BEST SWISS MUSEUMS TO VISIT IN 2024 (MOST FREE)
Are you looking for the best museums in Switzerland? Then you have come to the right spot – this post is all about the best Swiss museums.
When you think of Switzerland, museums may not be the first thing that comes to mind. With its breathtaking landscapes including the gorgeous Swiss Alps or mountain lakes, and endless outdoor activities, it’s easy to overlook the cultural gems this country has to offer.
However, there are some incredible museums in Switzerland worth exploring! I, as a Switzerland enthusiast, who spends several months each year in this country, must admit that visiting museums is not my favorite free time activity – especially not when it comes to art.
However, I still have visited tons of Swiss museums. I have practically become a Switzerland museum expert – and though I do not get art, I have tried to get the overall vibes of several art museums I mention here.
In all honesty, though, I mostly visit museums if they are free as I like to spend my money on other activities. But in a country, where basically everything is expensive, how can we find free museums? The answer is: With a Swiss Travel Pass.
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Visiting museums can be fun – even for me, especially when you consider the convenience of the Swiss Travel Pass which I normally buy whenever I am in Switzerland (in 2023 alone, I bought 3 passes, each valid for 15 days).
What is the Swiss Travel Pass and what museums are free with it? A Swiss Travel Pass not only provides unlimited travel throughout the country but also grants free admission to a wide range of museums (more than 500). So, even on rainy days or when you simply want a break from outdoor adventures, you can immerse yourself in Switzerland’s rich cultural heritage without worrying about the cost.
From art museums showcasing renowned masterpieces to interactive exhibits delving into the country’s history, there is something to captivate everyone.
While the first 16 museums listed here are actually free with a Swiss Travel Pass, I also listed a few amazing museums that are not covered but are so great, that I still added them to this list.
16 MUSEUMS IN SWITZERLAND THAT ARE FREE WITH A SWISS TRAVEL PASS
So, without further ado, here is my personal list of the best museums in Switzerland to visit.
CHATEAU DU CHILLON IN MONTREUX
Chateau du Chillon, located on the shores of Lake Geneva near Montreux, is undoubtedly one of the finest museums to explore. This enchanting medieval fortress boasts a history that spans more than a millennium, making it a fascinating destination for history enthusiasts and culture aficionados alike.
Stepping into the castle feels like entering a time capsule, immersing visitors in the medieval era. The museum showcases an extensive collection of artifacts, including ancient weaponry, armor, and exquisitely crafted medieval furniture, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of the castle’s former inhabitants.
A highlight of the castle is its underground chambers, which served as dungeons in the past. These dimly lit, eerie spaces have even inspired renowned poet Lord Byron, who penned “The Prisoner of Chillon” after visiting. Walking through the chilling cells and corridors is a haunting experience that transports you to a bygone era.
Additionally, Chateau du Chillon provides breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Geneva and the awe-inspiring surrounding mountains.
Regardless of whether you are drawn to history, architecture, or picturesque landscapes, Chateau du Chillon offers a truly unforgettable museum visit.
BAHNMUSEUM ALBULA IN BERGÜN
The Bahnmusuem Albula (Albula Railway Museum), situated in the charming village of Bergün in Eastern Switzerland, is a delightful destination for train enthusiasts and history aficionados.
This small yet captivating museum is dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of Swiss railways and offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the golden age of train travel.
Housed in a beautifully restored historic train station just at the Bergün train station, the museum showcases an impressive collection of vintage locomotives, carriages, and railway memorabilia. As you wander through the exhibits, you’ll be amazed by the beautifully restored trains that once traversed the awe-inspiring Alpine landscapes.
The museum provides an overview of the development of Swiss railways (including the Albula/Bernina railway line which forms the heart of the Unesco World Cultural Heritage), from the early steam engines to the modern electric trains that now dominate the Swiss rail network.
It also delves into the engineering marvels behind the construction of the railways, highlighting the challenges faced in building tracks through the rugged Swiss terrain.
One of the highlights of the Bahnmuseum Albula is its interactive displays, allowing you to experience the thrill of operating a train simulator and learn about the intricacies of railway signaling systems.
LENZBURG CASTLE IN LENZBURG
Lenzburg Castle, located in Lenzburg, offers a perfect blend of history, interactive activities, and lovely views. This magnificent medieval fortress is not only a treat for adults seeking to immerse themselves in history but also a paradise for children, thanks to its wide range of interactive exhibits and engaging activities.
