A couple hiking around the Sanetsch reservoir in Gstaad, with mountains in the background.
Photo: ©Destination Gstaad / Melanie Uhkoetter

The best things to do in Switzerland this autumn

Make this autumn an amazing one with our handpicked highlights from around the country

Written by
Time Out editors
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Don’t fret about the end of summer, especially when there’s so much amazing autumn stuff to be enjoyed across Switzerland. All you need to do is map-out how you’re going to own autumn this year, which is now easier than ever thanks to our guide.

We’ve found the very best activities, experiences, events and locations that’ll ensure an action-packed autumn. Our selections will let you treat yourself to first-rate dining, hit the hippest bars, soak up cutting-edge art, explore the great outdoors and visit some gorgeous new locations, plus much more, all making for an autumn to remember.

Across Switzerland

Revel in luxury on one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys
  • Travel

The iconic Glacier Express is as much about the journey as the destination, traversing 91 tunnels and 291 impressive bridges over and through the Swiss Alps to St. Moritz. It’s an incredible trip at any time, but if you want to ride in extra-comfy surroundings, you’re in luck, as all 1st and 2nd class cars have been completely renovated to celebrate the Glacier Express’s 90th birthday. Enjoy tons of classy new features and design additions, plus panoramic windows that open to help you get that perfect photo. Find out more about the luxurious new overhaul by clicking below.

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  • Travel

Take your pick of activities on and around this inviting lake in Mendrisiotto, nestled in a far southern corner of Switzerland bordering Italy. There are boat trips to be chartered, lakeside villages to be admired, sports to try out on land and on the water (beach volleyball, windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding are three popular choices) and enticing beaches for swimming, sunbathing and pure relaxation. Find more marvellous ways to enjoy Mendrisiotto this autumn by clicking through below.

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Perfect the forgotten art of resting on an indulgent hotel break
  • Things to do
  • City Life

Resting can be something of an artform when it’s done at one of the Tschuggen Group’s four luxurious hotels, where you can lose yourself in curated relaxation experiences, including spa treatments, sleep-specific dinners and even a calming room prepared by your own Dream Butler. It’s part of the Moving Mountains programme, designed to boost wellbeing through a series of ‘pillars’ connected by nature. Find out about the other pillars (which explore culinary innovation, rediscovering your sense of fun and getting fit outdoors) by clicking through below.

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  • Travel

Attracting everyone from A-list celebrities to families looking for a relaxing break, Gstaad is many things to many people. Some come to enjoy the wealth of outdoor activities (including hiking trails and a cycle network), some explore the excellent dining scene, and others visit to get away from city life and reconnect with nature through the area’s incredible scenery. Click through for our top autumn activities, including counting 427 peaks from one incredible view.

 

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  • Things to do

See history up-close and personal at Ballenberg, Switzerland’s only open-air museum, as you stroll around and explore the kitchens, dining rooms and bedrooms of more than 100 buildings. You’ll see life through the ages as it was lived day-to-day across 13 different Swiss regions, and along the way you can watch traditional crafts in action like baking, rope-making and potterty, before having a go yourself.

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  • Things to do

Experience a bit of everything that makes Switzerland great by heading off on an autumnal holiday in Valais. This beautiful region in the south of the country offers more than its fair share of incredible sights, sounds and tastes, boasting some of the finest scenery in the country. We’ve put together the ultimate travel guide for the region, giving you top tips on the best sightseeing, restaurants, outdoor activities, spas and much more. Click through and start planning.

 

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  • Things to do
  • Montreux

There are plenty of ways to explore one of Switzerland’s top historic tourist attractions, which inspired the likes of Lord Byron, Rousseau, Delacroix and Courbet. Navigate the magnificent castle at your own pace with a map or audioguide, let an official tour guide show the way (you can even sip your way through an official wine tour) or if you’re on holiday with the kids, follow the family trail, which includes a special itinerary for children. Whichever method you choose, you’re sure to be wowed by the Gothic vaulted ceilings, Medieval dungeons and Renaissance banqueting halls.

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  • Hotels

Make wellness as easy as it should be this autumn with a stay at Kurhaus Cademario Hotel & Spa, where the experts can effortlessly guide you into a truly tranquil place. Overlooking Lake Lugano from a beautiful position perched 850 metres above sea level, the hotel is a wellness oasis designed to help guests relax and rejuvenate. Indulge in one of Kurhaus Cademario’s new ‘experience packages’, including energy discovery and life equation. These tailored experiences can help guests to nurture psychophysical wellbeing and eliminate stress through medical consultancies and bespoke treatments, plus sessions at the hotel’s extensive DOT.spa.

