Planning a trip to Switzerland? We could not be more excited for you! Full of mind-blowing scenery, fantastic food, and adventure around every corner, this spectacular country is one of our favourite travel destinations across the globe. In this blog post, I am going to share 18 epic things to do in Switzerland to add to your bucket list!
It is no secret that Switzerland is home to some of the most photogenic landscapes in Europe. Famous for hiking, biking, climbing, skiing, and paragliding, this place is an adventure lover’s dream.
Before we dive into all of our recommendations, let’s go over a few key pieces of information you will need to plan your trip.
First, let’s talk about transportation.
We would highly recommend renting a vehicle!
Contrary to popular belief, we believe that renting a vehicle is the best way to see the country. I know, I know, every other blog post you’ve read says that the trains in Switzerland are fantastic. And they aren’t wrong.
The problem is, they can be expensive and limiting. Here’s what I mean:
- We rented a car for our 3-week trip through Switzerland for CHF 700. We spent approximately CHF 400 on fuel and parking as we toured the country at our leisure. That’s a total of CHF 1,100.
- 2 Swiss Travel Passes, which include unlimited travel via train and bus, for 3 weeks would have been over CHF 1,700! This does not include gondolas and means that you are travelling with far less flexibility.
While it is completely possible to travel through Switzerland via train, we think a vehicle is the best option. Especially if you like to visit places for sunrise, sunset or before the bulk of the crowds arrive, as we do.
If you are not comfortable renting a vehicle OR if you plan to stick primarily to the larger cities and towns, public transportation works, too.
Depending on how long you are travelling for and what you plan on doing, there are three different options we would recommend.
A Swiss Travel Pass
A Swiss Travel Pass gives you unlimited travel in Switzerland by train, bus, boat and public transport in cities. This pass is valid for travelling on fixed and consecutive days with 3, 4, 6, 8 and 15-day passes available.
It also includes free entrance to more than 500 museums and up to 50% off certain mountain excursions. Children and youths under 16 years old are free when travelling with at least 1 adult.
A Swiss Travel Pass Flex
A Swiss Travel Pass Flex offers the same benefits as a classic Swiss Travel Pass with one key difference. With the flex fare, you can choose non-consecutive days within a month. These travel days can be activated and changed easily online.
A Swiss Half Fare Card
A Swiss Half Fare Card entitles the holder to purchase tickets for trains, buses, boats, and a few mountain railways at half price. This discount is unlimited for a 1-month period. It also includes up to 50% discounts on most mountain excursions. Children and youths under 16 years old are free when travelling with at least 1 adult.
Gondolas, gondolas, everywhere!
Looking at all of the gondolas on a map before visiting Switzerland can be confusing and overwhelming. While it took some getting used to, we learned that there are several ways to utilize them during your time in Switzerland WITHOUT spending a small fortune.
While we did not take gondolas every chance we could, there were many instances where they saved us a whack of time and energy.
For more detailed travel information, check out our transportation blog post linked below.
Next, let’s cover accommodation.
From luxury hotels to Airbnbs to camping, finding a place to stay in this country is relatively easy. However, finding accommodation that won’t break the bank is more challenging.
This will most likely be your biggest expense while travelling through Switzerland, but don’t worry! You can find excellent accommodation within your price range if you are willing to get a bit creative.
In terms of hotels and Airbnbs, the earlier you book, the better! We stayed at hotels in Zurich, Interlaken, Zermatt and Grindelwald, and spent the rest of our time camping in a tent. For us, it was the perfect combination!
Here are some basic prices so you know what you’re getting into:
- Campsite for 2 people with a small tent: CHF 25-50 per night
- Campsite for 2 people in a camper: CHF 55-80 per night
- A 2-3 star hotel: CHF 125-300 per night
- A 4-5 star hotel: CHF 300-1,000+ per night
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into the fun stuff! Here are the best things to do in Switzerland for adventure lovers.
Go Hiking in The Swiss Alps
Switzerland is a mountainous country in Central Europe known for picturesque lakes, charming villages, unbelievable chocolate, and of course, the Swiss alps. World-renowned for its trails and viewpoints, it is only suiting that hiking is first on this list!
Hundreds of trail options are available, from easy walks to multi-day treks. There are many options to take gondolas for a portion of the hike or stay in alpine huts to extend your experience.
We spent countless weeks researching and planning out the perfect hiking route through this spectacular country. In the blog post below, I spill ALL of the beans.
