The surprising summer destination that has (almost) everything


Summer holidays require choices: lazy or active; seaside or city; chic or wholesome; cultural or camp. And if you’re just having the one trip after quite a spell of delayed gratification, it’s desirable to tick more than one box for the summer splurge. 

But where to go? Italian charm is legendary. Moules frites by the Med with a perfectly chilled muscadet is not to be sniffed at. Perhaps a hearty walk through the Black Forest? There is a brisk beauty to a dip in a fir-backed Swedish lake. Bucket and spade nostalgia in the West Country is a regular draw. But if you are after somewhere that offers a taster of all of these things – unrivalled hiking trails, world-class museums, 16,000 lake and pond banks on which to lay your towel, all set against some of the most dramatic natural landscape in the world – Switzerland may be the right choice for you.

The Swiss are some of Europe’s toughest customers. They demand, and get, the best. Many of the country’s cities regularly top international ratings for the highest quality of life – and for visitors, this means reliably good hospitality, high standards of safety, trains that run on time, pristine streets and water so clean that urban swimming is de rigueur. 

Its cuisine, often reduced in the international imagination to “mainly raclette and fondue” these days features a strong emphasis on sustainable farming, and with excellent lakeside microclimates, there is plenty of delicious local, seasonal produce on offer. Standing on a mountaintop, gazing over an army of peaks fading into the distance, it would be impossible not to conclude that the country features the highest air quality in Europe – even the water tastes better than in most of your usual summer destinations. 

Switzerland is a stunning contender for the world’s best all-round summer holiday destination. From the Mediterranean climate of the likes of palm-lined Lake Maggiore in the Italian region, to the healing thermal waters flowing from deep within its mountains, to the sailing, stand-up paddling and rowing on Lake Geneva – or the 125-mile cycle round it – it is sublimely easy to roll a bit of the rugged wilderness into a cultural and beach holiday, with each component just about an hour’s drive away. 

This summer, Switzerland has revived all festivals, charted new hiking trails, and thrown open the doors to its world-class spas. Read on for the things to do in the country in the next few months.

Back to nature

Starry nights

The largest lake in southern Switzerland, Maggiore is also distinguished by the stunning Mediterranean gardens that surround it and the mountain that overlooks it. Book a stay at one of two new StarsBox huts set up on Monte Gambarogno and you will have a sweeping vista of the eastern shores of the lake at dusk and the wide-open sky by night. Perched on the peak and with a 360-degree panorama, the huts are just 45 minutes by foot from the Alpe di Neggia mountain pass. Each has a bed, window and hinged roof to offer the best possible view of the stars once the lights go out. Prices available on request (0041 7962 17855;

Take a hike

Stretching from the small eastern city of Chur to the town of Arosa, along the Schanfigg valley, the new 32-mile Schanfigger trail takes walkers through the beautiful Alpine canton of Graubünden. This canton, home to the glitzy resorts of Klosters, Davos and St Moritz, also boasts 615 lakes and 150 valleys. Wind your way through the area’s meadows, forests and villages lined with distinctive timber buildings – the timeless and stunning landscapes of mountain life. Stop along the way in village shops, cosy restaurants, farms and traditional Besenbeiz seasonal inns, of which there’s a lovely selection to be found at

Switzerland in summer

The 32-mile Schanfigger trail takes walkers through the beautiful canton of Graubünden


Sleep in the company of cows

If you have any budding herders or dairy fans among you, head to Pays-d’Enhaut, in the French-speaking canton Vaud, to test your tasting and mixing skills as you learn about how to make one of the most delicious of alpine cheeses. With its bold, fruity and nutty flavour, etivaz – rarer cousin of the classic gruyere – is produced in the traditional way: over an open fire on one of more than 130 alpine peaks between the glaciers of Les Diablerets and the vineyards of Lake Geneva. Visitors can hike up to the chalets where farmers stay with their herds all summer long, allowing them to graze on the wildflower-strewn meadows. 

For a particular treat, sleep overnight in the hay, above the cows, learn how to milk them in the morning, and help make the day’s batch of etivaz. Prices for adults/children from £42/£26, including overnight accommodation, dinner, breakfast and cheesemaking (

Get physical

Ski in summer

The summer months are the perfect time to conquer Europe’s largest and highest summer slopes. Keen skiers can head to the 3,883m Klein Matterhorn and join national ski teams from all over the world to explore the 21km of pistes open each morning (don’t worry: there are ski schools for improvers). 

At the top of the ski area, the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable-car station offers expansive vistas of the peak, along with activities such as snow tubing and the Glacier Palace, where visitors can descend 15m inside the glacier to explore a frozen world of ice sculptures and slides. The purchase of a lift pass for more than three days on the Zermatt side ( grants access to local biking lifts as well as the ski area. Stay at Unique Hotel Post (, which offers doubles from £182 per night.

