Tiny Alpine mountain towns perched on green hillsides, vibrant capitals with breathtaking Rococo libraries and age-old frescos, and lakeside getaways that put Lake Como to shame. This is just a taste of the unforgettable and diverse destinations that await among the soaring Alps, green pastures, and rolling hillsides of Switzerland.
Planning your Switzerland itinerary and want to make sure you don’t miss any of the country’s most unforgettable destinations? This ultimate guide to the best towns and cities in Switzerland for travelers has all the details about the best places to visit in Switzerland for your trip.
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Best Towns and Cities in Switzerland
Switzerland has endless towns and cities worth exploring, but if you’re looking for the very best places to visit in Switzerland, these are the destinations that come to the top of our list:
- Best Small City in Switzerland: Grindelwald
- Best Major City in Switzerland: Zurich
- Best Small Town in Switzerland: Lauterbrunnen
The best part of these three must-visit towns and cities in Switzerland? All three are within just a three-hour train ride of each other – you could even visit them all in one day if you wanted to. Of course, part of the experience of visiting them comes from enjoying them, so we recommend at least a one-week itinerary spent visiting them all.
However, for a hassle-free visit to the most beautiful part of Switzerland, head from Zurich to the Jungfrau Region – home to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen – for the best the county has to offer.
Cities in Switzerland
Grindelwald is little more than a charming mountain town among the high peaks of the picturesque Jungfrau Region, but it’s among the best cities in Switzerland for travelers looking for that quintessential Swiss mountain experience.
Stunning views of snowcapped mountains like the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau await visitors the second they step out from the train station, a magical welcome to a town that feels plucked from a storybook. More than just beautiful views, Grindelwald is also a top-notch destination for skiing in the winter, adventure sports in the summer, and world-class treks year-round.
Grindelwald’s proximity to some of the best things to do in Switzerland, such as the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe and the adventurous activities at Grindelwald First, makes it easily one of the best bases for exploring the Swiss Alps. Spend at least three days in Grindelwald to take in all the city and surroundings have to offer, though travelers could easily spend a week here.
Where To Stay in Grindelwald
- Hotel Pinte ($)
- Eiger Mountain & Soul Resort ($$)
- Boutique Hotel Glacier ($$ – $$$)
- Bergwelt Grindelwald Design Resort ($$ – $$$)
Plan a Trip to Grindelwald
Set along the shores of Lake Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland is both a vibrant hub of culture and entertainment as well as a visually appealing and historically significant destination that instantly enchants visitors. Rather than skipping over Zurich on your way through the international airport, spend time appreciating all that the largest of the cities in Switzerland has to offer.
Zurich is packed with things to see and do, including visiting beautiful churches like Grossmünster. Fraumünster, just across the river, with its famed Marc Chagall stained glass windows is a must-visit despite its small entrance fee. Stroll through the rest of Zurich’s old town and take in the view over the river from Lindenhof.
A trip to Zurich isn’t complete without window shopping on the Bahnhofstrasse. This is Zurich’s most important downtown thoroughfare, also known as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world.
Where To Stay in Zurich
Lauterbrunnen isn’t just another one of any cities in Switzerland, and it’s all the better for it! Our pick for the best small town in Switzerland, Lauterbrunnen is the closest thing you’ll find to a fairytale Alpine villages in the Swiss Alps.
Small timber frame homes and historic churches dot this tiny town in the mountains, but the true appeal of Lauterbrunnen over countless other Swiss mountain towns is its natural surroundings. The Lauterbrunnen Valley is home to 72 plunging waterfalls, including the dramatic Staubbach Falls, which cascade dramatically from a sheer, rocky cliff face. It’s a stunning backdrop to one of the most gorgeous cities in Switzerland.
Lauterbrunnen is also known for being one of the best places in the Jungfrau Region for scenic hikes to towns like Grindelwald, Mürren, and Wengen, biking excursions through the mountains, and adventurous activities like paragliding. Any way to take in both the natural beauty of the valley and the historic charm of the town is worth it!
Where To Stay in Lauterbrunnen
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Basel is one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland, with plenty of claims to fame that make it one of the top destinations for travelers visiting the country. Known as the cultural capital of Switzerland, Basel is home to world-class museums (Kunstmuseum Basel is a must!) and a well-preserved Old Town center with medieval buildings and squares.
The city comes alive in the winter – in fact, Basel is home to arguably the most beautiful Christmas market in Switzerland.
Basel is also known for its prime position on the Rhine River, which lends endless beauty to this Swiss city. It’s also the starting point for countless river cruises down the Rhine as the river charts its course through Germany, France, and the Netherlands.
Where To Stay in Basel
- Nomad ($)
- ART HOUSE Basel ($$)
- Boutique & Design Hotel Volkshaus Basel ($$ – $$$)
- Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois ($$$$)
There are countless cities in Switzerland known for their world-class skiing and gorgeous year-round mountain views, but Engelberg is something special. Renowned for its excellent skiing and snowboarding and easily accessible in the heart of the Swiss Alps, Engelberg is a prime destination for travelers in Switzerland.
