Tourism Teacher

Tourism in Switzerland 

Tourism in Switzerland is big business. But why is this industry so important and what does it all mean? Read on to find out…

Tourism in Switzerland

The geography of switzerland, the tourism industry in switzerland, statistics about tourism in switzerland, the most popular tourist attractions in switzerland, the most popular types of tourism in switzerland , the economic impacts of tourism in switzerland, the social impacts of tourism in switzerland, the environmental impacts of tourism in switzerland, faqs about tourism in switzerland, to conclude: tourism in switzerland.

Switzerland, nestled in the heart of Europe, is renowned for its stunning alpine landscapes and precise craftsmanship. This article unpacks the intricacies of Switzerland’s tourism sector, discussing its paramount importance to the national economy, while spotlighting the charm of its snow-clad mountains, luxurious watchmaking towns, and multicultural cities.

Switzerland is a landlocked country located in Central Europe. Here are some key points about the geography of Switzerland:

1. Location: Switzerland is situated in the heart of Europe and is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.

2. Landscape: Switzerland is known for its stunning mountainous landscape. The Swiss Alps dominate the southern part of the country, while the Jura Mountains stretch along the western border. The Swiss Plateau, with its rolling hills and fertile plains, occupies the northern and central regions.

3. Alps: The Swiss Alps are one of the most prominent mountain ranges in the world and cover about 60% of Switzerland’s total land area. This region includes famous peaks such as the Matterhorn, Eiger, and Jungfrau. The Swiss Alps offer breathtaking landscapes, skiing and snowboarding opportunities, and picturesque alpine villages.

4. Lakes: Switzerland is also known for its beautiful lakes, which dot the landscape throughout the country. Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), Lake Zurich, Lake Lucerne, and Lake Maggiore are among the largest and most popular lakes in Switzerland. These lakes provide scenic beauty, water-based activities, and charming lakeside towns.

5. Rivers: Several major rivers flow through Switzerland, including the Rhine, Rhône, and Aare. These rivers not only contribute to the natural beauty of the country but also offer opportunities for river cruises, water sports, and picturesque riverside walks.

6. Climate: Switzerland has a varied climate influenced by its diverse topography. The high Alpine regions have a cold and snowy climate, while the lower areas experience mild summers and cold winters. The climate is also influenced by the Mediterranean in the south and the continental climate in the north.

7. Biodiversity: Despite its small size, Switzerland boasts significant biodiversity. The varied landscapes support diverse ecosystems, including alpine meadows, forests, wetlands, and glacial regions. The country is home to numerous plant and animal species, including chamois, ibex, marmots, and various bird species.

8. Natural Parks: Switzerland has several national parks and nature reserves dedicated to preserving its natural heritage. These protected areas, such as the Swiss National Park and the Aletsch Glacier, provide opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and nature conservation.

9. Transportation: Switzerland has a well-developed transportation infrastructure, including an extensive network of trains, cable cars, and roads that make it easy to access different regions of the country. The famous Swiss railway system is known for its efficiency and scenic routes.

10. Tourism: The unique geography of Switzerland, with its mountains, lakes, and charming towns, attracts millions of tourists each year. Visitors come to enjoy outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, and mountain climbing, as well as to explore cultural attractions, historical sites, and picturesque landscapes.

Overall, Switzerland’s geography offers a diverse and breathtaking environment, making it a popular destination for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and those seeking picturesque scenery.

Switzerland has a thriving tourism industry and is known worldwide as a popular travel destination. Here are some key aspects of the tourism industry in Switzerland:

1. Scenic Beauty: Switzerland is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including the majestic Swiss Alps, picturesque lakes, charming towns, and lush green valleys. The country’s natural beauty attracts visitors from around the globe.

Tourism in Switzerland

2. Outdoor Activities: Switzerland offers a wide range of outdoor activities throughout the year. In winter, skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing are popular, with world-class ski resorts such as Zermatt, Verbier, and St. Moritz. In summer, hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, and water sports on the lakes are among my favourite activities.

3. Cultural Heritage: Switzerland has a rich cultural heritage that attracts tourists interested in history, art, and architecture. The country is home to numerous castles, museums, art galleries, and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Cities like Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, and Bern offer a blend of historical and modern attractions.

4. Wellness and Spa Tourism: Switzerland is famous for its wellness and spa resorts, offering relaxation, rejuvenation, and therapeutic treatments. Places like Baden-Baden, Davos, and Leukerbad are renowned for their thermal baths, wellness retreats, and health resorts.

5. Culinary Experiences: Swiss cuisine is known for its cheeses, chocolates, and other delicious specialties. Visitors can enjoy authentic Swiss dishes, wine tasting, and culinary tours. Additionally, Switzerland has a strong tradition of fine dining, with many Michelin-starred restaurants.

6. Adventure Tourism: Switzerland attracts adventure seekers with activities like mountaineering, rock climbing, canyoning, and glacier trekking. The country’s challenging terrain and well-maintained infrastructure make it an ideal destination for thrill-seekers.

7. Rail Journeys: Switzerland is famous for its scenic rail journeys, offering breathtaking views of the Alps, lakes, and countryside. The Glacier Express, Bernina Express, and GoldenPass Line are popular train routes that provide unforgettable travel experiences.

8. Shopping: Switzerland is known for its luxury watches, chocolates, cheeses, and other high-quality products. Cities like Zurich and Geneva are shopping hubs, offering a wide range of boutiques, department stores, and renowned Swiss brands.

9. Sustainability and Ecotourism: Switzerland places a strong emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly tourism. Many hotels, resorts, and tourism operators in Switzerland adhere to eco-friendly practices, promoting responsible tourism and preserving the natural environment.

10. Events and Festivals: Switzerland hosts various cultural, sports, and music events throughout the year, attracting visitors from all over the world. The Montreux Jazz Festival, Basel Carnival, Fête de l’Escalade in Geneva, and Swiss National Day celebrations are among the popular events.

The tourism industry in Switzerland plays a significant role in the country’s economy, providing employment opportunities and contributing to local businesses. The Swiss government and tourism organisations continuously promote Switzerland as a desirable destination, ensuring that visitors have memorable experiences while preserving the country’s natural and cultural heritage.

Now lets put things into perspective. Here are some statistics about tourism in Switzerland:

1. In 2019, Switzerland welcomed a record-breaking 12.5 million international tourists, representing a 1.9% increase compared to the previous year.

2. Tourism contributes significantly to the Swiss economy, accounting for around 2.9% of the country’s GDP.

3. Switzerland is known for its high tourism receipts. In 2019, the tourism industry generated approximately 18.8 billion Swiss francs (CHF) in revenue.

4. The number of overnight stays in Switzerland reached 38.8 million in 2019, with domestic tourists accounting for 18.8 million stays and international tourists for 20 million stays.

5. The average length of stay for international tourists in Switzerland is around 2.6 nights.

6. Germany is the largest source market for tourists visiting Switzerland, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and China.

7. The Swiss Alps are the most popular tourist destination in Switzerland, attracting visitors with their stunning landscapes, ski resorts, and outdoor activities.

8. The cities of Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, and Basel are the most visited urban destinations in Switzerland, offering a mix of culture, history, and modern amenities.

Tourism in Switzerland

9. Switzerland has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, including an extensive network of hotels, resorts, transportation options, and tourist facilities.

10. Switzerland is known for its commitment to sustainability and eco-tourism. Many tourism operators and accommodations in Switzerland have implemented eco-friendly practices to minimise their environmental impact and promote responsible tourism.

Please note that these statistics are based on pre-pandemic data and may vary due to the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry.

Switzerland is known for its stunning landscapes, charming cities, and cultural heritage. Here are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Switzerland:

1. Zermatt and the Matterhorn: Zermatt is a picturesque Alpine village located at the foot of the iconic Matterhorn, one of the most famous mountains in the world. It is a popular destination for skiing, hiking, and mountaineering.

2. Lucerne and Lake Lucerne: Lucerne is a beautiful city situated on the shores of Lake Lucerne. It offers a blend of historic architecture, such as the Chapel Bridge, and breathtaking natural scenery. Visitors can also take boat cruises on the lake and explore nearby mountains.

3. Geneva: Known as the international centre for diplomacy, Geneva is a cosmopolitan city with a rich history. It is home to numerous international organisations, including the United Nations. Visitors can explore the Old Town, visit museums, and enjoy the scenic shores of Lake Geneva.

4. Interlaken: Nestled between two lakes and surrounded by the Swiss Alps, Interlaken is a popular destination for outdoor activities. It serves as a gateway to adventure sports such as paragliding, skydiving, and canyoning. It also offers easy access to the Jungfrau region, known for its stunning mountain landscapes.

5. Bern: The capital city of Switzerland, Bern, is known for its well-preserved mediaeval old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city offers attractions like the Bear Park, the Rosengarten, and the Zytglogge (Clock Tower).

6. Zurich: Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich, is a vibrant metropolis with a mix of modern and historic attractions. Visitors can explore the Old Town, visit museums, enjoy shopping on Bahnhofstrasse, and take a boat cruise on Lake Zurich.

7. Lausanne and Lake Geneva: Lausanne is a picturesque city located on the shores of Lake Geneva. It is home to the International Olympic Committee and offers a blend of history, culture, and beautiful scenery. The Olympic Museum and the Lausanne Cathedral are popular attractions.

8. The Swiss National Park: Located in the eastern part of the country, the Swiss National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. It is Switzerland’s oldest national park and is home to a wide variety of alpine flora and fauna. Visitors can explore hiking trails and enjoy the untouched beauty of the Swiss Alps.

9. Chillon Castle: Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva near Montreux, Chillon Castle is a well-preserved mediaeval fortress. It offers stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains and provides insights into the region’s history and architecture.

10. The Aletsch Glacier: The Aletsch Glacier is the largest glacier in the Alps and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located in the Jungfrau region, it offers breathtaking views and opportunities for hiking and mountaineering.

These are just a few examples of the many wonderful tourist attractions Switzerland has to offer. The country is renowned for its natural beauty, outdoor activities, cultural heritage, and welcoming hospitality.

Switzerland attracts a diverse range of tourists due to its natural beauty, outdoor activities, cultural heritage, and well-developed infrastructure. Here are some of the most popular types of tourism in Switzerland:

1. Alpine Tourism: Switzerland is renowned for its magnificent Alpine scenery, making it a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering are major attractions in places like Zermatt, St. Moritz, Verbier, and Davos.

2. Adventure Tourism: The country offers various outdoor adventure activities, including hiking, cycling, rock climbing, paragliding, and river rafting. The Swiss National Park, Jungfrau Region, and Engadin Valley are popular destinations for adventure tourism.

3. Cultural Tourism: Switzerland has a rich cultural heritage with diverse traditions, languages, and historical sites. Cities like Zurich, Geneva, Basel, and Lucerne offer a blend of mediaeval architecture, art galleries, museums, and music festivals. Château de Chillon, the Abbey of St. Gallen, and the Old Town of Bern are notable cultural attractions.

4. Wellness and Spa Tourism: Switzerland is famous for its luxury wellness retreats and thermal spas. Places like Bad Ragaz, Leukerbad, and Scuol offer rejuvenating spa experiences, thermal baths, and wellness treatments set amidst scenic landscapes.

5. Nature Tourism: Switzerland’s picturesque landscapes, including its lakes, waterfalls, and scenic hiking trails, attract nature enthusiasts. The Swiss National Park, Lake Geneva, Lake Lucerne, and the Aletsch Glacier are popular natural attractions.

6. Train Tourism: Switzerland’s efficient train network, including the famous Glacier Express and Bernina Express, offers panoramic views of the country’s stunning landscapes. Train enthusiasts and travellers seeking scenic journeys often opt for these picturesque train rides.

Tourism in Switzerland

7. Culinary Tourism: Swiss cuisine, known for its cheese, chocolate, and fondue, is a draw for food lovers. Visitors can explore cheese factories, chocolate factories, vineyards, and traditional Swiss restaurants to indulge in the country’s culinary delights.

These are just a few examples of the popular types of tourism in Switzerland. The country’s diverse offerings cater to a wide range of interests and preferences, making it an attractive destination for travellers from around the world.

Tourism in Switzerland plays a significant role in the Swiss economy and has a substantial impact on various sectors. Here are some of the economic impacts of tourism in Switzerland:

1. Employment: The tourism industry in Switzerland is a major source of employment. It creates job opportunities in hotels, restaurants, transportation, tour operations, travel agencies, and various related sectors. Both direct and indirect employment is generated, benefiting the local workforce.

2. Revenue generation: Tourism in Switzerland contributes significantly to the country’s revenue. International tourists spend money on accommodation, food and beverages, transportation, shopping, attractions, and other tourism-related services. This expenditure leads to the generation of income and tax revenues for the government.

3. Small business development: The tourism industry in Switzerland provides opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive. Local artisans, craftsmen, souvenir shops, and family-owned businesses benefit from the influx of tourists, helping to diversify the economy.

4. Infrastructure development: The demand for tourism infrastructure, such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, and transportation facilities, drives investment and development in these areas. The construction and maintenance of infrastructure create job opportunities and stimulate economic growth.

5. Regional development: Tourism in Switzerland helps in the development of rural and less-developed regions of Switzerland. When tourists explore different areas, they contribute to the economic growth of those regions, encouraging investment and development beyond major cities and popular tourist destinations.

6. Cultural preservation: Tourism in Switzerland often fosters the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage. Historic sites, museums, traditional festivals, and local traditions gain recognition and support due to tourist interest. This helps preserve Switzerland’s cultural identity and can have positive economic impacts on communities.

7. Multiplier effect: The tourism industry has a multiplier effect on the economy. When tourists spend money, it circulates through the economy, benefiting various sectors and creating a ripple effect. For example, money spent by tourists at a hotel can generate income for the hotel staff, local suppliers, restaurants, and shops, leading to further economic activity.

However, it’s important to note that tourism in Switzerland also brings challenges and potential negative impacts, such as overcrowding, environmental concerns, increased living costs in tourist areas, and seasonal fluctuations in employment. Sustainable tourism practices and careful planning are necessary to mitigate these issues and ensure the long-term benefits of tourism in Switzerland.

Tourism in Switzerland has a significant impact on Swiss society, both positive and negative. Switzerland is known for its natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and well-preserved historical sites, making it a popular tourist destination. Here are some of the social impacts of tourism in Switzerland:

1. Economic benefits: Tourism in Switzerland contributes significantly to the Swiss economy by generating revenue and creating employment opportunities. It supports various sectors such as accommodation, transportation, restaurants, and souvenir shops, providing jobs for locals and boosting their income levels. This economic stability positively affects the standard of living and social welfare of Swiss residents.

2. Cultural exchange: Tourism in Switzerland brings people from different parts of the world to Switzerland, fostering cultural exchange and understanding. Visitors have the opportunity to experience Swiss traditions, language, cuisine, and customs, while locals gain exposure to diverse cultures and perspectives. This interaction enhances mutual respect, tolerance, and appreciation for cultural diversity.

3. Preservation of heritage: Tourism in Switzerland plays a vital role in preserving cultural and historical heritage. The revenue generated from tourism often goes towards the restoration and maintenance of historic buildings, museums, and landmarks. This ensures the preservation of Swiss heritage for future generations and promotes a sense of pride among the local population.

4. Promotion of local traditions and crafts: Tourism in Switzerland encourages the promotion and revitalization of traditional Swiss crafts, such as watchmaking, chocolate production, cheese-making, and textile manufacturing. Visitors are interested in experiencing and purchasing authentic Swiss products, which helps to sustain local industries and traditions. This contributes to the preservation of cultural identity and supports local artisans and businesses.

5. Infrastructure development: The tourism industry drives the development of infrastructure in Switzerland. To cater to the needs of tourists, there is a continuous improvement in transportation networks, accommodation facilities, and recreational amenities. These developments benefit not only tourists but also residents, making travel and access to various services more convenient and efficient.

6. Environmental concerns: The influx of tourists can put pressure on Switzerland’s delicate ecosystems and natural resources. Popular tourist destinations, such as mountainous regions, may experience increased foot traffic, leading to erosion, pollution, and habitat disturbance. Sustainable tourism practices and responsible visitor behaviour are crucial in minimising these negative environmental impacts.

7. Seasonal employment and seasonality challenges: Tourism in Switzerland is often seasonal, with peaks during summer and winter. This can create a challenge in terms of employment stability, as many jobs are tied to specific seasons. Seasonal employment opportunities can be beneficial for local residents, providing them with additional income. However, the reliance on seasonal employment may lead to economic uncertainties and fluctuations in local communities.

Tourism in Switzerland

To maximise the positive social impacts and mitigate the negative ones, Switzerland focuses on sustainable tourism practices, responsible tourism education, and conservation efforts. The government, local communities, and tourism industry stakeholders work together to strike a balance between economic growth, cultural preservation, and environmental protection.

Tourism in Switzerland has both positive and negative environmental impacts. While the industry promotes appreciation for the country’s natural beauty and supports conservation efforts, it also poses challenges to the environment. Here are some key environmental impacts of tourism in Switzerland:

1. Carbon emissions: Travel to Switzerland, especially by air, contributes to carbon emissions due to the burning of fossil fuels. Tourists coming from distant locations often rely on air travel, which is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. This can contribute to climate change and impact the fragile alpine ecosystems of Switzerland.

2. Overcrowding and habitat disturbance: Popular tourist destinations in Switzerland, particularly in the Alps, can experience overcrowding during peak seasons. Increased visitor numbers can lead to habitat disturbance, trampling of vegetation, soil erosion, and damage to fragile ecosystems. It can also disrupt the natural behaviour and breeding patterns of wildlife.

