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Switzerland

9 Most Breathtaking Places to Visit in Switzerland

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Switzerland just may be the most beautiful country in Europe, especially in summer. There’s something about the way the mountains still glisten with snow even into the sunniest of summer days, the turquoise lakes — all of which are amongst the cleanest in the world — the fields of alpine flowers… it just goes on and on.

Whether you opt for a luxury rental in Switzerland or try to experience the country cheaply by staying in hostels (to which I say good luck — I paid a crippling $40 for a bunk in a hostel, an experience I hope to never repeat), the best part is that many of the most stunning views in Switzerland are completely free!

In collaboration with Swiss Travel System, I used an 8-day Swiss Travel Pass to explore some of the best places to visit in Switzerland, all by train. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most beautiful places in Switzerland to help you plan the best stops for sightseeing in Switzerland by train. Rather than just give the usual Switzerland tourist spots, I’ve tried to show some more off the beaten path Switzerland highlights, plus popular cities like Zürich and Geneva.

[woman on a train] - best places to visit in Switzerland

Swiss Travel System offers a variety of different travel passes for different budgets and trip durations. Starting at 216 CHF (around $225 USD when updated in March 2018) for a 3 consecutive day 2nd class pass, there are also 4, 8, and 15 day passes, offering more value the longer you stay.

There are also flex tickets where you can travel 3, 4, 8, or 15 days of your choice within a one-month period if you’re more into slow travel. To see a full breakdown of ticket choices and prices, check out their website here.

Plus, if you’re under 26, you’re eligible for an additional 15% discount!  Oh, to be young again….

[mountains and fields and blue sky] - off the beaten path Switzerland

Wondering where to go in Switzerland? I’ve got you covered below, with 9 recommended stops for your Switzerland itinerary plus accommodation and activity recommendations.

But before you get started reading this guide, why not check out this beautiful one-minute video I made about train travel through Switzerland?

 

My Top 9 Best Places to Visit in Switzerland

Montreux and Lac Leman

Montreux is a normally quiet town on Lac Leman near Geneva that pops off for two weeks each year when the Jazz Festival (and 200,000+ visitors!) come to town. Try to line up your time in Montreux with the Jazz Festival, when tons of musical acts (not just jazz) come to town and street food is available all up and down the main lakeside promenade.

Or you can grab some food from the local Coop, take advantage of the open container laws, and have a lakeside picnic while buskers entertain you before the main acts at night.

[orange flowers and blue lake, Montreux]

 

[sign for Montreux jazz fest]

What to Do in Montreux

Montreux is at its best during its yearly Jazz Fest. But your timing doesn’t line up, there’s still plenty to do in Montreux to experience one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland to its fullest.

Montreux is home to the stunning island Chateau de Chillon, a castle that dates back to the 11th century and which has been marvelously kept up over the centuries. It’s certainly one of the most scenic places in Switzerland with stunning lake and mountain views framing the turrets of the castle. Entrance is 12.50 CHF (about $13) but the entrance fee is included with your Swiss Travel Pass if you have one – a great tool for sightseeing in Switzerland!

Of course, the Lake Promenade (which you can take to walk to the castle) is absolutely stunning and definitely worth dedicating some time to enjoying.

The nearby Chaplin’s World is also a popular Montreux attraction. Charlie Chaplin, like many other celebrities, spent many years of his life enjoying Montreux and as a result you can enjoy a museum in his former home.

Day Trips and Tours from Montreux

  • A trip to the Glacier 3000 is one of the most popular day trips from Montreux. You can start in the cute mountain village of Les Diablerets, where you can take a cable car up to a glacier. At the glacier, there is a cool suspension bridge that connects two mountains, giving you impressive views of 20+ peaks over 4,000 meters — including the Matterhorn on a clear day. You can see snow even in the middle of summer here! Check prices, ratings, and availability of the tour here.
  • If time (and weather) permits, you can also take the scenic train up to Rochers de Naye for an aerial lake view. Normally 70 CHF, if you have a Swiss Travel Pass you can make the journey for a much better 26 CHF roundtrip, as the first leg of the trip is included and you get a 50% discount on the second part of the trip.
  • A side trip to nearby Lausanne is a popular option for travelers staying in Montreux. Lausanne is famous for its excellent Olympic museum, the historic Old Town centered around Place de la Palud, and its gorgeous traditional architecture. You can take the train to Lausanne in just a few minutes from Montreux – it’s quite fast and inexpensive by Swiss standards.

 

[castle on a lake edge - one of the most scenic places to visit in Switzerland]

 

Where to Stay in Montreux

Budget: There’s only one hostel in town that I’m aware of, and that’s where I stayed (I was on a tight budget during my entire time in Switzerland). I stayed at the Montreux Youthhostel. It includes breakfast– an excellent value in pricy Switzerland! Keep in mind their late 4 PM check in, which is common throughout Switzerland. Check rates and current availability here.

Mid-Range: If you’re on a bit of a budget, Le Coucou Hotel has excellent prices, a breathtaking view, and a well-reviewed restaurant. It is a bit from Montreux proper, though it is close to a different train station (Haut-de-Caux). Check lowest rates and availability here.

Luxury: A favorite of celebrities like the late Freddie Mercury, it’s not surprising that Montreux offers no shortage of luxury options. The best balance of luxury to price ration is Fairmont Le Montreux Palace. I mean, just look at that building façade — it’s basically the architectural equivalent of the heart-eyes emoji. Check lowest rates and availability here.