Even a visit in summer can offer plenty of things to see and do for adventurous travelers. Take on the Titlis Cliff Walk for mountain views of snow-capped peaks year round, or embark on any of a number of treks near town. Engelberg is also home to a beautiful 12th-century Benedictine monastery that history buffs will love.
Where To Stay in Engelberg
- Hotel Engelberg “das Trail Hotel” ($$)
- Villa Hundert Boutique Mountainscape ($$$)
- Kempinski Palace Engelberg ($$$$)
While many travelers zip through Lucerne on their way to the mountain towns of the Swiss Alps or grand Zurich, Lucerne is a lovely and historic city in Switzerland that is considered among the country’s best destinations. The covered, wooden Chapel Bridge, also known as Kapellbrücke, is one of the city’s most famous destinations; adorned with flowers in the summer, it’s a gorgeous, classically Swiss spot travelers shouldn’t miss.
Lucerne is nestled along the shores of Lake Lucerne, and its lakeside promenades add significant charm to an already picturesque destination. Nearby, some of the most well-known mountains in Switzerland tower, with Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi awaiting adventurous mountaineers or carefree trekkers content to explore in their shadows.
Where To Stay in Lucerne
7. St. Gallen
The small northeastern Swiss city of St. Gallen is nestled between Zurich and Lichtenstein, a little-visited gem with plenty to offer. Delicious German food, a laid-back, quaint charm, and beautiful surroundings make it well worth adding to your Switzerland itinerary, even if you have just a few days in the country.
St. Gallen’s most impressive historic architecture is undoubtedly its baroque Abbey of St. Gall, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dominates the city skyline with its twin bell towers. Its interior is just as impressive as the exterior, with its impressive frescoed ceilings contrasting stark white walls throughout the property. Its dramatic Rococo library is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
Where To Stay in St. Gallen
Just a stone’s throw from the border of Italy, the small Swiss city of Lugano is a warm, lush lakeside destination that puts Lake Como to shame. Less than two hours north of Milan, it’s a favorite getaway for those looking to escape the hectic energy of the northern Italian capital.
Don’t expect to find the timber-frame homes and chalets of the Swiss Alps here; Lugano feels like a Mediterranean paradise with palm-lined streets and plazas filled with tables for long, late dinners over candlelight. Use Lugano as a base to explore the rest of the Ticino border region of Switzerland, or do as the Italians do and call it home for a laid-back weekend escape. Either way, its easily one of the best places to visit in Switzerland.
Where To Stay in Lugano
- International au Lac Historic Lakeside Hotel ($$)
- Hotel Splendide Royal Lugano ($$ – $$$)
- The View Lugano ($$$)
Continue your grand tour of the Italian side of Switzerland with a stop at Bellinzona, one of the most charming small cities in Switzerland’s southern region. Whether you have days to spend exploring the region or are just crossing into Switzerland for a few hours on a day trip from Lake Como, Bellinzona is a perfect addition to your itinerary.
Bellinzona is most famous for its series of medieval castles – among them, Castelgrande, Castello di Montebello, and Castello di Sasso Corbaro are protected as UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their impressive architecture and important historical significance. Spend a day walking in the loop from castle to castle or choose just one for your visit.
In addition to its historic charms, Bellinzona also has a growing gastronomic scene, which boasts both Swiss and Italian culinary traditions and a number of Michelin-star restaurants like Ecco and Locanda Orico.
Where To Stay in Bellinzona
- Hotel Garni Elisabetta Gordola Locarno ($)
- Campofelice Hotel Village ($$)
- Castello del Sole Beach Resort & Spa ($$$)
Plan a Trip to Switzerland
Switzerland’s capital city, Bern is much more than just the country’s administrative hub. This riverside city boasts an impressive array of historical, cultural, and scientific merits that make it an attractive destination in Switzerland.
Bern is also home to a medieval Old Town center, which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site for its well-preserved architecture and historical highlights like the Zytglogge clock tower. Among the city’s impressive museums, galleries, and theaters, it’s also just a stone’s throw from the soaring mountains of the Bernese Oberland and Jungfrau, making it a gateway to so many of the best things to do in Switzerland.
Where To Stay in Bern
Perched above a sheer cliff face among the soaring mountains of the Jungfrau Region of the Swiss Alps, Mürren is one of Switzerland’s most beautiful cities and beloved mountain towns.
This tiny town is among the few car-free cities in Switzerland. Only accessible via public transportation, Mürren is quiet and tranquil in a way that few other cities and towns are, which simply adds to the destination’s quaint charm.
Despite its small size, Mürren has plenty of things to do, including the adventure sports that the Jungfrau is known for like paragliding, skiing, trekking, and Via Ferrata. Murren’s location at the base of the Schilthorn, which was a filming location for the James Bond movie On Her Majesties Secret Service gives easy access to the revolving summit restaurant at Piz Gloria, which offers stunning views and plenty of 007 references.
