Switzerland is known for its stunning landscapes, and its rivers are no exception. There are some breathtaking views along Switzerland’s rivers, from the Rhine to the Aare. Here are ten of the best Swiss rivers you’ll never forget.
The Swiss rivers aren’t just beautiful, they’re also full of fun activities. There’s something for everyone on Switzerland’s rivers, whether you’re looking for a relaxing cruise or an adrenaline-fueled rafting trip. Throughout this article, we’ll point out the best rivers for each activity and provide tips on how to make the most out of it. Let’s dive into the ten best Swiss rivers.
Understanding Swiss Rivers
There are lots of rivers in Switzerland, many of which come from glacial melt and alpine springs. These rivers are beautiful and pristine, perfect for swimming, fishing, kayaking, and cruising. Additionally, some provide hydroelectric power and irrigation for farming, which helps the economy.
Rivers in Switzerland are also home to trout, grayling, pike, and whitefish. Swiss law protects many of these species, and fishing regulations are enforced strictly.
The Rhine River, one of Europe’s biggest rivers, starts in the Swiss Alps and flows through Germany and the Netherlands before reaching the North Sea. From the Bernese Alps, the Aare River flows through Swiss cities like Bern and joins the Rhine. Other significant rivers include the Reuss, Limmat, and Inn.
If you’re visiting Switzerland, check out one of the ten best rivers listed below.
10 Best Swiss Rivers
1. Rhine River
The Rhine River stretches over 1,233 kilometers from its source in the Grisons to its mouth at the North Sea, making it one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe. Along its course, it flows through six countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, France, and the Netherlands.
In Switzerland, the Rhine River is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The river is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including trout, salmon, and beavers. It is also an important transportation route in Europe.
One of the highlights of the Rhine River in Switzerland is the Rhine Falls, an impressive waterfall located near the town of Schaffhausen. With a width of 150 meters and a height of 23 meters, this impressive waterfall is one of the biggest in Europe. Boat tours let you get close to the falls, or you can watch them from a viewing platform nearby.
2. Verzasca River
The Verzasca River is a popular destination in Valle Verzasca for tourists and locals alike. Located in the Ticino region of Switzerland, it’s known for crystal-clear water and beautiful scenery. Verzasca is one of the best Swiss rivers because of its beautiful turquoise color, which I think is unmatched elsewhere.
One of the most iconic features of the Verzasca River is the Ponte dei Salti, a historic bridge in Lavertezzo that spans the river. Visitors can take a dip in the river from the bridge, or enjoy the view from above. The current here can be strong, so be careful while swimming.
Verzasca River is not just beautiful, it’s also home to several historical towns and villages. You can explore the charming streets of places like Lavertezzo and Sonogno, and learn about the rich cultural heritage of the region.
3. Aare River
The crystal-clear waters and fantastic riverbanks of the Aare River make it one of the best Swiss rivers. With a length of over 291 kilometers, it is one of the longest rivers in Switzerland.
The Aare River is a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, and rafting. Floating downstream on an inner tube or rubber raft is also one of the most popular activities on the Aare River. While some sections of the river are relatively calm, others have rapids that challenge experienced rafters.
One of the highlights of the Aare River is the Aare Gorge, the narrow passage where the Aare flows from the foot of the Grimsel area to the plain above Lake Brienz.
4. Reuss River
The central part of Switzerland is traversed by the Reuss River, counted among the best Swiss rivers. It is the fourth-longest river in Switzerland, stretching 164 kilometers from its source in Furkareuss above the Furka Pass to its confluence with the Aare River in Windisch.
The four most scenic sections of the Reuss River are the following:
- the Schöllenen Gorge (Devil’s Bridge) in Andermatt
- the area around the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne
- the stretch between Flüelen and Lucerne near the Lorelei Bathing Islands
- the sights of Bremgarten and the wooden bridge
The Reuss River flows through historically rich areas like Andermatt, Lucerne, Zug, and Bremgarten, each holding significant historical towns and landmarks. Among these, Andermatt stands out, once a pivotal medieval trading hub and now a renowned ski destination.
