What is the Swiss looking town in the US?
The top 7 cities and towns in Switzerland and how to get there
In the very heart of Europe, landlocked country Switzerland boasts Alpine towns, lakeside resorts, Swiss heritage sites, and bustling cities, as well as many interesting things to do and places to visit! Discover the major towns and cities in Switzerland to visit and how to get there.
Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in the European Union. Major Swiss cities always seem to find a special spot on travel bucket lists thanks to their pristine settings, charming old towns, nearby ski resorts, hiking trails, beautiful lakes, outdoor adventures, surrounding mountains, and popular attractions. In this article, you’ll discover the most beautiful small towns and best cities in Switzerland that you must explore, and how to get there.
Need for more information about Switzerland, such as visas, currency, and best time to travel? You can find more practical information and inspiration by checking out our ultimate guide to Switzerland.
Guide to the best cities in Switzerland
You can find natural beauty, culture and history everywhere you look in Switzerland, from gorgeous lakes to famous mountains to medieval cities. Our list of the 7 best Swiss towns to visit was hard to narrow down, but here are our choices.
Zürich is Switzerland’s financial capital, main university town, and largest city, with a charming old town (called Altstadt in German). It is the perfect place to get your bearings and start your trip in Switzerland, as it’s easy to fly to from other countries.
Some of Zürich’s highlights include admiring everyday life and interesting museums such as the Swiss National Museum, Grossmünster cathedral in the city centre and trying traditional Swiss cuisine like cheese fondue! You’re sure to be treated to a wonderland with fun Christmas markets if you visit during the winter.
How to get there: This well-connected large city has its own international airport. As the largest in Switzerland, Zurich airport is the most convenient way to reach the city from other countries or continents. It also boasts a large train station to take you to your next destination on your Switzerland itinerary.
In the shadows of a snow-capped mountain, Lucerne (also known as Luzern) is a picturesque city straight out of a storybook. Once there, you will find plenty of cobbled streets, traditional Swiss architecture, and more photo opportunities than you can count.
Take a stroll through the old town center, take in the views of Lake Lucerne and the snow capped mountains, and a walk across Chapel bridge, the iconic wooden footbridge in the centre of Lucerne. You can explore Lucerne in a short visit, before you move to your next stop.
How to get there: You can travel from Zürich to Lucerne by train without having to change at any stations. There are 40 direct trains from Zürich to Lucerne each day! It’s also possible to visit the beautiful city of Lucerne on a day trip from Zurich. Lucerne is also the place where the famous GoldenPass Line train ride starts.
Bern is the capital city of Switzerland. In comparison to other European capital cities, this one is unique. The city of Bern has endured time and remains unchanged since it was laid out in the 12th century. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old City of Bern is a must-see.
Make sure you don't miss the Zytglogge, an astronomical clock dating back to the 15th century. This clock tower features a mechanical timepiece that runs every hour and is one of the city's most famous landmarks.
How to get there: The cities of Zurich, Basel, Interlaken, and Lucerne, are only a direct, one-hour train ride away from the Swiss capital. This well-connected city is therefore one of the easiest to get to! Bern also has an airport, if you wish to fly to it directly.
Despite not being a city by your usual definition, the Swiss town of Interlaken should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Switzerland, especially during the ski season. With the Bernese Alps as its backdrop, Interlaken is gorgeous. It is located in the canton of Bern, close to the capital city.
There is plenty to explore and do in Interlaken if you are looking for incredible outdoor adventures. If you are looking for a more relaxing activity, embark on a passenger ship cruise on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz. Both rides offer breathtaking views that will make you wish you could stay forever in this stunning small town.
If you have extra time, plan a full day to enjoy the Jungfrau region and Grindelwald, one of the most popular places to visit in Switzerland and the home of the highest train station in Europe.
How to get there: Interlaken is just under an hour away by train from Bern. You can also take a bus from other parts of the country. If you have a GoldenPass Line ticket, the train will stop in Interlaken as well.