3. Waste generation and pollution: Tourism in Switzerland generates a substantial amount of waste, including plastic bottles, food packaging, and other disposable items. Improper waste management can lead to pollution of water bodies, soil, and scenic landscapes. It is crucial to promote responsible waste disposal and recycling practices to mitigate this impact.

4. Water consumption and scarcity: Tourism in Switzerland places demands on water resources, particularly in areas with limited water availability. Hotels, restaurants, and recreational activities require water for various purposes. In regions already facing water scarcity or during dry periods, increased tourism can exacerbate the strain on local water supplies and ecosystems.

5. Ski tourism and landscape modification: Switzerland is renowned for its ski resorts, attracting winter sports enthusiasts from around the world. The development of ski infrastructure, including ski lifts, trails, and snowmaking systems, can lead to landscape modification and habitat fragmentation. This can affect the natural flow of water, soil erosion, and disrupt wildlife habitats.

6. Wildlife disturbance: The presence of tourists in natural areas can disrupt wildlife behaviour and disturb sensitive species. Activities such as hiking, skiing, and wildlife viewing, if not conducted responsibly, can lead to stress, displacement, and changes in animal behaviour. It is essential to promote guidelines and regulations to minimise wildlife disturbance and protect biodiversity.

7. Energy and resource consumption: The tourism industry requires significant energy and resource consumption for transportation, accommodation, and other services. This includes energy-intensive activities like heating and cooling in hotels, water consumption, and the operation of recreational facilities. Encouraging sustainable practices, such as energy-efficient infrastructure and renewable energy sources, can help reduce these impacts.

To address these environmental concerns, Switzerland has taken steps to promote sustainable tourism practices. The country emphasises the use of renewable energy, waste management initiatives, protected area management, and the development of eco-friendly infrastructure. Efforts are made to raise awareness among tourists and encourage responsible behaviour, such as minimising waste, using public transportation, respecting wildlife, and following designated trails. Additionally, Switzerland actively participates in international collaborations and agreements to address climate change and protect biodiversity.

Tourism in Switzerland

Now that we know a bit more about tourism in Switzerland, lets answer some of the most common questions on this topic:

1. Q: What is the best time to visit Switzerland?

   A: Switzerland is a year-round destination, offering different experiences in each season. Summer (June to August) is ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the scenic landscapes, while winter (December to February) is perfect for skiing and winter sports enthusiasts. Spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds.

2. Q: Do I need a visa to visit Switzerland?

   A: Whether you need a visa to visit Switzerland depends on your nationality. Citizens of certain countries can enter Switzerland for tourism purposes without a visa for a limited period (usually up to 90 days). It’s recommended to check with the Swiss embassy or consulate in your country for specific visa requirements.

3. Q: Is English widely spoken in Switzerland?

   A: While Switzerland has four official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansh), English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas, hotels, and major cities. You should have no trouble communicating in English, but it’s always helpful to learn a few basic phrases in the local language.

4. Q: How do I get around in Switzerland?

   A: Switzerland has an efficient and well-connected public transportation system. Trains, trams, buses, and boats cover most areas of the country. The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on public transportation and can be a convenient option for visitors. Rental cars are also available, but they may not be necessary if you plan to primarily rely on public transport.

5. Q: Are the Swiss Alps only for experienced hikers?

   A: The Swiss Alps offer a range of hiking options suitable for all skill levels. While some trails may be more challenging, there are plenty of easy and moderate routes that can be enjoyed by beginners and families as well. It’s important to choose trails that match your fitness level and come prepared with proper gear and information.

6. Q: Is Switzerland an expensive country to visit?

   A: Yes, Switzerland is known for its high cost of living, and tourism expenses can add up. Accommodation, dining out, and activities can be relatively expensive compared to other destinations. However, there are ways to manage costs, such as opting for budget accommodations, self-catering, and exploring free or low-cost attractions.

7. Q: What are some must-visit attractions in Switzerland?

   A: Switzerland offers a wealth of attractions. Some popular ones include the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Lake Geneva, Jungfraujoch (the “Top of Europe”), Lucerne and its Chapel Bridge, the Rhine Falls, the Chillon Castle, and cities like Zurich, Geneva, and Bern. Additionally, exploring the scenic landscapes and charming Swiss villages is highly recommended.

8. Q: Can I drink tap water in Switzerland?

   A: Yes, tap water in Switzerland is generally safe and of high quality. You can drink tap water without any concerns. It’s a great way to stay hydrated and save money on buying bottled water.

9. Q: Are there any cultural etiquettes or customs to be aware of?

   A: Switzerland has a rich cultural heritage, and it’s appreciated when visitors respect local customs. It’s customary to greet people with a handshake, dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and observe quietness in public places. Tipping is not mandatory, but leaving a small amount as a token of appreciation for good service is common.

Switzerland is renowned worldwide for its stunning Alpine landscapes, luxury watches, and world-class chocolate. The tourism sector plays a vital role in its economy, attracting visitors to its ski resorts, scenic train journeys, and cultural cities. As tourism thrives, it brings both positive economic influx and challenges, especially in terms of sustainability and maintaining the pristine nature of its environments. In closing, Switzerland continually works towards blending its deep-rooted traditions with the demands of modern tourism, ensuring a harmonious experience for both visitors and residents.

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The essential guide to Switzerland

Here’s everything you need to know about exploring the “Playground of Europe”—when to go, where to stay, what to do, and how to get around.

People wear masks and play wind instruments.

Why you should visit Switzerland

Skiing in the   Alps.   Swimming in crystal clear lakes. Modern cities with medieval old towns. All that chocolate and cheese.

Best time to visit Switzerland

Spring: Hike along low-elevation trails through forests, past gorges, waterfalls, and lakes. Take the Glacier Express panoramic train across the Alps. Basel is a party city during its three-day carnival, Basler Fasnacht .

Summer: Most mountain areas are open from July. (Many resorts close between the skiing and summer seasons, usually April-June.) Europe’s largest jazz festival, Montreux Jazz Festival , takes place on the banks of Lake Geneva . Swiss National Day (August 1) is celebrated nationwide with bonfires and fireworks.  

Autumn: Try regional Swiss cheeses at Lucerne’s Cheese Festival . Celebrate the start of the grape harvest in Neuchâtel at the lively Grape Harvest Festival (Fête des Vendanges). The Food Zurich festival   features food tours, markets, and culinary events.

Winter: Switzerland’s mountain resorts are a magnet for winter sports enthusiasts. Watch international artists carving huge blocks of snow at the Grindelwald Snow Festival . Enjoy mulled wine and twinkling lights at Christmas markets .

Warm light from a fire illuminates the area as a person watches.

Lay of the land

Cities: Bern’s old town has nearly four miles of medieval shopping arcades. Stylish Zurich offers a flourishing food scene and vibrant nightlife. Cultural hotspot Basel is the gateway for Alpine skiing. Geneva is the cosmopolitan capital of high-end watchmaking. Head to Lugano   for Mediterranean-style squares and sub-tropical gardens. Charming car-free Chur is Switzerland’s oldest city.

Central: Surrounded by mountains, lakeside Lucerne is famous for its 14th-century wooden bridge. Lake Zug is a picturesque spot for swimming and watersports in summer. Come winter, Engelberg-TITLIS ski resort offers some of the country’s best slopes—and the world’s first revolving cable car .

( Ice melt and a new cableway are reshaping the Eiger experience .)

Northeast: Head to family-friendly Thurgau to camp on the shores of Lake Constance and cycle or hike through its meadows, orchards, and forests. The magnificent Carolingian Abbey of St. Gall is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

East: Spot ibexes, marmots, and golden eagles in the Swiss National Park (Parc Naziunal Svizzer). Grisons ’ Alpine resorts offer abundant snow-filled fun, from snowboarding to horse-drawn sleigh rides. The exclusive St. Moritz is renowned for its world-class pistes, luxury shopping, and high-end restaurants.

South: For Mediterranean-style architecture and delicious gelato, head to Italian-speaking Ascona on Lake Maggiore. Hike through Valais’ vineyards and learn about local wines at the Musée du Vin . Take the cable car to the Eggishorn viewpoint for magnificent views of the Great Aletsch Glacier . High-altitude Alpine resorts, including Zermatt and Verbier , offer guaranteed snow.

West: Lausanne’s Olympic Museum houses the world’s largest archive of modern Olympic artifacts. The Vaud wine region is known for its diverse range of wines. Visit the peaceful town of Gruyères for its medieval hilltop castle—and its Gruyère cheese. The subalpine Jura Mountains straddle the Swiss-French border.

North: Use Zurich or Winterthur as a base to visit Europe’s largest waterfall. Art Basel, the prestigious contemporary art fair, features artists from five continents. The idyllic Aargau-Solothurn region is off the radar for international tourists: indulge in some me time at one of its numerous thermal baths.

A statue of three bikers riding is surrounded by lush green landscape.

Getting around

By train:   Switzerland’s train network is as safe, clean, and efficient as you’d imagine. Mainline trains are primarily run by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB in German, CFF in French, and FFS in Italian), with local and regional routes covered by private operators. Tickets can be bought at, but domestic journeys don’t need to be booked ahead, and most trains don’t require a reservation. Good-value rail passes can be purchased from the Switzerland Travel Centre .

By car: Switzerland’s motorway network includes the A1, which runs east-west from St. Margrethen to Geneva, and the north-south A2, which connects Basel with Chiasso. A vignette   (road tax) is required to drive on the motorway. Winter tires are advisable during winter; snow chains may be necessary in Alpine regions. Driving in Switzerland is on the right.

By plane: Domestic flights are quick but expensive. Switzerland’s so small there’s no need to fly.  

By bus: Low-cost Flixbus offers several domestic routes.

Wide view of train station.

Know before you go

Hours: Except at airports and train and gas stations, most stores are closed on Sundays. Some stores, restaurants, and attractions also close on public holidays, but unlike other parts of Europe, Switzerland doesn’t shut down in August.

Languages:   Switzerland has four national languages: German is the most widely spoken, followed by French, which is spoken in the west of the country. Italian is predominantly spoken in the southeast. Rumantsch is a Gallo-Romance language indigenous to Grisons in Switzerland’s east.  

LGBTQ+: Same-sex marriage is legal in Switzerland. As of 2020, transgender and intersex Swiss citizens over 16 can adjust their legal name and gender marker by self-declaration at the civil registry office. Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, and Lausanne are known for their LGBTQ+ scenes. Pride (known as Christopher Street Day, or CSD) events are held in major cities and some smaller towns. Popular queer-friendly ski destinations include Zermatt, Lenzerheide , and Arosa .

Tipping: It is customary—though not obligatory—to round the bill up or tip approximately 10 percent.

How to visit sustainably  

Outdoors: Explore natural landscapes outside peak season and enjoy spring flowers or colorful fall foliage. Stick to hiking and cycling trails, keep noise to a minimum, and take your trash with you. Use designated campsites or check with local authorities before wild camping. Use SwitzerlandMobility   to select hiking trails coordinated with public transport.

Shopping: Browse flea markets in Zurich, Basel, and Geneva for vintage clothing and jewelry, books, and antiques. Stores such as the Schweizer Heimatwerk in Bern and Kolorit in St. Gallen sell Swiss-made souvenirs. Visit small-scale cheese dairies and wineries, and purchase chocolate from independent makers such as Garçoa and Taucherli , who produce fully traceable, organic, fair-trade bars.

Dining: There are vegetarian and vegan restaurants aplenty—supposedly the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant is in Zurich—and the Swisstainable logo highlights restaurants committed to sustainable practices. Regional, seasonal produce is standard. Switzerland’s drinking water is very safe and clean—bring a reusable bottle and refill it at any tap.

( Here’s how to spend a meat-free culinary weekend in Zurich .)

What to read  

Swiss History in a Nutshell, by Grégoire Nappey. A concise summary of the most important historical events in Swiss history.

Heidi , by Johanna Spyri. This story of an orphan sent to live with her grandfather in the Alps is responsible for the romantic image of Switzerland held around the world today.

Swiss Watching: Inside the Land of Milk and Honey , by Diccon Bewes. This exploration of Switzerland goes beyond its stereotypes to prove there’s far more to the country than banking, skiing, chocolate, and cheese.

( For more tips on what to do in Switzerland, see our   Switzerland Explorer’s Guide .)

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Switzerland Tourism And Travel Guide

Switzerland is a breathtakingly beautiful land-locked country in Central Europe with France to the west, Italy to the south, Austria to the east and Germany to the north. The country is famous for its scenic Alps and its rolling hills, plains, and lakes. It is also renowned for its chocolates and watches, while the Swiss knife is a legend in itself! Tourism in Switzerland is a delight of skiing, snow-walking, gorging on chocolates and cheeses and of course, swaying in the Alps. Here is a travel guide to Switzerland for one and sundry, to help you plan your next holiday.

How To Reach

How To Reach:  Switzerland Tourism And Travel Guide

Foreign nationals require a visa as well as advance approval from the cantonal authority in order to enter Switzerland.

Zurich , Geneva , and Basel are the three major International airports that connect Switzerland to the rest of the world. There are also airports in Berne and Lugano but these are more for short distance flights. You can fly into nearby Milan ( Italy ) or Paris ( France ), and from there to any of the major airports.

The train service is excellent. Switzerland is extremely well-connected by trains, which arrive from all over Europe . Located in central Europe, Switzerland has an excellent network of railway lines. The best route is from France, as there is a French-Swiss high-speed rail connection to Switzerland, with several daily trains from Paris, Nice, Avignon, etc.

You can reach popular tourist destinations in Switzerland easily by road. Take the route from central-eastern France to Geneva. If you wish to get to Zurich then the route from southern Germany is your best bet. This also makes up for quite a memorable road trip. Centrally located Switzerland is thoroughly connected with the rest of Europe via a mesh of well-maintained roads.

  • How To Reach Switzerland

Best Time To Visit

Best Time To Visit:  Switzerland Tourism And Travel Guide

Any time is a good time to visit Switzerland. Plan your trip according to what you wish to do during your visit. But if you must pick a season, then June to August would be the best months to visit as summer is a fairly pleasant time for hiking and sightseeing. Autumn onwards the mercury dips and the number of tourists reduce. Winter is snow clad and the perfect time for skiing.

  • Switzerland Weather And Best Time To Visit Switzerland

Things To Do

Things To Do:  Switzerland Tourism And Travel Guide

Picnic at Lake Geneva :

One of the largest lakes of Western Europe , Lake Geneva lies by the Rhone river, forming a massive barrier between Switzerland and France . It is very scenic, and a perfect spot to spend the day amidst the natural beauty of the Alps.

Sightseeing in Valais: 

Valais offers an amazing diversity of landscapes. The most iconic of these is the Matterhorn - the shark tooth of a rocky mountain cliff jutting into the sky . There are also many glaciers and the lush green meadows of the Alps to be explored. You can spend the entire day here, and it still won’t be enough.

Sight-seeing in Ticino:  

Enjoy the lakes of Ticino. Lake Lugano, the more popular one, is perfect since you can windsurf. There's plenty for adventure lovers here. Bungee jump from the heights of the Contra Dam and later for a mellower experience head to the  Castles of Bellinzona.

  • Things To Do In Switzerland
  • Tourist Places To Visit In Switzerland

What & Where to Eat

What & Where to Eat:  Switzerland Tourism And Travel Guide

In Switzerland, you have to sample the cheese fondue and the rosti, a potato dish. There are many up-market restaurants, such as The Kronenhalle, the haunt of the rich and the famous,  Kindli, an elegant historic salon with an understated quality and Hotel Helvetia, which attracts a lively crowd.

Shop At:  Switzerland Tourism And Travel Guide

Switzerland has earned a reputation for the variety of chocolates crafted here. Make sure you gorge on enough of them and pack enough for friends back home. Of course, the Swiss watch is not a bad deal either. Shop at Zurich , Geneva , Bern , or Lausanne with their big and prestigious markets. You can also shop for knives, jewelry and porcelain showpieces.

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Things To Do In Switzerland

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50+ Things To Know Before You Visit Switzerland

tourism in switzerland introduction

If you’re coming to Switzerland for the first time, there are quite a few things you need to know , and a whole lot more that will just make your trip even smoother.

We’re Jana and Brett , and our goal is to help you travel Switzerland with confidence, whether this is your first trip or your tenth. We have 50+ things to cover, so let’s jump right in!

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1 | switzerland is a land-locked country in central europe.

Switzerland is a land-locked country located in central Europe, bordered by France, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Italy.

Though it’s not bordered by an ocean or sea, it does have two large lakes on opposite corners of the country.

2 | Switzerland combines well with trips to other European countries

Because of its location, a Swiss vacation combines well with any of those countries along its border. We always say that a trip to Switzerland and Italy or Switzerland and France is a perfect match because one country offers you endless natural beauty while the other is a foodie destination. But of course, any combination of those countries works great too.

The vast Swiss train network (which we’ll talk more about later) makes it easy to cross borders without having to hop on an airplane. Speaking of borders…

3 | Switzerland is not in the EU

Switzerland is not in the EU, but it is a part of the Schengen Area , which is a group of 27 European countries that allows people with a valid visa to travel through any of those countries for up to 90 days.

And in most cases, once you’re within this Schengen area, you will not need to show your passport in order to cross borders by land (but of course there can be exceptions).

The U.S. is what’s known as a “visa-exempt” country, so if you’re from the U.S., your passport is your visa and there are currently no other special requirements to enter the Schengen Area . But make sure your passport will have at least 3-6 months validity left by the time you’ll leave Switzerland, just to be safe.

4 | ETIAS Entry Requirement beginning in 2025

Starting in 2025, there will be a new entry requirement for all non-European visitors to Europe called the ETIAS application , which is a travel security program used to check criminal records. It’s actually been postponed a few times already, so we’ll see if it’s even implemented by then.

