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Things to do in Switzerland

There are plenty of things to do in Switzerland year-round.

When you holiday in Switzerland, you get four different climate zones in one package: The vast meadows of central Switzerland and the picturesque Jura highland; the Swiss Riviera in the West and the Mediterranean flair in the South; the thrilling alpine playground all around you and urban centres strewn in-between.

In North American terms, everything is just 'down the road', practically at your doorstep. No matter where you are, you are never far away from a different climate, landscape and adventure.

Thanks to the extensive public transport system, city hopping is a matter of a few hours. Technically, you could have breakfast in St. Moritz, lunch in Bern and dinner in Geneva, and you would have crossed the country from East to West in just one day. But who wants to rush if there is so much to see and do in-between?

Our country is maybe small in size, but the variety of things to do in Switzerland will keep you on your toes. No matter which way you turn, a beauteous panorama spreads out before you.

For most visitors, the Swiss Vistas - and not our nightlife - is the primary reason to travel to Switzerland. The dramatic landscape offers many unparalleled outdoor activities. According to the Adventure Index, Switzerland is regularly among the winners for Adventure Tourism year-round.

the picturesque valley of Puschlav
Puschlav Valley in Graubünden

Here's my list - far from, complete - of things to do in Switzerland:

Take a Hike

With over 60'000 km (37,284 miles) of marked hiking trails, Switzerland is a heaven for walkers, hikers, and trekkers. Even if you do your own thing outside the marked trails, you are hard pressed to find a no-trespassing sign.

Whether you choose a light walk of a few hours, hike a mountain trail, trek an alpine route or cross the country on foot, you will experience magnificent panoramas from flower filled meadows to dramatic alpine landscapes, forests of larch, knotty pine or chestnut, observe the daily life of locals and pass through history filled villages.

More about Hiking in Switzerland...
Guided and self-guided hiking tours...
Small guided tours around Lake Lucerne...

Test your Courage

Adventure Parks are ideal playgrounds for some blood boiling and challenging activities for all ages. Whiz on a zipline from platform to platform, balance your way from tree top to treetop and along suspension bridges, have fun on obstacle courses and more - all in a safe environment.

Challenge the Wall

Although the Matterhorn is the most recognised of all Swiss mountains, there are a myriad of other peaks to conquer.

Over 60% of Switzerland is mountainous territory, and it has Europe's largest concentration of summits reaching over 4000m (13'124 ft).

No matter if you are an old pro or just learning the ropes you can be sure to find the finest spots to hang on to.

Get Wheeling

Hocked on cycling? Straddle the bike and off you go. Two wheels bring you wherever you want. Bring your own bike or rent one. Leisurely bike routes criss-cross the country.

If you are a mountain biker and you crave the wild and adrenalin pumping adventure, you won't be disappointed.

A really fun adventure for the whole family is a downhill ride with trotti bikes or a segway tour - from tame to extreme.

Make some Cheese

You could do that year-round in the big cheese making centres of Gruyères, Emmental and Appenzell. But if you visit in summer, why not see how real Alp Cheese is made, some still over open fire?

Take a Dip

Although Switzerland is called an Island in the middle of Europe, it's nowhere close to any sea. Nonetheless, while you holiday in Switzerland you can experience a touch of Caribbean in Seedorf, Weggis, the Ticino and the Swiss Riviera.

swiss beach, yes, we have them too
Deserted Swiss Beach, Lago Maggiore - Ticino

Sparkly and crystal clear lakes and tame rivers offer plenty of Ersatz Sea throughout Switzerland. Just find a cozy spot and you bath for free in every lake or river.

If going wild is not your thing, there are plenty of official baths (Strandbäder, Schwimmbäder) everywhere. There's even one for "Women only" - the "Frauenbadi" in Zürich transforms into a "barefoot bar" come night.

Float Around

Cruising Switzerland's lakes and rivers offer stunning views. Boat, canoe, kayak on your own or take one of the official cruises, ferries or regular boat connections.

Sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing, white river rafting and other water sports are high on our own summer agenda.

Fly High

Soar through the air and experience the magnificent landscape from the perspective of a bird. Sky dive, parachute and hang glide solo or in tandem.

Are you adventurous? Then paragliding could be your sport!
Christian Flütsch paragliding in tandem, Prättigau - Graubünden

Need more adrenaline rush? What about a thrilling bungee jump from bridges and towers or a pendulum swing over a river?

