When it comes to seeing the heart of a city or town, I’m a big believer that it’s best done on foot. I spent two weeks in Europe this spring, and in just a few days, Switzerland stole my heart. From the peaks of the Swiss Alps to the green pastures in the valleys, and all of the culture, architecture and adventure in between, Switzerland is definitely a get-out-of-your-car-and-explore destination. Here are my 5 favorite walks to see the best of Switzerland on foot:
LUCERNE WATERFRONT AND CHAPEL BRIDGE WALK
Lucerne is one of the most popular cities for tourists in Switzerland, and with good reason. Picture blue skies, turquoise water, and the Swiss Alps in the backdrop. It’s also home to some truly stunning architecture. If you arrive by car, hunt down a parking spot, hop out, and start heading toward water. I came out near Lake Lucerne, and took a stroll along the waterfront. Follow it long enough, and you’ll see the famous Chapel Bridge.
Chapel Bridge is worth the walk, and the photo op, but don’t stop there. Continue along the River Russe and you’ll be treated to beautiful, colorful buildings and riverfront shops and restaurants. While I don’t recommend sitting down for lunch (dining out in Switzerland is expensive!), I do recommend wandering the cobbled streets. It’s a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.
HIKE FROM LAUTERBRUNNEN TO WENGEN
Lauterbrunnen is a small village in the heart of the Swiss Alps. It sits in a valley, surrounded by waterfalls, and just above it on the mountainside is another small village called Wengen. Each is beautiful in its own right, and I was determined to see both. I’d heard that Swiss hiking trails were well-marked and easy to follow, so I decided to forego the train and hike up on foot.
I should tell you, this is definitely not a leisurely walk. It’s a 1.5 mile hike straight up the side of a mountain, one switchback after another, and it was tough. It took me roughly 90 minutes to make it to the top, but I can’t blame my pace on the elevation gain. No, it was the absolutely stunning scenery that had me stopping at every turn for photos. The view from the top kept getting better as I made my way around the valley, through the village of Wengen, and beyond. It was by far the most rewarding hike I’ve ever done.
LAUTERBRUNNEN TWIGHLIGHT VALLEY WALK
Ever taken a twilight stroll somewhere far away from the bright city lights? It’s magical. As the sun was setting, I took off from my hostel, flashlight in hand, and headed off into the open valley of Lauterbrunnen.
As I mentioned, Lauterbrunnen is surrounded by waterfalls – 72 of them, to be exact. The falls gush down the vertical cliff faces on all sides of the valley, and at night? Yeah, they light up. Down the road I walked, admiring the alpine homes, the falls that lit at dusk, and the farms dotted with cows and horses still grazing the fields. The valley extends about two miles, but I cut it a bit short and turned it into a loop, crossing a bridge and following a gurgling stream back into the main area of town.
LAVAUX VINEYARD TERRACES WALK (AND WINE TASTING)
Lake Geneva is practically surrounded by vineyards. Just outside of Montreux, the Lavaux region’s vineyards are built into the hills, the rows giving the impression of terraces. The views themselves are stunning, and you can actually walk the Lavaux wine trail between several villages, stopping at small, family wineries along the way. With a storm on the horizon, I opted to take the train out of Montreux to Rivaz, where I hiked up through the terraces, around the village of Rivaz. The glass (okay, bottle) of wine at the end was definitely worth the trip!
MONTREUX TO CHILLON CASTLE WALK
This walk was so romantic, especially because I walked it in a slight drizzle, sharing an umbrella with my favorite travel partner. Chillon Castle can be seen from nearly anywhere on the Montreux waterfront. On a rainy morning, this paved path was just perfect. It winds around Lake Geneva, ducking into gardens sporting incredible flowers and blossoming trees. It took me 45 minutes to walk from Montreux’s waterfront to the castle, and another 10 to explore the surrounding area. There’s a fee to tour the inside, but the grounds are completely free.
Share your own Switzerland tips with our readers in the comments below.