There’s nowhere in the world quite like Switzerland, a nation known for neutrality, banking, and cheese with holes in it. Among these claims to fame, Switzerland has many fascinating landmarks and attractions, including the Chillon Castle and the Bernina Express. Both of these examples are particularly popular with tourists during summer vacations.
Some other notable landmarks include the Swiss National Park and the Glaciers of Switzerland. These should be visited if you enjoy exploring nature, but even that’s not all!
You can also learn about Swiss historical events that have taken place in this beautiful country, as well as safety information so visitors can enjoy their surroundings without getting hurt – health and safety being a contemporary Swiss pastime!
Ready to learn more about this fantastic country and its history? Let’s dive into these iconic historical points of interest and landmarks in Switzerland.
What We Cover
- Most Famous Historical Landmarks in Switzerland
- 1. Chillon Castle
- 2. Rhine Falls
- 3. Kapellbrücke
- 4. Swiss National Park
- 5. UNESCO-Von Bern
- 6. Grossmünster
- 7. Zytglogge
- 8. Oberhofen Castle
- 9. Zoo Zürich
- 10. Swiss National Museum
- 11. Swissminiatur
- 12. Swiss Museum of Transport
- 13. Jardin Anglais
- 14. Monument National
- 15. Lion Monument
- 16. Reformation Wall
- 17. Jet d’Eau
- 18. Gruyères Castle
- 19. Bernina Express
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What landmarks in Switzerland would you recommend visiting?
- Why do people visit landmarks in Switzerland?
Most Famous Historical Landmarks in Switzerland
1. Chillon Castle
Chillon Castle is set on the rocky banks of Lake Geneva. This waterside castle is one of the most visited historic buildings in Switzerland. The castle can be rented out for a variety of events, including weddings and receptions. It is possible to access nearby Montreux via boat, bus, or on foot from the castle.
Its grounds are a ten-mile stretch of tranquil surroundings surrounded by flower-lined walking paths and exotic plants, even palm trees!
An estimated 400,000 visitors visit the castle annually to see the Chillon Castle’s 14th-century paintings, subterranean vaults, ceremonial halls, and the preserved Bernese control chambers. Two circular walls surround the complex, including 25 buildings and three courtyards.
Visitors can take individual or group tours or with an audio guide. Furthermore, eight short films on terminals strewn about the castle show guests even more details about the thousand-year history of this magnificent fortress home.
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2. Rhine Falls
The Rhine Falls, or Rheinfall, is possibly Europe’s most splendid plain waterfall and indeed its largest waterfall – and one of the most magnificent in the world. It is among the best natural landmarks in Switzerland.
Around 15,000 years ago, tectonic movements during the Ice Age were responsible for the development of this Swiss wonder. The Rhine Falls are located in Neuhausen am Rheinfall Village, near Schaffhausen, on the High Rhine.
This is the only major waterfall in Switzerland. The waters of the Rhine flow at a speed of 23 meters per second over a 150-meter width. On average, the tub is 13 meters deep with a 600-meter-per-second descent.
Nearby lies a narrow peninsula on which Schloss Laufen and the village of Neuhausen am Rheinfall can be found. Tourists and nature lovers alike will be amazed by the breathtaking beauty of Europe’s largest waterfall, definitely among the most stunning examples of Mother Nature’s greatest marvels on the continent.
The Rhinefall has inspired many impressive man-made structures, such as castles and other intriguing buildings on its flanks. However, the natural beauty of the river and the falls often overshadow these architectural accomplishments.
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It was built in 1365, and among its accolades, Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and the oldest surviving truss bridge in the world. It gets its name from the adjacent St. Peter’s Chapel.
It was initially about 200 meters long when first constructed, but the bridge was shortened to 170 meters long due to riverbank replenishment work. The bridge suffered a devastating fire in 1993 that almost destroyed it. However, with the help of almost 3.5 million Swiss Francs and a lot of elbow grease, the bridge was open to the public once more within less than a year.