But it’s supposedly going to be very quick, can be completed online, and should only cost a few bucks.

5 | Switzerland uses the Swiss Franc (not the Euro)

Practically, the biggest difference you’ll notice from Switzerland not being in the EU is that they use a different currency: the Swiss Franc instead of the Euro.

swiss francs in a wallet

We think the Swiss Franc is more beautiful and fun than the Euro anyway, although we’re probably partial. Just keep in mind that Swiss Francs will not work in other countries. Although Liechtenstein actually uses the Franc, so if you’re going there too, that’s a bonus!

tourism in switzerland introduction

However, your Euros may work in Switzerland . Some Swiss shops will allow you to pay in Euros, but usually the exchange rate is not favorable, so you’ll want some Swiss Francs.

You can order cash in advance or change money at a currency exchange counter when you arrive, but just know that these are usually much more expensive than the actual exchange rate.

6 | Use a Debit Card and get cash from the ATM

So we suggest bringing a debit card and getting cash from an ATM.

While some banks charge a fee for this transaction (called a foreign transaction fee), many don’t. And even with fees, you’ll usually get a better rate at an ATM than a currency exchange counter.

Honestly, your cash needs should be pretty low in Switzerland because credit cards are widely accepted. We recommend starting with 100 CHF for one couple for one week .

You’ll usually only need cash in mountain huts or for those self-service farm fridges we love to shop at, so 100 Francs might even be more than enough.

tourism in switzerland introduction

NEXT STEP : Check with your bank about using your debit card in Switzerland, or open an account with a bank that does not charge foreign ATM fees !

7 | Bring two different (non-American Express) credit cards

Speaking of credit cards, bring two non -American Express cards .

Visa and Mastercard are much more widely accepted than American Express, and we suggest bringing two cards just in case one doesn’t work for some reason.

Most companies don’t require you to notify them of international travel anymore, but we do suggest letting your bank know if you plan to use your debit card so your transactions won’t be flagged.

If you can, bring credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, which will save you around 3% . And if you’re a U.S. resident, look into a travel credit card that will earn you points and miles before, during, and after your trip!

NEXT STEP : Notify your bank about your travel plans so you can use your debit card abroad!

8 | Switzerland is Expensive, but it doesn’t have to be

And all this talk about money raises an important point: Yes, Switzerland is expensive — but doesn’t have to be!

According to the 2019 Travel & Tourism Development Index , Switzerland is one of the least price competitive countries…that’s just a fancy way to say expensive!

But that’s why we’re here, to help you travel Switzerland with confidence, which includes minimizing your budget. So keep reading all 50+ of our tips to learn how to save money, plan better, and maximize your Swiss vacation!

NEXT STEP : Check the exchange rate of the Swiss Franc compared to your home currency

By the way, here are 3 steps to make the most of this info as you plan your trip.

1 | Read this whole blog post, which is loaded with links and recommendations to help you act on what you’re learning. 2 | Buy a done-for-you Swiss Itinerary for the destinations you’re planning to visit, or to make sense of the wacky world of Swiss Transportation. 3 | If you’d still like more personalized help, book a Swiss Vacation Consultation with us.

That’s how to travel Switzerland with confidence in 3 easy steps!

PRACTICAL INFO 9 | Switzerland has 4 national languages

Switzerland has 4 national languages . But don’t let the word “national” fool you: each one is used in different regions , with German spoken most extensively, French mostly in the west, Italian in the south, and Romansh, which only has about 40,000 speakers, mostly confined to parts of the southeast.

10 | English is widely spoken in Switzerland (in the tourist areas)

Will you be okay if you can’t speak one of those languages? Yes, you will find that nearly everyone working in the tourism industry speaks English. So if you have questions, there will be people who can give you answers.

11 | Learn a few phrases in the local language

But not every shopkeeper, and certainly not every local, will speak English. Plus, locals love it when tourists make the effort to speak their language , so we encourage you to learn a few words or phrases.

Of course, you can base that on which regions you’ll be visiting, with hello and goodbye, please and thank you being the most important words to learn.

12 | The “German” is actually Swiss German

But are you ready for a curveball? The “German” spoken in Switzerland is really Swiss German, and even native German speakers struggle to understand it. But don’t let that discourage you. Most of the Swiss will understand you if you speak High German, even if their greetings and responses don’t sound at all like the German you learned!!

13 | Have the right Swiss plug adapter

If you’re traveling to Europe, then you already know that you’ll need a plug adapter. But be warned, the European one doesn’t always work in Switzerland!

Switzerland uses a type J adapter, which is different from the rest of the EU. Some EU plugs, mostly Type C adapters, will fit if the prongs are not too large and the box is not too big. But otherwise, you’ll need another adapter to fit it into a Swiss outlet.

Before you go out and buy one, check if your lodging has any EU-to-Swiss adapters. Otherwise, they’re easy to pick up at most gas stations, grocery stores, and electronic shops, especially ones in the larger train stations.

14 | Enjoy the ultra clean water in Switzerland

Jana above lake lucerne at bireggwald

Switzerland literally has the cleanest water in the world . As in, it earned a perfect score of 100%. That’s because 80% of the water in Switzerland comes from underground, and the remaining 20% is taken from lakes.

With that in mind, the water from the tap is literally better than bottled water , so bring your own reusable bottle!

By the way, we don’t recommend drinking straight from streams or lakes. And before you take a sip from a fountain, make sure there is a sign that says the water is potable!

15 | Don’t be defeated by Switzerland Weather

I always laugh when my mom texts me and says, “Oh, it looks like you’ll have rain all week.” But I’m standing outside under clear blue skies. That’s because the built-in cell phone weather apps do a terrible job in Switzerland, especially near the mountains.

Instead, we rely on MeteoSwiss and webcams. Here’s our approach:

A few days out , we check MeteoSwiss . This gives us a pretty accurate idea of what temperatures and general weather to expect. The day before, we check MeteoSwiss again. There’s an app and a website, and we prefer the website because it shows a lot more detail, like expected minutes of sunshine or rain per hour. With this info, we can make a good plan for the following day.

The night before and the morning of , we take a look at webcams to make sure the view is clear and the clouds are high, or not even there at all.

jana and brett aplin in thun switzerland

Otherwise, pack a good pair of shoes, a solid rain jacket, and plenty of layers so you can get out and explore no matter the weather.

16 | Download and setup Useful Apps before your Swiss vacation

Nowadays, there’s an app for everything. And your Swiss vacation is no exception!

I wish I could tell you about an awesome app by Aplins in the Alps that includes itineraries and weather and time tables, but that doesn’t exist yet. 🙂

Instead, here are 5 apps to download before your Swiss vacation :

  • The SBB Mobile App is the ultimate app when it comes to public transportation in Switzerland. You can search timetables and routes, buy tickets, follow your journey, and a whole lot more. In fact it does so much, that we created an entire Guide all about it .
  • If you’re going to do any sort of hiking in Switzerland, you’ll want the SwissTopo app to help find and navigate trails, although the trail signs are fantastic and it’ll be hard to get lost.
  • We already mentioned MeteoSwiss . Even though we prefer the website, it is convenient to have the app because you can add and save your favorite destinations to view weather at a glance.
  • GoogleTranslate is a no-brainer. Download languages offline so you can use the app even if you don’t have data or wifi. My favorite feature is the camera that translates instantly!
  • And finally, GoogleMaps is super helpful to know where you are, to find the names of train stations and bus stops, and to save your hotel or Airbnb location.

NEXT STEP : Download the apps above and bookmark MeteoSwiss on your browser

17 | Stay Safe in Switzerland

In addition to being neutral, Switzerland is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. The most common type of crime is usually tourists getting pickpocketed — so keep an eye on your stuff when you’re in crowded areas.

And it’s not uncommon for there to be accidents in the mountains due to adventure activities, but don’t underestimate the need to be prepared and aware of the elements on even basic hikes.

18 | Save emergency phone numbers in your phone contacts

Hopefully your trip to Switzerland is as smooth as creamy peanut butter. But just in case, we recommend adding a few emergency phone numbers to your phone contacts.

112 is the most important emergency number and will connect you with an emergency operator. It works not only in Switzerland but throughout Europe too, even if you have a foreign SIM card or a prepaid phone with no credit.

If you wanna be ultra prepared, 144 will connect you directly to an ambulance service, and 118 connects you with the fire department. But for non-urgent medical questions, a pharmacy is often the best place to start.

NEXT STEP : Save these emergency numbers in your phone

19 | Switzerland is Family-Friendly

When you think family vacation, you may not think Switzerland, but here’s your cue to think again!

Kids under 6 years old can ride all forms of public transportation in Switzerland for FREE. And from age 6 until turning 16, kids’ tickets are 50% off…unless you have the Swiss Family Card or an equivalent card, and then your kids can ride with you for completely FREE .

Not to mention that everywhere has a playground. And these aren’t just your standard swings and slides. These are epic playgrounds with mazes, giant cows, steep slides, zip lines, tree forts, and hours of fun.

Mannlichen playground above Lauterbrunnen Valley and Grindelwald Switzerland

Plus, a lot of restaurants offer a children’s area with toys or games to help keep your kids entertained, as well as children’s menus. Overall, Switzerland is a great place to be a kid!

20 | Don’t count on public Wifi in Switzerland

It seems like wifi is widely available everywhere in the USA, from restaurants to grocery stores and even public parks. But in Switzerland, we’re not that lucky. Thankfully our favorite local and touristy places seem to be picking up on this trend and offering wifi.

Of course nearly all hotels and Airbnbs include wifi. But it’s not always available in cafes, restaurants, or train stations. Sometimes it’s available if you can receive a text, but you’ll need a working cell plan for that.

21 | Get reliable (and cheap) Swiss cell phone data

By far the most convenient and cheapest option for cell phone data in Switzerland is an eSIM. Sure, you can pay 10 bucks a day to upgrade your existing cell phone plan to an international one. But an eSIM is cheaper, super easy to set up, and covers nearly every country in Europe — including Switzerland!

We’ve used Holafly eSIMS across Switzerland and had a great experience and full coverage, even in the mountains!

And this is so much better than having to visit a local shop to buy and swap out a physical SIM card!

holafly esim card to travel europe and travel switzerland affiliate link for aplins in the alps

22 | Understand basic Swiss Culture and etiquette

As a culture, the Swiss are generally very respectful, helpful, and polite — but not necessarily as outwardly friendly as some other European cultures.

In order to experience their kindness, we recommend offering that same politefulness and respect. Greet them first before ordering food or drink or asking a question. And when your greeting is in their local language, that often brings out even more of their warmth and helpfulness.

aare river and covered wooden bridge in thun switzerland

Keep in mind that punctuality is a sign of respect too. If you show up 30 minutes late to your dinner reservation, “rudeness” is probably not the reason they gave your table to someone else.

Just remember that you’re a guest in a foreign country that might not function in all the ways you’re used to — not so different from being a guest in someone else’s home.

We find that tourists who are curious and observant , not expecting everything to work just like in their home country, seem to have the best experience.

23 | Avoid showing up to closed shops and restaurants

And one of those things that’s often different — especially compared to the U.S. — is opening and closing times of shops and restaurants.

24/7 convenience is not really part of the culture here. Many shops are closed during the lunch hour, and usually shut down for the day by early evening. Restaurants, cafes, and bakeries will sometimes have breaks between lunch and dinner as well.

mountain hotel oeschinensee restaurant

Of course in the cities, places are more often open all throughout the day compared to villages and smaller towns. But it’s always a good habit to confirm opening hours if you have your heart set on a specific shop or restaurant.

NEXT STEP : Research when the shops and restaurants you want to visit will be open.

Okay, we’re about halfway through our list, and hopefully you’re already jotting down lots of notes! Our goal is to help you travel Switzerland with confidence, and we wanna make it easy for you. So after you finish reading this blog , take the time to go back and check out the links and action steps to maximize your vacation planning process.


24 | stay longer.

While Switzerland is a pretty tiny country, there is a TON to see . So we recommend spending at least a week here . That’s not just because there’s so much to see and do, but also because a longer trip is often a cheaper trip , at least in terms of how much you spend per day.

Ideally, give yourself 8-15 days , which will allow you to explore a few locations well without wearing yourself out.

And since the Half Fare Card is valid for 30 days for just 120 CHF, a one month trip might be the ultimate sweet spot for a budget traveler — more on that in a moment!

25 | Slow down

We’ve rarely heard of anyone visiting fewer places in a single trip and staying longer in each place — and regretting it! So we want to encourage you to SLOW DOWN.

Slowing down lets you have a more immersive experience…and you won’t need a vacation from your vacation.

So, how many Swiss destinations do we recommend?

Well, for a 7-10 day trip, we’d choose 2-3 places max, plus maybe a night near the airport before we fly back home.

But even with 10-15 days , don’t go crazy…consider 3-4 destinations at most , plus a night at the airport.

Our ideal one-week trip would be to pick a single spot and explore it thoroughly.

Of course more time equals more options, but we always prefer 3+ nights in a location before switching lodging .

26 | Pick destinations that offer a variety of experiences

So, where should you go with your limited time? There are endless incredible places to visit in Switzerland, and you’ve gotta accept you won’t see ‘em all. We recommend narrowing your list to include the Alps, a typical Swiss city, one of the stunning lakes, and at least two of the cultural and linguistic regions.

For the true alpine experience, the 2 obvious choices are the Berner Oberland — which is probably what you picture in your mind when you close your eyes and dream of Switzerland — and Zermatt with its iconic Matterhorn views.

Mannlichen overlooking Lauterbrunnen Valley and Wengen, Switzerland with swiss flag

But you can also enjoy mountain excursions while staying in Lucerne, though the nearby mountains typically aren’t as high and dramatic, and there are even plenty of alpine adventures to be had in less-visited areas of the country.

Speaking of Lucerne , we think this is the best Swiss city for a first-time visitor. It’s charming, classically Swiss, and big enough to offer lots of variety without feeling overwhelming.

jesuit church lucerne switzerland old town

Of course you could check out Zurich, Geneva, or Basel if you’re into big cities, and Bern is a cute smaller Swiss city too. But we still choose Lucerne over all these.

For your lake experience, we love Lac Leman, also known as Lake Geneva. It has castles, cheese tastings, chocolate experiences , the best wine in Switzerland, and because it’s in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, it’ll feel like a different country.

But Lucerne is surrounded by a large lake, Interlaken sits between two lakes, and you could even consider the lakes near the Italian-speaking region of Ticino in the South.

tourism in switzerland introduction

Right now, our favorite combination of places to visit in Switzerland would be Lucerne and Lake Geneva, plus either the Berner Oberland, Zermatt, or both.

But with more time, there’s Appenzell, the Engadin, Emmental, Glarus, Liechtenstein…wow, yeah…just plan on coming back!

27 | Choose the best time of year to visit

In terms of when to visit, there’s really no perfect time; but some seasons are better than others. It really comes down to why you’re visiting: Spring is arguably the most beautiful time of the year for snow-capped mountains, gushing waterfalls, and wildflowers in bloom. But if you wanna hike high in the mountains, it’s probably too early.

Summer — essentially mid-June through August or early September — offers the longest days, warmest temperatures, and clear trails even at high elevations. But it’s also the most expensive and the busiest.

Fall is like Jekyll and Hyde. I think early September through mid-October is my favorite time of the year. Lots of clear blue skies, fewer crowds, and usually plenty of chances to enjoy great hikes in the mountains. But November often brings nothing but clouds and fog.

And then there’s Winter, which is magical when it snows and for the Christmas markets . But you probably know whether or not you want to visit in Winter, so we probably don’t need to say much here.

28 | Know the seasonal closing dates for your most important experiences

Maybe the most important point is to know what will be open and what will be closed during the time you’re thinking of coming, especially trains and cable cars in the mountains. April, May, October, and November are often the months you need to watch out for.

You can find seasonal info on the websites for these specific destinations or transportation companies, and sometimes on regional tourism websites as well.


29 | switzerland has 3 international airports.

Switzerland has three international airports: Zurich, Geneva, and Basel . If you’re coming from outside of Europe, then Zurich and Geneva are likely your only choices. But from within Europe, Basel is a good option that sometimes offers more budget flights and carriers.

jana aplin in the airport with away carry on suitcase and italian passport

30 | Switzerland is a small country

By most standards, Switzerland is a small country — about 40% the size of our home state of Tennessee!

You can travel from Zurich to Geneva by train in under 3 hours, and from Basel to Lugano in under 4. Which means, seeing multiple parts of the country in a single trip is very doable.

31 | Consider flying into one airport and out of another

And since both major international airports are on opposite sides of the country, consider flying into one and out of the other.

You can put together a really enjoyable itinerary that moves across the country from east to west (or vice versa) to avoid back-tracking and help you spend your time in Switzerland much more efficiently.

NEXT STEP : Determine which airport makes the most sense for your budget and itinerary.

32 | Skip the rental car (in most cases)

So, should you rent a car in Switzerland? Well, it can make sense for larger groups of adults traveling together, or if you’re in the middle of a European road trip and already have a rental.

But you can’t drive everywhere. If you’re visiting the mountains, you will almost always have to ride a train or cable car to reach the top. I can’t tell you how often someone asks us if they can drive to Grindelwald First or Gornergrat…NOPE.

So, our recommendation is to skip the car rental on your first trip to Switzerland .

Keep in mind that it’s often more expensive to pick up or drop off a rental car in Switzerland compared to neighboring countries. So, try to put Switzerland at the beginning or end of a European trip. Or at least organize your itinerary so you can pick up your car rental after leaving Switzerland or drop off it before getting to Switzerland.

33 | Make sure your rental car has a Vignette

But if you do rent a car, you’ll need a “ vignette ,” a little sticker that goes on your windshield and allows you to drive on Swiss motorways. It costs 40 CHF and is valid for a calendar year.

