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The Best Cities to Visit in Switzerland

Updated: May 31

Switzerland, a country known for its pristine landscapes, vibrant cities, and rich cultural heritage, offers a myriad of experiences for travelers. Whether you're planning a weekend getaway or a quick day trip, Switzerland's cities boast an array of attractions to suit every taste. Here's a guide to the best Swiss cities to explore, whether you have a weekend or just a day to spare.

Best Cities to visit in Switzerland for a Weekend Trip

Zurich, the financial heartbeat of Switzerland, is not just about banking and commerce. The city's historical sites, scenic views, and culinary delights make it a perfect weekend destination.

  • Visit the Old Town: Wander through narrow lanes and marvel at medieval buildings, including the well-preserved Grossmünster Cathedral, a symbol of Reformed Zurich.

  • Augustinergasse is one of Zurich's most picturesque streets, renowned for its, colorfully painted buildings and charming, narrow cobblestone pathway. This historic lane, nestled in the heart of the city's Old Town

  • Lindenhofplatz: Enjoy panoramic views of the Old Town, Grossmünster Church, City Hall, and the Limmat River.

  • Uetliberg Mountain: For breathtaking views over Zurich and its lake, hike or take a train to Uetliberg.

  • Lake Zurich Cruises: Experience Zurich from the water. Opt for a short lake cruise from Bürkliplatz with an optional stop at the Lindt Chocolate Factory in Kilchberg.

  • Long Lake Cruise and Rapperswil Visit: Embark on the long lake cruise to Rapperswil, where you can explore the charming town and its castle. Continue your adventure by crossing the wooden bridge to Hurden, a scenic walk that leads you to a train station for your return to Zurich.

  • Walk along the Lake from Quaibrücke to Zürichhorn: Embark on a scenic walk beside Lake Zurich, stretching from Quaibrücke to Zürichhorn, and enjoy the serene beauty and vibrant atmosphere along the waterfront.

  • Central Polybahn to the ETH Campus: Take this historic funicular from the city center to the ETH campus for another spectacular view over Zurich.

  • Dining: Don't miss out on traditional Swiss cuisine at Zeughauskeller and the elegant Restaurant «Riithalle».

For other day trip recommendations from Zurich, please have a look at some of the nearby cheese and chocolate factories or plan to go on a hike in Stoos.


Nestled in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, Lugano offers a blend of Swiss efficiency and Mediterranean flair, featuring lush parks, majestic mountains, and serene lakes.

  • Lugano Town Center and Lake Lugano: The heart of the city is perfect for strolls along the lake, offering picturesque views and a tranquil atmosphere.

  • Mount Brè and Monte San Salvatore: Access these peaks via cable car to enjoy stunning vistas and opportunities for hiking.

  • The Olive Grove Trail: A scenic route that showcases the region's rich tradition of olive cultivation.

  • Parco Ciani: Relax in Lugano's most picturesque park, which borders the lake and provides a peaceful escape from the city.

  • Centro Storico Gandria: Explore the historic centre er of the small town of Gandria by boat—amazing trip on the lake and beautiful little village. 

  • Morcote and Parco Scherrer: Morcote, a picturesque village near Lugano, is home to Parco Scherrer, a captivating garden known for its eclectic mix of Mediterranean and Eastern architectural marvels set amidst lush exotic flora. This "Garden of Wonders" in Morcote offers a serene escape, inviting visitors to explore its global cultural fusion in a tranquil lakeside setting.

  • Ascona/Locarno: From Lugano, take the train to visit Lake Maggiore and the charming towns of Ascona and Locarno. Don't miss the lakeside promenade in Ascona and the Madonna del Sasso in Locarno.

  • Bellinzona: If you're coming from the north, consider stopping here on your way to or from Lugano. Visit the three UNESCO World Heritage castles and the old town of Bellinzona.



If you have an additional day, consider taking the train to Como or the bus to Menaggio. These two beautiful Italian towns offer amazing views over Lake Como, with Como known for shopping and fine dining, and Menaggio for its relaxed and chilled atmosphere.


Menaggio Italy
Menaggio Italy

Lausanne, known as the Olympic Capital, is beautifully situated by Lake Geneva and boasts a rich blend of cultural and natural attractions. While Lausanne features a charming old town, it serves as an ideal base for organizing day trips around the Lake Geneva region.


  • Old Town and Cathedral: Wander through the cobblestone streets and visit the impressive Lausanne Cathedral.

  • The Olympic Museum: Immerse yourself in the history of the Olympics through engaging exhibits.

  • Ouchy Promenade: Enjoy a scenic lakeside walk with breathtaking views of the Alps.

  • Lavaux Vineyards: A UNESCO World Heritage site known for its exquisite wines and panoramic views. The area is quite hilly, so be prepared for a rewarding hike. Buses are available, but walking through the vineyards offers the best experience. Consider making this a full-day trip, especially if you plan to enjoy wine and dine in a local restaurant.



