There are a number of wonderful places to visit in Switzerland. Finding things to see and do around Switzerland is up to you. However, these are some of my favourite places around various Swiss cantons and some are hidden gems, that the Swiss will never tell you. Just for fun, there is also a video of one of our Swiss road trips you might enjoy. Also in this post I’ll be giving you some important secrets, the Swiss will never tell you about.
Switzerland was home for a few years and I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing some places which I can share with you. Also I’ll be giving you some tips for getting around, as well as some local info because this could benefit you, before your own journey.
Recently someone asked me for some travel advice around Switzerland and I wrote them some information. However, in hindsight just like them, in order to plan a Swiss trip, you might want a simple list. I’ve decided to do just that with a list right at the end, of things to do around Switzerland and because I’m so nice, there is a map – marking all the relevant places just for you. Enjoy.
Thanks to Derek for the above photo (be sure to see Dereks’ other photos)
Hiking in Switzerland
Believe it or not, I was involved in quite a bit of technology at the time and decided I needed a break to see some nature and go hiking. On this particular hiking trip in Switzerland, we left our phones laptops behind and decided to do a technology detox or be technology “clean”.
The mountains around Zermatt where superb and we knew wanted to go on some familiar trails on the first day before trying hiking trails that were new. We were aiming for the “thrift valley”, a beautiful pass in-between the mountains and planned to stop by an old inn keeper to say hello along the way. Then something strange happened, a fella with a huge backpack… literally towering above his head, was following us from behind.
It was a dude doing some Google “street view” in the mountains! We couldn’t believe it… we were escaping technology and here Google was following us! Ah… you don’t believe me?! Take a look at these photos and Google street view to see me – yip I my ass is on Google, along with beautiful waterfalls and mountains.
If you’re particularly board you can see the point at which Google started to catch up with us. All along the routes, almost all day long, Google followed us at different points along the way. It’s very funny, now that I think about it 🙂
Here you can see us stopping and chatting with the persons caring the Google camera. Quite interesting how they store the information on hard-drives and then download it after their hike. I think its wonderful because you can get a feeling of what it’s like to hike in Zermatt – but it’s like when you take a photo vs actually being there, it’s not comparable. There are many wonderful hiking routes in Zermatt – find them for yourself!
Zermatt is a magical place and what I really like is that the town is so friendly. They rely on tourism and due to this, they cater for everyone’s need. Here you can be a pauper or someone rich, but both can be proud in Zermatt – Zermatt welcomes all. Here you can find modest lodgings to 5 star hotels.
Secret #1: Eating and sleeping in the mountains
Now for a couple of secrets, one is a money saver and perfect place. Most people stay in Zermatt village or in the next town of Täsch. Hiking up the mountains needs an early start, however if you are smart you can start with some accommodation in Zermatt, hike your way up and then stay the night in the mountains. The Bergrestaurant Fluhalp Zermatt is not well known to foreigners, it’s one of Zermatts best kept secrets. The Swiss are known to keep secrets, so you didn’t hear it from me! This place offers you a place to eat and stay. For eating you don’t need to book in advance, but because of its great price be sure to book in advance (prices for both accommodation and eating are on their website).
Secret #2: Sauna and Spa in Zermatt
When you have hiked up and down a mountain, woken up early and done this for a few days, it can be tiring. It’s superb to hike large distances in Zermatt, but going to Sauna and Spa for the day can be just a trick to relax and recover. But, there’s a problem – most spas and sauna belong to hotels and almost all will not let you enter. Every place you ask says no. Here’s the one place you need to know about the Hotel & Solebad Arca Zermatt. It a little paradise, high quality and has different types of Sauna (dry and wet) and a salt water pool. Prices have been stable for years at 20 CHF for the day (just check the link to be sure). If you go during one of your days, make it an off hiking day because when most people are hiking up the mountain, this place is almost empty and you get to enjoy it all to yourself.
What to be aware of in Switzerland
If you are deciding to go camping and thinking of slinging a couple of sleeping bags and a tent… you might want to rethink that plan, for Switzerland. Most places you would think you could go camping – you probably may not because there are camping designated areas, like camping parks. It might be a surprise, but most cantons in Switzerland do not permit camping.
The speed limit for driving in Switzerland is 120 km/h on highways, however most people drive at 126 km/h – why is that? For standard Swiss speed cameras there is a band of up to 6 km/h allowed, however for Swiss radar speed cameras, this band is only 3 km/h. So whilst you might see everyone driving slightly over the speed limit (this is technically within the rules), but when you live in Switzerland you get to know where radar speed cameras are. Even then if you think that you might not get caught, the Swiss police can be sneaky and actually move radar cameras around!
You see in the Instagram post below, the radar speed cameras of Switzerland, although right out next to the road are quite challenging to detect. My advice is stay within the limit of 123 km/h.
For cities, towns and villages – this is a complete different story. Here if you go over the limit just by a little, your traffic fine will be even higher, you can get into a lot more trouble too. This is because the Swiss like to be safe (rightfully so) and just think of the little children.
Swiss secret travel information
When you live in Switzerland, you get presented with coupons of all sorts and with the local newspapers, you get to know it all. However as a foreigner the Swiss seem to love to keep a secret and getting details is not always that easy. Here are 3x Swiss secrets you need to know about.
Swiss travel secret #1: Half Fare Travel Card
Also known as the 1/2 Bahn Card. If you are not travelling by car, getting around can be costly. However with the Swiss rail Half Fare Travel Card – this is essentially around CHF 165 (there is a way to get it at this price) also it depends on your age. Buying this upfront will save you half price for all you travel tickets. You will make your money back after 2 or 3 trips.
