TOP SWISS CITIES – WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO SEE
- 1 TOP SWISS CITIES – WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO SEE
- 2 BEST CITIES IN SWITZERLAND TO VISIT
The stunning Alps and the gorgeous mountain views, the incredible lakes, the fun outdoor activities like winter sports and hiking, its medieval towns and villages – there are many reasons to visit Switzerland. But Switzerland is also home to beautiful, lively cities that should be on your Switzerland bucket list.
Switzerland has become my favorite country for all the reasons mentioned above – I have spent so much time in this quite small country and yet I never tire of its beauty, and I never miss spending some time in the cities.
BEST CITIES IN SWITZERLAND TO VISIT
And today, I am sharing my favorite Swiss cities with you. So, buckle up, here are the best cities in Switzerland to add to your Switzerland itinerary
Zug is one of the prettiest cities in Switzerland. These days, Zug is actually well known as tax heaven – even by Swiss standards taxes are low and so it is home to many income-rich people. However, Zug is worth a visit even if you just want to do some sightseeing. Located on the shores of stunning Lake Zug, between Lucerne and Zurich, it is one of the places that often get neglected though it has a beautiful old town and more to offer to its visitors.
Zug was founded in the early 13th century by the counts of Kyburg – some attractions date back to that time, like the 52-meter–high Zytturm. In the old town are some beautiful sights – like the form of the late gothic town hall built in the early 16th century or the St. Oswald´s church from the same period. And if you want to take a break, just head to the lakeside and enjoy some quiet time in one of the parks or take a walk along the shores.
In the Italian–speaking part of Switzerland, you will find Bellinzona – the southernmost capital of Switzerland. It has had and still has a strategic position at the crossroads of the alpine routes connecting the North to the South and that is why, around the year 400, an important defensive project was built.
These fortifications, comprising three of the best–preserved medieval castles in Switzerland, are now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are located around the town of Bellinzona, which makes Bellinzona well worth a visit. Castelgrande, Bellinzona‘s oldest and mightiest castle right, offers beautiful views over the Old Town and the surrounding area. In the museum, you will find information on the history of Bellinzona‘s castles and the town center.
Fribourg, the capital of the canton Fribourg, is one of the cities to see in Switzerland. It is known for its cultural plurality linking the French–speaking part of the country to the German–speaking part.
Fribourg is recognized as one of the largest ensembles of medieval architecture in Europe – which you can find in the old city above the Sarine River. In the Gothic Fribourg Cathedral with art nouveau stained glass – you´ll also find the Espace Jean Tinguely–Niki de Saint Phalle that displays the namesake 20th–century artists‘ sculpture and in the Renaissance palace, you see some more medieval art in the Musée d‘Art et d‘Histoire.
With a limited time in Switzerland, I would not call it a must–see city in Switzerland but if you are in the country for longer, it is well worth a visit.
Schaffhausen is a canton and its capital is…Schaffhausen. Close to Zurich, it is another small city located north of the country – and it is mostly known for the Rhine Falls (Europe´s biggest waterfall) but it also attracts many tourists because of the medieval town center. It was mentioned in writing for the first time in the 11th century, and today Schaffhausen is one of the best–preserved cities/towns dating back to the Middle Ages and one of the most charming towns in Switzerland.
Yes, Schaffhausen is a city and yet I also mentioned them in my list of the “top Swiss towns” as it has a town atmosphere. It has one of the most colorful old towns in Switzerland – with many beautiful, ancient buildings spread all over the city center. Especially the facades are really stunning! Schaffhausen is also known as the city of oriel bay windows, so keep your eyes on the impressive facades. Small vineyard fields right in the heart of Schaffhausen make it even more special.
So, whenever you visit the Rhine Falls, also make sure to add this medieval city to your list.
Nyon is a smaller city located on the northeastern shores of Lake Geneva between Geneva and Lausanne. The most famous sight might be the castle – Château de Nyon – which is located in the town center, with gorgeous views of Lake Geneva. The Romanesque fortress had been built in the 12th century and was transformed in the 16th century – now it houses a famous exhibition of porcelain made in Nyon and traces over 2000 years of history in the region.
Nyon is also home to the Lake Geneva museum – but also make sure to stroll the small cute old town before heading out and doing some fun outdoor activities – like hot–air–ballooning – nearby.LuganoLugano in the southern part of Switzerland is pretty, lively, and fun – and the perfect getaway for a weekend or longer. Whether you are an outdoors lover, an art enthusiast, or just enjoy city life – Lugano has something for everyone.
It is the biggest city in the canton of Ticino (with about 67,000 inhabitants) and Switzerland’s third–largest financial center. Its location with its mild climate in the winter months makes it extremely popular as a winter city getaway as well. Besides its colorful town center, you also have pretty Lake Lugano which is dotted with gorgeous villages along its shores, like Morcote.