The nice thing is that there are no toll booths in Switzerland. This vignette is the one “toll” you pay, so you won’t have the unpleasant surprise of racking up more charges than you expect just to drive on the roads.

It’ll probably already be on your car if you rent from within Switzerland, but don’t be surprised if there isn’t one if you’re renting from another country. You can easily buy these at gas stations and rest stops near the Swiss border.

34 | Buy a Swiss Train Pass (or more than one!)

So, with all this in mind, most of you will be riding public transportation during your time in Switzerland. And trust us, you’ll want a train pass !

You’ve probably heard about the Swiss Travel Pass before. But this probably isn’t the best option unless you’re planning a really fast-paced trip covering most of the country.

Keep in mind it doesn’t actually cover everything, despite how it’s marketed. It covers everything at lower elevations, but you’ll usually just get a discount when you travel up into the mountains. That’s why we often recommend the Swiss Half Fare Card plus one of the regional passes (like the Berner Oberland Pass ) if mountains are the main reason you’re coming to Switzerland.

You can buy passes online in advance, or when you arrive in Switzerland at an airport or train station, and the price won’t change as your travel dates get closer.

Bern switzerland sbb train station

Now it’s impossible to cover the wild world of Swiss train passes in less than a minute, which is why we’ve covered this topic extensively in other videos and resources . If you’re not sure where to start, check out our Swiss Train Pass Checklist to find out exactly which passes are best for your trip!

35 | It’s not just the “Scenic” train rides that are scenic!

Many of you are excited to take a scenic train ride in Switzerland, and there are a handful you might have heard of, the top 3 being The Glacier Express, The Bernina Express, and the GoldenPass.

tourism in switzerland introduction

But before you splurge to ride all 3 or even just one of these, keep in mind that many “normal” train rides in Switzerland are scenic too! So don’t feel like you have to book one of the official scenic trains to enjoy a scenic train ride.

36 | Know if a Swiss scenic train ride actually fits your itinerary

If you really want to ride one of the scenic trains, make sure it actually fits the itinerary you’re planning.

The most convenient is definitely the GoldenPass , which connects Montreux to Interlaken, and there’s even a less popular but very scenic route connecting Interlaken and Lucerne.

So this is a no-brainer for a very efficient itinerary where you fly into one airport and out of the other, and visit Lucerne, Interlaken, and Lake Geneva with no back-tracking.

The Glacier Express and Bernina Express are a little more out of the way. The Bernina Express is a fun route between Italy and Switzerland, but make sure you plan to start or end the Swiss portion of your trip in the Southeast, unless you wanna criss-cross the whole country.

As for the Glacier Express, make sure you actually want to spend 8 hours on a train! You’ll be riding a lot of trains during your trip (unless you’re renting a car — which we already discussed), so this might be a bit much for you unless you’re really into the journey.

37 | Book a Seat Reservation for the scenic trains in Switzerland

And keep in mind that the popular scenic train rides almost always require you to book a seat reservation in advance , in addition to having a valid ticket or train pass when you travel.

Buy the Ultimate Guide to Swiss Transportation bundle by Aplins in the Alps

38 | Don’t over-do the Adventure activities in Switzerland

In case you haven’t heard, Switzerland offers endless adventure activities like paragliding, mountaineering, canyoning, skiing, rafting, biking, and ropes courses.

We can already see you adding these adventures to your bucket list, but here’s the thing: limit them unless you’re just an adventure sports enthusiast! They are a great way to blow your budget.

Jana from Aplins in the Alps on the exposed section of the murren via ferrata with lauterbrunnen valley in the background

39 | Hiking in Switzerland is the best free entertainment

If you’re like us, then hiking is the best entertainment — and it’s free once you get there! There are more than 65,000 km of trails in Switzerland. So whether you wanna walk for 15 minutes or hike for 5 days, there’s a path for everyone!

Yellow trails are the easiest, and you can walk these in plain tennis shoes. Yellow trails often convert to pink trails in the winter, which are also easy routes for a walk through the snow.

Red and white trails are standard mountain trails that require a solid hiking shoe and average fitness. (Well, average by Swiss standards, which means good fitness!)

tourism in switzerland introduction

Alpine trails are blue and white, and we don’t recommend you take these routes without a guide or climbing gear since they often cross glaciers and snow and very exposed areas.

40 | Get discounts on sightseeing in Switzerland

Hiking may be free, but what if you want to visit a museum or book a tour? Before you book, see if you are eligible for a discount!

The Swiss Travel Pass and many regional passes offer free or discounted prices for museums and other activities. And Guest Cards, which we will talk about in a later section, often provide free local travel and reduced rates for nearby attractions.

41 | Do you need to make reservations in advance?

If you’re booking a scenic train ride experience, you need to reserve your seats in advance, usually available starting 90 days out. But for other train rides, you do NOT need to book in advance because the price won’t change as the departure gets closer.

For mountain excursions, we don’t think it’s worth booking a tour. Why? Because you can already reach the destination yourself using public transportation. And most of the time, you can follow the trail signs to take your own hike too.

But if you’re eager for outdoor adventures like the ones we mentioned earlier, then yes, absolutely book a tour! And the bookings tend to fill up quickly, so it’s best to book in advance. We love to book through Get Your Guide because they have great prices and packages.

42 | Save on Airbnbs with long stay discounts

Once you’ve chosen your destinations, it’s time to start looking at lodging, and your biggest choice will be between hotels and other accommodations like Airbnb.

We prefer Airbnb when we stay 3 or more nights , especially outside of major cities. We like to snag discounts when we stay for a week, and have even taken advantage of 40% off on stays of 28 nights or more.

A discounted Airbnb booked for 1 month plus the Half Fare Card we mentioned earlier? Now, those are the keys to a long yet budget-friendly experience in Switzerland!

43 | Save on Hotel stays with HotelCard

But for short stays, you’ll often save money by booking a hotel. For example, HotelCard (which we personally use all the time! ) can earn you discounts up to 50% off the normal prices.

And while there’s a fee to become a member, most people recoup that cost with just a one-night stay, and you can save 30 CHF by signing up with our link.

44 | Tourist tax is charged on top of the nightly rate

Keep in mind, you’ll always have to pay tourist tax when staying at any hotel or Airbnb, and this is usually around 2-6 CHF per person per night on top of the lodging cost, though children are usually cheaper.

Some Airbnbs will require this payment in cash, but most hotels allow it to be paid by credit card.

45 | Guest Cards and Visitor Cards

But that tourist tax will sometimes get you a complimentary Guest Card when you stay in a hotel or Airbnb, depending on the destination.

american bar at gutsch lucerne switzerland

Often, this covers free local transportation and gives you discounts to some local attractions, although this varies from city to city. In our opinion, the most beneficial thing about Guest Cards is the free local transportation. But keep in mind that “local” really does mean local, so your guest card won’t replace your need for a train pass.

46 | Stay just outside of a popular area to save more money

If you’re trying to save money and are willing to forego a little convenience, you’ll often find cheaper lodging prices just outside of the main areas. This could mean an Airbnb that’s a 10-minute walk from the train station instead of right next door, or a smaller village next to a larger town.

Especially if you’re staying in an area that offers a local Guest Card, you might be able to stay somewhere one train or bus stop from the main area you want to explore for a much cheaper price, AND enjoy free rides covered by the Guest Card.

But the number one way your lodging will save you money has nothing to do with location…so let’s talk about food.

47 | Swiss F ood is high quality, but not a great value

Food in Switzerland is more expensive than any of the 30+ countries we’ve visited in Europe. The quality is great, but we just don’t consider it to be a good value — especially in German-speaking Switzerland, where the options generally aren’t as interesting or varied as the French and Italian speaking parts.

brett eating at a restaurant in zum see zermatt switzerland

48 | Book lodging with a kitchen

So, try to book lodging with a kitchen. You’ll save so much money by eating at your apartment instead of in restaurants . In fact, your savings might literally be enough to pay for your lodging!

And if you’ll be visiting France or Italy during your trip, save your food budget for those countries!

49 | Shop at Swiss grocery stores

Shopping at the grocery store is both a budget-friendly experience, and a fun travel experience.

Aldi and Lidl are the cheapest ones you’ll find in Switzerland, but since they’re German stores, not many of the Swiss shop there 🙂

Migros and Coop are the biggest Swiss supermarkets, but tend to be a little more expensive. But if you shop their store brands or look for sales, then you can often find really good value.

Finally, even if you don’t want to cook on vacation, there are great takeaway options for picnics or food-on-the-go. And there’s enough variety, especially in larger stores, that you won’t have to eat the same thing over and over!

And you can find plenty of Swiss brands and local or regional products that will make it feel like a special experience anyway.

NEXT STEP : Find out which grocery store(s) is closest to your lodging!

50 | Enjoy food experiences on the cheap

Speaking of special food experiences, those don’t have to happen in a restaurant. We spend most of our non-grocery food budget in bakeries and cafes.

tourism in switzerland introduction

One, because I love coffee and have a pretty serious sweet tooth. Two, because we can enjoy going out for a food experience at a fraction of the price of eating in a restaurant.

And when only a restaurant will do, look into apps like The Fork and Too Good to Go . The first helps you find great discounts for eating IN restaurants, while the second offers even better discounts if you’re willing to do takeaway.

NEXT STEP : Download both of these apps onto your phone and search the available options in the areas you plan to visit.

51 | Splurge on the Must-eat Swiss foods

But don’t spend your ENTIRE trip avoiding restaurants. Make sure you enjoy some of the classic Swiss food such as:

  • Fondue or raclette
  • Swiss cheese in general
  • Kambly cookies

There are so many possibilities, we’ll have to save them for a future video!

52 | Try LOTS of Swiss Chocolate

But of course, one of the most important Swiss food experiences is tasting the chocolate! You can create your own tasting by buying Swiss chocolate from a few different brands: Lindt, Frey, Halba, and Cailler, just to name a few. You can find these in just about any grocery store for much cheaper than the fancy box sets you’ll see in tourist shops.

But venture beyond plain chocolate bars too. There’s Toblerone (of course), Ovomaltine (which is a little like a Crunch bar), Torino (which has a chocolate exterior filled with hazelnut cream), and Ragusa (which is similar to Torino but has hazelnuts as well).

tourism in switzerland introduction

Basically, indulge in as much Swiss chocolate as you can!

53 | Make Dinner Reservations

We generally recommend that you make restaurant reservations for dinner, if you have a specific place you want to eat. But it’s less important to reserve a table for lunch, especially if your plans for the day are more flexible.

brett eating dinner in eggiwil restaurant

You can usually make reservations the morning of or the day before by stopping by the restaurant or calling ahead.

54 | Tipping in Switzerland is appreciated, but not expected

Tipping is practically another language because it’s different in every country you visit. But here in Switzerland, tipping is not expected. If you had great service or outstanding food, you can round the bill up to the nearest 5 or 10 Francs.

But make a note that if you’re paying by credit card and want to include the tip on your bill, you will need to tell the waiter or waitress before they run your credit card. That’s because there is usually not a place on the receipt to add the tip afterwards!

55 | For more tips, Buy a done-for-you Swiss Itinerary!

Speaking of tips, we’re just getting started with what we have to offer! Read all of our best tips and learn how to start planning your next Swiss vacation in our Swiss Travel Guides !

Jana is an SEO copywriter and content editor plus travel YouTuber. She loves all things gelato, sunshine, and words. Her perfect day? Tossing on sunglasses to read a book and catch some rays, then dinner with her husband and friends. In her free time, Jana disciples teen girls and cooks from scratch (like homemade pasta). Jana lives in Switzerland with her husband, Brett.

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Written by Becca Blond and Joni Sweet Updated Mar 20, 2024

Switzerland's natural beauty is as addictive as its mouthwatering chocolates – one taste and you'll be left craving more. Whether you are on the hiking trails outside Zermatt, laying eyes on the iconic Matterhorn for the first time, or marveling at the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains schussing down a ski trail beginning atop the Jungfraujoch, Switzerland seduces quickly.

Matterhorn and mountain scenery in Switzerland

This landlocked central European country is home to two mountain ranges, the Alps in the south and the Jura in the northwest. But Switzerland's natural attractions don't stop with peaks and glaciers. You'll also find glimmering turquoise lakes, emerald valleys where tingling bell-wearing cows and sheep graze, charming chalets, and flower box-filled villages that look ripped from the pages of a fairytale storybook.

Amid all this natural beauty are also some fantastic urban diversions and places to visit. With four official languages (French, German, Italian, and Romansch), Switzerland has a multicultural sophistication to its cities, which all offer something different when it comes to history and culture.

French speaking Geneva is home to four major offices of the United Nations and has a large international population. German speaking Zurich is Switzerland's largest city and financial center, known for its shopping, museums, and nightlife. The capital city of Bern boasts a medieval old town with a famous moving puppet clock tower and a stunning riverfront locale.

Switzerland is a four-season destination with countless things to do for outdoor adventurists. In winter you can partake in snow sports at world-class resorts, while summers are perfect for hiking, biking, climbing, and paragliding.

Getting around Switzerland is easy. Although you can rent a car and drive, we recommend utilizing its excellent train system that goes almost everywhere in the country. Trains are fast, mostly on time, and allow you to just sit back and soak up the stunning scenery.

Explore in more depth by checking out our list of top attractions and places to visit in Switzerland

1. The Matterhorn

3. jungfraujoch: the top of europe, 4. interlaken, 6. lake geneva, 7. chateau de chillon, montreux, 8. st. moritz, 10. lake lugano and ticino, 12. the rhine falls, 13. swiss national park, 14. the albula/bernina railway line, 15. oberhofen castle, 16. swiss grand canyon, 17. gruyères, best time of the year to visit switzerland.

The Matterhorn

You'll never forget the first time you see Switzerland's most symbolic mountain, the Matterhorn. Maybe you arrive in the charming village of Zermatt, at its base , on a clear blue day and the 4,478-meter high , tooth-shaped mountain looms clearly in front of you. Or maybe it is spitting rain when you first set foot in the car-free town, and it isn't until the next morning that you witness the emblematic peak emerging from a sea of dissipating clouds. Whichever way you first see this legendary mountain, it will remain seared into your memory for years to come. It's that impressive.

One of the highest mountains in the Alps, the Matterhorn sits on the border with Italy. It has four steep faces rising to its craggy tip. Climbers have been intrigued by this mountain from the first successful summit in 1865 by British climber Edward Whymper and his team. The trip still ended tragically when four of the climbers fell to their deaths during the descent.

Today, thousands of experienced climbers come here in a summit bid each summer. There are several routes to the top of this mountain, which is not accessible by cable car. The easiest route is the Hörnligrat, which begins in Zermatt.

Things to Do at the Matterhorn

Gornegrat Bahn cog railway and the Matterhorn

If you don't have the skills to summit the Matterhorn, there are still plenty of ways to experience the mountain. One top excursion is to ride the Gornegrat Bahn cog railway to the summit of the 1,620-meter Gornergrat mountain for stunning Matterhorn views. Europe's highest open-air cog railway, and the first fully electric train of its kind, departs from Zermatt station multiple times per day.

The ride itself is also bound to leave you speechless. Taking 33 minutes and climbing 1,469 meters it crosses dramatic bridges, passes turquoise-hued mountain lakes, and at times clings to the side of the mountain with views down into rocky ravines.

Once you reach the mountaintop, you'll find an observation deck with views in all directions including a view of Switzerland's highest mountain and the second biggest glacier in the Alps. Keep an eye out for wild ibex near the viewing platform in summer.

Europe's highest-altitude hotel, the Kulmhotel Gornegrat is also here. Besides lodging, it has a restaurant and shops open to the public. There is excellent hiking in summer, while Switzerland's highest sledding hill provides winter fun.

Buildings in the village of Zermatt

At the foot of the Matterhorn, lies the charming village of Zermatt, a top international resort that is one of the most popular ski destinations in Switzerland , and a hiking, biking, and climbing paradise in summer.

Laid out along just a few main streets with a surreal-looking blue river running through it, motorized vehicles except for official electric taxis are banned to preserve the air quality and the town's peaceful ambiance.

Zermatt can also only be reached via helicopter (very pricy) or the Matterhorn Gotthard railway via the towns of Visp or Brig. If you drive to the region, you'll need to park your car down the valley in the town of Tasch, and then continue by train. As such, staying in Zermatt truly feels like you hiked into a remote mountain paradise.

View from the Top of the Rothorn

In the winter, skiers can play on more than 300 kilometers of slopes accessed via a funicular and the Blauherd and Rothorn gondolas. In the summer, these slopes turn into hiking and mountain biking trails.

The Five Lakes Trail is one of the most popular hikes, beginning at the top of the Blauherd gondola and eventually taking you back to town via a series of five lakes, three of which you can see the reflection of the Matterhorn in on a clear, windless day. If you want to paraglide, this is also available.

Summer street scene in Zermatt

Back in town, you'll find dozens of shops, restaurants (order Raclette, a cheese and potato dish that is a regional specialty), and hotels. If you are interested in history, pay a visit to the Matterhorn Museum , which tells the story of the mountain village turned international holiday resort. It also provides facts and photos from the Matterhorn's first ascent.

  • Read More: Top Tourist Attractions in Zermatt & Easy Day Trips

View from the Top of Europe

Since 1912, tourists have been making their way to the fairytale-like village of Grindelwald for an excursion to the Top of Europe (also known as Jungfraujoch). As its name suggests, it's the highest train station in Europe.

It offers panoramic views of the UNESCO-recognized Jungfrau region that will make your jaw drop. The Sphinx Observatory, an astronomical observatory that looks like a Bond villain lair perched 3,454 meters above sea level, is the best place to see the magnificent Aletsch Glacier and the 4,000-meter peaks that flank it. With snow 365 days per year, it's also a prime spot to get a break from Europe's heat in the summertime.

