From the pristine, fairytale-like landscapes of snowy mountain peaks, glassy lakes and soft, rolling meadows to the vibrant cities with rich cultural offerings and cuisines, Switzerland is at the epicentre of Europe with much to explore for all seasons.
Visit exceptional city destinations, luxury accommodations, world-class restaurants and year-round activities across Switzerland with these local insights and inspiration for your next visit.
Switzerland travel fast facts
- Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF)
- Official language(s): German, French, Italian, and Romansh
- Time zone: GMT+1
- Emergency contact number: 112
- Power adaptor required: Type C and J (230V, 50Hz)
Visa: Part of the Schengen Zone, member states can stay up to 90 days in any 180-day period, that includes Australian passport holders. EU/EEA nationals only need an identification document to enter Switzerland.
Where to go in Switzerland
From lakes to mountain peaks, Switzerland is full of blissful nature-based adventures.
Lake Lucerne is a sparkling waterway wedged between mountains and valleys and dotted with castles and historic towns like Altdorf. It looks straight from the pages of a fairytale. So picture-perfect.
Wander to Rigi Kaltbad station, zip down to Vitznau and jump aboard a boat to cruise to Lucerne. The city’s atmospheric alleys are filled with boutique stores, Swiss chocolate shops and coffee houses all leading to your choice of luxe lodgings. Check in to the Grand Hotel National, perched lakeside with dramatic alpine views. Or Hotel Schweizerhof’s prime perch in the Old Town, just a short stroll from the Chapel Bridge and Lion Monument.
Switzerland’s spectacular William Tell Trail trek is like a salve for the soul. Eight days and 208 kilometres weave through the heart of Switzerland with the wild landscape as your backdrop. The trail weaves across central Switzerland’s ‘Big Six’ mountains: Stoos, Rigi, Pilatus, Stansernhorn, Titlis and Brienzer-Rothorn, the latter the end point of your journey.
From Lucerne, it’s a 45-minute train ride to the town of Engelberg, where the world’s first rotating cable car transports you to Mount Titlis. If the views of the glacier and its legendary cave don’t take your breath away, then the crisp mountain air will. The only way your heart will beat faster is if you catch a ride on the Ice Flyer chairlift or wander out on the Titlis Cliff Walk, with its vertigo-inducing views.
Interlaken lies in the Bernese Oberland on an alluvial plain, between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Its untouched natural surroundings, crystal-clear waters and snow-covered peaks unparalleled relaxation.
It’s a great destination to explore before continuing on your journey. With more than 45 mountain railways, cable cars, chair lifts and ski lifts leading to 200 kilometers of pistes and a dense network of hiking trails. Excursion ships, including historic paddle steamers, ply the waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
Cities to visit in Switzerland
Home to Switzerland’s largest art museum, Zurich has long been a capital of culture, with the extension of the Kunsthaus Zurich by leading architect David Chipperfield elevating ‘The Gallery Mile’ art experience on Heimplatz.
Lucerne’s preserved picture-perfect medieval architecture of the Old Town sits on Lake Lucerne surrounded by snowcapped mountains. The covered Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), built in 1333, links the Aldstadt to the Reuss River’s right bank is a main attraction.
Regarded as the finest Baroque town in Switzerland with Italian grandeur architecture combined with German practicality and French charm. The car-free Old Town has eleven churches and chapels and the same number of fountains and towers.
Lovers of watersports head to this town on Lake Maggiore in the summer. Locarno literally blooms in springtime. With its chic Mediterranean flair and ambience, the lakeside city is full of colour, fragrance and botanical glory. Especially at Camellia Park which boasts more than 900 varieties of flowers in a landscaped labyrinthine of gardens.
The largest resort in the Alps also famed for hosting the annual World Economic Forum, Davos has more than 700km of bike trails, 300 km of slopes, and 100 km of cross-country ski tracks.
Switzerland Train Journeys
There are eight spectacular routes on The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, an unforgettable journey of discovery extending 1,280 kilometres of the country’s astounding natural beauty, history and heritage.
Each train route crisscrosses Switzerland’s most scenic regions, conveniently linked as downhill runs in ski resorts. There is no predetermined direction or duration; travellers can hop on and hop off wherever they please, and the entire tour can be experienced with a single ticket – the Swiss Travel Pass.