 

Geneva

Geneva is one of the most common arrival airports for travelers visiting Switzerland, so there’s a good chance that you’ll be at the very least transiting via Geneva at some point during your Switzerland itinerary. Located right on Lac Leman, despite its large size Geneva is still one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland.

Geneva is also great for chocolate lovers – you’ll find chocolatiers all over the city, as well as plenty of tours themed around sampling the best Swiss chocolate you can find. Besides that, Geneva is known for its museums, its delicious fondue, and its stunning lake and mountain views. The Jet d’Eau pictured below is one of Geneva’s most famous landmarks and is one of the tallest fountains in the world.

Things to Do in Geneva

The best way to explore Geneva is by foot. Walk around the historic city and marvel at all the beautiful buildings and all the watches you’ll never be able to afford. Definitely stop into some of the different chocolate shops and sample some of Switzerland’s finest!

A common must-see on Geneva itineraries is the Jet D’Eau, a massive water fountain shooting water up a massive 140 meters in the air on Lake Geneva — it’s especially beautiful at night when it’s all lit up. The Palace of Nations, home to a huge branch of the United Nations, is also quite popular to visit when in Geneva.

Geneva is also famous for having a ton of unique museums. The Musée Ariana is great for glass and ceramics lovers, whereas those interested in history will appreciate the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum.  I recommend using the Geneva Pass to save money if you plan on seeing a few museums and attractions as the savings will quickly add up. Click to prebook your Geneva Pass and pick it up when you arrive in Geneva.

Aside from museums, don’t miss a steamboat ride on Lake Geneva, or visiting some of the vineyards of Lavaux (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) nearby!

Day Trips and Tours from Geneva

  • If you want the whole Swiss bucket list in one go — trains,  mountains, chocolate, and cheese — you can’t miss a full-day tour to Gruyères – yes, that Gruyères! You’ll learn about chocolate making, meet Swiss cows, see how cheese is made in Switzerland, indulge in fondue, and get to ride the Golden Express, one of Switzerland’s most famous trains. This tour is popular so book in advance here. For a cheaper option that doesn’t include the train, you can book just a tour of the chocolate and cheese factories here.
  • If the glacier tour offered from Montreux is appealing, it is also offered from Geneva for a surcharge (to account for the transfer cost).
  • A traditional steamboat ride on Lake Geneva (also called Lac Léman) is one of the most popular things to do in Geneva. You can combine it with a city tour or if you have the Swiss Travel Pass it should be included on your ticket.
  • If you’re keen to visit a bit of France, Geneva is also extremely close to Chamonix which is at the foot of Mont Blanc as well as the fairytale town of Annecy. Both can be done as day trips from Geneva. There are very affordable half-day tours to Annecy (check prices and availability here) and slightly more expensive full-day trips to Chamonix as well (check prices and availability here).
  • The town of Evian (yes, the famous Evian) is also nearby and the open borders between Switzerland and France make this a breeze.

Where to Stay in Geneva

Budget: I flew into in Geneva and made my way over to Montreux for the night, so I haven’t stayed in any Geneva hostels personally. The best-reviewed hostel that several of my friends have stayed in is Geneva Hostel, which is no frills but quite affordable for pricy Switzerland. It has spacious lockers, friendly staff, breakfast included, and best of all, it comes with a free travel card which will definitely help you save some money in pricy Geneva. Check hostel availability and prices here.

Mid-range: Geneva has a decent selection of mid-range offerings. I’m a big fan of ibis hotels because they’re always clean, reliable, private, and inexpensive. They don’t have the most personality, but sometimes you just want a clean, private room to rest your head in. There are several branches of ibis in Geneva, but ibis budget Petit-Lancy is the most affordable. Like Geneva Hostel, it also includes a free travel card, which means that even though you’re located a bit outside the center you can get into the heart of the city easily without spending a dime. Check lowest prices and availability here.

Luxury: The Mövenpick is one of my most trusted luxury hotel brands, and the one in Geneva is well-reviewed and not absurdly expensive (for a luxury option in Switzerland, that is) Check best prices and availability here. Hotel de la Cigogne is an excellent 5* option, but it’s priced to match. Still, it may be worth it for the central location, luxury amenities, and artist-inspired décor. Check availability and prices online.

Lauterbrunnen Valley and surrounding towns

Lauterbrunnen is an adorable, typically Swiss town nestled in a mountain valley famed for being home to 72 waterfalls — two of which are prominently but casually hanging out in the center of town like it’s no big deal. It’s definitely one of the top must-visit places in Switzerland with super traditional architecture and flower boxes.

Just 20 minutes from Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen is an oasis of calm with tons of opportunities for hiking if you’re feeling tame and all sorts of adventure activities if you’re keen to get your adrenaline pumping – there’s tons of things to do in Switzerland in the summer and Lauterbrunnen is one of the best bases to experience it from!

[brown house with red shutters in a valley] Lauterbrunnen is one of the most scenic places in Switzerland

 

[pile of wood in a shed with flowers]

Things to Do in Lauterbrunnen

If you’re a fan of waterfalls, you’ll be in heaven here: Lauterbrunnen is the best place to go in Switzerland for waterfall chasing, as there are some 72 of them in Lauterbrunnen Valley alone.

Be sure to take the cable car and scenic train up to Mürren via Winteregg for stunning mountain and valley views — complete with lots of Swiss cows (and cowbells!). Afterward, you can either hike down to Gimmelwald or take a cable car. When in Gimmelwald be sure to check out the Honesty Shop — Europe’s first village store based entirely on trust.

