Ok, I’m going to ask you to close your eyes and think of Switzerland. What do you see? Glitzy ski resorts? Sloped chalet roofs covered with fresh powder? Maybe the craggy Matterhorn looming in the distance? Or is it cheese…and chocolate? And is that yodeling I hear in the distance? Oh, hi Heidi, there you are. Well, you’re not wrong. Switzerland is for sure all of those things, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret that’s been revealed to me after moving here about a year and a half ago: Switzerland is actually a summer destination. Yes, it’s a winter sports paradise, there’s no doubt about that, and even if you’re not a big skier the après ski culture is unrivaled, but listen to me when I tell you: this nature-loving country truly comes alive in the summertime. Need some proof? Here are 7 reasons you should visit Switzerland in the summer:
This Swiss slice of paradise is a bit of Cote d’Azur in our landlocked country. Looking out at the sparkling blue-green waters of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) while enjoying a glass of local rosé and you’ll be tricked into thinking that you’re actually on the Mediterranean. The coast is dotted with beautiful cities like Montreux and Vevey which have pedestrian-only walkways along the lake packed with options for shopping, dining, art installations, spots for swimming, and plenty of playgrounds. That local rosé I mentioned? Drive-up into the hills and you’ll see the most beautiful terraced vineyards with views so stunning that even your kids will appreciate them.
The tropical colored water and flora, snow-capped mountain views, and secret wine stash (Switzerland exports less than 2% of their delicious varietals!) make this one of Switzerland’s most surprising spots.
But if it’s la dolce vita you’re seeking, just hop on the train to the other side of the country and you’ll find it. In the Italian region of Switzerland is Lake Lugano, another lakeside riviera full of Italian feel and flavor. Visit cities like Lugano itself, plus Locarno and Ascona, and enjoy endless gelato or a lakeside aperitivo while your kids splash around in the gentle, shallow water. As you float on a pristine lake with views of the Alps in the background you’ll wonder why you ever even thought to hurl yourself down a snow-covered mountain in the first place.
Though the advice of “don’t go chasing waterfalls” is a major theme in the Millennial handbook, in Switzerland we have to make an exception. Your family will be wowed by the sheer power of the Rhine Falls, Europe’s biggest waterfall in terms of volume. TLC would never. But you should visit for the breathtaking, honestly a bit unnerving, views from various platforms that get you right up close — and for the very brave, you can take a boat right to the center!
For a slightly more gentle but nonetheless impressive experience, take a stroll through the Lauterbrunnen Valley, home to 72 waterfalls including the Trummelbach Falls which are inside a cavern and are Europe’s largest underground waterfalls! Nope, I had no idea that was a thing, either.
Go Jump in a Lake
There’s a rumor in Switzerland (perpetuated by Roger Federer, mind you) that “wherever you stand in Switzerland, you’re within 10 minutes of a lake” and with 1,500 of them, that may very well be true. In the summertime, it is all about the Badi, the Swiss-German term for lakeside beaches. Sometimes they’re quiet, hidden spots, and sometimes they’re built up with amenities like restaurants and play areas and maybe even accompanying swimming pools. From bathing to boating to stand-up paddleboarding to even SCUBA diving, the lake and the Badi is the place to be.
Lake Geneva and Lake Constance are the largest lakes in the country, but check out some lesser-known (outside of Switzerland at least) but unbelievably beautiful places that the Swiss love to visit during summer holidays, like the Brienzersee with its beautiful turquoise water, the tranquil Oeschinensee, the diverse offerings of the Thunersee region, or take a boat ride along the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne) for the most unbelievable views.
Take a Pass
Closed during the winter, the Furka Pass and Gotthard Pass are legendary windy mountain passes full of jaw-dropping views and stomach-dropping hairpin turns. I haven’t looked into the car-seat friendliness of Aston Martins lately, but even in a more traditionally family-friendly car you’ll feel like James Bond speeding (gently of course) through these famous roads featured in movies such as Goldfinger. There are tunnels that make these connections in the snowy months, which are impressive engineering-wise, but the postcard-perfect views from the road on these passes are an unforgettable experience.
Playdate with a View
Are you sensing a theme here? We are spoiled in the view department here in Switzerland. When my family first moved here from the States I was a bit shocked at the…severity…of the playgrounds. Full of wood, metal, and ways to easily fall onto those things, I was considering trying to make full-time helmets a trend. But now that they’re a little bit older and decidedly less wobbly, I am really starting to appreciate them — especially when they come with a mountain view! Most mountains, specially equipped ones that cater to visitors, have a couple of large play areas ranging from typical playgrounds to really beautiful ones to even places with bounce houses and summer tobogganing!
In Switzerland, it is common to find hiking trails designed specifically with kids in mind. These “adventure trails” usually have a theme and story behind them, full of incentives for kids to continue along the trail like scavenger hunts, play areas, and in some cases, even stops for cheese sampling! Sensory paths even encourage kids to use their five senses while discovering nature, with some parts designated for barefoot walking, or things to hear and smell.
Most of these are equipped with grills or fire pits, so Swiss families bring their sausages or schlangenbrot and make a day of it.
Bulls on Parade
A traditional sign to the end of summer is the Alpabzug, the parade of cows as they are brought down from the mountain pastures and into the barns for winter. This functional farming event turns into a regular Miss Bovine Swiss beauty pageant, as cows are decked out in elaborate flower crowns, and if it’s more cowbell you need, these gigantic ones will surely cure your fever. Add in traditional Swiss music like the alphorn and delicious food like sausages of all varieties and raclette and you’ve got the perfect way to wrap up an incredible Swiss summer.
Convinced? The summer months are not really something I ever equated with Switzerland but the laid-back attitude in the air, turquoise waters, green mountains full of wildflowers, and long days are the makings of wonderful childhood memories. Now that I think of it, I’m not really sure why I’m spilling the secret, but I’m sure we can keep it between us.
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