Switzerland is a dream destination for many travelers. This central European country calls to people from all over the globe, and many people answer that call at some point during their lifetime. It’s a beautiful and memorable place; it’s no wonder that everyone wants to visit it.
When people think of Switzerland several things come immediately to mind. Any thought of Switzerland invokes mental images of beautiful Lake Lucerne, incredible Lake Geneva, the nation’s stunning snow-capped mountains, charming towns, colorful buildings, and picturesque landscapes.
Any visit to Switzerland will almost always include viewing incredible scenery and stunning lakes, explorations of medieval buildings, walking along old hiking paths, visiting charming towns, and encountering friendly, down-to-earth people.
Your trip to Switzerland will surely include all of these things – but wouldn’t you also like to go a little deeper?
Switzerland is not only full of all of the above but there are countless hidden gems that few tourists know. If you wish to experience Switzerland off the beaten path, then you came to the right place. In this informative post, we’ll tell you about some lesser-known places for you to visit and some amazing yet uncommon things for you to see and do in this small but special nation.
Before You Go
As with any trip, it’s wise to plan if you want to get the most out of it. Of course, there’s something to be said for going with the flow and spontaneity, too; however, if you’re hoping to visit hidden gems when visiting Switzerland, you will need to organize yourself a bit before you go.
For the best of both worlds, plan an itinerary but keep it loose. Make some notes of the things you wish to see and do and where they are located, and then plan your trip around those things.
Flights to Switzerland
Flights to Europe can be expensive, but you’d be amazed at the deals you can find with a little effort. Use Skyscanner.com to watch for flights from your home airport and other nearby airports to Swiss airports like Bern (BRN), Geneva (GVA), and Zurich (ZRH).
Going can be helpful in this area, too; that site often has deals to Switzerland from many U.S. airports.
Rental Cars in Switzerland
Although public transportation is excellent in Europe, if you plan to visit multiple cities or wish to explore the countryside, then renting a car is a good idea.
The Swiss drive is on the same side of the road that we do, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble – just know Swiss road laws are strictly enforced! Rentalcars.com is always a good resource for car rentals almost anywhere in the world.
It’s always a good idea to invest in travel insurance when you travel internationally or even domestically. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but if you do have to use it you’ll be glad that you have it.
Hidden Gems in Switzerland to Visit
Once you have all of the above-taken care of, it’s time to embark on the trip of a lifetime to Switzerland. When you return, everyone will ask you if you viewed the Swiss Alps, if you rode on a cable car, and if you walked along the shores of this nation’s beautiful lakes. The answer to all of the above is – of course, you did! These are things that everyone who visits Switzerland does! Duh!
But if you hit up the things on this list, you will have so much more to share…
The following suggestions are true hidden gems. Many of them are visited by few. Your trip will be unique and special and different from everyone else’s, even if you only choose a few of these off-the-beaten-track attractions.
Hidden Gems in and Near Geneva
Geneva is the second-most populated city in Switzerland. Due to its location in Switzerland’s southwest corner, it is almost surrounded by France. As a result, you’ll encounter a great deal of French culture here. This area is also famous for banking.
It’s a beautiful city with plenty to explore, but beyond its most common attractions – museums, the Geneva Water Fountain, and the St. Pierre Cathedral – you might enjoy visiting some of these lesser-known attractions, too.
United Nations Ceiling, Geneva
The European headquarters of the United Nations is in Geneva and in addition to being the location of much international diplomacy, it is also visited by many tourists who visit Switzerland. However, most people simply view it and photograph it from the outside.
The hidden gem here, though, is the iconic ceiling art in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilians Room that was completed by artist Miquel Barcelo in 2008. It’s breathtaking and it took twenty workers over two years to complete.
It has been called the 21st Century Sistine Chapel by some and you’ll need to hop on an official tour to access it!
La Tulipe, Geneva
If you like architecture then you should take the time to walk by and photograph La Tulipe. Brutalist architecture, popular in the 1950s-1970s, is known for being, well, brutal. La Tulipe checks all the boxes for brutalism, yet it is quite beautiful.
