15 Incredible Things to Do in Switzerland To Explore The County, Its Culture and Beauty
From the snow-capped peaks of the Swiss Alps to the teal waters of Interlaken’s lakes and the rolling countryside of the Emmental Valley, Switzerland is an adventure lover’s paradise.
There is no shortage of fun things to do in Switzerland with incredible hikes, stunning viewpoints, and a huge variety of adventure sports, from paragliding to water skiing and tobogganing. In addition to its natural wonders, Switzerland is home to unique architecture, including classic wooden chalets with brightly colored flower boxes, gothic churches, footbridges, and clock towers.
15 Things to Do in Switzerland: Classics Plus Lesser-Known Gems
To help you plan your trip, we’ve rounded up 15 of the best things to do in Switzerland, from the must-see classics to a few off-the-beaten-path adventures! We’ll tie it all together at the end of the article with a one-week sample itinerary.
1. Go paragliding in Interlaken
While Switzerland is best known for Swiss chocolate and cheese, it’s also a mecca for adventure sports such as paragliding, hang gliding, base jumping, and skydiving. Switzerland is a great spot to check off an adrenaline-pumping activity from your bucket list!
We highly recommend going paragliding in Interlaken, often referred to as the “adventure capital of Switzerland,” where you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the town’s two lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, while you soar through the sky! Most paragliding flights in the area take off in Beatenberg and land in the center of Interlaken for roughly 20 minutes of air time. Several paragliding tour companies in the area and tickets for the standard flight typically cost around 170 CHF.
2. Take a chocolate-making class in Zurich
Switzerland is well known for producing some of the world’s finest chocolates. Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter developed the first milk chocolate bars in 1875. For chocolate lovers, no trip to Switzerland is complete without indulging in a Swiss chocolate tasting!
While chocolate tastings, tours, and classes are offered throughout the country, we highly recommend visiting the Lindt Home of Chocolate in Kilchberg, just outside Zurich. Here you can take a guided tour of the chocolate museum, where you will learn all about how different types of chocolate are made, including the cocoa bean roasting process and the differences between white, milk, and dark chocolate. In addition, the Lindt Home of Chocolate offers chocolate-making classes with a Lindt chocolatier!
The Lindt Home of Chocolate is definitely worth a trip for chocolate lovers!
3. Try fondue or rosti, two classic Swiss dishes
Three languages are spoken in Switzerland: French, Italian, and German. Similarly, Swiss cuisine is heavily influenced by the three countries surrounding it: France, Italy, and Germany. As a result, Swiss dishes tend to be quite simple, often focusing on cheese and potatoes.
Fondue is the most classic Swiss dish, a large pot of piping hot cheese into which you can dip pieces of potato, bread, vegetables, or meat. Another Swiss classic is rosti, a hot cake or casserole of fried grated potatoes with cheese. Think of it as a massive hashbrown layered with cheese and other toppings – perfect after a day of adventure. Not as popular as fondue or rosti, one of our favorite Swiss dishes is raclette, which is when you heat up a large wheel of cheese and scrape off the ooey-gooey outer layer onto your plate of potatoes, vegetables, or meat.
4. Hike through the Lauterbrunnen Valley
With towering rock faces, dozens of waterfalls, picturesque chalets, and a green valley full of happy cows, the Lauterbrunnen Valley is the epitome of Swiss charm. From the small town of Lauterbrunnen, you can hike 3.2 miles (one-way) through the Lauterbrunnen Valley to Stechelberg, enjoying incredible views with every step. A bus runs through the Lauterbrunnen Valley if you aren’t up for a hike.
Along the way, stop by Trummelbach Falls, a set of 10 glacial waterfalls hidden inside a rock face. Tickets for Trummelbach Falls cost 14 CHF for adults and 6 CHF for kids, and the falls are open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm from April through November and from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm in July and August.
5. Take a trip to Schilthorn for stunning views of the Swiss Alps
Rising to an elevation of 9,744 feet, Schilthorn mountain offers panoramic views of the surrounding Swiss Alps, most notably the Monch, Jungfrau, and Eiger, often referred to as the “Big Three.” Well above the treeline, you’ll also be able to watch paragliders soaring above the mountains and wonder what makes someone crazy enough to do such an activity.
Schilthorn is also known for being the filming location of the 1969 James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and there is a James Bond exhibit and James Bond-themed rotating restaurant at the peak.
A great day trip from Interlaken, reaching the top of Schilthorn is an adventure in and of itself. You will need to take a train, cable car, and gondola to reach the peak and journey through several quaint Swiss villages along the way, including Lauterbrunnen, Murren, and Gimmelwald.