Guided tours take you through the castle’s various chambers and halls, revealing intriguing stories and historical insights.
The castle’s impressive collection of medieval weapons, armor, and artwork is sure to fascinate history enthusiasts as part of the permanent exhibition.
Lenzburg Castle also offers nice panoramic views of the surrounding Swiss countryside. You can climb the castle’s towers, soak in the picturesque scenery, and imagine the castle’s strategic importance in protecting the region during ancient times.
The castle’s convenient location, just a short distance from Zurich, makes it an ideal day trip. The well-maintained grounds provide ample space for picnics and leisurely walks, adding to the overall charm of the experience.
SHERLOCK HOLMES MUSEUM IN MEIRINGEN
Step into the world of Sherlock Holmes at the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Meiringen in Central Switzerland. You’ll be transported back in time to the iconic detective’s world, just like his fictional residence.
Nestled in the picturesque town where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle set Holmes’ final battle with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, this museum offers a unique opportunity for you to immerse yourself in the world of Sherlock Holmes.
Inside, you’ll find meticulously recreated living quarters that faithfully replicate Holmes’ study, sitting room, and even his bedroom, all furnished with Victorian-era furniture, artifacts, and props. As you explore, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the pages of a Conan Doyle story.
The museum also houses a vast collection of memorabilia, including original manuscripts, first editions, and a variety of Holmes-related artifacts. Interactive exhibits await you, where you can test your detective skills, solving puzzles and unraveling mysteries just like the great detective himself.
For fans of the world’s greatest detective, the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Meiringen is a must-visit destination.
The FIFA Museum in Zurich´s city center is a celebration of the world’s most popular sport, football (soccer). Located in Zurich, the museum provides a comprehensive and interactive experience for football enthusiasts of all ages.
As you explore the museum, admire an extensive collection of memorabilia, photographs, and videos that showcase the evolution of football. From iconic moments to legendary players, the exhibits capture the essence of this global phenomenon.
The FIFA World Cup trophies take center stage, allowing you to get a close look at these prestigious awards and learn about the tournaments that have shaped football history. Engaging interactive displays enables you to test your skills, take part in virtual matches, and experience the thrill of penalty shootouts.
Beyond the game itself, the museum explores football’s broader impact on society and culture. It highlights the sport’s ability to foster unity, promote diversity, and drive social change worldwide.
SWISS NATIONAL MUSEUM IN ZURICH
The Swiss National Museum in Zurich is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts – especially those who want to find out more about the history of Switzerland.
Located in a stunning castle-like building near the train station of Zurich, the museum showcases the rich cultural heritage of Switzerland. As you step inside, you’ll be greeted with a fascinating array of exhibits that span over 1,000 years of Swiss history.
You can explore the various permanent collections, which include artifacts from different regions of Switzerland. From medieval art and weaponry to traditional costumes and crafts, the museum offers a comprehensive insight into the country’s past. Don’t miss the chance to marvel at the intricate craftsmanship and learn about Switzerland’s diverse cultural traditions.
In addition to the permanent collections, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions that delve into specific aspects of Swiss history and culture. These exhibits provide a deeper understanding of various topics, such as Swiss folklore or the development of Swiss design.
For a unique experience, you can also participate in guided tours, and workshops, or attend special events organized by the museum. Whether you’re interested in archaeology, art, or social history, the Swiss National Museum has something to offer you.
OBERHOFEN CASTLE IN OBERHOFEN
You can explore the fascinating Oberhofen Castle Museum, located on the shores of beautiful Lake Thun. This stunning castle dates back to the 13th century and offers visitors a unique glimpse into Swiss history and culture.
As you wander through the museum, you can admire the beautifully preserved rooms, each showcasing a different era of the castle’s history. From the medieval tower to the elegant ballrooms, the exhibits give you a sense of the castle’s grandeur and the lives of its inhabitants.
One of the highlights of the museum is the collection of historical artifacts, including furniture, artwork, and traditional Swiss crafts. These exhibits offer a glimpse into the everyday lives of the castle’s former residents.
You can also stroll through the picturesque gardens surrounding the castle, with their vibrant flowers and breathtaking views of Lake Thun. Take a leisurely walk along the lake promenade or enjoy a picnic in the peaceful park.
