Most people will only ever dream of visiting Switzerland, one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. If you’re lucky enough to be planning a visit, then be sure to check out as many of Switzerland’s most beautiful villages as possible – and trust me there are lots to choose from! Having spent over 3 weeks exploring Switzerland, I’ve definitely got a few special places that I think you should visit. Below is my advice on where to go in Switzerland, with tips on which beautiful villages are most accessible and where is best in summer and winter. Now, go explore!
Where to go in Switzerland
The tiny village of Lauterbrunnen is a place almost every traveller who goes there instantly falls in love with. When you sit behind your computer in your home country, dreaming of Switzerland, Lauterbrunned is that perfect fairytale town you are imagining. It’s perfection. I travelled here by train last year on my Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, and even the train ride up through the valley was breathtaking, as the train runs along side a milky-coloured glacial river. The village itself is cute and charming and quaint and every other magical adjective you care to gift it. It’s full of traditional wooden houses, covered in hanging baskets, cafes serving up warm cups of cocoa and signs pointing in all directions to various hiking routes you can do. I’ve listed visiting this town as one of the top 50 Things To Do in Switzerland, as it really is Switzerland at it’s best.
Where to stay – Eiger Swiss Quality Hotel
While Lauterbrunnen is easily accessible on a day trip from Interlaken, the best way to experience this magical Swiss town is to stay the night. If you check into a hotel like Eiger Swiss Quality Hotel, you will wake up to some of the most stunning views you will ever see in your life, including a panoramic view of the valley and Jungfraujoch, a mountain peak known as “The Top of Europe.” PRICE: From €218 a night.
Champéry was one the most beautiful towns in Switzerland I visited this year, and from the second I stood off the train I knew I was going to fall in love with the place. Similarly to Lauterbrunnen, the train ride (which was one of the steepest I’ve ever taken – who knew trains could travel up such steep mountains?!) made it all the most exciting, passing by traditional log cabins, stunning valleys and with an uninterrupted view out the carriage windows at all the surrounding peaks and ski resorts. Walking down the main street, past cute gift shops, cafes and traditional Swiss restaurants (that will try tempt you inside with the smell of Swiss Cheese and Fondue), you can’t help but have a smile on your face. In Winter, this greener than green countryside is covered is a perfect blanket of snow and Champéry transforms into a popular winter ski resort…but retains its magical charm!
Where to stay in Champéry – Art Boutique Hotel Beau Sejour
Whether you visit in Summer or Winter, there really is something very special about Art Boutique Hotel Beau Sejour. This traditional hotel, with unbeatable views looking down on the town and across the valley at Les Dents du Midi mountain range, will charm you from the moment you step inside the door. From the huge bed and unbelievably cosy duvet, to the sheepskin rug on the floor and cute little sheep figurines by the bed, to the wooden fittings (it even smells like a wood cabin) and bright bathroom, this hotel is straight out of your Swiss dreams. Book the room with the hot tub – you won’t regret it! From €101 per night.
If you want to stay within walking (or skiing!) distance of one of Europe’s biggest glaciers and to wake up to a perfect view of Mount Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain peak, then Riederalp in the Alpine Resort for you! While it is more of a purpose built resort than an old Swiss village, don’t let that stop you visiting. You can take a cable car (or hike) up to different view points on the Aletsch Glacier from here, visit the Alpen Museum, play a round of golf at one of Europe’s highest (and most unique!) golf courses or visit the house where British Prime minister Winston Churchill you use to stay when on holiday in Switzerland.
Where to stay in Riederalp: Hotel Alpen Rose
Can you imagine sitting in a bubbling hot tub after a long day of hiking of skiiing, and looking out at one of the most jaw-dropping views you have ever seen? That’s exactly what can happen is you book into Hotel Alpen Rose in Riederalp. Their breakfast area and outdoor terrace also have views that are out of this world, and alongside traditional Swiss food their pizza scored high points in my book! PRICE: From €101 per night.
8. Stein am Rhein
Stein am Rhein is so pretty it’s hard to believe it’s a real place. Definitely the most unique and by far one of the most beautiful villages in Switzerland, Stein am Rhein is also bursting with colour and history. This small town on the River Rhine, located right near the border with Germany, is most famous for its perfectly preserved medieval buildings, most of which are painted with beautiful and intricate frescoes. You would not be blamed for thinking you have walked straight on to a Disney Movie when strolling through the pedestrianised, cobbled streets. The town is home to a number of buildings that are listed as Swiss heritage sites of national significance, which make it a fun destination for a day trip from Zurich.
Do what I did and travel here by boat (it’s free if you have a Swiss Travel Pass)…as you travel downstream its’f un to know one river bank is in Germany and one is in Switzerland…making you feel as if the boat is in two places at once! I think a day trip (actually a few hours in enough!) is perfect for seeing this town but if you’re looking to stay the night you can find some great hotels here.
Spiez is a small, drop-dead gorgeous town sitting on a lake that most people will admire from the seat of their train as it whizzes towards Interlaken. i highly encourage you to get off said train, even just for a few hours but ideally for a day or two, to explore this beautiful Swiss village. This is exactly what I did when I was travelling around Switzerland last year! Instead of continuing on to Zurich, as planned, I leaped off the train in Spiez as I could not get over how pretty it was. Be sure to walk down to the lakeside, check out their beautiful church (which is surrounded by vineyards!) and consider taking a boat ride around Lake Thun for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and mountains. Be sure to make time to visit the medieval Spiez Castle, which dates back over 1,000 years. In summer you’ll find an outdoor swimming pool and lake-shore swimming cover while in winter this town transforms into a winter wonderland complete with ice-rink for romantic ice-skating adventures!
