The Best Ways to Escape the City and Explore Switzerland's Nature

Gurten as seen from the Federal Parliament Building in Bern, Switzerland
Gurten as seen from the Federal Parliament Building in Bern, Switzerland | © stephenallen75/Shutterstock

As well as its medieval cities, banking hubs and resort towns, Switzerland boasts some of Europe’s most magnificent scenery. From awe-inspiring alpine peaks to magnificent waterfalls, rolling hills lined with pretty vineyards and walks through lush greenery, there are a plethora of stunning landscapes to explore. We’ve done the hard work for you and chosen the best trips to take from Switzerland’s major towns and cities to some of its most beautiful natural environments.

Lake Lucerne | Courtesy of Switzerland Tourism

From Bern, discover Gurten’s traffic-free paradise

There are only two ways to reach the top of Gurten, Bern’s ‘home mountain’: by foot – if you are so inclined – or by taking the panoramic train that connects the city to the top of this 858-metre peak in just a few minutes. This spot is popular with locals as it offers the chance to get away from the noise and traffic of a modern city. The views over the Aare and Bern are stunning, and you can see as far as the Alps from the observation tower. While children can explore the playground, start a game of frisbee, try bowling or even ride electric cars or the miniature railway, adults can take in the beautiful views, relax and stroll, or choose to use one of the free public barbecue spots. On site, there are two restaurants, so grab a bite to eat or a refreshing drink before going back down to the city.

View over Bern from Gurten | © Laura Nicole/Shutterstock

Journey from Geneva to Mount Salève to dine with a Mont Blanc view

Want to get away from all the excitement of downtown Geneva, without getting too far from it? From the city, take a short bus to the valley station and hop on a cable car to glide up to the summit of beautiful Mount Salève, which stands at over 1,000 metres just outside the city. The ride up is smooth and easy, and once on the peak you can take in the views over the town down below, as well as the Alps and the Mont Blanc massif. Besides the spectacular panorama from its peak, Mount Salève is also a popular dining destination, perfect for dinner with a view.

The view from The Mont-Salève, Geneva | © Agnieszka Skalska/Shutterstock

Board the train from Lucerne to Interlaken for outdoor activities

Not many places in the world can boast being on two beautiful Alpine lakes, surrounded by some of Europe’s most scenic peaks: Interlaken is one of those few locations, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people regularly choose it as a day trip from Lucerne. The train ride between Lucerne and Interlaken is as scenic as they get, with views over blue waters and lush woods. Once in Interlaken, you can windsurf, go rafting, canyoning, hiking, and even paragliding; the atmosphere is lively and very international, and you might well find it hard to leave.

Train to Interlaken | © Serjio74/Shutterstock

Travel from Lausanne to the vineyards of Lavaux

Wine lovers, rejoice! There is a special train that links Lausanne to the beautiful nearby region of Lavaux, where some of the best white wine in Switzerland is produced. This little train is a great way to enjoy sweeping views over steep terraced vineyards on the way to Lavaux, and it offers the chance to get off and buy glasses of local Chasselas at different cellars, as well as to walk or cycle around the area. Different trains follow different routes, and some stop at traditional farmers’ markets along the way – another great way to experience the wonderful local traditions. You could also choose to take a footpath from Lausanne-Ouchy to Chillon Castle, along which you’ll find seven different circuits lined with information panels explaining the region’s viticulture.

Chillon Castle at Geneva lake | © FenlioQ/Shutterstock

Take a cog railway from Montreux to the summit of Mont Rochers-de-Naye

A network of trains leave from the lively lakeside town of Montreux to explore the surrounding area: the Golden Pass gives you the chance to discover the beautiful region around Mount Rochers-de-Naye, a real paradise for nature lovers. Reaching 2,042 metres, this beautiful mountain can be reached by riding a cog railway that departs every hour from Montreux. The ascent, with an elevation gain of about 1600 metres, is an incredible 55-minute journey, as the train goes through fields, pretty villages and lush forests. At the summit, there are beautiful hiking paths to explore, which are lined with plants from around the world – you might even spot marmots along the route – as well as a restaurant with a breathtaking 360-degree view over the Swiss and French Alps.

Rochers De Naye, Montreux, Switzerland | © Irina Poliakova/Shutterstock

Escape Zurich to discover the mountain playground of Uetliberg

Every Swiss city has a ‘local mountain’ that is loved by residents and frequently visited in the summer months: Zurich has Uetliberg, which is connected to the city by a train that leaves every half an hour. The peak may not be very tall, as it doesn’t even reach 1,000 metres, but it offers a variety of activities to enjoy. From hiking to biking, there is something for everyone here, including different dining options that range from restaurants to picnic tables; a hotel if you want to spend the night; and even a launch site for paragliders. And once the day is over, you can ride the train back down and admire the lights of Zurich turning on at dusk.

Panorama from Uetliberg to the Lake Zurich and the Alps. | Courtesy of Switzerland Tourism

Leave Basel or Zurich for the beauty of the Rhine Falls

At 23 metres high and 150 metres wide, the Rhine Falls are an incredible sight to behold, and make a worthwhile day trip from both Basel and Zurich. The latter has direct train connections to Neuhausen Rheinfall, and while the former is connected through Zurich, it is still an easy and comfortable journey with the Swiss Travel System. The falls can be seen up close by taking a boat tour – just make sure you bring a waterproof jacket to avoid getting wet – or can be enjoyed from several panoramic terraces. The area is also home to some great restaurants and cafés, perfect to enjoy the beauty of the falls while having lunch or a drink.

Rhine Falls | Courtesy of Switzerland Tourism

Planning a trip to Switzerland? Make sure you check out My Switzerland for helpful hints and tips for the Swiss Travel System.

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