Chapel Bridge was constructed as part of Lucerne’s town defenses, connecting the ancient part of the town on the right bank with the newer parts of Lucerne on the left bank and protecting against amphibious attacks from Lake Lucerne to the south.
One of Chapel Bridge’s unique characteristics is its several paintings adorn the triangular struts that hold up the roof, each depicting part of the city’s history. Most of these paintings were from the 17th century, and approximately two-thirds of these unique works of art were destroyed in the fire of 1993.
Most current paintings are faithful replicas; some tell more contemporary stories of Lucerne, all painted by local artists. They are a wonderful depiction of St. Maurice, life in Lucerne, its folklore and history, and the lives and deaths of local legends.
The ominous-looking wasserturn, (water tower) off the center of the bridge is actually older than the bridge itself and has had a mixed history as a prison, torture chamber, archive, and treasury building.
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4. Swiss National Park
At Engadine’s Swiss National Park, it’s all about the environment. This is a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts and a green haven for nature lovers. The Swiss National Park is the Alp’s oldest park, established in 1914.
Within the park’s over 170 square kilometers radius, there are plenty of opportunities for enjoyable outdoor leisure. It has around 80 kilometers of hiking trails and adventure areas suitable for children and families, ensuring everyone can enjoy the outdoors.
For tourists new to Switzerland who want to discover the area on their own, this is a great place to start your adventures! There are a ton of great Swiss landmarks within and around the park, and well-known landmarks in the Swiss Alps are close by, too!
Engadine provides access to an impressive network of more than 60 cozy shelters for overnight stays—from traditional mountain huts to modern alpine houses and numerous campsites.
Visitors are not permitted to depart the designated hiking pathways in the interest of nature conservation, which seems to be working. There is so much native wildlife to spot in the national park. Some of these beasts include ibexes, marmots, and golden eagles.
When visiting the national park, participating in various excursions is one of the most enjoyable things in its vast wilderness. Excursions are open for all ages, and they aim to encourage families to inspire children to discover the beauty of nature at a young age so they may appreciate it and try to protect it when they’re older.
The Champlönch children’s trail is part of the excursion that lets children learn more about the environment, with plenty of fun activities and play opportunities!
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5. UNESCO-Von Bern
There is a charming historical site in Bern, UNESCO-Von Bern, also known as UNESCO-Altstadt von Bern. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but I promise that wasn’t always its name. However, visit the Old City of Bern to see why this immaculately preserved medieval city earned its UNESCO World Heritage Site status as perhaps the most unrivaled gem in UNESCO’s annals.
The Old City of Berne, the Swiss federal capital, Bern, and the canton’s capital, Bern, are located on the Swiss plateau between the Jura Mountains and the Alps. On a hill bordered by the River Aar, Bern was built in the 12th century and was one of the first medieval cities deliberately planned out.
How Old Bern grew can be seen in the location and layout of the city’s structures, streets, and squares. It has wide scenic roads for market purposes and a regular division of built sections, subdivided into narrow and deep parcels, much like modern city blocks.
The Old City of Bern is an excellent example of a city that has preserved its medieval urban structures while adapting to the more complex functions of a modern city over time.
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Among the most visited and famous sacred places in Zurich, Switzerland, is the Protestant church known as Grossmünster (Great Minister). This site is worth visiting for its architectural beauty, but it’s well worth visiting to learn about the fantastic history of the church and its legendary foundation.
The most famous tale concerns the church’s founding. The story goes that the Grossmünster was ordered built by Charlemagne, whose horse fell to its knees over the tombs of Saints Felix and Regula, the patron saints of Zürich. On that very site, he supposedly ordered the construction of a monastic cathedral on the tombs of saints.
