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Switzerland

Main attractions

Lauterbrunnen valley and Staubbach, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen valley and Staubbach / Noel Reynolds, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

The gorgeous country of Switzerland is very rich both with natural and man made heritage. Here most impressive landmarks are:

  • Historical abbeys - there are several very old and once influential monasteries with immense art values. Especially rich is Abbey of St. Gall - once important centre of knowledge.
  • Urban planning monuments - Switzerland is rich with well preserved historical villages, towns and cities. Here are many interesting medieval towns (Bern Old City, Murten, Stein am Rhein) but of great value are early industrial cities La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle.
  • Waterfalls - some of Europe's tallest and most spectacular waterfalls are found here. Most waterfalls here are thin streams falling over multiple cascades and flowing down along nearly vertical cliffs but one stands out - the powerful Rhine Falls, one of the widest waterfalls in Europe.

Natural landmarks

Saint-Léonard underground lake, Switzerland
Saint-Léonard underground lake / Boris Legradic, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Caves

  • Geltenbach Cave - Bern. Impressive cave with opening in vertical cliff face. From the cave comes powerful spring, creating some 60 m tall, free falling waterfall. Cave is 1 350 m long.
  • Grotte aux Fées - Valais. Well known show cave, known since the Roman times at least. Contains impressive, 77 m tall underground waterfall. 3,620 m long.
  • Hölloch - Schwyz. Very long cave system, total length of explored passages - 200.421 km, depth 938.6 m.
  • Saint-Léonard underground lake - Valais. Largest undergound lake in Europe, 300 m long and 20 m wide.
  • Siebenhengste-Hohgant-Höhle - Bern. Very long cave system, with a total length of cave passages 157 km, 1 340 m deep.
Rinquelle, Switzerland
Rinquelle with Seerenbach Falls in the background / Vasile Cotovanu, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Springs

  • Jaun Falls - Freiburg. Unusual and very powerful spring which starts from the cave with a waterfall. Divers have reached up to 300 m far in this spring - underground river. Spring has an output up to 6000 l/s.
  • Rinquelle - St. Gallen. One of the most impressive springs in Europe. It beats from the clif face, forming very tall waterfall with three steps. Upper step is 40 m tall. The medium output is 2,650 l/s. Spring cave has been explored up to 1920 m far, most of it is under water.

Waterfalls

  • Engstligen Falls - Bern. Enormous, more than 370 m tall waterfall with 2 major drops.
  • Giessbach Falls - Bern. More than 500 m tall waterfall with at least 14 steps. In the middle part falls can be crossed over an bridge.
  • Mürrenbach Falls - Bern. Tallest waterfall in Switzerland, 417 m tall.
  • Reichenbach Falls, Switzerland
    Reichenbach Falls / Sergei Gussev, Flickr, CC BY 2.0
    Reichenbach Falls - Bern. 250 m tall waterfall, tallest drop is 90 m tall. Famous thanks to the mention in the novel of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - according to this novel this was the place where Sherlock Holmes fought with his enemy - Professor Moriarty.
  • Rhine Falls - Schaffhausen and Zürich. One of the largest waterfalls in Europe, formed on Rhine River. Waterfall is some 150 m wide and 23 m high, with water flow fluctuating between 250 and 650 m³/s.
  • Seerenbach Falls - St. Gallen. 585 m tall waterfall, the tallest drop is 305 m tall. Usually these drops are counted separately, not as a single waterfall.
  • Staubbach Falls - Bern. One of most impressive falls in Switzerland, 297 m tall drop. Water for most part flies through open air, turning into mist.

Other natural landmarks

  • European larch near Prairion - Valais. Largest known (by girth) European larch (Larix decidua) with a circumference of 11.2 m. Tree is some 800 years old.
  • Monte San Giorgio - Ticino. A mountain at Lake Lugano which consists of rocks which contain the best record of marine life fossils from the Triassic age - reptiles, fish, ammonites, bivalves, insects, plants and others.
  • North face of Eiger (Mordwand) - Bern. Very tall cliff face, 1,800 m high. At least 64 climbers have died while trying to ascend it.
  • Rosenlaui Glacier Gorge - Bern. One of the most impressive narrow gorges in Switzerland. One can walk through it for half a kilometre. In some places gorge turns into cave.

Man made landmarks

Carschenna petroglyphs, Switzerland
Carschenna petroglyphs / Adrian Michael, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Prehistoric landmarks

  • Wildkirchli - Appenzell Innerrhoden. Group of three closely located caves, interesting monuments of history. In these caves have been found some 90 thousand years old remnants of cave bears. Later, some 50 - 30 thousand years ago here lived Neanderthals. In the 17th - 19th centuries caves were inhabited by hermits.
  • Carschenna petroglyphs - Graubünden. Best petroglyph site in Switzerland, a group of some 200 rock carvings on an open cliff face. Most carvings are simple cups and rings, also concentric rings.