Zurich to Interlaken
Journey: About 3 hours
Having explored the delights of Zurich, take an intercity train to Lucerne before boarding the premium Luzern-Interlaken Express with its glorious lake and mountain scenery. Many alpine adventures await in and around Interlaken, with excursions to Brienzer Rothorn, the soaring Jungfraujoch, mountaintop Schilthorn, Harder Kulm funicular, and historic Schynige Platte railway.
Interlaken to Montreux
Journey: About 3 hours
Explore Lake Thun, the Simmen Valley and Zweisimmen, where the GoldenPass Panoramic train takes over, passing castles and grazing cows’ meadows before winding through Montreux’s hills. The vineyards of Lavaux, Chillon Castle, Chaplin’s World and a mountain excursion to Rochers-de-Naye are highlights making Montreux an absolute delight.
Montreux to Zermatt
Journey: About 2.5 hours
It’s an alpenhorn’s toss from Montreux to Visp, but the journey through the Nikolai Valley – the deepest in Switzerland – is sublime. As the iconic Matterhorn comes into view, the train rises 900 metres in altitude. Partly with the help of cogwheel technology. Zermatt’s charming and car-free village is the perfect base for exploring the Matterhorn’s vast glaciers.
Zermatt to St. Moritz
Journey: About 8 hours
The world’s slowest – but surely most beautiful – train sees the fabled Glacier Express weaving through the Swiss Alps and linking these uber-chic, all-year resorts. Travel through the pretty Cantons of Valais, Uri and Grisons. The train traverses 91 tunnels and 291 bridges with majestic views of mountains, deep ravines and valleys, the Glacier Express carving through the dramatic Swiss countryside.
St. Moritz to Lugano
Journey: About 7 hours
The lovely Bernina Express to Tirano, followed by the onward express bus to Lugano, delivers travellers from the mountains to the lake. Sit back and soak up the scenery as knockout views abound of glaciers, turquoise waterways and verdant valleys.
Lugano to Lucerne
Journey: About 5.5 hours
The first-class Gotthard Panorama Express takes guests from Mediterranean-style Ticino along the grand Gotthard Panorama Route before transferring to a boat that glides over Lake Lucerne, surrounded by Switzerland’s traditional heartland and imposing mountains.
Lucerne to St. Gallen
Journey: About 2.5 hours
Explore Pilatus, Rigi, Stanserhorn and Titlis from Lucerne before boarding the Voralpen-Express through more classic Swiss scenery. The train passes Lake Zurich, Rapperswil – the ‘city of roses’ – and the Sitter Viaduct. At 99 metres, it’s the highest railway bridge in Switzerland.
St. Gallen to Zurich
Journey: About 2.5 hours
Despite being landlocked, Switzerland has its own ‘maritime’ heritage, best seen by train on a 40-kilometre stretch of Lake Constance shoreline. This follows the Rhine downstream to Schaffhausen, home to Europe’s largest waterfalls, the Rhine Falls. It’s a fitting finale to an extraordinary round-trip journey from Zurich that delivers Switzerland at its best.
Road tripping around Switzerland
With exquisite scenic views and cultural jewels, from palm-lined lakeshores to sparkling glaciers, Medieval villages to buzzing boutique-sized cities.
Grand Tour Deluxe
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. This 1,643-kilometre journey weaves its way across the mountainous country. It has 8 unique stages and four themes to choose from – Art, Museums & Boutique Cities; Alpine Mountain Passes; UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And Wellness, Spas & Water.
There is even an app to create your own road trip adventure.
Grand Tour Deluxe
As if that isn’t grand enough, Switzerland has elevated the experience with the new Grand Tour Deluxe. 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. Plus, the highest levels of service and hospitality.
Furka Pass, Swiss Alps
Best known for its role in the iconic car chase from Goldfinger, this is one of the highest paved roads in Switzerland. At an incredible 2,429 metres above sea level. The Furka Pass winds its way through 22.5 kilometres of the Swiss Alps, with alpine lakes and towering peaks surrounding you along the way. Stop at the Rhone Glacier Ice Grotto. This tunnel has been carved into the Rhone Glacier every year since the 1870s, and watch the ice chamber glow in fine shades of blue. For those who want to reenact their James Bond dreams, companies such as Colcorsa and Leo Trippi offer multi-day supercar tours through the Alps. Due to the altitude, the road is usually only open from June to October, so plan accordingly.
