Paragliding, Ticino
Milo Zanecchia

How to have a great staycation this summer in Switzerland

With so much choice on offer, staying put is the new going away

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The secret is out: you don’t need to travel to far-flung exotic locations to have a great holiday. Switzerland, you see, is actually packed full of fantastic things to do, meaning that a Swiss staycation is the new smartest way to spend your summer. 

Whether you’re looking to try a new sport or outdoor pursuit, get back to nature, soak up some art and culture, go shopping or sample gastronomic treats, there are tons of options around Switzerland. Here are some of the best activities and experiences to help create your ultimate staycation.

36 great ideas for a Swiss summer staycation

  • Things to do

Standing at a towering at 4,478 metres, the Matterhorn is an iconic Zermatt landmark, making it an essential part of any visit to the region. The best way to see the most-photographed mountain in the world is via the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, the highest cable car station in Europe at 3,883 metres-above-sea-level. For more great things to do around Zermatt, click below.

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  • Things to do

Find out what happens when history, heritage and tradition combine with contemporary culture by visiting Vaud, a canton in southwestern Switzerland offering everything from ancient monuments to forward-thinking art spaces, all within a beautiful landscape. Summer is a glorious time to explore Vaud, as its many mountains, lakes and meadows provide the perfect backdrop to historically rich tales that bring the region’s past to life. Discover our top five cultural highlights in Vaud by clicking through below.

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  • Things to do

If you’ve never explored the Engelberg-Titlis region, this summer is the time to do it. Jump straight in at the deep end by trying the Titlis Cliff Walk, a nerve-wracking 150 steps across a bridge suspended 500 metres from the ground, which itself is 3,041 metres-above-sea-level. If that’s whet your appetite for more adventures, click below for other exciting Engelberg-Titlis activities.

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  • Things to do

Being a cosmopolitan and cultural city, there are countless tours of Zurich available, many of which focus on its headline attractions. But once you’ve seen the big-draw sights, how do you get deeper into the city? How do you learn about Zurich’s achievements, its vibrant neighbourhoods and its secrets? By booking on to Zürich Tourism’s insightful guided tours. 

Taking place every second Wednesday during summer months, the tours are conducted in English and cover a wide range of topics that go far beyond what standard tours offers. They’re perfect for anyone who’s been living or working in Switzerland for a little while and would like to find out more about this marvellous city. But they’re also great even if you’re just visiting Zurich on holiday.

Subjects covered include anything from architecture to local love stories to conceptual art, revealing fascinating tales from incredible places and tucked-away locations. All tours last around two hours and start at the Zürich Tourism Information office, found at Im Hauptbahnhof, 8001.

To get you inspired, we’ve picked out five of our favourite tours below, but there are plenty more on offer at zuerich.com. Take your pick, book your spot and prepare to get acquainted with Zurich like never before.

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  • Things to do

Who says you need weeks to see Switzerland at its best? Some of the most memorable and exciting parts of the country can be experienced perfectly on a day trip, such as the ace excursions available in the Lucerne and Pilatus regions. Take five different modes of transport in the Pilatus Golden Round Trip or get active at Pilatus Rope Park for starters. Click below for more day trip inspiration.

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  • Hotels
Treat yourself by escaping to a great hotel
Treat yourself by escaping to a great hotel

It makes sense to explore a country as beautiful and varied as Switzerland as much as you can. And a great way of doing that is through Hotelcard, an affordable to get exploring. The good news is there’s an exclusive offer for Time Out readers, who can grab a discounted one-year Hotelcard subscription, making it easier than ever to explore, whether you want to sightsee your way across Geneva, relax in a wellness oasis or get active in the Alps. Click through below for more adventure ideas and info on how to grab a discounted Hotelcard.

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  • Things to do
  • Events & Festivals

Propel yourself into the 2024 Olympic Games, whether or not you managed to get tickets, by visiting an upcoming temporary exhibition at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. Opening on May 25, ‘Paris Olympique™: An Immersive Journey’ lets visitors put themselves in the shoes of former champions and discover how the Games have evolved over the centuries to become the world’s foremost sporting competition.