No shopkeepers or cameras — just trust, and it works perfectly. For this jaded New Yorker, it was actually a bit of an emotional experience to see this shop in action.

[storefront with wheelbarrow reading 'the honesty shop'] in Gimmelwald, one of the best places to visit in Switerland

 

[hotel with snowy mountains in the background] one of the most scenic parts of Switzerland

Finally, be sure to check out the insanely powerful Trümmelbach Falls in between Lauterbrunnen and Stechelberg. It’s a series of 10 glacial waterfalls which tumble INSIDE of a mountain, which has been carved out by both nature and man so you can see the insane power of the melting glacial water at work.

This is no dainty, Instagrammable waterfall — it’s sheer force and power, and an absolute sight to behold.

[waterfall from above]

If you’re keen to get your adrenaline pumping, there are several adventurous things you can do in Lauterbrunnen. Common options include helicopter flights, paragliding, and skydiving, though of course — none of these activities come cheap! If you’re on a budget, stick to hikes and exploring the cable cars and scenic trains in the region.

There are also more expensive scenic trains such as to Jungfraujoch (the “Top of Europe”) and Schilthorn (where James Bond was filmed) if you’re keen to get some height without the adrenaline rush, but it won’t come cheap.

Where to Stay in Lauterbrunnen

Budget: There are plenty of hostels in Lauterbrunnen. Even though Switzerland is expensive, I think Lauterbrunnen is one of the best towns to visit in Switzerland if you’re on a budget. I stayed at Schutzenbach Backpackers and it was the cheapest hostel I stayed at during my entire time in Switzerland. It had an amazing location and everything was comfortable, but there were some weird quirks (like you had to pay for hot water by the minute and pay for using the electric burners!) that I found annoying. It’s a short walk out of town (20 minutes) but you can also take a bus. Check all hostel options here.

Mid-range: If you have a medium budget, Hotel Staubbach is your best bet. It has great waterfall views and a super convenient location. It’s cozy, but not ultra-luxurious. You could also stay in Mürren, Gimmelwald, or one of the other cute mountain towns in the area! Check lowest prices and availability here.

Luxury: For those with money to spare, Hotel Silberhorn is one of the nicest hotels in town. They have a beautiful sun terrace with an amazing panoramic view of the Jungfrau mountains and an Alpine-style restaurant. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Interlaken

Interlaken is between two lakes (hence the name), Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Both are stunning, but Lake Brienz is a particular charmer, the same color turquoise as Insta-famous Lake Louise.

Interlaken is commonly known as the adventure sports capital of Switzerland. Here, you’ll find activities such as paragliding and skydiving offered everywhere – at premium prices, because #Switzerland.

What to Do in Interlaken

As Interlaken is a mecca for adventure lovers, you really should try to save room in your budget for at least one adventurous splurge. Whether that’s paragliding over the twin lakes of Thun and Brienz, taking a speedboat through one of the beautiful lakes, or even skydiving over one of the most beautiful parts of Switzerland, there’s a lot to do in Interlaken that will get your heart racing. The bravest amongst us can try their hand at paragliding over the twin lakes (check prices here – it’s less expensive than you’d think!) or try riving rafting down the Lütschine River.

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, or if you are working with a tight budget, don’t worry – there are still plenty of other worthwhile things to see in Interlaken. Indulge your sweet tooth at the Funky Chocolate Club, take the funicular 10 minutes up to the top of Harder Kulm, or rent a kayak or paddleboard on Lake Brienz (or Thun, for that matter, but in my opinion, Brienz is way prettier).

 

Friendly Reminder: Whether you are doing crazy things like skydiving or having a more low-adrenaline trip, don’t forget to buy travel insurance. I actually got insanely sick with a freak flu virus in Switzerland and almost needed to visit a hospital – something that, had I not had insurance, would have cost me a fortune. I use World Nomads to cover me from anything from everything from trip cancellation to illness to injury on the road.

Day Trips and Tours from Interlaken

  • Jungfraujoch is the most popular day trip from Interlaken and with good reason: it’s the highest train station in all of Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Called “The Top of Europe,” this impressive superlative has great viewing areas, an ice palace that you can hang out in (even in the summer), and stunning views of the Jungfrau region and its famous mountains. It’s not a cheap tour – check out prices here – but it’s on the top of many people’s Swiss bucket lists.
  • Interlaken is near several beautiful castles. Check out the spectacular Thun Castle, or see the even more beautiful Oberhofen Castle on the edge of gorgeous Lake Thun.
  • Schynige Platte (more on this below) is one of the best day trips in all of Switzerland and where you’ll get the most spectacular views of Interlaken. Better yet, if you have a Swiss Travel Pass then it is already included in your ticket price. If you’re on a budget I would recommend this over the Jungfraujoch train.

Where to Stay in Interlaken

Budget: Backpackers, rejoice! Interlaken is one of the most affordable cities in all of Switzerland. I’d recommend spending a little more time here if you’re on a budget. There are several hostel options (unlike in other Swiss towns and cities, where the options are minimal). One of the cheapest and best-reviewed is Balmers Backpackers Hostel, and since it comes with free breakfast, it’s really a great deal for Switzerland! Book in advance here as hostels in Switzerland often fill up early.