To escape the hustle, get on top of Monte Bre or San Salvatore either by funicular or hike and enjoy some fantastic panoramas from there. Lugano has so many reasons to visit, that you would miss out if you do not put it on your Swiss Bucket List.
Sion might be lesser known outside the country, but it is well worth a visit. It is the economic center of the canton of Valais, with Switzerland’s largest bus station – this makes getting to Sion quite easy to virtually every town in the canton.
From afar you can see the two hilltop fortifications – making Sion even more recognizable. These sights are open to the public – and free to visit – and you have also some fantastic views of the Sion and the surroundings from there. These and the beautiful old town, the proximity to some stunning lakes – like Lac Soutterain or Domaines des Iles – and the vineyards make Sion one of the best cities to visit in Switzerland.
Thun is a smaller city – yet, full of attractions and sights. Amongst others, the stunning Thun Castle, from the 1100s, stands on a hill above the old town and also offers great views.
Another castle is on the shores of stunning Lake Thun, Schloss Schadau which is located in Schadau Park. There is another main sight – Thun Panorama is a 19th–century, 360-degree painting of the town with a length of 38 meters. The old town is splendid – the market square is home to several ancient buildings making Thun a perfect scenery for any Disney movie. From Thun, you can do a boat cruise on Lake Thun to the famous destination of Interlaken.
Lausanne is located on the northern shores of Lake Geneva and is home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, as well as the Olympic Museum and lakeshore Olympic Park.
The hilly old city has medieval, shop–lined streets – making it one of the prettiest and most unique old towns in the country. The 12th–century Gothic cathedral with an ornate facade looks beautiful from the inside as well as from the outside – and if you want to enjoy gorgeous views from the top, head to the Cathedral tower. Other gorgeous sights in Lausanne include, amongst others, the 19th–century Palais de Rumine, which houses fine art and science museums, walking along the shores of Lake Geneva, or enjoying a boat cruise. Given its location, Lausanne is also the perfect starting point for gorgeous, gorgeous walks/hikes in the Lauvaux vineyards.
One of the most popular Swiss destinations is Lucerne – often referred to as the most beautiful city in Switzerland. It is mostly known for its preserved medieval architecture and its colorful Altstadt (Old Town) with unique buildings and their facades and historic fountains. You´ll also have the 870-meter–long Museggmauer (Musegg Wall), a 14-century rampart, which you can walk for some parts.
The most famous sight, however, is the wooden bridge – the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), which was built in 1333. From there, you also have a beautiful panorama including the Reuss River, Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee in German) medieval buildings, and the mountains. Its location also makes it one of the best places to stay in Switzerland as you can do some of the best day trips from Lucerne, this includes visiting Mount Rigi, Mount Pilatus, or Mount Titlis.
No list of the top Swiss cities would be complete without mentioning Zurich. In the financial capital of Switzerland, you will find the perfect mix of cultural sights and outdoor activities. It is one of the most expensive cities in the world – and shopping, especially in the very expensive Bahnhofstrasse, is a popular thing to do. Some other must–do attractions include the Museum of Art, the Lindt Museum, and the old town.
Lindenhof is an easily accessible hill in the old town offering beautiful views of the Limmat River and some famous landmarks of Zurich like the Grossmünster Church. Lake Zurich is one of the numerous beautiful lakes in Switzerland where you can do some water sports activities or relax. If you want to include some sightseeing while taking it easy, you can do a boat cruise on Lake Zurich. And to escape the bustle and hustle, get up to Uetliberg, the local mountain of Zurich from where you have a beautiful panorama of the city and Lake Zurich.
Geneva is another popular destination in Switzerland which lies at the southern tip of Lake Geneva (also known as Lac Léman). Its excellent location, surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, offers some beautiful views of the stunning and well–known Mont Blanc.
Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Central Europe, adds to the beauty of the city. The Jet d’Eau, a 140-meter–tall fountain on Lake Geneva that dates back to the 19th century is one of the most iconic sights in Switzerland. Geneva is a diplomatic hub with many luxury shops, especially focusing on luxury watches. The historical Old Town is worth a visit, yet not as charming as other old towns in Switzerland. The Geneva Saint Peter’s Cathedral and the Chapel of the Maccabees, Bastion Park, the Reformation Wall, the Museum of Art and History, and Tavel House are some more attractions in Geneva.
The Swiss capital of Bern is a picturesque city filled with Medieval structures, cobblestone streets, limestone arcades, and lush greenery. With its eclectic mix of culture, history, nature, and breathtaking scenery.
The old town is a must–see and includes the Berner Münster (Cathedral of Bern) with its magnificent Gothic–style building. But also attractions like the Bear Park, the Rose Garden, and the Aare River add more beauty to this Swiss city.Bern is definitely one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. I would actually even say, it is the most beautiful city in Switzerland. Not only is the old town a UNESCO World Heritage, but Bern is also a great base for day trips because it is near some of Switzerland’s most iconic and stunning destinations – the Bernese Oberland, which includes areas like Interlaken and Jungfrau.