This free and experiential exhibition is a chance to explore all three Parisian editions of the Olympic Games: 1900, 1924 and 2024. Large-scale projections provide a glimpse into past and present identities of the City of Light, or go deeper and step back in time 100 years to the Paris of 1924 through the wonders of augmented reality (AR). Using an AR portal, visitors can enter what was then Colombes Stadium (now Yves-du-Manoir Stadium) and marvel at historical imagery from the Olympic Museum’s archives.

William DeHart Hubbard, the first Black athlete to win an individual Olympic gold medal when he won the long jump at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.
Image: © 1924 / International Olympic Committee (IOC) - All rights reserved

Then, try your hand at two ‘extinct’ Olympic sports no longer in the modern Games. The first is a ‘200-metre obstacle’ swimming event which featured in the Paris 1900 Olympics, where competitors climbed over a pole and a row of boats before swimming under another row of boats. Don’t worry, you can test your skills at this one virtually, so no swimming kit is required.

The second sport is a little simpler, but not necessarily easier: rope climbing, taken from the Paris 1924 Games. Can you make a medal-worthy ascent? There’s only one way to find out.

Once you’ve tested out your own athletic abilities, take time to delve deeper into the Olympic Games through wide-ranging interactive installations and artefacts. Trace back the event’s roots before looking at its modern-day identity as a world-renowned competition, discover some of the most successful and storied Olympic athletes from across the years (and their favoured sports), and examine the societal, artistic and cultural legacies of the Games through the famed opening and closing ceremonies and wider artistic projects.

Paris 1924 Olympic Games opening ceremony.
Image: © 1924 / International Olympic Committee (IOC) - All rights reserved

The entire exhibition is set to a dramatic musical score that adds to the excitement and builds even more atmosphere. If it’s not clear by now, ‘Paris Olympique: An immersive journey’ is very much a 360-degree experience.

Afterwards, don’t forget to head downstairs snap a selfie with the French Olympic and Paralympic mascots, the Phryges, and take advantage of the chance to hold an official Paris 2024 torch.

The Eiffel Tower and Seine River - rendering of Paris 2024 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
Image: Florian Hulleu / Pawel Gaul

There are also special events to look out for. Those visiting on the opening day – May 25 – can spectate a live painting session (renowned illustrators will create artworks inspired by sports at Paris 2024) and a live TV broadcast, featuring Swiss athletes discussing their preparations for Paris 2024, followed by an audience Q&A and autograph opportunities.

These include weekly Sunday guided tours of the permanent exhibition (running from May 26 until September 8) that reveal more secrets of Paris 2024, and a special summer menu at the Olympic Museum Restaurant that celebrates classic French cuisine (from May 25 until Aug 11). It’s the perfect end to a Parisian adventure that’s truly fit for a champion.

‘Paris Olympique: An immersive journey’ will be hosted at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne from May 25 until January 19, 2025. Find out more about the exhibition, including the full programme of events and activities, by visiting olympics.com/museum/events/paris-olympique.

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  • Things to do
Get a panoramic view of six countries
Get a panoramic view of six countries

The mighty Hoher Kasten, in the Appenzell Alps, has a lot going for it, including that fact that you can see an incredible six countries from one spot when you’re at the summit: Germany, France, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy and, of course, Switzerland. And that’s just the tip of the mountain, because there are lots more awesome activities available in the region. Click below to find out more.

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  • Things to do

It’s no secret that escaping to the Swiss countryside for a night or two is a blissfully restorative experience. But for a new take, why not go deeper into Swiss rural living and spend the night in the middle a vineyard?

This is what Grape Escapes offer, providing the chance to immerse yourself in Swiss wine culture through 60 accommodations scattered around wine-producing hotspots. Bed down for the night in a retired wine barrel, ancient castles, former monasteries and even out in the middle of those luscious vines – all transformed into indulgent, cosy lodgings.