Mid-range: Switzerland doesn’t have a ton of boutique hotels – more often, you’ll choose between guesthouses and fancy chain hotels – but B3 Boutique Bed & Breakfast looks like a real charmer. It’s a touch outside of central Interlaken in a town called Gsteigwiler, but for the great price and rave reviews, it’s a great choice in Interlaken. Check availability and reviews here.

Luxury: The Royal St. James is a Sofitel property, a chain of hotels I trust. It’s a gorgeous building with a great location, spa and sauna, and raved-over breakfasts. I think it’s one of the best luxury options in Interlaken. Check prices and availability here.

Schynige Platte

Wondering where to visit in Switzerland for the most sweepingly epic views? You can’t miss Schynige Platte and its views over the twin lakes of Interlaken.

When staying in Lauterbrunnen or nearby Interlaken, you simply must take a day trip using the scenic train up to Schynige Platte alpine garden departing from Wilderwil, one of the best train journeys in Europe. The scenic railway will take you up a hill to incredible views of Lake Thun and the even more stunning turquoise Lake Brienz.

You end at the top of a mountain with views of the three of the tallest peaks in the Jungfrau region – Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau herself. The three mountains on one side; the lakes on the other… is this any wonder it’s one of the most scenic places in Switzerland?

[girl with flowers in hair and mountains]

Up at the top, you can enjoy a ton of different hiking trails of mild to moderate difficulty. There’s a kiosk selling surprisingly affordably priced coffee, wine, and beer, as well as a restaurant if you really feel like splashing out and getting fancy. But still, you’ll enjoy relative peace and quiet, as this scenic train in Switzerland is not super well known, making it one of off the beaten path Switzerland’s best hidden gems.

The best part? A return trip to Schynige Platte is 100% included on your Swiss Travel Pass, making it one of the best places to visit in Switzerland in the summer.

[a train snaking its way up to the mountain peak, with lake views]

 

Where to Stay for Schynige Platte:

This is easy to do as a day trip from Lauterbrunnen, which I recommend, though you could also check out hostels and hotels in Interlaken if you want a bit more of a city feel than a country vibe. Check out check out hotel and hostel prices and availability in Interlaken if you prefer to stay in a hotel or guesthouse in one of the prettiest places in Switzerland.

Lake Lucerne and Mount Pilatus

Lucerne is one of the best places in Switzerland for proximity to mountain views. Probably one of the most fun days I had in Switzerland was the day I took the steamer boat across Lake Lucerne to Alpnachstad, then the cogwheel railway up to Mount Pilatus at 2073 meters. The cogwheel railway up to Mount Pilatus is literally the steepest in the world, with a staggering gradient of 48% incline!

The views at the top are spectacular, definitely one of the things you must see in Switzerland.

You can get some stunning views over Lake Lucerne from the top of Pilatus, do some hikes through alpine flowers, see the adorable mountain ibexes who call it home…. then go back down to Lucerne via cable car and bus. 4 distinctly different modes of transit in one day, all included on your Swiss Travel Pass — all running with insane efficiency.

Switzerland, you make my OCD heart very, very happy.

What to Do in Lucerne

Lucerne is a lovely, walkable town with plenty to see. You definitely have to enjoy a river cruise on one of the old-fashioned steamer. It’s also quite close to Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus, both of which offer excellent views and hiking opportunities. I chose Mount Pilatus, but I wish I had time for Rigi, too! These are included if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, or you can purchase tickets a la carte if you’re not using a pass.

There is also the Lion Statue of Lucerne which is…. not very exciting, to be honest. Kapellbrücke, however, is definitely worth the hype. This covered bridge dates back to the 14th century and it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s usually crowded during the day so if you want the best photos I recommend getting an early start.

[bridge, lake, and mountains] one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland

Day Trips and Tours from Lucerne

  • Mount Pilatus is the classic day trip option from Lucerne. It’s included with a Swiss Travel Pass or you can purchase a day trip a la carte here. This tour takes you across Lake Lucerne on a steamboat, ascends via the world’s steepest cogwheel railroad, then you descend using a cable car (and finish your trip back to Lucerne by a short bus ride). You can experience the awesome efficiency of Swiss transport in 4 different forms on this tour, with gorgeous views on all of them (well, I guess the bus is less spectacular).
  • Jungfraujoch is also available as a day trip from Lucerne if you don’t have plans to make it to Interlaken.
  • Titlis is a nearer (and cheaper) day trip option if you’d like to see a glacier up close. Check prices and tour reviews here.

Where to Stay in Lucerne

Budget: I stayed at Lion Lodge when in Lucerne. It’s okay and friendly to the wallet, but nothing that great. I’d stay somewhere else next time.

Mid-range: Had I not been traveling on such a strict budget, I likely would have opted for the ibis Lucerne. Ibis hotels are clean, affordable, and pretty inoffensive — but they’re not exactly luxurious. Still, if you want privacy and cleanliness, ibis is reliable. Just be aware it’s about a kilometer’s walk from town, though Lucerne is pretty well connected when it comes to public transport. Check prices and availability here.

Luxury: If you want the best of the best, Hotel Schweizerhof can’t be beat. It’s beautiful — just look at the front of that building all lit up at night! — with an amazing lake view, a Finnish sauna, a bio sauna (whatever that is), and a spa. One cool quirk about the hotel is that each room is furnished to a represent the personal style of a famous person who has stayed at the hotel in the past, making it a super unique place to visit in Switzerland. Check the prices and availability here, keeping in mind you need to book in advance in the busy months.

