13 best cities in Switzerland to visit

The best cities in Switzerland

The Munot is the landmark of the city of Schaffhausen.

To travel around Switzerland intensively is something we wanted to do for a very long time. But whenever we have been back to our home country we either had to work or we just stayed for a short time. Finally we did our Tour around Switzerland. We have seen amazing places. Beautiful medieval cities, mountains, stunning landscapes and a lot more. Here is a list with the 13 best cities in Switzerland.

It feels like we have seen more of Switzerland in four weeks than we have seen during our whole life. And to be honest, Switzerland is beautiful especially when travelling by train. The train system is well organised and punctual. Almost too perfect sometimes. We have visited many cities and and the end we have compiled a list with our 13 best cities in Switzerland. For sure there are many other great cities in Switzerland but here are our favorites of this trip.

The 13 best cities in Switzerland

 

Our first trip brought us to the traditional ski resort Arosa, where we enjoyed a relaxing weekend. Next on the list was the spectacular train ride on the Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano. We enjoyed the Bernina Express a lot. It is one of the best train rides in Switzerland. But in this blog post we concentrate on cities in Switzerland we visited on our Swiss tour.

We travelled with the Swiss Travel Pass, the All-in-one-Ticket from Swiss Travel System. With the Swiss Travel Pass you can go almost everywhere. The ticket is valid on trains, buses and boats.

The day we received the Swiss Travel Pass was our lucky day. We immediately started to plan our trip. We want to see as much as possible. We put all our ideas on a list – a looooong list – and started to explore Switzerland. During our trip we visited quite a number of different cities and so we thought we like to share a list of our favorite best cities in Switzerland.

Basel

Our visit to Basel is short. We just spend a few hours in Basel but that’s enough to see the beauty of the city. We have been to Basel before but we can’t remember it as so beautiful.

We are tourists in our home country. That feels kind of weird but good. We check out the tourist information and pick up a city map with different walks. All of the five walks start at the Marktplatz and the walking time is between 30 and 90 minutes.

Town Hall in Basel

The Town Hall in Basel is a colourful building with terrific murals.

We take it easy. First of all we go to the famous Tinguely fountain with amusing machine sculptures. The fountain is just in front of the Tinguely museum. We stroll along the old city to the Spalentor, a beautiful example of a city gate dating back to the 14th century. The Münster is another landmark which we need to visit in Basel. The cathedral is also worth a visit for the stunning view over the Rhine River.

Finally we get back to the Marktplatz, the starting point of all marked city walks. Don’t miss the City Hall. The colourful building is full of murals. If you want to learn more about architecture and the political history, you can join a guided tour.

Bellinzona

We have been in the area of Bellinzona many times but we never paid a longer visit to the city itself. Many people know Bellinzona because of the three medieval castles. The castles are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Castelgrande in Bellinzona

Visiting the medieval castle Castelgrande in Bellinzona

We visit the Castelgrande which is easy accessible from the city of Bellinzona. There is a museum and a restaurant but it is closed during our visit. Therefore we walk around independently. If the museum is open visitors can explore the inner part of the castle. For more information and opening times of the three castles Castelgrande, Castello Montebello and Castello Sasso check out the website of the tourist information.

We go back to the city and enjoy the busy city. It’s Saturday and market day. We love to stroll along the market stalls with specialities of the region. It’s hard to resist not to buy too much of the tasty cheese, salami, polenta, vegetables, fruits and wines. We feel like in Italy.

Bern

Bern is the capital city of Switzerland. Of course we have to visit Bern. Did you know that the city of Bern was founded in 1191? The old city remained almost unchanged since the constructions around the 12th century.

Bern

Beautiful Old Town in Bern, the capital city of Switzerland.

Bern is listed as UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site since 1983. The city is rich of intact medieval and historic buildings such as the Münster (cathedral), the clock tower “Zytglogge”, churches, bridges, fountains and of course the Bundeshaus (Parliament Building).

During our walk around Bern we enjoy the beautiful examples of the medieval buildings and the impressive Bundeshaus. It is possible to do guided tours in the Parliament Building twice a day from Monday to Saturday on appointment.

Bern is beautiful but next time we want to visit Bern in summer to do a long walk along the Aare River or hop in for a swim.

Geneva

If we think about Geneva, the 140 metres high fountain Jet d’Eau comes into our minds. It’s one of Geneva’s symbols. Unfortunately the Jet d’Eau is switched off during the winter months.

Geneva

Rainy day in Geneva. Dark clouds are bringing more rain.

The weather is not on our side today and it is raining cats and dogs. Our umbrella is useless because of strong winds and so we only do a short walk. We hurry along the streets and in the cathedral we find shelter. The St. Peter’s Cathedral is the perfect place to hide. Finally the rain stops and we continue our walk along the alleys of Geneva.

