21 top tips for a great weekend trip in Switzerland

The list of ideas at the beginning of the year has a long tradition at TRAVELITA. After many years of putting together a colorful mix of international destinations as well as destinations at home and near abroad, last year’s edition focused on city break destinations that can be reached by train. Unfortunately, 2020 was anything but the year of carefree city trips. Postponed is not cancelled and therefore I have updated and expanded the list for 2021. But that’s not all – for this year’s blog kick-off I have set the focus on Switzerland and present you in this post 21 ideas for great and diverse short trips in Switzerland. With tips for every season, different budgets and for the entire spectrum of interests from outdoor fans to connoisseurs.

With this list, you’ll be ready to go on a casual weekend trip or two, even with a limited travel radius. With this in mind – here’s to a healthy 2021 with many small moments of happiness!

Top weekend trips in Switzerland: ideas for winter

#1 Winter hideaway at Sapün – short trip to the mountains

The deceleration begins with a stay at the Heimeli as soon as you arrive. The 300-year-old Walserhaus is located a good hour’s walk from Langwies in the Sapün high valley not far from Arosa. From the village centre of Langwies, a marked and pathed winter hiking trail leads to Sapün. On request (and for an additional charge), the Heimeli crew will also chauffeur you by snowmobile into the seclusion at over 1,800 metres above sea level. But the walk through the wonderful fresh winter air is good for you. And when you arrive at the Heimeli, you look forward all the more to the pleasantly warm parlour. It’s “homely” up here – indeed! The standard of the double rooms is simple (shared toilet and shower), but everything is furnished with attention to detail. If there is a desire for even more privacy, since December 2020 it has now also been possible to rent a mountain hut in winter.

After a fine dinner with Graubünden specialities (tip: try the Chüpfenplättli) and a quiet night, the next morning you can either go back down to the valley by toboggan (toboggan rental free of charge at the Heimeli) or use the Heimeli as a starting point for a snowshoe tour towards the Strela Pass.

#2 Winter fun for everyone – Engelberg

Engelberg not only scores with the “Big Five” for freeriders, but is also able to convince with a wide range of offers away from alpine skiing. winter hiking trails, snowshoe trails, cross-country ski trails and toboggan runs; the options are varied and distributed around the Central Swiss winter sports resort in such a way that you don’t get in each other’s way. How about a beginner’s snowshoe tour on the Gerschnialp? And the next day, you can gain your first experience on a marked trail in alpine terrain on the Fürenalp. In between, you can relax high above the rooftops of the village centre of Engelberg in the stylish rooftop spa of the newly opened Kempinski Palace. How does that sound?

Schneeschuhwandern in Engelberg

#3 Soak up the sun in the Val d’Anniviers

A sun terrace at almost 2,000 metres above sea level – Chandolin in the Val d’Anniviers is one of the highest villages in Europe and at the same time has an above-average number of sunny days. The chalet-style Chandolin Boutique Hotel offers the perfect base for a few winter mountain days with a view. There is a wide range of winter hiking trails around Chandolin.

A particularly scenic route leads from Tignousa (above St-Luc) past the edge of the ski area through a high alpine backdrop to the Hotel Weisshorn. Only the blueberry cake of the Hotel Weisshorn, which was praised in many places, could not convince me during our visit. What should not be missed on a weekend in the Val d’Anniviers is a detour to the picture-book village of Grimentz. There’s even a winter “pram hike” through the village centre. Not far from Grimentz (located directly on the snowshoe trail no. 8 Grimentz – Les Giettes) there is an accommodation in an old, converted attic that I wrote down for my bucket list 2021: the B&B L’Ecole de Pinsec

#4 Rest and relaxation on Bettmeralp

For me, the car-free Bettmeralp is the picture-book winter village par excellence. Get out of the chalet and you’re already on the ski slope, the winter hiking trail or the snowshoe trail. The Hotel Waldhaus Bettmeralp is suitable as a base. This is conveniently located right next to the mountain station of the Betten – Bettmeralp gondola lift and has beautiful solid wood rooms on offer. In 2020, the Aletsch Arena received the award as “Best Ski Resort” in the category of rest and relaxation, and accordingly there are 72 kilometres of beautiful winter hiking trails up here and snowshoe trails with panoramic views of the mighty Aletsch Glacier on top.