Zürich

I didn’t spend too much time in Zürich, but the little time I did spend there was gorgeous! Zürich spans the beautiful Limmat River, which makes all the old architecture even more beautiful. Zürich is also the most cosmopolitan city in Switzerland, so this is where you’ll find a lot of different international cuisines in case you’re tiring of fondue.

Zürich is also one of the major entry points to Switzerland, so if you find yourself transiting through the city, you’ll likely want to give yourself at least a day to explore the city before getting out and seeing more.

What to Do in Zürich

There’s plenty to do in Zürich proper, from exploring the beautiful churches of Grossmünster and Fraumünster, taking a walking tour of the Old Town, strolling down the luxurious shopping street of Bahnhofstrasse, or perusing some of the country’s best museums at a discount using a Zürich Pass.

Foodies can taste traditional Swiss chocolate at Maestrani’s or take a culinary walking tour of the city.

As the biggest city in Switzerland and the entry point for many travelers, Zürich is a great place to base yourself while doing day trips to beautiful lakes and mountains in the Swiss countryside. Bernese Oberland is nearby, as well as beautiful Lake Constanz.

Day Trips and Tours from Zürich

  • Rhine Falls is one of the most popular day trips from Zürich. It’s been called Europe’s biggest waterfall – but that’s more for the sheer power of its rushing water than more impressive factors like width or height. It’s still incredibly beautiful and an absolute force of nature. You can also see the beautiful town of Stein am Rhein, one of Switzerland’s most gorgeous small towns. Shop tours to Rhine Falls here.
  • You can take a day trip to Liechtenstein, one of Europe’s smallest countries, if you are a country counter or just want to see some more beautiful mountains. Take the train from Zürich to the Swiss border town Sargans. From there, you can catch bus #11 to Vaduz, the tiny mountainous capital of Liechtenstein.
  • The cute Swiss town of Appenzell is an easy day trip from Zürich. You can see where they make Appenzell cheese, shop for chocolate, and learn about Swiss culture and tradition. Shop tours to Appenzell here.

Where to Stay in Zürich

Budget: Zürich is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and the hostel prices match that. City Backpacker Biber is the best combination of low-ish prices and good reviews, and with a central location, you’ll save on transport costs which are no small matter in Switzerland. Again, be sure to book hostels in advance as they fill up quickly.

Mid-range: If you can afford to upgrade to mid-range, this is where Zürich really shines. The Motel One Zürich, despite the humble name, is one of the most gorgeous and conveniently located hotels in the city. The design is gorgeous and trendy, the staff friendly, impeccably clean, and it’s located only a 10-minute walk from the central train station. Check prices and availability here.

Luxury: Of course, this being Switzerland, plenty of luxury options abound for travelers with deep pockets. The Park Hyatt is probably the nicest hotel in the city, but costs approximately one kidney to book. A luxe but more affordable option would be the Hotel Schweizerhof Zürich, which certainly isn’t cheap but is about half the price of staying at the Park Hyatt. Check lowest prices and availability here.

Zermatt and the Gornergrat

There’s a reason why Zermatt is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland.

It’s rightfully famous for the glimpse of the Matterhorn’s famous silhouette which you can see from certain angles within the town. On a sunny day, the peak is clearly visible – other days, the Matterhorn shrouds herself in clouds, which makes sighting her even more majestic when it finally happens.

[top of Matterhorn hidden behind trees]

 

[smiling girl on a mountain]

What to Do in Zermatt

When you have a good weather day, it’s definitely worth it to go up to the Gornergrat station on the scenic railway. I took three mountain railways while in Switzerland and the Gornergrat was definitely the most awe-inspiring. As in, I almost wanted to weep when I saw the Matterhorn peeking from behind the clouds on my last day in Zermatt.

The Gornergat is not 100% included with the Swiss Travel Pass, but you’ll get a 50% reduction on the return ticket price of 94 CHF (for a total cost of 47 CHF, an insanely good deal for Switzerland).

[train at top of mountain] a beautiful place in Switzerland!

 

[lake in the mountains] where to visit in Switzerland

Be sure to stop at Rotenboden for stunning views of one of the many alpine lakes dotting the region — if you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of the Matterhorn hanging out reflected in the Riffelsee.

Unfortunately, as you can see, it was rather cloudy when I went up to Gornergrat, so my views weren’t quite as good as they could be. Check the forecast (or just look at the Matterhorn to see if you can see it!) before purchasing your tickets.

While looking at the Matterhorn from afar is great, hiking it is reserved only for serious alpinists. Hike in the Gornergrat area instead if you are a casual hiker and not a serious mountaineer.

Where to Stay in Zermatt:

Budget: As one of the more popular touristic places to visit in Switzerland, Zermatt has a wide range of options, but they go quickly. I enjoyed my stay at Matterhorn Hostel and thought the price was really good for Switzerland. Book in advance here.

Mid-range: A surprisingly good value is ARCA Solebad Wellness & Spa. It’s right by the center train station and, as the name suggests, is home to an excellent spa! It also has a salted heated swimming pool, steam bath, and sauna. Check prices and availability here.

Luxury: One of the most romantic and beautiful hotels in all of Zermatt is Romantik Hotel Julen Superior. The outside of the building couldn’t be any more adorably Swiss, with wood design and flower boxes everywhere. I also really loved the warm, wood interiors and amazing detailing. Plus, the location can’t be beat — after all, Matterhorn views are never far away. Check prices, ratings, and availability here.