Follow Route 1291

This summer the Lake Lucerne region launches Route 1291, a challenging 186-mile cycle path that begins and ends in Lucerne, one of Switzerland’s best preserved medieval cities. Named after the year that Switzerland’s first federal charter was signed, this seven-stage route showcases some of the country’s finest castles, historic towns and mountain scenery. 

Designed to be tackled over a week, the route loops down to Andermatt via Altdorf and then back up through the Unesco-listed Entlebuch Biosphere nature reserve. Stay at the Art Deco Hotel Montana ( which has doubles from £184 per night.

Switzerland in summer

Route 1291 is a challenging 186-mile cycle path beginning and ending in Lucerne

Best-in-class hiking

If you follow the 20-stage ViaBerna route ( over its 186-mile length, it will take you from the forested slopes of the Jura, over the Swiss central plateau and through the Alps. You will also trot by the Swiss capital Bern, along Lake Thun and on to the Sustenpass mountain pass. This multi-day trek was the first of the Swiss “vias” to be awarded the European certification Leading Quality Trail (Best of Europe) for its demarcation, scenery, access, website and facilities. Stop for the night at Bern’s Hotel Savoy (, which has double rooms from £153 per night.

Take a city break

Art and architecture in Zurich

Switzerland has more than its fair share of charming cities, but the banking and cultural hub of Zurich to the north, with its happy marriage of nature and culture, is a real crowd-pleaser. 

With more than 70 green spaces, a beautiful mountain-backed lake for swimming, easy access to surrounding forests for hikes, plus some world-class museums – including Kunsthaus Zurich, which unveiled a new extension last last year, and the newly-renovated Pavillon Le Corbusier – it is an easy win for the sophisticated traveller. Its grand dame hotel Baur au Lac, nestled in a large private park by the water, has also undergone a facelift – just in time for summer (doubles from £647 per night,

Switzerland in summer

Pavillon Le Corbusier, one of Zurich’s best museums

Credit: Betty Fleck

Galleries galore in Lausanne

If Geneva – “the world’s smallest metropolis” – is home to many important international bodies, its neighbour 45 minutes east along Western Europe’s largest lake is more of a holiday resort-meets-university town that comes alive in the summer. Lausanne has a more useable lakefront (head to Bellerive for pools and fountains galore), plus Plateforme 10, its arts hub by the station, which is home to the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts (MCBA), plus the Musée de l’Elysée (photography museum) and Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (mudac), both of which re-open this summer ( Stay at the neo-gothic Château d’Ouchy (, which has double rooms from £179.

Hipster haven in Basel

Set at the intersection of the Swiss, German and French borders, Basel is the best Swiss city for catering to all culinary tastes, with recent openings including the vegetarian Lauch, the experimental Alchemist and hipster Markthalle. There is also Switzerland’s first boutique hostel, Silo Basel (rooms from £78 per night, and opportunties for uber-trendy urban swimming. While you can also take a dip in Bern, Zurich and Geneva, a city swim is perhaps most stunning here (

Switzerland in summer

Basel has a strong culinary scene

Credit: TEDDY VERNEUIL/Basel Tourismus

Soak up the culture

Classical music in Verbier

For more than 25 years, the Verbier Festival has put on some spectacular performances of classical music. From July 15 to 31, 62 concerts will be performed by more than 90 international artists at a series of 200 accessible and free events. A new programme highlights emerging talents and includes interactive shows for all ages. Venues include the 1,700-seat Salle des Combins, the more intimate Église de Verbier and the Hameau Cultural Centre ( 

If you are already 1,500m up in Verbier, stay for the 500 km of signposted walking trails, a VIP pass granted to all overnight guests which gives access to ski lifts, local buses and discounts on lots of local activities ( – and spend a night or two at Hôtel de Verbier ( which offers doubles from £184 per night.

75th anniversary of the Locarno Film Festival

Locarno, on the banks of Lake Maggiore, plays host to its stunning open-air annual film festival, which from August 3-13 celebrates its 75th anniversary ( Each year the festival in Ticino welcomes famous actors and directors, as well as film experts and enthusiasts from all over the world to take in hundreds of films, with the highlights projected onto one of the world’s largest screens, in the Piazza Grande. Stay at Art Hotel Riposo in neighbouring Ascona ( which has doubles from £210 per night.

