The most beautiful places in Switzerland range from mountain resort towns and villages to vibrant cities nestled on lakes and rivers. But which Swiss cities and towns are the prettiest? Read on to find out!
Tucked in the heart of Central Europe, Switzerland is packed with some of the continent’s most beautiful places and epic landscapes. Its name evokes thoughts of luxury watches, big banks, and delicate chocolates, but there’s much more than meets the eye in Switzerland. So much more.
From fairytale cities and towns circled by snowcapped mountains to some of the world’s purest rivers and lakes, Switzerland is a country where a quick taste simply isn’t enough. Its dramatic alpine scenery, delicious food, and cute cities and towns are meant to be salivated over slowly, and will always leave you returning for more.
Sure, it will cost you a pretty penny to satiate your Switzerland wanderlust, but it’s totally worth it to experience all this breathtaking country has to offer. So bring a camera and an appetite, and let’s explore the most beautiful places in Switzerland.
Flanked by majestic mountains and old city walls, Lucerne is the quintessential Swiss town. It’s jam-packed with precious sights and scenery, encapsulating just about everything you’d expect to see in a picturesque Swiss town.
Lucerne boasts a postcard-worthy lake, Lake Lucerne, and a charming covered bridge, Kapellbrücke. These notable sights provide a breathtaking view amid the epic mountain backdrop. Additionally, Lucerne is a popular place for shopping, where you can buy (overpriced) postcards showcasing all the above.
At times, it feels surreal that a place could be this beautiful (and deservingly crowded). What makes a visit to Lucerne more magical than touristy is staying overnight. Day-trippers come here in droves, but if you’re willing to stay for a night or two (I paid $30/night for a hostel during high season, which is actually a good deal for Switzerland standards), then you’ll have the whole place to yourself in the moon-lit mornings and evenings.
During mid-day, consider day trips to places like Mt. Pilatus to experience the other side of Lucerne, while avoiding the hordes of tourists that flock to the old town. Mt Pilatus (6,982 feet / 2,128 m) overlooks Lucerne and the surrounding alpine landscape. It’s an absolute must to venture up there when the weather permits!
If you’re looking for a fairytale city with crisp alpine air and stunning views, look no further than Lucerne and Mt. Pilatus, two beautiful places in the heart of Switzerland.
Add Zermatt to your Switzerland itinerary and you won’t regret it!
Zermatt is a popular ski resort town at the base of one of the world’s most iconic mountains, the Matterhorn. Like all beautiful places in Switzerland, Zermatt comes with a steep price tag. But it’s worth every Swiss Franc to experience the lofty snowcapped mountains, ritzy resorts, and charming cottages that line this compact, car-free town.
The Matterhorn is a sight to behold
During a visit to Zermatt, the star of the show is undoubtedly the Matterhorn, which stands tall at 14,692 feet (4,478m) elevation. I first saw the Matterhorn on the Toblerone chocolate bars growing up, so it was surreal to finally see it up close!
For me, seeing the Matterhorn was a dream come true! After hours of thick cloud cover and rain, I was convinced that I, like most visitors who spend a day or two in Zermatt, wouldn’t see this majestic mountain. I came to terms with the fact that the closest I’d get to see it was the Matterhörnli Chocolate I devoured earlier in the day. Then, when I least expected it, the clouds began to clear and the Matterhorn gloriously revealed itself. What a spectacular sight!
Zermatt is a year-round destination. From January through March, it’s a winter wonderland with a lively après ski scene. From April onwards, it becomes a summer resort town, where you can still go skiing up in the Swiss Alps if you choose.
Bern is the capital of Switzerland and a great launchpad for exploring the Bernese Alps. It’s also an obligatory stop for those seeking a dose of Switzerland’s history, culture, and architecture.
Nestled along the Aare River, Bern’s Old Town is a picture-perfect, pedestrian-friendly sight. It dates back to the late 1100s, making it a treasured UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Scattered around its cobbled streets are dozens of 16th-century fountains that are a bit quirky and out of place yet add a colorful character to the Old Town. Bern’s Minster, or Gothic-style Cathedral, is another iconic sight that you can’t (and won’t) miss. In between, you’ll find two prominent towers—the Zytglogge and Käfigturm— that bring you back to centuries past.