So, take a peek through, choose a few that look exciting, and don’t forget your hiking boots! I can say with confidence that there are no bad views in Switzerland.
Reach New Heights Paragliding
Turquoise lakes. Lush rolling hills. Massive waterfalls. Snow-capped peaks. If you have ever daydreamed about soaring effortlessly above a landscape straight out of a movie scene, you have got to try paragliding in Switzerland.
Seriously, we won’t take no for an answer.
On any day at any given time, you can look up and see paragliders taking in a new perspective of the Swiss Alps. Whether you choose a thrilling adventure in front of the Matterhorn, a relaxing flight through the valley of 72 waterfalls, or an epic sunset flight over Lake Brienz, your expectations will be blown out of the water. I promise.
This was by far one of our favourite things to do in Switzerland and we are positive you will feel the same way. There are several excellent locations to choose from, but here are our top 3.
- Interlaken for views over two stunning lakes, the Bernese Highland, and the snow-covered alps in the distance.
- Lauterbrunnen to get up close and personal with the massive waterfalls cascading down the sides of this fairytale canyon.
- Zermatt for a one-of-a-kind experience in front of the Matterhorn.
The prices vary between operators but you should be able to book a tandem flight with a well-rated company for CHF 150-220 per person.
Get Your Adrenaline Pumping on a Via Ferrata
A Via Ferrata is a protected climbing route found in many mountainous regions across the world. Think rock climbing for beginners, with more pronounced steps and handholds. These routes consist of steel cables, steps, ladders, and bridges that are securely fastened to the rock.
Once suited up in a climbing harness with two metal leashes, you can safely secure yourself to a metal cable as you traverse the course. This allows climbing on otherwise dangerous routes without the risks of a fall or the need for technical climbing equipment.
A Via Ferrata is a great alternative to rock climbing and mountaineering because it requires less skill and specialized equipment.
With over 35 Via Ferrata routes of varying difficulty, Switzerland has several excellent options. Our favourite was the Via Ferrata from Mürren to Gimmelwald because it was easy to access, close to Interlaken, and full of incredible mountain views.
Explore The Valley of 72 Waterfalls
Located only 20 minutes from Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen is often referred to as the most beautiful place in Europe. We spend 6 days camping here and would be inclined to agree. Situated in the middle of a stunning canyon, Lauterbrunnen, which translates to “many fountains”, is home to a whopping 72 waterfalls!
The town itself can be easily seen in 1 day, but we decided to stay for far longer to take advantage of the views and cheap accommodation. Lauterbrunnen is another great home base for hiking and adventures in the Alps!
The town of Lauterbrunnen is one of the most picturesque places I have ever been.
The main street is lined with flags, shops, restaurants, and an old church so take some time to explore. Right at the end of the main street is Staubbach Falls, Europe’s highest free-falling waterfall. Another famous Lauterbrunnen waterfall is Trummelbach Falls. You can walk through a series of caves to get a closer look at the powerful stream of water.
Some other activities include the Lauterbrunnen Valley Path, a scenic 5.2-kilometre walk that takes you from Lauterbrunnen to Steckelberg with insane views, paragliding, hiking, and a day trip to Mürren.
Be Swept off Your Feet With a Hot Air Balloon Ride
The charming little town of Château d’Oex is often referred to as the hot air ballooning capital of the world. If exploring the mesmerizing landscape of Switzerland in an open aired basket wasn’t on your bucket list before, it will be now!
Each year on the last week of January, Château d’Oex hosts the International Hot-Air Balloon Festival. It takes place over 9 days and includes night shows, balloon flights, sporting competitions and a children’s day. For 43 years, pilots and spectators from around the globe have made the journey to Switzerland to take part in this unique event.
As magical as it would be to soar around during the festival, you do not need to visit in January to experience a hot air balloon ride. With Balloons Château d’Oex, you can book a trip year-round for CHF 390 per person. This includes transportation, a flight of 1-1.5 hours, and a celebration with local food and drinks.
Zermatt was one of our favourite places in the country. You have to add it to your bucket list for the Matterhorn views alone! Located in southwest Switzerland on the Italian border, Zermatt combines incredible luxury, spectacular views, and epic adventure into one charming little car-free village.
Staying in Zermatt is pricey, but it is 1,000% worth it! We stayed at The Matterhorn FOCUS Hotel and would highly recommend it if you are looking to splurge for a night or two. It was outside the hustle and bustle of the main area while still keeping us within walking distance of the shops and restaurants.