The interior of Zurich’s Grossmunster is notably free of sculptures, statues, and murals. This is because of a fellow named Huldrych Zwingli, a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation of Switzerland. During the Reformation, Zwingli was permitted to convert the Catholic Grossmünster into a Protestant Church.
As was typical of most Protestants at the time, Zwingli despised any grand, ostentatious decorations that he saw as the result of the Catholic faith lining its pockets from donations from the people. Consequently, most original decorations are gone, leaving a spartan look typical of Protestant churches.
Luckily, Zwingli didn’t tamper with the outside! The beauty of this cathedral is derived from the structure itself rather than from the embellishments surrounding it or its interior – although the stained glass windows and pipe organs are both exquisite.
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The Zytglogge (“time bell” in Bernese German), also known as Zeit Glockenturm in German, is a medieval clocktower in Bern. As well as telling the time since the 13th Century, this historical duel clock and the astronomical clock have served as a guard tower, prison, memorial, and meeting place for generations.
The Zytglogge Tower is one of the most visited sites in Old Bern and one of the most well-known landmarks in Switzerland. Construction was completed in approximately 1220, making it the oldest monument in the Old City of Bern (the Old City being a UNESCO World Heritage Site itself).
It has a Class A listing in the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance. It’s been said that the clock tower helped inspire Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity during his time in Bern. Whether it did or not, he undoubtedly enjoyed this outstanding piece of history!
Visiting the tower gives you a chance to see its huge west and east clock faces, as well as the Astrolabium (the stunning astronomical calendar clock) on the eastern side of the tower.
Snap a few photographs and head inside to learn intriguing facts about its renovations over 800 years and how it has remained a constant for the people of Bern almost since the city’s inception.
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8. Oberhofen Castle
Oberhofen Castle is a magnificent castle located in the Swiss canton of Bern, in the municipality of Oberhofen. It is a nationally significant Swiss heritage site worth a visit. When planning a trip through Switzerland, include this destination on your itinerary!
Checking out the castle is a Swiss roll since it’s close to many hotels to make your base camp, fantastic restaurants, and other popular attractions.
The uniqueness and legacy of Oberhofen Castle distinguish it as a Swiss national heritage site. Initially constructed in the 14th Century, the castle was added to in decades and centuries that followed. These additions give the castle a unique blend of medieval, baroque, and romantic architecture.
A 2.5-hectare park constructed around 1840 adjacent to the castle is filled with exquisite garden art. It gets better inside. The castle features fascinating display rooms representing Bernese residential culture from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.
The exhibits include neo-Gothic dining areas, knights’ armor, and a Turkish smoking chamber. The castle also has its chapel, decorated with late 15th-century wall paintings, which still serves a small congregation and can be booked for baptisms and weddings.
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9. Zoo Zürich
The Zurich Zoo is one of Europe’s most magnificent animal attractions. It is a top-rated attraction that draws over a million visitors worldwide annually.
It is located on Zürichbergstrasse in the Fluntern neighborhood, in the lower reaches of Zürichberg. The zoo is a great getaway destination and leisure spot for families and children to have fun.
As Switzerland’s third-oldest zoological site, it was founded in 1929 in the alpine metropolitan Nirvana, Zurich. A staggering 2,200 animals from approximately 370 species from every corner of the Earth call this place home.
When in Zurich, you must take the time to visit this zoo. You can get up close and personal with animals by walking through three different biotopes in which species are found in Australia, South America, and Asia.
Aside from thousands of animals under the care of Zoo Zurich, there are a variety of festivities, events, and activities to enjoy here. The parade of penguins is among the zoo’s most amusing and adorable events. Here, the Zoo’s penguins take a stroll after midday, so long as the outdoor temperature is below 10 degrees Celsius – most species of penguins like it chilly!
Other unmissable exhibits include the Asian elephant exhibit and Masoala Rainforest Hall, housed within the zoo’s massive glass dome.