A vantage point that you should not miss on your weekend trip is the Moosfluh. A great winter hiking trail starts here, which leads to Riederfurka (Riederalp) and with a guide you can explore the magical Aletsch Forest with snowshoes from here. In good snow conditions, the 11-kilometre-long toboggan run from Fiescheralp down to Lax is also worthwhile – thanks to good public transport connections, you can also quickly get back to sunny Bettmeralp.

Bettmeralp im Winter

#5 Foresight in the Engadine – Holidays in Switzerland

In many winter sports resorts, hours of sunshine are rare until well into January. Not so in the Engadine. Even on the shortest days of the year, the Graubünden high valley offers an above-average number of hours of sunshine. In addition, there is the healthy mountain air and the vastness. As soon as all the lakes of the Upper Engadine lake plateau are frozen, you can cover more than 15 kilometres in one go on cross-country skis or on foot on the St. Moritz – Maloja – Lake Trail. And you don’t need a single train journey.

If you prefer activities away from the ski slopes, you are in good hands in Sils, among other places. From the legendary Waldhaus Sils to the secluded Hotel Fex to the newly “refurbished” Parkhotel Margna*, I can recommend three accommodations that we have tried and tested for different requirements and budgets. Another plus point in the Engadine is the diverse cultural and artistic offerings. Last autumn, we scouted out some bad weather alternatives in the region and were really amazed at what is offered up here.

Top weekend getaways in Switzerland: ideas for spring

#6 Cycling fun on the Heart Route

Haven’t we all made fun of these bikes with “Motörli”? “I could get all the way up the mountain with that” or “it can’t be as fast as they are”. I’ll tell you: e-bikes are great! And if the e-bike is loaded with panniers for a multi-day tour, the support is set to “eco” (after all, the battery needs to be conserved) and the first 50 kilometers are pedaled, you realize that the body is also challenged here.

The Heart Route (Route 99) is a cycling route that has been tailored exactly to the needs and possibilities of the e-bike. I was particularly fond of the section from Laupen via Thun and Burgdorf to Willisau. When crossing the Längenberg, you catch your breath for the first time, enjoy wonderful views towards the Bernese Alps and discover the corners of the Gantrisch region that are unknown to many non-Bernese residents.

After a stopover in Thun (either in the hip haulage company* or in the newly opened boutique hotel in the magnificent Schadau Castle*), the “Höger” of the Emmental leave their mark on their calves at the latest. After a cheerful up and down, the second stage stop leads into historic walls. Last year, a new youth hostel opened in Burgdorf Castle, which no one should miss. Thanks to the e-bike, you can also enjoy the flexibility to add detours or take detours to beautiful viewpoints (such as the Chuderhüsi, where we cycle past on the way to Burgdorf).

Velotour durch Bern - Route 99 Burgdorf

#7 Urban Underdog – Weekend Trip to Biel

Biel is my top tip for all those who can’t decide between urban ambience and nature experiences. In the city of Biel, you can go on wonderful gorge hikes or take a boat trip to the idyllic St. Peter’s Island. But Biel also offers exciting architectural contrasts – from the charming alleys of the old town to Bauhaus witnesses to the futuristic new building of the Swatch headquarters – a wooden building by Japanese star architect Shigeru Ban. In addition, the magnificent Villa Lindenegg reopened its doors last year and offers a wonderfully secluded retreat in the middle of Biel.

If that doesn’t sound good enough, then you’ll be convinced after reading these 7 reasons for a trip to Biel at the latest. Warranted!

Altstadt Biel

#8 Flower paradise Thurgau – Lake Constance

A region that shows its most beautiful side in spring is Thurgau. When all the different fruit trees begin to bloom in April, the Swiss shores of Lake Constance are transformed into a paradise of flowers. We have already cycled around Lake Constance and found out that the region is great for shorter or longer bike tours. You don’t necessarily have to drive from one place to the next, but you can also explore the region’s excursion destinations from an accommodation. If you want to focus on northern Thurgau between Kreuzlingen, the Arenenberg and all the charming villages on the Obersee, you are in good hands at the wellness hotel Golfpanorama near Lipperswil.