You will want to spend some time exploring the flag-lined streets and soaking up the resort town vibes. While you’re there, don’t forget to hit the trails! With over 400 km of pathways, there are endless hikes to try in Zermatt. Our favourite was a loop we created including Stellisee Lake, Fluhalp Hut, and Gornergrat.
Try a Canyon Swing
Have you ever looked at a staggering canyon with a clear blue river running through it and thought to yourself, “Man, I wish I could fly through this”? If so, this adventure might be right up your alley!
Located in the Grindelwald Glacial Gorge, you can experience a 90-meter free fall followed by an incredible swing between two towering rock faces at 120 km/h. The professional guides will ensure your safety and cheer you on as you thrillingly overcome your fears. The experience can be booked with or without transport from Interlaken or Grindelwald.
Visit The Top Of Europe
Jungfraujoch, also referred to as Top of Europe, is home to the highest railway station on the continent at 3,454 m. The construction of this train, which concluded in 1912, makes this the highest accessible point in all of Europe.
The Jungfrau Railway was the most expensive train we saw in Switzerland, with a price of CHF 214 per person roundtrip from Grindelwald. It can also be accessed from Lauterbrunnen for around CHF 222. If you find that price tag as stressful as we did, don’t worry! There are several ways to get discounts on this journey.
Both the Swiss Travel Pass and the Swiss Half Fare Card offer discounts on the Jungfrraubahn. If you would like to include a bit of hiking, you have a few more options.
- Take the gondola from Grindelwald to Männlichen for CHF 64 per person round trip. From Berggashaus Männlichen, it is 7.6 km with 260 m elevation gain to get to the Eigergletscher Train Station. After this scenic hike, you can hop onto the Jungfrraubahn for CHF 99 round trip, per person. This will make your total CHF 163 instead of CHF 214. Keep in mind that you have to hike another 7.6 km to get to the Männlichen gondola on your way back to Grindelwald.
- Take the gondola from Grindelwald to Holenstein (part way up to Männlichen) for CHF 34 and hike to the Eigergletscher Train Station. This journey is 11.3 km and 860 m elevation gain. From there, you can hop onto the Jungfrraubahn for CHF 99 round trip. This will make your total CHF 133 per person. Again, keep in mind that you have to hike 11.3 km to get to the Holenstein gondola on your way back to Grindelwald.
- If you’re up for a tough day of hiking, you can also hike directly from Grindelwald to the Eigergletscher Train Station. It is 12 km one way with 1,372 m of elevation gain. If you chose this option, you will only have to pay CHF 99 per person for your ticket from Eigergletscher to Jungfraujoch.
NOTE: All of these tickets, with the exception of the Jungfrraubahn, are available as one-way or round trip.
This means if you would like to take the gondola up and hike down or depart and arrive from different gondola stations, you can do that. The one-way tickets are exactly half the price of the round-trip fares (2022).
A visit to the Sphinx Observation Deck is a must. It boasts 360° views of the stunning Swiss Alps from an incredibly unique vantage point. With panoramic views like this, it is easy to see why this wondrous region is part of a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Cold even in the summertime, make sure to bring warm clothes including a jacket, hat, and gloves. You are visiting a glacier, after all! There is an ice palace and restaurant at the top which you can choose to visit before making your way back down.
Savour a Cheese Fondue
You will find very few people who enjoy cheese as much as we do, and Switzerland takes the cake for the best dairy we have ever had. Sharing a cheese fondue and a bottle of wine on a patio in the midst of the Swiss Alps is a quintessential experience to have in Switzerland.
There are several restaurants in every city and town that have this on their menu. We visited Oberland Restaurant in Lauterbrunnen and were blown away! Honestly, it’s tough to go wrong with a meal anywhere in this marvellous country.
NOTE FOR MY LACTOSE INTOLERANT FRIENDS: If you skipped over this section because you can’t eat dairy in North America, please try in Switzerland. I got this advice, and while I was skeptical, I am so glad I did! I have severe reactions to dairy in North America… we’re talking sick for days and covered in hives.
But, I ate dairy every day for two months in Europe without so much as a stomach ache. That was 1,000% worth the risk of testing the waters. Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend ordering a cheese fondue on your first day. Start with a bite of cheese and wait for a bit, then go from there!
See The Country From a White Water Raft
River rafting has become a popular action-packed activity in Switzerland over the past several years. If you are looking for an adventurous day filled with magical views and heaps of fun, this is a great choice.
