switzerland

As the largest ski area in central Switzerland, Engelberg is a winter playground, with a long, snowy season for downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and sledding. But don't sleep on a summertime visit here; warmer months allow for a bevy of fun family activities like a toboggan run, 300-plus miles of hiking trails and water activities on Trübsee lake. Regardless of when you visit, you won't want to miss the TITLIS Rotair, a revolving cable car that takes riders up Mount Titlis, and the other cable lifts that stop at a glacier cave, a panoramic restaurant, and the TITLIS Cliff Walk.

best travel videos switzerland

Considered "the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism," St. Moritz welcomes travelers with world-class skiing, swanky hotels, renowned après-ski offerings 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.

best travel videos switzerland

The Jungfrau Region is the perfect place for first-timers wanting to experience the otherworldly splendor that is the Swiss Alps. But be forewarned: The destination is sky high. Popular attractions like the Jungfraujoch (which features Europe's highest train station), the Grindelwald-First cable car and the First Cliff Walk Presented by Tissot sit at the top of towering peaks. The innovative Eiger Express gondola offers even faster transport to the top (just 15 minutes from Grindelwald). For those who'd rather stick closer to Earth's surface, prioritize a hike on a lower-level valley path and a visit to the Pfingstegg toboggan.

best travel videos switzerland

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.

best travel videos switzerland

Located less than 5 miles from Montreux, Vevey is another Lake Geneva gem. This town's picturesque promenade along the lake is filled with flowers and features a sculpture of Charlie Chaplin, who spent the last 25 years of his life in Vevey. The Alimentarium, a nutrition-focused museum, also adorns the shoreline with its beautiful sandstone building, which once served as the headquarters to Nestlé (the company is still based in Vevey). After admiring the town, visitors can take a cog railway to the scenic Les Pléiades vantage point for its stunning views and the astronomy-centric Astropléiades trail.   

best travel videos switzerland

The second-largest city on Lake Geneva, Lausanne is characterized by its renowned Gothic cathedral and surrounding hilly terrain. The stunning lake views and colorful city center don't hurt, either. Travelers can take in Lausanne's lively atmosphere by checking out the city's cafes, admiring the old town's beautiful architecture and perusing the exhibits at the Olympic Museum. No visit would be complete without venturing outside the city to nearby Lavaux, where you can enjoy wine from vineyards that are so scenic and well-preserved (some date back to the 11th century), the area was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Best Time to Visit

Weather & Climate

Switzerland Airports

Getting Around

Places to Visit in Switzerland

Top Things to Do in Switzerland

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One Week Itinerary

Most Scenic Train Routes

Switzerland's Nature Parks

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Your Trip to Switzerland: The Complete Guide

best travel videos switzerland

If you've ever ogled over photos of Switzerland's Alpine peaks, rolling meadows, and pristine lakes, you'll be happy to know that it's even more beautiful in person. The central European country is small compared to its neighbors, but it packs a lot into its 16,000 square miles, including 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites , more than 1,500 glaciers, and at least that many lakes.

All these geologic wonders add up to some of the more stunning scenery in the world. And that's enough to bring travelers—about 12 million of them per year —to Switzerland. When you factor in the countless opportunities for hiking, skiing, and boating; hearty Swiss food; modern, interesting cities; and what is probably Europe's best public transportation system, you're met with an accessible, exciting, and altogether satisfying vacation destination.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit :  The best time to visit Switzerland depends on what you want to do while you're here. Ski slopes are open November through March (though there is year-round skiing in a few places), while hiking and swimming are glorious in the summer months. But to beat the crowds, consider a visit in spring or fall.
  • Language:  Switzerland's cantons, or states, are mostly either French- or German-speaking. In the southern Ticino canton, Italian is the first language and in the Graubünden/Grisons canton, Romansh, a form of ancient Latin, is still spoken by about 60,000 people. The good news for travelers is that English is widely spoken, especially in hotels, restaurants, stores, and tourist attractions.
  • Currency:  Despite being in the middle of western Europe, Switzerland is not part of the EU, though it participates in the European Common economic market. The official currency here is the Swiss franc (abbreviated CHF). That said, your euros will probably be accepted at most places, though they'll give you change in francs.
  • Getting Around :  The clean, convenient, and comprehensive Swiss Travel System is the pride of Switzerland, and rightly so. The system includes trains, buses, lake and river ferries, funiculars, cogwheel trains, ski lifts, and gondolas that permit access to virtually every corner of the country. Because the system is so complete, we recommend touring Switzerland by public transportation, instead of by rental car. From airports and larger train stations, taxis are always available for those who don't feel like schlepping their bags.
  • Travel Tip:  If you plan to do a lot of travel within Switzerland, consider purchasing the Swiss Travel Pass , which grants the holder unlimited first- or second-class travel across the country's network of trains, buses, and boats, and most scenic railways. Plus, you'll get admission to more than 500 museums, as well as discounts on mountain excursions. However, if you just plan to visit a couple of places in the country, you can get by with individual train/transit tickets.

