Switzerland is famous for its beautiful mountainous scenery, the snow-capped Alps and fantastic skiing conditions. But some of the most famous landmarks in Switzerland include architectural wonders, castles and cathedrals.
While tourist numbers may drop outside of ski season, Switzerland is a beautiful country to visit all year round, with castles to rival the chateaux of France and lakes to rival the crystalline waters of the Balkans.
- 20 Incredible Landmarks in Switzerland
- Natural Landmarks in Switzerland
- Historic Landmarks of Switzerland
20 Incredible Landmarks in Switzerland
Natural Landmarks in Switzerland
1- Lake Geneva
There’s a good reason why Lake Geneva is an amazing natural landmark in Switzerland, not only is it the largest lake in Switzerland but it’s also one of the largest in Europe.
Surrounded by the Alps and the French-speaking Swiss city of Geneva, the lake is the perfect meeting of urban civilisation and Switzerland’s stunning nature.
It’s possible to swim and kayak in some areas of this vast lake, and there are several hotels, spas and restaurants that look out over the shimmering water.
One of the bucket list things to do here is to watch the sunsets over the lake.
Another treat on the shores of the lake is the Lavaux Vineyards, which produces some of Switzerland’s best quality wine.
In spring, the cellar door is open to visitors, traditionally selling their wines at lower prices for a limited period.
2- The Matterhorn
The Matterhorn is a famous Swiss landmark and one of the highest peaks in the Alps and Europe.
Straddling the Swiss-Italian border, the Matterhorn overlooks the quaint town of Zermatt in the Valais region of Switzerland.
The peak is distinctive in shape: it looks somewhat like a pyramid, with four sides.
Capped with snow, even during the summer months, the peak is a dramatic addition to the impressive mountainous skyline.
For seasoned hikers, there is a 9-day Matterhorn trek, a challenge filled alternatively with high-altitude glaciers and flower-filled fields.
3- Lake Lucerne
Lake Lucerne is a stunning body of glistening turquoise water located in Central Switzerland.
A smaller lake than Geneva, its shape is spiky with several arms of water.
As with other lakes, there are designated areas for swimming in the summer months.
The best views of the lake are arguably from the top of Mount Pilatus, although great panoramic viewpoints are more easily accessible from the Sonnenberg mini-mountain.
The Golden Pass scenic rail journey starts in Lucerne and passes by the lake.
Often referred to as the ‘Top of Europe’, Jungfraujoch stands at 3,454 metres above sea level in the Bernese Alps.
Acting as a saddle connecting two peaks – the Jungfrau and the Mönch – Jungfraujoch has a viewing platform with shops for visitors.
The views from the viewing station are simply out of this world: you can see for miles around across snowy peaks.
To one side of Jungfraujoch, you can see that magnificent Aletsch Glacier.
Jungfraujoch’s railway station is the highest train station in Europe and it is from here that you can take an elevator to the viewing platform.
Titlis is an Alpine mountain near the Bern canton.
Standing at over 3,200 m above sea levels, it joins the likes of the Matterhorn as one of the tallest mountains in the Swiss Alps.
The Titlis area is excellent for skiing, snowboarding and tubing.
The Titlis Cliff Walk is an elevated suspension bridge – the highest in Europe! – offering fantastic views of the stunning Alpine scenery from a very high altitude.
The Eiger is a mountain in the Bernese Alps that stands at nearly 4,000 metres above sea level.
It has a large north face that can make it somewhat intimidating to look at.
This landmark in Switzerland has a chilling reputation due to the number of climbers who have died attempting to climb it.
The north face was first successfully scaled in 1938.
While only the most experienced climbers are allowed on the mountain itself, these days, the train that goes to Jungfraujoch does pass through the Eiger itself, with two stops with viewing platforms.
The Eiger also overlooks the picturesque town of Grindelwald.
7- Gletscherschlucht, Grindelwald
Good luck pronouncing this one if you don’t speak German!
Gletscherschlucht is a gorge just south of Grindelwald that is a must-visit Swiss landmark for lovers of nature.
Rapid waters make their way through this rugged gorge, which makes for dramatic scenery.
The glacier canyon is very popular with tourists and there is an excellent Gletscherschlucht hotel and restaurant near the canyon.
The geology of the park is fascinating, with pink and green marbled rock faces.
Historic Landmarks of Switzerland
8- Oberhofen Castle
The Oberhofen Castle in the Bern canton of Switzerland has acted as a museum giving insight into the Bernese culture since the 1950s.
The castle’s history goes back as far as the 1200s and the central keep from that era still stands today.
The house has had various private owners, including a Prussian family during the 19th century.
Several rooms have been maintained in the historical style from that period, including the servants’ quarters and dining room.
The Oriental Smoking Room on the top floor, commissioned by an owner who had lived in Istanbul, offers spectacular views of the surrounding area in a beautifully decorated room with low divan sofas.
You can easily visit Oberhofen Castle as a day trip from Bern.
9- Chateau de Chillon
The Chateau de Chillon, found on the eastern shores of Lake Geneva near Montreux, is one of the most visited castles in Switzerland.
Its cultural heritage includes serving as an inspiration to famous writers like Victor Hugo, Lord Byron and Alexandre Dumas.
The entrance fee to enter the Chateau is well worth it.
Several rooms are on display to guests, including the main bedchamber that still bears a fascinating medieval mural on its walls.
