Switzerland is a beautiful country known for its mountains, glaciers, large lakes, and turquoise rivers. Switzerland has a lot more to offer than just the Swiss Alps. The country also has lots of interesting and beautiful cities to visit.
Compared to some of the largest cities in the world, such as London, Paris, and New York, a Swiss city will always be minuscule. However, these places do have a lot to offer – from restaurants and shopping to old towns and museums.
So without further ado, here are 9 of the best cities to visit in Switzerland.
Switzerland’s fourth-largest city, Bern, is known as its Federal City. Bern is home to the federal government, international postal, and railway unions. With a UNESCO World Heritage site on its doorstep, its Old City in particular, Bern managed to retain its old-world charm.
Found west of central Switzerland, Bern is definitely more laid back than Zurich and Geneva. Flowing through the city of Bern is the River Aare, whose waters are crystal clear and turquoise. The city itself has its own share of interesting things to do.
Wander through Gurten to take in the city’s sights and sounds. Following that, you can visit the bears (yes, real ones) and then walk further to explore the old city. In the city, you can walk along the 15th-century arcades, maybe go shopping a bit, or eat at one of the many restaurants. You’ll even come across some fountains from the 16th century on your way. Colorful figures and crafted pillars decorate the old city.
Among Bern’s other notable landmarks are the Parliament Building, the Cathedral, and the Historic Museum, which is Switzerland’s second-largest historic museum.
|Don’t miss these attractions in Bern|
|* UNESCO World Heritage Old City of Bern|
* Parliament Building
* Bern Minster Cathedral
* Historic Museum
* Bern Bear Pit (Bärengraben)
* Bern Zoo (Tierpark Dählhölzli)
* Zentrum Paul Klee
The eponymous capital of Vaud canton, Lausanne is a beautiful city. This city has everything – a beach on Lake Geneva, pools, a gorgeous old town, museums, shops, restaurants, an aquarium/vivarium, and views of the surrounding mountains. In addition, with varying altitudes, you have parts of the city with great views.
Lausanne’s old town and Cathedral give it a rich history. The city was once ruled by Celts and Romans. Today, Lausanne is the fifth-largest city in Switzerland and the second-largest city in French-speaking Switzerland.
|Don’t miss these attractions in Lausanne|
|* Lausanne Cathedral|
* Lausanne’s Old Town
* Sauvabelin Tower
* Olympic Museum and Park
* Plateforme 10
* Aquatis Vivarium Lausanne
* Palais de Rumine
The city of Lucerne is one of the most popular tourist spots in Switzerland. In Lucerne, you’ll find everything you’d want in a typical Swiss city. The beauty of its fjord-like blue lake, charming old town, and mountains is unbeatable. For those who want to spend some time in Lucerne City, there’s so much to see: the Transport Museum, the Lion Monument, the Rosengart Collection, and Chapel Bridge, just to name a few.
You can get around Lake Lucerne with the Lake Lucerne ship company. Various basins and bays provide exhilarating and changing views of the landscape on the lake – Stansstaad, Weggis, Buochs, Gersau, and Uri.
For those who want more details, we have an article about the best things to do in Lucerne: 9 Best Things To Do in Lucerne, Switzerland.
|Don’t miss these attractions in Lucerne|
|* Lion Monument|
* Chapel Bridge
* Transport Museum (Verkehrshaus)
* Rosengart Collection
* Glacier Garden
* Bourbaki Panorama
You can read more about other stunning places to visit near Lucerne such as Bürgenstock, Engelberg, Vitznau, and Weggis in this article 10 Beautiful Places Near Lucerne. And for those who wish to visit the mountains near Lucerne, you can find out about the Closest Mountains To Visit From Lucerne.
There’s an alpine city in Switzerland called Chur you might be familiar with. You may have passed Chur en route to Davos, St. Moritz, or another mountain resort in the canton Grisons.
Chur has been inhabited for more than 11,000 years. The city of Chur is the oldest in Switzerland. Early trade also made the city important.