As its name suggests, it is shaped like a tulip, and in addition to foreboding gray concrete, it also has colorful windows in pink, blue, and orange. This building contrasts in action and is undoubtedly a hidden gem in the city.
A Great Place to Stay in Geneva
If you want to be in the middle of everything and you want luxurious accommodations, then you’ll love Beau-Rivage Geneve. It’s fancy and beautiful but it’s also not cheap.
The on-site restaurant, Le Chat Botte, has excellent French cuisine and one Michelin star. The view of the lake is wonderful.
Things to See Near Laussane
Laussane is a medium-sized city on the northern shore of Lake Geneva. Most visitors to this area visit the Olympic Museum due to this city being the home of the International Olympic Committee headquarters or explore this medieval town and view its impressive old architecture.
Others stroll along the shores of the lake and visit the other small, picturesque villages nearby. These are all excellent activities for visitors to Laussane and the surrounding areas, but here are a few hidden gems to check out as well.
Freddy Mercury Statue & Mountain Studios, Montreux
Switzerland and the British band Queen don’t automatically go hand-in-hand in the minds of most people, but believe it or not, there is a rather strong connection between the two.
In Montreux, on the shores of Lake Geneva, you’ll not only find a larger-than-life statue of Freddy Mercury in his signature, fist-in-the-air pose, but you can also visit Mountain Studios, a recording studio inside the Montreaux Casino, where the band recorded no fewer than seven albums during their impressive career.
If you’re a fan of Queen – or of any of the other bands and artists that recorded there (including the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, or Sting, to name a few) – don’t miss it; you’re sure to learn a great deal!
See Related: 24 Fun and Best Things to do in Zermatt, Switzerland
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located on the northern shore of Lake Geneva and is rich in natural beauty. The vineyards here are over 800 years old; the grapes were first planted by monks but the pleasant climate of this area has kept them going ever since.
There are beautiful hikes in this area and bike tours are also a popular activity. If you love wine and gently sloping hills filled with vineyards, this is a place that is worth visiting.
Collection de L’art Brut, Lausanne
Do you like art? Are you tired of the same old art museums with the same old art in them by the same old artists? If so, you might enjoy Collection de L’Art Brut in Lausanne.
Artists are often outsiders, but few fit that description as well as the artists featured here.
This museum is unique in that it displays art by loners, prisoners, and the criminally insane. If “different” is your cup of tea, then you’ll love this museum.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Zurich, Switzerland
Hidden Gems Near Bern
Bern is the capital of Switzerland and is located in the northwest corner of the country. It’s full of impressive medieval architecture and the old town is popular with tourists. If you’re looking for something unique to check out in this area, read on!
Klingende Sammlung, Bern
If you like music and unique museums then you’ll enjoy Klingende Sammlung. This isn’t a very big museum but you’ll see things here that you won’t see anywhere else – this museum is dedicated to rare woodwind and brass instruments.
If you’re a musician or are curious to learn more about the evolution of world music you’ll be amazed by this place, but no matter who you are, you’ll love the rare opportunity to toot an alphorn – there are three available for visitors to try!
Meret Oppenheim Fountain, Bern
Surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim is very well-known in Switzerland and is also known by many other art lovers from around the world. Her fountain in central Bern is interesting not only for its concrete and aluminum construction, nor for its nearly three-story height, but rather for the fact that it is always changing as it is exposed to the elements over the years.
This fountain is covered with ice in the winter and lichens and other plants in the summer, and mineral deposits from the water reroute the flow of the water constantly.
It looks different from day to day and from year to year, so it’s worth going back to see this fountain time and time again if you find yourself in Bern on a regular or even occasional basis.
A Great Place to Stay in Bern
The Best Western Plus Hotel Bern is a lovely yet affordable hotel in the center of Bern. It’s a short walk from the front door to a variety of attractions and restaurants. You’ll love the Art Nouveau façade.
Interesting Places to Visit Near Interlaken
Interlaken’s name is fitting as this is a beautiful town frequented by vacationers that is between two lakes; Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
The scenic landscapes here are breathtaking and unforgettable and it’s no wonder that so many people travel to Interlaken to enjoy this beautiful alpine country and the surrounding mountains. Oeschinen Lake to the south is also exceptionally beautiful and is surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks.