The chapel, similarly, still has its medieval decoration and the architecture of the basement would not seem out of place in a gothic cathedral.
10- Castello di Montebello
One of three castles in Bellinzona, the capital of Italian-speaking canton Ticino, Castello di Montebello is a dramatic addition to the rural backdrop of the area.
The original castle dates back to the 14th century, and its present building dates back to the 15th century, with renovations occurring in the 20th century.
Castello di Montebello today stands atop a grassy hill, but back in medieval times, it was surrounded by a deep moat.
There has been a museum focusing on history and archaeology inside the castle since the 1970s.
Visitors can view artworks as well as a rare font used for baptisms during the 13th century.
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11- Chapel Bridge, Lucerne
Chapel Bridge in Lucerne has to be one of the most picturesque bridges in all of Switzerland.
On the outside, its mostly wooden structure stretches out into the River Reuss.
The bridge also connects with the Water Tower, which once formed a part of the city’s defensive strategy and also acted as a prison.
On the inside of Chapel Bridge are paintings dating back to the 17th century.
Unfortunately, a fire in 1994 destroyed a significant portion of the bridge, but work began almost immediately after the tragedy and the iconic structure was restored within a year.
12- Landwasser Viaduct
The Landwasser Viaduct is a marvel of railway architecture that you can see if you take a trip on the Glacier Express panoramic rail journey.
A six-arched curved viaduct made from limestone, it juts dramatically out of a cliffside in the Graubünden canton in eastern Switzerland.
There are also viewing platforms for those not on the train to see this stunning landmark.
If on the train, take care to ask staff when the viaduct is coming up so that you can position yourself near to the windows for the perfect photo opportunity – be careful, you’ll only have a few seconds to capture the view!
13- Brunswick Monument
The Brunswick Monument is a gothic-style mausoleum in Geneva that honours the life of Charles II, Duke of Brunswick.
He was born in the early 19th century and died in 1873.
The duke specified that his monument should resemble the Scaliger Tombs in Verona, a gothic monument to a powerful medieval Italian family.
Charles II ruled the Duchy of Brunswick, part of modern-day Germany, from 1815 to 1830.
He then fled his home during the Franco-Prussian war and found his new home in Geneva.
As a mark of appreciation to the fortune he left to the city of Geneva, they honoured him with this beautiful monument.
14- Lion Monument
The Lion Monument in Lucerne commemorates the bravery of the Swiss soldiers who gave their lives protecting Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their children during the French Revolution.
Around 1,000 Swiss Guards were given the task of protecting the royal family in the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
When revolutionaries stormed the building nearly 700 died, but the king and his family managed to escape.
The sculpture is of a wounded lion hewn into the rock overlooking a green pond. It is set in luscious gardens and is free to view.
More than one million people a year visit this monument, making it one of the most famous landmarks in Switzerland.
15- Grossmünster in Zurich
The Grossmünster is a distinctive Romanesque cathedral in Zurich belonging to the Protestant Church.
The present building appeared in the 12th century, and construction finished in the 13th.
Legend has it that Charlemagne commissioned the building.
It has a fascinating history beyond its construction: it was allegedly central to the Reformation of Christianity that signalled a move towards Protestantism during the 1500s.
As well as its two recognisable Romanesque towers, the church is also home to some impressive stained glass windows and is open to visitors.
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16- Basel Town Hall
Basel Town Hall, or Rathaus in German, is one of the most iconic buildings in one of Switzerland’s more overlooked cities.
It’s over 500 years old and is still used today as the seat of Basel’s local government.
Entry to visit the town hall is free.
Although it is mighty impressive on the outside (the gold decoration is particularly stunning), it’s also well worth taking a look inside the beautiful courtyard with eye-catching arcades.
17- Basel Minster
The history of Basel Minster goes way back to the 12th century when it was constructed as a place of Catholic worship.
An earthquake in the 14th century saw the destruction of much of the Romanesque building: today the cathedral is an example of Gothic architecture.
One of the most visited landmarks of many cultural sites in Basel, the red sandstone of the building is particularly eye-catching, and the cathedral is stunning when lit up at night.
It overlooks the Rhine River in central Basel.
18- Saint Germain Church, Geneva
One of the smaller places of worship in Switzerland, Geneva’s Saint Germain Church is a charming building with a turbulent history.
Switching between denominations of Christianity as the historical mood swung between Catholicism and the Reformation, today the church is a place of Catholic worship.
The church is mainly known for its summer concerts that are open to the public free of charge.
Inside there is a fragment of an altar that, incredibly, dates back to the 5th century.
From the outside, the building that hosts the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on the outskirts of Geneva is an impressive sight.
The prominent brown dome structure looks even more impressive lit up at night.
For those interested in science, there can be fewer experiences more awe-inspiring than a visit to this titan of physics.
Organised tours and group visits are available, but check their website for availability beforehand.
20- Palais des Nations, Geneva
The Palais des Nations was built in between the two world wars after Geneva became the official location of the League of Nations headquarters.
When the League became the United Nations, the Geneva headquarters continued to play a significant role even though Switzerland itself did not join until 2002.
Today, it is still the location of many important meetings between various governments of the world, although the main UN Headquarters is now in New York.
The building itself is quite impressive, but what is more eye-catching are the rows of flags representing UN member states that border the path leading to the building’s main entrance.
Guided tours of the building provide a fascinating insight into world politics. There is an entrance fee of 15 Swiss Francs per adult and security measures at the entrance.
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