Among the most charming cities in Switzerland to visit is Zermatt. On the border with Italy, this charming city can be found in Southwest Switzerland. A visit to this beautiful city is a must when you are in this wonderful country.
There is no better place to start a hiking adventure than here. Throughout the hikes, you will be captivated by one of the most popular attractions in Switzerland, the grand Matterhorn, the shape of which has inspired the Toblerone chocolate bar! It is also a great destination for skiing and winter sports.
How to get there: Zermatt is car-free, so it is only accessible by train on the Matterhorn Gotthard railway via the villages of Visp or Brig from major cities in Switzerland.
Montreux and Geneva
Technically two cities, Montreux and Geneva both lie on the banks of Lake Geneva, with the rolling hills and mountains as a backdrop. The main spots in Montreux are the famous Château de Chillon, a medieval waterside castle and the Lavaux vineyard terraces to taste local wines, which are only a stop away. Get off at Cully and follow the signposted path through the vineyards to fully appreciate the views of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Geneva is another stunning city home to the United Nations headquarters and the scientific highlight CERN. Great for those interested in politics and science.
How to get there: Geneva is another international city well-connected to many countries and cities in Europe and around the world. Montreux is also on the GoldenPass line, and only a short train ride from Geneva.
Lausanne is another picturesque small city located on Lake Geneva. It faces the French town of Évian-Les-Bains and lies on the southern slopes of the Swiss plateau. With an elevation of about 500 meters, Lausanne showcases amazing views of the lake and the Swiss Alps.
The International Olympic Committee is headquartered in Lausanne, but it offers more than that. This town dates back to the Middle Ages and is surrounded by deep gorges, making for a dramatic landscape.
How to get there: Direct trains between Geneva Airport and Lausanne take about 45 minutes and normally run 4 times per hour.
Decided which cities and towns you want to visit in Switzerland? Find out all you need to know before you visit the country ultimate guide to Switzerland or check if you need a visa using our visa checker for Switzerland.
What is the Swiss looking town in the US?
When I was in the US last summer, I couldn’t help but notice how many Swiss references there were all around me. Now maybe my Swiss antennae are particularly sensitive, but I’m sure there were more Swiss things than say, Belgian or Portuguese. Of course some were to be expected, such as the endless rows of Swiss watches on sale in Las Vegas or ‘Swiss cheese’ in many a sandwich, but many others were complete surprises: a painting of the Swiss Alps in an Alcatraz cell, San Francisco being twinned with Zurich, the lubricant called Swiss Navy, a picture of Bern’s Zytglogge in the video presentation at Hearst Castle, a Swiss seafood restaurant. Most interesting of all was the town in Utah founded by Swiss Mormons.
I’d never heard of Santa Clara, a small place in SW Utah near St George. I guess few people have. It was settled in 1854 by fifteen Swiss Mormon families who were sent there from Salt Lake City by Brigham Young, even though most of them had just arrived in Utah after months of travelling from Switzerland. Now home to about 4,600 people it doesn’t look particularly Swiss at first – no chalets, no cows, no hills. But then you notice the Swiss flag alongside those of the USA and Utah outside City Hall, and the very Swiss names on the historical plaques along the main street. All those immigrants from Thurgau, Glarus and Zurich: Graf, Staheli, Gubler, Frei and Reber. It was only a shame that we were there on Independence Day, so everything was closed. I would’ve loved to have had a peek in the city archives.
Santa Clara wasn’t the only American town founded by Swiss immigrants; there are many Genevas, Zurichs, and Lucernes dotted all over the States. More famous is New Bern, once the state capital of North Carolina, founded in 1710 by Christoph von Graffenried from Worb near the old (original) Bern. It even has the Bernese bear on its coat of arms, though with one important difference: the original is obviously male, while the New Bern version is sexless. Perhaps a bigger claim to fame for New Bern is as the birthplace of Pepsi Cola.