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10. Swiss National Museum
A trip to Switzerland certainly isn’t complete without a visit to the Swiss National Museum. The Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, or Swiss National Museum, is located in Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, and is home to one of the world’s most important collections of prehistoric art.
The museum has a permanent collection of fascinating cultural and historical relics and arts dating back thousands of years, including collections of utensils, figurines, and tools.
The exhibition tour and displays in the museum take you from prehistory to ancient times to the twentieth century. The collection also shows classic modern art from different eras.
The museum’s porcelain and ceramic tiles collection is in the Zunfthaus Zur Meisen near Fraumünster church. Additionally, there are superb exhibits on gothic-style masterpieces, chivalry, and heraldry, as well as a substantial collection of sculptures, paintings, and carved altars.
The museum has more than 860,000 pieces(!) in its collection, so you might even want to split a visit to this monster museum over a couple of days!
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In the tiny municipality of Melide lies something very big, yet even smaller. Welcome to Swissminiatur! The nation’s largest open-air museum and park, world-famous for its delightful miniature town! This attraction is among the best landmarks in Switzerland to bring young kids.
With the Monte Generoso, San Salvatore, and the San Giorgio mountains forming a mind-blowing backdrop, the park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The museum is ideal for a scenic and serene destination that children will love. Relax and unwind in a tranquil natural setting, and get lost in the incredible details of this giant among miniature towns.
The museum’s highlight is probably its miniatures of the Rapperswil Castle, Chillon Castle, and the Bellinzona Castle. Bern’s Parliament Building and Locarno’s Piazza Grande are also among the intricate miniatures.
The Swiss railway also has a small input into the park, contributing a 3,560-meter miniature railway network that twists and turns its way through the park. The railway also comes with eighteen trains running on the lines. All aboard!
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12. Swiss Museum of Transport
The Verkehrshaus der Schweiz, or Swiss Museum of Transport, is located in the picturesque city of Lucerne and is among the coolest landmarks in Switzerland for lovers of planes, trains, and automobiles. The museum is the most visited destination in town and a unique venue for special meetings and events.
The grand event and conference rooms are perfect for wedding receptions, business events, or seminars. Still, there’s also the option of employing portions of the museum to offer a unique atmosphere for memorable occasions.
This museum is a truly stimulating environment; learning about the science of getting from A to B is a blast at The Swiss Museum of Transport. Unique attractions await visitors in the museum, such as a fantastic movie theater where documentaries are shown in XXL format on the largest film screen in Switzerland.
The museum also showcases Switzerland’s largest and most state-of-the-art planetarium, offering a 360-degree flight to the stars, and exhibits on cutting-edge communication trends, such as virtual reality, are on display in Media Word.
The museum also has opportunities for outdoor leisure through its Swiss Chocolate Adventure, a multimedia journey that will take you through the cocoa bean’s life from seed to the bar.
If you’re enjoying the Swiss Chocolate Adventure at either 1 pm, 3 pm, or 5 pm, you can sample some freshly made Swiss chocolate, courtesy of the master chocolatiers of Lindt!
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13. Jardin Anglais
The Jardin Anglais, or English Garden, is a beautifully landscaped park found in Geneva. The park was opened to the public in 1855 and is a relaxing sanctuary from city life, as well as a recreational site for visitors.
The English Garden was the first city park in Geneva to be planned in a traditional English style, with curving pathways, free-standing planted trees, and ornate flower beds. It had previously been known as the Lake Promenade but was subsequently renamed the English Garden. In 1955, the L’horloge Fleurie (Flower Clock) was erected, immediately becoming Geneva’s most photographed landmark.
Aside from the plants and flowers in the park, it also highlights various pavilions. The Quai Gustave-Ador begins here, which connects the Jardin Anglais to the Parc de la Perle du Lac.
Jardin Anglais offers a large, open space where visitors can enjoy sports and outdoor games such as lawn bowling, horseshoes, table tennis, volleyball, and more.