Nendaz and the Valais region

The Valais region is famed for its wines, cheeses, and mountains — literally three of my favorite things. Virtually everywhere in the Valais is stunning, but the beautiful mountain town of Nendaz is a fantastic place to enjoy scenic mountain views and traditional Valaisianne cuisine and culture.

What to Do in Nendaz

Nendaz is a ski resort town, but surprisingly, there is so much to do in the summer! I suggest trying to go when the summer alphorn festival is happening – it’s a great cultural experience and the music is lovely, especially with those Swiss Alp views!

Otherwise, you can swim in one of the world’s most beautiful public pools, take the cable car up to Tracouet for some beautiful hikes, relax in the spa at 4 Vallées with a day pass, taste lots of fondue, or even go mountain biking!

I spent an entire week in Nendaz and you’re welcome to read all about it here if you want more detailed recommendations!

[mountain biking]

 

Where to Stay in Nendaz:

Budget: Nendaz is super small and there’s really not much in the way of budget accommodation — certainly no hostels! I’d recommend doing an apartment rental if you’re on a budget.

Mid-range: Your best bet if you are trying not to spend too much is to try to find an apartmental rental on Booking.com or to check out Airbnb (use my link for up to $40 off your first stay!)

Luxury: One of the best ways to enjoy the mountains is to book a luxury chalet rental in Switzerland. If you prefer a hotel, I visited the spa at Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa and holy heck guys it was AMAZING. They have a ridiculous number of saunas and steam rooms, an ice room, indoor and outdoor pools, a salt/floating pool… and probably so much more that I’ve already forgotten. Even if you don’t stay here, I recommend visiting their spa on a day pass! Check out reviews, availability, and prices here.

Note: This post was written in collaboration with Swiss Travel Pass. I received an 8-day travel pass for train travel in Switzerland while writing this post. All opinions are my own, as always.

All the most stunning places in Switzerland in summer — Lucerne, the Matterhorn and Zermatt, Interlaken, the Alps, the Valais, Lauterbrunnen, Montreux & more — and ideas on things to do & how to best get around by train.

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49 Comments

  • Reply
    Cathy Snowbarger
    July 28, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I love your blog

  • Reply
    Rene
    August 4, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Perfect impression from Switzerland. Thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Daniel
    August 5, 2017 at 8:23 am

    Enjoyed reading your blog. I have 4 days in Switzerland in December. Which of these attractions are worth concentarting on. I shall be using the Swiss Travel Pass for my travels there.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      August 6, 2017 at 9:34 am

      Hi Daniel! If you only have 4 days I would personally concentrate on Lauterbrunnen, Luzern, and Zermatt. Check to see if the scenic trains run during the winter, though, as I think some might not (Schynige Platte, Pilatus, and Rigi are included in the pass, but they might not be year-round). The Gornergratbahn in Zermatt runs all year and you can get tickets for 50% off with a Swiss Travel Pass.

  • Reply
    Twan
    August 6, 2017 at 5:21 am

    One of the classical scenic routes is the “Golden Pass” between Montreux, Interlaken and Lucerne. On the stretch between Montreux and Zweisimmen, you’ll find various panorama coach express trains (well, still slow enough to join the scenery!). Look in the timetable for a connection with the “MOB Belle Epoque” train. This train consists of coaches that are built in belle epoque style, and you feel yourself travelling in the style of the 1920s. No supplement or reservation required (reservation is possible, when you want, for a small fee), just hopp on with your travel pass.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      August 6, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Ooh I wish I had known about the Belle Epoque style trains! Thanks for the tip — hopefully next time 🙂

    • Reply
      Kinshuk AWASTHI
      May 24, 2018 at 8:48 pm

      Hi,

      I am going to Switzerland in July end for 4D4N. I have already visited Zurich, Geneva, Bern, Interlaken, Titlis and Jngfrau earlier. So what would you recommend me for these 4 days and also how should I travel or move around for your suggested itinerary( any rail passes? )

      Many thanks in advance.

      Regards,
      Kinshuk

      • Reply
        Allison Green
        May 25, 2018 at 3:36 pm

        I’d visit Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt in that case, 2 nights in each, and I’d use the lowest Swiss Travel Pass or buy your tickets individually.

  • Reply
    Yemima
    August 18, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Hi Allison,
    I enjoy your blog! Got a recommendation from a friend of mine to check your blog to prepare for my travel to Switzerland 🙂
    Thought of doing the Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken, Schynige Platte area for 4 days. Just curious, does the Swiss Pass include cable car and scenic train tickets too by the way, for example the one that you mentioned to take to Muren via Winteregg? Since traveling in Switzerland is expensive, I am thinking whether it is worthwhile to get Swiss Pass for 3 days or not.
    Thanks for the input!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      August 18, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      Hi Yemima, thank you for your comment — glad your friend sent you my way! Yes, you can 100% use the Swiss Pass for the cable car, scenic trains to Murren, as well as all city buses 🙂 No added fees. You have to pay extra for Schilthorn or Jungfrau, though, if those are on your list!