We enjoy a few minutes of sunshine before the next load of rain is coming. Due to the heavy rain and strong wind we postpone a longer walk around the city to another day and go for a coffee instead.

Locarno

We love winter and snow for a couple of days but we prefer the warm summer weather. To be honest, we prefer to visit the Italian part of Switzerland called Tessin in spring, summer or autumn. We think it’s the most beautiful time to visit. But we have no choice and thanks to the mild weather it’s not too bad and it almost feels like spring.

Locarno

Typical lane in the old city of Locarno.

The Piazza Grande is in the middle of the old city. There are many different festivals taking place on the huge Piazza throughout the year. In winter from end of November until beginning of January the Piazza is changing into a huge ice skating field.

We walk along the alleys of the old city and enjoy the Italian atmosphere. We go for a coffee and enjoy the Italian hospitality.

Lugano

Lugano

The lake of Lugano is very idyllic. Wonderful evening atmosphere.

Lugano is the biggest city in the canton of Tessin. Lugano is one of Switzerland’s important financial centres. But that’s not the reason for our visit to Lugano. We are more interested in visiting the beautiful parks, the promenade along the shore and the pedestrian zone. And of course we do a little bit of window shopping at Via Nassa, the famous street with posh boutiques.

One of the historical buildings we visit is the Santa Maria degli Angioli church with frescos from the 14th century.

A visit to the Italian part of Switzerland is not complete without eating a proper Pizza.

Lucerne

For many locals and tourists, Lucerne is one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland. If you visit Lucerne you immediately know why. Lucerne has everything. The famous Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) with the water tower, a well-preserved old town, a lake and surrounding mountains. Lucerne is indeed very photogenic.

Lucerne

The Chapel Bridge and the water tower in Lucerne. What else?

The Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) is probably the most photographed landmark of Switzerland. The bridge was constructed in the first half of the 14th century. Another landmark that is well known is the Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal).

Some more interesting buildings are the large baroque Jesuit Church, the Franciscan church, the Hof church and the Town Hall.

Montreux

We have not seen a lot of Montreux but the main reason why we came to Montreux is the Christmas market and the Chillon castle. The Montreux Christmas market is famous in Switzerland. It is known as the most beautiful one in Switzerland. We agree.

There are 150 chalets with Christmas presents, decorations, local specialities, traditional craft, stands with mulled wine and food stalls along the Léman-Quais. We walk along the beautiful stalls and continue along the shore until we reach the Chillon castle which is 3 kilometres away from the city centre of Montreux.

Chillon Castle, Montreux

The Chillon Castle is on our bucket list since a very long time. And now, after so many years we finally made it to this beautiful castle.

Chillon Castle in Montreux

Chillon Castle in Montreux was definitely one of the highlights on our tour around Switzerland.

The Chillon Castle is a cultural site on the shores of Lake Geneva. The medieval fortress has a long history. Chillon Castle is built on a rocky island that was a strategic location and a natural protection. The history goes back to the 12th century and it looks like the site has been occupied since the Bronze Age.

We are very lucky because on weekends in December special Christmas activities are taking place in the castle. It’s like travelling back in time and listening to medieval music and watching traditional dance.

With our Swiss Travel Pass we can enter the Chillon Castle for free. So cool. We explore the dark underground chambers and the prison. It’s quite spooky down here. Therefore we go to the upper floor where we find several great halls, the bedrooms, a chapel, the weapons room and an exhibition.

The Chillon Castle is definitely one of the highlights of our Tour around Switzerland. If you visit Montreux don’t miss Chillon Castle. Highly recommended.

Schaffhausen

We’ve got two hours to visit Schaffhausen. Definitely not enough but as Schaffhausen is easy to explore on foot we enjoy a leisurely stroll along the old medieval city.

Overlooking the city of Schaffhausen. Great winter atmosphere.

Overlooking the city of Schaffhausen. Great winter atmosphere.

From the inner city we find a walking track up to the Munot, the landmark of Schaffhausen. The fortress is situated on a small hill and the view from up there overlooking the city and the Rhine River is unbeatable.

If you visit Schaffhausen we recommend to do a walk along the Rhine River or to hop on a boat for a river cruise.

St. Gallen

It’s snowing and it’s freezing cold. Well, that’s part of the winter in Switzerland.

St Gallen

The cathedral in the city of St. Gallen on a cold, snowy winter day.

A city trip to St. Gallen seems to be a great idea. The atmosphere in a city is great. It’s quiet and everything looks so peaceful. In the city of St. Gallen we are going to check out another UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral of St. Gallen, the library and convent complex and the Benedictine Abbey are listed since 1983.

We would love to visit the Baroque library with thousands of precious books one day.

Wil

Do you like small cities? Wil is one of the smaller cities of Switzerland and well worth visiting when in the area. We were living in Wil for a few years and loved to stroll along the Old Town with its romantic arcades and small shops. If you visit in summer, check out the Wiler Weiher, a big pond with ducks and birds. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic.