If that sounds all a tad too dangerous to you then…

Touch the Sky

…by taking cable cars and chair lifts that take you safely up to the innumerable mountaintops. Hot air balloons, a thrilling "Alpenrundflug" by helicopter, airplane or even in a real jet fighter or bomber aircraft are other options.

Cable Way rides...

Just Relax

Leave the daily grind behind, bliss out in one of the Swiss wellness destinations. Seven resorts with hot thermal and mineral springs have dedicated themselves to rest and relaxation.

Of course, there are many more options to enjoy a wellness retreat - numerous hotels offer several choices of spa treatments throughout the year - from massage and facials to serious hydrotherapy, Ayurveda to yoga.

Go Off the Beaten Track

Sure, the Bernese Alps, the regions around Lucerne, Geneva and the Appenzell are probably on every visitor's wish list. But there are plenty of things to do in Switzerland that offer not less appealing adventures, attractions and breathtaking views.

Unspoilt natural paradises, idyllic lakeside towns, enchanted forests, wild and untamed biospheres with impressive rock formations, rugged valleys where life has little changed over centuries, lakes for excellent water sports, vineyards and lovely towns - lots of hidden treasures where the Swiss unwind.

See where the Swiss unwind...

Feast on Delicacies

Switzerland is a culinary melting pot and married the best of Italian, German, Austrian and French cuisine with their own. Savour local specialties and simple alpine goodies or visit fancy restaurants. Even small alpine inns and village restaurants serve superb and freshly made dishes prepared by fabulous "no-name" chefs.

A decadent swiss dessert in the rural Toggenburg
A decadent dessert in the small Gasthof Freihof, Toggenburg

Alp Spotting by Train

What could be more pleasant than alp spotting from the comfort of your seat? Scenic train rides, cable car excursion and Post bus tours bring you close to the mountain peaks and carry you through the most scenic areas of Switzerland, no huffing and puffing involved.

More about Swiss Railway Journeys and Mountain Rides...

Blow a Horn

No, I don't mean the Alphorn. Of course, you can do that too. What I have in mind is an excursion with the Post bus called "Postauto". Its distinctive horn (tü-ta-to) announces its presence at every blind corner or upon arrival in villages.

Post Bus Excursions...

Maloja Pass - a twisted and winded road down the valley
The Palm Espress - Postbus tour driving down the Maloja Pass, Engadin - Graubünden

Where there is no train, there's a Post bus that offers drives over passes, up and down narrow roads to every village not connected by train.

Dolce Vita à la Switzerland

Enjoy the Mediterranean flair and the dolce vita under palms and blooming citrus trees, wander through chestnut forests and follow in Herman Hesse's footsteps, a one-hour walking tour. Or have a look at splendid villas while exploring town centres in the Ticino.

Hit the Slopes

Switzerland practically invented skiing, and Davos was the first resort that catered to winter sport activities. Why not go a little off the beaten track here too, and explore the endless possibilities from Lenzerheide to Arosa, Lenk to Malbun (in Liechtenstein), from Diavolezza to Saas Fee, Samnaun and many more.

Mingle with the Locals

Who said the Swiss are boring? We are maybe a bit on the busy side while working, but let as loose, and we hardly know how to stop. Sure, we can't give you the Carnival do Brazil, but our own carnivals in Basel and Lucerne are worth your time. Learn more about our culture while attending a festival or local event that we celebrate no matter if tourists show up or not.

Events, fairs and festivals in Switzerland...

Have a Boozy Affair

We tend to keep the good stuff for ourselves. Only about 2% of the wine produced in Switzerland makes it over the border. You can sample wine in vineries from Geneva to Graubünden and Ticino to Schaffhausen, in Europe's highest vineyard, at exhibitions, vinoramas and festivals, on trains and ships dedicated to wine, and in restaurants.

Pass Through the Middle Ages

Of course, every bigger city has medieval parts and Bern is a medieval pearl par excellence. But venture a little off the beaten path and you find well-preserved and unparalleled medieval treasures and architectural jewels, many of them UNESCO world heritage sites.

Aventicum Avenches - the middle Ages call
Aventicum Musical Parade, Avenches, Canton of Vaud

Romanesque and baroque abbeys, castles and ruins, and the ancient world at the amphitheatre of Avenches; the Roman legionnaire camp in Vindonissa - a heritage site of national significance - are waiting to be explored. Take part in one of the medieval festivals or feast in castles like they did in medieval times.