  • Reply
    Glenn & Pam
    November 20, 2017 at 4:20 am

    Hi Allison – your article here has inspired me and my wife to visit Switzerland for 8 days in early July 2018. In fact, if you think we could do it in 8 days, we may just follow the exact same route you took here, including checking out the Montreux Jazz Festival at the beginning of our adventure. This will be our first time visiting Europe, so we are sort of clueless about what the ideal itinerary could be, and we need some help with where to stay in each location. Can you recommend a really cool itinerary along with overnight accomodations? We certainly do not require luxury hotels everywhere, but we would like to have some privacy and a comfortable bed in each spot. Would love to hear your rcommendations for a “perfect 8 day journey” that takes in scenic Switzerland and NOT the big, crowded cities. The jazz festival is the only crowd we’re willing to endure over the 8 days. 🙂 Thanks, Allison, for any help you van give us. We are a little intimadated about doing this, but with your recommendations, we know we will have a blast.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      November 20, 2017 at 3:36 pm

      Hey Glenn & Pam! I’m so excited to hear that, and you will absolutely love it! I would be glad to help you. I’m in transit tomorrow, but I’ll shoot you an email with an itinerary idea and accommodation recommendations sometime in the next few days. You really will have a blast – Switzerland is one of my favorite countries on Earth, and Switzerland is probably one of the easiest countries to travel in all of Europe, especially with the trains, and it’s definitely best experienced outside the cities. Keep an eye on your inbox in the coming days.

  • Reply
    Glenn & Pam
    November 26, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    Hi Allison -just a friendly reminder re: our request for ideas for an itinerary and accommodations. We’re in our late 50s, so maybe we should stay in 2 locations and do all of our exploring from those spots? Trains are definitely our thing, so maybe stay near major train “hubs”? We’re also into lakes, waterfalls and relatively flat hikes of 5 miles or less.

    Thanks so much for your help, Allison! We cannot wait to visit Switzerland! We’re thinking of going in either June or July, but we’re completely flexible. If going in early June would “be the heavy tourism rush” then we could do it, but don’t want to freeze our rear ends off, either!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      November 27, 2017 at 5:33 am

      Hi Glenn! I haven’t forgotten, but with Thanksgiving & finally being home after 5 months away I’ve been busy 🙂 I’ll email you tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest.

      • Reply
        Allison Green
        November 29, 2017 at 8:47 pm

        Hi Glenn & Pam, please check your email as I’ve emailed you recommendations.

        • Reply
          Sheila
          March 27, 2018 at 1:59 am

          Hi, great article! Any chance you could email me the same recommendations as Glenn and Pam? My husband and 18 year old son and I are doing 12 days beginning June 12th and just now planning our itinerary. Thanks!

          • Allison Green
            March 27, 2018 at 8:54 am

            Sure, Sheila, I’ll forward you my recommendations. But I have actually edited the article to include them in this post 🙂

          • Bhuvaneswari Yoganand
            April 1, 2018 at 5:46 am

            Hi Allison
            That’s a wonderful blog you have put up on Switzerland.
            We(husband, 14yr old daughter and me) are planning to do only Switzerland in May. We love hikes, would like to visit a vineyard, chocolate factory, cheese factory and the alps. We do not want to do all the mountains but just one – where we can do all mountain activities.
            We love villages and are not at all keen about the touristy places. We are flying in and pout of Zurich. Any recommendations are welcome please.
            Thank you

          • Allison Green
            April 9, 2018 at 9:26 am

            Hi! Sorry for the delay. I’ll e-mail you a few suggestions.

  • Reply
    Brenda
    January 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Allison,
    I love this post, just stumbled upon it while looking for scenic train routes through Switzerland. We will be disembarking from a river cruise on May 13 in Basel. We’d love to extend our trip by 3 or 4 days and fly back to the states from Zurich. Any suggestions for a quick trip on scenic trains that would include Bern, Lake Lugano and Zurich?

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      January 8, 2018 at 3:00 am

      Hi Brenda! Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to visit most of the regions you mentioned. I took a train from Lucerne to Zurich (the Pilatus railway on the boats of Lake Lucerne to Mount Pilatus is stunning), and then later from Zurich to Zermatt – both were beautiful. To be honest, I think you can’t go wrong with any train travel in Switzerland!!

  • Reply
    Pauline
    March 17, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Hi Allison
    I loved your article. Wondering if I could get some advice on our upcoming trip. My son and I will be in Switzerland for 10 days May 1-11/18 , flying into Geneva and making our way to Zurich before flying home. Is it worth getting the 15 day continuous pass or should I get an 8 day in 1 month pass. Trying to decide how long to stay in each place or is there 2 or 3 places to set as a home base and take day trips from. Thinking of Geneva to Zermatt to Interlaken to Lucerne to Zurich. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Pauline

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      March 17, 2018 at 1:44 pm

      Hi Pauline, thank you! I’d say that the 8 day in 1 month would probably be most cost-effective, as I’m sure you’ll find a day or two when you are not taking a train and just exploring the city. I’d spend 2 nights each of the 5 places you mentioned — none are really better as a ‘home base’ as all these destinations you’ve mentioned are 2-3 hours apart by train. I’d use your pass for Schynigge Platte on the same day you arrive to Interlaken, and your pass for Pilatus or Rigi on the same day you arrive in Lucerne, to maximize the value of it. But I’m sure you can find 2 days out of the 10 where you won’t need to use a train, so that’s probably better value.

  • Reply
    Pragya
    March 24, 2018 at 6:07 am

    This blog was very helpful. Switzerland, the spectacular wonder that it is, and this does not get said enough. The extraordinary beauty of the colossal glaciers, placid lakes, picturesque mountains and medieval castles of Switzerland will take your breath away.

  • Reply
    Avinash
    April 8, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you Allison, we are planning a trip soon. The places you mentioned, can’t it be traced by riding on a car? That way you can stop mid-way, ride at your own leisure and soak in the natural beauty as it comes, Are these routes strictly for railways?

