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The Grand Tour of Switzerland road trip is a ‘must-do’ for your travel bucket list

Traversing four language regions, five Alpine passes, 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, two biospheres and 22 lakes. The Grand Tour of Switzerland is one exceptional road trip.

As if the Switzerland Grand Tour isn’t quite grand enough, Switzerland has elevated the experience with the Grand Tour Deluxe, combining the country’s finest landmarks with 39 exclusive Swiss Deluxe Hotels and an array of gourmet restaurants giving visitors something to really sing about.

The best Switzerland road trip

The Grand Tour of Switzerland is a 1,643-kilometre journey that weaves its way across this mountainous country nestled between Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. Yet Switzerland offers more than mountains, precision clocks and chocolate.

With exquisite scenic views and cultural jewels, from palm-lined lakeshores to sparkling glaciers. Medieval villages to buzzing cities. The Grand Tour of Switzerland packs in many sights. And there is even an app to create your own road trip adventure.

Taking in the Swiss rugged landscape, being home to epic lakes and the towering Alps, chic ski resorts and summer hiking trails. It’s littered with picture perfect medieval towns and iconic landmarks including Bern’s Zytglogge clock tower and Lucerne’s wooden Chapel Bridge.

Being landlocked means discovering the country is best by road. Over 50 spectacular spots for photos, 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 5 Alpine passes have been collated into 8 unique stages of a Grand Tour that is an exceptional road trip through Switzerland. There are also four themed and self-drive routes to choose from – Art, Museums & Boutique Cities; Alpine Mountain Passes; UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Wellness, Spas & Water – the Grand Tour Deluxe offers one-of-a-kind touring adventures for all road-trippers, whether by car or motorcycle.

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Grand Tour of Switzerland Route

Switzerland Grand Tour map

Stage 1: Zurich – Appenzell

Starting your drive in the trendy city of Zurich, with its diverse museums, its own food festival and Switzerland’s most vibrant nightlife. Then less than an hour into the Swiss mountains, you’ll continue on to Zurich’s wine country, the thundering Rhine Falls, and the historical book and textile city of St. Gallen before ending up in rural Appenzell.

Stage 2: Appenzell – St. Moritz

From Europe’s smallest town, Werdenberg, to Switzerland’s oldest city, Chur, with its 5000-year history, to more recent 800-year-old Cathedral. Then on to the Salginatobel Bridge before ending up in St. Moritz, famous for its mineral springs and as a summer spa resort destination.

Stage 3: St. Moritz to Lugano

This stage has the most significant change in altitude. From Alpine St. Moritz, at 1,822 metres above sea level, down to the palm tree-lined streets of Lugano, at 270 metres above sea level. Visit the castle of Bellinzona in Ticino, and take the funicular railways from the edge of Lugano to Monte Brè and its little village with its grottos.

Stage 4: Lugano – Zermatt

This is one route made for the adventurous driver. The Tremola Pass snakes its way from Airolo up to the Gotthard Pass. At its most spectacular point, over four kilometres, the road climbs a height of 300 metres in 24 hairpin bends, each with its own name.

Stage 5: Zermatt – Lausanne

This is the stage where it’s time to change the mode of transport. Zermatt sits at the base of the Matterhorn and is also known for being a car-free village. Visitors must leave their car in Täsch and take the train to Zermatt and back to Täsch, where the journey continues by car through Valais to Lake Geneva.

Stage 6: Lausanne – Neuchâtel

Lausanne, the second-largest city on Lake Geneva, combines a dynamic commercial town with the locality of a holiday resort. The town is built on three hills, surrounded by vineyard-covered slopes, with Lake Geneva at its feet. It is hardly surprising that the International Olympic Committee has been based here since 1914. Travel across the Jura mountain range to Le Sentier and Neuchâtel, known as Neuenburg in German, with its rich cultural and architectural past. The Castle and the Collegiate Church (built in the Middle Ages) and The Museum of Art and History in the “Palais des Beaux-Arts” make for an exciting cultural stay.

Stage 7: Neuchâtel – Bern

From Lake Neuchâtel, this route takes you to Lake Murten, Lake Schiffenen, Lake Gruyère, Lake Thun, Lake Brienz and finally along the Aare River to the Swiss capital Bern. With its well-preserved medieval townscape, the Old Town of Bern was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1983. Its quaint old town is framed by the Aare River and offers spectacular views of the Alps. The capital of Switzerland has many charms just waiting to be discovered.

Stage 8: Bern – Zurich

From Bern, travel into the Canton of Uri. This is the location of the well-known Rütli meadow, where the oath marking the alliance of the three original cantons was sworn in 1291. Lucerne, the gateway to central Switzerland, is known for its picturesque covered medieval Chapel Bridge on Lake Lucerne. This route then winds its way back to vibrant Zurich, where your Grand Tour of Switzerland began.