The Bad Horn Hotel & Spa is located directly on the lake in a Thurgau exclave, surrounded by St. Gallen “territory”. Here the day starts with a refreshing swim in the (spring-like, fresh) Lake Constance. Then you hop on your bike and let yourself be guided by the Bluescht bike tour through the most beautiful orchards in the region. And if the weather is bad, the neighbouring Arbon with its variety of museums (from the Saurer Museum to the interactively designed MoMö) is sure to offer the right pastime.

#9 On the Jura High Trail over hill and dale

Thanks to its altitude of between 1,000 and 1,700 metres above sea level, the Jura is a great destination for spring and early summer hikes. While there is still snow in the Alps, the Jura is already covered with lush green pastures and colourful flowering meadows. The Jura High Trail offers 16 varied stages. A particularly beautiful section of the trail leads from Les Rochats via the panoramic Chasseron to the former watchmaking village of Sainte-Croix. From there, the route continues along old smugglers’ paths along the Swiss-French border to Vallorbe. So go ahead – shoulder your backpack and march off! Two entertaining days of hiking are guaranteed. To prepare for the tour, you can read my route description here: 2-day hike on the Jura High Trail

For fans of historic hotels, I can recommend a stopover at the Grand Hotel des Rasses*. A nostalgic hotel with a magnificent view of the Alps.

#10 Art & Culture in Basel

With 40 museums, Basel not only offers the highest density of museums in Switzerland, but has also snatched the title of “Swiss Capital of Culture”. Basel never ceases to amaze me with its cultural diversity, but also with its characteristic and contrasting urban districts. After opening their doors in 2020, Art House Basel* and Volkshaus Basel* (another local work by Herzog & de Meuron), two exciting new design and boutique hotels, it is time to pay a visit to the city on the Rhine again. We won’t get bored here – from the Kunsthaus to the Fondation Beyeler to the Vitra Design Museum, which is close to the border, there are countless exciting exhibitions and outstanding buildings to visit.

Top weekend getaways in Switzerland: ideas for the summer

#11 Swimming fun around Lake Thun

How about a summer weekend on Lake Thun? Since last June, I have a new hot accommodation tip, which really awakens the desire for a beach holiday in the beautiful Bernese Oberland. This is the Leissigen Youth Hostel, which is located in the former summer house of Ovaltine inventor Albert Wander and has completely inspired us with its secluded private beach and enchanting evening atmospheres. The standard in the Jugi is comparatively simple (shared toilet and shower), but the location is perfect to either just chill at Lake Thun, paddle along the canoe path, hike via the Lake Thun Panorama Trail to other beautiful bays or take a detour towards Interlaken and climb one or the other peak there.

#12 Summer retreat in Arosa

We spent four days in Arosa last summer and were thrilled by the variety of hiking opportunities (including what I feel is the highest density of benches) and the culinary offerings. The restaurants up here exude urban flair and thus – for me – stand out positively from the average gastro mix in Swiss mountain resorts. But not only is there good food and cheerful hiking here, Arosa has also established itself as a bike destination. With a skill centre (practice course at the valley station of the Hörnli cable car) and the almost 7-kilometre-long Hörnli Trail (an easy flow trail), Arosa has set up offers that deliberately appeal to bike beginners.

Actually, I had planned to spend a day biking and try out the Hörnli Trail during our visit – in the end, we stayed true to our hiking boots and fell in love with the wild Welschtobel. Either way, variety is guaranteed here. And after an active day in the mountains, you will not only be well bedded at the Hotel Valsana, but also sustainably. The hotel’s comprehensive sustainability concept is a prime example of the industry.

Älplisee Arosa

#13 High-altitude thrill around Champex-Lac

One of my favorite discoveries of the last year: the Relais d’Arpette near Champex-Lac in the Lower Valais. And actually, I don’t have to say too many words about this, because all my tips are already packaged in a blog post, nevertheless this place should not be missing from my list of the top Swiss weekend trips.

The Relais d’Arpette offers a wide range of sleeping options, from simple tent sites (including pitches for campers) to multi-bed rooms and comfortable double rooms, and is also a fantastic starting point for alpine mountain tours in the Great St. Bernard region.