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      April 9, 2018 at 9:25 am

      Hi Avinash, it’s possible to rent a car but it is very expensive to do so (gas and tolls are crazy in Switzerland). You can’t get to Pilatus, Rigi, or Schynige Platte with a car – only railway. Zermatt is also a car-free city. So, this is best for trains, but you could make something similar work with a car. Up to you.

  • Reply
    Vijay
    June 9, 2018 at 7:39 am

    Hi Allison
    Good Day. This is Vijay. It is an awesome guide with detailing. I would like to visit in the 2018/September middle, 6 ~ 7 days with my family kids who are 10 & 12 years. We would want to enjoy green grass scenic, lakes, rope cars across mountains, adventure parks and Train Trips especially Glacier Express.

    Would you please recommend cities and places to meet aforementioned with Hotels and travel pass details?

    I truly appreciate your great travel inputs and guidance to make our Swiss visit most memorable and superfluous happiness

    Well advance Thanks
    Vijay

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      June 10, 2018 at 3:14 pm

      Hi Vijay, I’m glad you found the post helpful. That sounds like a great trip. I would recommend basing yourself in Lucerne, Lauterburunnen, Zermatt, and St. Moritz. I have information about the first three places in this article, as well as detailed hotel recommendations for all three cities. I don’t know anything about St. Moritz having not been yet. I recommend purchasing the Swiss Travel Pass online before your stay. If you have any other questions, let me know!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    June 27, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article. Too many beautiful places to see.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      June 27, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      Thank you – I agree, Switzerland is full of the most beautiful places!

  • Reply
    Natalie
    June 29, 2018 at 1:35 am

    Have been to most of the places you have mentioned- your article made me smile remembering amazing time I had there 🙂

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      July 3, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Aww glad to hear it! Switzerland is so special <3

  • Reply
    Leah
    July 18, 2018 at 4:58 am

    This article is very detailed! Serves a huge help for someone who hasn’t visit these places yet!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      July 18, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      Thank you Leah! Hope you visit someday soon and can put this resource to use!

  • Reply
    Ryan
    July 18, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Great article! Hoping to visit Switzerland someday. Any tips for a first time traveler?

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      July 18, 2018 at 3:36 pm

      Thank you! For Switzerland… budget twice as much as you think! I’d say a minimum of $100 a day to cover everything (you can get away with less, but you’ll want the wiggle room). It’s so beautiful, but so damn expensive!

  • Reply
    Anita
    July 22, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Hi Alison,
    Loved your post. I will be traveling to Switzerland with my husband in September. We have 2 nights in Lucerne, 4nights in Wengen and 2 in Zurich.
    Will we be able to do some good day trips from Wengen? Can you help me a bit.
    Is my itenery ok? I really need your help.
    Thank you dear.
    Anita

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      July 23, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks Anita! I received your e-mail and sent you a response. Hope it helps!

  • Reply
    Tiffany
    July 27, 2018 at 6:39 am

    Switzerland is so wonderful to visit, I will add this to my travel list thanks to your post.

  • Reply
    Matthias
    August 19, 2018 at 1:54 am

    We are just back from 7 days in Switzerland. The trainride and your itinerary looks amazing Thanks for the article, it gave us inspiration for our next travel plans!

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      August 24, 2018 at 2:18 pm

      So glad to hear it Matthias, I hope you enjoyed Switzerland as much as I did!

  • Reply
    Rasha
    August 24, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Hi Allison,
    I just ran into your blog and I am in love! Thank you so much for all you amazing recommendations!

    I would love to hear your recommendations about a trip I am planning in a couple of days (I know it’s last minute, but it just came about.) I am currently in Lugano on a conference and I am traveling back to New York from Geneva on September 4th.

    I have from August 27th to September 4th (8 days, excluding last day.)

    I don’t known anyone here and all I want is to explore mountains, lakes and waterfalls (but mountains on top of the list) I am also on a budget, and I am not prepared for advanced hiking/climbing as I don’t have my gear.

    I would like to have Zurich on my list.

    I would love love love your help and insight.

    • Reply
      Allison Green
      August 24, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Hi Rasha, thanks so much! I would recommend Zurich, Lauterbrunnen (good for budgets), Interlaken (good for budgets), and Lucerne (not quite as budget-friendly but very beautiful). Maybe Zermatt if you can fit it in also. You will find plenty of easy hikes where you don’t need advanced hiking or climbing gear around Lauterbrunnen, Lucerne, and Zermatt. Lauterbrunnen especially has lots of waterfalls! I hope that helps you plan. I’ve recommended the best budget options for accommodations for each of those cities. Unfortunately there is no getting around the fact that Switzerland is expensive but you can make it work for your budget with some planning!

  • Reply
    Julianne Long
    September 5, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Allison, my daughter is doing a study abroad and is located in Lugano. I am going over for a week to visit her and do some sight seeing. She is in a hostel for 9 yes I said 9 weeks and am hoping she can join me wherever I am staying and just uber to class during the week. She has off Friday-Sunday so we can go further from Lugano on the weekends. What do you suggest for us on a time line, like a base hotel, how many adn which places to see etc Keep in mind I am only interested in 5 star hotels. I’m spoiled and I know it. My sweet daughter will appreciate the luxury having been in the hostel for so long too! We are looking at the third week in October 2018 so soon. I looked up Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern and they have no availability. I think all the places you mentioned above sound fabulous! Thank you!

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