If you love mountains, the picturesque village of Interlaken is one place that you absolutely must visit in your lifetime. You can spend entire days here admiring the Swiss Alps but if you wish to do other things, there are a variety of interesting options to consider too.
The Niesenbahn; Mulenen
Mulenen is not far from Interlaken and is home to The Niesenbahn, one of the world’s most amazing engineering marvels. This funicular railway is one of the longest and steepest of its kind. It opened in 1910 and is still in heavy use today.
The cars can carry up to sixty-five passengers up a 68% incline on a ride that takes thirty minutes each way. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s completely safe. This is a bucket list item that you should try.
St Beatus Cave, Beatenberg
St. Beatus Caves are just west of Interlaken on the northern shore of Lake Thun. The caves themselves are quite interesting for the reasons all caves are; they are mostly unexplored with only a small portion open to the public, and you can view stalactites and stalagmites in the main chamber as well as underground waterways and waterfalls.
However, these caves are extra charming for their associated legend about St. Beatus, a monk who fought and defeated the dragon that lived there around 100 AD.
It’s not every day that you get to visit a cave that once housed a real live dragon, so for that alone, a visit to this attraction is well worth the trip!
Schilthorn Piz Gloria, Lauterbrunnen
In the mountains just to the south of Interlaken, you’ll find a unique revolving restaurant called Piz Gloria. This restaurant has good food and incredible views and was once a cable car station. On a clear day, you’ll see 200 mountain peaks during your meal.
To come and go, you’ll have to take a thirty-minute cable car ride each way from the town of Murren. On the cable car ride, you’ll see Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
If you feel like you’ve seen this place before, you’re probably remembering it from George Lazenby’s only outing as James Bond in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service!
A Great Place to Stay in Interlaken
Balmers Hostel is the oldest private hostel in Switzerland and is located in three traditional Swiss chalets. This is about as authentic as it gets. You’ll be a bit of a distance from the lake here but it’s easy to get around and there’s a grocery store a few blocks away. This is a very affordable accommodation that you’ll just love.
Amazing Places Near Lake Lucerne
Lake Lucerne is one of the most beautiful places in all of Switzerland to visit. The lake itself is exceptionally beautiful and the town is small and compact but active.
Many people flock here to explore the medieval architecture that is well-preserved and intriguing. There are lots of things to do in this area due to it being a popular tourist destination.
Chapel Bridge and the Dance of Death Bridge, Lucerne
The most famous footbridge in Lucerne is the Chapel Bridge across the Reuss River. It is visible from the most popular places in town, and its sister, the Spreurbrucke (also known as the Dance of Death Bridge) is worth a visit too.
This wooden, covered bridge was built in the 13th Century and has been well-kept and renovated since then. In the 1600s, illustrations were added to the rafters along the way to illustrate death and the legends and beliefs surrounding it.
Each of the sixty-seven different works is intended to remind viewers that everyone dies; they show people from all walks of life being dragged to the afterlife by skeletons and other creatures. Good luck sleeping after visiting this one.
Hammetschwand Elevator, Ennetburgen
On the central, southern shore of Lake Lucerne, you can visit the Hammetschwand Elevator. This is the tallest outdoor elevator in Europe.
Built-in 1905, you can still ride it with confidence even today. You’ll rise to a height of over 3,700 feet above sea level to a viewing platform for incredible, unforgettable, above-the-clouds views of the Swiss Alps.
Places to Visit Near Zurich
Zurich is the most well-known city in Switzerland; it is also the largest by population with over 425,000 residents. Like most major towns and cities in Switzerland, it is located on the shores of a lake – in this case, Lake Zurich – and it has a rich history.
Many people enjoy visiting Altstadt, the Old Town part of town, and many business travelers find themselves here because Zurich is a global center for banking and finance. No matter what brought you to Zurich, you’re sure to fall in love with this city. Here are some things to do in the area that you may not hear about elsewhere.
