Chateau di Chillon, on the shore of Lake Geneva Chateau di Chillon, on the shore of Lake Geneva © SwissImage.ch

The top 10 unmissable sights in Switzerland

Unmissable Swiss sights, whether it’s your first visit or your last

So much to see but so little time. That is true of almost any destination but especially of Switzerland, with its wealth of magical mountains and time-travel towns. It can be hard to know what to visit and where to start, so we’re here to help. We’ve picked our top ten sights across Switzerland, each a must-see for every visitor, be they newcomers or old hands. Of course you don’t have to see them all in one trip, but no Swiss visit is complete without at least one of them.

Engadine

Engadin-Swiss Image sts8596Engadin © SwissImage.ch

In a land of natural superlatives, there is one place that takes your breath away – literally speaking, if you have hiked up to a panorama viewpoint. The Engadine valley is a picture-perfect combination of glittering lakes, brooding mountains, lush fields and unspoilt woods. In any other country it would be a National Park, but here it’s just another slice of splendour. For the best view, head up to Muottas Muragl, either on foot or by funicular, and look down on nature at its finest. www.stmoritz.ch

Related: Hiking in St. Mortiz

Jungfrau Railways

Jungfraubahn-Swiss Image sts8573Jungfraubahn © SwissImage.ch

The Swiss love their trains and their mountains, so it’s no surprise that the mountain trains are a sight in themselves. Largely built for British tourists in the 19th century, these technological marvels have lived long and prospered. The best choice of trains is in the Bernese Oberland, not least the spectacular ride up to Europe’s highest train station at Jungfraujoch, 3,454 metres up. The journey there and back is as memorable as the destination itself. www.jungfrau.ch

Related: 10 of the most beautiful villages in Switzerland

Matterhorn

MatterhornSwiss Image ams11121The Matterhorn © SwissImage.ch

Switzerland doesn’t have an iconic structure that personifies the country; there is no Taj Mahal or Big Ben. Instead its icons are its mountains and there are few more famous than the Matterhorn. The distinctive pointed summit is instantly recognisable, not just from the Toblerone logo, and singularly impressive as it stands separate from neighbouring peaks. From nearby Zermatt it looks amazing but it’s even better enjoyed from the train ride up to Gornergrat. www.zermatt.ch

Related: The best igloo hotels in Switzerland

Paddle-steamers

paddlesteamerSwiss Image sgv0354A sunset paddle steamer trip on Lake Lucerne © SwissImage.ch

There can be few finer ways to spend quality time than gliding across a lake on a historic paddle-steamer. Five Swiss lakes host these grand old ladies every summer, and all of them are worth a trip, but we love the ones on Lake Lucerne most of all. Wooden decks, polished brass, the hiss of steam and the whoop of the horn, all against a backdrop of sparkling blue water and jagged dark mountains. Swiss bliss. www.myswitzerland.com/paddlesteamers

Related: Outdoor swimming in Switzerland

Chillon

Chateau-de-ChillonSwiss Image stc5976Chateau de Chillon © SwissImage.ch

Switzerland wasn’t always a peaceful neutral place. Centuries ago it was as bellicose as any other country, and the remnants of that bloody past can be seen in the many medieval castles. Grandest of all these is the Chateau de Chillon, on the shores of Lake Geneva. Its scenic setting is more than matched by the historic building with its lofty turrets, spooky dungeons and mighty walls. It’s the best place to step back in time in Switzerland. www.chillon.ch

Related: Swiss museums: in & around Geneva

Aletsch Glacier

Glacier-Aletsch Glacier © Diccon Bewes

With over 27 billion tonnes of ice (in places 900 metres thick), this is Europe’s longest glacier, slowly carving and crushing its way through the Alps. Luckily this frozen Amazon is very accessible. A cable car up to Bettmerhorn and you can gaze at one of the seven wonders of Switzerland, or the more adventurous can hike down to the wall of ice. Even close up it barely seems to move at all. www.myswitzerland.com/aletsch

Related: 6 reasons to visit Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne

LUCERNE-stc8583cSunset view over Lucern's Kapellbrücke © SwissImage.ch

It is probably the most photographed town in Switzerland, with hardly an inch that has not appeared in a selfie or group photo. And it’s easy to see why. Everything in Lucerne is photogenic, from the muralled walls and cobbled streets to the covered bridges and nearby mountains. To escape the cameras, walk along the old city wall, complete with its original towers, for better views and fewer people. www.luzern.com

Related: Swiss hiking trails: Lake Lucerne

Bernina Express

Bernina-Express-Bernina Express © SwissImage.ch

This wonderfully scenic train ride in Graubünden that is also a Unesco World Heritage site. It clambers up over the Bernina Pass at 2253 metres up, making it the highest rail crossing in Europe not to use cogs. From Chur down to Italy it weaves its way through the spectacular scenery, using a host of corkscrew tunnels and towering viaducts to conquer the hills and ravines. www.rhb.ch

Related: Swiss hiking trails: Bernese Oberland

The Rhine Falls

Rhine-Falls-Swiss Image stc2720cRhine Falls © SwissImage.ch

Right on the German border in the north of Switzerland are Europe's largest waterfalls: 150 metres wide, 23 metres high and with 700,000 litres of water crashing over the falls every second in the early summer peak. You can stand on the concrete platforms to feel the spray and hear the roar or even better, hop on the little boat that takes you the island in the middle of the falls. www.rheinfall.ch

Related: Bern, Switzerland: a guide

Bern

BERN-Swiss Image stc6126cBern City Centre © SwissImage.ch

Switzerland's magical capital city is a delight to explore. Its medieval street plan hasn't changed much in the last few centuries, so you can walk along under the arcades or enjoy the unspoilt architecture. The cathedral and federal parliament make for interesting stops but Bern is actually all about atmosphere and location: take a dip in the Aare river, watch the bears laze around in their park, have a drink while admiring the Bernese Alps, and just relax. www.bern.com