10 Best Switzerland Cities to Visit: Scenic Beauty, Cultural Attractions, and Historical Landmarks
Switzerland is well-known for its natural beauty, Alpine landscapes, and pristine lakes. However, the country is also home to some of the most charming and culturally rich cities in Europe. From Zurich to St. Moritz, each city has its unique character, landmarks, and cultural attractions that attract visitors from all over the world. In this guide, we will take you on a journey to explore the best of Switzerland cities, highlighting their scenic beauty, cultural attractions, and historical landmarks. So, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, get ready to discover the hidden gems of Switzerland cities.
- Population: 415,215 (2018)
- Area: 87.88 km2
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, located in the north-central part of the country. It is the financial and cultural center of Switzerland, renowned for its picturesque landscape, vibrant cultural scene, and high standard of living. Zurich is also famous for being one of the cleanest cities in the world, with excellent public transportation and highly efficient infrastructure.
1.1. Scenic Beauty
Zurich is surrounded by stunning scenery. There are Lake Zurich and the Alps provide a beautiful backdrop to the city. The lake offers numerous water activities, such as swimming and boating, while the nearby mountains provide excellent opportunities for hiking and skiing. The old town of Zurich is also an attraction in itself, with its charming narrow streets and historic buildings.
1.2. Cultural Attractions
Zurich is home to numerous cultural attractions, including museums, galleries, and theaters. The Kunsthaus Zurich is one of the most popular museums in the city, featuring an extensive collection of contemporary and classical art. The Swiss National Museum, located in a 19th-century building, houses a vast collection of Swiss cultural artifacts, including traditional costumes, musical instruments, and handicrafts. Additionally, Zurich is well-known for its thriving theater scene, with numerous performances and shows throughout the year.
1.3. Historical Landmarks
Zurich has a rich history dating back to the Roman era. Therefore, it is home to numerous historical landmarks. One of the most famous is the Fraumünster Church. It features beautiful stained-glass windows created by renowned artist Marc Chagall. Besides that, the Grossmünster Church is another iconic landmark, with its twin towers visible from all over the city. The Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s main shopping street, is also a popular attraction due to its historic architecture and luxurious shops.
- Population: 201,818 (2018)
- Area: 15.92 km2
Geneva, located in the western part of Switzerland, is one of the most famous and prosperous cities in the world. It is known as the “Peace Capital” and the “City of Diplomacy” as it is the headquarters of many international organizations, such as the United Nations and the International Red Cross. Furthermore, Geneva is a popular tourist destination because of its beautiful lakeside location, rich cultural heritage, and high quality of life. You may need 3 days to thoroughly explore the city. Yet, you can still enjoy Geneva in one day, just make sure you have enough info for your trip.
2.1. Scenic Beauty
Geneva is situated on the banks of Lake Geneva, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Europe, and is surrounded by the majestic Alps. The lake’s crystal-clear waters and the stunning views of the snow-capped mountains create a picture-perfect backdrop for the city. You can take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque promenade or enjoy a boat ride on the lake to soak up the stunning scenery.
2.2. Cultural Attractions
Geneva has a rich cultural heritage, with numerous museums, galleries, and theaters that showcase the city’s history and art. Indeed, the Old Town of Geneva is a Swiss heritage site. It is home to some of Geneva’s most iconic landmarks, such as the St. Pierre Cathedral and the Reformation Wall. The city also has several excellent art museums. Some of them are the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire and the Patek Philippe Museum, which houses a vast collection of antique watches.
2.3. Historical Landmarks
Geneva is steeped in history. You can explore many of the city’s historical landmarks, including the Jet d’Eau, which is one of Geneva’s most famous landmarks and one of the largest fountains in the world. The Palace of Nations, home to the United Nations Office in Geneva, is another iconic landmark. Plus, the iconic Broken Chair sculpture is a symbol of opposition to land mines and cluster bombs.
- Population: 177,595 (2018)
- Area: 23.85 km2
Basel is a picturesque city located in the northwest of Switzerland, on the border of France and Germany. It is the third-largest city in Switzerland and is often referred to as the cultural capital of the country. The city is home to several art museums, theaters, and music venues.
3.1. Scenic Beauty
Basel is known for its stunning scenery, particularly the Rhine River that runs through the city. The city’s many parks and gardens are also worth exploring, including the Botanical Garden, which features a wide variety of flora from around the world.
3.2. Cultural Attractions
Basel is home to several cultural attractions, including the Kunstmuseum Basel, one of the oldest and most important art museums in the world. Indeed, the museum houses an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and prints, with works from artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet. The city is also home to the Museum of Cultures, which features exhibits of cultural artifacts from around the world.
3.3. Historical Landmarks
Basel has a rich history that is reflected in its architecture and landmarks. Especially, the Basel Minster is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city, with its red sandstone exterior and striking Gothic design. The city is also home to several medieval gates and walls, including the Spalentor Gate and the St. Alban Tor. Other notable landmarks include the Rathaus (City Hall), which dates back to the 16th century, and the Basel Paper Mill Museum, which showcases the city’s history of paper production.
- Population: 139,111 (2018)
- Area: 41.37 km2
Lausanne is a picturesque city located in the western part of Switzerland, situated on the shores of Lake Geneva. In fact, it is the fourth-largest city in Switzerland and a hub of commerce, culture, and education. Lausanne is home to several renowned international organizations, including the International Olympic Committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Especially, the city is famous for its wine production, the Lausanne wine region known as Lavaux.
4.1. Scenic Beauty
Lausanne is nestled in the hills overlooking Lake Geneva, offering visitors breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The city abounds with parks and gardens, offering a serene and idyllic getaway from the hectic pace of daily routine. You can take a stroll along the Ouchy waterfront, visit the botanical gardens, or hike through the nearby forests.
4.2. Cultural Attractions
Lausanne is a city steeped in culture and history. There are plenty of museums, galleries, and cultural events to explore. The Olympic Museum is a must-visit for sports enthusiasts, while the Collection de l’Art Brut showcases an impressive collection of outsider art. The city is also home to the Théâtre de Vidy, one of the most prestigious theater venues in Switzerland, which regularly hosts plays, operas, and dance performances.
4.3. Historical Landmarks
Lausanne is home to several historical landmarks that provide a glimpse into the city’s rich history. In particular, the Old Town of Lausanne is a maze of narrow streets and alleys that wind their way up the hillside, culminating in the stunning Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne. The Château Saint-Maire, a 15th-century castle, serves as the seat of the government of the Canton of Vaud and is open to visitors for guided tours. The Musée Historique de Lausanne, housed in a 19th-century mansion, offers a fascinating look at the city’s past.
- Population: 133,883 (2018)
- Area: 51.62 km2
Bern is the capital city of Switzerland, located in the heart of the country. The city is famed for its rich cultural heritage, charming medieval architecture, and stunning natural beauty. It is a perfect blend of old-world charm and modern conveniences, making it an ideal destination for travelers from all over the world.
5.1. Scenic Beauty
Actually, one of the main attractions of Bern is its stunning scenic beauty. The city is situated on the banks of the Aare River and is surrounded by the beautiful Swiss Alps. Thus, you can take a stroll along the river and enjoy the picturesque views of the city and the mountains. The Rose Garden is another popular spot to enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the Bernese Alps.
5.2. Cultural Attractions
Bern Old Town, or the Old City of Bern, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to numerous museums, galleries, and cultural institutions. The city has a rich history and a unique cultural identity that is reflected in its architecture, cuisine, and traditions. Surely, the Old Town of Bern is a must-visit for anyone interested in history and culture. In addition, the Zytglogge Clock Tower, the Gothic-style Cathedral of Bern, and the Einstein House are some of the most popular cultural attractions in the city.
5.3. Historical Landmarks
Bern has a rich history that is evident in its many historical landmarks. Explicitly, Bern Old Town is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. You can explore the cobbled streets and beautiful arcades that date back to the 12th century. Bear Park is another popular attraction in Bern, where you can see live bears in a natural environment. Also, the Federal Palace of Switzerland, the Swiss Parliament Building, and the Bern Historical Museum are some other historical landmarks that are worth a visit.
VI. Lucerne or Luzern
- Population: 81,691 (2018)
- Area: 37.4 km2
Lucerne, also known as Luzern in German, is a picturesque city located in central Switzerland. In fact, with a population of around 82,000, it is the largest city in the region of Central Switzerland. Lucerne is situated on the shores of Lake Lucerne and is surrounded by the Swiss Alps, making it a popular tourist destination.
6.1. Scenic Beauty
Lucerne is known for its breathtaking scenery, with the Swiss Alps providing a stunning backdrop to the city. Particularly, you can stroll along the Chapel Bridge, a 14th-century wooden bridge that spans the Reuss River and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The city is also home to the Lion Monument, a sculpture of a dying lion carved into a rock face that commemorates the Swiss Guards who were killed during the French Revolution.
6.2. Cultural Attractions
Lucerne has a rich cultural heritage. Indeed, it is home to several museums and galleries. The Richard Wagner Museum is dedicated to the composer’s life and works. On the other hand, the Rosengart Collection features works by famous artists such as Picasso and Klee. The Lucerne Festival, a world-renowned classical music festival, takes place in the city every summer.
6.3. Historical Landmarks
Lucerne has a long and fascinating history. You can explore several historical landmarks in the city. The Jesuit Church, a baroque-style church built in the 17th century, is one of the city’s most impressive landmarks. The Old Town, with its medieval architecture and winding streets, is also worth a visit. Finally, the Swiss Museum of Transport, located just outside the city, is one of the most popular museums in Switzerland and is dedicated to the history of transportation.
- Population: 63,185 (2018)
- Area: 75.93 km2
Lugano is a beautiful city located in southern Switzerland. It’s famous for its stunning lakeside location, Mediterranean climate, and elegant atmosphere. The city is the largest in the Ticino region, and one of the top tourist destinations in Switzerland.
7.1. Scenic Beauty
Lugano is nestled on the shore of Lake Lugano, surrounded by picturesque mountains, and boasts a Mediterranean climate with palm trees and colorful flowers. You can take a scenic boat ride on the lake or explore Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè for stunning views of the city and surrounding landscape.
7.2. Cultural Attractions
Lugano is home to several cultural attractions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Cantonal Art Museum, and the Villa Favorita. The city also hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, such as the Lugano Festival, which features music, theater, and dance performances, and the Estival Jazz, an international jazz festival.
7.3. Historical Landmarks
Lugano has a rich history dating back to the Roman Empire. You can explore several historical landmarks in the city, such as the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, and the Castagnola Villa. Furthermore, the Old Town area of Lugano is a must-visit, with its charming narrow streets, colorful buildings, and historic architecture.
- Population: 5,755 (2018)
- Area: 242.67 km2
Zermatt is a small town located in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. It is one of the most popular ski resorts in the world, attracting visitors from all over the globe. Zermatt is situated at the base of the Matterhorn, one of the most recognizable peaks in the Alps. In particular, the town is completely car-free. You can only get around on foot or by electric taxi.
8.1. Scenic Beauty
Zermatt is known for its stunning natural scenery, with the Matterhorn being the star attraction. The mountain provides an impressive backdrop to the town. You can take cable cars and cogwheel trains to explore the surrounding area. During the summer months, you can hike the many trails that crisscross the area, taking in the wildflowers, waterfalls, and glaciers.
8.2. Cultural Attractions
Zermatt has a rich cultural heritage, with many traditional festivals and events held throughout the year. You can explore the town’s history at the Matterhorn Museum, which tells the story of the town’s development as a mountain resort. The museum also features exhibits on the geology, flora, and fauna of the surrounding area.
8.3. Historical Landmarks
Zermatt has a number of historic landmarks, including the Riffelberg Chapel, which dates back to the 17th century. The chapel is located on a hillside overlooking the town, and you can take a cable car to reach it. Besides that, the Zermatt Bergbahnen AG, which operates cable cars and trains in the area, was founded in 1898 and is one of the oldest mountain transportation companies in the world.
- Population: 5,610 (2018)
- Area: 4.4 km2
Interlaken is a picturesque town situated in the heart of the Swiss Alps. The town’s name goes after its location, which lies between two lakes – Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. The town is a popular destination for tourists due to its stunning natural beauty, which includes panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and crystal-clear lakes. Interlaken is also prominent for its adventure sports, such as paragliding, skydiving, and river rafting.
9.1. Scenic Beauty
Interlaken’s scenic beauty is unparalleled. The majestic peaks of the Bernese Alps surround the town, offering breathtaking views of glacial valleys and snow-capped mountains. You can take a cable car to the top of Harder Kulm, which is the highest viewing point in the area and provides a panoramic view of the entire region. Of course, the lakes of Thun and Brienz are also a highlight, offering crystal-clear waters surrounded by picturesque villages and mountains.
9.2. Cultural Attractions
Interlaken has a rich cultural history dating back to the Middle Ages. The town’s traditional architecture and narrow streets offer visitors a glimpse into its past. The historic St. Beatus Caves, located on the northern shore of Lake Thun, provide an opportunity to explore the area’s natural history. Interlaken is also home to a number of museums, including the Jungfrau Museum, which showcases the history and culture of the region.
