I went from schooling in Switzerland to living in Switzerland full time in the space of six years. I went from thinking life would be better if I lived elsewhere to appreciating the fact that I live in a country where I can live out my life the way I want to, create my lifestyle and have access to travelling across borders with ease. I’ve learnt to be grateful that I was able to school here, able to work here and able to live here because I know that it isn’t easy to do all that. During my time here, I have had the opportunity to visit multiple Swiss cities several times. If you had asked me three years ago if I enjoyed living here, my answer would be completely different to what it is now. My quality of life is so much different to what I expected that I just have this outpour of grace, because I’m now shifting to a different chapter in my life and all I have is heart full of gratitude. Life is what you make it and only you have the ability to create it into something that you want. Here are five cities in Switzerland that I believe that everyone should visit. I haven’t chosen the most popular cities but I believe that these cities and their surrounding regions have something for everyone.
Before I get into this post, let me briefly explain Switzerland. Switzerland is a small country land-locked country in the heart of Europe and it is surrounded by Germany in the north, France in the west, Italy in the south and Austria and Liechtenstein in the east. There are four national languages, French, German, Italian and Romansh – I’m not particularly sure where Romansh originates. Although German is the most spoken language in the country, the Swiss national identity is rooted in its common historical background and shared values. As I am describing the cities in this post and any future travel posts for Switzerland, you will see me mentioning the language with the city especially as some cities are bilingual.
Zurich (German-speaking part)
Zurich is known as the banking and financial capital of Switzerland, it’s also known as the most expensive city in the world. It is famous for its luxurious lifestyles, high-end shopping and luxury chocolates. I’ve been to Zurich three times, once when I was much younger and a second time in 2019 for a concert and a third time in 2020. When I think of Zurich, I would say it’s similar to cities in Europe such as Paris, Munich and Prague mainly because of the shopping districts. Outside of being the financial capital, it has the most African restaurants in any city in the country that I know meaning that if you are looking for a culinary experience whether it is African dishes or other dishes, you’ll find it in Zurich. One restaurant that I have been waiting to go to is: Queen Idia.
Things To Do in Zurich:
- If you are into the museums and art galleries, there are over 100 art galleries and 50 museums.
- Explore the city and by walking through the Old Town, taking a bike ride, sunset cruise or a swim in Lake Zurich, Limmat River at Badi and/or the Upper Letten River Pool.
- Visit Old Town and Lindenhof public park to get the best views of the city and soak up the history and culture.
If you ever visit Switzerland, Zurich is a place to stop during your trip. You can buy a Zurich city pass to get a free or discounted entry into 40 of the museums, public transportation in the city including a boat trip, 50% discount on the Old Town walking tour and a lot more.
Lugano (Italian-speaking part)
Lugano is the largest holiday region in Ticino and it is Switzerland’s third most important financial and banking center. It is also one of the most popular towns in the Italian-speaking part of the country, filled with villas, sacred buildings, parks, flowers and a Mediterranean flair. Think about Italian lifestyles, Italian cuisine, architecture, Mediterranean atmosphere, palm trees and olive trees surrounded by mountains…that is what the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland has to offer. The best of both worlds with a climate similar to Italy and the bluest lake water that you will ever see. On the far northern side is Lake Maggiore which is shared between Italy and Switzerland and another Swiss town called Locarno. You can travel into Italy via boat through Locarno and Ascona
Things to Do In Lugano:
- Visit Lake Lugano and the traditional grottos. Take a boat to Gandria and take a stroll back to Lugano via Sentiero dell’Olivio.
- Visit Lugano’s lakeside parks and promenades
- Climb Mount San Salvatore, one of the most panoramic views of the Alps.
- See Valle Verzasca, Europe’s highest dam and the opening scene for a James Bond movie, GoldenEye.
- Visit a UNESCO Heritage Site: Bellizona’s three castles.
- Visit Lugano’s Old Town.
If you choose to visit Lugano, you will not regret it. You can buy a Ticino ticket pass to travel across and around the whole canton and get a discount on 100 tourist attractions.
Bern (German-speaking part)
Bern is the capital city of Switzerland. A lot of people are shocked and think that Geneva is but no, it is the city of Bern. I visit Bern every summer because it is one of the most beautiful cities, the atmosphere is contagious and it is rich in summer activities. It is built on a sandstone ridge and what makes Bern unique is that the Old Town is weaved into the modern city, unlike the other cities. It has a gorge with a beautiful river where you’ll see the locals jump in and float home in summer. In my opinion, it is one of the most overlooked cities in Switzerland.
Things To Do In Bern:
- Visit Bern’s Old Town, the Zytglogge and find all 11 Renaissance fountains.
- Visit the Bear Park and the Rose Garden
- Visit Bern’s Zoo and Gurten hill for a panoramic view of the city
- Go rafting in River Aare and see the Presidential houses
- Watch a Bern hockey game. The Bern hockey team is one of the best team outside of the NHL.
Thun (German-speaking part)
Thun is a in the Bern region of Switzerland and the gateway to the Bernese Oberland. The River Aare flows from Lake Thun after coming from Bern and shapes the eleventh largest city in Switzerland. I have never been to Thun but a friend recommended that I should visit this city as it is a medieval city that opens up to the Bernese Alps. I’ve included it in this post as I have done more research on it. It’s overlooked by many tourists, but those who live in Bern, love to take a weekend trip to Thun. That peaked my interest and hopefully I can make a trip up there this year.
Things To Do In Thun:
- Visit Thun’s Old Town, the city’s most famous landmark, Thun Castle.
- Visit the Stardkirche (city church) and the shopping island of Bälliz.
- If you go in the summer, go to Lake Thun Festival.
- Go sailing, kayaking, and waterskiing in Lake Thun.
- Visit the Thun Art museum and the Thun Panorama in Schadau Park.
- Visit the Panorama Trail, which are six suspension bridges that cross deep in the ravines and foaming streams.
Montreux (French-speaking part)
Against the backdrop of the stunning Alps, a sacred land shaped by generations of wine-growing families, custodians of its timeless charm lies the Lavaux vineyard terraces and nestled on the shores of Lac Leman is the Montreux Riviera. This region of paradise filled with beauty, tranquility and inspiration is one of my favourite cities, after Vevey, to visit in the French-speaking region. It is a region of contrasts, rich in cultural events such as the Montreux Jazz Festival, rich in excursions such as the lantern trail of Les Pléliades, the panoramic train rides via the GoldenPass to Interlaken, rich in activities for those who are less sporty such as museum visits and a cruise. The Montreux region is a sight that one must see during their visit to Switzerland. I haven’t been in a long time but it’s definitely on my travel list for the year.
Things To Do In Montreux:
- Visit Chaplin’s World and Château de Chillon.
- Go to The Montreux Jazz Festival
- Visit the exhibition of Queen: The Studio Experience
- Wander through the Gorges du Chauderon
- Visit the Lantern Trail of Les Pléiades during the winter
- Go to the Montreux Christmas Market
- Walk through the Lavaux Vineyards
These are the five cities that I think you should prioritise when you come to Switzerland, especially if it is a short trip. As someone that lives here, I should visit these cities more often but I feel too much of a good thing can become stagnant or boring, am I the only person that feels this? I hope that you enjoyed this post. Let me know in the comments what city you would like to visit and any other travel posts that you would like to see on my blog.