Sphinx Observatory

This famous attraction has come a long way in the last 100 years, giving tourists lots of things to do at the top. Step into the 360-degree cinematic experience room for a closer look at the glacier and the Swiss Alps (perfect for ensuring you still get a wonderful view on a foggy day). Walk through a 250-meter-long corridor with artifacts and exhibits on the history of the miners who built the railway to Jungfraujoch—the antique mining equipment hanging on the walls will give you a deeper respect for these early pioneers.

The Top of Europe

Peek inside a giant snow globe that depicts the region with charming moving figures, like yodelers and gondolas. Then, glide through the Ice Palace. Frozen from floor to ceiling, it features smooth, icy hallways filled with ice sculptures of animals, including several penguins around an igloo.

Jungfraujoach's highly sustainable cable car, the Eiger Express , shortened the journey between Grindelwald and Jungfraujoch from 45 minutes to just 15 minutes when it opened in late 2020. That makes it possible to summit the Top of Europe on a day trip from Interlaken or even Zurich, but if you have time, it's worth sticking around Grindelwald to hike for a few days .

Panorama Trail

The trails here are among the most beautiful in the world and most trailheads are easily accessible through the town's network of cable cars and gondolas. The aptly named Panorama Trail takes you along paths lined by wildflowers with a backdrop of snow-capped peaks, while the Grindelwald First cable car station puts you on the path to the world-famous Bachalpsee lake.

You can also break up your days of hiking with adventure activities. Grindelwald First is home to a zip line that soars at 80 kilometers per hour and a mountain cart attraction that lets you race down winding gravel paths, plus a trail you can tackle on a "trottibike"—a unique cross between a scooter and a bike that's surprisingly fast.

Jungfruajoch - Section map

Nestled on a strip of land between two glassy lakes, Interlaken looks like a postcard brought to life. The enchanting resort town has been a popular vacation destination for centuries, giving tourists a home base to explore the Bernese Oberland. Visit in the spring or summer to take in the striking sight of the town's lush gardens blooming with the snow-dusted Eiger, Jungfrau, and Mönch towering in the background.

Interlaken's proximity to Lake Thun to the west and Lake Brienz to the east, along with soaring alpine mountains, has helped it become the "Adventure Capital of Europe" —and it offers thrills for any taste.

Interlaken Harderbahn

Want to hike? Take a 10-minute ride on the Interlaken Harderbahn, a funicular railway that's more than 100 years old, to the Harder Kulm (Interlaken's closest mountain). A brick path lined with quirky Swiss statues takes you to the trailhead for the Harder Kulm Circular Path , a relatively easy, forested path that opens up to panoramic views of Interlaken.

From mountainside slopes, you can also take the sky on a paragliding adventure in the summer, or slip on a pair of skis and zip down fresh powder in one of five winter sports areas around Interlaken. It's also a lovely place to get out on the water. Rent kayaks, row boats, and pedal boats for a serene experience on the lakes. Or challenge yourself to wakeboarding, windsurfing, or water skiing.


The beautiful part about Interlaken, though, is that it's as much a place for excitement as it is for a laid-back retreat. Once you've gotten your share of adrenaline, wind down with a stroll on the Höheweg , Interlaken's main boulevard, or find a moment of peace at the Garden of Friendship, the country's first Japanese garden.

  • Read More: Top Tourist Attractions in Interlaken & Easy Day Trips


Imagine a sparkling blue lake surrounded by mountains, a car-free medieval old town, covered bridges, waterfront promenades, frescoed historic buildings, and sun-splashed plazas with bubbling fountains. No wonder Lucerne (in German, Luzern) is a top spot for tourists.

Famed for its music concerts, this quintessential Swiss town lures renowned soloists, conductors, and orchestras to its annual International Music Festival . The Culture and Convention Center is home to one of the world's leading concert halls.


One of the city's most famous landmarks is the Chapel Bridge , built in the 14th century. In a small park, lies the famous Lion Monument , a poignant sculpture of a dying lion, which honors the heroic death of Swiss Guards during the attack on the Tuileries in the French Revolution. History buffs will enjoy the Swiss Transport Museum with extensive exhibits on all forms of transport, including air and space travel, railroad locomotives, and a Planetarium.

For beautiful views of Lucerne, the Alps, and the lake, ride the funicular to the Dietschiberg on the north side of Lake Lucerne; cruise up Mt. Pilatus on the cableway; or head to the Rigi , a famous lookout point.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Lucerne

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva, Europe's largest Alpine lake , straddles the Swiss/French border, and laps at the shores of some of Switzerland's most popular cities. The city of Geneva (in French Genève; in German Genf) sits between pretty snowcapped peaks at the point where the Rhône spills into Lake Geneva.

This French-speaking "capital of peace" is the European seat of the United Nations and exudes a pleasing blend of French joie de vivre and Swiss structure. Promenades, parks, and gardens surround the lake, and the old town is a lovely spot to stroll among the historic buildings. The Jet d'Eau , a fountain in Lake Geneva shooting water 150 meters into the air, is a famous landmark. Cultural attractions include the Opera House and the Grand Théâtre , which stages international acts.

Also on the lake, about 62 kilometers from Geneva, Lausanne boasts lovely views over the surrounding region and the lake, with the Alps rising in the distance. Take a stroll through the medieval old town with its cute cafés and boutiques and stunning Gothic cathedral. At the foot of the Alps, on Lake Geneva, Montreux hosts the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival in June/July.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Geneva

Chateau de Chillon, Montreux

On the shores of Lake Geneva, near Montreux , the Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle) has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Lord Byron, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Victor Hugo are among the luminaries who have written about this architectural treasure.

Once the stronghold of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy from the 12th century, the complex encompasses about 25 buildings clustered around three courtyards. Highlights include the Great Halls, with magnificent views of Lake Geneva; the Gothic underground rooms; the Chapel , adorned with 14th-century paintings; and the Camera Domini , a bedroom occupied by the Duke of Savoy decorated with medieval murals.

View over St. Moritz

St. Moritz is a city of firsts. The world's first electric light clicked on here in December 1878. In 1889 it hosted the Alps' first golf tournament and in 1935 began operating one of Switzerland's first ski lifts. Additionally, the town is considered the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism after a hotelier convinced British summer guests to winter here in 1864. It went on to host the Winter Olympics twice (1928 and 1948).

In the Upper Engadin region in southeast Switzerland, in a valley surrounded by the Alps, today it is one of the world's most ritzy ski resorts , favored by billionaires and celebrities. It has 350 kilometers of ski and snowboard runs with some of Switzerland's steepest terrain.

Winter sports run the gamut, from skiing, snowboarding, skating, and bobsledding to tobogganing. One of the oldest natural ice runs for toboggans on the planet is found here, the famous 1.2-kilometer-long Cresta Run . There is also a snowboard fun park and 150 kilometers of winter walking and cross-country ski trails.

St. Moritz

In summer, St. Moritz attracts hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and rock climbers. If you prefer to golf, you can play four courses with fantastic mountain views. You can also enjoy the iron-rich natural mineral hot springs here year-round. They were discovered about 3,000 years ago.

Adding to all this spectacular mountain scenery, St. Moritz is a cultural crossroads. Romansch, German, Italian, French, and English are all spoken in the surrounding areas, not to mention the different languages of the many well-heeled international visitors and expats.

The town is divided into two parts: St. Moritz Dorf sits on a sunny terrace overlooking the Lake of St. Moritz. The other part of town, lakeside St. Moritz Bad on the valley floor, is a health resort with less expensive lodging.

  • Read More: Top Tourist Attractions in St. Moritz & Easy Day Trips


In a stunning location, perched on a peninsula of the River Aare, the Swiss capital of Bern exudes old-world charm, and the city's medieval old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Strolling along the cobbled streets, visitors can explore the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, with panoramic views from its tower; 16th-century fountains; the Zytglogge medieval clock tower with moving puppets; and six kilometers of shopping arcades, called " Lauben " by the locals. The Rose Garden (Rosengarten) offers beautiful views of the old town center.

Bern has many tourist attractions waiting to be discovered, including excellent museums. Art lovers will appreciate the impressive galleries, including the Zentrum Paul Klee, the world's largest collection of works by this famous artist, and the Bern Museum of Art (Kunstmuseum).

Don't miss the markets, held in the Bundesplatz (parliament square) with views of the elegant Renaissance-style parliament building (Bundeshaus). Families will also enjoy a visit to the Bear Park.

Lake Lugano and Ticino

Lake Lugano lies on the Swiss/Italian border in Ticino, Switzerland's only official Italian-speaking canton, and offers a tantalizing taste of the Mediterranean. Citrus, figs, palms, and pomegranates flourish in the mild climate here–even as snowcapped peaks beckon in the distance.

In the towns around Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore to the west, the feel of Italy is unmistakable in the architecture, the piazzas, and the passion for fine food, which spills over the Italian borders from the south, east, and west.

Visitors can explore the area by touring the lake on one of the white steamers or renting a boat. For a panoramic overview, Monte San Salvatore offers one of the most spectacular vistas of the surrounding countryside, lake, and snow-capped peaks.

Lugano , a financial center and the largest and most significant town in Ticino, is a popular summer resort. Northwest of Lugano, in sun-drenched Locarno on Lake Maggiore, Swiss lakeside living takes on a subtropical touch with warm days, blossoming gardens, and palm-studded estates. In Bellinzona , capital of the canton, three magnificent castles are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Lugano, Locarno, and the Ticino Region


Zurich is Switzerland's largest city, a major transportation hub, and a top starting point for travelers. The city lies at the northwestern end of Lake Zurich astride the river Limmat. Beyond its buttoned-up façade, this affluent banking capital boasts a rich line-up of cultural treasures.

A great place to begin a walking tour is the cobbled streets of the Old Town with its quaint shops, cafés, and galleries. Mile-long Bahnhofstrasse , one of Europe's finest shopping strands, beckons with designer stores selling fashion, watches, and jewelry.

Venturing away from the boutiques, visitors will find more than 50 museums and 100 art galleries, as well as many other tourist attractions . A top pick is the Kunsthaus Zürich , the museum of fine arts, with an impressive collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. Another favorite is the Rietberg Museum , which focuses on non-European art with many works from China, India, and Africa.

A short stroll from Zürich's main station, the Swiss National Museum , in a Gothic chateau, spotlights Swiss cultural history. Families will love the Zurich Zoo with an elephant park, penguin parade, and Madagascar pavilion. From the city, take a train ride to Uetliberg Mountain for panoramic views of the city and countryside.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Zürich

The Rhine Falls

Spanning 150 meters, the Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) at Schaffhausen are the largest falls in Europe. The best time to visit is during June and July when the mountain snow melts, and the falls swell in volume to spill over a 21-meter-high ledge of Jurassic limestone.

Boat trips up the Rhine provide excellent views of the falls, as do the viewing platforms on both sides of the river.

Hiking trail in the Swiss National Park

Founded in 1914, Swiss National Park in the Engadine Valley is the oldest reserve in the Alps. The park sits right on the border with Italy and encompasses more than 170 square kilometers of flower-dotted hollows, fast-flowing rivers, and limestone crags. The scenery is especially dramatic in winter when the forested mountains are covered in a blanket of snow, and the views from the cross-country ski trails are stunning.

Nature lovers can explore the region on the large network of trails, though veering off these paths is forbidden in an effort to preserve the natural ecosystems. More than 5,000 species of wildlife call the park home, including marmot, red deer, chamois, ibex, fox, and more than 100 species of birds.

Swiss National Park - Layout map

One of the very few railway lines in the world designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage listing, the Albula/Bernina line on the Rheatian Railways offers a majestic ride not to be missed. The route extends throughout the Albula and Bernina landscapes, covering 122 kilometers and winding through almost 200 bridges, the Graubünden mountains, and a number of tunnels and viaducts along the way.

A ride on this train means panoramic seats that overlook unspoiled mountain landscapes, including the Piz Bernina, the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps at just over 4,000 meters tall. The train operates all year long, and the views are just as magical in summer as they are in winter.

Oberhofen Castle

Right on the shore of Lake Thun and surrounded by a 2.5-hectare park, this 13th-century castle is one of the most breathtaking in Switzerland. Because Oberhofen Castle changed hands many times through the centuries, and new owners kept adding rooms to it, the result is a magical mix of many styles: Bernese Baroque-style buildings, Romantic-style facades, and Prussian-inspired exotic new areas (including a library and a smoking room).

The castle also houses a living museum showcasing the times and lives of feudal societies that called the castle (and its surroundings) home from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

View over the Ruinaulta (Swiss Grand Canyon)

The Ruinaulta (also known as the "Swiss Grand Canyon") is a deep gorge surrounded by expansive meadows and forested cliffs. Located in Eastern Switzerland, it was created over 10,000 years ago–when the Ice Age Rhine Glacier retreated, it led to a chain of events that resulted in a massive rockslide in the Rhine Valley. As the Rhine River seeped through the rock walls, the gorge was filled with water.

Today, the Swiss Grand Canyon is not only one of the most beautiful areas in Switzerland, but also a preferred destination for hikers, bird-watchers, and nature lovers. It's possible to raft the rapids here between May and October, or rent a canoe or kayak for a gentler route with stunning views of the steep cliffs all around.

Aerial view of Gruyères Castle

Even if you don't know anything about this small medieval town, you've probably heard about the hard yellow cheese that made its name famous. Today, that's one of the town's main attractions. Visitors can tour a cheese factory, sample the local specialties, and wave to the cows that call the surrounding green hills home. If cheese isn't enough, the Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory also operates in town.

Gruyères might be tiny – it covers an area of just 28.4 square kilometers and is home to around 2,000 permanent residents – but it makes up for it with plenty of things to do, including the 13 th -century Castle of Gruyères and its two small arts and regional museums, as well as Saint-Germain Castle, which was bought by Swiss surrealist painter and sculptor H. R. Giger, and it now houses a museum dedicated to his work. The Tibet Museum, housed in an old church in town, is also worth a visit.

Stunning landscapes surround Gruyères, including the Gorges de la Jogne (favorite with hikers) and the nearby Mont Moléson, popular with climbers in the warmer months and home to ski and snowshoe trails during winter.

Train crossing a bridge in Switzerland with the Matterhorn in the distance

The best time to visit Switzerland depends partly on why you're going there. If you're going for the skiing, then of course winter is the best time to visit. For mountain hiking, summer is best, as it's warm even high up in the mountains, and you won't encounter much rain to disrupt your outdoor plans.

If your visit to Switzerland will include a bit of everything, then the months between April and June are your best choice . You'll still find some snow if you arrive early in this period, and warm days if you arrive later on.

Temperatures vary between 15 and 22 degrees Celsius, and you'll get a bit of rain, but you'll also see long days with plenty of sunshine, perfect for hiking and sightseeing . May is the most unpredictable month weather-wise – you might see rain and cold evenings or sunshine with temperatures in the low 20s.

Since the summer crowds don't arrive until July, and the winter crowds are long gone, you'll get more privacy and a chance to grab better deals on flights and accommodations .

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Tourism in Switzerland – How can the future be?

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the tourism business in Switzerland. Although it is a minor position in the Swiss export balance, it is nevertheless of considerable importance for those regions of the country that attract domestic and foreign visitors. As a consequence of the lockdown measures, combined with close borders and travel bans, tourism collapsed and only briefly and partly recovered in summer. Its future is uncertain and depends on people’s (future guests’) attitudes and decisions as much as on the economy, political measures and, of course, the progress of the pandemic. Will there be an ‘after’ COVID-19?.

1. Introduction

For many countries, tourism is a major factor in economy and society. A tourist is a person who travels by whatever means of transportation (from walking to using a space rocket), and who would usually spend some time away from home. Tourism statistics are mainly based on arrivals, beds available, and nights spent in registered tourist accommodation. Private accommodation (with friends or in second homes) is escaping this count. The data used must therefore be treated with caution; they only furnish a partial picture, particularly because day-tourism is hardly known.

Until 2019, tourism was part of everyday life and a major growth industry, globally ( Schoder and Hunziker, 2011 , p. 55) as well as sometimes regionally, following the neoliberal growth logic. Tourists spent money for travel, accommodation, food, souvenirs, gratuities etc. and frequently used the service of travel agencies. There were huge flows of money and many people had a job and could feed their families. On the other hand, the natural environment suffered, and also the populations in destination countries did not only reap benefits. Popular destinations like Venice or Barcelona experienced demonstrations against the large crowds, especially of day-visitors from cruise-ships that congest the streets and sights but spend hardly any money – the new term of overtourism was created (see also Mami, 2018 who talks about the situation in Kyoto and elsewhere).

This all changed in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic made this a special year in many respects. Many people saw their plans for travel and a change of air and surroundings ruined, airplanes were grounded, public transport half empty, hotels and restaurants lacked customers, and souvenir shops closed down – it looked like a revenge on overtourism. Lockdowns and closed boundaries were obstacles even to short trips, and the travel and tourism industry suddenly faced an uncertain future. “International tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) declined 70% in the first eight months of 2020 over the same period last year, amid global travel restrictions including many borders fully closed, to contain the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” ( UNWTO, 2020 , p. 1). This figure alone illustrates the effect of the national measures undertaken in the wake of the outbreak and global diffusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it contrasts sharply with the 1.4 billion tourists of 2019 (ibid., p. 4, provisional figure). From this collapse resulted an estimated loss of 730 billion USD (export value) with about 700 million arrivals less than in 2019 (ibid., p. 1). In Switzerland, the number of foreign tourists diminished by 62% in the first eight months of this year compared to 2019 ( FSO, 2020 ). The general lockdowns and the retreat behind national boundaries slowed down life on a global scale and left many people stranded somewhere in the world with difficulties to return home immediately.