Tickets to Schilthorn cost 85.60 CHF roundtrip from Murren or 42.80 CHF with a Swiss Pass. You can find more information about tickets here.
6. Explore Old Town Lucerne
Lucerne is easily our favorite of all the cities we’ve visited in Switzerland! This picturesque city embodies classic Swiss architecture with medieval churches, buildings covered in antique murals, and a rustic, Old-World charm. Wandering through the Old Town of Lucerne is easily one of the best things to do in Switzerland.
Lucerne’s most famous landmark is the Kapellbrücke, or Chapel Bridge, a medieval covered footbridge across the Reuss River, initially built in the 14th century. In 1993, much of the original bridge was destroyed in a fire, but it was restored to resemble the original, including each interior panel depicting an important event in Swiss history. While Kapellbrücke is the most iconic bridge, its smaller neighbor, the Spreuer Bridge, is also worth visiting!
Another must-see landmark in Lucerne is the Löwendenkmal, or “Lion Monument,” a massive lion statue carved out of a cliff face. The monument was built in 1820 to commemorate Swiss guards who were massacred during the French Revolution in 1792.
7. Take a day trip from Lucerne to Mount Pilatus
While in Lucerne, you can’t miss taking a day trip to Mount Pilatus, which sits at an elevation of 6,983 feet and towers over the city of Lucerne. Our favorite views in all of Switzerland are from the top of Mount Pilatus!
The journey from Lucerne to Mount Pilatus is half the fun, as it includes taking a boat ride across Lake Lucerne, riding the world’s steepest funicular up to Mount Pilatus, soaring through the clouds in an enormous gondola, and finally descending back down to the city via a series of cable cars.
Once you arrive at Mount Pilatus, you can hike 2 miles round trip to Tomlishorn Peak and climb up to Oberhaupt Peak to soak in all the views. On top of Mount Pilatus, there is also a restaurant and hotel, which would be an incredible spot to spend the night and catch a stunning sunset!
The full-day trip from Lucerne to the top of Mount Pilatus costs 103 CHF round trip or 36 CHF with a Swiss Pass. You can also reach Mount Pilatus via a challenging 10.5-mile round trip hike from Alpnachstad, gaining over 5,000 feet of elevation (steep!).
8. Go tobogganing
Looking for something a little more adventurous to do in Switzerland?! Although less crazy than paragliding, zipping down the side of a mountain in a toboggan is sure to be a thrill for the entire family!
There are numerous places to go tobogganing throughout Switzerland. The longest summer toboggan run in the country is the Fräkigaudi located in Frakmuntegg, a convenient stop by cable car on the way up or down from Mount Pilatus. The Fräkigaudi toboggan run is 1,350 meters in length, and the ride takes about 15 minutes one way. Tickets cost 9 CHF per adult and 7 CHF per child, and the toboggan run is open from about mid-April through late October.
9. See the famous Matterhorn
Perhaps one of the most iconic peaks in the world, the pyramid-shaped Matterhorn towers over the alps of southern Switzerland at 14,692 feet. You may recognize the mountain’s unique shape from its appearance on the Toblerone chocolate box!
The closest town to the Matterhorn is the small ski village of Zermatt. To get to Zermatt, a quiet town with no vehicle traffic, you must take a train or park outside the city and take a bus in. However, the enormous Matterhorn is visible nearly everywhere you go in Zermatt, and the charming village with classic Swiss chalets is worth a visit in and of itself.
Our favorite way to enjoy the best Matterhorn views is from the Five Lakes Hike, a moderately difficult 6-mile loop hike located about 20 minutes by train from Zermatt. As the name suggests, the hike passes by five different alpine lakes, each with views of the Matterhorn in the background. The largest of the five lakes, known as Stellisee, features the best view of the entire hike! If you hike clockwise, Stellisee will be the first lake you come upon.
To get up close to the Matterhorn, visit the Klein Matterhorn (“little Matterhorn”), also known as Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, a viewing platform and ski resort located just beside the pyramid-shaped mountain.
10. Go kayaking on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz
Translating to “between lakes,” the town of Interlaken is situated between two stunning, teal blue lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. If you’re looking for a unique way to explore the lakes and the surrounding area, we highly recommend renting kayaks and spending a few hours on the water.
You can rent single or tandem kayaks from Mountain Surf on Lake Thun for 25 CHF per hour. You can rent kayaks from High Tide Kayak School for 30 CHF per hour or take a 3-hour guided kayaking tour for 105 CHF on Lake Brienz.
Grab a set of paddles, pack a lunch, and have a perfect afternoon in Interlaken!
11. Hike Interlaken’s Harder Kulm
While exploring by water is a fun way to see Lake Thun and Lake Brienz up close, the city’s best views (besides from the sky!) are found at Interlaken’s own mountain, Harder Kulm. Harder Kulm stands at an elevation of 4,334 feet and can be reached either by hiking or taking a funicular.
