The Best of Switzerland in Summer: 17 Amazing Highlights

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Think of Switzerland and chances are you think of majestic mountains, snowy landscapes, and winter sports. But think again! Switzerland in summer still has the Alps, but instead of snow and ice, you’ll find lush landscapes, gushing waterfalls, and gorgeous weather.

A Switzerland summer vacation offers exciting Alpine hiking, lake-based water sports, trips on mountain trains and cable cars, epic visitor attractions, and some of the cutest villages in Europe to visit.

We much prefer the summer season in Switzerland and think it’s the perfect time to explore the country’s outdoor beauty and adventurous activities. In our guide, we share all the top things to do and places to visit in Switzerland in summer to help you plan the perfect trip.

Switzerland summer

When is Summer in Switzerland?

Summer in the northern hemisphere, including Switzerland, starts on the 1st of June and ends on the 31st of August.

When is the Best Time to Go to Switzerland?

The Swiss summer tourist season starts in early May and continues until late September.

In late May and June, and September until mid-October, Switzerland offers mild weather and some sunny days, fewer crowds, and better value for money on accommodation, car hire, and day trips and tours.

In both spring and fall, make sure to experience almentrieb, the celebration of transhumance, when decorated cattle are herded through Alpine villages as they move between high to low pastures. In fall, there are also plenty of food festivals celebrating the bounty of the land.

For mountain hiking and lake swimming, things don’t really warm up until late June, but once you’re past that point, you’re good until mid-September.

The summer months of July and August can be busy with families on school holidays, but you will experience the best weather and warm temperatures, and the longest days. On 1st August, you’ll get to celebrate Swiss National Day, a country-wide party to commemorate the founding of the Swiss Confederation and usually involves carnivals, street parties, and lots of fireworks!

During the between time, or zwischen zeit, from April to early May and from late October through November, the cities are quiet, but mountain resort towns like Zermatt are mostly closed and the weather can be unpleasantly cold and wet.

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The most cost-effective and best way to get around is with the Swiss Travel Pass. This ticket allows free use of the well-developed and punctual public transport network including trains, buses, and boats. Although it may look expensive when you add up the cost of hiring a car, fuel, and parking you’ll realize it offers really good value for money, and just adds to the beautiful Switzerland experience!

Best Places to Visit for an Incredible Switzerland Summer

Explore The City of Lucerne

Under the shadow of Mount Pilatus, Lucerne is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. Nestled between the Emmental Mountains and the shoreline of Lake Lucerne, the medieval town can trace its history back to the 8th century and was originally a small fishing town.

Take the time to walk over the oldest footbridge in Europe. The Chapel Bridge was built in 1365, covering close to 700 feet of the Reuss River. During your walk, you will encounter artwork on the interior walls, and street musicians playing music for tips. All provide an eclectic tone to your visit.

Lake Lucerne’s, also known as the Vierwaldstättersee or ‘Lake of the Four Forest Cantons,’ is a great place for boat trips, or you can hire paddle boats and kayaks to explore the crystal-clear water. If you prefer to stay on dry land, you can trek the lake’s shoreline as there are several trails to follow.

Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when planning your Switzerland summer trip. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, best activities cover as standard, great prices, and excellent service.

Hike the Swiss Alps

One of the top attractions in Switzerland is hiking the Swiss Alps during the summer, and there are 14 mountain ranges in Switzerland to choose from! 

In early summer, the warm weather melts the snow and the Alpine peaks burst into life with wildflower meadows blooming. Herds of goats and cows are moved to higher pastures and all around you will be the sound of cow bells as the animals munch on the sweet grass.

The summer temperature average in the Swiss Alps is in the low 70s, and it is pleasant to hike in shorts and a t-shirt. You can always cool down by dipping in a mountain lake or stopping to take in the spectacular mountain scenery whilst unwinding and recharging your batteries.

There are well over 2,500 hiking trails in Switzerland ranging from long-distance multi-day hikes to shorter distances suitable for all levels of fitness. Use an app like All Trails to find the best.

Looking for the best SIM card deals in Europe for your trip? Check out our guide to the best data SIMs in Europe and get the best deal for your trip to Switzerland.

Spend a Day in Zurich

Located on the northwest tip of Lake Zurich with the River Limmat running through it, and set against a dramatic Alpine backdrop, is the beautiful city of Zurich.

A relatively small and compact city by European standards, its quaint winding lanes show off its pre-medieval history, and the waterfront offers many open-air public baths, where people swim in summer months before the baths become impromptu bars as the sun sets.

