What To Do on Your Vacation in Switzerland

Switzerland is a popular destination for Americans, with more than 1 million Americans visiting the landlocked European country each year according to the latest statistics … but what’s there to do in Switzerland?

Quite a lot, actually. In fact, you can easily spend a week in Switzerland and not be bored or want for lack of variety or adventure.

Activities in Switzerland neatly assemble themselves into five main categories:

We’ll look at each in more detail shortly. First, some quick facts about the country.

Switzerland is small

Switzerland’s total area is around 15,940 square miles, which makes it half the size of South Carolina. Once you factor in the uninhabitable parts of the country, the lakes and mountains, the country fits its 8.7 million people into a relatively small space.

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Switzerland is linguistically diverse

The country has four official languages – German, Italian, French, and Romansh – which is incredible for any country, particularly one as small as Switzerland.

While most of the population speaks German predominately (and many residents speak English as a second, third, fourth, or fifth language), you may hear any of these languages spoken when you visit Switzerland.

Switzerland is expensive

Switzerland has one of the highest costs of living of any country on the planet – something travelers planning a Swiss vacation should be aware of.

But if you live in Switzerland you probably don’t mind, because the Swiss have one of the highest per-capita incomes in the world.

Now, about those places to go and things to do …

The mountains

Switzerland is an irregular blob shaped country bordered by five occasionally mountainous countries – France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein – whose mountains encroach into Switzerland.

The cool thing about that is that while all the mountain ranges are technically called the Alps, the Italian Alps are very different from the French Alps or the Austrian Alps, and the Swiss Alps reflect those differences.

What that means in practical terms in that a ski vacation in St. Moritz may feel a little more Italian than a vacation in Zermatt, in the shadow of the famous Matterhorn, which in turn will feel more German than a vacation centered around Martigny, near the French border.

The bottom line is you can’t go wrong with any of these destinations. You just need to pick a resort that fits your budget and snow sport skill level, and go. While skiing is synonymous with the Swiss Alps, there’s plenty for non-skiers to do in the mountains. The hiking is amazing, with many marked trails for various skill levels.

The mountain areas with their grassy hillsides and picturesque chalets are also fun to explore by car or train – train in particular. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

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The lakes and rivers

Some of Europe’s prettiest lakes are in Switzerland, and some of Europe’s most iconic rivers flow through the country as well.

There are few more delightful sights than Lake Lucerne bordered by tall, snow-capped mountains, or Lake Geneva, stretching in a broad arc from its namesake city. While the lake districts in America and England are beautiful in their own rights, Switzerland’s lakes have an unmistakable beauty and elegance that must be explored.

That’s not to slight the Rhine or the Rhone River, both of which have their headwaters in Switzerland. Switzerland’s Rhone Valley is home to the country’s wine region, while the Rhine makes a spectacular exit from the country at the famous Rhine Falls in Neuhausen. It’s no Niagara Falls in terms of raw power, but it’s beautiful – and tour boats traverse behind the falls.

In addition, many Rhine River cruises start or end in Basel.

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The cities

Zurich, Geneva, Bern, and Basel are cosmopolitan hubs and home to some of the world’s most famous banks, watchmakers, and chocolatiers.

Zurich is a foodie’s delight, with everything from pop-up restaurants to some of the world’s greatest gastronomic experiences. It’s also a shopper’s delight, with the Bahnhofstrasse rivaling anything you’d find in New York, Paris, or Beverly Hills.

However, Zurich also has a more intellectual side, with an historic Old Town, world-renowned architecture, and top-notch museums, like the National Museum (and, for soccer fans, the FIFA Museum).

Geneva is a cultural beacon, with its Grand Theatre and opera house, and museums devoted to watches and the International Red Cross (which is headquartered in the city). However, no trip to the city would be complete without a visit to the Horloge Fleuri, the large flower clock in the Jardin Anglais (English Garden).

Bern’s Old Town is a UNESCO heritage site, and the rest of the city reflects Old Town’s charm, particularly its covered shopping arcades, which combine the best aspects of an indulgent shopping experience and an outdoor market.

Switzerland’s capital is also home to a surprising number of explore-worthy destinations like the Paul Klee museum, the Einsteinhaus and museum, and numerous other history and art museums.

Finally, Basel, Switzerland’s oldest university town, offers more than 40 museums in addition to  a beautiful Old Town, full of interesting shops and bakeries selling traditional Basel honey cake.

The wonderful thing about all of Switzerland’s cities is no matter how cosmopolitan they might be they remain close to the things people love most about the country – its water and its mountains. You never feel like the city is closing in; there’s always a way out to nature and beauty.

Also see: Tips for Safe Driving on Vacation in Europe

The trains

Swiss trains go just about everywhere. Not only do they whisk you between cities at amazing speed, but they climb mountains, wind through Alpine pastures, go through spectacular tunnels – and because they’re Swiss trains, they do it with the utmost punctuality.

No matter what sort of train ride you want – fast, slow, cogwheel-driven, funicular, all-electric –there’s a Swiss train to scratch that itch.

A Eurail pass or Swiss Travel Pass will cover the basics, but for a truly memorable Swiss rail vacation, it’s best to work with a travel advisor who knows the territory.

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The chocolate

Saving the best for last? Maybe.

Swiss chocolate is rightly legendary – and the country offers all kinds of ways to experience Swiss chocolate in all its glory.

Many areas and regions offer chocolate tours. You can literally sample your way across the country on tours in Laveaux, the Rhone Valley, Basel, Lucerne, Geneva, and Zurich, where you can tour the famous Lindt factory.

If you want to combine things you love, there’s even a chocolate train that runs between Montreux and the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory at Broc.

The Swiss Travel Bureau has a long list of chocolatey experiences to try in Switzerland. The only challenge is fitting them all in – and then fitting into your clothes afterwards.

Find more: 6 Fantastic Food Destinations Around the World

As you can see, there’s plenty to keep you pleasantly occupied in Switzerland for as long as you care to stay.

However, a vacation this grand deserves travel protection. Trust Generali Travel Insurance for your next Swiss vacation. Get a free, no obligation quote in minutes.


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