Things to Do in Switzerland
Welcome to the Olympic Museum Lausanne (Musée Olympique): 1,500 objects, 32,292 square feet (3,000 square meters) and seven hours of audio-visual and interactive material make it the largest archive of Olympic Games in the world. Its state-of-the art, hands-on exhibition immerses visitors in the history and spirit of the Olympics on an approximately two-hour tour of the museum's three stories and surrounding grounds.
Your visit to the museum begins in the basement but ends up in the Olympic Village, where hundreds of athletes live and train over 15 days. Discover how they eat, how they relax and how technology influences their training by trying your hand at interactive devices that will allow you to experience the extent of their physical capabilities.
On the ground floor, you'll learn about the Games themselves with a 180-degree theater and a display room full of memorabilia and Olympic medals. The second-floor exhibit is dedicated to the Olympics' ancient origins and showcases torches from every edition of the Games since 1936, as well as the first Olympic flag, dating back to 1913.
Good for both sports fans and families, the Olympic Museum is a popular stop among visitors arriving to Lausanne on a day trip from nearby Geneva or Chamonix. Most trips include a guided tour of the iconic Château de Chillon and a stop in the lakeside town of Montreux, so you can make the most out of your visit to the Swiss countryside.
Dating back to 1898, Switzerland’s Gornergrat Railway (Gornergrat Bahn) continues today as Europe’s highest open-air railway. Its train whisks sightseers and skiers from the resort town of Zermatt to the mountain’s 10,135-foot (3,089-meter) station, while providing views of Alpine hamlets, colossal glaciers, and the iconic Matterhorn.
The soaring Gothic cathedral that dominates the skyline of Switzerland’s capital city is dedicated to St Vincent, the patron saint of Bern; work began on the church in 1421 but the spire was not completed until 1893. At 84 meters (275 feet) long, it is the biggest religious building in Switzerland, designed in true Gothic style with flying buttresses, gargoyles and dramatic, highly painted carvings of the Last Judgment above the main portal.
Designed by master craftsman Matthäus Ensinger from Strasbourg, the interior is laid out as a three‐aisled basilica and is filled with light filtering through the glorious stained‐glass windows. The choir stalls are a later addition and are decorated with Renaissance carvings of religious scenes; the organ dates from the 1930s and is played in concerts throughout the year. The cathedral also has the tallest tower in Switzerland at 100 meters (330 feet); visitors can climb the 344 stone steps inside the spire to the lookout point for outstanding views over the rooftops of the city and across the River Aare to the snow‐capped peaks of the Bernese Oberland.
Located at the heart of Bernese Oberland and surrounded by the famous peaks of Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus, Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee) is one of Central Switzerland’s most photographed natural wonders and the country’s fourth largest lake. Whether you’re soaring overhead in a cable car, cruising the lake itself, or visiting waterfront villages such as Weggis and Gersau, Lake Lucerne is mesmerizing from all angles.
Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) is Switzerland's largest body of water, though most of its southern shore lies within France. A crescent of blue hemmed in by the snowy peaks of the French and Swiss Alps, the lake is a year-round hotspot for outdoor activities, with a northern shore covered in picturesque villages, terraced vineyards, and medieval castles.
A long winding valley cupped between the snow-capped mountains of the Swiss Alps and following the Inn River, the 50-mile-long (80-kilometer-long) Engadine (or Engadin) valley is one of Switzerland’s most desirable holiday destinations. A sunny climate, beautiful lakes, and a stunning alpine backdrop make Engadine, which encompasses star-studded destinations like St. Moritz, one of Europe’s most highly populated valleys.
Forces of nature are on full display in Glacier Canyon, which was formed as the Lower Grindelwald Glacier slowly carved its way through the rock in the area. As waterfalls and streams pour down into the Lütschine River, a walk through Glacier Canyon is a total sensory experience.
Europe’s highest suspension bridge, the Titlis Cliff Walk provides panoramas across the Uri Alps for any intrepid explorer willing to cross the 10,000-foot- (3,041-meter-) high, open-air walkway. Linking two snow-capped crags on the summit of Mt. Titlis, the bridge connects the Ice Flyer chairlift and Südwandfenster viewing platform.