TripSavvy / Michela Sieman

Things to Do

While every traveler has their own reasons for visiting Switzerland, the big draws here can more or less be broken down into three categories: scenery, outdoor activities, and Swiss history and culture. Your trip will likely start or end in one of Switzerland's big cities, where that history and culture are on full display. Be sure to plan at least one (or several) excursions into the Swiss countryside, either on an easy or challenging hike, a boat ride across an iconic lake, or a cable car ride up to some of the highest peaks in Europe.

Here are some ideas for planning your Swiss itinerary:

  • Explore one of the country's culturally rich cities. If you're flying into Switzerland, you'll most likely arrive in Zürich or Geneva. Zürich , Switzerland's largest city, is a delightful place to spend a few days taking in art and history museums, dining in centuries-old restaurants, and strolling down the River Limmat. Geneva , in French-speaking Switzerland, is the diplomatic center of Europe, with plenty of history and classical appeal, and an idyllic setting on the shores of Lake Geneva.
  • Hike, bike, swim, or ski. No matter what time of year you visit, you'll find a huge range of outdoor activities in Switzerland—though admittedly, swimming is a bit brisk from October to June! There are biking and hiking routes for every level of fitness, extensive networks of ski "arenas" across the Alps and the Jura mountains, and rivers and lakes waiting for you to jump in for a swim or a paddle.
  • Choose a mountain excursion. In Switzerland, it doesn't matter if you're not a skier or hiker. You can answer the call of the mountains just the same, thanks to dozens of scenic mountain excursions that whisk you—by cogwheel rail, cable car, or ski gondola—for close-up looks at the Matterhorn , the Eiger, the Aletsch Glacier, and more. At most places, you can have lunch on the mountaintop while you enjoy the view. Don't leave Switzerland without partaking in at least one of these thrilling rides.

For more trip-planning ideas, check out our full-length articles on the top things to do in Switzerland , Switzerland's most scenic train rides , and Switzerland's top lakes .

What to Eat and Drink

Swiss cuisine is hearty, to say the least. Cheese, chocolate, potatoes, and meat feature heavily on Swiss menus everywhere, and risotto is popular in the cantons bordering Italy. Swiss wine, from vineyards mostly south of the Alps, is so popular among the Swiss that only 2 percent is exported!

Here are some of the foods and beverages you shouldn't miss in Switzerland:

  • Fondue. This classic dish of melted cheese, served with bread and vegetables for dipping, is as iconic as the Matterhorn. Fondue originated in French-speaking Switzerland , but it's pretty much ubiquitous across the country.
  • Raclette. Sort of a cousin of fondue, raclette is melted cheese served on a plate with bread, potatoes, and gherkins. Its roots are high in the Alps, where farmers would make meals from their abundant cheese reserves.
  • Rösti. Pancakes made of grated, fried potatoes, rösti may be served as a side dish or, when paired with eggs, meat, or cheese, as the main course.
  • Chocolate. Thanks to milk from grass-fed Alpine cows, plus a few "secret" recipes, Swiss milk chocolate is among the creamiest in the world. Brands to look for include Toberlone, Lindt, Sprüngli, and Läderach.
  • Swiss wine. Largely produced in the more temperant cantons south of the Alps, Swiss wine is equally celebrated in its red and white varieties. Chasselas and pinot noir are among the most common grapes, but across the country's wine-growing region, micro-vineyards specialize in small-batch wines. Be sure to sample the wine while you're here— Swiss wine is hard to find outside Switzerland.

Read more in our guides to the top foods to try in Switzerland and where to eat in Zürich .

Where to Stay

Switzerland's accommodation options range from rustic mountain bunkhouses for hikers to luxurious 5-star hotels with spas, Michelin-star dining, and every imaginable amenity. In between those extremes, there are concept hotels, ski-in/ski-out lodges, and a host of B&Bs, small inns, and vacation rentals.

If you're staying in a city, we usually recommend basing yourself in the historic center so that you're within walking distance of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and bars. But cities like Zürich also have creative, modern districts outside of the center, which make for interesting bases as well. In an Alpine destination such as Zermatt, Saas-Fee, or Gstaad, we like cozy, traditional hotels that really impart a sense of place.

For a taste of what Zürich has to offer, check out our articles on Zürich's top neighborhoods and best hotels.