The few figures above offer a glimpse of the role tourism plays in our world under ‘normal’ circumstances. Many people like to spend at least some time away from home, temporarily abandoning their daily chores and obligations, and want to enjoy to be spoilt for a few days or weeks in a hotel or to travel and discover new worlds. International travel, however, has come to a standstill, resulting in a radical transformation of tourist habits.

Attempting to discuss the future of travel and tourism after COVID-19, particularly in Switzerland, is like looking into the crystal ball. Nobody can foresee the future, and nobody knowns when ‘after COVID-19′ will be. Most tourism operators have written 2020 off, hoping (and planning) for 2021, others focus on 2022 ( UNWTO, 2020 , Annex 21) or even 2023, but nobody knows. This will therefore be a speculative paper with a few ideas but no certainties. In fact, we have to deal with two crises: the pandemic (a general problem for tourism), and global warming, presenting a headache for winter tourism.

This paper focuses on the former crisis and presents tourism in Switzerland before COVID-19 struck (the situation we used to consider normal), look briefly at the situation of the lockdown in 2020, and reflect on an unpredictable future.

2. Switzerland as a tourist destination

As one of the alpine countries, landlocked Switzerland with her mountains has to compete not only with her neighbours but with other destinations. There are, e.g., no coastal resorts. The advantage is that tourism in Switzerland benefits of a large diversity of beautiful landscapes in a relatively small space, offering many possibilities for various activities all the year round, in all seasons, although primarily in summer and winter. The offers of nature as well as culture are manifold, but unfortunately price levels throughout the country are high, and this can discourage many people from visiting. Despite this major drawback, millions of visitors from all over the world arrive(d) every year.

With an overall score of 5.0 (of 6) on the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI), Switzerland occupies rank 10 of the 140 countries examined in 2019 ( WEF, 2019 , pp. vii & xiii) and has retained this position from the previous years (ibid., p.8). A look at the details of the TTCI (ibid., pp. 64–83) puts the good result into perspective. Switzerland scores high due to an enabling environment and environmental sustainability (both rank 1), infrastructure and human resources and labour market (both rank 2), the business environment (rank 3), ground and port infrastructure (rank 4) and ICT readiness (rank 5). However, natural and cultural resources rank only on position 29, in international openness we are on rank 30, and our worst position (rank 137) is in price competitiveness – our major handicap.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a substantial toll. During the first nine months of 2020, the number of nights spent in hotels dropped by 39.4% relative to the same period in 2019, from 31.5 to 19.1 million. Domestic guests diminished by 10.9% (from 14.1 to 12.5 million) and to some extent saved the business, but they could not compensate the loss of 62.5% (from 17.4 to 6.5 million) among foreign visitors (BfS, 2020). Hotel nights do not represent total tourism but are a good indicator. They do, for example, not include people staying on campsites or in second homes.

2.1. Visitors to Switzerland

In 2018, Switzerland received 11.7 million international visitors ( UNWTO, 2020 , Annex 6), a mere 5.8% of tourist arrivals in Western Europe (ibid., Annex 3). To grasp the full extent of tourism, however, one has to include domestic travel that is not contained in the usual tourism statistics. The Federal Statistical Office calculates that every inhabitant undertook on average 9.4 day-trips (essentially inland trips) in 2018, altogether 71.8 million domestic tourists ( FSO, n.d./1 ). Including the 11.7 million international guests, roughly 83.5 million people privileged Switzerland when they were looking for a change from everyday life, persons who contribute to the national economy, have a social impact of some sort, and influence the natural environment.

People visit a country for various reasons, and attractions and tastes are diverse. Price is an important factor, but not decisive – despite the high Swiss price level, many people still chose the country as their holiday destination. A distinguish, however, must be made between summer and winter tourism. The latter is focused on specific destinations (Zermatt, St. Moritz and Davos are the three most popular destinations for foreign visitors, domestic tourists mainly preferring smaller stations), whereas the former is quite diffuse, varying between lakes and mountains, and very popular with domestic visitors. Urban tourism, on the other hand, occupies a niche and is independent of the seasons. Tourism promotion adapts itself to this situation, but particularly in winter the offer has widened in the past few decades. Instead of simply emphasizing skiing, complementary activities such as snowshoe tours, walking, and wellness have been added. Each resort has its own way of marketing; due to uncertainties of the snow cover, winter resorts are diversifying their offer and develop their summer potential.

The visitors are as varied as the attractions. The categories used by the Swiss Tourism Agency ( Fig. 1 ) are not mutually exclusive but offer an approximate picture. Nature lovers (24.6%), snow sports enthusiasts (21%) and outdoor enthusiasts (19%; My Switzerland 2019) make up almost two thirds of their number. But the family traveller could also be a nature lover, a snow lover or a culture tourist, and a luxury traveller could also visit a spa. Many guests often return (despite the high price level): two thirds are frequent visitors, i.e. have been here more than five times in their life (ibid.). They may own a second home or have developed friendly relations with a hotel owner, be attracted by a special place, or simply resist change.

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Types of tourists visiting Switzerland, 2019 (Source: My Switzerland 2019 ).

2.2. Tourism and the national economy

Tourism contributes 2.9% to the Gross Domestic Income ( OECD 2020 , p. 288) and is not of primary importance for the national economy. Switzerland is an export-country, with manufacturing (all domains) and financial services the dominating sectors, contributing 11% and 9% respectively (2014 figures; FOS, n.d./2 ). The tourism sector (direct and indirect segments combined) employs less than 200,000 people, 181′700 full-time jobs in 2018, 4.4% of total employment ( OECD 2020 , p. 288), but it has a considerable local and regional impact. In the Grisons it amounts to about 30% of the cantonal economic performance, in the Valais about 25% ( Schoder and Hunziker 2011 , p. 55)

Financially speaking, international receipts from inbound tourism in 2018 amounted to 16,596 million Swiss Francs (CHF), surpassed, however, by international travel expenditure (outbound tourism) of 17,949 CHF of ( OECD 2020 , p. 291). Tourists also spend money, and consumption added more than 25,000 million CHF in 2014 (ibid., p.292; no more recent data available), 11 billion from domestic and 14 billion from international tourists. This largely compensates for the negative balance of travel expenditure.

2.3. Regional aspects

It is not necessarily Switzerland as a whole that attracts foreign visitors; they are often interested in visiting much publicized hotspots, such as Geneva, Lucerne, Interlaken and the Jungfraujoch (Top of Switzerland), Zermatt with the Matterhorn, St. Moritz, Davos – places that coined the image of the country but offer only a limited impression. To promote the entire country and offer a more comprehensive image, longer tours impose themselves, such as the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz or vice versa, the Golden Pass Express from Lake Geneva to the Bernese Oberland and Lucerne, or the Prealps Express from Lucerne to Lake Constance, all run be the respective railway companies. For independent minded visitors who prefer to drive a car, Swiss Tourism has picked up the Renaissance concept of the Grand Tour of Europe, usually undertaken by young noblemen as part of their education, and developed the Grand Tour of Switzerland . It offers (international as well as domestic) visitors the possibility to see and experience most of the country including the hotspots – preferably in summer as some passes in winter risk to be closed. It uses the existing road network and is signposted ( Fig. 2 ); visitors can drive along at their own rhythm and chose the daily sections independently. According to the time available and individual interests, the entire proposed route of 1,600 km may take at least a week of constant driving, but for a leisurely and informative holiday, it may be useful to allow more time or to focus on a specific section. However, it is unknown how many people have embarked on this tour, how much time they spent on it, and which route they chose.

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Sign for the Grand Tour of Switzerland (Source: ; 06.10.2020).

The touristic potential varies among the cantons which have their own tourism laws and policy and profit from tourism to different degrees. While it contributes only 2.9% to the Gross National Income (GNI, see above), its share in the Grisons is 30% ( Amt für Wirtschaft und Tourismus, 2006, p.1 ), in the canton of Valais 14.5% ( Wertschöpfungsstudie über den Walliser Tourismus, 2016 ), but in Geneva only 2.1% ( Informations statistiques, 2017 ). The Grisons are the most important tourism canton of the country, but COVID-19 passed over all of them like a steam-roller. The various regions were struck differently, but all saw the number of foreign tourists dwindle, whereas domestic tourism brought some relief.

The Jungfraujoch, marketed as Top of Switzerland, is a very popular destinations thanks to its railway station at 3,454 m inside the mountain. It is particularly frequented by Asian visitors to the extent that it houses both a Chinese and an Indian restaurant. Its popularity makes it a victim of overtourism with more than one million visitors in 2019. However, this number dropped radically in 2020 as a consequence of COVOD-19. The railway had to interrupt its service from March 14 to June 5, which translated into a substantial loss of guests in the first six months of this year (down from 470,600 to 100,600, −76.8%) and, logically, also a financial loss (-72.9%). This was the longest interruption of service since World War I (83 days; Jungfrau, 2020 ). Since Travel restrictions are not likely to be eased in the near future, the future of international travel does not look too good, and domestic visitors cannot make up for the deficit.

At any rate, domestic and international tourists have different interests. The Swiss try to avoid the crowded hotspots during the main season, when prices are higher than off-season, and they also tend to prefer smaller and more rural places. Urban and rural destinations attract different visitors. Cities such as Zürich and Geneva attract a lot of international business (both) and diplomatic (Geneva) travellers who will boost activities in the towns but will hardly frequent the countryside. Domestic tourists usually privilege internationally lesser known destinations and have their own preferences, linked to language, season, terrain, landscape, weather, family tradition etc. Popular regions in 2019 were (according to hotel accommodation) the Grisons, the Valais, Berne, Zürich, Ticino ( STF, 2020 , p. 23).

3. Pandemic, lockdown and consequences

On February 28, 2020, the Federal Council (the national executive) declared the special situation (stipulated in the law on epidemics), which allowed to overrule the cantons that are autonomous regional states with their own legislation and policies. Fighting the crisis thus became a central task with uniform regulations. The number of infections continued to rise, and on March 16, 2020, the Federal Council declared the extraordinary situation (equally stipulated in the law on epidemics) and closed the boundaries. International travel was prohibited with immediate effect; an exception was made for transborder commuters. Shops (apart from food shops and pharmacies), restaurants and leisure establishments were closed, people were asked to stay at home as far as possible. Festivals, parties and sports competitions were banned, home office was declared compulsory for people who could reasonably work from home, and all schools at all levels had to reorganise distance teaching. The entire country was in complete lockdown.

Life almost collapsed, but what at first looked entirely negative also had its positive sides: transport diminished radically, there was less traffic noise, less air pollution, and no traffic jams. People rediscovered solidarity with their fellow creatures and offered help to friends, relatives, neighbours and even hitherto unknown persons. Because canteens and restaurants were closed, families discovered the benefit of cooking at home. And school closure demonstrated to the parents what school really was about – they began to change their perception and appreciate the work performed by the teachers.

However, the economy suffered considerably, but of course there were winners and losers. Online shops boomed and with them postal and courier services, the food industry and pharmaceutical firms were not affected, and the farmers reorganized their business with direct deliveries and farm shops. The leisure sector was of course hard hit. With boundaries closed, international tourism collapsed: there were no hotel and restaurant guests, the specific transport infrastructure (ski lifts, mountain railways, funiculars etc.) came to a near standstill, and souvenir shops had to close, not only because they lacked their usual customers but also because as ‘not essential’ shops they were obliged to.

Since autumn 2020, Switzerland has been experiencing a second COVID-19 wave, significantly stronger than the one in spring, but this time the Federal Council largely renounced centrally imposed measures. Cantons had been back in charge after June 19 and were fully responsible, but coordination was poor. The only central measure that remained in force throughout summer was the obligation to wear masks in public transport after June 6, extended to all publicly accessible places on October 19. Stricter measures were subsequently enacted in December.

Why did the authorities shrink back from a second ‘hard lockdown’? According to the official policy, a moderate approach would be more acceptable to the population than radical measures, and people should act out of their own responsibility. This sounds reasonable, but since the word ‘economy’ was very frequent in the official discourse, it may well be that through a “penchant for market liberalism, fiscal conservatism, and a strong work ethic” ( de Weck, 2020 ) the Swiss politicians value the economy higher than public health. Would a new lockdown really “risk sacrificing the economy and public finances on the altar of health” as the finance minister claimed (ibid.)? It is a rhetorical question as nobody knows how the future is going to be, but it merits attention: a healthy economy needs healthy people (workers and customers), but healthy people want to work. Hotels, restaurants and everybody active in tourism face a difficult choice, and the future of many enterprises in both industry and services is in jeopardy.

As everywhere, tourism suffered strongly from the pandemic. Compared to previous years, it almost collapsed ( Fig. 3 ), judging by the recorded overnight stays. In particular, foreign visitors were almost absent.

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Overnight stays during the summer season (May – October) in Switzerland, 2016–2020, in millions ().

The 2020 winter sports season looked promising until the lockdown on March 13 axed it and skiing resorts had to shut down the next day (Saturday, March 14!). They remained closed during the Easter holiday in mid-April, which is usually a lucrative period (in 2020 still with ample snow) and traditionally marks the end of the season. With boundaries closed, no foreign guests could enter the country. Even when restrictions were relaxed in summer, many former source countries maintained restrictive measures (such as threats of quarantine for returners). Summer was therefore relatively quiet at the borders. Domestic tourism, on the other hand, experienced a boom. Few Swiss ventured abroad (the fear of quarantine was looming) but many preferred to stay in their own country they hardly knew. From January till September, the number of tourists staying in hotel accommodation dropped by almost 40% compared to the 2019 figure ( Table 1 ).

Nights spent in Swiss hotels, January to September 2029 and 2020 ( BfS, 2020a ).

The situation in summer was slightly better but still far from what had been the norm in the preceding years. Total nights spent in the summer season (May to October) amounted to just above 13.3 million, 40.9% less than in 2019 ( BfS, 2020b ). During the holiday months (July to October), guests from Switzerland increased by 3.9%, whereas foreign visitors largely stayed away (−75.2%), although the decline was less conspicuous in August (−60.3%; ibid.). In September alone, the number of domestic guests was 20.6% higher than in September 2019, but the number of foreign visitors amounted to 68.5% less than 2019 ( BfS, 2020a ). With only 8.5 million inhabitants, Switzerland does not have the potential to compensate for the loss of foreign tourists.

Regionally speaking, the situation of the summer season looks quite different. The Grisons are the only major tourist canton that could increase the number of guests relative to 2019 (+0.9% or 21,921 nights spent) 1 , whereas Zürich and Geneva were the biggest losers (−75.0% and −78.1% respectively). The Grisons are a very popular family destination, particularly with the Swiss National Park as an attractive area for walking and nature observation. The two large city regions, on the other hand, suffered from the breakdown of urban tourism – home office and video conferences replaced face-to-face business meetings and diplomatic conferences. The town of Lucerne, a must for Asian visitors because of the lake and the watch and jewelry shops, was largely deserted.

4. Outlook: An unpredictable future

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt Swiss tourism a severe blow, and the consequences have been negative for both the economy and social wellbeing. The persisting uncertainty about the future and the rising number of infections in summer and autumn 2020 that made Switzerland a COVID-19 hotspot for some time are signs that it will not recover quickly. To sum it up in five words: Stay home today, travel tomorrow. But when will ‘tomorrow’ be?

“Tourism is considered an activity essential to the life of nations because of its direct effects on the social, cultural, educational and economic sectors of national societies and their international relations.” ( Manila Declaration on World Tourism, 1980 , Art. 1) Forty years ago, this was taken for granted and the future looked bright, also for Switzerland. Ten years ago, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs published a growth strategy that aimed, among others, to “capture market shares within the European alpine regions” ( SECO, 2010 , p. 3), focusing on improving the overall framework conditions and promoting tourism destinations (ibid. p.4). Affairs seemed to continue forever with slight ups and downs, as the report by Abrahamsen et al. (2016) seems to suggest: moderate global economic growth, however, gave rise to a slightly pessimistic outlook as concerns the world economy (p.3). International tourism, on the other hand, was judged as satisfactory (p.4).

From 2020 onwards, the situation looks radically different. The latest report by Abrahamsen et al. (2020) opens with bad news: the winter season recorded 23% less overnight stays compared to winter 2019 (p.1). The economic slowdown does not favour tourism, and domestic travel is seen as a sort of substitute for conventional ways of spending one’s holidays (ibid.). This was the forecast for summer 2020 (p.2) and it proved correct, although the authors were a bit too optimistic as to foreign visitors. New trends have emerged, such as proximity of destinations, less known or remote places, rural rather than urban, or that holidays are planned at short notice. This means for Switzerland that international visitor groups will not return immediately and domestic tourism is likely to remain popular.

Outlining the future tourism policy in 2018, the Swiss Federal Council refers to the following vision: “The tourism industry is internationally competitive and Switzerland is an attractive and productive tourist destination.” ( Swiss Federal Council 2018 , p. 26). It focuses on the tourism industry or businesses, “the central pillar of Swiss tourism.” (ibid.), which includes all types of accommodation, transport, restaurant and hotel catering, and “tourist-related products” (ibid., 12). The latter includes “goods and services with significant importance to Swiss tourism, such as retailers, petrol stations and the healthcare sector.” (ibid., footnote 4). This list makes it difficult to distinguish between retailers etc. outside tourism – foreign visitors on the Grand Tour might purchase food in any village shop that serves the local population and have a drink in a village restaurant frequented by the locals. In other words: tourism is really important for the entire country.