Where to stay in Spiez: Strandhotel Seeblick
A hotel that WON’T break the bank and yet comes with rooms with a balcony looking out on to the lake and a private pier to swim from? Welcome to Strandhotel Seeblick! This brilliant value hotel in Spiez is the perfect place to base yourself for a night or two and there’s even a sauna to warm up after those long winter days, or just to chill out in after some hiking! Try book a room with a hot tub – you’ll thank me later!
Ask anyone you know who has been to Switzerland what their favourite towns and villages were, and bets are on that all of them will answer “Grindelwald”. This small, but stunningly beautiful, and very picturesque village in the Bernese Alps is a popular place for hikers in summer and skiing in winter. There are lots of incredible hikes and trails that start out from the town, and it’s close to Gletscherschlucht, a spectacular glacial gorge. Grindelwald is also a great town to take the Jungfrau railway from, right up to the top of Europe, which will take you up 1400 meters from sunny Grindelwald up to a snow capped mountain peak! You can hike past mirror-like lakes (such as Kleine Scheidegg), glacial gorges, waterfalls on on to nearby villages like Lauterbrunnen – another must-visit destination on the list!
If you’re looking visit the prettiest towns in Switzerland, you might as well visit the oldest as well! The town of Chur, located in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, is officially the oldest town in Switzerland dating back over 5,000 years. While the official language is German, the main language spoken here is the Alemannia Swiss German dialect. The old part of the town is very picturesque and 100% car free making a visit here even more enjoyable. The city is surrounded by beautiful vineyards in summer, which make it a fun place to taste some of the local wines. From here you can take the Bernina Express Train through the mountains across into Italy, one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world. You can also take the Brambrüesch cable car up into the mountains for hiking trails and panoramic views in the summer ski slopes in the winter!
Oh Interlaken, the first town in Switzerland I truly fell in love with and probably the adventure capital of Europe. Interkalen is to Europe, what Queenstown is to New Zealand: it is an adventure and adrenaline-lovers paradise. What better way to view this charming Swiss town than while jumping out of an airplane, gliding off a nearby mountain top or whizzing down a hill on a mountain bike? Interlaken itself is very pretty, but the best thing about this town is that it’s the perfect base right in the middle of Switzerland, perfect for exploring nearby towns, villages, mountains and peaks (such as jungfraujoch) which are all easily reachable from here by train.
Where to stay in Interlaken: Balmers Hostel
One of the best hotels I have ever stayed in. It’s hotel quality for the price of a hostel – and they even have private rooms if you don’t feel like sharing with a group of young backpackers! Balmers has incredible views of the top of Europe, a great location in the town and the hostel itself has a bar, restaurant, games room, mini library with hammocks and even a night club. In summer, nothing beats BBQs and parties in their enormous garden. Best place to stay in Interlaken!
3. Mount Rigi
This is more of a mountain destination than a town or village, although I do believe there’s a village at the bottom of the mountain! One of the best reasons to come here is that there are so many fun ways to go up or down the mountain. We took the cog railway up to the top of Mount Rigi, having taken a steam boat across the lake from nearby Lucerne. The Rigi Roundtrip journey is 100% included in the Swiss Travel Pass, which means you can combine boat, cogwheel train, gondola, train and even a bus to get and back down the mountain.
The incline was seriously steep and the train went at a snail’s pace, but this meant all the passengers could easily hang out the windows and take some of the most stunning panorama shots of the surrounding lakes and mountains. One photo I took was so spectacular that most of my friends thought it was taken with a drone! Once at the top there is a cafe and restaurant and some great photo opportunities looking back down to the three lakes that surround Mount Rigi. The walk back down to the cable car station is extremely easy, and you might even come across a paraglider flying off the mountain as you walk by! It’s a lot of fun to take the cable car down, with many tourists cheering at intervals, as it feels like a bit of a rollercoaster ride! If you’re looking for fun hikes in this area, here are some fun ideas for things to do in and around Lucerne.
Okay Lausanne is definitely not a small town or village BUT it is if you’re wondering where to go in Switzerland during the summer, then Lausanne has to be on your list. What other destination in Switzerland has a festival than runs for the entire summer, complete with live music, dancing and an electric atmosphere in all the streets, bars and public squares. Lausanne, situated on beautiful Lake Leman is also a picturesque city and a great base for exploring the lake, nearby ancient vineyards such as Vevay and the lakeside town of Montreaux. The city itself has so much to see and do, from the famous Olympic Museum to visiting Lausanne Cathedral or spending some time shopping in the city’s medieval shop-lined cobbled streets.
Where to stay in Lausanne
There are more award-winning gourmet restaurants and hotels than you can shake a stick at in Lausanne, and the choice of hotels here would make a member of the royal family blush…because they are nothing short of palatial. One particular hotel has had so many famous guests they have even started renaming the rooms after them – I suggest, if budget allows, checking into the Coco Chanel Suite!
Lugano was the last town in Switzerland Ian and I stopped at on our Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, and it was from here that we left Europe’s most beautiful country and headed to beautiful Venice! While Lugano, like Lausanne, isn’t exactly a small mountain village, it is drop-dead gorgeous and should definitely be on your list of places to go in Switzerland. It is much warmer here than other parts of the country, has a real Italian influence and is also a popular wine growing region – and another great place for a day of wine tasting. The old town is particular pretty, and taking a boat around Lake Lugano to visit some of the small lakeside villages was a real highlight – especially if the is shining!