5. Maggia River
Maggia is among the best Swiss rivers, distinguished by its breathtaking location among picturesque mountains and waterfalls, and renowned for its pristine, crystal-clear waters. It is a 59-kilometer-long river located in the canton of Ticino that flows from the Basodina Glacier into the Lago Maggiore between Locarno and Ascona.
The river is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, who come to enjoy its natural beauty and recreational opportunities such as swimming and canyoning. Beautiful bathing areas, well-visited during summer, are found near Ponte Brolla (look for Pozzo di Tegna), Avegno, Ponte di Lodano, Maggia, Giumaglio, Someo, and Riale Salto.
Adventure seekers will enjoy canyoning, an activity that involves navigating through the river’s narrow gorges and waterfalls. Several companies offer guided canyoning tours on the Maggia River.
The Maggia River is also home to several picturesque villages, like Maggia, Cevio, and Avegno. They’re worth a visit if you want to see how Swiss live traditionally.
6. Limmat River
Flowing through Switzerland, the 36-kilometer-long Limmat River originates from Lake Zurich and eventually joins the Aare River in Brugg. Known for its clear waters and scenic views, it’s one of Switzerland’s most important rivers.
There’s a lot to do along the Limmat River, like swimming, kayaking, and fishing. Parks, restaurants, and cafes line its banks, making it a great place to stroll.
Discovering Zurich through a Limmat River Cruise is a great idea. The Limmat River also boasts Baden, a medieval town famous for its hot springs and old buildings.
7. Simme River
In the realm of the best Swiss rivers, the Simme River flows through the beautiful Simmental Valley in the Bernese Oberland. It stretches for about 55 kilometers.
Simme River is known for its crystal-clear waters and gorgeous scenery. A lot of outdoor enthusiasts come here, including hikers, cyclists, and river rafters.
One of the highlights of the Simme River is the Simmenfälle waterfall, located near the town of Lenk. Near the waterfalls is its source – the Siebenbrunnen, a rocky cleft with seven springs, at the foot of the Wildstrubel.
Simme River is also home to several charming towns and villages, like Lenk im Simmental and Zweisimmen. If you’re exploring the region, these towns offer a glimpse into traditional Swiss life.
8. Sarine River
The Sarine River, also known as the Saane River, is one of the best Swiss rivers due to its diverse and picturesque landscapes. It flows through Switzerland’s western region stretching approximately 128 kilometers. Starting from the Sanetschhorn glacier nestled in the Bernese Alps, it traverses Fribourg and Bern.
Kayaking on the Sarine River begins at Saanen/Gstaad, leading into the French-speaking destination of Pays d’Enhaut. The 15-kilometer route covers Vanel and Gérignoz gorges to Château-d’Oex. It’s an intermediate-level challenge, best enjoyed between May and August.
Walking along the Sarine River from Gstaad to Saanen offers a peaceful alternative to kayaking. Starting from Gstaad’s station, the trail passes alongside the Saane River and scenic woodlands, leading to Saanen’s town center.
Another fantastic option is the “Fribourg – Along the River Sarine” thematic tour that lets you explore the Sarine River through Fribourg’s bridges.
9. Inn River
There’s no denying how beautiful the Engadine Valley is. And the river that flows here is one of Switzerland’s most popular rivers – the Inn. The Inn River flows through Switzerland, Austria, and Germany as a tributary of the Danube.
The Inn River is approximately 518 kilometers long, with around 104 kilometers of it flowing through Switzerland. Originating in Lägh dal Lunghin beneath Piz Lunghin mountain, it courses through the Austrian state of Tyrol and the Free State of Bavaria in Germany.
10. Kander River
Kander River is one of Switzerland’s most beautiful rivers. The river begins its journey at the Kanderfirn glacier, winding through the scenic Kandertal valley. It then merges with the Simme River, eventually finding its way into Lake Thun. It’s about 44 kilometers long.
Although the Kander has crystal clear waters that seem perfect for swimming and water sports, it is classified as extremely dangerous due to many rapids. It is marked as impassable on safety maps and has caused deaths. Nonetheless, there are also scenic hiking trails along the Kander River, particularly between Frutigen and Wimmis.
Kander Gorge is one of the main attractions of the Kander River, an artificially created canyon with rapids and waterfalls.