Getting to Switzerland

International flights to Switzerland, especially those originating outside of Europe, will likely arrive in Zürich or Geneva. Some intra-Europe flights might land at Basel's airport, which is actually located just over the French border.

You can reach Switzerland by train from the neighboring countries of Austria, Germany, France, and Italy. Note that if you're traveling to Switzerland from an adjacent country, your ticket will likely only cover you until your first stop in Switzerland; for example, if you're traveling from Milan, Italy, your ticket will take you as far as Lugano. After that, you'll need a travel pass or ticket from the Swiss Travel System if you want to change trains.

If you're driving to Switzerland, you need to purchase or make sure your car already has a motorway vignette —a sticker that permits access to Swiss highways.

Learn more by checking out our guides to Zürich airport , traveling to Switzerland from Italy , and Zürich's public transportation .

Culture and Customs

While there are no special "rules" for visiting Switzerland, travelers here might find the Swiss somewhat reserved, especially when compared to Mediterranean cultures to the south. Here are a few basic customs and courtesies to keep in mind:

  • Be on time. Trains aren't the only thing that runs on time in Switzerland. Plan to arrive on time, or even a few minutes early, for restaurant reservations or other reserved activities.
  • Don't be noisy. In restaurants, on public transportation, and especially in the evenings in residential areas, keep your voices at a conversational level.
  • Tip in moderation. While tipping waitstaff is appreciated in Switzerland, it's not expected. Tips for your hotel cleaning staff and bellhops are the norm, however.

Money Saving Tips

Here's something you should know about Switzerland before you start planning your trip: it's expensive. Hotels, dining, trains, and attractions are all costly compared to many other European countries, but there are a few ways you can save money:

  • Travel in the shoulder seasons. Visit Switzerland in the spring or fall to save money on airfare and hotels.
  • Drink tap water. Unless otherwise posted, tap water in Switzerland is clean and safe to drink. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up at any tap.
  • Pack a picnic. Before you head out for a day of adventures, stop at a grocery store and pick up bread, cheese, cold cuts, or whatever else you want for a picnic. Just don't forget to grab a chocolate bar for the road!



Switzerland Tourism. "Language distribution." Retrieved on November 9, 2021.

Switzerland Tourism. "Currency." Retrieved on November 9, 2021.

BBC. "Tracing fondue’s mysterious origins." February 12, 2013.

Switzerland Travel Guide

The Best 17 Places to Visit in Switzerland

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One Week in Switzerland: The Ultimate Itinerary

The 10 Best Restaurants in Switzerland

How to Travel From Florence to Paris by Train, Bus, Plane, and Car

France Guide: Planning Your Trip

Matterhorn: The Complete Guide

The Complete Guide to Switzerland's Nature Parks

How to Travel Between Italy and Switzerland by Train

The Best Time to Visit Switzerland

The Most Beautiful Lakes in Switzerland

Your Trip to Zurich: The Complete Guide

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Happy to Wander

13 Magical Trains in Switzerland You Need to Ride ASAP

Last Updated: October 31, 2023

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best travel videos switzerland

Having just returned from a whirlwind binge of Switzerland’s most scenic trains, I can say without an ounce of exaggeration that the Swiss train system is a true marvel of magic.

And beyond their surplus of scenic routes, razor-sharp punctuality and Care Bear-friendly service, the crowning jewel of the Swiss rail system is, in my opinion, its glittering roster of scenic, panoramic Swiss trains – a holy grail of sorts for those traversing Europe by rail.

As I’m sure you know, train travel in Europe is an oft glamourized mode of transport, a classy and elegant contrast to the stuffy conditions of air and bus travel.

Well, I’m happy to report that in Switzerland, all your swankiest train dreams do indeed come true.

As a Canadian who grew up far removed from train travel, I admit the concept always delighted me (thanks, Hogwarts Express!!), and now even after so many years of frequent rides, I’m still like a giddy sugar-high child on her own moving candy shop.

Take it from this fangirl then, European train travel doesn’t really get better than Switzerland.

So, are you keen to try some scenic Swiss train rides for yourself? Here are some of my top picks for train rides in Switzerland you simply cannot miss.

best travel videos switzerland

Save this List of Amazing Swiss Train Rides for later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

The Most Magical Swiss Train Rides You Need to Try

The following are all stunning Swiss train rides that I have personally done and consider extremely bucket list worthy, whether for the landscapes, the trains themselves or just the overall experience. So, without further ado, here are some trains in Switzerland that you definitely cannot miss!

Money saving tip: If you plan on doing many of these train rides in one trip, look into huge money savers like the Swiss Travel Pass , the Half Fare Travel Card or a Eurail Pass to potentially save hundreds of dollars. More on this below!

1. The Golden Pass (Classic)

This Switzerland scenic train is, without a doubt, my favourite.