From the Bernese Oberland to Rhine Gorge, often referred to as the “Swiss Grand Canyon”, there are 9 main hotspots with options for all skill and comfort levels. The Lütschine River from Interlaken is one of the most popular choices among advanced rafters. Some other intermediate to advanced spots include the Landquart River, Vispa River, and Saane River.
If you are looking for a more laid-back sort of day, try the Rhine River, the Inn River, or the Arve River near Geneva. There are multiple different tour operators that offer a variety of tour lengths and difficulties. Typically, they range from CHF 100-200 per person.
Interlaken is known as the adventure capital of the country making it a must on your list of things to do in Switzerland. With its central location and endless activities at your doorstep, Interlaken and the surrounding area is a fantastic home base to consider.
Commonly known as the town between two lakes, Brienz and Thun, Interlaken allows access to several hiking trails, gondolas, viewpoints, activities, and other towns and villages.
Our favourite adventures from Interlaken included paragliding, kayaking, hiking, a trip to Harder Kulm, spa days at Hotel Salzano, and meals at their incredible restaurants.
Stay in a Mountain Hut
If you haven’t spent much time hiking in Europe, you are in for a big surprise when it comes to the alpine huts in Switzerland.
In North America, if you want to stay in the backcountry, you need to pack in a tent, a stove, and your food. In Switzerland, however, we did not hike a single trail without at least one mountain hut. No matter how far or how high we climbed, we could always find a warm meal, a cold drink, and even a place to sleep in the Swiss Alps.
We praised the Swiss endlessly for the way everything in the entire country seemed to make perfect sense. These huts were no exception!
If you would like to visit a viewpoint for sunrise, connect multiple trails together, or simply spend a night drinking cider by the fire in the mountains, stay in an alpine hut. With over 300 scattered throughout the alps, you are almost guaranteed to find one that fits your plans perfectly.
This was a totally foreign concept to us, so here are a few things that we learned about these alpine huts in Switzerland:
- Most huts can be booked in advance online.
- They all take cash or credit cards.
- They have dorm rooms and private rooms. Typically, your linen is all supplied in a private room. You may or may not need to bring a sleeping bag or a liner for a dorm. This information will be given to you at the time of booking.
- Most stays include a 3-4 course dinner as well as a buffet breakfast. Many also provide snacks and day food for an extra fee.
- On every hike, even if you are not staying the night, there are huts where you can buy a meal. In other words, no need to pack a lunch, ever! The food at the huts is always reasonably priced, delicious, and convenient.
- All huts provide clean drinking water, sometimes they will charge a small fee.
- You can usually charge your devices, but we always recommend bringing a backup battery just in case.
- Most huts have heat, flush toilets, and hot water showers which are available for a few Swiss Francs.
- They always sell beer, wine, and cider.
For more information on a few of our top choices, check out this blog post!
Unwind at a Spa
Ah, the spas. This is something we don’t see all the time in Canada but they completely blew us away. If you’re wondering what a spa is doing on a list of adventurous things to do in Switzerland, you have obviously never been to a Swiss spa before.
I would have wondered the same thing before visiting, but prepare to be dazzled, my friend!
When we first arrived, we knew that many of our hotels included “spa access”, but we weren’t exactly sure what that entailed. Did a spa mean a hot tub? Was there a relaxation area where we could book massages?
We really had no idea what we were getting into and how much we were about to fall in love with Switzerland’s spas. These tranquil areas include a combination of saunas, steam rooms, showers, cold plunge pools, relaxation areas, jacuzzis, indoor pools, outdoor pools, refreshments, and light snacks.
If you are staying at a hotel with complimentary access to the spa, make sure you take full advantage of it! If you are not staying at a hotel with a spa, don’t fret! Many of them allow day passes for a reasonable fee.
There is no better feeling than completely relaxing at one of these stunning spas after several days of travel and hiking.
Swim in a Turquoise River
Splashing around in the vibrant waters of the Verzasca River was one of my favourite things to do in Switzerland. These natural pools are located in Valle Verzasca, a gorgeous valley near the Italian border.
Home to lush vegetation, massive white rocks, and clear, vivid water, this is one of the most picturesque swimming holes we have ever visited.
Park HERE or HERE and follow one of the trails through the trees towards the sound of the river. After walking for a few hundred meters you will be greeted by the serene beauty of this pristine river valley.