Best Swiss Rivers (Color)
Due to its pristine alpine waters, the country has some of the bluest and greenest rivers in the world. Here are some of the bluest rivers in Switzerland:
- Verzasca River: Located in Ticino, the Verzasca River displays mesmerizing emerald and turquoise tones, renowned for its translucent, jewel-like waters.
- Aare River: Found in Bern, the Aare River showcases crystal-clear waters that often appear as a stunning shade of turquoise, especially in certain sections.
- Rhine River: Flowing through several cantons, including Graubünden, St. Gallen, and Schaffhausen, the Rhine exhibits an enchanting turquoise color, owing to the glacial meltwater it receives.
- Inn River: The Inn River meanders through Graubünden, showcasing a striking blue-green hue that arises from the glacial meltwater feeding its flow.
- Reuss River: Cutting across central Switzerland, particularly in Lucerne and Aargau, the Reuss River presents clear, blue-green waters that add to its scenic allure.
Best Swiss Rivers (Length)
Switzerland has many rivers worth visiting, some quite long. Here are the top five longest rivers in Switzerland that you can visit including the length of the river within Switzerland, i.e. excluding its length in other countries:
- Rhine River (375 km): Originates in Graubünden and flows through Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Passes by or near Chur, Basel, Strasbourg, Cologne, and Rotterdam.
- Aare River (291 km): Starts at the Lower Aar Glacier and joins the Rhine in Koblenz, Switzerland. Passes through or near Meiringen, Interlaken, Thun, Bern, and Aarau.
- Rhône River (264 km): Begins in the Rhône Glacier and flows through Switzerland and France, reaching the Mediterranean Sea. Passes through or near Martigny, Geneva, Lyon, and Avignon.
- Reuss (158 km): Originates in the Furkareuss near Furka Pass and joins the Aare near Brugg, Switzerland. Passes through or near Andermatt, Göschenen, Lucerne, and Bremgarten.
- Limmat (140 km): Starts in Lake Zurich and joins the Aare in Brugg, Switzerland. Passes through or near Baden, Zürich, and ends in Brugg.
Best Swiss Rivers (Cruising)
Switzerland’s rivers aren’t just beautiful, but they’re also great for relaxing cruises. You can explore these Swiss rivers by boat:
- Rhine River:
- Cruises start from Schaffhausen to Rhine Falls, offering captivating views of Europe’s largest waterfall.
- Basel to Rheinfelden lock cruise lets you experience the scenic Rhine landscape between these two Swiss cities.
- The Mammern to Stein am Rhein cruise showcases picturesque towns and stunning landscapes.
- Limmat River: Cruises embark from Limmatquai in Zurich, traveling towards Lake Zurich, allowing passengers to admire the cityscape from the water.
- Aare River: The cruise from Solothurn to Biel grants serene views along the Aare River, passing through picturesque landscapes and towns.
- Doubs River: Cruises along the Doubs River take travelers through the beautiful French-Swiss border, offering glimpses of stunning natural scenery and rural landscapes.
Cruises are a great way to see Switzerland’s waterways, no matter what river you choose. You’re sure to find a cruise that fits your interests and schedule with so many options available.
Final Thoughts: Best Swiss Rivers
Switzerland’s rivers are all so beautiful; it’s tough to choose the best! I hope my ideas and original photos have given you a glimpse of their beauty and helped you find a favorite. Whether it’s the turquoise Verzasca or the captivating Rhine, I hope you enjoy exploring these amazing rivers during your visit.
Relax and take in the beauty of Switzerland’s best rivers. Enjoy your trip!
- Limmat River Cruise: The Most Relaxing Way to Discover Zurich
- Rhine Gorge – The Swiss Grand Canyon
- Valle Verzasca: How to Get There
- The Aare Gorge Canyon Walk in Haslital, Switzerland
- How to Spend 1 Day in Bern, Switzerland
- How to Spend 1 Day in Fribourg, Switzerland
- How to Spend 1 Day in St. Moritz, Switzerland
- Sibe Brünne Springs: Everything You Need to Know
- Centovalli Review: Panoramic Views through Switzerland and Italy
Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.