One side of the River Limmat has a modern look and is home to the world’s largest financial district with banking and stock market houses lining the boulevards.

The other side is home to the Old Town area. Here is time well spent wandering the cobblestone streets and marveling at the historic medieval architecture. The Romanesque Graumunster and Fraumunster churches in Zurich’s Old Town are two of the most recognizable building landmarks.

Zurich is also home to over 1,200 fountains, some dating as far back as 1430. They are dotted every few meters all over the city and offer fresh drinking water, so make sure you have a drinking bottle with you when you start exploring. There is an Old Town walking tour called Water in Zurich which will teach you all about the importance of these fountains in Zurich.

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Discover the Mighty Jungfraujoch

The Jungfraujoch, also known as the ‘Top of Europe’, is a saddle connecting two major 4000m peaks of the Bernese Alps: the Jungfrau and the Mönch. Located at an altitude of 3,450 meters above sea level in the Bernese Alps, the Jungfraujoch offers spectacular views on a clear day of the seemingly endless snowy mountains.

The starting point for a day trip to the Jungfraujoch can be either the pretty little town of Grindelwald or the lively city of Interlaken, and the Jungfrau Railway takes you right into the heart of the first natural heritage site in the Alps.

Try and avoid the weekends when visiting this popular destination and take the first early morning train if you can – this will help avoid the inevitable crowds.

Once at the highest train station in Europe, an incredible world of eternal ice and snow opens up. The Sphinx Observatory viewing platform offers spectacular panoramas of the surrounding mountain peaks: on one side the view of the Swiss Mittelland all the way to the French Vosges, on the other the impressive Aletsch Glacier, lined with four-thousand-meter peaks. 

You can take a short hike to the Mönchsjoch hut through the glaciers surrounding the Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highest-altitude serviced hut in Switzerland can be reached on foot from the Jungfraujoch on a high Alpine path in 45 minutes with around 200m of elevation gain. You need to be reasonably fit and wear good hiking shoes or boots to attempt this – but it’s so worth it!

Jungfraujoch is undoubtedly a highlight in this fascinating country and a place you should not miss from your Switzerland itinerary.

Swiss flag flying by a grassy cliff with snow covered mountains in the background

Sample Switzerland’s Wines

While Switzerland is surrounded by renowned wine-producing nations like France, Italy, and Germany, did you know that Switzerland cultivates around 15,000 hectares of vineyards? Us neither, at least not until we went wine tasting!

Located mostly at lower altitudes in cantons near its wine-making neighbors, Switzerland’s vineyards produce over a million hectoliters of wine every year. Yet only 2% of this volume is exported, which accounts for why you may not know much about Swiss wine.

Swiss wines, like the culture and history of the country, reflect the influence of surrounding nations. The Valais and Lake Geneva wine-growing regions border France and feature grapes such as Gamay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, and Vaud is known for the Lavaux vineyard terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring miles of vineyards along the hillsides of Lake Geneva.

Ticino sits at the top of Italy and emphasizes reds akin to northern Italian styles. Schaffhausen, on the edge of Lake Constance, specializes in crisper whites using Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer.

There are plenty of opportunities to stop by a winery, wander through the grape vines, enjoy a tasting, and learn about the traditional art of viticulture.

Fall in Love with Lake Lugano

Lugano is in an Italian-speaking region and has a distinctive Swiss-Mediterranean mix of cultures which are reflected in its architecture and cuisine.

The city of Lugano stands on the shore of beautiful Lake Lugano, surrounded by mountains, including Monte San Salvatore, and is full of lively squares, lakeside walks, fun shopping streets, and colorful parks. Spending time around and on Lake Lugano is at the top of the list when visiting Switzerland in summer.

The best route to Lake Lugano from the city is through Parco Ciani, a former private villa transformed into a public park. The locals love relaxing in the shade or participating in water activities near the lake’s shoreline. The sparkling blue water is inviting for a mid-afternoon swim.

During your stay, visit Cattedale di San Lorenzo, a Catholic Church cathedral that offers a stunning view of the lake. The structure was built in the Middle Ages and was renovated in the 15th century.

To tick another country off your list, hop on a boat from the downtown pier of Lugano Centrale to either Porlezza or Ponte Tresa, both of which are in Italy.

Discover Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen is so perfectly beautiful that it could be mistaken for a film set, which it has actually been! Both Lauterbrunnen and nearby Mürren served as filming locations for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969.