Haus Hiltl, Zurich
This restaurant is special in that it is considered to be the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the West. It offers a one hundred-dish, meat-free buffet that features vegetarian fare from around the world.
When this establishment opened in 1898, meals without meat were not something most Europeans could even imagine, but this place has been popular since its earliest days. Patrons pay based on the weight of their plates, so load one up and have one of the very best meals of your life without being the cause of death for a single animal.
See Related: Best Hotels in Interlaken, Switzerland
Sukkulenten-Sammlung Zurich, Zurich
If you like succulents, then you’ll love this place, as it is home to one of the world’s largest collections of these cool little plants. One doesn’t quickly think of damp Swizterland when contemplating this vast category of desert vegetation, but here they lie in outdoor beds and indoor greenhouses. You’ll find over 6,500 different species here and you’ll learn a great deal a how they survive in harsh environments, too.
Hollgrotten Caves, Baar
South of Zurich near Baar, you can visit Hollgrotten Caves. These caves are 3000 years old and are made of limestone. Most people who visit Switzerland only view the geologic beauty that we can see above ground, and the Swiss Alps in particular, but there is beauty to be seen below the surface in this country as well.
These caves are lit with colorful lights and paths have been created so visitors can safely explore with a guide. There’s much to see in the subterranean world; here’s your chance to check it out.
A Great Place to Stay in Zurich
The Central Plaza Hotel in Zurich is located in the city center/old town right at the main railway station and Zurich’s Central Square. The rooms are comfortable and the views are fantastic. There is a restaurant on-site as well.
See Related: Best Hotels in Lucerne, Switzerland
Hidden Gems in the Swiss Countryside
The cities of Switzerland are all special and alluring, but the Swiss countryside is not like anywhere else on earth. From almost every point in the country, you can view the incredible Swiss Alps on a day trip. Exquisite alpine lakes are around every turn, and tiny villages dot the rolling green terrain.
Beauty is everywhere that you look in this European nation, so when visiting Switzerland you should make a point to get out into the outskirts of the cities to explore the less crowded and less visited areas, too. You’ll be glad that you did. Here are some fun and unique things to check out while traveling around the Swiss countryside.
Evionnaz Adventure Labyrinth, Evionnaz
For a fun time that the whole family will enjoy, check out Evionnaz Adventure Labyrinth in Evionnaz, south of Lausanne. This is the world’s largest maze made of natural materials; it features over 18,000 conifer trees and is over three kilometers in length. You can get lost in it for hours – good luck!
Berggasthaus Aescher Wildkirchli, Wasserauen
This 170-year-old guesthouse is built into the side of a cliff, literally. Its rear wall is the rock face itself. It’s only accessible by a very long and treacherous hike or, fortunately for you, by cable car.
The guesthouse no longer accepts guests but the restaurant is still operational and you can visit from May to October. It’s run by a family with five children who live there year-round with their many pets. This is a very unique property that you should check out if you have the time and stomach for it.
See Related: Best Castles in the Netherlands for History Buffs
Abbey Library of Saint Gall, St. Gallen
If you love books and libraries, then this is an attraction you simply cannot miss. This library, located in the Abbey of Saint Gall, has been operational since about the year 820, which means it is one of the oldest libraries in all of Europe.
However, that’s not even the draw – the draw is that this is one of the most beautiful libraries you have ever laid eyes on. The current library space was built in the mid-18th Century in the Baroque Rococo style that was popular at the time.
It looks like a fairytale and it will take your breath away. You’ll have to take pictures with your mind, though – no photos are allowed – and they’ll take your phone or camera from you before you enter just to be sure you follow the rules.
Dreamfactory’s World of Wonders, Degerhsheim
People who love magic and weird, offbeat museums will enjoy a visit to Dreamfactory’s World of Wonders in Degersheim. Owner Retonio Breitenmoser, a Swiss magician and ventriloquist, bought this collection of oddities in the late 1980s – and grew it larger since then – and only recently decided to share these items with the public.
Today, visitors can enjoy a wide variety of unique and strange things like games and toys, miniatures, pinball machines, ventriloquist dolls, magic show props, and so much more at this very different and intriguing museum.