Switzerland, with its all its natural splendor and historical landmarks, is one place you definitely need to put on your travel wishlist this summer. The Grand Tour of Switzerland, which packs 11 UNESCO Heritage Sites, 22 lakes and five alpine passes into just eight nights, is a great way to unwind without having to spend too much time away from home. Here are the top 10 Swiss landmarks you should be falling in love with this summer on the Grand Tour of Switzerland.
Witness the old town of Bern
With its limestone walls and impeccably preserved medieval architecture, the capital city of Switzerland is a perfect place for the history buff. There’s plenty to do in this UNESCO World Heritage Site besides marvel at the Alp ranges that frame it. The city of Bern was founded in 1191, and the medieval arcades and cathedrals constructed centuries ago still stand today. There’s plenty to do for the foodie, too—sit down at the oldest surviving restaurant in Bern, Zunfthaus zu Metzgern, and enjoy a gastronomic throwback to way back when.
Hear the roar of the Rhine Falls
Europe’s largest waterfall does not disappoint. The mighty Rhine River thunders off a cliff into the depths of the Rhine Falls Basin at a rate of 23 meters per second over a breadth of over 150 meters. Tourists get to see the river up close and take a boat to stand atop a rock in the middle of the falls that have endured the elements for centuries. If you’re the daring type, you can even rent out a canoe, and row out into the middle of the basin as the water crashes around you.
Hike up the Rhine Gorge
You’ll want to lace up your walking shoes for this one. This natural grotto is home to all kinds of wildlife, from rare songbirds to alluvial fauna and even wild orchids. This hiker’s paradise is chock-full of hiking trails and resting spots for the weary traveler and is easy to explore even without the help of a guide—just follow the signposts. There are even train stations located in the gorge if you need to make a speedy exit. If you’re looking for a spot for your next Instagram post, Swiss wildlife has you covered.
Immerse yourself in history at the Thun Castle
Travel back in time with a visit to the opulent Thun Castle, built in the 12th century. Constructed by the Dukes of Zähringen as a purely administrative site, its new owners renovated and preserved it in the 15th century. With impressive lake views, concerts in the Knight’s Hall and even a self-contained museum detailing the history of the region over five floors, this historical powerhouse is the perfect place for the traveler who wants to experience it all.
Artisan chocolate making at the Maison Cailler
Is any visit to Switzerland really complete without eating some Swiss chocolate? We didn’t think so either. This Willy Wonka-esque factory allows viewers to observe as chocolate is being made and even offers chocolate-making classes under the guidance of an expert chocolatier. Pair this experience with a tour of the in-house museum that retraces the history of the Cailler chocolate house, and you’ll leave with a new appreciation of the sweet stuff. And if you’re lazy (or hungry), you can go straight to the Cailler gift shop to buy the entire range of Cailler chocolate.
Revel in the waters of the Verzasca valley
In the Verzasca valley, jade green water flows over rocks worn smooth by the passage of water—and time. If you can’t resist jumping in, go ahead and take a swim. This magical locale is the perfect place to enjoy the picturesque view of the double arches of the Ponte del Santi in Lavertezzo. Bond fans might recognize the Verzasca valley as the spot where 007 once jumped off a dam 220m above the water secured by nothing but a rubber rope. Fortunately, adrenalin junkies and Bond copycats can recreate the “007 Bungee Jump”, which lasts precisely 71.5 seconds.
Slow down in Gstaad
The slogan of this charming little resort town? “Come up, slow down.” This car-free getaway is about as far as you can get from city life. With blooming tulip fields, a mile-long shopping strip and best of all, over 200km of ski-ready pistes, this countryside getaway has everything you need to decompress. For sports fans, there’s mountain climbing, parasailing, and golf. For spa lovers, there’s plenty of ways to pamper yourself with publicly accessible welfare infrastructure. And for scenery lovers? Just look outside—there are mountain ranges, rolling green hills and Alpine splendor for as far as the eye can see.
Stare up at the Matterhorn
The colossal Matterhorn, which stands a staggering 4,478 m above sea level, is one of the most photographed mountains in the world. Ascending it was not easy—the first attempt to do so in 1865 claimed the lives of four out of the seven alpinists on the mountain. The Matterhorn is a peak steeped in history, and tourists can experience it for themselves at the Matterhorn base camp and mountain inn, located 3,260 m above sea level. Want to go higher? Take the aerial cable car in Zermatt and soak up the views from the highest cable car station in the Alps.
Take a selfie with the Jet d’ Eau
This man-made geyser, originally constructed as an industrial pressure release valve, brings in thousands of tourists from around the world. The Jet d’ Eau, which literally translates to Water Jet, shoots out 500 liters of water at a speed of almost 200 km/h. The airborne water weighs almost five tons. Now that’d make a great Boomerang, wouldn’t it?
Emmental in Affoltern
We all know Swiss cheese—the classic, hole-filled slices that end up in our sandwiches—but do we really know how it’s made? The Emmental Show Dairy gives you the opportunity to find out. Eat fresh Swiss cheese on the garden terraces of this quaint village location, or visit the gift shops for something to take home. If you’d like to try your own hand at it, this little cheese village offers cheese-making classes under the guidance of a professional cheesemaker. Trying to work off all that cheese? Get moving with a traditionally Swiss cheese-rolling obstacle course.