Swimming down the Aare River
The best time of year to visit Bern is during the summer when you can go swimming down the Aare River. Take a train to Uttigen, and from there, begin your boat ride down the Aare with amazing views of snow-capped mountains. The journey downstream to Bern is about 2.5 hours, which gives you plenty of time to relax, sunbathe, and go swimming in the turquoise alpine waters (which some even consider clean enough to drink). It’s truly the perfect summer activity. The Aare is the best lazy river imaginable!
The nice part about being in Bern is that the Swiss Alps aren’t too far away!
Not far from the capital is a town called Grindelwald, the gateway to the Jungfrau Region. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland, where you’ll find plenty of opportunities for hiking, mountain climbing, and skiing.
Grindelwald is nature at its finest
Grindelwald blew my mind, and I think it will for you, too! The snowcapped mountain views, the happy (and noisy) cows, and the crisp Alpine breeze were enough to give me a dose of adrenaline. And then, there was the mountain cart and scooter rides down the mountain…amazing!
My friend Sven and I took a gondola to the top of Grindelwald First (7,110 feet / 2,167 m), where we spent a few hours checking out the hiking trails and enjoying the panoramic view of the village and valley. Then, we did the mountain cart and scooter ride. The only more thrilling way to see these landscapes would be by paragliding. But if you’re a bit of a wimp, like me, then mountain carts and scooters down the mountain are just as fun!
Located in the Swiss canton of Valais, Sion is a city known for its two hilltop fortifications. It’s home to the 13th-century Tourbillon Castle, one of the most beautiful castles in the world, and Valère Basilica, a castle church with one of the world’s oldest playable organs.
Sion is a great launchpad for exploring the region’s thermal spa resorts. It’s also a popular place for shopping and museum hopping, which you’ll find aplenty throughout the Old Town.
Sion is situated in the center of one of Switzerland’s most notable wine regions. It’s especially known for its Fendant, a dry white wine that embodies the sunny and dry valley where it’s grown. Beyond Sion’s rustic scenery and medieval center, it also has a modern and industrial side to it, making the city the best of both worlds.
People come to Sion for its medieval old town and stay for the fine wines and vistas of the Rhône Valley. Oh, and it’s also just 20 miles away from the Matterhorn, so you can easily cover both in one fell swoop.
Montreux is a pretty resort town on the shores of Lake Geneva (also known as Lac Léman). With its Mediterranean flair, Montreux is the pulse of the Swiss Riviera, extending from Lausanne to Montreux in Switzerland’s French-speaking Vaud region. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland because of its idyllic lakeside setting, rolling hills and mountains, and sprawling vineyards.
Whenever I hear the name Montreux, I always think of the Deep Purple song – ‘Smoke on the Water.’
Montreux has been a hot destination since the 19th century, when famous artists, writers, and musicians began settling here in search of inspiration. Since then, it’s become a popular place for tourism and cultural attractions, including the Montreux Jazz Festival that’s held every July.
Wine is another big draw to Montreux, as the terroir along the lake is perfect for growing grapes. It’s been an important part of the local economy since at least the 12th century. The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces that hug the shoreline are so impressive and culturally significant that they’re deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fun fact: Montreux’s tourism board gives visitors a free welcome drink at the Montreux-Vevey Tourisme information desks. They also let you keep the mini wine glass – a great souvenir!
The Chillon Castle is a must
Another highlight of a visit to Montreux is the Château de Chillon (Chillon Castle), an island castle on the shores of Lake Geneva. This medieval castle dates to the 13th century. From the Chateau de Chillon, you’ll have a stunning view of the lake below.
If you’re looking for a fun lake town with a Game of Thrones-esque castle and lots of wine, Montreux is a great choice!
Basel is a pocket-sized city in northwestern Switzerland that shares borders with Germany and France. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland in a different way than the other destinations I’ve highlighted so far. There are no towering mountains dangling over the city, nor is there a semblance to a postcard fairytale town. But what Basel lacks in the quintessential Swiss stuff, it makes up for with its cool culture and countless things to do.