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  • Museums
  • Transport
  • Würzenbach/Schädrüti

The Swiss Transport Museum is a huge, well-designed and enjoyable visit. With separate sections for transport by track, road, air, water and space travel, there are tons of interactive displays and exhibits for kids of all ages. 

  • Museums
  • Switzerland

A solution born out of the Switzerland’s changing environment, this 170 meter long pedestrian suspension bridge allows intrepid hikers to complete the Trift mountain route without the Trift Glacier serving as a natural crossing. 

Zurich

  • Things to do
  • Weinegg

The three glass domes of the botanical garden’s palm houses might make you worry about an alien invasion. But despite their exotic and often stunning appearance, all the plants inside the spheres appear to be earthlings. Take an early morning stroll across the vast grounds or just sit and relax for a while on a sunny afternoon. 

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Richterswil-Samstagern

The Richterswil Horn is a popular local park, no doubt due to its stunning location on the shores of Lake Zurich. Offering access to a range of water sports as well as beach volleyball and lake swimming in the summer months, the Horn hosts annual events and there’s a great children’s playground.

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  • Things to do
  • Friesenberg

An observation tower at the top of Uetliberg offers panoramic views, and The Planet Trail ridge walk takes you all the way to the Felsenegg, from where you can take the cable car down to Adliswil. If you prefer to head straight back to town there are various hiking (and biking) trails downhill.

  • Things to do
  • Hochschulen

It's not the MoMa, the Louvre or the Tate, but Zurich's art museum has a lot to offer and a good collection of modern art. Lovers of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti will be thrilled to walk through the ground floor rooms dedicated to this artist alone, and the likes of Van Gogh, Monet and Chagall are displayed in small but bright rooms on the top floor.

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  • Things to do
  • Zurich

This park less than half an hour away from the city of Zurich consists of two parts: the Sihlwald forest and Langenberg, Switzerland’s oldest wildlife park. Most of it is accessible at all times. There is an educational forest trail, and in Langenberg visitors can watch native or formerly native animals such as bears, bison and hares.

Explore Zurich West
Nelly Rodriguez

Explore Zurich West

Originally a run down area full of decaying warehouses, Zurich West is now an alternative heart of the town. Its main attraction is the Viadukt, a stretch of shops, restaurants and bars built into the arches of the old railway viaduct that runs between the bank of the river Limmat and Hardbrücke station. Nearby Frau Gerolds Garten offers cute little shops, an urban garden and some seasonal attractions.

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  • Things to do
  • Industriequartier

Posters, design, applied arts and graphics are the four pillars of the massive collection at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich’s museum of design. Dating as far back as 1875, exhibits chart the technical and aesthetic milestones of industrialisation’s evolution through crafts, furniture, prints, fashion, photographs, film, fine art pieces and everyday commercial products and packaging. 

  • Things to do
  • Enge

The view over the city from its rooftop pool is simply amazing, and that alone would almost be worth the entrance. But on top of that, you can also relax in the huge wooden tubs of the old brewery in the basement and – for an additional fee – enjoy the Irish-Roman spa with its steam baths and shallow pools. 

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  • Things to do
  • Affoltern

The natural reserve around the Katzensee is just minutes outside the city and an all year round hotspot for bird- and nature-watching. Take the family on a walk around the lake – it won't take much more than an hour. For those who prefer a Sunday afternoon on wheels, the circular route around the lake has a separate track for cyclists.

  • Things to do
  • Fluntern

Zurich’s zoo has risen to international fame for its ‘Masoalahalle’: a large dome filled with the wildlife of Madagascar. Don’t worry – they’ve not included any predators, so it’s safe to walk around and climb the steps to the viewing platform. And don’t miss the elephant park with its modern outside spaces and large indoor area. 

Geneva

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Quartier des Bains

The Quartier des Bains is to Geneva what Chelsea is to New York and Löwenbräu is to Zurich, a hip art district in a former semi-industrial zone. Just off the centrally located Plainpalais and in the vicinity of the MAMCO (Modern art museum) and CAC (Contemporary art centre), a constellation of 12 galleries and additional four cultural institutions have formed an association to promote contemporary art.

  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Plainpalais

On Saturday mornings there’s no better place to be than this huge flea market, which hosts one of Switzerland’s biggest and best flea markets. From bric-a-brac to vintage clothes, second-hand toys to ethnic jewellery, plus larger pieces of furniture, a regular rummage among the hundreds of stalls could rustle you up a real one-off. 

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  • Things to do
  • Geneva

Known as Geneva’s local mountain, the Salève is actually just over the border in France. But the Genevois are justified in staking their claim, as this natural haven is just 20 minutes by bus from the city centre. It’s refreshing to slip out of Geneva’s money-focused commercial centre and head so easily into nature.

