Switzerland has ranked among the top ten happiest countries in the world several times, its high median salary and safe environment two aspects that got the country to its spot. While those attributes certainly make Switzerland an easy place to find happiness, there is something to be said about how our surroundings impact our outlook on life.
A strong sense of community, rich history, and friendly culture make a trip to Switzerland a memorable experience any time of year. The country is cradled by enchanting alpine scenery, the iconic mountains rising around beautiful waters at every turn. These colorful and historical Swiss cities serve as cultural hubs filled with sights straight from a book of fairytales.
Located in southern Switzerland, the stunning city of Locarno is only a stone's throw away from Italy. The popular resort town clings to its historical roots, providing a Mediterranean flair alongside classic Swiss vibes. Some of Lucarno's architecture dates back to the 13th century, including the Visconti Castle, which contains an archaeological museum displaying medieval artifacts.
The cobblestone streets in the Piazza Grande, a town square decorated by pretty pastel buildings, are nothing short of charming. The Cardada Mountain offers views of Switzerland's highest and lowest points, Monte Rosa and Lake Maggiore, respectively. In 2022, Locarno will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its film festival, which draws thousands of cinephiles to 11 days of open-air screenings every year.
Zürich is Switzerland's financial capital and is considered the most luxurious city in the country (and one of the most expensive places in the world!) Modern life bustles through the streets, an interesting sight in an area colored by its pre-medieval history. A stay in Zürich will cost a pretty penny, though, so those looking for a more budget-friendly adventure might want to book accommodations elsewhere and hit the town for a day trip.
The Fraumünster is a must-see. It's an abbey founded for aristocratic women in 853 AD. The original ninth-century structure stands surrounded by several centuries of additions, including five visually striking stained glass windows. Visitors should also check out the Swiss National Museum, which displays an array of artifacts showcasing Switzerland in its entirety.
Situated on the waters of Lake Geneva, hilly Lausanne has served as the Olympic capital for 100 years. The International Olympic Committee opened a museum in the early 1990s to share the expansive history of the games and highlight the human connection the event promotes on a grand scale.
The medieval steeples of the well-kept Lausanne Cathedral, consecrated in 1275, extend far above the city's surrounding buildings. Over 400,000 people visit every year to marvel at the impressive work of gothic architecture. Once the city's bustling industrial center, Flon is now the heart of the area, lined with warehouses refashioned into restaurants, shops, and cinemas.
There is not enough time in a day to capture all that Geneva has been and continues to be. The city is another reflection of Switzerland's dedication to promoting a sense of international community. It serves as the headquarters of Europe's United Nations, the World Meteorological Organization, and the Red Cross, to name a few. The Swiss Alps and Jura Mountains encircle the town, which means gorgeous views in every direction.
Geneva is another Swiss city proud of its original architecture. Renaissance and medieval structures line the charming, narrow streets, many of them serving as the grounds of museums, scientific centers, and religious sites. Boat tours on Lake Geneva allow people to appreciate the city's human-made beauty surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
4 St. Gallen
Located in northeastern Switzerland, St. Gallen is best known for its collection of ancient books and documents in the Abbey Library, some handwritten over a thousand years ago. The exterior Baroque architecture and ornate interior are as awe-inspiring as the historical contents inside. The fact that the library was founded way back in 719 AD makes it all the more impressive.
Aside from being a history and art lover's dream, St. Gallen is also a university town, which means it's full of the hipness required to keep the younger generations entertained. There are trendy cafes and eateries on every corner. Modern art decorates the streets, complemented by the medieval architecture from yesteryear. People can take an aerial cable car above the clouds to the Säntis Mountains, where they will see a panoramic view of six countries.
People will know they have reached Vevey when they spot the iconic fork protruding from Lake Geneva. It's only fitting for the town to have a utensil-shaped monument since Vevey features several Michelin-starred restaurants. The town's adoration of gastronomy draws crowds to the Fête des Vignerons, the largest wine festival in the world that's only held every 20 years.
After he was exiled from the United States, legendary actor Charlie Chaplin called Vevey home. The city pays tribute to the comic with a statue near the giant fork and a top-notch museum highlighting his achievements. Like so many other Swiss cities, the historical architecture and surrounding mountains make it especially beautiful from the deep blue waters of Lake Geneva.
Lucerne packs a lot of punch even with its compactness, and most Swiss-bound travelers like to spend at least a couple of days exploring. Unsurprisingly, the city is surrounded by the Swiss Alps, full of impressive medieval architecture, and home to various museums.
Wanderers who make a pitstop in Lucerne have to see the views from the top of Mount Pilatus. Folklore claims that healing dragons once lived atop the 1,919-foot rock formation. Another popular attraction is Old Town, a traffic-free cobblestoned conglomeration of beautifully painted historical buildings. Guests are guaranteed to feel the magic as they cross Chapel Bridge. It is the world's oldest surviving wooden truss bridge, and its ceiling is painted to tell the stories of Lucerne's rich past.
The way the setting sun illuminates the historical buildings of Neuchâtel is like something out of a dream. The majestic 12th-century castle is open for tours during the month of April, but the views from outside are reason enough to visit any time of the year. The purest beauty of Neuchâtel can be found in the abundant nearby nature reserves.
Just west of the city lies the Creux du Van, a large crater and natural amphitheater that attracts tourists on the hunt for hiking trails and lush scenery. Visitors will feel like characters in a fantasy novel traversing the narrow bridges and pathways of Gorges de l'Areuse, a nature reserve featuring steep cliffs and forests only a short distance from Neuchâtel.