While not as famous as big Swiss names like the Glacier or Bernina Express , if it’s a touch of old world glamour and Belle Époque elegance you’re looking for, then please, book yourself on the  Golden Pass Classic  as soon as humanly possible.

Golden Pass Classic Train in Switzerland

The entire GoldenPass line is a tremendously scenic line running between Lucerne and Montreux in three separate segments, offering sweeping views of snow-dusted peaks and eight glimmering lakes along the way.

While the entire route is well worth drooling over, the segment from Montreux to Zweisimmen in particular is one I’d highly recommend because a few times a day, you can do the route in the “MOB Belle Époque” which is modelled after a 1930s Orient Express style luxury train.

The most beautiful and scenic train rides in Europe! Don't miss this seriously epic rail travel bucket list on your next trip to Europe. #Europe #Trains #TrainTravel #BucketList

If you’re feeling especially swanky, splurge for 1st class, where you get to sit in plush green armchairs while taking in all the stunning scenery. I have to admit, this felt even swankier than that $7000 train ride I did in India!

Train views along the Golden Pass train in Switzerland

NOTE: The Golden Pass from Montreux to Zweisimmen ALSO has trains called the “MOB Panoramique” that do the same route, but with modern cars and not the classic ones. If you really want the experience I described above, make sure you are booking on the “MOB Belle Époque”.

Beautiful train view along the Golden Pass line in Switzerland

BONUS TIP: I did this scenic ride in November, and I got to witness golden autumn colours mixed in with all the snowy mountains, while enjoying the benefit of fewer crowds. I’d highly recommend this time of year for it! You can also stop off at some of the most magical Christmas markets in Switzerland along the way, including the beautiful lakeside Christmas Market in Montreux.

2. The Glacier Express

This famous Swiss Alps train ride is known as one of the most luxurious and best train rides in Europe, so it’s no wonder it’s made my list (read my honest review of the Glacier Express in 1st class! ).

End to end, it brings you between the swishy ski resorts of Zermatt and Saint Moritz, stopping in a variety of stops like Andermatt and Chur along the way.

From start to finish, you’re looking at a tortoise-like slow ride of about 8 hours, ensuring that it does indeed earn its title of “the slowest express train in the world”.

Glacier Express train in Switzerland

And while the Glacier Express is certainly not everybody’s cup of tea (again, it’s very very slow and takes up an entire day), I loved it for the experience.  

There’s nothing quite like a long scenic train ride to give you an ample dose of dreamy “I love the world” moments.

Imagine giant panoramic glass windows, plush, comfy chairs, and my personal favourite: table service with hot three course meals served straight to your seat.

After all, if you’re taking a train through Switzerland, why shouldn’t you be inhaling a giant chocolate pudding at the same time?

Lunch on board the Glacier Express - roast pork with cauliflower and spaetzle in a mushroom sauce!

It’s not just about the food of course. This wonderful train ride through the Swiss Alps will take you from snow-dusted mountains and terraced vineyards to rocky gorges and turquoise rivers.

This is definitely a bucket list trip that comes with a hefty price tag, but if you want to treat yourself to one of the best train trips in Switzerland, this is it. Just don’t expect to get anywhere in a hurry 😉

Read my full guide to the Glacier Express for more info.

Glacier Express train views in Switzerland

3. The Bernina Express

Bar none, the Bernina Express is one of the most famous train trips in Switzerland, and I’m happy to report that it does indeed live up to all the hype and buzz!

This four hour ride between Chur and Tirano is one that brings you from the snowy mountaintops of Switzerland down to the warm, balmy Mediterranean views of Italy , passing by a constant barrage of unique landscapes along the way.

No doubt, if it’s excellent value you’re looking for, this is the train I’d recommend. read my full guide to the Bernina Express for more info.

Bernina Express Swizerland train views

Compared to other journeys (side-eying you, Glacier Express ), the Bernina Express is quite a short ride, but the diversity of landscapes you get to take in is breathtaking.

From ruined castles and fortresses to quaint alpine villages and famous viaducts, the Bernina Express is like a “best of” tour of Switzerland, all in a compact, time-friendly package.

Just to warn you though, your memory cards will all run out of space, and your phone will 1000% die from the sheer beauty of it all.

Going over the Landwasser Viaduct

NOTE: If you are a keen photographer, or prefer to avoid touristy crowds, I would actually recommend doing this ride using regional trains instead. More on this below!

Inside of the Bernina Express first class train

This Switzerland train ride has amazing views in winter too:

Snowy view over the Landwasser Viaduct

4. The Transalpin (from Austria to Switzerland)

It’s definitely not the most well known of all Swiss train rides, but I recently rode the Transalpin from Innsbruck to Zurich, and was blown away.