There are several spots along it where you can swim, sunbathe, or have a picnic lunch. We walked along the shore and finally settled into a sunny spot on a humungous rock overlooking the water. Bring a towel, a good book, and your swimsuit!
If you are brave enough, there are a few excellent cliff-jumping locations. I’m warning you now, though, the water is freezing! We paired this day trip with a few hours in Ascona.
Visit the Picturesque Town of Ascona
Located in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, Ascona is one of Switzerland’s lesser-known gems. This colourful little lakefront town reminded us of Italy, boasting a prominent clock tower and a cobblestone cafe-lined promenade.
Ascona offers a more authentic atmosphere than many touristy destinations nearby and is absolutely worth a stop on your trip to Switzerland. The promenade was like something out of a movie set. Irresistibly charming and incredibly peaceful.
We found a rope swing tied to a massive tree overlooking the water and sat down to enjoy the view. The local shops sell beautiful pieces of clothing, art, and handmade gifts. Spend some time strolling through them while enjoying a gelato.
Get Up Close + Personal With Massive Glaciers
We have never been so excited about glaciers as we were in Switzerland. That is really saying something, too, because we live right beside the Canadian Rockies! There was something about the scale and accessibility that made them feel more magical than I can put into words.
We were able to reach viewpoints on a day trip that wouldn’t be possible in many other countries. Because of this, we got up close and personal with several stunning glaciers without having to take a helicopter tour, spend days hiking, or strap on ice climbing gear.
The Great Aletsch Glacier, with a length of 23km, is the largest glacier in the Alps. This massive ice field is quite honestly one of the most impressive things I have ever seen! Covering over 80 square kilometres in the Bernese Alps, standing beside this monumental glacier was a pivotal experience.
There are several ways to reach this glacier that involve gondolas, hiking, or a combination of both. We chose to take a gondola to Bettmergrat and then complete an 8-kilometre hike beside this spectacular slab of ice.
The Gorner Glacier is another fan favourite in Switzerland. Accessible from Zermatt, it is over 12 kilometres long and between 1-1.5 kilometres wide. The entire area is full of magic and marvellous mountain views.
Again, you can choose to hike or take a train to a stunning viewpoint. We chose a combination of hiking and trains and tacked on a 5-kilometre hike beside the glacier.
Try Bungee Jumping
This one is for the adrenaline junkies out there. With stunning landscapes around every corner and awards for being the most innovative country in the world, Switzerland is the perfect place to give it. try. Safety is a top priority plus they have some seriously unique setups.
There are several options available, but two stood out to us more than the rest.
The first is at the Verzasca Dam along the Verzasca River. This is famous for a bungee stunt in the James Bond film “Goldeneye”. Since then, this dam in southern Switzerland has been home to several stunt scenes in well-known films and TV shows.
The second is Stockhorn Bungy, which is located near Interlaken. This one caught our eye because it is quite unusual. You are hoisted 134 meters into the air in a gondola, the doors open, and you jump! Because this all takes place over Stocksee Lake, you are then lowered into a boat that takes you safely back to shore.
The price varies, but you should be able to book a jump with a well-established company for between CHF 200-250.
Soak Up the Culture and Food in Zurich
Many travellers will first arrive in Zürich, the largest city in Switzerland. Jam-packed with mouth-watering restaurants, a historic old town, and the most expensive shopping street in the world, there is truly something for everyone here.
The highlights of Zürich can be seen easily in 1-3 days, depending on your pace. The Altstadt AKA the historic old town is where we spent the majority of our time visiting iconic landmarks and admiring the Limmat River which flows through the city.
Noteworthy places to visit include: Lindenhof Hill, Karlsturm (Charles Tower) at Grossmünster, Niederdorfstrasse, Rennweg, Augustinergasse, The Church of St. Peter, Lake Zurich Promenade, Mühlesteg Bridge, and Münster Bridge.
The streets of Zürich are lined with restaurants, and each one we tried was fantastic! Here are a few to get you started, but don’t be afraid to branch out:
- Raclette Factory: Great place to try Raclette.
- Cafe Zähringer: The Rösti and coffee here were amazing!
- Franzos Coffee Shop: Excellent crépes and coffee.
- HILTL: The oldest vegetarian Buffet in the world.
- Food Trucks: We visited in September during a festival and there were food trucks everywhere! Selling everything from crepes to gyoza to fancy alcoholic beverages, these vendors did not disappoint. If you see any during your visit, give them a try. It’s a great budget option!