In 1803, canton Grisons (Graubünden in German) recognized Chur as its capital. Chur might not be your first choice to visit in Switzerland, but it is definitely an alpine city worth visiting.
|Don’t miss these attractions in Chur|
|* Old Town of Chur|
* St. Mariae Himmelfahrt Cathedral
* St. Martin Church
* Fontana Park
* Brambrüesch Mountain
* Rhaetian Museum
If you would like to read more about Chur, check out our articles:
Lugano is the largest city in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. This charming city lies right along the shores of Lake Lugano quite near the Italian border. This beautiful city is home to 17 heritage sites. Aside from the city of Lugano itself, the districts Barbengo, Brè, Gandria, Castagnola, and Biogno are also part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites.
Worth visiting in Lugano is the Church of Santa Maria Degli Angeli with its stunning Renaissance fresco. This fresco has more than 150 faces and figures together with Jesus Christ, Gestas, and Dimas. A second Cathedral worth visiting is Catedrale San Lorenzo, with its Baroque decors. For those who are interested in shopping, Via Nassa is the place to be.
Near Lugano is the mountain called Monte San Salvatore. This mountain is part of the Lepontine Alps and is accessible by funicular from the city.
|Don’t miss these attractions in Lugano|
|* Church of Santa Maria Degli Angeli|
* LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura
* Via Nassa
* Piazza della Riforma
* Palazzo Civico
* Catedrale San Lorenzo
* San Salvatore
The city of Basel, along the Rhine River, is situated in northwest Switzerland, quite close to France and Germany. A highly cultural city, it also enjoys excellent weather year-round. It has also been included time and again in the list of most livable cities in the world.
Basel is also known as Switzerland’s cultural capital. It has more than 40 museums, including the Kunstmuseum, the Fondation Beyeler, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Additionally, it hosts Art Basel, an international art fair that attracts thousands of artists, art collectors, and art enthusiasts from Europe, the US, and Asia.
One tradition that you might want to observe is the Basel Carnival festival. Sometime during the months of February and March, the country’s largest festival starts with what’s called the Morgestraich. It lasts a good 72 hours. As a highly anticipated and important tradition, the Basel Carnival was inscribed in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage back in 2017.
There’s more to Basel than just culture. Also in Basel are world-renowned institutions, like the University of Basel, the Bank of International Settlements, and FC Basel. Some of the biggest pharma companies are based in Basel, like Roche, Novartis, Lonza, and Actelion.
You can learn all about the local zoo in Basel in our review: Zoo Basel – An Honest Review.
|Don’t miss these attractions in Basel|
* Fondation Beyeler
* Museum of Contemporary Art
* Art Basel
* Basel Carnival and Morgestraich (UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage)
If you would like to visit beautiful towns near Basel, you can choose from the list here 8 Beautiful Towns Near Basel, Switzerland.
Switzerland’s biggest and most populous city, it’s no wonder that people tend to visit Zurich. Home to the country’s biggest airport and train station, it is also logistically typically the easiest city to reach from abroad.
Zurich lies along the shores of Lake Zurich. It also has a charming old town and beautiful churches such as the Grossmünster and the Fraumünster. The city has a lot of restaurants, nightclubs, and bars compared to other cities in the country.
If you take the Polybahn up to the Polyterasse, you will get fantastic views of the city. Another option is going up the Dolder. For those who want to see the greater Zurich area as well as see further away, Uetliberg Mountain is also relatively close.
For those who are interested in museums, Landesmuseum Zurich or the Swiss National Museum is right next to the Zurich Train Station. This castle-like museum is Switzerland’s most visited museum. You’ll find Bahnhofstrasse on the other side of the train station. This main shopping street (Bahnhofstrasse) has watches, jewelry, clothes, and souvenirs.
|Don’t miss these attractions in Zurich|
* St. Peter Church
* Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum Zurich)
* Polyterasse and Polybahn
* Museum Rietberg
* Kunsthaus Zurich
* Limmat River Cruise
You can visit lots of cool towns nearby Zurich for a day trip – Arbon, Stein am Rhein, Aarburg, Lenzburg, Rheinfelden, and Laufenburg. And for those who want to visit the mountains and lakes close to Zurich, you can check out our list of Closest Mountains To Visit From Zurich and the Most Beautiful Lakes Near Zurich.