Though Switzerland’s third-largest city, Basel feels like a hidden gem. Outside of the art circles and pharma industry, it’s relatively unknown and unexplored for most international travelers. But it shouldn’t be.
Basel is home to world-class museums, galleries, and festivals that showcase the city’s multicultural persona. It also has a walkable Old Town with architectural treasures like the red Rathaus (City Hall) and Basel Minster.
Visit Basel in the summer
During the summer, Basel is especially beautiful and lively. The Rhine River provides locals and visitors with a scenic summer swim. The alfresco scene along the riverbank, amid the backdrop of the Old Town, makes for an incredible sight!
Bike riding is another must when you’re visiting Basel. You can easily explore three countries in one day— Switzerland, Germany, and France— while riding up and down gently rolling hills, through cities and towns, and getting lost a couple of times in the process. This was such a fond memory of my trip to Basel last summer.
Basel was so beautiful and interesting, that I even decided to extend my stay for a couple of days!
As its name indicates, Interlaken is wedged between two lakes. It’s one of the most touristy resort towns in Switzerland, and for good reason.
Interlaken resembles something out of a fable, brimming with old timber houses, scenic mountains, and emerald-colored waters of Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. People come to this romantic place for all the above, as well as its proximity to the Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland.
Though this picturesque holiday town is enticing to just about anyone, it’s most appealing to the adrenaline junkies. In Interlaken, there’s no shortage of adventurous activities, including paragliding, canyoning, and white water rafting. Hiking and skiing are also immensely popular. Whichever outdoor adventures you decide to partake in, you’re guaranteed scenic views of Switzerland’s landscapes.
Other attractions in and around Interlaken include lake cruises, visits to nearby castles and waterfalls, and train and helicopter rides. There’s so much to do in Interlaken that you’re best off spending at least a few days here, though preferably not during high season when it’s flooded with tourists.
As the largest city in Switzerland, Zürich is the major financial and cultural hub of central Europe. It’s known for being expensive and high-end, though it’s also considered one of the world’s most livable cities, due to its booming economy, beautiful landscape, and variety of cultural attractions. It’s cheap to get to from the US, but things are pricey once you get here. Totally worth it though – here’s why:
Zürich is among the most beautiful places in Switzerland
Zürich is bordered by rivers, lakes, and mountains, ideal for capturing the perfect Instagram photos. It also boasts a well-preserved Old Town, including sights like the Grossmünster and Fraumünster, both built more than 800 years ago.
For the art and history aficionados, Zürich houses more than 50 museums and 100 art galleries – making it an attractive place for appreciating past and contemporary art. This beautiful city is very walkable, but it also has an excellent public transportation system to get you around to all its precious sights. The main train station isn’t far from the airport, so you can even see some of the city on a brief layover.
What I love about Zürich is that it embraces new trends while also preserving its rich cultural heritage, offering visitors a special taste of old and new.
In Zurich, you’ll never run out of fun things to do, so bring your friends along and explore this beautiful city in Switzerland!
Chur is yet another beautiful place in Switzerland that you should add to your bucket list. It’s the country’s oldest city with a history spanning more than 5,000 years. The Old Town is enchanting by itself, but the alpine backdrop certainly adds to its splendor.
Like Zermatt, Chur’s Old Town is totally car-free, making it one of Switzerland’s most pedestrian-friendly cities. It offers a vast collection of cultural and historic attractions, including the Chur Cathedral, Bündner Kunstmuseum, and St. Martin’s Church.
Chur is also the starting point to one of Europe’s most thrilling train rides, the Bernina Express. This train connects Chur with Poschiavo, Switzerland and Tirano, Italy. Gliding past glaciers, mountains, and lakes, the Bernina Express is the highest railway in the Alps.
Whether you’re stopping by for a day or a weekend, you’ll find plenty of charm and intrigue in Chur, Switzerland.
It’s easy to fall in love with Lauterbrunnen and the Swiss Alps.