As well as offering a great night’s sleep, these venues are a chance to fully discover Switzerland’s incredible and no-longer-secret wine riches, as well as to connect with nature in a variety of beautiful locations.

Here are six of our favourite wine-related Grape Escapes accommodations from across the country. Take a look and then start planning where you’ll spend the night at www.switzerland.com/grape-escapes.

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  • Things to do
Dare to go canyoning
Dare to go canyoning

Thrill-seekers will love the opportunity to go canyoning in the Région Dents du Midi. This exhilarating outdoor pursuit involves making your way down various rocky gorges and through waterfalls into flowing water below. As for how you get down there, it could be abseiling, climbing, scrambling or even leaping into the water. For more fantastic activities that showcase what the Région Dents du Midi is all about, click below.

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  • Travel

Summer is definitely the best time to experience Lausanne in all its glory. Make the most of the handsome scenery and ample waterfront hotspots that open out across Lake Geneva, before indulging in all that Lausanne has to offer: sample local wine in Lavaux’s beautiful wine-growing terraces, get sporty at the Olympic Museum, hit the water on a cruise across the lake or go gothic at Lausanne Cathedral. For more Lausanne highlights, click through below.

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Once you disembark on the Brissago Islands, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a hidden, tropical paradise – which you essentially have. Over 1,700 species of plant flourish here, including flora from as far away as Chile, South Africa, Australia and California, creating an exotic environment that – let’s face it – will look great on your Instagram.

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  • Art

Basel is no stranger to art. In fact, thanks to nearly 40 museums housing various world-class collections, this picturesque and peaceful city in north-west Switzerland is something of a hub for art – and it has been for some time.

Each year now brings with it a selection of new and innovative exhibitions appearing across the city to wow locals and visitors, and 2024 is no different. To get you started, we’ve picked out three essential exhibitions that art-fanatics and casual gallery-hoppers alike simply cannot afford to miss. Following this are some other top tips and recommendations for soaking up Basel’s art scene. Factor-in some time for these once you’ve hit those three headline attractions.

And remember that the best way to make the most of your visit to galleries, museums and everything else in the city is by using a BaselCard, a free card given to everyone staying overnight in Basel at a hotel. This little piece of magic offers hefty discounts on top sights and attractions (up to 50% at some), as well as free bus and tram rides, plus ‘guest bike’ rental – a great way of navigating between all those museums. Find out more about the BaselCard by clicking here.

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  • Things to do

Did you know that you can travel back in time in Switzerland? And you don’t even need a time machine to do it. If that sounds far-fetched, just walk along the cultural hiking paths and you’ll understand immediately. These incredible walking trails transport you straight back to Switzerland’s heritage, rekindling the spirit of a bygone era. Read more top tips for summer experiences around Switzerland by clicking below.

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Seeing Mount Pilatus is a quintessential Swiss experience. Overlooking Lake Lucerne, Pilatus offers stunning Alpine mountains views and can be reached by the world‘s steepest cogwheel railway from Alpnachstad. Visit Fräkmüntegg on the way, where you’ll find children’s playgrounds, restaurants, hiking routes and one of the longest toboggan runs in the country.

Crank things up a notch in Ticino, where you can take advantage of the mountainous landscape by rock-climbing or canyoning in mountain rivers and waterfalls. Those with a head for heights should try paragliding (as a bonus, you’ll get unrivalled sunset views from the sky) or even sky-diving at Para Centro Locarno.

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  • Things to do

Did you know that Switzerland has its own pyramid? Head to the Niesen in the Bernese Alps and you’ll see what we mean. At 2,362 metres-above-sea-level, this much-loved mountain offers an unrivalled panorama, which you can travel to in style via the delightful funicular railway. Time your visit shortly before sunset and you’ll witness the pyramid of Niesen’s shadow reflected on Lake Thun – a truly memorable sight. For more awe-inspiring activities around Thun, click below.