The hike to Harder Kulm totals 5 miles with 2,500 feet of elevation gain, so be prepared for a steep climb. Alternatively, the funicular costs 17 CHF one way or 34 CHF round trip and departs from the Interlaken Ost train station.
On top of Harder Kulm, a restaurant and glass viewing platform feature a bird’s eye view of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. It may be hard to believe, but the water truly is that blue in real life!
12. Explore the nation’s capital: Bern
No trip to Switzerland is complete without a stop in the nation’s capital, Bern, located on the northwestern side of the country. While there are tons of great things to do in Bern, below are a few popular ways to spend your time:
- Climb up to the Rosengarten (“Rose Garden”) for an epic sunset view overlooking the city.
- Visit the Bear Park in Old Town Bern, home to numerous bears, the animal after which the city is thought to be named.
- Tour the Zytglogge, an enormous medieval clock tower built in the 13th century, features awesome views of the surrounding Bernese Oberland.
- Grab dinner and a drink at one of Bern’s underground cellars. Originally built as storage under homes, these vaulted cellars have now been turned into restaurants, bars, shops, and nightlife.
- Cool off with a dip in the chilly waters of the Aare River. Then, grab a raft and spend a few hours floating down the river!
13. E-bike through the Swiss countryside
The Emmentaler region of Switzerland surrounds Bern and is known as one of the largest producers of Emmental cheese (another name for the classic hole-ridden Swiss cheese!). E-biking, the Emmental Cheese Route, is one of the best ways to explore the Emmentaler region while sampling some of the freshest Swiss cheese available! There are two route options, which cover either 35 or 78 kilometers, and are manageable as a day trip using an e-bike, depending on how much of a challenge you are looking for.
Pick up an e-bike rental from the small town of Burgdorf, located about 20 minutes from Bern, and spend the day riding through the rolling hills and expansive Bernese farmland. You can download the Emmental Cheese Route app, an audio tour guide with maps and narration about each stop to find your way. Along the way, you will stop at the Affoltern Show Dairy farm, where you can watch cheese being made and purchase the freshest cheese available!
E-bike rentals from Burgdorf cost 58 CHF per bike per day. You can make advance reservations online here.
14. See the towers of the Grossmünster church in Zurich
Visiting Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich, deserves a spot on any Switzerland itinerary! The most famous landmark in the city is the Grossmunster church, a Romanesque-style church built in the 1100s. According to legend, the church was built by Charlemagne over the graves of Zurich’s two patron saints, Felix and Regula. While the church is beautiful from the outside, the inside is also open to the public.
15. Take a Limmat boat ride and have a picnic at the Zürichhorn
While in Zurich, we highly recommend taking a Limmat boat ride along Lake Zurich to the Zürichhorn, a large beach area along the lakeshore that makes for the perfect picnic spot. A Limmat boat is simply a long, flat water taxi named after the Limmat River, emptying into Lake Zurich. It’s a great way to see the city from the water. The Limmat boat ride takes about 25 minutes one way from the Swiss National Museum in downtown Zurich to the Zürichhorn.
Tickets are covered by the Swiss Pass, or 4.40 CHF round trip without. So pack a few snacks and a bottle of wine and spend the afternoon relaxing by the beautiful Lake Zurich.
Getting Around in Switzerland
Thanks to the country’s fast and efficient transportation system, getting around Switzerland is a breeze. The most common way to travel within Switzerland is by train. While you can purchase individual tickets to each of your destinations, it likely makes more sense to buy the Swiss Travel Pass if you plan to be in the country for a few days. The Swiss Pass includes train and bus travel between cities, public transportation within cities, 50% off many excursions (ex: Schilthorn & Mount Pilatus), and free admission to most museums.
Read more about the Swiss Pass and ticket prices here.
Sample One Week Itinerary to Make Your Way Through These Things to do in Switzerland
Are you still feeling overwhelmed with so many great things to do in Switzerland?! Below, we’ve put together one sample itinerary that includes many of the best things to do in Switzerland in one week:
- Day 1: Fly into Zurich, travel to Lucerne, and spend the afternoon exploring the city
- Day 2: Take a day trip from Lucerne to Mount Pilatus
- Day 3: Travel to Interlaken and hike Harder Kulm
- Day 4: Take a day trip from Interlaken through Lauterbrunnen Valley, Murren, and up to Schilthorn
- Day 5: Go paragliding in Interlaken, then travel to Zermatt
- Day 6: Go hiking in Zermatt and visit the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
- Day 7: Travel back to Zurich, explore the city, do a chocolate tasting, and depart.