Switzerland is aptly called a water castle because it is home to as many as 7,000 lakes. Aside from the lakes, it also has rivers and streams, with waters flowing to various different places in Europe and ending in the seas. There are many beautiful lakes in Switzerland.
The largest lakes in Switzerland are Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French), Lake Constance (Bodensee in German), Lake Neuchâtel (Lac de Neuchâtel in French, Neuenburgersee in German), Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore in Italian), and Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee in German).
Although the largest lakes in Switzerland are the most popular ones, there are some smaller ones which are as beautiful.
Choosing the most beautiful one is definitely difficult, as there are more than thousands to choose from. For the purposes of this article, we will cover the most beautiful lakes near Zurich that you can visit. These are pretty lakes where you can visit for a day trip if you are based in Zurich.
Lake Zurich (Zürichsee)
Lake Zurich, Zürichsee or Zürisee as the Swiss call it, is a lake in Switzerland which extends from the city of Zurich all the way to the town of Schmerikon. You can walk towards it from the Zurich Main Train Station via Bahnhofstrasse. It is shared by the cantons Zurich, Schwyz, and St. Gallen. It features several small islands such as Ufenau and Lüztelau. On the lake are two peninsulas – Hurden and Au. There is a ferry crossing from Meilen to Horgen and the other way back, connecting the two sides of the lake. There is also a causeway and bridge connecting the most narrow area of the lake between Hurden with Rapperswil. This bridge also carries a train railway.
There are numerous activities that can be enjoyed on the lake such as boating, stand-up paddling, swimming, riding the pedalos, and many more. As mentioned, there are numerous swimming areas also available, especially on the coast of the lake between Zurich and Hurden (ex. Kilchberg, Richterswil, Horgen).
And once you are done visiting the lake, there are tons of other things that you can enjoy in Zurich. Check out our post – 25 Best Things To Do In Zurich, Switzerland, or 12 Best Unique Experiences In Zurich.
Lake Walen (Walensee)
Lake Walen or Walensee (in German) is located in the holiday area of Heidiland. It is another beautiful lake near Zurich, totaling around 70 kilometers away. Two-thirds of the lake is in Canton St. Gallen. One-third of the lake is in Canton Glarus. There are beautiful towns along the lake. Our favorite is Weesen, though Quinten and Quarten are also nice. The mountain range of Churfirsten can be seen from the lake and most visitors to the Canton of Graubünden pass by this lake through the highway or by train.
This area boasts several modern playgrounds along the lake called Spielerlebnis Walensee (Play Experience in Lake Walen). It also has beautiful trails and walking paths around it as well as a relaxed, Mediterranean feel to it, especially in Weesen.
On a beautiful day, you can have lunch on the restaurant terrace enjoying the beautiful view. It is a relaxing day trip away from Zurich – less busy than staying in Rapperswil or Bellevue in Zurich. This region, as you can imagine from its name Heidiland, is the place where Johanna Spyri got inspired to write her book Heidi.
In particular, she zoomed in on a town called Maienfeld. It’s a gorgeous place surrounded by nature. Kids will have fun there. Ours did. Check out our article Stunning Location of Heidi in Maienfeld, Switzerland.
Lake Constance (Bodensee)
Lake Constance (Bodensee) is a 63-kilometer-long lake shared by Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Its total area is impressive – 540 square kilometers. This lake is around 124 kilometers away from Zurich. It will take you around 90 minutes by car from the city of Zurich.
Lake Constance is the third-largest inland lake in Europe. The lake actually consists of three interconnected parts – Untersee, Obersee, and Überlinger See. There are also three islands on it – Reichenau, Lindau, and Mainau. There are loads of things that you can do in Lake Constance. After all, it is the second-largest lake in the country after Lake Geneva. It covers 473 square kilometers.
Some places to visit in Lake Constance include the pretty towns of Arbon, Steckborn, Kreuzlingen, Romanshorn, Rohrschach, and Mannenbach/Salenstein. If you would like to read more about them, visit our article Wonderful Towns To Visit on Lake Constance. Arbon, for one, is actually a historic port city with an old town and castle in addition to its swimming pool.
Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee)
Lake Lucerne itself is one of the most well-known lakes in the country surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is the fifth-largest lake in Switzerland. It is shared by the cantons Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, and Uri. Lake Lucerne is around 53.9 kilometers away from Zurich. With the car, it would take you less than an hour to visit this beautiful lake.
The lake itself is composed of several basins: Lucerne, Küssnacht, and Alpnach. Furthermore, it has several bays – Stansstaad, Weggis, Buochs, Gersau, and Uri. The various basins and bays provide exhilarating and changing views of the landscape.
The Lake Lucerne ship company provides several cruise experiences: short and long round trips, culinary cruises (brunch, candlelight, and more), and cruise + mountain excursions. Popular for visitors is to cruise on one of the five steamboats in service. The oldest one in the country, Steamboat Uri, had its maiden voyage in 1901.
Of the five paddle steamers on Lake Lucerne, only one is capable of sailing under the low Acheregg bridge and reaching Alpnachstad. Steamboat Unterwalden” as the steamboat is called, has a funnel and wheelhouse which can be hydraulically lowered. It is really fascinating to watch.
In case you are interested in the steamboats in Switzerland, we have an article available detailing the Ultimate List of Steamboats in Switzerland’s Lakes.