In the very northwest of Switzerland, just at the German and France border, you will find Basel. It is considered the art capital of Switzerland, with plenty of art museums – the most famous and popular are probably the Kunstmuseum and Foundation Beyeler. Art Basel – an annual international art fair staged in Basel – is known all over the world, and yet there is more than art and museums to see.
Basel is located on the Rhine River – the river bank is a popular place to chill and spend time in the summer days. Locals also go ahead and “float” in the river. The beautiful old town (Altstadt) is a great place to explore – besides old buildings, you will also find the medieval Basel Minister. You can tour the inside of this cathedral and marvel at the interesting architecture. For the best views of the city, head to the tower and enjoy Bern from a different perspective.
The town hall is one of a kind – even though I have seen many medieval town halls the one in Basel – with its red color – is one of the most unique ones. And if you visit Basel in December, make sure to visit the Christmas Markets which are some of the most beautiful in all of Europe.
Chur, located northeast of the country, is the oldest city in Switzerland and dates back 5,000 years. While the old town is not that old, you will find several historical buildings there, including the clock tower, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, and Saint Martin’s Church.
It is a rather small city, so strolling the old town will not take long. Thus, you can also visit the Rätisches Museum, which includes archaeological, cultural, and folk art objects from all over Graubünden (Grison) from pre–historic times, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Baroque periods through to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Chur also makes a great base for day trips, e.g. to the Rhine Gorge. In addition, Chur is also the starting point of the Bernina Express, one of the most scenic train rides in the world! So, while the city is not in my top 10, its location makes me add Chur to the list of the top Swiss cities.
St.Gallen is a city south of Lake Constance (Bodensee), in northeastern Switzerland.It is not the most famous tourist destination, yet it is worth a visit. St. Gallen is mostly known for the stunning Abbey of St. Gall, a monastery housing “one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.“ But the convent includes several other highlights: Its cathedral and monastery archives were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983.
In the old town, you will also find several gorgeous oriel bay windows. Actually, St. Gallen is second only to Schaffhausen in terms of oriel bay windows. Thus, keep looking up and admiring these unique houses and windows. Home to several museums, it is also mostly known as a lively city that is especially popular amongst the younger generation. Given the tremendous amount of stunning places in the country, I would not spend several days in St.Gallen, but I think, one day in St.Gallen is a good amount to see its pretty sights and attraction.
With Montreux, we have another gorgeous small destination on the shores of Lake Geneva that is a must–see Swiss city. It is nestled between steep hills and the largest Swiss lake – Lake Geneva also known as Lac Leman. Its promenade is probably one of the most beautiful ones in the country – lined with flowers, sculptures, Mediterranean trees, and grand Belle Époque buildings.
The medieval castle, Château de Chillon, with ramparts, formal halls, and a chapel with 14th–century murals is one of the main sights along the shores as is the Freddie Mercury statue. The Queen singer spent several years in the city and recorded six albums here. Montreux is also worldwide known for the Montreux Jazz Festival – the second-largest Jazz festival in the world – which is held each year in July. And if you want to spend time in the mountains, Roche de Naye is a perfect mountain excursion that is easily accessible from Montreux via funicular.
The city of Neuchâtel, the French–speaking capital of the canton Neuchâtel, lies on the northern shore of Lake Neuchâtel. It is mostly known for its medieval old town and the two main sights of the city: the Château de Neuchâtel, and the Collegiate Church which were built in the Gothic style dating back to the 12th century.
Lake Neuchatel is the second biggest lake in Switzerland – and perfect for hopping aboard the paddle steamer and enjoying a nice cruise. Outdoor lovers go on day trips to the Jura Mountains west of the city or see the Creux du Vaa – an amphitheater-like canyon.
Nestled between two hills in the Jura Mountains and surrounded by some of the best Swiss lakes, Biel is perfect for breaking the monotony of everyday life. The little city charms visitors with rolling vineyards, breathtaking mountain views, and Swiss architecture.
Alongside this charm, Biel is brimming with activities and things to do. Whether it’s exploring the cobblestone streets of Old Town, enjoying a splash in Lake Biel, or exploring the city’s artistic side, there’s something for everyone. Most of all, it might be renowned for its watchmaking exploits. While Rolex doe not has its own museum, most Rolex watches are actually produced here… Here in this small and pretty town of Biel. However, there are some other museums where it is all about watches like the Omega Museum, Neues Museum Biel, and Cimer Watch Academy.
So, Biel is a perfect destination with a mix of indoor- and outdoor activities.
SWITZERLAND – BEST CITIES TO SEE
Switzerland might be mostly known for its mountains, lakes, rivers, chocolate, or watches – but there are more than a handful of beautiful cities in Switzerland that are well worth a visit. Some are easily explored in one day, for some others you might need days to see the main attractions. Above mentioned places are my favorite and thus my recommendations for the best cities to visit in Switzerland.