To have a tourist policy as guidelines for the future is positive, and fortunately the policy document quoted above does not include a forecast. Policy and real life usually do not match. The Swiss Association for Hotel Financing (SGH) is confronted with the tourism reality and has a cautious look into the future. In its 2019 Annual Report ( SGH, 2020 ) it warns of the influence of the coronavirus on tourism and the resulting challenge (p.7), although the general mood was positive (the report was written in March, before the lockdown), fueled by a good start of the winter season. The consequences, however, “are still unknown and will clearly impact the tourist year.” (p.15). But it is interesting that the SGH notices an increasing environmental consciousness among the visitors (p.20).

There is an urgent need to make tourism sustainable (Swiss Goal 8.9 of SDG 8) if we want to continue to remain an appealing and successful tourist destination. The available potential can be exploited and a resource-efficient growth generated if, by 2030 if it is possible to “devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.” ( Platform Agenda 2030, 2018, p.73 ). Similarly, it is important to “[d]evelop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.” (Swiss Goal 12.b of SDCG 12 in ibid., p.74). One term in this, however, merits to be questioned: is this persistent focus on ‘growth’ really vital, the idea that everything can increase forever? It has an exclusively material (quantitative) meaning, but it inevitably has its limits and we have to become aware of them – more than 50 years have passed since the alarm was raised ( Meadows et al., 1972 ), but humanity does not seem to have understood. We know that permanent growth is an illusion and that we have probably reached the peak (see Dorling, 2020 , pp. 85, 181, 284). A truly sustainable tourism will respect nature and the complexity of the ecosystem, and this is the task and the responsibility of the tourists themselves. As Dorling (2020) , p. 19 wrote: “In the future most tourism will be ecotourism, just as most paint in most countries is now unleaded paint.”

“The future’s not our’s to see” is part of the lyrics of the song Que sera, sera , sung by Doris Day in Hitchcock’s The man who knew too much , and this of course applies also to the topic of this paper. What will be in the future depends on many factors and how human actors deal with them. As far as Swiss tourism is concerned, three such factors are decisive: location (where), possibilities (activities), price structure (how much), aware that ‘after COVID-19’ is at the moment just a vague idea. Nobody knows if people will be able to go back to ‘normal’ as it was before, or if they have learnt the lesson that our habitual pre-COVID-19 lifestyle was somewhat exaggerated. Cautious optimists seem to prevail, as Laurent Vanat who, in an interview in the Fribourg daily La Liberté (2020) suggested that “professionals expect a return to pre-pandemic frequencies not before 2024.” Abrahamsen et al. (2020) , p. 5 are more careful: they confront a downward with an upward trend. It all depends on how long the pandemic is going to last, how strict restrictions are and if they can be revoked or must be reinforced, whether intercontinental flights will be available, how the economic situation evolves, etc. – it is all but certain how Switzerland will be the same tourism destination it once was and how many actors hope it will be.

Expectations are that vaccinations will allow for a return to normalcy – meaning a situation close to the one before COVID-19. This concerns tourism as a whole, not only in Switzerland. But it may be better to be a bit skeptical about this. First, do people really want to go back to the situation of overtourism as was typical in some regions until 2019? If the goal of sustainable tourism is to be attained, the answer must be ‘no’. Second, the long-term effectiveness of vaccinations is not yet proven, hence one must be cautious with such expectations. Third, and this is a practical point, every tourist worldwide would have to be vaccinated twice (according to current knowledge) to guarantee sufficient and long-term projection. Looking at the figures at the beginning of this paper, this would mean 2.8 billion vaccinations across the globe (two per person), an astronomical number and a logistic challenge. The situation in January is proof for the difficulties with administering even the most urgent vaccinations. A ‘new normalcy’ will emerge after the pandemic, once (when?) it will be over, but nobody knows what this new normalcy will look like.

Optimism, however, still reigns. On December 5, the Jungfrau Railways opened the newly constructed Eiger Express, a cable car that takes travelers from Grindelwald straight to the Eigergletscher station where they can change to the rack railway to the Junfraujoch ( Grindelwald, 2020 ). This is much simpler and 47 min shorter than with the railway up to Kleine Scheidegg and change to the train for the Jungfrau – a great advantage when time is money, even on holiday 2 . It will take some time until the true benefits of this investment will become visible, an investment that was decided upon many years ago and that took a long time to materialize. There is still hope.

Postscript (March 2021)

The paper was originally written in December 2020 and January 2021. In the meantime, Switzerland permitted the opening of the winter sports resorts (as the first country in the Alps) and the skiing season has been in full swing, albeit with strict security measures (limited number of tickets for ski -lifts, face masks, distance keeping in the queues). Since all restaurants were closed (apart from takeaways), there was not much of a social side of a skiing weekend. Even if tourists (still mostly domestic) largely complied with the rules, nobody hopes that this will be the future of tourism.

Declaration of Competing Interest

The author declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

1 The cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Jura were also positive: +13.1% or 15,854 and +5.4% or 3,722 visitors respectively, but they are minor destinations.

2 Since the slowdown is already under way, humanity may discover a new quality of time (see Dorling 2020 ).

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  • Wertschöpfungsstudie über den Walliser Tourismus (2016), (accessed 12.12.2020).
  • Swiss Federal Council . Bundespublikationen; Bern: 2018. Tourism strategy of the Swiss Confederation. [ Google Scholar ]
  • UNWTO (2020), World Tourism Barometer, vol. 18, issue 6, October 2020 ( ; accessed 21.11.2020).
  • WEF (2019), The travel & tourism competitiveness report 2019. Travel and tourism at a tipping point, Geneva, World Economic Forum.

Tourism in Switzerland

Development of the tourism sector in switzerland from 1995 to 2021.

Tourists per year in Switzerland

Vacations between nature and slope

Revenues from tourism.

Tourism receipts in Switzerland per year

All data for Switzerland in detail

Comparison: quality of life


  • About Switzerland


Tourism is one of the most important economic sectors in Alpine regions. It employs around 4% of Switzerland's entire workforce. Half of the tourists staying in Swiss hotels are from abroad, mostly from Germany.

Skiers in the Jungfrau region in the Bernese Oberland.

With lakes, forests, mountains and clean air, Switzerland has much to offer visitors all year round. Firmly rooted in Swiss society, tourism is a key economic driver in the mountain regions, where 25 million tourists on average rack up 55 million overnight stays per year. In 2021, tourism generated roughly 3% of GDP, or almost CHF 17 billion in total.

The tourism industry provides over 170,000 full-time equivalent jobs, although many of these are part-time or seasonal. Two thirds of tourists – half of whom are visiting from abroad – stay in hotels and spas. The majority of visitors are from Germany, followed by the US, the UK and China (before the pandemic). Having suffered a severe downturn, the tourism sector has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Origins and development

At the crossroads of Europe, Switzerland has always attracted visitors. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Romantic literature and art engendered an unprecedented enthusiasm for the mountains. The Swiss mountains appealed strongly to British tourists, in particular, with English entrepreneur Thomas Cook organising the first package holidays to Switzerland.

During the post-war years Switzerland was one of the most sought-after tourist destinations thanks to the growing popularity of winter sports. This led the country to extend its road and rail networks substantially and build new homes and hotels.

The strength of the Swiss franc and the state of the global economy have a major influence on tourist demand. Switzerland Tourism is the national marketing and sales organisation tasked with attracting tourists to Switzerland.

The most visited destinations are the Zurich area, Bernese Oberland, (Lake) Lucerne and Geneva. Swiss tourists mainly visit the canton of Graubünden, Ticino, the Zurich area and Valais.

Switzerland Tourism

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Much of the territory covered by present-day Switzerland is mountainous. For this reason, the Alpine passes have played a significant role in the development of the country, as have the powers that sought to control these important communication and trade routes.

From the beginnings to the Romans

The oldest traces of human existence are about 150,000 years old, while the oldest flint tools that have been found are about 100,000 years old.

The territory of the present-day Switzerland developed in a similar way to that of the rest of Europe. The first centuries were marked by migration, resulting in the area being inhabited by different peoples. With the rule of the Romans, Christianity spread, and the Church with its bishoprics and monasteries became an important landowner. At the same time, aristocratic families increased their power by conquest, inheritance and marriage policy. For a short time, the Frankish king Charlemagne controlled a significant part of Western Europe. In 962 another sphere of power came into being when the German king Otto I persuaded the Pope to appoint him Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

First settlers in Switzerland

Some of the most interesting archaeological finds in Switzerland are those of the lakeside settlements with their houses built on piles. The oldest date from the 4th millennium BC, and shed light on life before the time of the Helvetians, Rhaetians and Romans.

Under Roman influence

Between the 1st century BC and the first decade AD, the area covered by present-day Switzerland was gradually incorporated into the Roman Empire. Roman rule ended in 401 AD, but Roman structures remained in parts of Switzerland until the early Middle Ages.

Switzerland after the Romans

After the Romans departed, the kingdom of Burgundy ruled Western Switzerland, the Alemanni controlled central and eastern Switzerland, and the Alpine regions remained in the hands of local Gallo-Roman rulers.

The rise of Christianity

It was in the ancient Roman cities and along the Roman trade routes that Christianity first spread in Switzerland. A further Christianisation took place with the wandering monks in the 7th century when they founded various monasteries.

Under German rule

When the Ottonians and Saliers (925 - 1125) occupied the German imperial throne, the areas of Switzerland were divided between the Kingdom of Burgundy , the duchy of Swabia, the Duchy of Bavaria and the Kingdom of Italy. These all formed part of the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" under the German Emperor.

Switzerland in the late Middle Ages

1291 is traditionally regarded as being the founding year of the Confederation – this was when three rural valley communities banded together in order to be better prepared for attacks from the outside.

In the 14th and 15 centuries there developed a loose federation with rural and urban members. By the end of the 15th century it was strong enough to affect the balance of power in Europe. Various wars were fought in which the Confederates displayed courage and ingenuity, and they gained a reputation as a formidable opponent in combat. The Confederation was enlarged in various ways with some areas joining voluntarily and as equal members while others were more or less forced. The members of the Confederation mainly administered the affairs of their own regions but representatives of each area also met regularly to discuss issues of common interest.

Rise of the Swiss Confederation

The Old Confederacy was created as a loose alliance of three valleys in central Switzerland: Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. They were rebelling against the governors of the Counts of Habsburg. The sought a recovery of old rights of autonomy and not a disengagement from the German Reich.

Dissension and the Burgundian Wars

The expansion of the Confederation did not proceed entirely smoothly. As the danger from the outside subsided, the cantons became more inclined to look after their individual interests – and vice versa.

Independence and the end of expansion

Two wars brought about the end of this policy of expansion: The victorious Swabian War in the north and the Italian campaigns in the south, in which the Confederates were defeated.

Reformation and the 17th century

The 16th century in Western Europe was dominated by the Reformation, a movement which divided western Christianity into two camps.

Although the riots and destruction were fought on a religious level, this reflected, above all, the desire for social change and the social tensions that existed primarily between town and country. The 17th century saw three further landmarks in the development of modern-day Switzerland. All came as a result of the 30 Years' War (1618-48). While large parts of Europe were involved in this war, the Confederation remained neutral. An important consequence of the Thirty Years' War was Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire, which was formally recognised by the Treaty of Westphalia.

Two Reformers: Zwingli and Calvin

The Reformation in Switzerland involved various centres and reformers. A major role was played by Ulrich Zwingli, who was active from 1523 in Zurich, and John Calvin, who from 1536 transformed Geneva into what was called the "Protestant Rome".

Conflict and religious wars

As elsewhere in Europe, the Reformation plunged the Confederation into religious wars. These often also led to renewals within the Catholic Church and its territories.

Political structure in the 17th century

In the 17th century, the Confederation consisted of various territories whose inhabitants enjoyed greatly varying amounts of freedom depending on where they lived.

Thirty Years’ War and independence

The Confederation stayed out of the war, with only the Associated Place of Graubünden being drawn into the hostilities. The Thirty Years’ War ended for the Confederation with its separation from the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.

Peasant revolts and religious peace

The conflicts between rulers and subjects in Lucerne, Bern, Solothurn and Basel culminated in 1653 in the Swiss Peasants’ War. The religiously motivated Villmergen Wars of 1656 and 1702 led to the loss of Catholic supremacy.

18th and 19th century

In 1798, French troops invaded Switzerland and proclaimed a centralised state. Later, the old cantonal system was restored - albeit in a more centralised form.

In 1798, French troops invaded Switzerland and created the centralised Helvetic Republic. For the first time in its history, Switzerland was forced to abandon its neutrality and to provide troops for France. After the Sonderbund War, the foundations for the modern Switzerland were finally laid down with the adoption of the Constitution of 1848. It brought about a more centralised form of government and a single economic area, which put an end to the cantonal rivalries and enabled economic development. Despite this progress, the 19th century was a difficult time for many people in Switzerland. Poverty, hunger and poor job prospects led to a wave of emigration, including to North and South America.

Power structures, economy, society

Not everyone benefited from the economic and social developments of the 18th century. This led to tensions, riots and the formation of the Helvetic Society.

French Revolution, Helvetic Republic

The French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic wars changed the face of Europe. Napoleon's invasion of Switzerland was a turning point in the country's history.

Napoleon and Switzerland

Napoleon realised that the centralised unitary state in Switzerland, given its linguistic, cultural and religious differences, stood no chance. Therefore, he submitted a draft federal constitution.

The Restoration and Sonderbund War

After Napoleon, Switzerland once more became a confederation in which the cantons again had greater autonomy. However, tensions between the conservatives and progressives steadily increased, culminating in the Sonderbund War.

Federal Constitution and the 19th century

With the Federal Constitution of 1848 and 1874, the Confederation changed from a confederation of cantons to a federal state. In the course of the 19th century a system of political parties was gradually established.

Switzerland in the 20th century

The 20th century was generally marked by a series of striking developments in the political, economic and social arenas.

Domestically there was a shift towards a multi-party system. While at the beginning of the century one party occupied all the positions in the government (Federal Council), there were four parties represented there at the end of the century. Agrarian Switzerland developed into an industrial state with the result that there were more immigrants than emigrants and the standard of living rose significantly. Working conditions and social security steadily improved and there was greater access to a more extensive range of consumer goods. The development of the export sector changed the country’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. Although Switzerland remained politically neutral – it did not actively participate in either of the two World Wars – neutrality remained the subject of intense debate.

The inter-war years in Switzerland

The period after World War I was marked by reconstruction, short-term economic recovery and changes in policy – as well as the rise of fascism in Europe.

World War II

Before and during World War II, Switzerland's main goal was to preserve its independence and to stay out of the fighting.

Switzerland as an affluent society

Rapid technical progress and economic growth after the 2nd World War resulted in material prosperity. Switzerland succeeded in establishing itself as a major player on the world markets.

World War I

Switzerland as a small neutral state was spared from direct military events during World War I. In economic and social terms, however, Switzerland went through a difficult period.

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The tourism policy acts as a centre of expertise for the conceptual design and implementation of Switzerland’s tourism policy. It develops knowledge bases, formulates policy, represents the interests of tourism policy both nationally and internationally, supervises Switzerland Tourism and the Swiss Society for Hotel Credit on behalf of the Swiss government, and enforces the Federal Act on the Promotion of Innovation, Cooperation and Knowledge Creation in Tourism (Innotour).

Switzerland is a top tourist destination with an immense wealth of scenic and cultural attractions in a highly compact area as well as excellent infrastructure and tourist companies offering high-quality services. Tourism is a major sector in the Swiss economy, particularly in the Alps.

tourism in switzerland introduction

News Swiss tourism policy (in French)

Latest news about Swiss tourism policy.


Tourism strategy of the Swiss Confederation

On 10 November 2021, the Federal Council adopted the Confederation’s tourism strategy. It forms the basis for the Confederation’s tourism policy. The aim is to ensure that Switzerland’s tourism industry remains competitive internationally, and to promote Switzerland as an attractive tourist destination.

tourism in switzerland introduction

Innotour (in French)

The promotion of innovation is the main impact of Innotour. Innotour wants to improve the innovation climate in destinations, trigger innovations and thus strengthen the competitiveness of destinations.

tourism in switzerland introduction

Tourismus Forum Schwitzerland (in French)

The Tourism Forum Switzerland (TFS) is a dialog and coordination platform with the aim of strengthening coordination and cooperation in tourism policy and addressing challenges in a targeted manner.

tourism in switzerland introduction

Data and statistics (in French)

It is the task of the federal government to further improve the statistical basis in tourism at the national level. SECO plays an important role in this respect.

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State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO Tourism policy Holzikofenweg 36 CH - 3003 Bern

Phone 058 462 27 58 Fax 058 463 12 12

Print contact

Fundamentals of the tourism policy

  • Tourism strategy of the Swiss Confederation (PDF, 12 MB, 25.10.2022)
  • Location promotion message for the years 2020-2023 (in french) (PDF, 1 MB, 24.08.2021)

Legal Basis of the tourism policy (in french)

  • Loi fédérale, modification du 17 mars 2023 (PDF, 277 kB, 29.03.2023)
  • RS 935.22 Loi fédérale encourageant l'innovation, la coopération et la professionnalisation dans le domaine du tourisme1
  • RS 935.221 Ordonnance encourageant l'innovation, la coopération et la professionnalisation dans le domaine du tourisme
  • RS 935.12 Loi fédérale sur l'encouragement du secteur de l'héber
  • RS 935.121 Ordonnance sur l'encouragement du secteur de l'hébergement
  • RS 935.21 Loi fédérale concernant Suisse Tourisme1 du 21 décembre 1955 (Etat le 1er août 2008)
  • RS 935.211 Ordonnance concernant Suisse Tourisme

Links (in french)

  • Société Suisse de Crédit Hôtelier (SCH)
  • Suisse Tourisme (ST)
  • Politique régionale et d'organisation du territoire
  • Fédération suisse du tourisme
  • GastroSuisse
  • HotellerieSuisse
  • Remontées mécaniques suisses
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Tourism in Switzerland: A successful summer 2023 for the Industry

Tourism in Switzerland Summer 2023

September 21, 2023 •

4 min reading

The latest figures released by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) have put even more spring in Swiss tourism’s step. Night stays in Switzerland for the months of June and July 2023 were recently published. And the news is good! Night stays (or hotel stays) were 8.6% higher in June 2023 versus June 2023. This confirms an earlier report indicating that in the first half of 2023, night stays increased 13.8% year on year.