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Radisson Blu Hotel Reussen is a smart, modern hotel nestled in Andermatt, a picturesque Swiss Alpine village, meaning that it’s perfect for anyone looking to escape the city and get out and about into the countryside. The hiking trails and mountain biking routes are a big draw for many, and after a long day of activities you’ve got a comfortable, stylish hotel to relax in, featuring a state-of-the-art spa and even an on-site concert hall.

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At the Museum of Communication you’ll discover the many weird and wonderful ways that people connect with each other, from gestures and body language to media, telecommunications and pop culture. It’s an interactive affair, and during your visit you can work on your flirting skills, become immortalised on a self-designed stamp, identify different Swiss dialects and chat to the museum’s ever-knowledgeable ‘communicators’.

Keen mountain bikers should venture out to Lugano this summer. The area is known for its superb, rugged biking trails – over 370km of well-marked paths – and there are routes to suit all abilities, from veteran cyclists to absolute beginners. Along the way you’ll zip through dirt roads, forests and meadows, passing mountains, lakes, Alpine huts and other marvellous sights.

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View the Jungfrau Region by rail
View the Jungfrau Region by rail

Make the most of the magnificent Jungfrau region while soaking up some five-star luxury at Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa. The hotel offers a special Top of Europe Pass Package that gives you ultimate freedom to explore beautiful Interlaken and the surrounding mountains with a top-notch travel pass – and you’ll have an immense range of first-rate facilities to enjoy once you’re back at the hotel after a day out.

There’s quality beach-time to be had just a few hours from Zurich. Take a daytrip to Lugano, a pretty town with a Mediterranean feel, thanks to its colourful houses and warm climate. Head to the popular, buzzy Lido Lugano when you’re there to enjoy an Olympic-sized swimming pool, diving pool, volleyball courts and – crucially – a large sandy beach overlooking beautiful Lake Lugano where you can get in some serious sunbathing.

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Stand-up paddling has really taken off over the last few years in Switzerland, and with good reason: it’s super-simple (all you need is a board, a paddle and a sense of balance), a great workout and great fun. And best of all, you can get to grips with it on some of the most scenic lakes around the country, including Lake Zurich, Lake Geneva, Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore.

For a truly scenic stroll, embark on the popular 10km hiking route that guides walkers from the summit of San Salvatore (the ‘Sugarloaf Mountain of Switzerland’) to the pretty village of Morcote. You’ll pass the Parco San Grato botanical garden and a 17th century pilgrimage church, Madonna d’Ongero, and afterwards you can enjoy Morcote’s charms and take a boat back to Lugano.

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  • Things to do

With the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games on the horizon, there’s never been a better time to explore Olympic history – and there’s no better place to do that than in Lausanne, thanks to The Olympic Museum. The huge permanent exhibition spans 3,000 square metres and is divided into different themes, explored through artefacts from Olympic history and fascinating audiovisual material. Elsewhere, there are temporary exhibitions, such as the current installation, ‘Tokyo 2020: Sport X Manga’, examining Japanese pop culture, and how sport and manga have influenced each other around the country, alongside a big digital programme. Discover more great reasons to visit The Olympic Museum by clicking below.

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Take an early morning stroll across the vast grounds of Zurich’s botanical garden or just sit and relax for a while on a sunny afternoon. The garden is rarely crowded and can deliver instant peace and happiness when you stumble upon a pretty flower or watch the branches of the old trees swing with the wind.

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Get browsing
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Many of Switzerland’s open-air markets are back in business, so whether you’re after artisan snacks, fresh produce, clothes, jewellery or just vintage bits and pieces to jazz up your home, you’ll find it somewhere. Markets that have reopened include Geneva’s much-loved Plainpalais, Lausanne Market, Zurich’s Flohmarkt Kanzlei and many others. As ever, it’s always best to check opening times on the market’s website before heading out.

  • Museums
  • Specialist interest
  • Grand-Saconnex

The outstanding International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva is unmissable for its moving and sometimes shocking permanent exhibition, which charts the vital humanitarian work carried out by the organisation for the past 150 years. Combine this with a guided tour of the Palais des Nations, the European seat of the United Nations, for an insight into how the biggest issues facing the world today are tackled. 

