15 Best Swiss Cities To Visit (Not Just The Popular Ones)

Grossmünster & münsterbrücke in Zurich

Switzerland is a land of impeccable beauty. Once you have been there, you can’t get going back off your mind. Believe me, it’s true, I always long for the mountain views, swims in lakes, and the stunning scenery you discover while hiking and skiing. 

But, there is more to Switzerland than amazing landscapes to immerse yourself in, it is also full of beautiful cities that are worth spending some time in too. 

Whether you are looking for culture, a cosmopolitan vibe, or a fun place to base yourself while you explore the mountains, there is a picturesque city that will give you just that.

Join me as I run through the best cities in Switzerland in detail so you can learn all about them and choose the best cities to visit while you are there.  

Geneva

geneva
Geneva

Geneva is a very international city and one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland. Sitting on the shores of Lake Geneva, the views across beautiful Lake Geneva are stunning, and you can see the alps in the background too. 

Being home to the United Nations Headquarters, the World Bank, and countless other international organizations, a large part of Geneva’s population are ex-pats. It is also the second largest city in Switzerland so there is a lot to do. 

From museums to great restaurants, bars, art galleries, fun water activities, and exploring the surrounding mountains, you will never be bored in Geneva. 

Some of the top sights in Geneva include the CERN collider, the observatory, and the Patek Philippe Museum which teaches you all about luxury Swiss watches.

Be sure to explore the Old Town of this charming city with its narrow passageways, and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum are a must too. 

Bern

Bern old town
Bern old town

Bern is the capital city of Switzerland and is nestled in the heart of the country, between Geneva and Zurich. Bern’s location is great for exploring the rest of the country as it is a short train ride to the mountain resorts of the Swiss Alps and all the great cities in Switzerland too. 

It is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland with its charming Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), many beautiful fountains, and the crystal clear waters of the Aare River running through it. 

There is a lot to do in Bern. You can swim in the River Aare in the warmer months, explore the Old Town, visit the Einstein Museum, art galleries and lots more. Einstein actually lived in Bern when he formed his theory of relativity. 

A view not to be missed is at the top of the St. Vincent Cathedral, a Gothic-style masterpiece with two towers. At the top of one of the towers, you can see across the city and into the snow-capped mountains.   

Zurich

Zurich
Zurich

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland with a population of 1.42 million people. It is also the economic hub of Switzerland and as the other capital city, and is thus the richest city in Switzerland too. 

Located on the northern side of Switzerland, Zurich is also a beautiful city. Sitting on the shores of Lake Zurich with the Limmat River running through it and surrounded by small mountains, it is very picturesque. 

Being such an affluent and large city, it is great for fine dining and luxurious shopping along the high-end retail stores and small boutiques of Bahnhofstrasse. Zurich is also a bit of a cultural hub in Switzerland and is home to hundreds of art galleries and world-class museums

Do not miss a visit to the Swiss National Museum, a stroll around the beautiful Old Town, and be sure to see the Grossmunster Cathedral too. 

In the summer, there are lots of great hiking trails in the surrounding hills and the lake is a buzz with outdoor bars. Swimming and sunbathing in the lake and river are a must in the warmer months. 

Interlaken

Interlaken
Interlaken

Interlaken is more of a big town than a city, but it might just be the most beautiful city in Switzerland in my eyes. Nestled in the middle of Switzerland, not far from Bern, it sits between two alpine lakes on the banks of the river that connects them, with the Alps just down the road. 

You couldn’t ask for more incredible scenery and the beautiful lakes are different colors too, one turquoise and one deep blue. 

You will find a lively music scene in Interlaken as well as great restaurants and a few cultural sights. But, this place is more about having fun in the mountains and lakes. Take a boat cruise around the lakes, swim, fish, paddleboard, and swim in the warmer months. 

In winter, mountain resorts are just down the road and you can access the stunning Jungfrau region from here in just 30 minutes. The likes of Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, and Jungfraujoch are just a stone’s throw away. 

Basel

Basel
Basel

Basel is the third largest city in Switzerland and is located on the banks of the Rhine River, right on the border with Germany and France in north Switzerland. It is known for being very artsy and is home to a lot of galleries and museums you can spend your time exploring. 

The museums not to miss include the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts. If you are traveling with kids, the toy museum Welten is a lot of fun. 

In the summer, life revolves around the River Rhine and with 300 days of sun a year, it is no surprise why. The bars and restaurants lining the banks of the river are a great place to spend an evening. 

You can spend your days swimming in the river, sunbathing on the beaches, canoeing, paddle boarding, or on a river cruise. 

Lugano

Lugano
Lugano

Lugano is in the southern part of Switzerland in the Italian-speaking part of the country and is just across from the Italian border. It is very different from the major Swiss cities to the north as it has a big Italian influence both architecturally and in its food. 