Lauterbrunnen is a small picturesque village set in a valley in the Bernese Alps. These alpine meadows are surrounded by rocky mountain peaks and waterfalls, adding to their magical setting. This town is all over Instagram these days, a telltale sign that it’s among the most beautiful places in Switzerland.
Lauterbrunnen is part of the Jungfrau UNESCO World Heritage Site, which covers an area of 824 square kilometers. There are so many things to do here—summer and winter—including hiking, skiing, paragliding, and chasing waterfalls. Two imposing cascades are Staubbach Falls and Trümmelbach Falls, which hang high over the valley.
As I drove through the Lauterbrunnen valley, one of the paragliders nearly missed the car! See my TikTok video below:
I stopped by Lauterbrunnen very briefly en route to Grindelwald, but wish I had stayed longer. There’s enough to do here to spend at least 2-3 days partaking in these incredible alpine activities.
In Lauterbrunnen, there are many stunning landscapes like the waterfall below.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Geneva, also known as Lac Léman, Geneva is a must-see destination in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland and a place that you should consider visiting in 2021.
Geneva probably has the most international name recognition of any city in Switzerland. The city serves as the headquarters for many international organizations like the International Red Cross and the European headquarters for the United Nations, among many others. It’s also a hub for diplomacy and banking.
The highlights of any visit to Geneva include strolling around its Old Town and beautiful lake. A boat cruise—which allows you to see both— is a must when the weather permits. To get from one side of the city to the other, you can take a water taxi across the lake, which gives you an up-close glimpse of Jet d’Eau, a water fountain that shoots up to 459 feet (140 meters) into the air.
There are more than 40 museums in Geneva, most notably the International Museum of the Red Cross, Patek Philippe Museum, and Musée d’ethnographie de Genève (MEG).
Geneva is also known for its high-end watches. Did you know that the city is also famous for its flower clock? It’s made from 6,500 flowers and shrubs:
Day trips near Geneva
Aside from the attractions inside the city, there are many popular day trips nearby. My favorite spot is Annecy, France, a short bus ride away across the border. Known as the Venice of the Alps, Annecy is one of my favorite places in Europe. I decided to spend a night here rather than just doing a day trip.
Another sought-after day trip is Mont Salève, which is called the “Balcony of Geneva.” You can take a téléphérique—or cable car— to the top with incredible views of the Geneva area. Another mountain worth noting is Mont Blanc (15,780 ft. / 4810 m elevation), the tallest mountain in the European Union, just a short distance away.
Rain or shine, Geneva is chock-full of unique attractions that offer a taste of its rich culture, history, food, and shopping scene.
Lausanne is a city on the Swiss Riviera that you should add to your Switzerland wish list.
Located near the crossroads of the French and Swiss Alps, Lausanne is filled with cathedrals, castles, and stunning scenery. Explore the Renaissance and Baroque architecture in the Old Town, and walk around the scenic waterfront area on Lake Geneva, where you’ll be inspired just like many famous writers over the centuries. Lausanne is perched atop three hills, each looking out on the lake and French-speaking region below.
Though Lausanne is the fourth largest city in Switzerland, it feels like a hidden gem. If you’re looking for a beautiful and off-the-beaten-path place to visit in Switzerland, this is it!
Last, but certainly not least on my list of the most beautiful places in Switzerland is a quaint town called Thun (pronounced “toon”).
Resembling a fairytale village, Thun enchants travelers with its medieval flair and beautiful scenery. The idyllic alpine setting emits a feeling of tranquility and charm that is so prevalent in Switzerland.
One of the most iconic sights in Thun is the Thun Castle, a turreted 12th-century fortress. This castle turned tourist attraction gloriously watches over the sleepy alpine village below.
Situated between Bern and Interlaken, Thun presents the perfect day-trip opportunity or weekend getaway that will leave you in awe. Nothing says Beautiful Switzerland like a visit to Thun!
Beautiful places in Switzerland to visit in 2021
I hope you enjoyed my list of the most beautiful places in Switzerland! I hope it provides you with some interesting itinerary ideas for your next trip.
Are there any other beautiful places in Switzerland that I should add? Leave a comment below, and I’ll lookout for the next time!