The valley town is known for its 72 waterfalls, including the famous 300-meter-high Staubbach Falls, and the nearby Trümmelbach Falls, which cascade through mountain crevices past viewing platforms in the spring and summer.

Hiking, rock climbing, paragliding, and canyoning are all popular ways to experience Lauterbrunnen’s stunning location in the Interlaken-Oberhasli region. For a truly unique and special experience, consider viewing the breathtaking Bernese Alps landscape from a hot air balloon.

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Get Your Adrenaline Rush in Interlaken

Sandwiched between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, Interlaken is a small city known as the adventure capital of Switzerland and one of the best summer destinations in Switzerland for high-risk activities. 

There is an endless list of things to do in Interlaken in summer, including boat riding, skydiving, paragliding, skydiving, canyoning, river rafting, and bungee jumping, so it’s well worth a stop.

At 1,322 meters above sea level, Harder Kulm, Interlaken’s ‘house mountain’, delivers breathtaking views of the city and the mighty peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. It’s an easy climb as the Harder funicular railway, which is over 100 years old, does the hard work!

If you have a head for heights, check out the overhanging Zwei Seen Steg, or Two Lakes Bridge, for even more panoramic views of the two blue lakes that Interlaken is named for.

Discover Zermatt

Zermatt is a photogenic town at the foot of the impressive Matterhorn and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. This car-free mountain village deep in the Swiss Alps is known for its horse-drawn carriage rides, luxury hotels, and variety of activities like hiking, mountaineering, and mountain biking.

In fact, you can even ski in summer in Zermatt as a few of the highest slopes offer a year-round ski season! Take the gondola to Klein Matterhorn at 3,883m via Furi and Trockener Steg. Once there, you’ll have a great time enjoying snow sports along 21 km of pistes.

The Matterhorn, one of the most famous mountains in the world, dominates Zermatt. Viewpoints in the surrounding Alpine meadows and smaller summits offer breathtaking panoramic views of the distinctive snow-capped peak which is 4,478 meters high!

The highest cogwheel railway in Europe reaches the panoramic Gornergrat, and the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing, which opened in July 2023, means you can travel in less than 1.5 hours by cable car over the Italian border to Breuil Cervinia in the Aosta Valley, the perfect place to have a coffee!

RELATED POST: Europe Winter Destinations: 22 Amazing Wintry Places

Lit town at dusk surrounded by large mountains

Visit the Perfect Summer Location of Grindelwald

Winter tourists regard Grindelwald as the perfect location for skiing and snowboarding, but do not discount this small town for your summer holidays.

Grindelwald is a small village sandwiched by mountains in the Bernese Oberland of Central Switzerland. Impossibly picturesque and with a lot of things to do and see, Grindelwald is becoming a must-visit summer destination in Switzerland.

Top of the list of activities is the First Cliff Walk at the summit of the First Mountain at 2,200m above sea level, a quick ride from the village on the Grindelwald Firstbahn cable car.

The walk itself is along a metal walkway and a single-rope suspension bridge constructed along a cliff. At the end of the walkway, there is a spectacular observation platform that stretches out 45 meters above the mountains below.

We also suggest experiencing the Grindelwald-Männlichen Cableway which offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, including the famous peaks of the Eiger and Wetterhorn, and the Grindelwald Glacier Canyon, an underground labyrinth carved out by the 250 million-year-old Grindelwald Glacier.

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Spend Time in Bern

Always in the shadow of rivals Zurich and Geneva, Bern is a gorgeous city, with its historic Old Town and scenic location on the Aare River, popular for swimming in summer.

The Old Town of Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is rich with characteristic arcades and well-preserved medieval buildings, as well as the Gothic Bern Cathedral and the Zytglogge, an impressive astronomical clock and architectural masterpiece.

Bern combines history, culture, world-class museums, and natural beauty and is definitely one of the most eclectic places in Switzerland, which you should not miss during your visit.

Get Off-the-Beaten-Path at Schynige Platte

Located in the heart of the Jungfrau region, Schynige Platte, known as the ‘top of Swiss tradition’ is lesser visited than many of the surrounding big hitters and is a great excursion for families.

The best way to reach the hidden gem of Schynige Platte is on the nostalgic 126-year-old cog railway, the Schynige-Platte-Bahn from Wilderswil near Interlaken. Only running in summer, the 7km journey takes 52 minutes, as the train slowly pulls its way up the ascent.

Once you get there, the incredible views of the mountains take your breath away. The easy Naturkino circular trail connects picturesque vantage points, and in the Botanical Alpine Garden, you can admire over 750 species of Alpine plants.