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  • Things to do

Having rocketed to fame after featuring on a National Geographic cover and built right into the side of the mountain, the Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli will provide you with one of the most picturesque settings for lunch on the planet. Only accessible via the Wasserauen-Ebenalp cable car and a 15-minute walk through the Wildkirchli caves, it offers both stunning views of St Gallen and Lake Constance and some of the best rösti around. Find more unique experiences around the St Gallen-Lake Constance area by clicking through below.

  • Things to do
  • Pâquis
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Geneva has tons of spas way more luxurious than the Bains des Pâquis, but none are as interesting, kitsch or reasonably-priced as this 1930s public swimming baths, set on Lake Geneva. Open year-round, it’s great for a dip, sauna, massage or a cheap lunch in friendly, casual surroundings. Events also take place, including live music and poetry readings. 

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Bellinzona’s three magnificent castles were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 and each one – Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro – has its own distinct strategic importance and fascinating architectural features. Visiting all three in succession is a great way to venture back into Medieval times. 

Overlooking the Old Town, Limmat river and cathedral, the elevated spot of Lindenhof is the former site of a Roman castle, around which the city of Zurich grew. There are still remnants of Roman settlements, but these days people come here to relax rather than ruminate on history. It’s always a good place to head with a book or for a stroll, while giant chess boards provide entertainment for players and spectators alike.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Old City of Bern

Bern’s Kunstmuseum is the oldest art museum in Switzerland, housing a permanent collection that covers eight centuries. There are over 3,000 paintings and sculptures, including works by Picasso, Hodler, Oppenheim and Paul Klee.

Feeling adventurous? Make your way across one of the longest suspension bridges in Switzerland. The 270-metre-long ‘Tibetan bridge’ of Carasc, near Monte Carasso, connects to the hilltop village of Curzútt and you’ll need a head for heights, but the dramatic views from the bridge are definitely worth the bravery. 

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Gstaad is often cited as one of the most picturesque places in Switzerland, and it’s not hard to see why. Making the most of the area’s many winding hiking trails is the best way to enjoy the marvellous Alpine scenery, and there are routes to suit everyone, from families with children to experienced hikers. If you’re all hiked out, there are opportunities for biking, golf, swimming and other activities.

Set within Lake Biel, St Peter’s Island is little slice of paradise and one of famous Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s favourite places – you can well imagine the island as a place of contemplation and tranquillity. Cars aren’t allowed here, adding to the peaceful vibe and further upping its credentials as a great place to walk and cycle. There are also vineyards on the island for when you need some locally-made refreshment.

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Since 1912 the people of Lugano have been escaping the city on a sunny day and heading to the hills, specifically to the summit of Monte Brè. At the top you can follow various hiking trails, race down a mountain bike run, have lunch in one of the mountaintop restaurants or simply explore the pretty village of Brè, a short walk down from the summit.  

  • Museums
  • Interlaken

Fancy a meal with a setting epic enough for a James Bond movie? Simply travel 3,000 metres up to the peak of the Schilthorn Mountain and enjoy the 360-degree panoramic views from what’s claimed to be the world’s first revolving restaurant. The Schilthorn cableway offers a smooth and scenic 7,000 metre journey to the summit and warmer summer weather means the opportunity to experience all kinds of seasonal activities, including hiking trails, a via ferrata route and a journey out to the mighty glacier waterfalls of the Trümmelbach.

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One of the prettiest and best-preserved in Switzerland, Bern’s Old Town is understandably UNESCO-protected. Stretching from the train station to the bear park, the Medieval cobbled streets, ornate fountains and arched walkways are a photographer’s dream, but best of all are the cellars strewn along the streets, which throw up artisanal workshops, independent shops and idiosyncratic bars to grab a drink from.

Bern’s Rose Gardens date from 1765 and as you might expect, this public park is a thoroughly pleasant spot to while away a sunny day. There are around 250 types of rose to gawp at in summer, and the views out across Bern’s Old Town and the Aare river are pretty magical at any time.

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