Then there’s New Glarus, founded in 1854 out in the wilds of Wisconsin by immigrants from, you guessed it, Glarus. It’s about half the size of the original but home to almost as many Swiss festivals as well as the Swiss Center of North America. With over 75,000 Swiss passport-holders in the US and 1.3 million people of Swiss descent living there, I guess it’s worth having a Center just for them. One day I might have to pop over and have a look. Not exactly a day trip from Bern though, the old or the New one.
After discovering that Sacramento was once called New Helvetia, thanks to its founder John Sutter, and that the first Secretary of the Treasury was Albert Gallatin, from Geneva, I began to realise that the Swiss influence in America is not insignificant. But compared to the endless films, books and stories about Irish-, Italian-, Polish- or even German-Americans, the Swiss-Americans never get a look in, despite almost 200,000 of them arriving between 1850 and 1910. Why is it then that Swiss-Americans are almost invisible? The answer is obvious. The Swiss are as modest in the new world as in the old. Self-promotion and being larger than life don’t sit so well with the Swiss, wherever they are. No wonder there is no Las Vegas casino modelled on a giant Swiss chalet with yodelling croupiers and fondue buffets. Imagine that!
These American Small Towns Feel Just Like Europe Gallery
Travelling to Europe isn’t for everyone. Maybe you’re afraid of flying over the ocean, maybe travelling overseas is cost prohibitive to you, or maybe you’re just perfectly happy to explore all that the good ol’ U S of A has to offer. Luckily, for those who want a taste of Europe but aren’t able to make that trek, there are plenty of charming American towns that have distinctively European vibes.
If you want to eat some amazing Greek food and sit by the water, there’s no need to go to Mykonos, just head on down to Tarpon Springs, Florida. Why spend buckets of cash to go to Germany when you can have authentic Bavarian experiences in Frankenmuth, Michigan, or Fredericksburg, Texas. Whether you’re looking for a city inspired by France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, or Spain, there’s a town in America that has that distinctive charming feeling and look.
So don’t worry about renewing that passport or prepping for a 10-hour flight. Simply pack your bags and get ready to explore these 15 small American towns feel just like Europe.
Napa Valley is well known for its vineyards and scenic towns, but you haven’t seen the most rustic town until you’ve seen Calistoga. Recalling the Old World wine regions, this charming locale with a population of just over 5,000 has a distinctive European vibe. Look no further than the Castello di Amorosa, an authentically-styled thirteenth-century Tuscan castle winery to see what we mean. If you haven’t heard of Calistoga yet, you will soon. Amy Poehler is heading a new Netflix movie Wine Country, which is set to take place in this small Napa Valley town.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston may feel distinctively Southern with its fried chicken joints and strong Southern accents, but when you look a little harder, there’s something pretty European about this enamoring town. Maybe it’s the cobblestone streets. Maybe it’s the large number of churches. Or heck, maybe it’s because this whole town is named after King Charles of England. No matter what it is, this town is easy to fall in love with.
Still known today as «Michigan’s Little Bavaria,» Frankenmuth was established as a Bavarian mission colony for Lutherans back in 1845. The town has maintained that particular German feel for over 170 years with quaint architecture and some fine home cooking and fried chicken at Zehnder’s. And if you love the idea of Bavaria at Christmastime, you’re in luck! Frankenmuth is home to Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store, and it feels like it’s the holidays all year long there.
Known for having «German heritage with Texan hospitality,» Fredericksburg, Texas, feels exactly like Germany. Beyond the architecture and plentiful beerhalls (such as Altdorf Biergarten and Auslander Restaurant), you’ll also hear German expressions here. Indeed, this town has its own Germanic dialect, fittingly called Texas German. A skunk, for instance, is a «stinkkatze,» a blend of English and German.