This EuroCity Express ride is one that isn’t marketed as being a scenic sightseeing experience, but is nonetheless one that brings you across some awe-inspiring landscapes in Austria, Switzerland and even the wonderful micro-nation of Liechtenstein .

The scenery you pass is gorgeous, but the starring feature for me is the panoramic 1st class car that they add to one journey a day, which allows you to soak in the views with giant windows  just like on the sightseeing trains mentioned above.

Transalpin scenic train ride in Austria and Switzerland

Seriously: it’s the glamour of the aforementioned express trains, but without the crowds!

Sunset over Walensee from the Transalpin scenic train

The best part is, taking this panoramic train at 3:48pm from Innsbruck in March meant I was able to watch sunset from the train, and let me tell you: watching the sky turn fiery pink over Walensee as we weaved through the impossibly green rolling hills of Austria, then Liechtenstein, then Switzerland was pure magic.

This is a lesser known Swiss panoramic train, and definitely a hidden gem that you should consider adding to your Switzerland train tour.

Transalpin train ride views in Switzerland

5. The Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn

Alright, listing the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn is kinda cheating because the following route is technically a segment of the Glacier Express.

But since the Glacier Express is a million years long and not everyone has the luxury of spending a full 8 hours on a scenic train, I would recommend the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn from Visp to Zermatt as an excellent taste of the Glacier Express experience.

Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn 1st class train car

Not only do they have panorama cars just like on the Glacier Express, the rugged scenery here (I would argue) is one of the best parts of the entire GE journey.

Leaving from Visp, you pass by rocky mountains, terraced vineyards, turquoise rivers, and of course, as you approach Zermatt, snowy Alpine towns and even the famous Matterhorn if you pay attention! I didn’t, and managed to miss it, although thankfully I got some great views of it in town!

If you want to experience a panoramic train in Switzerland without paying a reservation fee (and without the accompanying crowds of the more popular scenic trains), then this is a great option.

Mattherhorn Gotthard Bahn scenic Swiss train

Other (Non-Tourist) Swiss Train Rides and Routes I Recommend

Train travel in Switzerland is next level, so naturally, the country has far more to offer than just the panoramic tourist trains mentioned above.

In fact, pick any random route in Switzerland and it’s bound to bring you somewhere pretty scenic.

That said, here are some of my top picks for train rides I’ve done that weren’t part of the panoramic express rides mentioned above, but are still pretty incredible (with the added bonus that they don’t feel at all touristy).

Passenger looking out window on a Swiss train

6. The Express routes above but on regional trains

So here’s a secret I’ll let you in on: all the “Express” trains mentioned above are so-named because they are built for sightseeing, and take you end to end with no stops… BUT regional trains travelling between those areas go past the exact same landscapes, often with fewer crowds, and the ability to open windows on certain trains.

So, while most Swiss train tours will bring you along one of the ‘Express’ trains, if you are an avid photographer, want to save money on the reservation fee, or would like to stop at different towns along the way, then I would recommend doing the Bernina Express and Glacier Express on regional trains instead.

I did this on my return leg from Tirano to Chur (AKA the Bernina Express route) and I loved the experience. I had a carriage all to myself, I could open the windows and overall, I was like a happy puppy sticking her head out a car window the entire time ! 10/10 would recommend.

NOTE: Download the SBB app to look up regional routes with ease. It’s one of the handiest Europe travel apps out there if you’re headed to Switzerland!

Bernina Express on regional trains view

7. From Interlaken to Thun

The clarity and colours of Lake Thun are seriously next-level, so if you can, enjoy the views from a train going from Interlaken to Thun.

I recently got to enjoy the view below while going from Interlaken to Spiez, and I really couldn’t believe my eyes.

Is water even legally allowed to be that blue? Was I trapped in an over-saturated anime?

These are the kinds of existential questions that you’ll find yourself asking on board this ride 😉

Amazing train views over Lake Thun in Switzerland

8. From Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen

One of the biggest treats of doing Switzerland by train is being able to slowly enjoy the fairytale-esque landscapes, and as far as colourful postcards go, it’s tough to beat the short ride from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen .

Rolling green hills, towering mountains and an endless parade of lush green trees await. The best part? The view riding into Lauterbrunnen, as the iconic Staubbach waterfall comes into view.

Fairytale Lauterbrunnen, just a short train away from Interlaken!

9. From Buchs to Zurich

I love that this Switzerland train ride takes you past two stunning Swiss lakes: my personal favourite, the impossibly turquoise Walensee, and of course the beautiful Lake Zurich.

This is a ride I’ve gotten to enjoy a few times, and it’s certainly one of my favourites.