Fed by clear glacial waters that flow down the Swiss Alps, the crescent-shaped Lake Zurich (Zurichsee) forms the scenic backdrop to Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, which spreads along the western tip of the lake. Measuring 25 miles (40 kilometers) in length and 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) in width, this alpine lake offers an easily accessible escape to nature for those based in the city, with plenty of swimming spots, hiking routes, tranquil islands, and picturesque mountain scenery.
Gruyères is a Swiss village world-famous for the production of cheese but this cute little Alpine enclave has an eccentric surprise tucked up its sleeve. Known for surreal and sometimes disturbing paintings, film props, album covers and – most famously – the mechanical monster from Alien, the renowned Swiss artist HR Giger (1940–2014) moved here in 1997, buying the medieval Château St Germain. The following year he opened the world’s biggest collection of his work in a wing of the castle; not for the faint-hearted, Musée HR Giger is no ordinary museum but a fully immersive adventure on the dark side of art, made all the more striking by the chocolate-box sweetness of the surrounding village.
Among Giger’s weird and macabre SciFi models, props, sketches and drawings for the film sets ofAlien,Dune andPoltergeist is some of his graphic erotica, all clearly labeled ‘Adults Only’ and displayed in sepulchral gloom. The exhibition also features a short movie on his life, the Academy Award he won for Alien and artwork from his own private collection, which includes pieces by Ernst Fuchs and Salvador Dalí. Following a tour of the museum, most visitors head to the cavernous Giger-themed bar for a restorative strong drink.
More Things to Do in Switzerland
The Jungfrau, a sky-high saddle in the Swiss Alps and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers jaw-dropping views of the Bernese Oberland’s massive glaciers and snowy peaks. Travel by narrow cog railway to Jungfraujoch and stand on “the Top of Europe” as you gaze out at the Aletsch Glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, and far, far beyond.
All visitors to Geneva should spend some time exploring the Old Town (Vieille Ville) area. It’s full of fascinating museums, churches, and atmospheric cafés, plus most of the streets are pedestrian-only, so you can wander aimlessly without a care.
A snow-coated wonderland perched high in the Vaud Alps of Western Switzerland, the Glacier 3000 resort is a one-stop destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Just an hour from Montreux, it offers spectacular mountain views, ample opportunities for hiking and skiing, and a huge range of adrenaline-fueled activities.
The Swiss Museum of Transport (Verkehrshaus der Schweiz) is Switzerland’s most popular museum and shows the past, present and future of transport and mobility on land, at sea, in the air and even outer space. More than 3,000 displays on approximately 20,000 square meters of exhibition space bear witness to a moving history in the truest sense of the word and show the inventions and deeds of explorers and inventors. But isn’t only the old planes and trains that draw visitors from young to old here, the Swiss Museum of Transport also tells of future challenges in the field of transport and communications and has a focus that goes beyond Switzerland and Earth. Apart from the many halls dedicated to road, rail and air travel, the museum also hosts the largest screen in Switzerland in the adjoining IMAX theatre as well as a planetarium. No matter what the weather in often rainy Switzerland might be like outside, inside you can enjoy incredible nature documentaries from around the planet or go on an unforgettable space walk among the stars.
The newest exhibition in the Museum of Transport is the Swiss Chocolate Adventure. The display that has been developed together with Lindt is covering 700 square meters and is a multimedia journey that informs about the discovery, origin and production of chocolate. The famous Swiss chocolate is a globally exported product and therefore, there is still a strong transportation theme that ties into this cross section of chocolate history. Visitors sit in automatically controlled cars and head out on a 25-minute journey that takes them from the cultivation of cocoa beans in Ghana, all the way to lush alpine meadows with Matterhorn Mountain in the background, and ends in an oversized box of chocolate.
Paris has the Eiffel Tower, New York has the Empire State Building, and Geneva has the Water Fountains (Jet d’Eau)—a stunning feature in Lake Geneva launching water 460 feet (140 meters) into the air. Enjoy views and snap a souvenir photo from the waterfront, where the River Rhône meets Lake Geneva.
Bahnhofstrasse isthe shopping street in Zurich. Running from Bahnhofplatz outside the main train station all the way to the lake, it's full of luxury shops selling designer fashion, furs, porcelain, and, of course, chocolates, clocks and watches. Halfway along is Zurich's first, biggest and best department store Jelmoli. The basement food-hall is a must. Or if you want the best in Swiss chocolate, take a break at Cafe Sprungli, the epicenter of sweet Switzerland since 1836.