Want a surefire way to attract more tourists to your town? Turn it in to a little alpine village. That’s what small business owners did in Helen, Georgia, in the 1960s, and it paid off. Just 90 miles northeast of Atlanta, this town of 500 is the perfect weekend getaway for those in the Peach State. With the background setting of the Blue Ridge Mountains, every business in this town has a small German town feel, even the local Wendy’s.
Why go all the way to the Netherlands when you can visit Holland, Michigan? Founded by Dutch settlers in the 1840s, this town is home to the DeZwaan Windmill, the only authentic working Dutch windmill in the country. Every May, Holland is home to the Tulip Time Festival, making this picturesque village all the more gorgeous.
With the Cascade Mountains as its backdrop, Leavenworth, Washington, is a cozy German-inspired wonderland that feels much farther away from Seattle than two hours. The businesses in this charming town are modeled after a small Bavarian village, and the restaurants such as München Haus serve hearty German fare. Leavenworth becomes a must-visit destination during the holidays. Its annual Christmas Lighting Festival makes this one of the world’s best places to celebrate Christmas.
Known as «Little Sweden USA,» this town has had its culture preserved by the descendants of the Swedes who founded this town in 1867. The streets are lined with Swedish art, such as larger-than-life Dala horses painted in bright shades of red, green, and white. Every other year, Lindsborg holds the Svensk Hyllningsfest, a festival where locals celebrate the Swedish pioneers who founded the town by dressing in traditional Swedish clothing, eating ethnic foods, playing Swedish music, and enjoying other themed entertainment.
Named after Montpellier, France, the capital of Vermont maintains a subtle French feel. The best way to describe this small city is quaint. It’s full of charming boutiques, quirky cafes, and rolling green hills. It’s the definition of picturesque and looks just like you’re in the French countryside. While in town, be sure to stop by locally-sourced restaurants such as Kismet and The Skinny Pancake.
New Glarus, Wisconsin
The Swiss know how to do two things very, very well: chocolate and cheese. That carries over to this small Wisconsin town, which takes its name from the canton of Glarus in Switzerland. This town really embraces its roots, both by maintaining a charming aesthetic and by being the home of the Swiss Center of America and Swiss Historical Village and Museum. While you’re in town, be sure to stop by New Glarus Brewing Company, one of the 50 best breweries in America.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans was founded by the French and later ruled by the Spanish, so this city is the perfect blend of those two cultures. To this day, architecture from the Spanish era still stands, but it’s mixed with French influences such as the famous brightly-colored buildings and wrought-iron balconies. NOLA is definitely its own unique place with a myriad of influences, but the European vibe is still strong.
If you travel just 35 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, you’ll be in Denmark. OK, not really, but you’ll be in Solvang, California, which is just as good. This town has such a strong Danish influence from its thatched roofs to its horse-drawn carriage that it could fool anyone. Except for the weather. It’s almost always warm and sunny there, hence the town’s name, which translates to «sunny fields» in Danish.
St. Augustine, Florida
«America’s oldest city» was founded by the Spanish in 1565, and for over 450 years it has maintained that influence, making it as close as you can get to Spain without heading over to Europe. With cobblestone streets, perfectly-manicured gardens, and plenty of Spanish architecture, this city is definitely the prettiest town in its state.
Tarpon Springs, Florida
St. Augustine isn’t the only Florida city with a heavy European feel. Tarpon Springs is the spitting image of a Greek island. Greek immigrants settled in this coastal town in the early 1900s, and to this day Tarpon Springs still has the highest concentration of Greek-Americans in the U.S. The Greek influence here is not only in the look and feel of this town but also in its cuisine. There’s no shortage of amazing offerings in the area, including Hellas Restaurant, Mykonos, and Mr. Souvlaki.
Vail, Colorado, is heavily inspired by the Swiss town Zermatt, so it only makes sense this ski resort town also sits at the base of a mountain. With chalets designed in the style of Swiss architecture and woodwork, this town is the definition of quaint and charming. Even if you’re not into skiing, Vail is full of amazing places to eat and things to see, making it a great weekend getaway.
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