Better known as a winter wonderland, Switzerland in summer is the perfect time to enjoy its stunning waterways and rivers. Join the locals and jump on a paddle board, swim up to a Badi-Bar or kick back on a yacht cruise.
Go With The Flow
When you think of Switzerland, the first thing that comes to mind is probably its picturesque mountain ranges – craggy, snow-topped peaks set against the brilliant blue sky.
But when it comes to natural wonders, the country is also blessed with numerous rivers and lakes. From the mighty Rhine, which flows from its source in the Swiss Alps, to peaceful Lake Geneva on the border with France, they not only offer spectacular scenery, but also a range of unique attractions and activities.
The towns that sit alongside these waterways are the perfect spots to relax, unwind, and enjoy a different side of this beautiful country.
Due to its ideal location on the shores of the postcard-perfect Lake Lucerne and the Reuss River, life in Lucerne largely revolves around its proximity to the water.
Travellers can wander through the lakeside farmers’ markets, enjoy a summer concert in the park by the lake, or take a boat trip across the water – passing the elegant white swans gliding on its surface.
There are plenty of options on offer; with historic paddlewheel steamers, modern motorboats and a panoramic yacht all offering lake cruises. Additionally, one of the most popular Lucerne attractions is the Chapel Bridge – straddling the Reuss River, this medieval bridge forms the centrepiece of Lucerne’s townscape.
Another great thing about Lucerne is that everything is in such an easy distance, so you can head straight from the city into nature. Take the MS Diamant down Lake Lucerne to Vitznau and soon you will be standing at the foot of the majestic Mount Rigi.
Take the fire-red train up the mountain past rustic huts and lush meadows with grazing cows. Once at the top, it takes about 20 minutes on foot to get to Alp Chäserenholz.
This farm offers not just delicious mountain cheese, but also a range of spa treatments in pristine natural surroundings.
Basel is the third-largest city in Switzerland, and the only major population centre set along the Rhine. Indeed, as one of the most important trading routes in Europe, the Rhine has moulded the history and architecture of the region – but these days it’s also a hotspot for recreation.
It’s the perfect place for a pleasant ferry trip, or a refreshing dip in the clear water. It’s said that only those who have ventured into the Rhine can truly understand the soul of the city. Sam Keller is director of Fondation Beyeler – Switzerland’s most popular art museum, which is located near Basel. Swimming in the Rhine is Sam’s favourite way to escape the stress of everyday life.
By drifting down the river on his back, he can enjoy the unique panoramic view of Basel’s gorgeous 15th century Old Town.
But of course, he’s not alone in his appreciation of the waterway. In the summer months, you’ll find practically the entire city of Basel flocking to the Rhine’s shores to let their cares melt away in the sunshine. Cool off in the river, then enjoy a refreshing beer on the bank with friends – it’s the Basel way of life.
Zurich – the largest city in Switzerland – lies at the meeting of Lake Zurich and the Limmat River. This cosmopolitan city combines creative urban life with nature in all its glory, and is abuzz with activity day and night.
There are more than 100 art galleries and several renowned museums to visit, and travellers can also wander through the streets admiring the world-renowned architecture (both old and new). But if you’re after a more relaxing afternoon, the parks and gardens around Lake Zurich are the ideal place for a picnic. And in warm weather, the lake is peppered with boats, from which travellers can enjoy some of the best views of Zurich and the nearby Alps.
The city is also famed for its bathing pool bars – known as Badi-Bars. By day, these are lakeside and riverside swimming facilities where both travellers and locals can take a dip to escape the summer heat. But at dusk, the pools are transformed into sophisticated bars and lounges directly on the water’s edge.
One popular example is Rimini Bar. Here, guests chill out on oriental cushions and indulge in cool drinks and specialties grilled on the spit.
To experience a different side of this vibrant city, why not try a paddle board tour? The city tour on the river takes you to historical spots while you balance on your board, and is perfect for anyone who likes to get off the well-trodden tourist track.
Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, French-speaking Lausanne is a charming city with incredible views over the sprawling lake and towering Alps. The attractive old town is largely car-free, and small alleyways with cafés and boutiques shape the streetscape in the medieval city centre. Naturally, the lake is also a big feature of the area, with many lakeside bars and restaurants, paddle boats and eco- cruises for travellers to experience.
As if that weren’t enough, Lausanne is the ideal destination for wine lovers – the nearby Lavaux vineyards are among the few UNESCO world-heritage vineyards in the world. Stretching along the shores of Lake Geneva, the terraced vineyards are simply stunning. Their distinctive whites make the perfect drop to enjoy with a variety of local dishes. Lausanne oenologist Tania Gfeller loves spending sunny days on the banks of the lake. Preferably with a glass of local wine – from her own ‘Selection L’ label. This label includes 27 blends of white, red and rose wines from the city’s vineyards.
For more information, visit mySwitzerland.com/cities.