Puces de Nyon
  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Nyon

On the last Sunday of every month the Lake Geneva area’s best and most picturesque flea market hits Nyon. Over a kilometre of stalls line the lake front and surrounding narrow winding streets. The price of exhibiting is low so there’s always a good range on offer, from second hand toys, clothes and trinkets to upmarket trendy metal furniture, vintage scarf collections and retro design stands. 

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Carouge

There’s never a bad time to hang out in Carouge. Its shuttered townhouses are attractive, it’s packed with great restaurants and nightlife and the area’s numerous independent shops and artisanal workshops mean the shopping is more interesting than in the centre of town. 

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La Buvette des Bains
  • Restaurants
  • Swiss
  • Pâquis
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This café-restaurant is part of Geneva’s Bains des Paquis, a 1930s-era public swimming baths and spa on Lake Geneva’s right bank. As such, it’s a great place to hang out in the sun right next to the lake, whether for coffee, drinks or a light bite. 

  • Things to do
  • Old Town (Vieille Ville)

This leafy idyll in the heart of Geneva sits just below the Old Town in the university district. As such it’s a favourite hangout of students who lounge about on the grass in summer instead of studying in the nearby library. Within the park is the Reformation Wall, a huge stone carving depicting the forefathers of the Reformation movement, including John Calvin, credited with founding protestant Geneva as we know it today.

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Les Recyclables
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Plainpalais
  • price 2 of 4

An antidote to big-name chain cafés and a pocket of calm amid the bustle of Rue de Carouge, Les Recyclables is a delight. Half café, half secondhand bookshop, it lures you in for a drink or lunch and tempts you with a selection of new reading material. The café itself is friendly and cheerful, and the food is imaginative and well-presented. There’s even occasional live music in the evenings.

Lausanne

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Ville Marché

Off the tourist trail, this fascinating museum is a must-see for those seeking an alternative to the mainstream, exactly what ‘art brut’ – literally ‘raw art’ – is all about. Since 1976 this museum has presented the collection of Jean Dubuffet, who sought to gather art from all over the world created by untrained artists on the fringes of society.

  • Museums
  • History
  • Cité / Old Town
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Worth a visit on a rainy day is this small museum housed in the former bishop’s palace next to the cathedral. Its detailed exhibits chart Lausanne’s rich history from its origins in Roman times, through its importance as a trade route during the Middle Ages, its political and social history – particularly in the 17th century – and the huge physical changes it underwent over the centuries to make its hilly landscape more accommodating.

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  • Things to do
  • Ville Marché

On Wednesdays and Saturdays Lausanne’s pedestrian streets take on a pleasing bustle with the arrival of the market. Multiple fruit and veg stalls set up shop on Rue de Bourg and the central Place de la Palud, or head up to Place de la Riponne for cheeses, bread and an ever-expanding flea market selling paperbacks, CDs, bric-a-brac and second-hand furniture.

Sauvabelin
  • Things to do
  • Lausanne

At the top of Lausanne’s broad sweep from hilltop to lakeside, this forest is a pretty spot for a Sunday stroll or cycle along the leafy trails. The focal point is the lake and petting zoo – ideal for kids – and its chalet restaurant which serves Swiss classics such as fondue. In winter if the lake freezes solid enough, people go skating here. For the best view in town, head up the helter-skelter staircase of the Sauvabelin tower, which looks out over the town, lake and mountains. Visit in autumn and the turning leaves can be spectacular.

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Lavaux vineyards
  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Lavaux-Oron

You’d be forgiven for not realising that Switzerland is a wine-producing country, as only one percent of the one million hectolitres it produces each year actually makes it to foreign markets. But take a bus a short ride from Lausanne into the Lavaux vineyards and you’ll quickly see how dominant vines are in this part of the country.

  • Museums
  • Sport
  • Ouchy

Lausanne’s Olympic Museum is absolutely worth a visit even if you don’t consider yourself a sports-fan. The huge permanent exhibition is divided into different themes, explored through artefacts from Olympic history and audiovisual material. Elsewhere, temporary exhibitions delve deep into stories of iconic athletes from across the decades. There’s also plenty of interactive content throughout the Museum to keep things engaging and immersive, including lots of activities for children and younger visitors.

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  • Things to do
  • Sous Gare

A peaceful spot for a stroll, the city’s botanical gardens sit on the Montriond ridge, once a glacial moraine and now a grassy knoll sporting far-reaching views of the lake and mountains. The gardens themselves house 6,000 plants spread over terraces and in hothouses, and there's a small museum with a programme of regularly changing exhibitions. Once you’ve explored, head to the top of the hill and you’ll easily find a spot of grass to yourself from where to gaze at the mountains and contemplate life.

