It’s hard to meet a person who hasn’t dreamt of a Swiss vacation. From film buffs and foodies to adventure enthusiasts and culture vultures, this versatile country has captured the imagination of every kind of traveller. After all, Switzerland is synonymous with so many things—lakes, watches, cheese, chocolates, Heidi, skiing, even Bollywood—that it is impossible to slot as a particular kind of holiday spot. Whether you’re taking your kids on vacation, travelling with your partner on your honeymoon or going there on a business trip, don’t miss the towns most crucial to your having an unforgettable experience.
Tripping on the Lakes
Known as “A Land of Water” for good reason, Switzerland’s stunning lakes offer everything from quaint bridges and paddle boats to vineyards and polo.
The quintessential experience here is taking a paddle steamer at sunrise or sunset. Take in the luxury homes on its ‘Gold Coast’; and the rose town of Rapperswil.
Discover this picturesque lake, marked by wooden bridges and great views of Mt Pilatus, on board the Wilhelm Tell Express.
Lakes Thun & Brienz
Sailors and windsurfers love Lake Thun for the breeze that blows through, thanks to its dramatic location amidst the mountains. Explore the many caves and waterfalls here. The neighbouring Lake Brienz boasts unique, turquoise waters.
The shores of the largest (entirely) Swiss lake offer fantastic vineyards and wellness resorts.
Explore it on a Mouette—a yellow water taxi. On the shore lies the dramatic Chillon Castle
Lakes Lugano, Ritom & Maggiore.
The Lake Lugano area has fishing villages and Renaissance architecture. Visit the mountain lake, Ritom, for fantastic views. Lake Maggiore extends to Italy and boasts Mediterranean cuisine, luxe resorts and sunny weather.
Lakes Sils & St Moritz
At an altitude of 3,300ft, Lake Sils is best explored on Europe’s highest passenger boat. Lake St Moritz boasts horse-riding and polo competitions.
Lakes Walensee & Constance
Take a cruise to River Rhine from Lake Constance, and across the picturesque Lake Walensee, which is hemmed in by steep cliffs.
The Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Trail
The Swiss have mastered the fine art of culinary tourism. While the cities have plenty of gourmet specialities and culinary workshops, the countryside offers unique gastronomical experiences like forest fondue parties, cheese hikes and chocolate and wine train journeys.
Zurich & Stein-Am-Rhein
Go for a chocolate tasting and follow the brand’s history at the Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate factory in Kilchberg, near Zürich. Stein-am-Rhein, a wine-making town on the shore of Lake Constance, is a short train journey away. Head here to sample the local wine.
Visit the weekly market (Tuesdays and Saturdays) in Bärenplatz to pick up some fresh local produce. Then take an hour-long train ride through the Emme Valley to Affoltern village. The village’s Emmentaler show dairy offers a glimpse into how this famous cheese is made, along with servings of local specialities.
Montreux to Broc
For a fairytale-like experience, ride on the Belle Époque Pullman cars of the Swiss Chocolate Train which departs from Montreux to Broc and winds through the fantasy landscape of Gruyères. Halts include the medieval Castle Gruyères cheese factory and the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate plant in Broc.
The quaint Lavaux Express chugs up the slopes of the heritage vineyards around Lake Geneva from April to October. If you’d rather explore the region by road, follow the Wine Road that stretches from Bourdigny to Dardagny—it is dotted with delightful taverns.
The James Bond Tour
James Bond films are as synonymous with car chases, bikini-clad beauties and the high life as they are with the awe-inspiring landscapes of Switzerland. Numerous films in the Bond series ( On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Goldeneye) have memorable scenes where the suave spy gets into his sports car and speeds through the mountainscapes of this magnificent alpine country.
Bond fans in pursuit of their icon’s snow-covered trail can embark upon a road trip that covers the areas and landmarks in Switzerland popularised by these films—from the revolving restaurant at Piz Gloria, with its sweeping view of the Jungfrau peaks, and lakeside leisure in Ticino, to the final destination in this itinerary, the überglamorous St Moritz.
Bond fans will find a special thrill in navigating through the familiar, rugged alpine landscape, complete with tricky curves and myriad mountain passes. Also attempt the Goldeneye Bungee Jump at the Verzasca Dam in Maggiore, which is sure to get your heart racing. In the evening, unwind with the ultimate Bond cliché—a glass of martini; shaken, not stirred.