Bahnhofstrasse follows the line of the moat of medieval Zurich and is mainly pedestrianized, although watch out for the trams running along it. It runs parallel to the river Limmat and it's easy to punctuate your shopping with visits to churches and other important sites of Zurich dotted in the narrow streets between. Culture and consumerism: Zurich has them both.
As the principal venue for the Zurich Opera since it opened its doors in 1891, the Zurich Opera House (Opernhaus Zürich) has garnered worldwide acclaim for its outstanding acoustics and wide variety of international performances. Originally called the ‘Stadttheater’, the venue was built on the site of the Actientheater, which burned down just a few years earlier, and staged its opening to a dramatic performance of Richard Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’. Despite changing its name to the Zurich Opera House in 1964, the concert hall maintains its original Neo-classical façade, designed by Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer and held up by 1,800 oak pillars. Equally impressive is the Rococo style entrance foyer and auditorium, which seats 1,200 people and is notable for its intricate ceiling paintings that represent love, tragedy, comedy, music and poetry.
From Roman mosaics in the foundations to the neoclassical columns of its facade, St. Peter's Cathedral, or Cathédrale St-Pierre in French, is not only Geneva’s main house of worship, it is also a fascinating time capsule of the different influences that have dominated the city over the centuries. Depending on how you approach it, you could be forgiven for thinking the cathedral is actually a group of smaller buildings huddled together, as successive building programs – most notably Romanesque and Gothic – never completely wiped out previous traces.
St-Pierre is associated above all with the Protestant reformer John Calvin, who preached here in the 16th century; his rather uncomfortable looking wooden chair is still on display. And if you’re feeling energetic, just nearby is the entrance to the cathedral’s north tower, which will reward your 157-step climb with one of the best views of Geneva.
This mountain pass in the Bernese Oberland may be best known as the starting point for the scenic Jungfrau Railway, but it's also a hiking hub: several trails from here offer stunning mountain views. From an elevation of more than 2,000 meters (6,560 feet), you can marvel at the peaks of Jungfrau and Mönch, and the stark Eiger North Face.
The town of Montreux, in eastern Switzerland, boasts a 10-foot-tall statue of Freddie Mercury that commemorates the singer’s years living here and his lasting musical influence. The memorial is a popular tourist attraction, and many Queen fans make a pilgrimage to the spot to leave flowers and other tributes.
Set on the left bank of the River Reuss, the Lucerne Old Town is encircled by medieval walls and watchtowers and connected to the right bank by two covered wooden bridges: Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) and Spreuer Bridge (Spreuerbrücke). The narrow streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are lined with half-timbered houses and 15th-century buildings.
Reaching 10,626 feet (3,239 meters) above sea level, Mt. Titlis is Central Switzerland’s highest peak and probably its finest vantage point. The mountain has a cutting-edge transportation system—including, most famously a revolving cable car that turns 360 degrees during the ride to the top station at 9,908 feet (3,020 meters). Those lucky enough to be inside the car are graced with stunning panoramic views of Alpine peaks, sheer rock faces, and an icy crevasse-cracked glacier.
Gruyère AOP is one of the most famous Swiss cheeses and has been produced from cow milk in the Fribourg region since 1115; traditionally the dairy herds roam free over alpine pastures and eat fresh foraged grass, which is is said to give the cheese its mellow taste and distinctive grainy texture.
Lying in lush foothills between Bern and Lake Geneva, La Maison du Gruyère in the charming alpine village of Pringy‐Gruyères is a one‐stop mine of information dedicated to the history and making of this gourmet cheese. As well as being a working show dairy where around 40 wheels of Gruyère are made each day, clever interactive displays describe the eight production processes that are vital to producing Gruyère, and how they have been handed down through the generations since the Middle Ages.
It’s easy to spend the day at La Maison du Gruyère; several cheese‐making demonstrations each day give the chance to see master craftsmen at work in the gleaming steel kitchens; slabs of Gruyère crafted in the dairy can be bought in the souvenir shop; the restaurant has a menu of traditional Swiss röstis and fondues; and there’s even a dairy‐themed play park for toddlers. For those wishing to see more of the alpine landscapes around Gruyères, two walk itineraries lead up to the mountain pastures to see the cow herds grazing, with bells tinkling around their
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- Things to do in Geneva
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- Things to do in Swiss Alps
- Things to do in Central Switzerland
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