The tourism sector has become a key economic engine for many countries today. Low-cost flights and alternative, less expensive online accommodations, have also made it easier for tourists to travel. Major cities have benefited from these trends and tourism is now an important source of income for many cities, including those in Switzerland.
Paris, London, Zurich have all become major tourist destinations, but what about the “second tier” cities?
Switzerland has an abundance of well-kept and often unique, smaller towns that are no less interesting than the major cities Zurich, Basel, Geneva or Bern. In this blog our team takes a look at 5 hidden gems, so sit back and relax and enjoy the ride. Hopefully we can inspire some of you to visit one or the other charming small towns soon!
A Swiss town with Irish roots, St. Gallen is located on the southern side of Lake Constance (Bodensee) in Northeast Switzerland. With a population of around 75’000 – the town is built around the Abbey of St Gall which was founded in the 8th Century. This is a Baroque cathedral with the Abbey Library which houses some 170,000 documents some of which are hand-written and over a thousand years old. The entire Abbey precinct was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983.
Top 3 things to do and see in St. Gallen
- Old town walking tours.
- Discover art at the Kunstmuseum.
- The Naturmuseum covers everything related to nature. The museum relocated to the east of the city in 2016 and is now very close to the botanical garden.
And as a bonus – our insider tip: the textile museum. St Gallen was once a world-renowned textile and lace capital and its museum has over 56’000 fabric samples. Visit https://www.textilmuseum.ch/en/
For more information on St. Gallen visit: https://www.myswitzerland.com/en/destinations/stgallen/
With a population of just over 109’000, Winterthur is situated to the northeast of Zurich, near the German border. Founded around 1175, it was inherited in 1264 by the Habsburgs, who sold it to the city of Zürich in 1467.
The pedestrian zone in the charming Old Town is considered to be Switzerland’s largest. Venerable mansions in and around the Marktgasse, the City Church, the Fisher Maiden’s Fountain and the famous Town Hall Passage are all great attractions. Culture has a long tradition in Winterthur.
Top 3 things to do and see in Winterthur
- Winterthur is a veritable centre for museums of all kinds and these include the Fotomuseum Winterthur, with its photography exhibits, he Swiss Science Center Technorama, the Museum Oskar Reinhart, the Kunstmuseum with art exhibits including Picasso and Klee.
- Walking tour of the old town. to experience the largest pedestrian zone old town in Switzerland.
- Winterthur is renowned for its culinary delights and a visit to the town should include discovering a charming restaurant.
And as a bonus – our insider tip: Kyburg Castle just outside Winterthur and dating back to the 10th century.
Thun with a population of around 42’000 is located next to Lake Thun, in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland. The Thun Castle built between 1180 and 1190 and which stands above the old town, is the main attraction. Thun has a commanding alpine view and from the lake and you can take a paddle steamer cruise on Lake Thun to the resort town of Interlaken.
Top 3 things to do and see in Thun
- Thun Castle built in 1200 by the Dukes of Zährigen with a commanding medieval Great Hall.
- Sport Activities in around Thun are numerous and include paragliding, helicopter tours and mountain biking.
- Old town tour & restaurants. Thun is well-known for the quality of its restaurants and any trip to Thun should include a visit to one of the many quality restaurants.
And as a bonus – our insider tip: For an insiders guide to Thun’s old town click here.
About a 30 min drive from Bern, the historic town of Fribourg is the capital of the region of the same name in western (French part of) Switzerland. With a population of just over 47’000 and 2/3 of the town speaking French and 1/3 Swiss German, the medieval old city above the Sarine River is one of the main attractions. In addition there is a Gothic Fribourg Cathedral with art nouveau stained glass and views from its bell tower. The nearby Espace Jean Tinguely displays the 20th-century artists’ sculpture. Fribourg is home to an impressive selection of attractions and experiences, making a visit worthwhile.
Top 3 things to do and see in Fribourg
- The old town of Fribourg was founded in1157 by the Dukes of Zähringen, and is at the interface between German and French cultural influences. A city tour is an enchanting experience.
- Fribourg is well known as a gourmet lover’s paradise. There is a wide selection of very good restaurants to be found here.
- Famous Swiss cheeses such Vacherin Fribourgeois and Gruyère are from this area and any visit to Fribourg should include a trip to one of the cheese producers as a must!
And as a bonus – our insider tip: Take a ride on the funicular railway which was built in 1899
With a population of just over 32’000, the city of Neuchâtel in the French-speaking part of Switzerland is the capital of the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. The medieval town lies on the northern shore of Lake Neuchâtel under the 12th century Château de Neuchâtel. In the Jura Mountains to the west of the city, Creux du Van is an amphitheater-like canyon, with hiking trails and panoramic views.
Top 3 things to do and see in Neuchâtel
- Museum of Art and History – this is a must when visiting the town.
- The Château de Neuchâtel with the first written mention dating back to 1011!
- Walk around the charming old town, with its cobbled streets, wonderful lake views, squares with street cafes and unique boutiques.
And as a bonus our insider tip: visit Wodey Suchard one of the country’s oldest confiseries founded in 1825
So there you have it 5 enchanting, charming and interesting and not-so-well known towns to visit in Switzerland. For the best travel deals on the train click here. Enjoy!
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