Zurich to Berne — Schilthorn and Piz Gloria
The spectacular drive from Zürich to the Schilthorn summit in Berne will take you across three passes right to the setting of the clinical research institute featured in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The institute was actually set inside Piz Gloria, a revolving restaurant on the summit. It can be reached by cable car. Once there, relax and take in the truly dramatic views.
Through the Furka Pass & on to Ticino
Proceed southward to Ticino, an Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, by taking the Furka Pass, a high mountain pass in the Swiss Alps on which the famous car chase in Goldfinger took place. Then head to Lake Maggiore and check out the 722ft-high Verzasca Dam; this is the location where the famous bungee-jumping scene in Goldeneye was filmed.
What’s a James Bond-style adventure without skiing down a few spectacular runs? And where better than St Moritz (200km from Ticino) to experience it like the actors who played James Bond did? The famous ski scenes in films like The Spy Who Loved Me were filmed in St Moritz and the resort has also been featured in Goldfinger and For Your Eyes Only. Explore the slopes of this glitzy ski resort; it’ll make for the perfect finale to your thrilling, glamorous, 007-inspired road trip.
A Vacation for Children
Museums of dolls, quaint trains that lead to chocolate factories, nature parks, winter sports, and zoos with rare animals—every nook and cranny in Switzerland is packed with delights for children. With so many options to choose from, you can chart out your own itinerary depending on your family’s preferences and regions of choice.
The Puppenhausmuseum, or Doll’s House Museum, has the largest collection of teddy bears and doll’s houses in the world, as well as vintage toys. Basel Zoo houses thousands of animals, including pygmy hippopotami and the rare Somali wild ass.
Enjoy a family outing on a cruise along Lake Thun in the Bernese Oberland. Many cruises are child-friendly, offering play cabins and game areas. River rafting on the Aare River, located between Thun and Berne, is a fantastic experience, but is only open to children over seven.
Explore a dazzling variety of butterflies at Papiliorama, a tropical garden complete with mangroves and the orchid ponds. While here, also visit Nocturama, a recreation of the nocturnal tropical environs of America under artificial moonlight, and see animals like night-monkeys and Brazilian tree porcupines. The park also has a petting zoo and a play area.
Take the kids on a ride on the vintage Swiss Chocolate Train from Montreux to Broc, with halts at various cheese and chocolate factories, including Castle Gruyères.
Head to this family-friendly village for some sledging, ice skating and carriage rides. Husky rides across this white, winter wonderland are very popular. There are also Learning Parks here for children and beginners to practise skiing.
For a dramatic change of scene, take a cogwheel train ride up Monte Generoso from Capolago, in the canton of Ticino. There’s an astronomical observatory at the top of the mountain, which affords spectacular views of Italy across the border. Don’t forget to stop along the way to see the fascinating prehistoric Bear Cave.
This is the village that inspired Johanna Spyri’s classic, Heidi, the story about a little orphan girl in the Swiss Alps. Kids can take the Heidi Adventure Trail up to Heidi Village where the Heidi House is located.
The Adventure Journey
Among the most popular adventure sports destinations in the world, Switzerland’s varied, alpine topography is an adrenaline junkie’s dream come true. Whether it’s extreme sports like whitewater rafting, cycling, and hiking, or the armchair adventure of a cable car (it’s close enough to paragliding), there’s much thrill and excitement to be had here.
The city is a hub for extreme sports, with everything from glacier trekking to rappelling. Try ice climbing with an instructor from Swiss Alpine Guides. Go whitewater rafting on the beautiful Lütschine River, or take in spectacular aerial views of the Alps while paragliding.
In the summer, go glacier hiking along the rock balconies and tunnels hewn into the ravine of the lower Grindelwald glacier. A winter trip must include a toboggan ride on the Big Pintenfritz, the longest run in Europe, with a vertical drop of 5,250ft from the summit of the Faulhorn to Grindelwald.
Zermatt & The Matterhorn
Zermatt is one of Switzerland’s most popular skiing destinations. The Matterhorn peak, with its steep, ridged mountainside, looms large over the Alps. In the summer, the rocky outcrop also offers scenic routes of varying difficulty levels for mountain bikers.
Avid bikers can explore the forested landscape and old towns in northeast Switzerland, around Lake Constance and the Appenzell region, on a well-marked motorbike trail that begins and ends at Kreuzlingen.
The Swiss National Park, open from June to October, is rich in alpine natural life. Home to species like the alpine ibex, chamois and marmot, as well as a variety of birds and plants, its nature trails will be of interest to both adults and children. If you’re visiting in winter, head to the glamorous ski resort of St Moritz—the winter destination of choice for the rich and famous—for adventure sports in the snow.