The best mountain towns in Switzerland

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Swiss settlements are the quintessence of mountain towns. Picture this: sunny skies, legendary peaks, verdant meadows, colorful wildflowers, brilliant blue lakes, tall, narrow waterfalls, clanging cowbells, and quintessential cabins with the red and white flag. from the country. It’s an unbeatable formula and one that’s pictured (with some interesting variations) all over the inspiring country. Here are eight selections, and some other dedications (or should I say yodels?), to show what life is like in the stunning Swiss mountains.

Interlaken

An aerial view of Interlaken.

Interlaken is wonderfully located in the Bernese Oberland, in the region of Bern, opposite the towering peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and between the healing waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. The main strength of the largest city on this list is that it throws up a host of jaw-dropping stops as one climbs the Bernese Oberland and other ever-higher Alpine railways to the roof of Switzerland. One can arrive quickly from the major central Swiss cities of Lausanne, Bern, or Zurich, enjoy the pretty views and popular amenities, and then head to the variety of quaint towns.

Lauterbrunnen

lauterbrunnen
Stunning autumn view of Lauterbrunnen.

The next stop on the Bernese Oberland Railway is the village of Lauterbrunnen, also in the Bern region. Magic only builds in this Yosemite-style valley, framed by massive rock faces that would give Alex Honnold a run for his money. Lauterbrunnen offers the possibility of a more isolated mountain meander. The valley is one of the largest nature conservation areas in the country. It protects wildflower meadows and 72 narrow waterfalls that cascade down vertical cliffs, hence the name Lauter Brunnen, which means “many fountains”. These waterfalls stung the muse of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who wrote the poem Spirit Song Over the Waters while visiting the valley village.

wengen

wengen
The pretty town of Wengen in Switzerland.

From Lauterbrunnen, be sure to continue on the Wengernalp Railway to the car-free village of Wengen (pronounced Ven-gen) in the Jungfrau region. Visitors can enjoy the more relaxed pace of life while touring the sites of quintessential wooden houses and cabins and enjoying the sounds of cowbells and distant waterfalls. The train adventure can continue to Kleine Scheidegg, an alpine resort that offers an up-close and personal view of the Eiger’s infamous north face (nicknamed Mordwand, meaning “murderous face”). the Jungfrau Railway to the Jungfraujoch, the highest station in Europe!

Gimmelwald

gimmelwald
Houses in Gimmelwald nestled in the Swiss Alps.

Another possible branch off from Lauterbrunnen is another car-free mountain village that can only be reached by cable car. Gimmelwald, which is back in the Bern area, retains the stunning aesthetic of the other towns along the way and boosts the authentic, less-trafficked factor by a good margin. The 13 farms here are the backbone of the settlement and, apart from the ever-impressive mountain views, serve as a focal point of attraction for tourists. Strolling on the meadow paths, one can wander past traditionally decorated farmhouses and buy Swiss specialties like cheese and sausages straight from the source. Don’t forget the village of Mürren on the way up/down. This list could easily be just for towns in the Bernese Highlands, but I’m going to switch gears now and mix it up.

Zermatt

zermatt, switzerland
The Zermatt town of Zermatt in the spectacular Swiss Alps.

Moving on to the Valais region, the village of Zermatt is a must. The historic village sits at the foot of the Matterhorn, easily Europe’s most recognizable mountain. The striking peak has had an abysmal record since early expeditions, but has long since become a monument to the triumphant human spirit. Like Wengen and Gimmelwal, Zermatt is a car-free village and is best reached by train. It’s a place to explore snow-capped mountains and verdant foothills and unwind in old-fashioned pubs and restaurants at the end of a tiring but satisfying day.

Montreux

Montreal
Chillon Castle in Montreaux.

Now back to the unbeatable combination of a freshwater lake against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains. It is the setting of Montreux in the Lake Geneva Region (Vaud) in French-speaking Switzerland. A stone’s throw from Lausanne, Montreux is quietly nestled on the eastern shore of pristine Lake Geneva. The Alps, although slightly further away than in previous mentions, are still a palpable part of the experience. This city has inspired many artists, and for good reason. Sometimes keeping beauty just out of reach is the best way to capture the imagination and the muse. But that only concerns the mountains. The lake eliminates teasing and practically requires daily shore walks or summer swims.

Soglio

Soglio
Soglio in autumn.

Soglio, also known as “the gateway to paradise”, is in the Bergell region of southeastern Switzerland, near the border of northern Italy. As a result, it has a distinct aesthetic from its Bernese brethren. Although, of course, still engulfed in scenic mountains, the soft browns and beiges of the humble buildings soften the village into the landscape rather than pop with bright reds and bold browns of quintessential Swiss connotations. The main point of visual contrast in Soglio is the bell tower of the famous Church of St. Lawrence. Relax on the community’s sunny natural terrace, take in the views and mingle with the few hundred permanent residents.

Morcote

Morcote
Waterfront view of the village of Morcote on Lake Lugano, Switzerland.

To complete this Swiss list, the former fishing village of Morcote, in the canton of Ticino, in the far south. The village is built on the shore of Lake Lugano and climbs the hill in a photo-inductive way. In fact, it’s not only one of the most photographed sites in the region, but in 2016 Morcote was voted the most beautiful village in all of Switzerland. This time, the sharp, snow-capped Alps are replaced by lush, verdant, rolling hills surrounding the lake. The infrastructure provides a unique contrast of its own. The simpler shoreline architecture is called the secular layer, while the upper slopes, with churches and other inspired buildings, make up the ecclesiastical section.

It doesn’t get much better than that. Switzerland is full of towns and villages scattered within it. They strike the perfect balance between immaculate and minimally modernized while having excellent railway lines and other welcoming infrastructure to make visiting these places much more appealing. So start practicing your triumphant mountain song now; you are going to need it.

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