Switzerland has just announced plans to ease Covid-19 travel restrictions and open its borders to vaccinated US and Canadian tourists starting on June 28. The opening is expected to be officially ratified by the Swiss government on June 23, and incoming travelers will not be required to quarantine or undergo pre-arrival testing (keep in mind that you should always check with your airline to confirm any testing requirements for boarding) but instead simply need to complete an online entry form to arrive via air.
With so many travel enthusiasts impatient to pack their bags, Switzerland’s reopening is welcome news. This Alpine country has much to offer and its famously rule-respecting citizens will make even the most cautious visitor feel safe. Here are the top ten reasons why Switzerland should be on your travel A-list:
One of Switzerland’s biggest draws is its gorgeous landscapes. From the towering peaks of Jungfraujoch—known as “The Top of Europe”—to the panoramic passes of Great St. Bernard and Furka, this country offers the sweeping vistas you need to shake off the last vestiges of pandemic-induced cabin fever.
You can take in the views with a bracing hike along one of the hundreds of Alpine trails, set off on a scenic drive or rail journey through lush valleys and across dramatic plateaus, or cruise around one of the country’s many postcard-perfect lakes. No matter how you get around, there will be unforgettable views around every turn. Get more Insta-worthy inspiration here: Avoiding the Crowds in Switzerland
For such a small country, Switzerland has a surprisingly cosmopolitan clutch of cities. The first that comes to mind is swish Zurich with its high-end boutiques and buzzy creative scene. But other cities like the capital city of Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Germanic Basel, known for its spectacular architecture and annual ART Basel festival, also beckon with their vibrant energy.
If you’ve been missing the pace of the city but don’t feel up to taking on one of the more imposing European capitals, Switzerland’s urban areas offer the same vibe but on a much less overwhelming scale. They offer the added perk of easy access to the surrounding Alpine peaks if you want to go a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll.
Seeming to drop directly out of vintage holiday cards, Switzerland’s smaller towns are a quaint delight. A number of the most picturesque are strung like pearls along the Jungfraubahn, a dramatic mountain railway that connects from Interlaken in Kleine Scheidegg to reach the Jungfraujoch station, the highest in Europe. Along the route, you can stop to admire the pretty centers of Grindelwald and Wengen, and take the nearby gondola to the village of Mürren.
There are also a number of larger towns set on the banks of Switzerland’s many lakes that are worth a visit. Lausanne on Lake Geneva, Lucerne on Lake Lucerne, and Lugano on Lake Lugano, and Locarno on Lake Maggiore all have placid waters to one side and snowcapped mountain peaks to the other.
Switzerland draws walking and hiking enthusiasts from across the globe with its well-marked and maintained trails crossing some of the most exquisite Alpine countrysides in Europe. Even if you don’t want to strike out for a multi-day trek across the mountain highlands, there are an endless array of day hikes along user-friendly trails, many of which kick off with a funicular, gondola, or cogwheel railway ride to reach the high-altitude trailhead.
Many of the most popular are concentrated around Zermatt and Jungfrau, but you’ll find great hikes across the country. The lion’s share of Swiss urban areas also have scenic walking and hiking trails just beyond the city limits.
One of the most memorable ways to explore Switzerland is by rail, and there are a number of high-altitude routes that are considered among the most scenic in the world. The two most famous by far are the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express.
The Glacier Express is a narrow-gauge line runs between the luxurious ski resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz. Its bright red cars chug route through spectacular gorges, glaciers, and valleys to make the trip in about eight hours. The UNESCO-listed Bernina Express runs between Switzeraland and Italy over the Bernina Pass. This historic narrow-gauge line is the highest in the Alps and known affectionately as the Trenino Rosso (Little Red Train).
Swiss cuisine is more than cheese and chocolate (though they do both very well). The country is rich in regional dishes that reflect each Canton’s French, Italian, or Germanic roots, plus rustic Alpine classics based on Swiss staples like root vegetables and, of course, cheese. If you’re an epicurean or simply love a good meal, Switzerland has everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to casual stube that won’t disappoint.
Outshined by the wealth of art and architecture of its neighbor to the south, Switzerland is not the first destination that comes to mind for art lovers. But this wealthy country is home to an impressive number of excellent museums and collections that feature works from everyone from the Flemish masters to some of the most provocative 21st-century artists. For an overview of the top museums in Switzerland, take a look here: Switzerland for Art Lovers
You may be surprised to learn that the Alpine country of Switzerland has a respectable (and magnificently scenic) wine country along the shores of Lake Geneva. The terraced vineyards of Lavaux rise steeply above the waters of the lake, forming one of the most show-stopping landscapes in all of Switzerland. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this wine country stretches along almost 20 miles of lakeshore and is a must for both wine lovers and avid photographers.
If you’ve already visited Switzerland’s most famous sights and are looking to explore off the beaten path, head to its enchanting islands. Sitting like quiet jewels in the country’s many Alpine lakes, these islands are home to everything from botanical gardens and castle ruins to historic hotels and restaurants. Perhaps the most famous are the Brissago Islands in Lake Maggiore, which are easy to reach via the ferry from a number of towns along the lakeshore.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention what Switzerland is most known for: its exceptional skiing. With everything from Olympic-level to family-friendly slopes, indulgent resort hotels, and chic après-ski scenes, the Swiss mountains have it all. The most famous are, of course, St. Moritz and Zermatt, but other great options include Andermatt, Gstaad, and Verbier. Can’t decide? The country is thick with panoramic cable cars, high-speed lifts, and scenic trains for easy connectivity between resorts and their mountains.