Walensee in Switzerland

10. From Lausanne to Montreux

Alright, so this is another short ride, but it’s an unbelievably beautiful one that glides along the clear blue waters of Lake Geneva the entire time, with a foreground of lush green vineyards to boot.

If your goal is to experience one of the nicest and shortest train routes in Switzerland, I’d highly recommend this ride, especially when it starts to tilt and swerve into Lausanne (a city with an awesome Christmas marke t). Total bliss!

Swiss train ride from Montreux to Lausanne

Amazing Swiss Train Rides Still on My Bucket List

Last but not least, there are a handful of Switzerland scenic train rides that I still haven’t had a chance to do, but it feels weird to exclude them in a roundup of Switzerland’s best train rides, so here they are below:

11. Erlebniszug Rheinschlucht

Imagine riding along the Rhine Gorge in an OPEN TRAIN, with all the fresh smells and sounds of nature hitting your senses directly.

I caught a glimpse of this yellow beauty while on the Glacier Express and I just about lost my mind and demanded that they stop the train immediately so I could transfer.

Unfortunately, the Erlebniszug Rheinschlucht is only available in the summer (which I guess makes sense) but it’s nonetheless something I would love to try someday. Click here for more details (and photos!)

Of all the scenic train rides in Switzerland, there are very few that allow you to experience it all completely open-air, so definitely put this one on your list!

Rhine Gorge in Switzerland

12. The Cogwheel Train up Mount Pilatus

With a title like “the steepest cogwheel train in the world” you can expect the ride up to Mount Pilatus to be pretty special.

The steepest cogwheel train in the world, going up Mt Pilatus in Switzerland

Mount Pilatus is one of my favourite mountains in Europe, and because my visit a few years back was veeery poorly timed (snow delayed the opening of the cogwheel train by a week!), I missed the opportunity to ride this steep monster up to the top.

Nonetheless, my consolation prize was sweet enough: a scenic ride up by cable car, with access to incredible views the entire way up.

The next time I’m in the area, I’ll be sure to catch the Cogwheel train to the top instead, experiencing a nerve-rackingly steep ascent that I’m sure will make me cry a little….. but in a good way!

The stunning views from on top Mount Pilatus

13. Jungfraujoch

Last but not least, we have the legendary Jungfraujoch.

The train ride up to Jungfraujoch brings you to the highest train station in Europe, passing by endless snowy peaks along the way (if your views aren’t obscured by poor weather that is!).

Truthfully, I’ve resisted doing the Jungfraujoch thus far for two simple reasons: cost and uncertainty!

Train going up to the Jungfraujoch

At an eyewatering 200CHF for a regular roundtrip ticket, this is one trip that does NOT come cheap, certainly when bad weather might mean you don’t see anything at all once you reach the top.

Nonetheless, it’s a bucket list item for sure, and one that I’d be keen to test out sometime in the future, as I have heard great things about it. I did part of this journey (which for most, starts in Interlaken) from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen which was short and slow, but very nice.

Jungfraujoch in Switzerland

BONUS: The Gelmerbahn

No roundup of amazing Switzerland train journeys would be complete without this one, even though it’s brief and not quite a conventional train ride.

Nonetheless, the Gelmerbahn (AKA the Gelmer Funicular) is a truly epic ride that deserves a mention on this list.

This surprisingly thrilling ride is an open air funicular that whisks you up a steep mountain to a crystal clear turquoise lake.

Turquoise Gelmersee Lake in Switzerland

The incline is so steep, it was once the steepest of its kind in Europe, and moves 2m per second, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but definitely feels like it when you’re racing up a mountain.

You can take the Gelmerbahn up (which is what we did), down (which I hear is much scarier) or roundtrip. Either way, the unique experience, views, and lake up top all combine to make this one of the coolest Swiss “train” rides you can do!

Read my full Gelmerbahn guide for more tips.

Gelmerbahn Funicular in Switzerland

How to Buy Cheap Train Tickets in Switzerland?

Last but not least, I know what you’re all thinking after reading this post… how can you possibly afford all these Swiss scenic trains?

The tough truth is: enjoying Switzerland train travel is an expensive endeavour indeed, but I’ve been able to discover a variety of cost-saving hacks over the years that might be able to help you out!

TIP #1: Use a rail pass

One of the ways I’ve been able to explore Switzerland by rail SO cheaply is thanks to rail passes!

This is how I managed to scheme my way into only paying 30 euros for my 1st class tickets on the Glacier Express and Bernina Express!

Long story short, Eurail/Interrail passes allow you to waive the base ticket fee which means you only need to pay for a reservation. As such, I paid 306 euros for a Eurail global 10 day pass, (I got a free 1st class upgrade thanks to a sale they were running).