Winterthur

There are many reasons why we often visit Winterthur. We like the large pedestrian zone in the charming Old Town. The pedestrian zone is also the heart of the city with lots of historic buildings.

The Marktgasse is the main shopping lane where you find almost everything. It’s also the busiest pedestrian streets. We also recommend walking along Metzggasse, Steinberggasse or Obergasse. There is always something to look at. Look out for the photogenic City Church.

We are not too much into visiting museums. But if you are interested in scientific and technical phenomenon we recommend visiting the Technorama. The Science-Centre is exiting for children and adults alike. And if you are into photography check out the Photo Museum.

Zurich

Zurich. Famous Zurich. It’s the city where we used to go to work. Zurich, a city where we’ve been hundreds of times. But many times we just rushed through to get to work or back home.

This time it’s different. We have time. We don’t need to rush to get to work. It feels great. We walk to the Lindenhof from where we have a fantastic view over the Limmat River, the Old Town Niederdorf, the University and the Zürichberg. If you visit Zurich for the first time a visit to the Fraumünster Abbey and the Grossmünster is highly recommended. The Grossmünster is the landmark of Zurich and the tower is open to for visitors. A fantastic view over the city of Zurich is guaranteed.

Zurich

Zurich by night

We love to explore Zurich on foot. From the main station we walk along the main shopping street Bahnhofstrasse and enjoy doing Window-Shopping. The Rennweg is worth seeing too before going up to the Lindenhof for the scenic view. We love water. Therefore we are heading to the Bürkliplatz for a stunning view over the lake of Zurich. Finally we reach the Old Town. We check out the Christmas market and go for a mulled wine.

Ah, well. There is one thing we forgot to mention. Even if we are no hardcore museum visitors, we went to the Landesmuseum in Zurich where we learned more about the history of Switzerland. If you have time and are interest in the history of Switzerland, the Landesmuseum is the place to go. By the way, the entry is included in the Swiss Travel Pass.

There is still much more to see in Switzerland

Switzerland is small compared to other countries in the world. But still, there is so much to see even in a small country like this. Our list was huge and after four weeks of intense travelling around Switzerland we’ve seen a lot. We managed to go up the Rigi, we visited the famous Jungfraujoch “Top of Europe”, we’ve done the panoramic train rides with the Bernina Express, the Glacier Express and the Golden Pass Line. We can tick many things off our bucket list. But there are still many places we want to see. For example Chur, Lausanne, Freiburg, Murten, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Stein am Rhein, St. Moritz, Lenzburg, Solothurn and many more. One more reason to do more travelling in our home country.

Information about the Swiss Travel Pass

The Swiss Pass got a new name. As of January 2015 the All-in-one-Ticket to explore Switzerland is called Swiss Travel Pass. The Swiss Travel Pass is available for 3, 4, 8 or 15 days. For more information about the different offers, prices and coverage check SwissTravelSystem.com.

Details about sales outlets of the Swiss Travel Pass in your country are available here: Swiss Travel Pass – Where to buy

 

Our Tour was sponsored by Swiss Travel System. Thank you very much.

We guarantee our readers that we only write about our personal experiences and our honest opinion.

6 thoughts on “13 best cities in Switzerland to visit

  1. I totally agree, there is so much to see in Switzerland, so many beautiful places. I’ve been there a few times and have visited most of the places you describe here. But we still need to go back for more and we will! 🙂

    • Hi Sabine,

      Thanks for your comment. That’s great that you’ve been to most of the places we are writing about. And we totally agree, there is a lot more to see. In Switzerland and all over the world. So we will continue travelling as long as we like 😉 Looking forward to see what places you will explore in the future.

      Safe travels,
      Reni

  2. Switzerland is unfortunately a country I’ve spent a lot of time crossing by train but not enough time exploring. A lot of people dismiss Zurich but I think it’s a wonderful city. Expensive to be sure, but pretty and great to walk around. We last visited in winter and loved all the frozen fountains

    • Dear Jo

      Thanks for your comment. We totally agree, Zurich is a wonderful city. And there are even some restaurants, cafés and shops that aren’t so expensive. There are also things to do for free in Zurich, for example walking along the beautiful lake Zurich or visiting the botanical gardens.
      In winter Zurich is a great city to visit too and the frozen fountains are indeed lovely and a great photo opportunity.

      Sunny greetings from wild West Papua,
      Reni

  3. My mom spent a while living in Huemoz, Switzerland and her pictures are breathtaking! Was just wondering if you had traveled there or heard about it at all? I would love to go there eventually!

    • I’ve heard about Huemoz before but never been there. Sounds like I have to put it on my bucket list for the next visit to Switzerland. Thanks for the tip.

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