The park also features many landmarks that lend themselves well to photographs of family and friends, such as the carved bronze fountain by Alexis Andre, Le Monument National (which we’ll talk about next), and the picturesque L’horloge Fleurie. If you need a bit of pep in your step, there’s a lovely little coffee house where you can refuel.
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14. Monument National
The Monument National in Geneva is a must-see in town and is one of the country’s most notable historical landmarks. The monument is a great place to stop by since it is easily accessible by car, public transportation, bike, or foot.
The National Monument was inaugurated in 1869 and is located in the Jardin Anglais, facing the tranquil and scenic Lake Geneva. If you’re already visiting the garden, don’t forget to check out this monument.
This culturally significant statue on the Place des Nations in Geneva depicts a pair of women arm in arm, each clasping swords and shields, and was built to celebrate and commemorate the reunification of Geneva to Switzerland in 1814.
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15. Lion Monument
The Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument), also commonly known as the Lion of Lucerne, is a sculpture in the city of Lucerne and is among Switzerland’s famous sights. Since its completion in 1821, the striking Lion Monument has drawn many visitors. The monument was carved into a sandstone cliff above Lucerne’s central business district, near the Glacier Garden and Panorama.
Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen was commissioned to create a monument to honor the Swiss Guards in service of French King Louis XVI, who died defending the king during the Storming of the Tuileries in Paris in 1792, at the height of the French Revolution.
Despite striving for neutrality for most of the nation, Switzerland has been famously home to some of the most brutal soldiers in history. It was common for most European armies to have large contingents of Swiss troops to swell their numbers.
Even the Vatican has Swiss Guards that still protect the Pope today. The monument was carved into a sandstone cliff above Lucerne’s central business district, near the Glacier Garden and Panorama.
It depicts a dying lion, wounded by a pike, guarding a shield adorned with the French Fluer-de-lis, symbolizing the last actions of the Swiss Guard; they fought and died like lions.
This incredible piece of sculpture work is visited by approximately 1.4 million tourists every year, yet only a small percentage of those who come to see it are aware of the tragic tragedy behind this impressive monument.
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16. Reformation Wall
The International Monument to the Reformation, also known as the Reformation Wall, respects the Protestant movement’s leading individuals and is recognized as an important religious site among Swiss and German Protestants.
The monument shows critical phases in the movement’s history and details various notable persons who contributed to it. Among the many reliefs, the wall bears Geneva’s motto – Post-Tenebras Lux; After darkness, comes light.
The monument was erected in 1909 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of French theologian Jehan Calvin and the 350th birthday of the University of Geneva, the house of learning descended from Calvin’s Schola Publica.
It was erected inside Old City Walls to emphasize Geneva’s role in the Reformation, as well as that of Jehan Calvin, whose namesake theology, Calvinism, would influence Christian reforms across Europe.
The individuals most depicted on the Wall are Calvinists; nevertheless, prominent Reformation personalities from other countries and sects of Protestantism are included.
Grand statues and bas-reliefs depict important protagonists of the Protestant Reformation, including Jehan Calvin and William Farel, who can be found in the center of the Park of the Bastions. Theodore Beza and John Knox were also part of the Reformation and part of the Reformation Wall.
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17. Jet d’Eau
The Geneva Water Fountains, more commonly known as the Jet d’Eau (Jet of Water), is a beautiful feature at the mouth of the River Rhône. This lovely landmark can be found at Quai Gustave-Ador in 1207, Geneva.
The huge fountain shoots water 140 meters into the air, making it a popular photographic destination. The best time to take pictures of this landmark (especially during sunset) is between March and July when plenty of light hours exist.
Every year, people from around the world visit the cosmopolitan metropolis of Geneva to see the Jet d’Eau, one of the city’s most popular attractions.
The Jet d’Eau was not always a popular tourist destination, however. It wasn’t even what you’d consider a “destination!” Here’s the story of how Geneva’s iconic fountain came to be. The first jet, installed in 1886, was a hydraulic power network’s safety valve that vented great water geysers 30 meters into the air.