What makes Oberhofen Castle Museum special is its location. Set against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps and nestled on the shores of Lake Thun, the castle offers a truly magical setting.
THUN CASTLE IN THUN
Thun Castle, located in the enchanting town of Thun, offers a plethora of activities and attractions. Nestled on a hilltop, the castle provides a perfect vantage point to admire the breathtaking views of Thun Lake and the charming town below.
Step inside the castle’s walls and immerse yourself in its rich history. Explore the fascinating exhibitions that showcase the castle’s medieval past and learn about its role in the region’s defense. Marvel at the impressive collection of weapons, armor, and medieval furniture, which offer a glimpse into the lives of its former inhabitants.
Don’t miss the opportunity to climb the tower and witness the awe-inspiring vistas that await you. From the top, soak in panoramic views of the tranquil Thun Lake, the picturesque town, and the majestic Swiss Alps in the distance. Capture these remarkable sights on camera or simply take a moment to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you.
Whether you are a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, Thun Castle is a must-visit destination.
GLACIER GARDEN IN LUCERNE
You can explore the enchanting Glacier Garden of Lucerne, a unique natural museum. This fascinating garden was created during the Ice Age and offers a glimpse into the Earth’s geological history.
As you wander through the garden, you can marvel at the glacial potholes – deep, cylindrical cavities formed by swirling waters thousands of years ago. These potholes provide a fascinating insight into the power of nature and its ability to shape the landscape.
You can also explore the museum within the garden, which houses a collection of fossils, minerals, and artifacts dating back millions of years. Discover the secrets of the Ice Age and learn about the geological processes that shaped the region.
One of the highlights of the Glacier Garden is the Mirror Maze, where you can get lost in a labyrinth of mirrors and challenge yourself to find the way out. It’s a fun and interactive experience for both children and adults.
MUSEUM SAMMLUNG ROSENGART IN LUCERNE
You can immerse yourself in the world of modern art at the Museum Sammlung Rosengart in Lucerne. This exceptional museum showcases an impressive collection of works by renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Chagall.
As you wander through the museum, you can marvel at the vibrant and diverse range of paintings, drawings, and sculptures on display. Admire Picasso’s mesmerizing Cubist masterpieces or lose yourself in the vibrant colors of Klee’s abstract compositions. The museum offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the evolution and impact of modern art.
You can also delve into the history of art by exploring the museum’s extensive archives and library. Discover the stories behind the artworks and gain a deeper understanding of the artistic movements that shaped the 20th century.
The collection was amassed by Angela Rosengart, a renowned art dealer and close friend of many artists. Her personal connections and insights add a unique perspective to the museum’s exhibits.
GRUYERES CASTLE IN GRUYERES
Nestled in the picturesque town of Gruyères, you can discover the enchanting Château du Gruyères. This magnificent castle dates back to the 13th century and offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into history.
Embark on a journey through time as you explore the castle’s grand rooms and corridors. Admire the exquisite architecture, from the medieval walls to the ornate ceilings. The castle also houses a range of historical artifacts and artworks, allowing you to immerse yourself in the rich heritage of the region.
What makes Château du Gruyères even more special is its breathtaking panoramic views. From the castle’s ramparts, you can soak in the beauty of the surrounding countryside, with rolling hills and the stunning Swiss Alps in the distance.
After your castle tour, you can stroll through the charming village of Gruyères with its quaint streets and traditional Swiss charm. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the world-famous Gruyère cheese at one of the local cheese dairies.
OLYMPIC MUSEUM IN LAUSANNE
Situated in Lausanne, the Olympic Museum is a captivating destination that celebrates the spirit of the Olympic Games. As the official museum of the International Olympic Committee, it offers a unique experience for sports enthusiasts and history lovers alike.
You can delve into the rich history of the Olympics through interactive exhibits and engaging displays.
The museum boasts a vast collection of memorabilia, including Olympic torches, medals, and sports equipment. You can admire these artifacts while gaining insight into the cultural significance of the Games.
Additionally, the Olympic Museum offers various activities. You can test your skills at interactive sports simulations, watch inspiring documentaries in the museum’s cinema, or even participate in virtual Olympic competitions.
What sets the Olympic Museum apart is its stunning location on the shores of Lake Geneva. You can enjoy panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding Alps while exploring the museum’s grounds.
ST. GALLEN LIBRARY IN ST.GALLEN
Located in the picturesque city of St. Gallen, the Collegiate Library stands as a beacon of knowledge and history.
With its roots dating back to the 8th century, this venerable institution holds a rich collection of over 170,000 printed works and 2,000 manuscripts, making it a treasure trove for scholars and book enthusiasts alike.
Upon entering the Collegiate Library, you are greeted by the awe-inspiring architecture, with its grand vaulted ceilings and intricate carvings. As you explore the hallowed halls, you can immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere, surrounded by the whispers of centuries-old wisdom.
Delve into the extensive collection of rare manuscripts, some of which date back to the Middle Ages, and marvel at the beautifully illuminated texts.
The Collegiate Library also offers guided tours, providing insights into its fascinating history and architectural wonders. Additionally, you can attend lectures, exhibitions, and workshops, creating opportunities to engage with the academic community.
In the heart of St. Gallen, the Collegiate Library is not just an extraordinary repository of knowledge but a cultural landmark that reflects the enduring spirit of learning.
MATTERHORN MUSEUM / ZERMATLANTIS IN ZERMATT
Located in the heart of Zermatt, the museum is easily accessible and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the region’s rich alpine history.
You can immerse yourself in the captivating stories of the brave mountaineers who conquered the Matterhorn and learn about the challenges they faced. Through interactive displays, multimedia presentations, and artifacts, you can delve into the world of mountaineering and gain a deeper understanding of the mountain’s significance.
The museum also showcases the traditional life and culture of the Zermatt region. You can explore reconstructed houses, see traditional costumes, and discover the daily lives of the local inhabitants throughout the centuries.
The Matterhorn Museum is a fantastic place for both adults and children. It offers an educational and entertaining experience, making it a great option for families. Children can enjoy interactive exhibits, games, and hands-on activities that bring the mountain’s history to life.
BALLENBERG MUSEUM IN BALLENBERG
Ballenberg Museum, situated near Brienz, invites you on a captivating journey through the rich tapestry of the country’s cultural heritage.
This exceptional Swiss open-air museum boasts an impressive collection of over 100 historic buildings from various regions of Switzerland.
Knowledgeable guides are on hand to share captivating insights into Swiss customs and traditions, providing a deeper understanding of the local way of life. Explore the intricately furnished buildings, each one telling a unique story of its own.
From charming farmhouses and stately manors to rustic barns and quaint chalets, the museum offers a glimpse into the past that is both informative and enchanting.
Ballenberg Museum also plays host to a range of cultural events and captivating exhibitions, ensuring there is always something new to discover.
Whether you are seeking to expand your knowledge, indulge in cultural experiences, or simply enjoy a day surrounded by Switzerland’s captivating history, Ballenberg Museum promises an immersive and educational experience.
- FREE WITH A SWISS TRAVEL PASS
- FREE FOR ANYONE: Tuesday and Thursday from 5 p.m…. to 6 p.m., Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the first Sunday of every month
Located in Basel, the Kunstmuseum Basel is a prestigious art museum that offers a captivating journey through art history. With its extensive collection spanning from the Middle Ages to contemporary art, this cultural institution is a must-visit for art lovers.
Immerse yourself in a diverse range of artistic styles and periods. From Renaissance masterpieces to Impressionist landscapes and modern abstract art, there is something to suit every artistic taste. Marvel at the exquisite brushwork, intricate details, and innovative techniques employed by renowned artists.
Exploring the museum’s galleries, you can engage with the artworks, contemplating their meaning and significance. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, showcasing the works of contemporary artists, and providing insight into the ever-evolving world of art.
The museum houses an exceptional collection of Swiss artists, allowing visitors to appreciate the creativity and talent that emanates from the country – making it one of the best art museums in the world.
MORE MUSEUMS TO VISIT IN SWITZERLAND
The following museums are not free – unfortunately not even with a Swiss Travel Pass. However, they are great and in some cases, you might even get discounts with that pass.
LINDT MUSEUM IN ZURICH
- NO DISCOUNT WITH A SWISS TRAVEL PASS
- GET YOUR TICKETS HERE
Located near Zurich, the Lindt Museum is a must-visit destination for chocolate lovers and enthusiasts. This delightful museum showcases the history, craftsmanship, and irresistible allure of one of the world’s most beloved chocolate brands, Lindt.
Embark on a fascinating journey through the world of chocolate. Learn about the origins of cocoa, witness the chocolate-making process, and discover the secrets behind Lindt’s delectable creations.
Interactive exhibits allow you to engage your senses and immerse yourself in the world of chocolate.
You can also participate in chocolate workshops, where you can try your hand at creating your own mouthwatering treats under the guidance of expert chocolatiers. Additionally, the museum features a café where you can indulge in an array of delicious chocolate treats and beverages.
The Lindt Museum is special because it offers a unique opportunity to learn about the history and art of chocolate-making, while also satisfying your sweet tooth. It is a place where you can immerse yourself in the world of Lindt and experience the magic of chocolate firsthand.
Swissminiature, located in Melinde near Lugano, is a unique attraction that allows visitors to explore the entire country in miniature form. This captivating park features over 120 meticulously crafted models of famous Swiss landmarks, all on a scale of 1:25, making it one of the most popular museums in Switzerland.
Marvel at iconic sites such as the Matterhorn, Chillon Castle, and the Chapel Bridge of Lucerne. Each model is intricately detailed, showcasing the beauty and charm of Switzerland’s diverse architecture and landscapes.
Enjoy interactive elements at SwissMiniature, such as miniature trains that chug along tracks, cable cars that traverse the miniature mountains, and boats that glide on tiny lakes. Additionally, there are informative plaques throughout the park providing interesting facts about each landmark.
Swissminiature is special because it offers a unique way to experience the beauty of Switzerland in a single location. It allows visitors to appreciate the country’s rich culture, history, and natural wonders all at once.
SWISS MUSEUM OF TRANSPORT IN LUCERNE
- DISCOUNT WITH A SWISS TRAVEL PASS
The Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus der Schweiz) is a must-visit – it is one of the top museums in Switzerland and actually the most visited one.
Located in the heart of Switzerland, this captivating museum offers a fascinating insight into the world of trains and transportation.
Immerse yourself in the rich history and evolution of locomotives through various interactive exhibits and displays. Marvel at vintage steam engines, explore the intricacies of railway technology and even simulate driving a train. Discover how transportation has shaped society and transformed the way we travel.
One of the highlights of the museum is the impressive model railway, showcasing intricate landscapes and bustling miniature towns. Witness the precision and craftsmanship that goes into creating these detailed dioramas.
For an even more immersive experience, hop aboard the museum’s historic train ride. Feel the nostalgia as you journey through scenic landscapes, relishing in the romance of train travel.
- NO DISCOUNT WITH A SWISS TRAVEL PASS
Situated in Basel, the Fondation Beyeler is a renowned art museum that showcases a remarkable collection of modern and contemporary art.
At the Fondation Beyeler, you can explore a diverse range of artistic masterpieces, including works by renowned artists such as Monet, Picasso, and Rothko. The museum’s beautifully designed building provides an ideal setting to appreciate these extraordinary artworks.
Wander through the galleries, and admire the vibrant colors, intricate brushstrokes, and thought-provoking concepts of each piece. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that feature contemporary artists, pushing the boundaries of creativity and expression.
The Fondation Beyeler boasts an outdoor sculpture garden, where you can stroll amidst captivating sculptures while enjoying the tranquility of nature.
There are permanent exhibitions as well as special exhibitions, ensuring there is something new every once in a while.
So, whether you are an art aficionado or simply curious, a visit to the Fondation Beyeler promises an enriching and inspiring experience.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST SWISS MUSEUMS
Switzerland boasts a plethora of exceptional museums that are well worth visiting. From the Lindt Museum to the Train and Transportation Museum there is no shortage of indoor museums that offer captivating exhibitions and a deep dive into art and culture.
Additionally, Switzerland’s stunning landscapes provide a unique backdrop for some museums. These outdoor museums, like SwissMiniature or the Ballenberg Museum, not only offer a glimpse into history but also allow visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Switzerland.
Whether you are captivated by art, history, or the great outdoors, Switzerland’s museums offer a diverse range of experiences that will leave you inspired and enriched.
And with a Swiss Travel Pass, many of these amazing museums in Switzerland are even free to visit.