Schynige Platte also has plenty of outdoor fun for kids, who will discover Lily the cow as she accompanies visitors on a treasure hunt around the Alpine landscape.

Spend a Day at Rhine Falls

The Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen, in the far north of Switzerland, is a spectacular natural spectacle and one of the most popular places to visit in Switzerland. This huge waterfall, between the towns of Schaffhausen and Neuhausen on the German border, attracts visitors from all over the world.

Rhine Falls day trips from Zurich are one of the easiest ways to see the mighty waterfall along with the medieval town of Stein am Rhein.

The Rhine Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in Europe and the huge amount of water that falls over the rocks is truly impressive. At 23 meters, the falls are not particularly high but are an imposing 150 meters wide as they stretch out along the River Rhine.

One of the best ways to experience the Rhine Falls is to take a boat ride. The excursion boats take the visitors on a small rock, in the middle of the water forces, so that the mighty power of the fall can be felt up close. 

But if you are not keen on a boat ride, you can see the Rhine Falls from afar. Head over to the Northern Banks promenade deck where the waterfall is visible from the different terraces.

Ride Switzerland’s Famous Trains

Traveling on the Bernina Express is a truly one-of-a-kind experience. This railway runs along the highest tracks in Europe and boasts the steepest inclines worldwide!

You’ll embark on a fantastic journey through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges as the Bernina Express makes its way through romantic gorges, past vast glaciers and manmade structures such as the iconic Landwasser Viaduct, and charming Swiss towns.

The Bernina Express leaves on its 4.5 hour journey from Chur, and terminates in Tirano in the Italian Alps, via the resort town of St Moritz and the spectacular Bernina Pass and Albula Pass. 

The Glacier Express connects Zermatt in the west of Switzerland to St Moritz in the east and takes 7.5 hours to wind its way between the snow-capped mountains. The Glacier Express is described as the slowest train in the world but with incredible scenery and mountain views to photograph, you won’t want to go any faster!

Once you leave Zermatt, the first sight is the Matterhorn, a majestic snow-capped mountain peak and one of Switzerland’s most famous landmarks. Along the route you’ll travel through 91 tunnels and across 291 bridges, passing icy-blue glaciers, pretty mountain villages, and stunning Alpine scenery.

Summer Fun & Music at Lake Geneva

The Lake Geneva area is one of the top summer attractions in Switzerland. The guests come to golf at the local PGA course, stroll through the parks, or boat on Lake Geneva. The different outdoor activities keep everyone active during their stay.

Lake Geneva is also home to one of the world’s best-known music festivals, the Montreux Jazz Festival, held annually for two weeks in July. Over the years, the music has diversified, and popular artists like Prince, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder have all played the stage at Montreux.

Geneva has a thriving culinary scene, with specialties like Longeole and Boutefas sausages, Fondue Genevoise, Café de Paris sauce (perfect with steak-frites), and Raclette high on the menu. Choose from fine dining to casual suppers and everything in between!

Hike the Alpine Cheese Trail

The Alpine Cheese Trail is our idea of heaven! The Alpkäse-Trail offers hikers a unique experience to learn and sample delicious Swiss cheese as you pass seven different Alpine dairy farms nestled in the mountains south of Lucerne.

Set amid Engelberg’s beautiful mountain setting, the circular route is 46.9km long and reaches 1,853 meters above sea level at the highest point. The scenic route makes a good multi-day hike with plenty of places to spend the night along the way.

At every dairy farm, you’ll be invited to learn everything about traditionally produced Alpine cheeses and the craft and lifestyle of the cheesemakers. Of course, you’ll have the opportunity to try various cheeses and cheese dishes, but that’s OK as you’ll hike it all off the next day!

Drive the Furka Pass

To reach the awe-inspiring Furka Pass, you’ll first have to cross the Grimsel Pass, meaning you’ll bag two of Switzerland’s best driving roads in a day. These high-altitude mountain passes in the Swiss Alps are famous for their incredible scenic drives, but they’re not for the faint-hearted.

Best known for its star appearance in Goldfinger, the Furka Pass was the backdrop to an Alpine car chase. Today, it is considered one of Europe’s greatest driving roads and is a firm favorite with petrolheads everywhere.

Remember, you will need to time your travel dates correctly to experience this world-renowned drive! The Grimsel and Furka Pass are only open between June and October due to travel conditions and snow on the roads.

RELATED POST: Driving in the Alps: Top Tips & Best Routes

A road following a river through mountains

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