Wellness, Spas & Water
Starts in Basel and stretches 1,750 kilometres split into leisurely driving days. The first four days roll from Basel (take a dip in the Rhine River) followed by the glamorous alpine retreat of Gstaad. Then on to Interlaken before reaching Bern, the historic and elegant Swiss capital.
Then travel from Bern’s River Aare to Hallwyl – home to one of Europe’s most important moated castles – and Lake Lucerne, with its historic paddlesteamers. Before skimming the lakeside town of Vitznau, your final destination on day five.
Winter in Switzerland
Winter magic abounds in the Swiss Alps, a mecca for active travellers and nature lovers. Ski or snowboarding? Snow safari or spa? The Jungfrau Region is the place to go for all who love winter. This birthplace of winter holidays entices visitors with its endless array of pistes.
Or head to Mürren at the base of Schilthorn. The alpine gateway village is home to the Thrill Walk: a 200-metre walkway that clings to the rocks and culminates at the Skyline Walk, a glass-bottomed platform jutting over a precipitous cliff. Or, journey to Europe’s highest railway station, Jungfraujoch, on the Jungfrau Railway. The two-hour trip will take you between Eiger and Mönch mountains. Expect breathtaking mountain panoramas and stunning natural scenery.
Explore one of Switzerland’s finest snow playgrounds, Jungfrau. With 260 kilometres of ski runs ranging from fast to leisurely, you won’t be lacking in slopes to zip down. The popular vacation destination offers visitors a plethora of winter activities.
Switzerland also has a host of unique winter experiences. You could learn ski touring and spend the night in a remote mountain hut or revel in an igloo hotel, perhaps the coolest adventure of all. And don’t forget to save by pre-booking your train tickets to unlock discounts.
Things to do in Switzerland
From a watchmaking course in Geneva to wellness retreats in a mineral spring rock spa. To exploring the Alpine Garden on the Schynige Platte. Or riding the world’s steepest funicular, there is so much to do in Switzerland. Add these 14 extraordinary experiences to your Switzerland bucket list.
Sustainable Switzerland: Swisstainable
A total of 19 Swiss parks cover more than one-eighth of the nation’s land area. That’s almost a third of the country that remains forested. Meanwhile, Switzerland’s waterways are so clean people can swim safely in lakes and rivers. Even in the heart of major cities.
The country is also home to a range of incredible UNESCO World Heritage sites. These include Biosfera Engiadina Val Müstair – The Swiss National Park, the spectacular Tectonic Arena Sardona and Biosphere Entlebuch – Switzerland’s first biosphere reserve.
Read more: The best waterfalls in Switzerland
Dining in Switzerland
Farm-to-table, paddock-to-plate, seasonal, local – one of the best ways to take the natural pulse of a destination is through its food.
It doesn’t get much fresher than at Restaurant Mühle, sitting pretty inside Thurgau’s Hotel Kartause Ittingen. This former monastery is ringed by vineyards, orchards and gardens and grows a staggering 120 different herbs. On top of this, employees make nine varieties of cheese and 90 percent of the wine consumed on the estate. Zero-mile dining in its truest form.
Or join the High Society at the spectacular alpine snow bar at the CERVO mountain resort that ensures a peak experience of your own. Chilled martini, anyone?
Where to stay in Switzerland
From traditional and contemporary character, awe-inspiring views and a rich historical charm, we’ve uncovered the best luxury hotels in Switzerland. Including Zurich’s Widder Hotel luxury rooftop ‘Bubble Suite’, complete with panoramas of the old town, lake, the Swiss Alps, and millions of stars above.
Plus, if you’re looking to combine the country’s finest landmarks with gourmet restaurants under a luxury roof, discover the best Swiss Deluxe Hotels.
This article was produced in partnership with My Switzerland and is a Signature Luxury Travel & Style digital exclusive. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the enewsletter.