Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Switzerland is a land of soaring mountain peaks, placid lakes, verdant green valleys, and unheralded but surprisingly good wine.
At one time it was imperative on your Grand Tour to take a scenic train ride into Switzerland to buy a handmade watch and gaze in amazement at the Matterhorn. If your wallet was full, you'd head to St. Moritz, or you could go skiing (or play snow golf) in Gstaad Saanenland.
Switzerland's scenery is more accessible than ever today. Postal buses get you to any tiny Swiss corner. Little red trains—the slowest "express" trains you'll ever ride—called Bernina and Glacier take you through scenic areas with panoramic open cars, gourmet restaurant cars, historic coaches, and feature spiraling open descents into valleys. Hiking trails are everywhere. Tourist boats ply the lakes big and small—you can even take one under Europe's largest waterfall, the Rhine Falls near the interesting town of Schaffhausen. Active travelers can ski, hike or climb in the Matterhorn's shadow in Zermatt.
Transportation in Switzerland Switzerland is served by more than 13000 miles of train, bus and boat routes.
Swiss Regional Passes Some regional passes are available at Swiss train stations. One of the most popular is the Bernese Oberland Regional Pass, allowing 7-15 days of travel on a variety of means, including rail, boat, bus, and cableway. The Bernese Oberland region is the mountainous region just south of Bern.
Swiss Scenic Trains Just about any route through Switzerland is a scenic route, but many travelers believe the Glacier Express is the best. The Little Red Train is great if you're coming from Italy.
Rail Passes for Switzerland Europe rail passes are good for the routes of the Swiss National Railroad, but may not be valid for the private railroad companies. Most Swiss rail passes do cover these private railroads.
Postal Buses in Switzerland Trains really don't climb well. If you really want to get to the high, out of the way places in the Alps you may need a postal bus to take you there. Yeah, they don't just do mail anymore. See the options on the Swiss Post site. They run a lot of routes for tourists, but you'll have to reserve.
Destinations in Switzerland: Highlights of Select Cities Geneva lies between the Alps and the Jura mountains on the shore of Lake Geneva on the west side of Switzerland bordering on France. It's the second largest city in Switzerland after Zürich. The capital of Switzerland, Bern, is a good place to start. Bern takes its name from the German word for bear. It's a pretty medieval city, founded in 1191, with many attractions, museums, and historic sites. Because of its impressive medieval architecture in Bern's old town, Bern has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Lucerne lies on the shores of Lake Lucerne in Central Switzerland, surrounded by the Swiss Alps, notably Mount Pilatus and Rigi. Its small medieval center contains a wealth of museums. For a town of 60,000 people, there are lots of events to attend.
Basel is a border city in French-speaking Switzerland. It lies along the Rhine river in northern Switzerland, at the intersection of France, Germany, and Switzerland. Basel is famous for its ancient masked carnival, or Fasnacht, a three-day carnival festival starting on the Monday after Mardi Gras, and is host to the largest Christmas Market in Switzerland.
If you want to vacation in a charming spot on a lake surrounded by mountains, where relaxation is the key, Zug might be just the place; it's known for its sunsets. Its medieval center is compact and spills down to the lake; a perfect place to relax and enjoy life.
Swiss Christmas Markets A tradition in Switzerland, Christmas markets are found in every major city and even on top of a mountain.