  • Lake Geneva, Montreux, and Chillon Castle: Embark on a boat trip to Montreux, celebrated for its Jimi Hendrix statue, jazz festival, and mention in Deep Purple's song "Smoke on the Water." Don't miss visiting Chillon Castle, one of Switzerland's most famous tourist attractions, located a 30-minute walk along the lake south of Montreux. This could easily become a full-day excursion, especially if you take the cable car up to Rochers-de-Naye.

  • Chill in a bar or restaurant

  • Bonus Day Trip: If you have an extra day, take the ferry to Évian-les-Bains in France and visit the Evian water fountain. Bring empty bottles to fill up with Evian water directly from its source.

Lucerne captivates visitors with its blend of historic charm, breathtaking natural beauty, and cultural landmarks, from the iconic Chapel Bridge and picturesque Old Town to the majestic Mount Pilatus and serene Lake Lucerne, making it a must-visit destination in Switzerland.

Lucerne Kapellbrücke
Lucerne Kapellbrücke
  • Visit the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) - Explore this iconic wooden bridge, originally built in the 14th century, known for its interior paintings and historical significance.

  • Explore the Old Town (Altstadt) - Wander through the well-preserved medieval streets of Lucerne's Old Town, admiring the historic buildings, colorful facades, and unique shops.

  • Mount Pilatus Excursion - Take a day trip to Mount Pilatus for breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. You can ascend by the world’s steepest cogwheel railway or take a gondola and cable car for a scenic journey.

  • Visit the Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal) - See the famous monument that commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution, carved directly into a rock face.

  • Enjoy Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee) - Take a relaxing boat cruise on Lake Lucerne to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the serene beauty of the lake.

  • Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus der Schweiz) - Discover Switzerland’s most extensive museum of transport, offering interactive exhibits on all forms of transport, including trains, planes, automobiles, and boats.

  • Richard Wagner Museum - Visit the villa where the famous composer Richard Wagner lived for several years. The museum houses a significant collection of Wagner’s personal items, scores, and instruments.

  • Chill in a Bar or Restuarant

  • Glacier Garden (Gletschergarten) - Explore this natural monument with glacial potholes and discover the fascinating history of Lucerne's landscape formation, including a mirror maze and the history of the area dating back to the ice age.

  • Our hike recommendation: Start with a bus or train ride to Stansstad, followed by a rewarding hike up to Hotel Villa Honegg, where you can snap Instagram-worthy photos of its stunning infinity pool with breathtaking views. Continue your journey around the mountain to catch the Bürgenstock elevator, ascending to even more spectacular vistas atop Bürgenstock mountain. Cap off this full-day excursion by hiking down to Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock and taking a scenic boat ride back to Lucerne, combining natural beauty, luxurious landscapes, and a touch of adventure into an unforgettable experience.

View from Hotel Villa Honegg
View from Hotel Villa Honegg

Best Cities to visit in Switzerland for a 1-Day Trip

The capital city of Switzerland, Bern, is known for its well-preserved medieval city center, cultural sites, and museums.

  • Federal Palace: The seat of Switzerland's government offers guided tours.

  • Bear Park: A unique park home to Bern's symbol, the bear.

  • Einstein Museum and Historical Museum of Bern: Explore the life of Albert Einstein and Bern's history.

  • The Kunstmuseum: Switzerland's oldest art museum with an extensive collection.

  • Bern Münster and Communications Museum: Discover the Gothic architecture and the history of communication.

View of Bern from bear pit
View of Bern from BearPit

Switzerland's cities offer a blend of historical richness, natural beauty, and cultural depth, making them perfect destinations for both short trips and longer stays. Whether you're exploring the cosmopolitan allure of Zurich, the Mediterranean charm of Lugano, the Olympic spirit of Lausanne, or the historical significance of Bern, Switzerland welcomes you with experiences that are as diverse as its landscapes.

When you have a full day to explore Basel, Switzerland's cultural capital nestled at the confluence of the French, German, and Swiss borders, there are several must-visit attractions that promise a day filled with art, history, and unforgettable experiences.

  • Kunstmuseum Basel - Start your day at the oldest public art collection in the world, housing pieces from the early Middle Ages to contemporary works. The museum's extensive collection includes masterpieces by Holbein, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Picasso, making it a haven for art lovers.

  • Basel Minster - A short walk from the Kunstmuseum, the Basel Minster is a stunning example of Gothic architecture with its red sandstone walls, colorful roof tiles, and twin spires. Climb one of the towers for a breathtaking view of the city, the Rhine, and the surrounding landscape.

  • Tinguely Museum - Dedicated to the Swiss painter and sculptor Jean Tinguely, known for his kinetic art, this museum by the Rhine showcases his whimsical machines and interactive sculptures. It's a fun and engaging experience for visitors of all ages.

  • Old Town Basel - Wander through the narrow streets of Basel's Old Town, lined with medieval buildings, boutique shops, and quaint cafes. Highlights include the historic Marktplatz with the ornate Rathaus (Town Hall) and the Spalentor, one of the city's ancient gates.

  • Museum of Cultures (Museum der Kulturen Basel) - Dive into the diverse cultures of the world at this ethnographic museum, which boasts an impressive collection of artifacts from Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania. The exhibitions are thought-provoking and beautifully presented.