Switzerland in summer

Locarno hosts a stunning open-air film festival in August

Credit: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images Europe

Ticino’s first wine hotel

The Swiss are fantastically proud of their local viniculture, which produces such fine wine, they say, that they drink it all and there’s nothing left to export. Come test the local goods for yourself in the recently renovated Hotel Conca Bella (doubles from £121 per night,, in the middle of the Mendrisio vineyards in Ticino, the Italian-speaking region with palm-lined lakes, medieval castles and some spectacularly fine food. In the Montereale family for 37 years, and boasting a wine cellar with more than 4,000 bottles, the hotel is the place to go for a focus on local produce. 

Rest and rejuvenate  

The party spa

If you fancy a bit of a party with your soaks and swims, head to the Gstaad Palace (doubles from £542,, which reopens for the summer season on June 24, with admission to the 1,800 metre square spa is included for all guests. Outdoor pursuits include cycling, hiking (300km of trails surround) and weekend pool parties at the hotel’s new outdoor Bar Piscine, by its Art Deco pool. Following a Covid hiatus, sporting events including the Hublot Polo Gold Cup (August 18-21), EFG Swiss Open Gstaad tennis tournament (July 17-24), Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Gstaad 2022 (July 6-10) all return this summer.

Switzerland in summer

Gstaad Palace boasts this impressive outdoor pool


Health check in Bad Ragaz

With an on-site medical team expert in preventative and nutritional medicine, this summer Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, in the east of Switzerland, offers tailored therapies to address any challenges you may be facing. Consider your wellbeing while enjoying thermal baths, rituals surrounding the majestic redwood on-site, and indulging in a massage or sauna session. Double rooms from £405 per night (

New heights in Engelberg

The top-floor Kempinski Palace Engelberg Spa wows guests with its infinity pool and an incomparable panoramic view of the surrounding mountain landscape. The spa impresses with an inviting relaxation room with a cosy fireplace, Finnish and bio saunas, a soothing steam room, ice fountain and fitness room with state-of-the-art equipment. Treatments and experiences include dry brushing, salt inhalation, yoga sessions and cupping massages. Double rooms from £465 per night, (

Why you’re wrong about ‘boring’ Geneva

by Mary Lussiana

When it comes to Europe’s most exciting cities, you may well think of buzzy Barcelona, lively Lisbon, or vivacious Venice. Where you most likely would not think of is Geneva. But while the spotless, pretty and wealthy (read – expensive) Swiss city may not have the grit or glamour of other continental hotspots, its reputation as being, well, dull, is unfair. It’s more than a gateway to the Alps – and now more than ever before.

Its cathedral (where John Calvin preached the Reformation, no less) and Roman marketplace might not come as a surprise – but what should is white-water rafting, SUP and kayaking. Yes, you read that right. In the heart of the city, on the River Arve, adventurers can spend hours shooting rapids or navigating waterfalls, or there’s the nearby River Dranse, which runs down the gorge between big boulders creating eddies and challenging rapids (; from £60 for adults/£38 for children).

Switzerland in summer

Rafting is offered on Geneva’s river Arve

Credit: iStockphoto

Water babies who prefer a calmer immersion could swim in Lake Geneva itself. Open all year round is a cordoned-off area in the lake, the Bain des Paquis, and just neighbouring it is a sauna, allowing enthusiasts of the Oslo occupation of post-work swim and sauna to replicate it here. A visit to the adjacent bar on the jetty for an apero completes the Scandi pick-me-up experience (; admission £1.50).

The city has as much to be enjoyed from its rooftops as it does from ground level – at the Hotel Metropole (, tapas and cocktails accompany the sun setting over the Jet d’Eau. On the other side of the river, Rooftop 42 ( is the place for music and dancing; or book into Izumi (think a month ahead), the Nikkei (Peruvian ingredients molded by Japanese techniques, as popularised by Nobu) restaurant on the rooftop of the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues ( Chef Mitsuro Tsukado’s dishes are seriously outstanding, from tuna tartare with Gochujang sauce on crispy rice to lobster Kadaifi with Teriyaki and truffle sauce.

Indeed, some of Geneva’s best fine dining can be found in its hotels. Take Le Tsé Fung at chic La Reserve (, the only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in Switzerland, which serves the likes of sea bass with ginger and chef Frank Xu’s famous fried rice.

Switzerland in summer

The Woodward is a welcome addition to Geneva’s hotel collection

Late last year the choice got even richer with the opening of the Woodward ( on the Quai Wilson, housing an outpost of the highly acclaimed L’Atelier Robuchon – think crab and caviar under an intense jelly of shellfish or seared blue lobster with black Malabar pepper surrounded by Robuchon’s trademark red décor.

Whether as part of a wider Swiss holiday or a city break in its own right – give Geneva a chance. You might be surprised.

For more ideas on where to stay, see out full guide to the best hotels in Switzerland.

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