Have you seen the clip from MySwitzerland regarding Lake Lucerne? It’s a short but interesting video showing Lake Lucerne in Central Switzerland.
Lake Klöntal (Klöntalersee)
Lake Klöntal is a tiny, peaceful, yet gorgeous lake in Canton Glarus. From Zurich, Lake Klöntal takes around an hour to get to by car. The beautiful lake of Klöntal is near – only around 77.8 kilometers from Zurich.
There are not a lot of commercial activities on this lake. It is mainly visited for relaxing, sightseeing, and hiking. The lake has been used as a reservoir for electricity production.
Lake Cauma (Lag la Cauma, Caumasee)
Lake Cauma (Lag la Cauma in Romansh, Caumasee in German) is a gorgeous lake in Flims, Graubünden. This is possibly one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. The color of its water is this turquoise shade. At times, it looks light blue or light green though. Nevertheless, this is a gorgeous place to visit. It is very near Zurich too! Caumasee is a beautiful lake near Zurich. It is around 140 kilometers away from the city of Zurich. The car ride will take around an hour and 37 minutes.
You will have to pay for a ticket to get inside. And on bright, sunny, and warm days, there can be a long line to get in. But once inside, you can enjoy bathing, paddling, and playing (they have a great playground for kids). You can also eat in their restaurant over there. And view the fishes swimming. The water is crystal clear. It will be entertaining to watch the swimming fish.
If you find Caumasee too busy, you may also opt for Crestasee (Lag la Cresta). It is nearby and is typically less busy compared to Caumasee.
Lake Brienz (Brienzersee)
Another beautiful lake near Zurich is Lake Brienz. It is even closer to Zurich compared to Lake Thun. It will take you around 1 hour and 39 minutes from the city – a total of 111 kilometers. Lake Brienz is a lake with turquoise waters just north of the Alps. It is located in Canton Bern. The gorgeous lake is fed by the river Aare and the stream Giessbach.
The village of Brienz is also well worth visiting. It is at the foot of the Brienzer Rothorn mountain and quite near the Giessbach Waterfalls. Both Brienz and Giessbach are listed under the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites. The alpine village of Axalp together with Lake Hinterburg is also worth visiting.
Have you seen the clip from MySwitzerland regarding Lake Brienz? It’s a short but interesting video showing how you can paddle in Lake Brienz even in the middle of winter.
Lake Thun (Thunersee)
Another beautiful lake near Zurich, Lake Thun is only around 140 kilometers. If you drive the car, the ride will take around 1 hour and 44 minutes. You can experience the largest lake in the Bernese Oberland, Lake Thun, by boat.
Lake Thun is an alpine lake that is 17.5 kilometers long and 3.5 kilometers wide. Passenger boats in the Jungfrau Region make the rounds on both Lake Thun and Lake Brienz from April to October. Regular service makes it possible for guests to go to some other destinations along the lake by boat instead of just by land. The boats in Lake Thun depart from behind the Interlaken West train station.
All around the lake, you can enjoy the 360-degree panorama of the surrounding meadows, mountains, and castles in the region. In case you want to stop in one of the lakeside towns, you have several options. The stops include Hünibach, Hilterfingen, Oberhofen am Thunersee, Gunten, Spiez, Beatenbucht (St. Beatus Caves) and Interlaken West.
The nostalgic Steam Boat Blümlisalp is available once a day during summer from Thun to Interlaken and back. The tour takes 90 minutes and the journey provides amazing views of Hilterfingen – the Hünegg Park with Castle Hünegg Hilterfingen, Oberhofen, and its own castle, as well as Gunten with its wonderful panorama and crystal clear waters.
If cruising isn’t your thing, there are other activities on the lake such as swimming, sailing, and windsurfing.
Lake Obersee (Obersee)
Lake Obersee in Näfels is a hidden gem of a lake less than an hour away from Zurich. Lake Obersee is a beautiful lake in Canton Glarus, around 70 kilometers away from Zurich. It is a quiet lake and to reach it, you will have to go up windy roads. There is a hotel overlooking the lake and the Brünnelistock.
The lake itself is located on the alp. There are not many commercial ventures here aside from the Obersee Hotel. People come here to relax and walk around. It is also an easy walk around the lake for small children and dogs.
If you want more details regarding Lake Obersee, check out our article: Beautiful Lake Obersee in Glarus, Switzerland.
Blue Lake (Blausee)
Blausee is not exactly quite near Zurich, but it is nevertheless a worthwhile day trip. From Zurich to Blausee, it would take a 176-kilometer drive all the way to the Kander Valley. But I promise it is worth it.
Blausee is an incredibly beautiful lake located in the Kander valley. It is 887 meters above sea level, has a maximum depth of 10.1 meters, and an area of 0.64 hectares. It is said to have been created after a landslide from Fisistock. Huge ice slabs from the Kandersteg Glacier fell into the valley, and it caused a lowering of land. After the ice melted, it created Blausee.
The beautiful blue color of the lake is said to come from a combination of light reflection, trees, and sky. This picturesque Blausee lake amidst an enchanting forest is perfect for day trips. It is located in Bernese Oberland. As it is open all year round to guests, it can be visited during any season of the year.
If you would like to know more about Blausee, visit our article Breathtaking Blausee Lake – A Day Trip In Kandergrund.
Unlike most other lakes in Switzerland, Blausee is privately held. You will need to pay an entrance fee to come inside.
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