Roman heritage

  • Augusta Raurica - Basel-Landschaft. Remnants of Roman settlement which was founded around 44 BC, once capital of Roman province. City had many typical buildings for Roman cities - fortification (castrum), Temple of Jupiter and other temples, amphitheatre, forum, aqueduct. Destroyed around 260 AD.
  • Aventicum - Vaud. Remnants of Roman city, former capital of Helvetia. Founded around the 1st century AD. City was surrounded by 5.6 km long wall. Rempnants of amphitheatre, theatre, temples and other structures have been preserved up to this day. Later, in Christian times served as a seat of bishopric, decline started around 580 AD.
Saint Ursanne, Switzerland
Saint Ursanne / Luciano 95, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Historical towns and cities

  • Bern Old City - Bern. Historical city on a peninsula formed by a loop of Aare river. This city has remained almost unchanged since the 15th - 18th century, with numerous valuable buildings. Many great buildings are in Renaissance style. Many streets have arcades.
  • Fribourg Old City - Fribourg. One of the largest and best preserved medieval cities in Switzerland, with numerous Gothic structures. Most buildings were built before the 16th century, city for most part is surrounded by city walls with 14 towers.
  • Guarda - Graubünden. Typical mountain village with well preserved historical buildings and other elements - paving, pumps and other. Most people here still speak Rhaeto-Romance language.
  • La Chaux-de-Fonds - Neuchâtel. Historical watch making city (including Rolex), founded in 1656 and completely rebuilt after the fire in 1794. This rebuilt city now represents a unique example (together with nearby Le Locle) of urban planning suited for micromechanical industries.
  • Le Locle - Neuchâtel. A planned city with unique urban pattern. Historical centre of watch making since the 17th century and was rebuilt in the early 19th century in strict grid pattern. Near the city is cave with several underground mills.
  • Morcote - Lugano. Gorgeous historical town at lake Lugano, with densely located historical buildings lined along the lake. Mountain scenery and almost subtropical plant life add to the beauty of the site.
  • Murten (Morat) - Fribourg. Nearly intact medieval city at Lake Murten, encircled with city walls, with castle.
  • Saint Ursanne - Jura. Well preserved medieval town at Doubs River, with Romanesque church, historical bridge and other old structures.
  • Stein am Rhein - Schafhausen. Beautiful town with numerous historical buildings, many covered with frescoes. Most of the old town is off limits to cars.
Balm cave castle, Switzerland
Balm cave castle / Claudio Minonzio, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Cave castles

  • Balm cave castle - Solothurn. Impressive remnants of ruined castle at the entrance in cave, 20 m above the valley. Castle could be built around the 11th century.
  • Fracstein cave castle - Graubünden. Remnants of a massive castle at the entrance of cave, built before the 13th century. Walls contain interesting drawings.
  • Kropfenstein Castle - Graubünden. Remnants of cave castle, most likely built in the 13th century. Comparatively well preserved, with three floors high wall.
  • Marmels Castle - Graubünden. Castle with massive keep at the entrance in the cave. Castle contains also chapel. Built around 1100 and abandoned only in the early 17th century.

Castles

Chillon Castle, Switzerland
Chillon Castle / Alan Rouiller, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Aigle castle - Vaud. Impressive, well preserved castle, rebuilt over an older castle in the 13th century.
  • Castles of Bellinzona - Ticino. Group of three mountaintop castles around the centre of Bellinzona town - Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro. There are also walls connecting the castles and surrounding the city. First forts here were built in Roman times, in the 1st century AD in Castelgrande which now is the most impressive fortification of the three.
  • Chillon Castle - Vaud. One of the most beautiful castles anywhere, located on an island on Lake Geneva. Constructed in in 10th - 13th centuries.
  • Gruyères Castle - Fribourg. Famous and impressive castle, built in 1270 - 1282. Castle houses museum with valuable artwork, fine gardens.
  • Prangins Castle - Vaud. Well preserved castle with gardens, home to Swiss National Museum. Current castle was built in 1732, it has been managed by Voltaire and also owned by brother of Napoleon.
  • Tarasp Castle - Graubünden. Spectacular mountaintop castle, its construction started in 1040.
Basel Minster, Switzerland
Basel Minster / Taxiarchos228, Wikimedia Commons, Copyleft

