Explore the Beautiful and Historic Cities of Switzerland
While it’s only about one-tenth the size of California in square miles, Switzerland attracts millions of visitors every year. The country’s small geographical reach doesn’t inhibit its natural beauty and ancient history from providing a wonderful travel experience. Of all the alluring places to visit in Switzerland, there are four major cities you won’t want to miss: Zürich, Lucerne, Geneva, and Zermatt.
While Zürich is known for its thriving financial sector, its rich arts, culture, and historical offerings are the biggest draw for Switzerland vacation packages. The Altstadt district — or Old Town — serves as the city’s center and is home to the famed Fraumünster church, which dates back to 853 AD. The area also features the Kunsthaus art museum, the castle-like Swiss National Museum, the Grossmünster cathedral, and the world-renowned Tonhalle music venue where regular concerts are still performed today.
Running through Altstadt on the west side of the Limmat River is Bahnhofstrasse. The main street is well known for its vast assortment of high-end shops and boutiques, including clothing stores like Chanel and Dior, as well as specialty retailers like luxury Swiss watch creator Blancpain. The city square, Paradeplatz, rests near the southern tip of the street and features the beloved bakery Confiserie Sprüngli. Conveniently, the square is within walking distance to Lake Zürich and provides easy access to the city’s tram system.
Located in the central part of the country, Lucerne is one of the most popular destinations for Switzerland travel because of its many examples of medieval architecture. The Museggmauer — or Musegg Wall — lines the northern edge of Lucerne’s Old Town district, and four of the historic city wall’s nine towers are available for tours. While visiting Old Town, head to the Reuss River to view Chapel Bridge. Built in 1333, it’s the oldest truss bridge in Europe — if not the entire world.
For an outdoor Switzerland tour, there are ample water-based activities available at Lake Lucerne, including kayaking, rowing, and steamboat sight-seeing tours. Overlooking the lake is Mount Pilatus, which can be reached by the Pilatus Railway. If you’re planning a summer Switzerland vacation, complete the Golden Round Trip by boating across Lake Lucerne to the banks of Alpnachstad, taking the railway up to the mountain, and descending via cable cars on the other side.
Geneva is situated in the far southwest corner of Switzerland, only an hour and a half’s drive from Lyon, France. The city is known as the home of the United Nations, and the organization’s main office, the Palais des Nations, offers guided tours regularly. Another iconic landmark to add to your Switzerland tour is The Geneva Water Fountain — or Jet d’Eau, which shoots water up to 460 feet in the air. Additionally, the L’horlogue Fleurie in Jardin Anglais park is a sight to see. The flower clock is composed of over 6,000 plants and has been a landmark in Geneva since 1955.
Zermatt is one of the top places to visit in Switzerland for access to the Swiss Alps, making it an incredibly popular travel destination for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. The Matterhorn is one of the steepest mountains in the region, resulting in a fairly strenuous trek. However, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy views of the mountain from the Gornergrat ridge by taking the open-air railway from the city. Resting at nearly 13,000 feet above sea level, the Klein Matterhorn mountain peak is also reachable using an aerial tramway — the highest in Europe.
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