6 Unmissable Summer Experiences in Switzerland
Thinking of Switzerland brings to mind images of a winter wonderland, with blankets of snow, cosy wooden chalets, and scores of skiers descending the slopes. But, Switzerland’s mountainous terrain is just as beautiful and full of color in the summer. Snow-capped mountains give way to valleys with green slopes and azure meltwater lakes.
The landscape alone will make you drool as much as a Swiss fondue. But with average summer temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius (70 F), you will want to do much more than just gaze at Switzerland from a window. Try these 6 unmissable summer experiences to really get into Switzerland in the summer.
6 Summer Experiences in Switzerland
1. Scale a snow-capped mountain
Switzerland is all about the mountains, so this is a must. Late summer is one of the best times to hike because the tracks are clear of snow and the weather is (often) pleasant and clear. There is also something magical about climbing a mountain in the summer heat, to discover unmelted snow at the summit.
Many of Switzerland’s mountains are rather tall and challenging, so you may also want to climb aboard a cable car or a mountain railway. You can take a cable car to reach the summit of the Schilthorn in Bernese Oberland, and you’ll get a 25% discount with your Eurail Pass. Or take the Gornergrat Train from Zermatt for an exhilarating ride with views of the Matterhorn, Switzerland’s iconic pyramid mountain.
2. Stand on the top of Europe
Once you reach a Swiss summit always make sure to pause and take in the 360-degree panorama, featuring many of Europe’s tallest peaks.
For such inhospitable mountains, Swiss summits offer surprisingly sophisticated hospitality. Atop the Schilthorn, you can channel your inner secret-agent by dining at the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant, the setting for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
You could also visit an ice cave to cool off from a summer hike and view some ice, art or ice-art. Popular caves include Mittelallalin Ice Pavilion at Saas-Fee and Titlis Glacier Cave (above Lucerne).
3. Descend a mountain in style
The snow may be gone, but it is still possible to come down a mountain at speed. Interlaken is one of the best areas for extreme sports. Adrenaline junkies can go mountain biking, paragliding, or even try a spot of skydiving, all within one of Switzerland’s most beautiful valleys.
Those looking for excitement without jumping from heights, should try a rodelbahn. These summer toboggans can be found throughout Switzerland and put you in control of your own coaster car as you shoot down the alpine slopes. Rodelbahns and also mountain scooters are a fun way for families to spend a summer day on the slopes.
4. Plunge into thousands of alpine lakes
Switzerland doesn’t only have mountains. Its alpine valleys contain thousands of lakes. These lakes are best experienced in summer when they fill with blue meltwater from the mountains. The summer sun also makes it possible to take a swim, heating the water to a kinder (but still chilly) temperature.
Lake Geneva is the most well-known, with over 100 public beaches to relax at. Lake Lugano in the Italian-speaking south will make you feel like you’re at the Med, far away from the snow-capped Alps. In the city of Zurich, you can join the locals at badis, urban swimming areas on the lake or river, with wooden docks and cafes – a unique summer experience in Switzerland.
5. Get jazzy at a music festival
Google “Swiss music” and you will find pictures of old men playing huge alpenhorns on a mountainside… But, the modern Swiss music scene is much more diverse. Festivals pop up throughout the summer, covering everything from classical to techno.
For 2 weeks at the beginning of July, you can enjoy smooth music on the shores of Lake Geneva at Montreux Jazz Festival. In August, Lucerne Festival brings together world-renowned virtuosos and amateur orchestras for a month of classical music. For big beats and high-pace head to Zurich Open Air in August. 2019 headliners include Calvin Harris and Billie Eilish.
6. Take a train (of course)
Switzerland’s rail network is impressive, so it’s easy to get around with a Eurail Pass. What’s more, your Pass will cover 2 of our favorite scenic train routes, with only a small additional reservation fee. The Bernina Express is a UNESCO World Heritage site and transports you from the hot Italian-speaking town of Poschiavo, up into the Alps at St. Moritz. Then the Glacier Express continues the journey from St. Moritz to Zermatt, for a final view of the Matterhorn.
The trains wind their way through mountain passes and tunnels and offer many a view from a bridge. Panoramic windows allow you to marvel both at Switzerland’s natural wonders and their gravity-defying feats of engineering, such as the Landwasser Viaduct. And of course, Switzerland’s central location means it’s the perfect starting point to explore another European country nearby.
Got you in the mood for an alpine adventure? Read more about Swiss train travel:
- Amazing Rail Routes: Switzerland’s Glacier Express
- 7 Things You Should Do In Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
- 4 Gorgeous Cities In Switzerland (By Train)