Numbers recently published by the OFS show that night stays were up 4.5% in July 2023, compared with July 2022, driven by foreign demand (+14.9%). Domestic tourism was down ever so slightly (-0.8%), confirming the trend.

For SECO, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, the trend for Switzerland is even rosier regarding the return of international tourists. In the six months to June 30, 2023, Switzerland recorded a whopping y-o-y increase of 33% in overnight stays by foreign travelers.

For SECO, night stays are projected to surpass pre-Covid levels for the first time, on the back of a slight rebound in Asian demand in particular. Inflation, which has eroded buying power (particularly in Europe and the United States), combined with the strength of the Swiss franc have kept a lid on the enthusiasm, however. The UK is the lone bright spot for otherwise soft European demand. However, Chinese visitors to this Alpine country have not returned in numbers comparable to those seen before Covid.

Night stays are almost evenly split between foreign and domestic tourists. In the first half of 2023, Swiss residents accounted for 12.2 million overnight stays, with the remaining 11.9 million (+28.7% y-o-y) coming from foreigners. In all, tourism accounts for roughly 5% of Swiss GDP.

Swiss Tourists Habits: A view from the field

“While the Swiss are travelling abroad again, even more often than in pre-Corona times, foreign guests are also travelling to the Engadin Valley again,” said Jan Steiner, Brand Manager Engadin. His Alpine resort, which includes the posh ski town of Saint-Moritz, recorded a slight y-o-y increase of 0.3% in May and June. This bodes well for the summer months, but much depends on the weather, he said.

For Jay Gauer, the director of the Trois Couronnes, a five-star hotel located in Vevey, Switzerland, “this year, Swiss tourists are travelling to other countries.” Indeed, the Swiss tend to vacation abroad, particularly Italy and France—where hotels and restaurants are markedly less expensive—during the summer months. Throughout the pandemic, the Swiss, however, were compelled, by travel restrictions—and encouragement by Roger Federer himself—, to further explore their own country.

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A word of caution about strong summer data

But pent-up wanderlust and swollen travel budgets have sent the Swiss packing their bags for foreign destinations once again. While the season appears to be a good one, “without data on hotel stays for July and August, it is too early to draw conclusions,” Gauer cautioned. Gauer spearheaded a post-Covid initiative, called Dolce Riviera , to promote lakeside leisure activities and local restaurants in Switzerland’s “Riviera” area, which has been a crowd-pleaser for both tourists and locals.

Sergei Aschwanden, Director of Tourism of the Alpes Vaudoises (covering the Villars-Gryon ski resort), also cited many of the same factors that have kept Summer 2023 numbers in check: the strong Swiss franc, iffy weather in July and the decision by many Swiss holidaymakers to travel abroad on vacation. Yet, he said: “hoteliers are quite satisfied”. Even though initial numbers in his resort pointed to a 5% slowdown in night stays versus the summer of 2022, last year “was an exceptional season, with very sunny weather.” He mentioned a different factor that has the resort smiling: an increase in visitors in early fall. Indeed, summer is powering well into late September because of climate change and a new phenomenon that has taken Swiss ski resorts by storm: the Magic Pass. With more and more tourists around the world booking during ‘shoulder season’ to escape the heat, crowds and high prices of summer, some have questioned whatever happened to the off-season ? The popularity of the four-season lift pass has encouraged more and more visitors to take the chairlifts up to Alpine summits and descend the resort’s trails on foot or mountain bike.

Chinese Tourism in Switzerland: Where have all the tourists gone?

Where there were 133,769 Chinese who visited Switzerland in July 2019, only 46,167 visited in July 2023 (-97%). The tourism office in Lucerne, which has been a popular destination for the Chinese, has spoken, perhaps somewhat euphemistically, of a “transition year” in 2023. Yet, it is hard to imagine Chinese tourism returning to pre-Covid levels anytime soon.

“To me it’s not surprising to see Swiss tourism performing well, said Yong Chen, professor of economics at EHL Hospitality Business School, before cautioning “China is starting to come back, but I’m not that optimistic about how many tourists will come back and when.”

“The Chinese economy is not doing well”, Prof. Chen stated matter-of-factly. Despite the re-opening of direct flights between Geneva and Beijing, airfares, according to prof. Chen, have doubled or tripled and flights are relatively empty. He cited a recent flight in August where the plane was two-thirds empty. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a hub-to-hub plane so empty.” Dr. Chen doesn’t expect a complete recovery of Chinese tourism in Switzerland anytime soon as the Chinese economy struggles, discretionary consumer spending stalls and the geopolitical situation grows increasingly hostile.

“Given the tone of the present decade, tourism cannot thrive or even survive in an environment where there is so much tension.” Indeed, Chinese tourists have been few and far between in Switzerland since Covid. During the first four months of 2023, the number of Chinese visitors to Switzerland was down 87% and night stays dropped 68% compared to the same period in 2019 (a record-breaking year by almost all accounts). Administrative hurdles in China, including long waits for passports and Schengen visas, are exacerbating matters.

While it appears that Swiss tourism has enjoyed a strong summer, it remains to be seen how the impact of plummeting Chinese demand, along with other headwinds, will play out in the long run.

Andrew Brenner

EHL Research Content Editor

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Tourism in switzerland: 3 reasons why switzerland is a beautiful place.

Switzerland is a landlocked country located in central Europe. It is the Federal Republic consisting of 26 cantons (states). It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Switzerland has the best public transport system. Let us learn about tourism in Switzerland.

Switzerland is bordered by Italy to the South, France to the West, Germany to the North and Austria and Liechtenstein to the East. It is geographically divided among the Swiss Plateau, the Alps, Calm Lakes, and the Jura.

Factors Favouring Tourism in Switzerland

These are the main factors that have made Switzerland, one of the most beautiful destinations in the world-

1. Varied Topography

Do you know, what are the main topographical elements of Switzerland?

The topographical elements of Switzerland are divided into three distinct regions namely the Jura mountains in the northwest, the Alps to the south and east and the Central Plateau between the two mountain ranges. The two most important rivers in Switzerland are the Rhone and Rhine.

2. Favorable Climate

The climate of Switzerland is moderate due to its location in the temperate latitudes. Precipitation during winter falls as snow and the large area that remains covered with snow acts as playgrounds for various sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and tobogganing.

3. Natural Scenery

Switzerland is a nation of pristine beauty with majestic snow-covered mountains, blue lakes, emerald valleys, glaciers, etc. This beauty mesmerizes the visitors and forces them to visit Switzerland.

Development of Tourism in Switzerland

The cuisine in Switzerland includes a number of dairy products and a variety of cheese. The chocolates made in Switzerland are also very popular.

The city of Bern is the capital city of Switzerland. The Alps are the highest and the most extensive mountain range.

In earlier times, the tourists to visit Switzerland were the pilgrims, traders with their team of pack horses, and some naturalists who wanted to explore the Alps, flora, and fauna of the country.

Do you know, when did mass tourism begin in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, mass tourism began in 1858 when the British entrepreneur Thomas Cook organized the first package holiday through Europe.

Gradually, roads were built across the mountain passes and railway transport opened up the Alps to the tourists. Besides the mesmerizing sceneries, the country has many castles, waterfalls, lakes and glaciers. Switzerland has the best public transport facility. The wide network of railways and roads connects not only all parts of Switzerland but also its neighboring countries. Do you know, what are the other forms of transport in the mountains?

The gondola lifts, revolving cable cars, cogwheel trains, and funiculars provide the tourist to have a breathtaking view of the scenic beauty all around.

Switzerland has three international airports at Zurich, Geneva, and Basel that provides global connectivity to travelers. There are airports in cities like Lugano and Bern as well.

The main dishes of Switzerland include fondue, raclette, and rosti. Fondue and raclette are made of melted cheese while rosti is made of grated and fried potatoes. Tourists also enjoy shopping for famous Swiss watches, cuckoo clocks, handicrafts, cowbells, and wine.

Factors Favouring Tourism in Switzerland - Questions

1. What is the capital of Switzerland? a) Geneva b) Friburg c) Zurich d) Bern

2. Which of the following dishes is made of melted cheese? a) Rosti b) Alplermagronen c) Birchermuesli d) Fondue

3. When did mass tourism begin in Switzerland? a) In 1845 b) In 1832 c) In 1896 d) In 1858

4. Who organized the first package holiday through Europe? a) Thomas Carl b) Thomas Edison c) Thomas Muller d) Thomas Cook

5. How many international airports are there in Switzerland? a) Five b) Two c) One d) Three

Factors Favouring Tourism in Switzerland - MCQs 2

1. In the South, Switzerland is bordered by which country? a) France b) Poland c) Austria d) Italy

2. How many cantons or states are there in Switzerland? a) 28 b) 22 c) 20 d) 26

3. Switzerland is located on which continent? a) Australia b) Asia c) Antarctica d) Europe

4. The two most important rivers that flow in Switzerland are: a) Elbe and Rhine b) Rhine and Danube c) Volga and Rhone d) Rhine and Rhone

5. The Alps (mountain range) are located in which continent? a) Africa b) Asia c) Australia d) Europe Read More: Tourist Places in Switzerland: Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, Zermatt, and Bern

  • February,19 2022

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  1. Switzerland introduction

  2. Switzerland Travel

  3. Explore the breathtaking beauty of Switzerland: Nature, Houses, and Landscape

  4. Visit Switzerland 2023

  5. 📍 Switzerland 🇨🇭 @Travelwithsulaman

  6. Top 10 Places To Visit In Switzerland


  1. Tourism in Switzerland

    Tourism began in Switzerland with British mountaineers climbing the main peaks of the Bernese Alps in the early 19th century.. The Alpine Club in London was founded in 1857. Reconvalescence in the Alpine, in particular from tuberculosis, was another important branch of tourism in the 19th and early 20th centuries: for example in Davos, Graubünden.Due to the prominence of the Bernese Alps in ...

  2. Tourism In Switzerland

    4. The number of overnight stays in Switzerland reached 38.8 million in 2019, with domestic tourists accounting for 18.8 million stays and international tourists for 20 million stays. 5. The average length of stay for international tourists in Switzerland is around 2.6 nights. 6.

  3. About Switzerland

    The Swiss Art and Culture Scene. As a country where diverse traditions and cultures meet and interact, Switzerland has been a melting-pot in the heart of Europe since time immemorial. This is why cultural life in cosmopolitan Switzerland displays such enormous variety. Show all.

  4. The essential guide to Switzerland

    Best time to visit Switzerland. Spring: Hike along low-elevation trails through forests, past gorges, waterfalls, and lakes. Take the Glacier Express panoramic train across the Alps. Basel is a ...

  5. General facts

    The majority of people living in Switzerland are Christians. 34.4 % are Roman Catholic, and 22.5 % Protestant. There are also many other religions represented in Switzerland: 5.4 % Muslim, 2.6 % Orthodox Christians, 0.5 % Buddhist, 0.2% Jewish. The...

  6. Discover Switzerland

    So much, yet so small - Switzerland has a wealth of breathtaking nature and unforgettable attractions to offer. Alongside 1,484 lakes, 140 glaciers, 12 UNESC...

  7. Switzerland Travel & Vacation

    2 nights, 2 Nights in Price per person in double room, breakfast buffet, 1 x 5 course evening meal per person... from CHF 352. Learn more about. Discover Switzerland and get tips where to go and what to do. From people who need to know, real Switzerland experts from Switzerland Tourism, the national tourism organization.

  8. Switzerland Tourism And Travel Guide (2024)

    Here's a detailed Switzerland tourism and travel guide to help you plan a memorable holiday. Switzerland is a breathtakingly beautiful land-locked country in Central Europe with France to the west, Italy to the south, Austria to the east and Germany to the north. The country is famous for its scenic Alps and its rolling hills, plains, and lakes.

  9. Tourism in Switzerland

    Introduction . For many countries, tourism is a major factor in economy and soci-ety. ... Consequently, Switzerland's tourism collapsed in 2020 [32]. It caused a major impact on tourist service ...

  10. 50+ Things To Know Before You Visit Switzerland

    8 | Switzerland is Expensive, but it doesn't have to be. And all this talk about money raises an important point: Yes, Switzerland is expensive — but doesn't have to be! According to the 2019 Travel & Tourism Development Index, Switzerland is one of the least price competitive countries…that's just a fancy way to say expensive!. But that's why we're here, to help you travel ...

  11. 17 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in Switzerland

    6. Lake Geneva. Lake Geneva. Lake Geneva, Europe's largest Alpine lake, straddles the Swiss/French border, and laps at the shores of some of Switzerland's most popular cities. The city of Geneva (in French Genève; in German Genf) sits between pretty snowcapped peaks at the point where the Rhône spills into Lake Geneva.

  12. Destinations in Switzerland

    The beautiful city is also a preferred destination as a base in Switzerland, given its central location and quick connectivity to other cities and many excursions. The close by mountain excursions are Rigi, Pilatus, and Stanserhorn, each glamoured with its own viewpoints. ... St. Moritz is the inception place of Alpine winter tourism that began ...

  13. Tourism in Switzerland

    Introduction. For many countries, tourism is a major factor in economy and society. A tourist is a person who travels by whatever means of transportation (from walking to using a space rocket), and who would usually spend some time away from home. ... SECO (2010), Growth strategy for Switzerland as a tourism destination. Policy on tourism ...

  14. Development and importance of tourism for Switzerland

    By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of Switzerland, the result is much more comparable picture: With 0.50 tourists per resident, Switzerland ranked 43rd in the world. In Western Europe, it ranked 6th. In 2021, Switzerland generated around 12.13 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone.

  15. Tourism

    Switzerland Tourism is the national marketing and sales organisation tasked with attracting tourists to Switzerland. The most visited destinations are the Zurich area, Bernese Oberland, (Lake) Lucerne and Geneva. Swiss tourists mainly visit the canton of Graubünden, Ticino, the Zurich area and Valais. Tourism is crucial to Switzerland's ...

  16. VisitSwitzerland

    Discover unique Switzerland experiences you won't want to miss. Mountain Excursions. Cruises. Museums. panoramic Journeys. Things to do in Switzerland. What Are You Looking For. For a perfect holiday, choose from affordable accommodation all the way through to exclusive 5 star hotels. Pick a suitable Swiss Travel pass that gives you the benefit ...

  17. History of Switzerland

    From the beginnings to the Romans. The oldest traces of human existence are about 150,000 years old, while the oldest flint tools that have been found are about 100,000 years old. The territory of the present-day Switzerland developed in a similar way to that of the rest of Europe. The first centuries were marked by migration, resulting in the ...

  18. PDF On tourism in Switzerland

    ON TOURISM IN SWITZERLAND: TOURISM AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN MOUNTAIN REGIONS AND IN RURAL AREAS Erwin W. Stucki January 1995 ETH-Zentrum, 8092 Ziirich . 1995/2 ON TOURISM IN SWITZERLAND: TOURISM AND ... Introduction This paper presents the basic facts of a lecture given at the autumn conference of the

  19. Tourism policy

    The tourism policy acts as a centre of expertise for the conceptual design and implementation of Switzerland's tourism policy. It develops knowledge bases, formulates policy, represents the interests of tourism policy both nationally and internationally, supervises Switzerland Tourism and the Swiss Society for Hotel Credit on behalf of the Swiss government, and enforces the Federal Act on ...

  20. Tourism in Switzerland

    Tourism in Switzerland - Free download as Powerpoint Presentation (.ppt / .pptx), PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or view presentation slides online. Switzerland has a well-developed tourism industry that contributes approximately 5-6% to its GDP. It ranks first in the world for travel and tourism competitiveness due to its high-quality tourism infrastructure and services, safety, and ...

  21. Tourism in Switzerland: A successful summer 2023 for the Industry

    Domestic tourism was down ever so slightly (-0.8%), confirming the trend. For SECO, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, the trend for Switzerland is even rosier regarding the return of international tourists. In the six months to June 30, 2023, Switzerland recorded a whopping y-o-y increase of 33% in overnight stays by foreign travelers.

  22. Tourism in Switzerland: 3 Reasons Why Switzerland Is A ...

    The two most important rivers in Switzerland are the Rhone and Rhine. 2. Favorable Climate. The climate of Switzerland is moderate due to its location in the temperate latitudes. Precipitation during winter falls as snow and the large area that remains covered with snow acts as playgrounds for various sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and ...

  23. Tourism in Switzerland

    Introduction. For many countries, tourism is a major factor in economy and society. A tourist is a person who travels by whatever means of transportation (from walking to using a space rocket), and who would usually spend some time away from home. ... This paper focuses on the former crisis and presents tourism in Switzerland before COVID-19 ...

  24. Shocking weather

    Information about the Corona Virus (COVID_19) in Switzerland [0] How to use these Top Questions [1] News & important updates 2022 [2] Introduction & basic information [3] Before you start to planning your trip [4] Public transport in Switzerland [5] Scenic trains & postal bus routes [6] Driving in Switzerland [7] Hiking and sightseeing

  25. Efficient Operation Algorithm of UAVs for Tourist Safety: Case of the

    Tourist safety is one of the most important factors for tourists when choosing a tourism destination. Jeju Island's Hallasan Mountain Trail is a trail that connects the mid-slope of Hallasan, the main mountain on Jeju volcanic island, and boasts very beautiful scenery. However, tourist safety has become an issue as accidents continue to occur every year. In this study, an efficient operation ...