Yup. A safety valve. The locals enjoyed the fountains created by the valve, and it was relocated to a more aesthetically pleasing spot upstream. In 1951, the current monster replaced the jet, increasing its height by 110 meters. Given that this is Switzerland, I suppose it’s only fitting that even the most exquisite urban emblem has a practical background!
Although we recommend visiting the Jet d’Eauin in person, the jet is so large that it is visible from above as you fly to or from Geneva- plus, you won’t risk getting wet!
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18. Gruyères Castle
The Castle de Gruyères, also known as the Château de Gruyères, is one of Switzerland’s most well-known fortresses. This lovely castle is located in the picturesque namesake town of Gruyères. It is a nationally notable and historically significant Swiss landmark since it was built on the site of the Roman castle, Le Châtelard.
The Castle de Gruyères was constructed in the Middle Ages and is still standing to this day in fantastic shape. It took four centuries to complete this fortress, and today, it remains a historical landmark that exhibits its medieval architecture with turret balconies and many lookout windows.
Castle de Gruyères is home to several famous treasures that testify to the citadel’s long and fascinating history, including priceless medieval stained glass and knights’ capes, armories, and wall hangings commissioned by bailiffs under the Ancien Régime.
The most impressive space of all is probably the beautifully decorative Knight’s Room, constructed in the 19th century by a group of artists passionate about the age of chivalry.
Frequently updated and cycled displays complement the historical and aesthetic history of the castle, revealing a different side to it with each visit.
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19. Bernina Express
The Bernina Express is a world-famous train that connects Chur (or Davos) to Poschiavo in Switzerland and Tirano in Italy by traveling over the gorgeous Swiss Engadin Alps.
The train runs along much of the World Heritage Site known as the Rhaetian Railway, located within the Albula/Bernina Land. Between 1898 and 1904, the Rhaetian Railway built the Albula line; it is still in use today. The Bernina line was constructed between 1908 and 1910 but was not connected to the rest of the Rhaetian Railway system until over forty years later.
It’s not an “express” in the sense of a high-speed train; passengers must reserve a seat directly when buying Bernina Express tickets or online. The railway is used for sightseeing by the Rhaetian Railway firm. And boy, what a sightseeing tour it is.
Regarding rail travel, it’s a higher-quality regional service between Tirano and Chur or Davos that replaces some of the secondary line trains: panoramic coaches with larger windows and multi-lingual (English, Italian, and German) audio guides are some of the bonuses you’ll find onboard.
The Bernina Express is popular with tourists, who can reach Lugano in Switzerland via Lake Como in Italy using the Post Bus service. In 2008, the Bernina Express’s route between Chur and St. Moritz was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The four-hour railway journey through this World Heritage Site is made across 196 bridges, 55 tunnels, and the Bernina Pass, which is 2,253 feet above sea level.
The entire railway is electrified and uses a 1,000 mm (3 ft 3+3⁄8 in) gauge. The Bernina Express uses gradients of 7% to negotiate the difference in the height of about 1800 meters from the summit at Ospizio Bernina to Tirano.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What landmarks in Switzerland would you recommend visiting?
Some landmarks that I would recommend visiting while in Switzerland are the Chillon Castle and the Bernina Express. Both landmarks are especially popular during the summer, as they are great landmarks to visit while vacationing in Switzerland. Other notable landmarks include the Swiss National Park and the Glaciers of Switzerland. Both landmarks are definitely worth visiting if you’re an avid explorer or enjoy nature.
Why do people visit landmarks in Switzerland?
They visit landmarks because landmarks help society, tell a story of past events, and show how people have changed. When visiting these landmarks, visitors can get a clear idea of the historical events that have taken place to change the course of their nation or better understand its values. They can also learn which places to avoid for safety reasons or areas they need to steer clear of out of respect.