#14 Endless bisse trails – Nendaz

Once again, a tip for a short trip to the Lower Valais. Nendaz is known as a winter sports destination and part of Switzerland’s largest ski area – 4 Vallèes. The summer season is rather neglected here in the region (at least that’s what I thought when we visited last September), but you benefit from attractive hotel offers (my tip: the Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa*), a sunny and panoramic location and hardly frequented hiking trails.

A highlight of Nendaz are the numerous bisse hiking trails. The network of hiking and walking trails along the 8 bisses around Nendaz is almost 100 kilometres long. Perfect for those who prefer leisurely hiking without major differences in altitude. At the same time, you can also quickly reach the high alpine hiking area around the 3,300-metre-high Mont Fort from Nendaz or explore idyllic moraine landscapes in the Jardin Japonais. But there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss: the view of the Rhône Valley from the viewpoint at the Nendaz transmission tower. This can be reached via a short footpath (Route de l’Antenne).

Nendaz Panorama

#15 Basecamp Andermatt

Escape the urban heat to a place that promises a touch of exoticism in the heart of Switzerland. In 2014, shortly after its opening, I was given an insight into the Chedi Andermatt* as part of a press trip. The generosity of the rooms, the wellness area as well as the symbiosis between the Far Eastern and Swiss architectural styles inspired me at the time.

Last summer I was once again a guest at the Chedi at my own expense. I was curious to see if the house would still deliver what it promises 6 years later. And yes, my quality check was consistently positive. A weekend trip to the Chedi is something for those of you who like to treat yourself to a special accommodation with all the amenities that come with it and at the same time appreciate the alpine base and the opportunities that come with it. From Andermatt you can go on great day hikes. One of my favorites is the 5-lake hike on the Gotthard Pass. We hiked another classic this summer: the source of the Rhine at Lake Toma. And then there is the Nepali Highway between the Sidelen and Albert Heim huts waiting to be explored. A white-blue-white marked mountain hiking trail of difficulty T3+, which we unfortunately had to postpone to another time due to a change in the weather. But if the alternative program is “pool time”, such capricious weather conditions are quite manageable.

Top Weekend Trips in Switzerland: Ideas for Autumn

#16 Autumn magic in Val Poschiavo

In autumn, the southernmost tip of the canton of Graubünden – the Puschlav – is particularly colourful. While in the upper part of the valley (south of the Bernina Pass) the larches make the mountain slopes shine golden, not far from the border with Italy, the bright red chestnut trees provide a splash of colour. It’s no wonder that the tour to the Lagh da Saoseo in Val da Camp is one of the most popular autumn hikes in the region. And if you’re willing to make the long journey to Poschiavo, why not add two or three more days of hiking and march along the Via Valtellina to Tirano? If you prefer a more leisurely pace, you can hike directly from Miralago to Alpe San Romerio and consciously indulge in idleness for a few days.

Lagh da Val Viola Oktober

#17 Time out on the Bürgenstock

“And is it worth the price?” my mum wanted to know when I let her know that we were treating ourselves to a wellness weekend at the luxurious Bürgenstock Resort*. Admittedly, I was ambivalent about the resort for a long time. But in the end, the “Gwunder” won and even if it’s a good chunk of money – if you add up the included services, the really phenomenal location and the extensive wellness area, my conclusion is: Yes, it is!

The Bürgenstock Resort consists of a total of four hotels, with the Hotel Bürgenstock being the “centrepiece” and also housing the exclusive (and most expensive) rooms with the “infinity view” of Lake Lucerne. From here you also have direct access to the Alpine Spa, with the architecturally impressive outdoor pool. Have a hearty breakfast, take a walk on the Felsenweg and take Europe’s highest open-air elevator up to the Hammetschwand vantage point, then relax in the wellness area and end the evening with fine Asian dishes in the Spices restaurant… 24 hours of pure pampering.

Thanks to the shuttle ship to Lucerne, which is included in the accommodation costs, the Bürgenstock is also suitable as a base for combining the wellness weekend with a stroll through the old town of Lucerne or with a detour to the neighbouring Rigi.