  • Museums
  • Ouchy

In an 18th-century villa rising from immaculately tended gardens overlooking Lake Geneva, 100,000-plus original photographs make up the extraordinary collection of the Musée de l’Elysée. One of the first museums in Europe purely dedicated to the photographer’s art, it first made a name for itself with exhibitions of 20th-century masters such as Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn and Ella Maillart as well as earlier work that showed the art form’s first steps.

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Hang out in Ouchy
© Christof Schuerpf

Hang out in Ouchy

Lausanne’s lakefront district is the city’s playground. It’s where people come to while away a Sunday afternoon by strolling along the shore of Lake Geneva with an ice-cream, swimming in the lake or at the Bellerive Plage open-air pool or hiring an SUP (stand-up paddleboard). Scattered with posh hotels dating from the 19th century, there’s an extravagant air about the place and you can enjoy some quality people-watching in one of Ouchy’s numerous bars and cafés. 

Basel and Bern

  • Museums
  • History
  • Bern

The new-look Museum of Communication in Bern helps you discover the many weird and wonderful means we have used to connect with each other throughout the centuries. From gestures and body language to media, telecommunications and pop culture, it's all brilliantly brought to life over 2,000m2 of interactive exhibits.

Sole Uno Wellness, Basel
  • Things to do
  • Basel-Stadt

Located in Rheinfelden just a short distance from Basel, the Sole Uno Wellness World offers an array of ways to relax. This large wellness facility includes three types of saltwater pool, a fire and ice pool, themed showers, and saunas and hammams. Try relaxing steam or an invigorating shock to the system depending what you think you can deal with.

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Solbad & Spa Schönbühl, Bern
  • Things to do
  • Bern-Mittelland

Less than half an hour from Bern, Solbad Schönbühl boasts the largest natural brine spa in Switzerland. A plethora of water in all its many forms awaits vistitors in need of a pick-me-up: temperatures in the salt pools go as high as 35℃, while the accompanying sauna world offers a traditional Finnish sauna, a bio-sauna and a large herbal steam bath. 

Basler Marionetten, Basel
  • Theatre
  • Puppetry
  • Altstadt Grossbasel (central Grossbasel)

Billed as a ‘theatre for young and old’, Basel’s well-known puppet theatre is exactly that, staging afternoon performances aimed at children, with darker tales for adults during the evening. Performance styles vary wildly – if you thought puppetry was just Miss Piggy or Big Bird you’ll be thoroughly surprised by the cast of characters performing here, from life-size puppets to stringed creations and cute hand puppets.

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  • Things to do
  • Bern

Bern’s Rose Gardens date from 1765 and as you might expect, this public park is a pleasant spot to while away a sunny day. You can sunbathe on the grass or stroll around appreciating the 220 varieties of roses in their immaculate beds. As a bonus, there are few places in Bern that offer such a beautiful views of the River Aare and the Old Town. 

  • Travel
  • Public transport
  • Basel

The mighty Rhine river is the heart of Basel, so why not enjoy a cruise as you glide along the picturesque Swiss scenery and treat yourself to some onboard entertainment. Cruises vary in duration and distance according to operators, but one popular option is the Basel to Rheinfelden trip, where you’ll pass through two locks and see marvellous countryside scenes along the way.

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  • Museums
  • Schosshalde

It’s testament to the strength of Zentrum Paul Klee’s collection of works by Bern’s favourite artistic son (near enough anyway – the prolific 20th-century painter, teacher, musician and poet was technically from Münchenbuchsee, nine kilometres up the road), that it’s not totally upstaged by Renzo Piano’s inspired building-landform hybrid.

Flohmarkt Petersplatz, Basel
  • Shopping
  • Altstadt Grossbasel (central Grossbasel)

Held on Petersplatz every Saturday, Basel’s popular fleamarket is a great place to rummage for a few choice finds at a bargain price, including vintage handbags, old manual cameras, silverware and china plates, secondhand clothes and children’s toys. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Mediterranean
  • Schosshalde
  • price 3 of 4

This laid-back eaterie has a lovely location adjacent to Bern’s celebrated Rose Gardens, and it’s no surprise that the outdoor terrace is the principal attraction for having lunch here. The lunch and dinner menus are dominated by Mediterranean creations, plus Swiss faves if you want to keep things traditional. 

  • Things to do
  • St. Johann

Whether you’re local or just visiting town, the Dampfbad in northern Basel’s St. Johann is the perfect retreat. Combining an oriental hammam with two steam rooms and a range of massages, it’s an oasis of calm in muted beiges and greys.

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