9.3. Historical Landmarks
Interlaken has a number of historical landmarks. There is the 12th-century Interlaken Monastery, which is now a museum that displays the town’s cultural and religious history. You can also explore the ruins of Unspunnen Castle, which dated back to the 12th century and was once the residence of the local lords. The Castle Church, located in the heart of Interlaken, is another important historical landmark.
X. St. Moritz
- Population: 4,928 (2018)
- Area: 28.69 km2
St. Moritz is a luxurious Alpine resort town located in the Engadin valley in the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland. It is known for its world-class skiing, luxury shopping, and high-end restaurants. The town is situated at an elevation of 1,856 meters (6,089 feet) above sea level and is surrounded by stunning mountain peaks and pristine lakes.
10.1. Scenic Beauty
St. Moritz is famous for its breathtaking Alpine scenery, including the nearby peaks of Piz Nair and Corviglia. You can take a ride on the famous Glacier Express train, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. In the summer, you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and watersports on nearby Lake St. Moritz.
10.2. Cultural Attractions
Similar to other Switzerland cities, St. Moritz has a rich cultural history and is home to a number of museums and galleries too. The Segantini Museum features the works of Giovanni Segantini, a renowned 19th-century painter who lived in St. Moritz. In addition, the Engadine Museum showcases the history and culture of the Engadin valley. The Berry Museum highlights the region’s ancient craft of berry picking and basket weaving.
10.3. Historical Landmarks
St. Moritz has a long and storied history dating back to the Bronze Age. Indeed, you can explore the town’s many historic landmarks, including the Church of St. Mauritius, which dates back to the 16th century. The town also has a number of traditional Engadine houses, which are characterized by their distinctive sgraffito designs and painted facades.
Frequently Asked Questions
The info you may need to plan your trip to Switzerland.
– What are Major Cities of Switzerland?
The major cities of Switzerland are Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Lucerne, and Lugano.
– Which is the Most Beautiful City of Switzerland?
Beauty is subjective. In fact, every city in Switzerland has its own unique charm. However, many people consider Lucerne and Interlaken to be among the most beautiful cities in Switzerland due to their stunning mountain views and picturesque old towns.
– What Cities in Switzerland Speak English?
English is widely spoken in Switzerland, especially in major tourist destinations such as Zurich, Geneva, and Basel. However, most Swiss people speak Swiss German, French, or Italian as their first language.
– What are the Best Cities in Switzerland to Visit?
It depends on what you’re looking for in a city. Zurich and Geneva are well-known for their cultural attractions and international flair. Whereas, Lucerne and Interlaken offer stunning natural scenery. On the other hand, Bern is a great city for history buffs. Lausanne and Lugano are ideal for those seeking a mix of city and relaxation.
– Which is the Best Place to Live in Switzerland?
Switzerland is consistently ranked among the top countries in the world for quality of life. Some of the best places to live in Switzerland are Zurich, Geneva, Basel, and Bern, as they offer a high standard of living and good job opportunities.
– Which city is Expensive in Switzerland?
Switzerland is generally an expensive country. Nevertheless, some cities are more costly than others. Indeed, Zurich and Geneva are the most expensive cities in Switzerland, followed by Basel and Lausanne.
– Can I Travel to Switzerland if I only Speak English?
Yes, you can travel to Switzerland if you only speak English. English is widely spoken in Switzerland, especially in tourist areas. However, it’s always a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in French, German, or Italian to help you get around.
– Which City is Cheapest in Switzerland?
Switzerland is an expensive country, so there are no really “cheap” cities. However, some of the more affordable cities in Switzerland include Fribourg, Solothurn, and Biel/Bienne. These cities are less touristy than the major cities and offer a more local experience.
Have a Great Trip to Switzerland!
Switzerland boasts some of the most beautiful and culturally rich cities in the world. From Zurich to St. Moritz, each city has its own unique charm and appeal. Visiting Switzerland, you can expect breathtaking scenery, world-class cultural attractions, and historical landmarks that date back centuries. Certainly, Switzerland cities are a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the best of Europe.
To make the most of your visit, be sure to plan ahead, take advantage of public transportation, and respect the local customs and culture. By doing so, you’ll have a memorable and enjoyable experience in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
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Reference: The Switzerland cities’ info about population and areas is from Wikipedia.