Visit a Museum

Even though we don't have a Louvre to brag with, Switzerland has some of the finest art collections. Almost 1000 museums preserve our cultural treasures. Exhibits of art, science, technology, history, innovations and all kinds of curiosities are to be discovered.

Museums in Switzerland...

Clown Around

When the circus comes to town, a trilling sense of adventure takes a hold of us. Who knew? The circus season starts early spring and lasts until November. The largest of them all is our National Circus Knie. Freddy Knie senior was and still is admired amongst equestrian's worldwide.

Although Knie's 40 or so performers go home every winter, Knie's winter quarter in Rapperswil offers its tent for events, and their wonderful children's zoo is an attraction throughout the year.

If you visit a circus, be aware that when you sit in the front rows, chances are, clowns won't let you alone and engage you in their magical numbers.

Dimitri, Switzerland's most famous clown and mime, inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame, and founder of the Teatro Dimitri and a school for clowns, offers also courses for amateurs.

A list of Circuses...

Take a Drive

Porsche and Ferrari are designed to take the winded roads and mountain passes of this country in stride. But any car will do to explore the wild, rugged valleys and impressive routes on your own pace. Probably the smaller the car the better. Keep in mind that roads can be pretty narrow. In remote areas, stretches of one-lane roads are quite common.

Driving Tips for Switzerland...

Smell the Roses

You can do that by strolling through villages and enjoy the floral displays and peak into private gardens. We are not really famous for garden tours as are the English and French, but we've got a few well-known public, botanical and excellent Alpine Gardens. Tough the most impressive display of alpine flora and fauna can be found in the Alpine meadows in spring.

Botanical Garden Brissago Island
Botanical Garden, Brissago Island, Lago Maggiore, Ticino

Attend a Concert or Theatre

Music, dance and theatre thrive in Switzerland. Ballets and Operas, Cabarets and Musicals, Open Air concerts from jazz to classical and folklore, cinemas and film festivals - national and international artists perform in small and large productions.

Visit a Zoo or Wildlife Park

I know Zoos are probably necessary to preserve species that otherwise would vanish; but I admit, I am not a big fan of seeing animals in cages. Although we have some pretty impressive Zoos, there is also the option to see wildlife in non-domesticated areas, such as National and nature parks.

A list of Zoos...

Attend a Weird Sports Event

Want to attend an unusual sports event? Some are there for the entertainment, but others are pretty serious sports competitions. A few of the unusual Swiss sport events probably look quite bizarre to you. So, if you have nothing else to do, you might want to check some of them out. You'll be sorry if you don't :-)

unusual swiss sport events, a hornsled race
My nephew steering a Hornschlitten (horn sledge)

Learn Something

What better place to learn a language? We've got four official ones. Varied programs and workshops, long and short term, for children and adults.

There are a myriad of creative options to choose from: boost your creativity in the arts, learn a new sport or how to prepare local food, assemble your own Swiss Knife, or spend a day at an alpine farm and have a close up look at their life.

Find Some Things

Geocaching, a kind of GPS paper chase, is fun for the whole family.

You don't need a GPS to score bargain items at flea markets, brocantes and fairs where you can find everything from gorgeous vintage stuff to precious antiques. Even if you don't plan to buy something, they are definitely worth a visit and if only to soak up the atmosphere, have some good street food or chat up some locals.

Horse Around

Horse and pony riding for all ages and levels, riding lessons with and without accommodation are offered. Guided trail rides of a few hours to several days, wagon rides through romantic landscapes, or a ride in a horse cart or in a winter-sleigh - there are many options to choose from in every region of Switzerland.

Tour Manure

Vacation on the farm, or Farm Stays, are more and more in demand. Experience close up what it means to farm in Switzerland. Learn the ropes or just unwind in crisp air or hike in a wonderful environment. You'll experience something unique and go home with a better understanding of what it means to live close to the land.

have fun on a farm stay in switzerland
Neighbour Hansjaggi carrying hay

Harvest some grapes or sleep in straw; attend an agricultural event such as an "Alp Ab- and Aufzug" (going to or returning from an Alps with cows, goats and sheep), a cow fighting festival, cow pad golf or the farmers Olympic game.

Sleep in Hay or stay on a Farm...

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