Gstaad family hiking for family experiences promotion
Destination Gstaad/Melanie Uhkoetter

5 great family friendly experiences in Switzerland

Looking for inspiration for that next family outing? Here are five fantastic activities

Written by Time Out. Paid for in partnership with Pilatus Bahnen-AG, La Maison du Gruyère, The Museum of Communication, Destination Gstaad, Chillon Castle.

Planning a great family trip out isn’t difficult when you’ve got the whole of Switzerland to choose from. In fact, the only tricky bit is narrowing down the countless options for a day out, a weekend break or even a full-blown holiday. To give you a helping hand, here are five fantastic family-friendly experiences from around the country that both kids and adults are sure to love, for whenever you decide to plan your next adventure.

When you’re doing all that planning, make sure to check the website of any venue before you visit, so that you’ve got all the latest news about opening dates/times and other important info to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

5 fantastic family friendly activities

There really is only one way to experience Pilatus properly – and that one way is actually three modes of transport: the Golden Roundtrip. Sail across beautiful Lake Lucerne before the steepest cogwheel railway in the world takes you to the mountain’s summit, gently gliding down via aerial cableway afterwards. Factor in time to visit Fräkmüntegg on the way up (or down), where you’ll find activities and entertainment to keep everyone happy, including two rope parks (one suitable for children aged 4-8, the other catering for older children), Switzerland’s first ‘dragon glider’ and one of the longest toboggan runs in the country. If you’re still feeling energised after all that, take advantage of the many great hiking opportunities around Pilatus. There are paths to suit everyone, whether you want a short, easy stroll or a trail to really test your walking boots and your calves. 

However you choose to see Pilatus, remember that it doesn’t have to be just a daytrip. Why not avoid rushing and give the whole family time to experience it in full, by staying overnight at Pilatus Kulm Hotels, set at 2,132 metres above sea level near the mountain’s peak. It’s a truly unique venue, with over 50 rooms (split between the Hotel Bellevue and Hotel Pilatus-Kulm) offering stunning views of the surrounding Alpine landscape.

Please note: Pilatus will reopen on June 8. Please check the Pilatus website for the latest opening schedule.

The whole family will love the smart, fun and modern Museum of Communication, which was awarded the 2019 Council of Europe Museum Prize. Discover how communication has evolved over the centuries through interactive displays, video screens and special exhibitions, exploring different forms of communication and how they bring us closer together. As you might expect from its theme, this is far from a static museum – visitors are encouraged to get involved and engage with the many interactive exhibits. During your visit, you’ll be able improve your flirting skills, become immortalised on your very own self-designed stamp, identify 20 different Swiss dialects (don’t worry, you don’t have to learn them all), learn more about body language from Barack Obama and Roger Federer, and chat with the ever-knowledgeable and multilingual staff, who can answer all of your communication queries. Another key part of the museum is its datacentre, a fantastically space-age room full of technology new and old, including ERMETH, the first ever Swiss computer. This is definitely one venue where the adults will have just as much fun as the kids.

Often cited as one of the most picturesque places in Switzerland thanks to the stunning Alpine scenery encircling it, Gstaad has much to offer everyone, particularly families looking for a relaxed, outdoor-focused trip. The best way to soak up that scenery and make the most of your outdoor adventure is by embarking on one of the area’s many great hikes. The Horneggli to Rinderberg trail is an easy, accessible route that’s perfect for families, offering incredible panoramic views of the mountains and rewarding younger hikers with a fantastic, four-level playground once they get to Rinderberg. And speaking of fantastic playgrounds, there’s another at Wispile, even featuring a petting zoo alongside slides, swings and much more. Most families choose to visit the playground via the popular Wispile to Lauenensee hike, a three-hour route offering yet more beautiful scenery, including the magnificent Lake Lauenen at the end of the trail. As for finding the perfect accommodation, the rustic Hotel Alpenland makes a fine base. Perfectly located for outdoor adventures, thanks to its setting in a particularly green and verdant area of Lauenen, you’ll enjoy unrivalled views of nearby mountain peaks and all kinds of family friendly features, including a children’s playroom if the little ones haven’t quite worn themselves out on the hike.

As soon as you arrive at Chillon Castle you’ll understand why it’s one of Switzerland’s most-visited attractions, and also why it’s inspired writers across the ages, from Byron (who immortalised the castle in his poem ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’) to Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Victor Hugo. This magnificent building has been occupied since the Bronze Age and is overflowing with fascinating historical tales through the Savoy Period, Bernese Period and Vaudois Period, right up to the present day. There’s a lot to see at Chillon, but don’t miss the dramatic Gothic-style architecture of the underground rooms, the opulent Great Halls with views across Lake Geneva and the imposing watchtowers and turrets of the castle defences. Get the most out of your visit by taking a guided tour, where you’ll learn the secrets of the castle, and don’t forget to pick up a bottle of the famous Clos de Chillon when you’re done – aged and bottled on-site. There’s also plenty for kids to enjoy on a day out at Chillon, even if they’re not history fans. A special guide designed especially for 6-10-year-olds will help younger visitors navigate Chillon while they help the castle’s dragon mascot, Drako, find his ancestors. And when you need to refuel after all the exploring (or to energise before you start), the appropriately named Café Byron makes the perfect pit-stop to grab a snack. 

Please note: Chillon Castle and Café Byron will reopen on June 8. Please check the Chillon website for the latest opening schedule.

Get a glimpse into how Switzerland has built up a reputation for producing world-class cheese at this dairy, set in the pretty medieval town of Gruyères. Since 1969 La Maison du Gruyère has been showing visitors how the Famous Le Gruyère AOP cheese is made, and the factory has become an essential spot to visit on any trip to the region. Gruyère AOP has been produced in Switzerland since 1115 and visitors can trace the cheese’s history back through the ages, as well as delving deep into the production process in ‘Voyage au cœur des sens’ (‘Journey to the heart of the senses’). This immersive exhibition reveals the secrets of Gruyère AOP using the five senses, including tasting the cheese at three different stages of maturity.

Now that you’ve given your palate an appetiser, head over to La Maison du Gruyère Restaurant and tuck-in to something heartier. You’ll find all manner of traditional Swiss cuisine and ample opportunities to sample Gruyère AOP and other cheeses in all kinds of dishes, including Swiss fondue, plus great wine to accompany. Afterwards, walk off the feast on Le Sentier des fromageries (the cheese dairy trail), which links La Maison du Gruyère with another local dairy, Moléson-sur-Gruyères, via a beautiful two hour walk. If that sounds a little too much for younger visitors, there’s a playground at La Maison du Gruyère to keep them entertained, and both the dairy and the restaurant welcome children. Finally, make sure you visit the nearby Marché Gruérien, where you can purchase everything from cheese platters to chocolate, cream and butter, plus fondue sets and other souvenirs. Gift baskets are also available, making the perfect gift or a great treat for you and the family.

La Maison du Gruyère is currently open, but its opening hours are subject to change. Please check the website for the latest opening information before visiting.

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