Ausblick Vierwaldstättersee

#18 View over the Sea of Fog – Weissenstein

Much cheaper, but with no less “inspiring” effect, is a detour to the Weissenstein. This is where we ended up last autumn during a persistent high fog phase. With its almost 1,300 metres above sea level, Solothurn’s local mountain is often able to break through the high fog line and scores with magnificent hours of sunshine high above the sea of fog. The Weissenstein is also located on the Jura High Trail and can therefore be combined with a one- or two-day hike, analogous to my spring tip. Alternatively, you can hike up to the Weissenstein from Solothurn and then simply enjoy the warm rays of sunshine on the hotel’s sun terrace and fill up on vitamin D.

The venerable Kurhaus Hotel Weissenstein* was reopened in 2019 after an extensive renovation and delighted us with simple but stylish rooms. The budget rooms are available from 81 CHF per night – an absolutely fair price-performance ratio!

Sonnenuntergang Weissenstein

#19 active days in Leysin – Les Mosses

Slowly, the rack railway winds its way through the colourful vineyards of Aigle up towards Leysin. The panorama that presents itself to you through the train window in autumn is impressive and does not have to hide behind its neighbour, the UNESCO wine terrace of Lavaux. Alternatively, you can start this weekend trip directly with a hike and hike up to Leysin along the first stage of the Tour des Alpes Vaudoises from Aigle through the vineyards. Located at 1,200 metres above sea level, the former lung health resort seems sleepy at first glance. But don’t let the first impression fool you.

The rustic Hotel Le Grand Chalet in Leysin is a great base from which to explore the Vaud Alps. And they score with a wide selection of easy to moderately difficult mountain hikes to panoramic peaks with great views. You can find a selection of particularly recommended hikes in this article: my hiking tips for the Leysin/Les Mosses region. And if you like it more challenging, you can put your athleticism to the test on challenging via ferratas.

#20 Resting place in the Maggia Valley

It takes almost five hours to travel from Zurich by public transport to Campo in the Maggia Valley. A period of time that creates distance from the hectic everyday life and that perfectly attunes you to this retreat in a remote Ticino side valley. In addition to countless lonely kilometres of hiking trails through autumnal larch forests, a place of rest with style awaits you back here.

The Locanda Fior di Campo is a place where you can live in a dignified way and eat excellently. A place for all those who appreciate hotels with a special flair and at the same time are looking for seclusion. At the latest during the hiking break on the shore of what feels like the most remote mountain lake in Switzerland (or have you ever heard of Lago Gelato?), you should once again breathe in and out consciously. And on the tour over the Passo Quadrella to the Walser village of Bosco Gurin, there are magnificent views far and deep. A weekend trip that allows you to return to your daily work routine deeply relaxed.

Vallemaggia Bosco Gurin

#21 Lugano – a destination for all seasons

With the opening of the Ceneri Base Tunnel, Lugano and Mendrisiotto have moved even closer to German-speaking Switzerland. A train journey from Zurich to Lugano takes less than two hours since the recent timetable change. If that’s not reason enough to take a weekend trip to Lake Lugano in 2021.

From Monte Brè to Monte San Salvatore and Monte San Giorgio to Monte Generoso (season from the end of March to the beginning of November), there are plenty of fantastic viewpoints waiting to be explored. Once you have admired the panorama extensively, you can get a fine ice cream in the Gelateria -9 and walk along the lakeside promenade to the Parco Ciani. Art lovers should not miss a visit to the MASI (Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana di Lugano) and the street art tours offer a new perspective on Lugano. On the way back to German-speaking Switzerland, it is worth taking a detour to the Ponte Tibetano Carasc, which can be combined with a beautiful circular hike.

And where is the best place to stay in Lugano? I was also confronted with this question during our visit last late summer and was undecided for a long time which hotel to book. One of our favourites in the region is known to be Villa Carona. This time, however, we wanted to stay as centrally as possible and with good public transport connections, which is not so easy in this car-oriented city (with the most cars per inhabitant in Europe). In the end, we chose a new member of the Swiss Historic Hotels – the Splendide Royale*. And even though the hotel rooms are a bit dusty, the hotel surprised us positively with its new spa and lounge area with a direct view of the lake and the fine dining restaurant I Due Sud (16 GaultMillau points). Alternatively, I would have loved to try the charming-looking Guesthouse Castagnola. But unfortunately that was already fully booked. Who knows, maybe one of you will have better luck.

Note: The links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. There are no disadvantages for you in terms of purchase or price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *