We have traveled to Switzerland four times and have visited all of the best cities in Switzerland. Some on multiple occasions.
Switzerland is known for its breathtaking landscapes in the Swiss Alps, its world-class ski resorts, and impeccable spas, but it is also home to some of the most beautiful cities in the world. In this article, we will explore the 16 best cities in Switzerland that are a must-visit for any traveler.
15 Most Beautiful Cities in Switzerland To Visit
From its medieval cities of Lucerne and Gruyeres to the boutique shops of Zürich, Switzerland’s cities are something to remember. We made our first visit to Switzerland in 1999 when we went snowboarding in the small town of Gstaad. We have been back to Switzerland another three times and have spent a total of three months in the country, so we know a thing or two about Swiss cities. These are our favorite cities in Switzerland and we are going to share the top attractions and reasons to visit. If you are planning your next trip to Switzerland keep reading!
1. Zürich, the Cultural Hub
Zürich is the largest city in the country and is the most beautiful city in Switzerland. Located on Lake Zurich and the Limmat River, Zurich is beautiful as the steeples from its old town churches line the waterfront.
As the financial capital of Switzerland, Zürich has its share of upscale attractions including one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world but it is its old town center that we fell in love with. Key attractions include the iconic cathedrals,, Lindt Home Chocolate, and the hip Zürich West neighborhood.
Take a stroll along the cobbled streets of its charming old town and marvel at the stunning sunset over the spires of the city’s cathedrals. We suggest at least three days in Zurich to enjoy its many interesting museums most notably the Swiss National Museum, get lost in its narrow cobblestone streets of Altstadt and explore its many Swiss heritage sites.
The affluent city is also a university town making for great places to eath Take a boat ride on Lake Zurich, hike into the mountains, and enjoy its fine cuisine.
2. Basel, the Cultural Haven
Basel is a cultural haven with an array of museums, art galleries, and the beautiful Rhine River. Basel is a wonderful city located directly on the Rhine River.
Sharing a border with France and Germany, it is an ideal location to make a base and explore the countryside. Known as the cultural capital of Switzerland, Basel boasts some of the country’s most unique and beautiful architecture.
Its modern structures blend seamlessly with the Altstadt (Old Town) spanning across the Rhine as Basel Minster, the largest cathedral in Basel, stands like a sentry looking over from Grossbasel (Left Side of the River Bank) toward Klein Basel (Right Side of the River Bank)
3. Lugano, the Mediterranean Escape
Located in the Italian border in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, Lugano offers a stunning lakeside setting and a Mediterranean flair.
The town of Lugano is the star attraction of Ticino Canton with mountains framing its long beach and waterfront path along pristine glacial Lake Lugano. Known as the “Little Rio of Switzerland”, Lugano is the perfect place to slow down and take in the sunshine. (It really did remind us of Rio de Janeiro)
Take a boat tour on Lake Lugano or rent one of its paddle boats to enjoy the breathtaking views of the waterfront. It rivals nearby Lake Como in Italy for beauty and luxury and it makes complete sense since it shares its border with Italy. Read more: Things to do in Lugano and the Ticino Region of Switzerland
4. Locarno, the Festival City
Locarno, with its historic old town, vibrant film festival, and stunning Lake Maggiore views, is a cultural hotspot. Located on Lake Maggiore, Locarno is another lovely waterfront town with painted buildings lining the harbour. Get lost in its cobblestone streets or sip an espresso in Switzerland’s largest Piazza – Piazza Grande.
Locarno is famous for hosting festivals in its square and while we were visiting, they were setting up for the Locarno Film Festival, one of the most highly anticipated film events in Europe. While in Locarno, take the funicular up to the 14th-century church, Santa Maria della Misericordia.
5. Belinzona, Ticino’s Capital
The region of Ticino has many beautiful towns to explore. Belinzona is the capital of Ticino but it is one of the smaller towns on this list. This beautiful city it is one of the most popular stops in the country thanks to its three castles – The Bellinzona Castles.
Castle Grande is located near the main square and stands proud over the town. If you have a bit of time, you can hike to all the castles. They are connected by trails that weave through vineyards and rolling hills. The return trip by walking is only a couple of hours.
fI you are up for more hiking, a great pit stop is to make your way out to Piotta to take the cable car up to Piora. The Ritom Funicular is a steep incline railway that was built in 1921.
6. St Moritz, The Birthplace of Winter Tourism
St. Moritz is the original winter tourist destination and with good reason, there are plenty of winter sports to enjoy. This beautiful Switzerland destination has been welcoming tourists to its slopes since the 1800s.
The quintessential Swiss Town is home to two Winter Olympics, St. Moritz is an all-season mountain destination with spectacular hikes, world-class hotels and dining, and more than 250 km of ski trails and 580 km of hiking trails, it is an outdoor lover’s dream.
Winter sports lovers flock to St. Moritz as it truly is a winter wonderland, but it is an amazing place in Switzerland to visit in the summer too. The city hosts many world cup events and the annual White Turf Winter Horse race. Hiking here in the summer offers some of the most stunning views in the country.
Read our full article on What to do in St. Moritz.
7. Interlaken, the Adventure Capital
Interlaken is a haven for adventure seekers, with a plethora of outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and paragliding. One of the larger cities in the Jungfrau region, Interlaken is one of the top places to visit in Switzerland making for a great base to explore the Jungfrau Region of the Bernese Oberland. This beautiful lake destination has a gorgeous lookout.
Take the cogwheel train up to the spectacular Harder Kulm, 1322 meters above sea level. for stunning views. This view lets you see, Lake Brienz and Lake Thun and the striking peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. While you are at the top, you can enjoy a cheese fondue.
8. Zermatt, the Mountainous Retreat
Zermatt is a gateway to the spectacular Matterhorn mountain, offering a picturesque setting for exploration. The Matterhorn is one of Switzerland’s most recognizable landmarks and one of the most photographed mountains on earth.
In fact, the town of Zermatt was created to promote this spectacular landmark making it the first tourist destination in the country. Over the years, it has become one of the top tourist attractions in Switzerland.
Zermatt may be a small town, but it is the most popular and beautiful place in Switzerland. This car-free town is beautifully located in a valley at the base of the Matterhorn and there are countless attractions from riding the world’s highest cable car to enjoying its hiking trails, mountain biking, and taking in its natural beauty.
Read more: 23 Incredible Things to Do in Zermatt, Switzerland
9. Montreux, the Musical City
Montreux is famous for the Montreux music festival and is one of our favorite places to visit in Switzerland. It didnt’ hurt that we stayed in the legendary Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic was like staying in a palace. Overlooking Lake Geneva, we really got a feel of what it was like for the many rock stars and celebrities that chose this town for their own inspiration..
We loved walking along the waterfront of this beautiful city set among the backdrop of the rolling hills of the Alps and Lake Geneva. One of the top historical places to visit in Switzerland is the picturesque Chateau de Chillon. Dating back to the 12th century, the historic castle stands like a fairytale on the shores of Lake Geneva.
The top things to see at Chateau de Chillon are the Gothic underground rooms, its paintings dating back to the 17th century, and its chapel. But it is truly its setting that took our breath away. Read more: Montreux and its Musical Legacy
10. Geneva, the Cosmopolitan City
No trip to Switzerland would be complete without visiting Geneva. Switzerland’s second largest city is located on Lake Geneva. Geneva is also home to the headquarters of the United Nations. There are plenty of cultural attractions in Geneva including the Grand Theatre and the Opera House. Read more: Best Things to do in Geneva
Geneva stands out with its Red Cross headquarters, the insightful International Museum of the Reformation, and the magnificent Jet d’Eau fountain.
Geneva may be one of the larger cities in the country, but it is often touted as one of the safest cities in the world with a very low crime rate.
11. Lucerne, the Picturesque City
Lucerne captivates with its iconic Chapel Bridge, poignant Lion Monument, and breathtaking mountain vistas. ike many cities in Switzerland, Lucerne has a gorgeous old town on a picturesque body of water. Lake Lucerne is the focal point of visiting the city with the gorgeous Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) spanning the River Reuss.
Lucerne’s most popular landmark dates back to the 14th century is the oldest covered bridge in Europe. Filled with medieval buildings lining Lake Lucerne, this beautiful city is one of the most popular places to visit in Switzerland.
With the Swiss Alps nearby, we ventured off the spa taking the Rigi Bahn cogwheel train for a ride on Europe’s first railway. It’s a wonderful place to spend a few days.
12. Bern, the Historic Capital City
Bern, the capital city, is steeped in history and culture, boasting the Old Town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the famous Zytglogge clock tower. Don’t miss stopping to see the landmark medieval clocktower tower in Bern, The Zytglogge. It is one of the top attractions in the city.
We only spent a day in this beautiful Swiss capital but I wish we spent more. Bern’s medieval old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting the world’s longest-covered shopping promenades with 6 km (3.7 miles) of arcades. It is the gateway to the Alps, houses the highest cathedral in Switzerland, and is the seat of parliament. The Old Town snakes alongside the Aare River creating a picture-perfect setting.
13. Lausanne, the Vibrant City
Lausanne situated on the shores of Lake Geneva on the Swiss Plateau, is one of the best cities in Switzerland to visit due to its beautiful scenery, and vibrant cultural scene. Lausanne’s Gothic cathedral is a stand out but there are many other interesting museums and popular attractions you must visit.
The city is home to the impressive Lausanne Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Switzerland, and the Olympic Museum, which celebrates the history of the Olympic Games.
This university town is renowned for its university, which is one of the best in the world and contributes to the city’s lively and youthful atmosphere. Additionally, the city’s location on the shores of the lake provides ample opportunities for water sports and lakeside walks, and the nearby vineyards of Lavaux offer some of the finest wines in Switzerland.
Don’t miss the Olympic Museum. This town is so Olympic-centric, that The International Olympic Committee is headquartered in Lausanne. With its diverse range of attractions and beautiful setting, Lausanne is a must-visit destination for any traveler to Switzerland.
14. Chur, the Ancient City
As the oldest city in Switzerland, Chur offers visitors a unique blend of ancient charm and modern allure, making it a captivating destination. Situated in the picturesque Graubünden canton, Chur is surrounded by majestic alpine landscapes. making it an excellent base for outdoor enthusiasts keen on hiking, skiing, or simply absorbing the scenic beauty.
Between its surrounding mountains and old city, a trip here provides a rich historical and scenic experience.
The city itself boasts a well-preserved Old Town, with its winding narrow cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and the iconic Chur Cathedral, all encapsulated by ancient protective walls. A stroll in this area feels like a journey back in time, as many structures date back over a thousand years.
Furthermore, Chur’s vibrant cultural scene, characterized by art galleries, museums, and frequent festivals, beautifully complements its historical allure. Accessible by the renowned Bernina Express train, which offers breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps, Chur is an unmissable gem in the heart of Switzerland.
15. St. Gallen, the Abbey City
St. Gallen, nestled between Lake Constance and the Appenzell Alps near the German border, is one of Switzerland’s hidden gems and a must-visit destination. At the heart of the city is the Abbey of St. Gall, a UNESCO World Heritage site that boasts an exquisite baroque cathedral and a library containing a vast collection of medieval manuscripts.
The old town is a car-free village that is lined with beautifully preserved half-timbered houses, and the colorful oriel windows add to the city’s picturesque atmosphere. St. Gallen is also a paradise for art lovers, with numerous museums and galleries showcasing both local and international artists.
Moreover, the city’s location makes it an ideal base for exploring the surrounding region, with easy access to the beautiful Appenzell countryside and the shores of Lake Constance. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant cultural scene, St. Gallen is truly one of the best cities to visit in Switzerland.
FAQs About The Best Cities in Switzerland
What is the most beautiful city in Switzerland?
The most beautiful city in Switzerland is Zürich and is listed on our list as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Check it out here. Zurich offers a harmonious blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication. Nestled on the banks of the pristine Lake Zurich and set against the backdrop of the snow-capped Swiss Alps, the city offers stunning panoramic views.
Its iconic cathedrals Grossmünster and Fraumünster stand proud on the Limmat River and the picturesque old town, with its winding cobblestone streets and historic buildings, adds to the city’s charm.
What are five major cities in Switzerland?
Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, and Lausanne are the five major cities in Switzerland.
What is the number one city in Switzerland?
The number one city in Switzerland is Zurich. Not only is it the most beautiful city in Switzerland, but it is also the best because it has a diverse range of attractions, from the famous Bahnhofstrasse, one of the world’s most exclusive shopping streets, to the tranquil shores of Lake Zurich, the city offers a unique blend of natural and urban beauty that makes it a must-visit destination in Switzerland.
Is Zürich or Geneva better to visit?
Zurich and Geneva are both beautiful cities with much to offer, but there are several reasons why some people might prefer Zurich as a travel destination.
Larger City with More Options: Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and has a wider range of cultural and recreational activities to choose from. There are numerous museums, galleries, theaters, and shopping districts to explore.
Rich History and Architecture: Zurich has a well-preserved medieval old town, with charming cobblestone streets and historic buildings. The Grossmünster and Fraumünster churches, with their impressive architecture and stained glass windows, are must-see attractions.
Natural Beauty: Zurich is situated on the shores of the picturesque Lake Zurich and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, providing plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and swimming.
Vibrant Nightlife: Zurich has a lively nightlife scene, with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from.
Accessibility: Zurich is a major transportation hub, with a large international airport and well-developed public transportation system, making it easy to get around the city and explore the surrounding region.
Read our posts the best things to do in Zurich and the best things to do in Geneva to compare for yourself.
While Geneva also has its own unique charms, such as the iconic Jet d’Eau and its status as an international city with numerous international organizations, some people may find Zurich to be a more vibrant and diverse destination with more options for things to see and do.
Why We Love All These Switzerland Cities
And these are the best towns and cities in Switzerland. Switzerland is a year round destination drawing visitors to enjoy its crystal clear waters and mountain views in the warmer months to its snow sports and luxury accommodations and spas in the winter months. Its one of the best countries in Europe offering everything from romantic escapes to epic adventures. Its urban centers are never far from the great outdoors and often surrounded by mountains and amazing views. So what are you waiting for, make one of these towns a base for your next Switzerland trip.