Themed routes

By day, breathtaking panoramas unfold, complemented by fine food and wine, cheese, chocolate and boutique shopping. Each evening, you’ll relax in your choice of luxury hotels, all offering elegant architecture, state-of-the-art facilities, classic Swiss tradition and charm, and the highest levels of service and hospitality.

Theme one: UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Steeped in history, the 13-day UNESCO World Heritage Sites Grand Tour Deluxe route features a dozen Swiss sites that have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List for their cultural importance and natural beauty.

The Old Town of Bern, St. Gallen’s Abbey District, the magnificent castles of Bellinzona, and the terraced vineyards of Lavaux on Lake Geneva are just a few of the extraordinary natural, architectural and cultural sights you’ll experience along this route from Bern to Neuchâtel.

After each fascinating day of driving and exploring, return to your choice of hotel for relaxing spa treatments, culinary treats and classic Swiss service and hospitality.

Theme two: Wellness, spas & water

Wellness, spas & water is the longest and most aquatic of the Grand Tour Deluxe routes, a 15- day road trip showcasing the healing and restorative qualities of water from swimming in the River Aare to viewing the dramatic Rhine Falls and relaxing beside tranquil Lake Geneva.

The Wellness route starts in historic Basel and culminates in Geneva, stretching about 1,750 kilometres in total, but split into leisurely driving days where the longest 280-kilometre section is on the second day from Basel to Gstaad.

The other days allow for a thoroughly relaxed road schedule with plenty of time to explore at your own pace and taking in epic sights and destinations such as Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region, Bern, Lake Lucerne, Zurich and on to St. Moritz, Lake Maggiore, Andermatt, CransMontana, Montreux/Vevey, Lausanne and Geneva.

Read: Switzerland’s Wellness, Spas & Water road trip is the international holiday we all need

Theme three: Art, museums & boutique cities

A treasure trove of art and culture lines the art, museums & boutique cities Grand Tour Deluxe, an 11-day journey taking in seven of Switzerland’s boutique cities, a choice of 21 Swiss Deluxe Hotels, and 15 world-class museums dedicated to art, design and photography.

The heady combination of relaxed and leisurely road touring, old town history, and classic and contemporary museums and art galleries makes for an unforgettable road trip through scenic highlights in Basel, Bern, Zurich, Chur, Lugano, Lausanne and Geneva, among other destinations.

Tours of major institutions – including Fondation Beyeler in Basel; the magical and recently expanded Kunsthaus Zurich; Forum Wurth and Grisons Museum of Fine Arts in Chur; and the Olympic Museum and Musée de l’Elysée photography museum in Lausanne – define the art of travel.

Five-star hotels such as the Gstaad Palace, Hotel Splendide Royal Lugano, and Lausanne’s Hotel Beau-Rivage Palace will lay out the red carpet, while gourmet dining at Michelin-starred restaurants like Basel’s Cheval Blanc allow you to create a culinary canvas of your own.

Theme four: Alpine mountain passes

If time is limited but you still want a peak experience, Alpine Mountain Passes is for you – a six-day route winding its way over five soaring alpine passes, all of which are more than 2,000 meters above sea level.

Passionate curve drivers with a head for heights will love the hairpin twists and turns of the Fluela, Julier, San Bernadino, Gotthard and Furka passes on the route from Arosa to St. Moritz, Andermatt and Zermatt (or in reverse order).

Swiss Deluxe Hotels abound including the Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa; Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St. Moritz; Chedi Andermatt, and Riffelalp Resort 2222m in Zermatt, along with gourmet restaurants where the food and wine almost outshine the breathtaking alpine panoramas.

Five-star hotels such as the Gstaad Palace, Hotel Splendide Royal Lugano, and Lausanne’s Hotel Beau-Rivage Palace will lay out the red carpet, while gourmet dining at Michelin-starred restaurants like Basel’s Cheval Blanc allow you to create a culinary canvas of your own.

Winding road in Airolo, Switzerland
Winding road in Airolo © Nico Shaerer/Switzerland Tourism

Sustainable travel

The Grand Tour is the first road trip designed for electric cars. But you can also enjoy all the highlights comfortably by train on the Grand Train Tour.

Hire one of Switzerland’s rapidly growing fleet of electric cars, powered by a dense and extensive network of charging stations throughout the Grand Tour Deluxe routes, and you’ll be helping to protect and preserve the country’s extraordinary natural environment at the same time.

Travel with Roger Federer

I didn’t need a sports star to allude me to the beauty of Switzerland. Yet Roger Federer looks like a fantastic travel companion, and that certainly helps. Roger has presented his own personal favourite route sections to Switzerland as part of a Grand Tour that has all the markings of a remarkable road trip.