The beautiful architecture is only beaten by the beautiful scenery. Sitting on Lake Lugano, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, it is hard to beat. It is, without a doubt, one of the best cities in Switzerland and is very popular with tourists. 

There is a lot to do in and outside of the city. Take to the pre-alps for hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter. Swim in the lakes, explore the valleys, go on boat tours, or just chill on the beaches of Lake Lugano. 

While in town, sample the amazing Italian cuisine, see the architectural sites of the San Lorenzo Cathedral, the amazing library (Biblioteca), explore the Hermann Hesse Museum, Museo Cantonale di Storia Naturale di Lugano, and more. 

Lausanne

Lausanne
Lausanne

Lausanne is also on Lake Geneva, another international city home to the International Olympic Committee. It is filled with people from across the globe who love to be active in nature and it couldn’t be better located for it.

In the winter months, winter activities are available just down the road in the mountains. The lake offers great swimming, rowing, sailing, fishing, canoeing, and more. 

I spend every evening in Lausanne on the beach in the summer and there is nothing quite like swimming in clear waters with the alps as your view. 

There are also a lot of cultural sites in Lausanne as well as great chocolate, cheese, and Swiss wine. The famous Lavaux Vineyards are just down the lake in Lutry so tasting some of the local wine is a must. 

Other things not to miss are the Olympic Museum, the Old Town, the City Hall, and all the great restaurants too. 

Lucerne

Lucerne
Lucerne

Lucerne is another of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland. Between its location on Lake Lucerne and the banks of the Reuss river and being surrounded by mountains, its natural beauty is mind-blowing, 

Throw in the well-preserved medieval Old Town, and architectural sites like Chapel Bridge, and you have one of the best cities in Switzerland. 

In the summer, the lake shores are dotted with beach bars, there is a great music scene, you can be on the top of Mt Rigi and Mt Pilatus within an hour, and anything from hiking, boat tours, swimming, canoeing, paddle boarding, skiing, paragliding, and more are all on offer.

Things not to be missed are Chapel Bridge, Sammlung Rosengart Picasso Museum, Swiss Museum Of Transport, the Lion Monument, Glacier Garden, and the Jesuit Church, plus a stroll around the Old Town is magical. 

Chur

Chur
Chur Old Town

Chur sits in eastern Switzerland amongst the Alps and is the oldest city in Switzerland at over 5,000 years old. It is a small city surrounded by meadows and mountains on the upper Rhine River. 

Being so old, it is draped in history and is home to a car-free Old Town that you have to explore when you visit. 

Other great things to see are the Bishop’s Palace and the Saint Mary Cathedral of Assumption and there are a few museums too which are all about the history of the city and the area. 

Access to the mountains is excellent from Chur. You can ride the cable car from town to go skiing in winter or for great hikes and views in summer. 

Fribourg

Fribourg
Fribourg

Fribourg lies between Bern and Lausanne on the banks of the Sarine River and is more of a small town than a city, but is a city nonetheless. 

Like most of the cities in Switzerland, it has a medieval Old Town packed full of history featuring great architecture in the form of the Baroque Loreto Chapel, Hauterive Abbey, and the St. Nicholas Cathedral. 

In the summer, life is all about being near the river and its numerous beaches. You might even find musical performances on the beach while you are there, and being a university town, they are packed full of energy. Open-air cinemas are also a lot of fun to attend in the summer. 

In winter, you can explore the numerous museums and even catch a festival or two. The St. Nicholas Parade before Christmas is very festive and in February, the Fribourg Carnival takes over the streets.  

Montreux

Montreux
Montreux

Montreux sits on the eastern end of Lake Geneva, down from Lausanne. Famous for the Montreux Jazz Festival, Chillon Castle, and Charlie Chaplin Museum, and being where Queen recorded a lot of records, it is an awesome city. 

The Alps are right behind Montreux creating an amazing view from everywhere in the city, especially along the lake. Between spending time on the water in summer or hiking, and being in the mountains in winter, it is hard to beat. 

Be sure to hike along the lake to nearby villages, see the Chillon Castle, and if you are there before Christmas, experience one of the coolest Christmas markets in Switzerland. 

Neuchâtel

Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel Old Town

Neuchâtel is another stunning city to visit in Switzerland. Sitting on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel in northern Switzerland with the Jura mountains to the west, it offers a lot of activities from hiking to swimming and exploring the Old Town Center and Swiss Heritage Sites. 

The delightful medieval quarter is lovely to stroll around. You’ll see the 12th Century Château de Neuchâtel and Collégiale and a visit to the Natural History Museum is also recommended. 