Zurich’s counterpart on the French side of Switzerland is Geneva. On the shores of Lake Geneva, it is the second-most populous country in Switzerland and the most populous in the French-speaking part of the country.
A global city, Geneva is home to numerous international organizations such as the United Nations and the Red Cross. The city is also a major financial center, ranking fifth in Europe after London, Zurich, Frankfurt, and Luxembourg.
In Geneva, you can find also a beautiful historic center with Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Bastion Park, the Reformation Wall, and the Treille Promenade. The lake is also a wonderful place to visit with its iconic water jet called Jet d’Eau.
For museum lovers, Maison Tavel and Ariana Museum are worth visiting. Watch lovers might opt to explore the Patek Philippe Museum instead. The Palace of Nations, one of the most important diplomatic centers in the world, is also worth a visit.
|Don’t miss these attractions in Geneva|
|* St. Pierre Cathedral|
* Old Town
* Jet d’Eau
* Maison Tavel
* Ariana Museum
* Patek Philippe Museum
* Parc de la Grange
* United Nations Building
9. St. Gallen
Often overlooked but still charming, St. Gallen is the location of the Cathedral of Saint Gall, a historic Catholic church from the Carolingian era. In 1983, UNESCO declared the Abbey Cathedral a World Heritage Site.
The Abbey Library in St. Gallen, built around the same time as the Abbey Cathedral, has the oldest book collection in Switzerland, and one of the oldest and richest in the world.
St. Gallen, in northeastern Switzerland, is just a few kilometers from Lake Constance. The old-world vibe of St. Gallen should appeal to those who love old cities. It’s a pretty city with 75,000 residents who mostly speak Swiss-German.
St. Gallen’s textile industry played a major role in Switzerland during the 19th and 20th centuries. Once, St Gallen was famous for textiles; embroidery was precious. St. Gallen’s Textile Museum is an excellent place to learn about textiles and the industry.
|Don’t miss these attractions in St. Gallen|
|* Old Historic Town|
* St. Gallen Abbey Quarter
* Abbey Library
* Textile Museum St. Gallen
Final Thoughts: 9 Best Cities To Visit In Switzerland
All nine cities mentioned above are worth visiting. Each has its own charm, beauty, and place in history. In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, you can check out Bern, Lucerne, Basel, St. Gallen, Chur, and Zurich. In the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Lausanne and Geneva are worth exploring. Last but not least, Lugano, the largest city in the Italian part of Switzerland, is also worth a visit.
We hope that the list above was a good starting point for finding a city in Switzerland that you’re interested in.
- Best Places to Go to in St. Gallen
- Wonderful Towns To Visit on Lake Constance
- 12 Best Things To Do in Appenzell Region, Switzerland
- Is Chur Worth Visiting? 8 Fun Things To Do In Chur
- 9 Best Things To Do in Lucerne, Switzerlandit?
- Make the Most of a Long Weekend in Lugano
- 10 Beautiful Towns near Zurich for Day Trips
- 25 Best Things To Do In Zurich, Switzerland
- 12 Best Unique Experiences In Zurich
- 10 Best Free Museums and Parks in Zurich
- Closest Mountains To Visit From Zurich
Lausanne and Geneva
- Is Lausanne Worth Visiting? 10 Reasons Why
- 9 Closest Mountains To Lausanne, Switzerland
- 9 Best Things to Do in Lausanne on a Rainy Day
- Lausanne Cathedral: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell
- 8 Best Things to Do in Geneva on a Rainy Day
- Closest Mountains To Geneva in Switzerland
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.