Where To Stay in Mürren
Not only is Geneva one of the most important cities in Switzerland, but it’s a global capital. Geneva is home to such prestigious institutions as the United Nations, the Red Cross, and a seemingly endless list of non-profits and organizations doing important work far beyond the borders of Switzerland.
In addition to the city’s marked cosmopolitan ambiance, Geneva has plenty of things to see and do for visitors. One of the city’s most beautiful features is the Jet d’Eau, a dramatic fountain that shoots water high over the lake. A charming Old Town, lakeside promenades along Lake Geneva, and beautiful mountain views meet a rich cultural scene, upscale shopping, and posh hotels to make for a memorable stay in Geneva.
Read More: 15 Best Things To Do in Geneva, Switzerland
Where To Stay in Geneva
- citizenM Geneva Hotel ($)
- Hôtel de la Cigogne, Relais & Châteaux Genève ($$)
- Beau Rivage Geneve ($$$)
Skiiers, snowboarders, and other winter sports enthusiasts will certainly have heard of the Swiss mountain town of Zermatt. Known as one of the best ski resorts in the Alps, Zermatt is a laid-back yet vibrant car-free mountain town that is among the most popular destinations in Switzerland for travelers, even during the warmer months.
The Zermatt “skyline” is dominated by the iconic Matterhorn mountain, known as the “jewel of the Swiss Alps” with its distinctive crooked yet symmetrical pyramid peak. There’s no cable car to this mountain, though several hiking trails around it offer stunning views; adventurous and acclimated mountaineers can also attempt the ascent to the summit!
Where To Stay in Zermatt
14. St. Moritz
Few cities in Switzerland are well-known or beloved as St. Moritz, long considered the winter playground of Europe’s rich and famous looking for a snowy escape to the slopes. Plan a ski retreat to this upscale resort town or even a summer visit; year-round, iron-rich mineral springs make St. Moritz a haven for spa-goers.
Even travelers who aren’t interested in taking to the slopes will find a lot to do here. The city hosted two Winter Olympics, and there are plenty of Olympics-related attractions in town alongside upscale shopping and a lush apres-ski scene. Badrutt’s Palace Hotel is legendary and worth a visit even if the sumptuous rooms are over your budget for an overnight stay.
Where To Stay in St. Moritz
- Hotel Chesa Spuondas ($)
- Schweizerhof St. Moritz ($$ – $$$)
- Hotel Grace La Margna ($$$)
- Badrutt’s Palace Hotel ($$$$)
Take to the skies in Interlaken, one of the most popular cities in Switzerland for travelers looking for adventure travel experiences like paragliding among classically Swiss landscapes of pristine glacier-fed lakes and snowy mountain peaks. From lakefront promenades to historic fondue shops and lush parks, Interlaken leaves no doubt as to what makes it such a popular destination in Switzerland.
Interlaken is considered one of the gateways to the Jungfrau Region, with its soaring mountains and endless Swiss mountain towns. Make it your base for a trip, or just pass through on the way to some of the region’s quaint villages.
Whether you have several days to look forward to in Interlaken or you’re just in town for a few hours, taking the funicular to the top of Harder Kulm is a must. This mountaintop offers sweeping vistas over Interlaken’s two aquamarine lakes and to snow-capped peaks beyond. It’s also the start of plenty of panoramic hikes that reveal even more stunning views.
Where To Stay in Interlaken
- Hotel Artos Interlaken ($ – $$)
- Hotel Interlaken ($$ – $$$)
- Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa ($$$)
Located on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva, the small city of Montreux may be one of the lake’s lesser-visited destinations, but it doesn’t lack any of the charm or appeal of its larger neighbors. Graceful promenades make lakeside strolls one of the best things to do in Montreux year-round.
In-the-know travelers flock to Montreux for its renowned music scene and annual jazz festival. Meanwhile, history and culture buffs will know that the Château de Chillon (Chillon Castle) is one of the most important and beloved places to visit in Switzerland.
Montreux is also renowned for its annual Christmas market, which is considered one of the best Christmas markets in Switzerland. The market is traditionally held through the end of November through Christmas Eve. The lakeside promenade with 175+ chalet-style stalls and vendors is that picturesque, twinkling Christmas Market experience you’ve been dreaming of.
Where To Stay in Montreux
Gruyères is more than just a delicious type of Swiss cheese – it’s also one of the best-preserved and most impressive medieval cities in Switzerland, well worth an addition to your Switzerland itinerary. This small city’s main attraction is the Gruyères Castle; not only is it a stunning historic landmark, but it also has beautiful vistas over the green valleys below.
Of course, you can’t leave Gruyères without sampling some of its namesake cheese – La Maison du Gruyeres offers visits to observe cheese production that includes samples and informative tours. Spend a day getting lost among the town’s cobblestone streets before retreating to one of the charming hotels in town or in the surrounding villages like Rougement.
Where To Stay in Gruyères
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.