Swiss travel secret #2: Swisscom Mobile broadband
When arriving in Switzerland, you will need internet. Using your foreign provider will be costly because Switzerland is geographically in Europe, but not in the European Union. It does not matter if you are in the Swiss Alps or remote villages, the best provider for coverage is Swisscom. They don’t list the specific mobile packages online, so when you arrive head over to a local shop and ask for a sim card with internet (at the time my relatives visited me, they paid around CHF 10) and I remember this was a great bargain.
Swiss travel secret #3: Car Train through the Alps
I didn’t know about this one and found it by accident. The Lötschberg car train is one of the oldest. Essentially, imagine super old train carriage, only with a roof that looks like something of an ox wagon canopy (you know like the ones the Americans used when heading west in their early history). It feels just the same! You drive you car on and sit in you car. When the train gets going, it hurtles through the tunnel, you hear every sound and experience something truly unique. This website lists other car trains, but the Lötschberg car train is certainly a great way to travel because this will also save you distance and time going through the Swiss Alps.
Thanks to Kecko for the above photo.
Swiss Road Trip
We took a Swiss road trip not too long ago and we discovered that finding parking can be surprisingly easy 😉
Turn on the subtitles for the above video (sorry there are a few cars that wizz past)
You can get around Switzerland better by going by car because the trains and busses don’t go everywhere. There are some hidden gems in Switzerland, but to access these you will need sometimes to go by train, bus and then believe it or not – by boat.
Here’s some photos from one the last road trip we did in Switzerland.
Above photo is inside Zurich.
This photo with the Swiss flag is right down southern, Italian side of Switzerland in Lugano.
One of my favourite places in Switzerland, Weggis – it’s a challenge to get to, but as you can see, you can get there by boat.
Outside Zurich opera house.
List of things to do around Switzerland
Here is a simple list of places to visit in Switzerland along with map. If you click on the point in the map – I’ve specially uploaded photos, just so that you can get a taste of what to expect, but there is nothing like the real thing. Seeing these specific places in Switzerland is my personal recommendation.
Depending on where you want to stay, the above Swiss map is perfect because you can plan better where to go as there is so much to do and see in Switzerland. Also remember due to seasons and weather, activities to do in the various Swiss cantons can vary so please take this into account. For example if you are going in winter vs summer, this may be different for you.
- Zürich – Jump from here
In winter the views of the lake are amazing, in summer did you know you can jump off the bridge and float along the river. In winter you can walk around and taste some Swiss cheese fondue.
- Zug – Swiss secret tax haven
This place is a canton and city both named Zug – but everyone who lives here knows this place as the “crypto valley”. Did you know most cryptocurrency projects happen here? Also this is one of Switzerland’s foremost tax havens, you wouldn’t think that most of the largest corporations are registered in this small canton. The old town is rather beautiful and with the Zugersee nearby, long walks and sunsets are a must. Behind the Zugerberg where you can go hiking in the summer or winter.
- Weggis – One of my favourite places
Did you know the famous pianist Rachmanov loved this place and bought a plot of land. There is something soulful, when you walk on a winter morning. Tip: Right at the end there is a little cafe, that makes wonderful coffee and has a lovely selection of cakes.
- Biel / Bienne – Swiss watch Omega
The town with two names… on border between French and German speaking. What would Switzerland be without seeing something about watches. The Omega museum is a must because you would want to see how the Omega watch saved the space mission Apollo 13. Not only that, you’ll be impressed with the various technological engineering advances – some too ingenious and remarkable to tell. Go see it for yourself and guess what – it’s free!
- Bulle – Chocolate & Cheese
Switzerland is famous for its chocolate and cheese. Bulle has two attractions you must visit. The first is where the infamous Gruyère cheese comes from and you can see how its made! Taste it fresh and choose a cheese of the maturity that suites you. The other is chocolate… Maison Cailler is where Cailler Swiss chocolate is made. You get to see and experience a chocolate tour, taste various types of chocolate during the tour. It’s just like being in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – just this one is in the mountains! As a bonus, you can visit the old town for a unique culinary experience.
- Ouchy – Stop over for a coffee
Experience the more French side of Switzerland. In one of the few authentic cafe’s, stop over for a coffee and enjoy the views of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) surrounded by breathtaking mountain views. Walk along the boulevards and see crystal clean water. As a bonus, did you know Switzerland hosted the Olympic Games? There is a museum dedicated to showcasing this great event.
- Rochers des Naye – On top of the world
Venture up by train (it’s the only way), even if you go by car – you won’t be able to get here without the train. Park down in Montreux and take the golden pass train or old ratchet train (I’ve done both and like both). Did you know you can rent a yurt? Click on the point in the map to see the kind of view. There is a fantastic restaurant, that you need to access by going through a cave. You can ski down the mountain and enjoy Montreux. As a bonus if you wanted to see how billionaires spend their time in Switzerland, Gstaad is not too far away 😉
- Saint-Maurice – Swiss secret bunker
Switzerland has many bunkers and the one in Saint-Maurice is rather exceptional. You get to walk down various passageways that have been carved through solid rock. There are survival rooms, guns which you can have views and see the Swiss strategic thinking for choosing this location.
- Lötschberg – Unique car train
I’ve written more about this above. However it is a must see, there is nothing like it. It will save you a whole heap of time. What’s nice is you can take this car train from the north (Kanderstag – highlighted on the map) or south (Goppenstein) during your journey.
- Zermatt – Hike the Swiss Alps
Described above, you can hike in the summer and ski or snowboard in the winter. There is a panoramic view at the top above 3000 m (great to take a break). The Matterhorn mountain is always watching over you, it’s something about this mountain that brings me back almost every year.
- Lugano – See the city
See the south Italian side of Switzerland, visit Lugano to experience the Italian lifestyle and cuisine. Views are breathtaking and from here you can venture down to Italy and see places like Milan and Lake Como.