Tourist Info

Switzerland's Major Tourist Destinations

What to see and what to do in Switzerland's major touristic resorts:
sightseeing, important monuments, museums, attractions, events.

Major Cities & Towns

Switzerland is a land of contrasts. Cities like Lucerne combine modern architecture with a medieval downtown and a 2500 m high mountain is just around the corner. Nevertheless, one may say that those who are looking for music, arts, important historical monuments, museums or shopping will generally find points of interest in major cities while those who want to get more than a glimpse of the alpine scenery are much better served in the alpine resorts. Quality of service and access to modern communication is equally high in both places.

Lucerne: Chapel Bridge
Chapel Bridge with Water Tower; (around 1300), most ancient preserved wooden bridge in Europe; Spreuer bridge with scenes from the Dance of Death; Jesuit Church; old downtown; Musegg Wall & Towers; Swiss Transport Museum; Cultural and Congress Centre by Jean Nouvel; Picasso Museum; Rosengart Collection; Glacier Garden; Lion Monument; Pilatus [Mount Pilate]; Steamboat ride on Lake Lucerne; Carnival
Geneva: Jet d'eau
Monument of Reformation; Headquarters of 130 international organizations; Palais des Nations (former seat of League of Nations, now UNESCO / UNICEF headquarters); Jet d'eau [water jet, 130 m / 425 ft]; town hall; botanical garden
Bern: bear pit
Switzerland's capital. Bundeshaus (seat of federal government and parliament); old downtown is an UNESCO world heritage site: arcades, eleven fountains (16th century) with allegoric figures, Gothic cathedral, play of figures on Zytgloggeturm [clock tower] 4 minutes before the full hour, bear pit; open-air rock festival on Gurten hill
Basel: carnival
Gothic Minster (1185), town hall with painted façade, Spalentor, numerous museums, Art Fair, Carnival, Tinguely Fountain, zoo, paper mill, dolls house museum, cartoon museum
Zurich: Streetparade 2005
Largest Swiss city; Grossmünster (Romanesque cathedral); Fraumünster with windows painted by Marc Chagall; Landesmuseum [National Historical Museum]; Zoo; Sechseläuten [traditional end of winter festival]; Street parade
Cathedral Notre-Dame; Hôtel de Ville [town hall]; St-François church
Montreux: Chillon castle
Chillon castle; Lakeside promenade, hotels in Riviera style (19th century); Châtelard castle (15th century); jazz festival (July)
school of photography, camera museum; food museum
St. Gallen
St. Gallen Cathedral
Monastery library and cathedral (UNESCO world cultural heritage site)
Thermal spa
Three castles (UNESCO world cultural heritage): Castelgrande (with museum), Castello di Montebello, Castello di Sasso Carboro
Bilingual city; watch and clock making industry, watch museum
La Chaux-de-Fonds
Street layout in chessboard style, highest city in Europe. Center of Swiss watchmaking, clock and watches museum. Birthplace of architect Le Corbusier, writer Blaise Cendrars and automobile designer Chevrolet. Art Nouveau buildings. Underground mills of Col-de-Roches
Most ancient Swiss city; late Romanesque Cathedral (12th century); St. Martin's church with painted windows by Augusto Giacometti
Churches Santa Maria Assunta and Santa Maria in Selva; Film festival
Lugano: Piazza Manzoni
Cathedral San Lorenzo; church Santa Maria degli Angioli
Church Notre-Dame; Maison des Halles [Renaissance style commercial building from 1569-79]; Hôtel DuPeyrou [Louis-XVI-style palace]
Technorama; art collection Reinhard; Kyburg castle (11th-13th century) with museum
Yverdon: Menhirs
Thermal baths; remains of Roman baths; Savoyan castle (13th century); monument to Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746 - 1827, reformer of Switzerland's schools); prehistoric menhirs [aligned blocks of stone]
Prealpine & Alpine Resorts

Over 200 first class resorts with more than 1700 cogwheel railways, cableways and ski lifts offer a wide range of scenic ski runs for downhill skiers and snowboarders as well as loops for cross-country skiers and ice-fields and make Switzerland a world class destination for winter sports. Snow conditions are best from January to end of March, while not all resorts can guarantee snow in December. February tends to be a little crowded due to sports holidays of Swiss schools. There are even trails for winter hikers.

Best conditions for alpine summer sports like hiking, climbing, mountaineering and mountain biking are from mid June to late September.

Bad Ragaz
Thermal spa
Bernese Oberland The classical alpine region:
see Gstaad-Saanen, Grindelwald, Interlaken, Mürren, Wengen
Largest alpine resort in Switzerland, only major town in the Alps. Excellent accomodation, crisp mountain air, 5 large ski areas, among them Parsenn. Davos hosts World Economic Forum (WEF) and Switzerland's Avalanche Research Institute.
Engelberg: Mount Titlis
Engelberg, one hour from Lucerne, is the gateway to Mount Titlis. Those who couldn't get enough of skiing in winter and are not interested in adventure sports, may do summer-skiing on Titlis glacier on 3200 m [10,500 ft].
Grindelwald glacier
Glacier village; Eiger north face. Hiking and mountain biking in Summer. Recommended ski resort for beginners and families.
Winter sports resort; St. Nicholas Gothic chapel with painted windows (15th century); worthwile village museum (Saanen); hiking in summer; Swiss open tennis tournament.
Oldest Swiss tourist resort; governor's castle; Unspunnen festival (folklore); Tellspiele [performances of Schiller's drama]
Klosters is a small, quiet and rather traditional village and the perfect resort for those who'd like to use the large Parsenn ski area without the activity of Davos. Klosters known to be the choice of Prince Charles.
Leukerbad: open air hot springs
Relax in thermal spa after skiing (winter) or hiking (summer)
Mountains glowing at sunset
   seen from Mürren
Situated on a terrace opposite to mounts Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
Pontresina: Morteratsch Glacier
Gateway to the Bernina region, Morteratsch and Roseg glaciers. A smaller and more quiet alternative to St. Moritz.
Saas Fee
Saas Fee
Winter sports / skiing resort;
hiking in summer
Thermal spa
St. Moritz
Very stylish, very expensive, featuring the most energetic nightlife out of all Swiss alpine resorts. Bob run. Thermal spa. The Engadin region is a paradise for cross-country skiers: Engadin Skimarathon (more than 12,000 participants).
Wengen: Eiger Mönch Jungfrau
At the feet of Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau.
Zermatt: Matterhorn
Matterhorn, Switzerland's most famous mountain

Summer Sports


Switzerland maintains a large network of hiking paths with small yellow signposts and markings. There are three categories:

  • easy-to-go (flat regions) - no special equipment needed (but not suitable with high-heels)
    pure yellow signposts and markings
  • alpine/mountain trails - use special hiking shoes covering your ankles to prevent luxation in case your foot bends on bumpy sections of a trail.
    yellow signposts with white-red-white marking, white-red-white markings on rocks etc.
  • climbing routes - for experienced climbers only (or with a professional guide)
    blue signs/markings

Most alpine resorts do offer some easy-to-go routes near the village or starting from the top station of a gondola. The majority of hiking trails in the alps will be of the alpine trail category, however. To suggest any particular destination here would be quite unfair to the others as they all invest heavily in maintenance of trails and markings.


Climbing is a strong experience - but also a sport with a death toll of about two dozen people every year in Switzerland. Therefore instructions by a qualified guide are an absolute must for beginners. Of course you also need proper equipment (may be rented or is supplied by the guide). For beginners, there are hundreds of indoor and outdoor training facilities all over the country.

Some resorts offer fixed-rope-routes for climbers where you may concentrate on climbing instead of finding the right place to set a clamp. Among these are: Aletsch (Wallis), Andermatt (Uri), Baltschieder (Wallis), Braunwald (Glarus), Engelberg (Obwalden, 3 routes), Evolène (Valais), Grindelwald/Wengen (Bernese Oberland), Kandersteg (Bernese Oberland), Les Diablerets (Vaud), Leukerbad (Wallis).
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Biking and Inline Skating

There are 9 national bike routes and some 100 regional routes for bikers with quite good markings (small dark red signs). Dedicated maps are available at local tourist offices and bookstores. While some routes crossing the alps offer a real challenge to your fitness, there are some regions very suitable even for families with school children. Best suited in the easy-to-go category both for biking and inline skating is the Seeland region around Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Biel and Lake Murten with Murten, Kerzers, Ins or any small village in the region as a starting point.

Mountain Biking (MTB)

Those seeking a challenge may go for mountain bike tours in almost any alpine resort. State of the art mountain bikes are for rental at these places, in some hotels bike rental is even included in the arrangement. Local mountain biking routes often start on paved side-roads but you might soon come to small trails (narrower than 1m / 1 yard) and have to share it with hikers. At some points mountain bikers are expected to carry their bike over a fence or a small brook - so this is definitely a sport for tough people. Of course you may rent a mountain bike and stay on paved roads, if you prefer, but in this case you should read the section above for suitable resorts.


Easy to reach mountain tops provide ideal premises for paragliding. In major resorts you can find schools for paragliding.

Winter Sports

Downhill Skiing

Any Swiss alpine resort above some 1500 m [5000 ft] can offer a choice of ski runs at different degrees of difficulty and corresponding transportation (gondolas and ski-lifts). There are some really demanding ski runs, like the famous Lauberhorn descent (Wengen) for those seeking a challenge.

Cross Country Skiing

The Engadin region, a long and relatively flat valley with some 50 km [35 miles] of cross country ski-runs from one end to the other with possibilities to get back to your starting point from a dozen of train stations is an ideal place for cross country skiing.

Quite similiar is the Goms region, the upper part of the Rhône valley (canton Wallis/Valais).

Après Ski

Other aspects than available sports facilities might be more important for an individual choice: Are you interested in extensive night-life after skiing? Then you might prefer stylish St. Moritz or Davos (the only town with more than 10,000 permanent residents among the alpine resorts). But if you prefer quietness, a smaller resort, maybe even a car-free one might be a better choice (Mürren, Wengen in Bernese Oberland; Bettmeralp, Riederalp, Saas Fee, Zermatt in Wallis).

Some resorts offer thermal spas - this might be a nice recreation after a day of sports activities. Leukerbad is among the classical Swiss thermal spas and can offer all kinds of winter sports in an breathtaking alpine scenery as well, St. Moritz and Scuol (Engadin) spas are fun for those just seeking wellness.

Sledge Runs / Tobogganing

More than 150 sledge runs with lengths between 1 and 15 km [0.6 .. 9 miles]. Most starting points may be reached by gondolas, but for a few you'll have to walk uphill. Traditional wooden toboggans may be rented at the gondola stations.
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