  • Rhine River Promenade - In the afternoon, take a leisurely stroll along the Rhine River Promenade. This is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to relax, people-watch, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. You can also take a ferry ride across the Rhine for a unique perspective of the city.

  • Basel Zoo - If time allows, visit Switzerland's oldest and largest zoo, home to a wide range of species from all over the world. The zoo is committed to conservation and offers a chance to see exotic animals in well-maintained habitats.

View of Basel and the Rhine river
View of Basel and the Rhine river

Finish your day with a meal at one of Basel's excellent restaurants, offering everything from traditional Swiss dishes to international cuisine. Basel's compact size makes it easy to explore the city's highlights on foot or by tram, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in its charm and culture.

Geneva, nestled at the southern tip of its namesake lake, is a city brimming with international flair, rich history, and stunning natural beauty. Here are the top six things to do in Geneva:

  • Visit the Jet d'Eau: One of Geneva's most iconic landmarks, the Jet d'Eau is a massive water fountain on Lake Geneva, propelling water 140 meters into the air. A stroll along the lakefront to see this impressive sight is a must-do for any visitor.

  • Explore the Old Town: Geneva's Old Town is a delightful maze of narrow cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and quaint squares. Highlights include the St. Pierre Cathedral and the Maison Tavel, the oldest house in Geneva turned into a museum detailing the city's history.

  • United Nations Office at Geneva: As the European headquarters of the UN, a guided tour of the Palais des Nations offers a fascinating glimpse into international diplomacy. The surrounding Ariana Park, with its peacocks and views of Lake Geneva, is also worth exploring.

  • Visit the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum: This museum provides a powerful insight into the humanitarian work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Through interactive exhibits, it addresses themes of human dignity, recovery, and conflict resolution.

  • Enjoy the parks and green spaces: Geneva is home to beautiful parks and gardens. Don't miss the Conservatory and Botanical Garden, which houses a vast collection of plants from around the world, or Parc La Grange, known for its rose garden.

  • Take a day trip to Mont Salève: Just a short drive or bus ride from Geneva, Mont Salève offers spectacular views of the city against the backdrop of the Alps and Lake Geneva. Hiking, paragliding, and simply enjoying the panorama are popular activities here.

Switzerland's Best Small Villages

Now that you have learned about the best cities to visit in Switzerland, here are some small villages we recommend you see. You will probably be able to see it all in an hour or two. What makes many of these places special is the surrounding landscape and nature.

Tschiertschen

My favourite spot and perhaps the most traditional small village in all of Switzerland. Not overrun by tourism, it offers a unique and authentic feel. It serves as an ideal base for hiking in the Swiss Alps, providing an intimate connection with nature.

Flims (Weekend trip is recommended)

My Second Favorite Spot: Much like Tschiertschen, Flims is located in the canton of Graubünden and is spectacular both in winter and summer. During the summer months, you can embark on incredible hikes along the Bündner Vorab. Even more captivating is the hike to the famous Caumasee, continuing further to the "Il Spir" for an astonishing view over the Rhine Valley. The hike through the Rhine Gorge, starting in Reichenau and following the river and the train line for as long as you desire, is also remarkable. Conveniently, you can take the scenic train back, making for an effortless return after a day of exploration.



Arosa

Also in Graubünden, its charm and allure are indescribable. You can read it all here

View over Arosa
View over Arosa

Stein am Rhein 

Most famous for its beautifully preserved old town. It's definitely a must-visit for anyone who enjoys wandering through enchanting alleys and streets, admiring medieval buildings and frescoes that tell tales of the past.

Appenzell 

Much like Stein am Rhein, Appenzell boasts a stunning traditional old town. Its amazing houses and beautiful streets make it a picturesque destination. There's always something happening here, adding to its vibrant charm. See the second part of this article for some tips of what to do.

Grindelwald

Nestled in the Bernese Oberland, Grindelwald is a gateway to the Jungfrau Region, with breathtaking views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. This village is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering skiing in winter and hiking or mountain biking trails in summer.

Lauterbrunnen

Known for its spectacular scenery, Lauterbrunnen sits in a valley featuring 72 waterfalls, sheer cliff faces, and the towering peaks of the Alps. It's an ideal spot for nature lovers and those seeking tranquility or adventure in its many hiking trails and base jumping spots.

Famouse Falls near Lauterbrunnen
Famouse Falls near Lauterbrunnen

Zermatt

Home to the iconic Matterhorn, Zermatt is a car-free village that combines luxury with pristine alpine beauty. Visitors can enjoy year-round skiing, world-class restaurants, and the charm of its bustling streets filled with traditional chalets.

Interlaken

Situated between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, and surrounded by mountains, Interlaken is the adventure capital of Switzerland. From paragliding and skydiving to scenic boat tours on the lakes, it offers endless outdoor activities along with picturesque views at every turn.


Areal view of Interlaken
Areal view of Interlaken

Silvaplana:

Extremely quaint with little to do—a supermarket, a few restaurants, and the lake. Yet, that's precisely why I frequent this place. It serves as the perfect base to explore the natural beauty of the Engadine Valley.



Are you also interested in visiting one of Switzerland's car-free villages? Read this article here to learn more about our favorite car free towns.

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