I then used 1 travel day on the Glacier Express, which evens out to only about 30 euros spent for this gorgeous ride (plus the 23 CHF reservation fee).

Still an incredible deal, and by far the cheapest way to do it. This is actually how I did all my recent train rides for a rock bottom price.

So, if you are travelling around Europe, getting a Eurail pass might be a good idea, because Switzerland is certainly where you get the best bang for your buck!

Need more info? Read my detailed Eurail pass review to see if it’s a good fit!

Eurail pass and cappuccino on board a Swiss train

TIP #2: Consider a Swiss Travel Pass

A Swiss Travel Pass is similar to the Eurail / Interrail passes except it gives you unlimited transportation on trains, buses, boats and free public transport + museums).

If you are travelling only around Switzerland, this might be a good option.

It is expensive though, so make sure to do the math and see if getting one would really be worth it.

If you only plan to do one Switzerland train journey, buying a point to point ticket will most likely be cheaper.  Click here for more info on the Swiss Travel Pass.

Comfy 1st class Swiss train carriage

TIP #3: Consider getting a discount card

The Half Fare Travelcard is a very popular card that you can buy which (true to its name) gets you half price tickets across Switzerland.

In 2020, this card is 120 CHF for one month.

This sounds like a lot, but it could be worth it if you are spending an extended amount of time in the country and plan to take multiple Switzerland train trips throughout your stay.

For what it’s worth, if you were to use this card for the Glacier Express alone, you’d already be breaking even so if you take more trains on top of that, then you’d definitely save a good amount of money.

I still think buying a rail pass would work out to be cheaper though in most cases. Click here to browse prices/options for the Half Fare Travelcard.

1st class Swiss train carriage on board the Glacier Express

TIP #4: Travel in the off-season

This tip is mostly just for the Glacier Express , but I’ll include it anyway.

While base ticket prices do not change, reservation fees for panoramic trains can change depending on whether you travel in the off, mid or peak season.

If you want to get the cheapest ride, go in the off-season which A) means guaranteed snow!! and B) half the price on a reservation.

Swiss train at sunset

Any more recommendations for scenic train rides in Switzerland?

I hope you enjoyed this post all about Switzerland train travel and the best Swiss railway journeys the country has to offer, assembled meticulously after many Swiss train trips of my own!

All that said, I’m always looking to add more Swiss trains to my list – especially hidden gems 😉

Let me know in the comments!

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11 thoughts on “13 Magical Trains in Switzerland You Need to Ride ASAP”

Wowww the Golden Pass train is SO BEAUTIFUL

Oh my goodness! I am dying to go to Switzerland and your post confirms why. How stunning!

I’ve always dreamed of riding an old-fashioned train through Switzerland, so I think the Glacier Express is for me! The photos you captured through the train windows were breathtaking.

Wow, these look amazing. Would love to do one of those one day. Nothing quite beats the snowy Swiss scenery.

First of all, I didn’t realize that Switzerland had so many trains, but this proves me wrong! Now I need to go try them all!!!

Other scenic lines: Brig – Kandersteg – Spiez (this line climbs high from Brig along a track right next to the side of the mountains before going through and around the mountains. Beautiful views. A second great ride is (Luzern)- Arth/Goldau – Erstfeld – Göschenen – Bellinzona on the old line via the spiral tunnels. At the town of Wassen, the line circles around the little village and you get to see the quaint church three times from different heights and angles. On the other side of the Gotthard tunnel, in the Italian speaking Swiss canton of Ticino, there are more of these spiral tunnels and great views as the train circles slowly down to the valley floor.

https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ch/voralpen-express.html This is a stunning train ride on a sunny day, definitely one for the list.

What a great article really well researched. I particularly agree with your tip about travelling on the local trains over the titled ones. I would add three trips to do should you return. The Brunig railway, Interlaken to Luzern, Martigny to Chamonix, the Mnt Blanc Express. The three mountain railway lines out of Aigle, I guess that makes it five then!

Great write up! This should help a ton in the coming weeks when we visit Switzerland. Thanks for putting this together!

You’re very welcome. Enjoy Switzerland! 🙂

Thank you for the great write up! Makes it easier for me to decide which rail ride to take. My trip is a year away and I am looking forward to it

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Mightier than the sword: Words are a Swiss Guard's best weapon

The Swiss Guards -- who are all Swiss, male, Catholic, tall -- are the first line of defense at the Vatican; but they also often are the first to meet people in need. (Scroll down for great photos and a video.)

Carol Glatz

New recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard march during a training session at the Vatican April 30, 2024, ahead of their May 6 swearing-in ceremony. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- One of the oldest military corps in the world, the Pontifical Swiss Guard, has always armed itself with the best gear available in its 518 years of active service protecting the pope.