If you love to hike, the Jura mountains aren’t far away, and nearby is the amphitheater canyon of Creux du Van. In the winter, you can be on the slopes in less than an hour enjoying the local ski resorts. 

St. Gallen

St. Gallen
St. Gallen

Sitting close to the shores of Lake Constance in northern Switzerland is the little city of St Gallen. Known for its beautiful Old Town with cobblestone streets, small alleyways, and beautiful architecture. 

The Abbey of St. Gall is something not to miss with its huge baroque library full of books, some of which are hundreds of years old. There is also a beautiful cathedral with two towers which is part of the Abbey that is a must-see also. 

Winterthur

Winterthur
Winterthur

Just north of Zurich is the little city of Winterthur it is packed full of history and is a great place to visit in Switzerland if you are looking for art, architecture, and museums. 

There are many things to do in the city of Winterthur. Strolling around the Old Town you will see houses from hundreds of years ago in various architectural styles. 

The Fotomuseum Winterthur is an awesome exhibition of some of the best photographers in the world and the two art museums of the Oskar Reinhart Collection have works by the likes of Cezanne and Monet. 

A tour around the old ​​Kyburg Castle is a must too as you explore every part of this well-preserved castle from the dungeons to the kitchen.  

La Chaux-de-Fonds

La Chaux-de-Fonds
La Chaux-de-Fonds

La Chaux-de-Fonds is a little city on the French border north of Neuchâtel in the Jura Mountains at 1,000 meters above sea level. It is the highest city you can visit in Switzerland and it is beautiful. 

The city combines architecture with nature seamlessly thanks to the famous architect Le Corbusier who was born there. There are 23 Swiss Heritage sites in the city to visit along with valleys, mountains, and meadows with hundreds of hiking trails.  

It is also the home of Swiss watches and a visit to the International Museum of Watchmaking is very much worth it. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best Swiss city to visit during winter?

Winter in Switzerland
Winter in Switzerland

This is a hard question to answer as it comes down to your personal preference. I would say Lucerne is one of the best cities in Switzerland to visit in winter. 

Not only is it packed full of cultural sights, but it is also beautiful, and you can access great skiing on the many mountains close by. If you happen to be there before and/or over Christmas, the city will be decorated with lights, and trees, and be filled with markets and a ton of festive cheer. 

Lucerne is also more affordable to visit in winter as accommodation costs go down, and the crowds will be to a minimum too! 

What is the best Swiss city for young adults?

One of the best cities in Switzerland for young adults is Lausanne in my eyes, but Geneva, which is just down the lake, is also a great bet. 

What I love about Lausanne is that it is not too big, but there is a fun young international crowd who love to be active in nature. This has a lot to do with the International Olympic Committee being based there as they employ sporty people from all over the world.

Lausanne’s location on Lake Geneva is also great. In the summer you are a short walk away from beaches, a swim, and lots of water sports. In winter, the ski slopes aren’t far away either. 

Geneva is similar to Lausanne but a lot bigger. If you prefer big cities, then Geneva might suit you a little better. 

Interlaken is also a great city in Switzerland for young adults, particularly if you love adventure sports. The compact city is built around young people having fun. Accommodation is more affordable, and you can access the Alps, lakes, rivers, and more within just a few minutes on a train.    

Which Swiss City is the best to live in?

The best Swiss city in Switzerland to live in would either be Geneva or Zurich. 

Geneva is full of ex-pats and therefore has a very international crowd which makes finding friends very easy. It also has excellent schools, it is easy to find work there as tons of international organizations are based there, and its lakeside location is stunning.  

Access to rivers, lakes, and mountains is very easy, you can be in France in minutes, and the international airport connects you to anywhere in the world. 

Zurich is a little different from Geneva, still quite similar but it is a much bigger city than Geneva, so if you are used to London or New York, it might suit you better. There are lots of International Organizations there as it is the economic hub and the largest city in Switzerland.

Zurich is well placed to explore Switzerland from, it is also lakeside and riverside for summer fun, and its airport is the main international hub too. 

Plan Your Trip to Switzerland

Accommodation: I always book my hotels via Booking.com. They have some of the best rates, longterm deals, easy cancellation and more
Transport: Train travel is one of the best ways to explore Switzerland. Buying a Swiss Travel Pass is a great way to save money on travel and museums.
Car Rental: Having a car gives you flexibility on your travels. I use RentalCars.com and Discover Cars to get the best deals on car rentals in Switzerland.
Luggage Storage: Find out where you can store your store your luggage while you are visiting various places in Switzerland.
Trips & Tours:Viator and Get Your Guide are the best places to find local tours and trips for your adventures in Switzerland.
Packing: Here are my recommendations for what to pack for a trip to Switzerland. As someone who has lived half their life in Switzerland, I have a good idea of what you need to bring!
Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *