Collected by Adam H. Graham, AFAR Contributor
With four different languages and cultures, and historic sites that date back to 500 B.C.E., Switzerland is filled with monuments, museums, and natural wonders. Here's our guide to some of the many highlights of this country at the heart of Europe.
Axenstrasse, 6452 Sisikon, Switzerland
Forty miles from Zurich in the heart of central Switzerland, the Axenstrasse is a historic motorway that’s so achingly scenic it might even cure your vertigo. It winds for seven miles around the base of the Uri Alps hugging the verdant ridge...
La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
What time is it? It’s time to geek out over clocks, antique timepieces, chronographs, automata, and more than 4,500 horology-related relics that will delight both experts and novices alike. Watches are to La Chaux—located in...
This museum of outsider art houses a unique and often enlightening assembly of pieces crafted by outcasts, mental-ward patients, prisoners, and other artists lacking any formal training. It owes its origins to the French-born artist Jean Dubuffet,...
Verzasca River, Switzerland
Pack your bikini and a bottle of cold Ticinese rosé and head to the campanile-spiked hills above Locarno. In Switzerland’s sunny and steep-sloped Italian-speaking Canton Ticino, locals and visitors alike love a bracing dip in the cool...
Dorfstrasse 63, 6377 Seelisberg, Switzerland
Trade your yodeling for yoga at this free-spirited meditation center in the former Grand Hotel Sonnenberg, a converted Beaux-Arts property nesting atop an enviable ridge in Seelisberg that overlooks the peaceful and turquoise Lake Uri below. The...
4500 Solothurn, Switzerland
This scenic gorge and hermitage is named after the 3rd-century St. Verena, a Coptic Christian who was born in Egypt but is believed to have joined the Theban Legion’s mission to the Roman province of Rhaetia (partly located in modern-day ...
7537 Müstair, Switzerland
Visitors need to traverse two Alpine passes to reach this UNESCO-inscribed 8th-century Carolingian chapel, noted for its vaulted roof, faded pastel frescoes, and Romanesque apses illuminated by an achingly delicate and golden afternoon sun....
7270 Davos, Switzerland
One of only three trains in the world to have been recognized with UNESCO’s World Heritage status (the others are in Austria and India), this scenic passenger route was built in 1889 and stretches for 150 miles from Thusis, Switzerland, to...
Chäserrugg, 9657 Alt St Johann, Switzerland
Eastern Switzerland's largest winter-sports/summer-Alpine-hiking area, Toggenburg is only an hour from Zurich, and remains hidden between the mighty Säntis massif and the seven snow-frosted Churfirsten mountains, and within yodeling distance...
Baselstrasse 101, 4125 Basel, Switzerland
Expect to see Alexander Calder mobiles mixed into a Peter Fischli and David Weiss display, or pieces by Paul Klee and Claude Monet side by side with contemporary artworks from Wolfgang Tillmans. There’s no one set theme at the Fondation...
Ebenalp, 9057 Schwende District, Switzerland
This Alpine area in Appenzellerland sits at an altitude of more than 5,000 feet and is home to the much-photographed Aescher-Gasthaus, Switzerland’s version of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The 19th-century guesthouse was constructed...
The sharp angular lines and contemporary style of this bird center and natural-history museum built in 2015 by Mlzd (a Biel-based architecture cooperative) is worth seeing solely for its compact polygon design, a sustainable structure made of...
Grimsel Pass, 3999 Obergoms, Switzerland
There are several Alpine passes in Switzerland that offer a thrill, but none as serpentine and lunar as the Grimsel. The steep, corkscrew road rises to an elevation of 7,100 feet, connecting Canton Bern to Canton Valais and leading travelers...
Golzernsee, 6475 Silenen, Switzerland
From the Bristen station in Maderanertal, the sweet red Golzernseilbahn (cable car) ascends over verdant pasture and vertiginous scrubby trenches before dropping you at the trailhead. Then it’s an uncomplicated, short, and flat 30-minute...
Maloja District, Switzerland
The Engadine Valley may be famous for its crystalline winter light called diamond dust, but cloud porn reaches its animistic apex here atop the Maloja Pass, a road that soars to an elevation of 6,000 feet and connects the valley to Chiavenna, ...
Jöriseen, 7250 Klosters-Serneus, Switzerland
First, make your way by car or PostBus to the top of the Flüela Pass, situated in a Romansh-speaking region of Canton Graubünden at an altitude of 7,818 feet and amid rugged, stream-laced highland moors. From the road's summit, begin the...
Route du Ctre Thermal 16, 1913 Saillon, Switzerland
Canton Valais is not only the capital of après-ski; conquered by the Romans in 25 B.C.E., it's also home to Switzerland’s largest concentration of ancient thermal baths, including popular spots like Brigerbad and Leukerbad. A...
3864 Guttannen, Switzerland
This cherry-red, roller-coaster-like funicular train located in Canton Bern is a destination unto itself. It's not only the steepest funicular in Europe, with a top gradient of 106 percent (that is, at an angle of 47 degrees), but it's also one of...
Nationalquai, 6006 Luzern, Switzerland
Lucerne is no stranger to mass tourism: The otherwise lovely medieval city swells each summer with list-checking visitors en route to central Switzerland's famed Pilatus and Titlis mountains. Surprisingly, few of them make the 15-minute trek from...
Stanserhorn, 6372 Ennetmoos, Switzerland
Feel the wind in your hair in this new double-decker cable car that is an engineering first: It has an open-air upper deck with room for 30 passengers. The cable car made its first run in 2010 and travels along 7,600 feet of track to reach a...
Piz Corvatsch, 7504 Samedan, Switzerland
There’s no shortage of piste in Switzerland, but the best place to swoosh down the slopes is on the sunny slopes of Corvatsch and Corviglia, part of St. Moritz’s ski area and located in the heart of the Romansh-speaking region. The...
San Bastiaun 3, 7503 Samaden, Switzerland
Just a 10-minute walk to the village from the Samedan train station will bring you to one of the best soaks in Switzerland: the Mineralbad & Spa Samedan, a day spa designed in 2010 by husband-and-wife architects Miller & Maranta, who built...
7530 Zernez, Switzerland
The 66-square-mile Swiss National Park is a completely unmanaged natural area that was founded in 1914, the first national park in the Alps and a rare undeveloped location in the Swiss German–speaking part of Switzerland—a corner of...
Sittlisalp, 6465 Unterschächen, Switzerland
Earn your curds with the scenic alpine hike to Käserei Sittlisalp, a local cheese cooperative in a remote corner of Canton Uri. The easy 1.5-mile hike traverses a 60-minute loop that’s mostly flat with a steep descent. The gravel trail...
Lavaux-Oron District, Switzerland
Switzerland only exports 1 to 2 percent of its wine production, so few know of its stony whites, which pair ideally with raw hard and melted Swiss cheeses. While most cantons make wine, there are few places better to sip Swiss wines than the...
Uttenwilerstrasse 2, 9620 Lichtensteig, Switzerland
You want cheese makers? Switzerland’s got them in spades. But one specialty cheese maker worth seeking out is Willi Schmid, based in the tiny Alpine village of Lichtensteig in Canton St. Gall. Willi’s famous for his artisan varieties...
Brauereipl. 1, 9050 Appenzell, Switzerland
Known for its cheese, yodeling culture, and annual voting by hand in the city’s Gemeinde (local communities)—as well as, darkly, its suicide rate—Appenzell is one of Switzerland’s most beloved regions. It is best described...
1946 Bourg-Saint-Pierre, Switzerland
Up until 2004, Switzerland’s iconic furry friends—St. Bernard dogs—were bred at this monastery and hospice. While the canines have been relocated, the Great St. Bernard Hospice, which sits on a barren, treeless plane at 8,100...
St. Johanns-Vorstadt 29, 4056 Basel, Switzerland
"Zur Mägd" is a Baseldütsch phrase for a farmer’s helper, and this tavern in Basel’s old town churns out exceptional food that is hearty and down-home enough to feed farmhands, but still elegant enough to satisfy CEOs of...
Höschgasse 8, 8008 Zürich, Switzerland
The Swiss-born modernist giant was many things: architect, painter, sculptor, graphic artist, furniture designer, and writer. This museum, also known as the Centre Le Corbusier, is located in the Zürichhorn park, and offers a chance to view...
Via del Segnale 10, 6612 Ascona, Switzerland
Ascona, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, has swaying palm trees and a mild climate, and is Switzerland's lowest-lying town (643 feet above sea level). The lakeside promenade (Lungolago) offers a Mediterranean feel with streetside cafés, warm...
Bim Zytglogge 3, 3011 Bern, Switzerland
Switzerland has 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the Old Town of Bern was among the first to receive that recognition. You'll understand why when you stroll along the postcard-perfect Kramgasse, the main axis of the area. At the end of it...
Grossmünsterplatz, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
According to legend, Zurich’s most iconic landmark was commissioned by Charlemagne. While Fraumünster, across the Limmat, draws onlookers with its stained-glass windows by Chagall, Grossmünster recently acquired destination-worthy...
Klosterhof 6B, 9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland
A monastery was first established at this site, one of 12 places in Switzerland on the UNESCO World Heritage list, in the 8th century—though the magnificent buildings that make up this outstanding example of baroque and rococo architecture...
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