Churches

  • Basel Minster - Basel. Large, ornate church, built from red sandstone in Romanesque - Gothic styles between 1019 and 1500. The building is ornate, with numerous art vallues.
  • Bern Minster - Bern. Ornate Gothic cathedral, the tallest church building in Switzerland (100.6 m). Constructed in 1421 - 1575, finally completed in 1893. Main portal is adorned with some of the best examples of Gothic style sculptures.
  • Engelberg Abbey Church - Obwalden. This church forms part of the impressive Engelberg Abbey and is built in Baroqie style, with beautiful interior.
  • Luzerne Jesuit Church - Lucerne. First large Baroque church in this part of Europe, built in 1667 - 1673 and later.
Interior of Einsiedeln Abbey church, Switzerland
Interior of Einsiedeln Abbey church / Ashley Van Haeften, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Monasteries

  • Abbey of Saint Gall - St.Gallen. Very old monastery, started in 719 AD (or even 613 AD), it was very influential. Contains one of the richest medieval libraries in the world - Abbey library of Saint Gall, with beautiful interior in Rococo style. Another beautiful structure is St. Gall Cathedral (1681 - 1766) - enormous church in Baroque style, with wonderful interior.
  • Einsiedeln Abbey - Schwyz. Enormous Benedictine monastery with history starting in the late 9th century, pilgrimage site. Contains important Baroque and Rococo artworks.
  • Romainmôtier Priory - Vaud. Old monastery with structures built in Romanesque style, one of the best examples of Cluniac Romanesque architecture. Founded around 450 AD, present church was built at the end of the 10th century.
  • St. John Abbey in Müstair - Graubünden. Well preserved early medieval monastery with great examples of Carolingian art. This abbey was founded circa 780 AD, frescoes were painted around 800 AD.
  • St. Maurice's Abbey - Valais. Enormous monastery encompassing whole town. Started to develop around 515 AD.
Kapellbrücke, Switzerland
Kapellbrücke / Esteban Chiner, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Bridges

  • Brusio spiral viaduct - Graubünden. Unusual railway viaduct which allows the railway line to climb upwards with a spiral. 110 m long viaduct has a slope of 7%, built in 1908.
  • Kapellbrücke - Luzern. 170 m long covered bridge, made from wood. Oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and oldest existing truss bridge in the world. Most of bridge was lost during a fire in 1993 but in some part the interior paintings from the 17th century have been preserved.
  • Landwasser Viaduct - Graubünden. Emblematic structure - railway viaduct with six arches. Constructed in 1901 - 1902, 65 m high and 136 m long.
  • Langwieser Viaduct - Graubünden. Impressive viaduct - amazing achievement of structural engineering for its time, built in 1912 - 1914. First large railway bridge from concrete, the longest railway bridge in the world at its build time, 284 m long.
  • Spreuer Bridge - Luzern. Old wooden bridge, originally built in 1408, rebuilt after 1566. 81 m long bridge contains 45 paintings of Danse Macabre and other motives.
Lavaux wineyards, Switzerland
Lavaux wineyards / Yann Gar, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Caux Palace Hotel - Vaud. Enormous and luxurious hotel building in Ecclectix style, built in 1902.
  • CERN Large Hadron Collider – Geneva and France, Rhône-Alpes. World’s largest particle collider, located in specially made tunnel – ring, which is 27 km in circumference. Scientific experiments here are expected to bring very important discoveries regarding the basic rules of Universe. Built in 1983 – 1988, initally used for electron-positron collider. Contains two parallel beam pipes made in extremely high precision – these pipes intersect in two places, where the collision takes place and is documented.
  • Jet d'Eau - Geneva. One of the tallest fountains in the world, located in Lake Geneva. Although it is older, in its present height - some 140 m - it works since the 1951.
  • Lavaux wineyards - Vaud. Old wineyards along Lake Geneva, total area - around 830 years. These winefields have been developed since the 11th century.
  • Lion Monument - Luzern. Beautiful monument of wounded, dying lion, carved in live cliff above lake. It is made in 1820 - 1821 by Bertel Thorvaldsen and commemorates Swiss guards who were killed while protecting Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution.
  • Zytglogge - Bern. Medieval structure - guard tower which served also as prison. Initially - part of city fortifications. Tower has beautiful astronomical clock. Built around 1218 - 1220. One of the symbols of the city.

List of described attractions by counties

Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons.

Aargau
Appenzell Ausserrhoden
Appenzell Innerrhoden
Basel-Landschaft
Basel-Stadt
Bern
Fribourg
Geneva
Glarus
Graubünden
Jura
Luzern
Neuchâtel
Nidwalden
Obwalden
Schaffhausen
ArrowRhine FallsWaterfalls
Schwyz
Solothurn
St.Gallen
Thurgau
Ticino
Uri
Valais
Vaud
Zug
Zürich

Map of Switzerland

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