From 16th-century armaments of halberds, longswords and cannons to modern-day automatic assault rifles, Glock pistols, tasers and pepper spray, the guard's arsenal and tactical defense training have sought to be the most avant-garde to provide the best security for a high-profile, crowd-loving, globe-trotting leader.

While most tourists may only see the Swiss Guard as colorful and quaint -- standing guard at papal events and surveilling entrances into Vatican City State -- they are top-tier security specialists who actually find their most needed weapon is words.

"We have been trained in different combat techniques," as well as taken courses in psychology and situational assessment, said Corporal Eliah Cinotti, media officer of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

But "nowadays you have to understand that the best weapon is talking. Until now we have had 100% (success) because we always manage to alleviate situations by talking," he told reporters April 30 in the courtyard behind the guards' barracks.

Swiss Guard uniforms

While most passersby are inquisitive and curious, there has been "a significant increase" in the number of people experiencing some form of crisis, Corporal Cinotti said.

"There are more lonely people looking for comfort and maybe they see it in the Vatican," he said. There are also more individuals who might have some kind of psychological or mental disturbance "who come up to us and perhaps even ask for a word of comfort, a word of support."

While the 135 guards may work anywhere from six- to 12-hour days, he said the hardest part of the job is coming face-to-face, not with potential or actual troublemakers, but with those who are desperately seeking help.

Hardly distant sentinels, the guards, who are on average 22 years old, hear heart-wrenching stories from people.

Some people may have lost their job and have a large family to support, he said, or "there are people maybe who want to take their own life, and we have to stop this person from taking their life."

Others might say they absolutely must see the Holy Father, "and we cannot allow everyone into the Vatican, so we are always trying to have a solution," the corporal said. Most often people are "looking for a specific kind of help," and the Vatican is seen as a kind of "last resort."

"When we are serving the entrances, we are also there to be an ear that listens, too, and it is also part of our Christian formation," he said. The Swiss Guard is open only to Swiss male citizens who have graduated from high school, served in the Swiss Army, stand at least 5 feet 8 inches tall, are under 30 years of age and are Catholic.

Swiss Guards adjust armor

"We are also there to be Christians," which means trying to help others, he said. "We know what to do, but in the moment also sometimes a good word or even maybe putting yourself in the person's place helps. Listening especially helps."

The fact the Vatican is "a hot spot" for so many visitors is one thing that makes the job so unique, said Renato Peter, 24, who joined the Swiss Guard in September.

Most visitors are friendly, they might have a question or want a photo or information, he said, but that means it's also difficult to see which people might be trouble. While police officers typically head out to where a specific problem has been called in, for the Swiss Guard, "the problem comes to us" with no warning.

Swiss Guard helmet

Peter said he decided he wanted to be a Swiss Guard when he was 12 years old when his Diocese of St. Gallen organized a trip to the Vatican for a general audience in 2012. They visited the guards' barracks in the afternoon, "and then I said, 'Yeah, that's a cool job.'"

Peter, who will be officially sworn-in as a guard with 33 other young men May 6, said he thinks "it's really great" to serve Pope Francis who has been listed a number of times by Forbes magazine as one of the "Most Powerful People" in the world and is a "spiritual mentor" to 1.39 billion Catholics around the world.

The recruit likes the camaraderie and friendships he's made, but he is not a fan of Rome's heat, which can reach 107 degrees Fahrenheit or more. It's a job where sometimes "you don't do anything, but you sweat a lot."

Swiss Guard inspection

New recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard stand at attention while an officer inspects their uniforms during a training session at the Vatican April 30, 2024, ahead of their swearing-in ceremony May 6. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Swiss Guards at attention

New recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard stand at attention during a training session at the Vatican April 30, 2024, ahead of their swearing-in ceremony May 6. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

In the Swiss Guard barracks

A new recruit of the Pontifical Swiss Guard receives assistance in putting on his armor in preparation for a training session at the Vatican April 30, 2024, ahead of his swearing-in ceremony May 6. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Swiss Guards help each other

New recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard receive assistance in putting on their armor in preparation for a training session at the Vatican April 30, 2024, ahead of their swearing-in ceremony May 6. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Swiss Guard polishes armor

New recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard polish their armor in preparation for a training session at the Vatican April 30, 2024, ahead of their swearing-in ceremony May 6. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

New Swiss Guards march

Meet the Pontifical Swiss Guard

Meet the Pontifical Swiss Guard

A behind-the-scenes look at the training of the Swiss Guard.


With its Rome bureau founded in 1950, Catholic News Service has been providing complete, in-depth coverage of the popes and the Vatican for more than 70 years.  CNS Rome continues to be your fair, faithful and informed connection to the Holy See.

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