From charming to luxurious, from rustic to high-tech, Switzerland lodging options are as splendid and varied as the country itself.
You want traditional? Spend the night in a room where watchmakers have worked for centuries, or bunk with a farm family who move to the high Alps with their cows each summer as their ancestors have always done.
You want adventure? Hike along the glaciers at the base of the Matterhorn to remote huts with limited services. You want luxury? Check into the five-star accommodations where the world’s rich and famous spend their holidays.
Below is a sample of where to stay in Switzerland.
Switzerland is a respite for many of the world’s celebrities because the locals and the paparazzi keep their distance. And because this is an international banking destination, luxury accommodations are in abundant supply.
For 170 years, Baur au Lac in Zurich has welcomed guests to its five-star setting on the lake. This is where Alfred Nobel received the idea of awarding prizes for outstanding achievements and composer Richard Wagner debuted part of an opera. The Pavillon Restaurant, known for its French cuisine, has a Michelin star.
The Gstaad Palace Hotel in Gstaad is equally historic and luxurious, once a favorite of actress Sophia Loren. With multiple restaurants, an elegant spa and access to ski lifts, it is a seasonal resort open in summer and winter. In addition to guest suites in palace towers, the Gstaad Palace grounds include the Walig Hut, a 200-year-old alpine hut once used by farm families caring for their cattle in summer months. It is rustic and historic, and just a few steps away from modern luxury.
Luxury Hotel Resources:
Switzerland is a country where most travelers have to watch their budgets a bit, but that doesn’t require you to sleep on the train or in a youth hostel.
Aigle is a village in the heart of Swiss wine country, a short train ride from Lausanne. There you’ll find Hotel du Nord, a recently renovated three-star property with 24 guestrooms and an intimate little lounge for sampling the local Chablais wines.
The Hotel Weisshorn, named for one of the significant peaks near the famous Matterhorn, is right in the center of Zermatt. The rooms are clean, the bathrooms efficient and a good-sized continental breakfast is included in the price. Sure, you’ll have to carry your luggage up at least one flight of stairs, but that burns the calories from your last cheese fondue.
Budget Hotel Resources:
Hut walks, or hut-to-hut hiking, are a wonderful way to explore the ruggedness of the Swiss Alps but still sleep in the comfort of a bed, have a flush toilet and eat a meal. A system of huts (some as big as barns) offers an adventurous experience — along with a roof over your head — along some of the more famous trails and hiking regions.
The Berner Oberland region is ground zero for many of Switzerland’s best hiking trails. A good trail map will highlight these huts that seem to be situated in just the right increments for a good day’s hike, some tucked away in cozy settings, others literally clinging to mountain peaks. Reservations are highly recommended, especially in the summer months.
The oldest hut operated by the Swiss Alpine Club is l’A Neuve Hut on Switzerland’s southern border with Italy near the village of La Fouly. Actually, it’s about a three-hour hike up the mountains from La Fouly, but the homemade bread, the tomato fondue and the handmade quilts to snuggle under are worth the hike.
The Hornli Hut, at 10,000 feet in the Pennine Alps, provides the best up-close view of the Matterhorn. It sleeps about 140 people on a busy night and can be reached in about three hours from the Riffelhorn stop on the Gornergrat Bahn from Zermatt.
Alpine Hut Resources:
Historical and Spiritual Lodging
History geeks will find an exceptional choice of lodging options to feed their love of all things old. Almost every village or town of any size has a B&B, guesthouse or lodge that dates back hundreds of years, but some of the most intriguing are affiliated with the Catholic church. A night in a monastery, surrounded by centuries of peace, prayer and reflection, will surely provide one of your best nights’ sleep ever.
The Benedictine Monastery St. Johann in Mustair, on Switzerland’s eastern border with Italy, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating to the reign of Charlemagne. The convent and its chapel are home to the world’s largest series of medieval frescoes. The nine guestrooms allow married couples or individuals to participate in the daily lives of the nuns, if they wish, or simply to seek solitude and reflection in the peaceful surroundings.
Only female travelers are invited to spend the night with the Dominican Sisters of Bethany on the Klausen and St. Jacob’s pilgrimage trails near Lake Lucerne. All rooms are double, so if you are traveling alone, you may be paired with another woman. Hospitality is this order’s mission, so food and services are provided with utmost care.
Historical and Spiritual Lodging Resources:
Few images of Switzerland are more traditional and appealing than a herd of cattle wearing elaborately decorated cowbells grazing in the pristine meadows above an alpine village. These are not just tourism posters, but the actual lifestyle of hundreds of farm families who, each summer, move with their cows to the higher elevations for richer grass and, therefore, better flavored milk and cheese.
Some families open their remote alpine huts for overnight guest stays, allowing you the opportunity to take part in this centuries-old tradition for just a day or two. Milk the cows, make the cheese and sleep on a straw mat, just like the family does. One community where this is possible is Chateau d’Oex in the French-speaking region of western Switzerland, just north of Lausanne.
If you like the idea of the farm but don’t want to do all of the work, hop off the train at Visp and walk about two miles to the Gentinetta family farm. It’s a delightful place with chickens, donkeys, ponies, cats and a big beehive. You will sleep on a clean, straw-filled mattress and awake to the most wondrous of country breakfasts.
Only in Switzerland
Few products shout “Switzerland” more than a watch or timepiece crafted with Swiss precision. The watchmaking region, precisely named Watch Valley, is in the western part of the country between Geneva and Basel. Numerous hotels, vacation apartment and B&Bs located in this area allow you plenty of time to explore and shop.
Maison DuBois, a delightful bed and breakfast that was once a watchmaker’s home, is considered the oldest structure in Watch Valley. Breakfast is at the original tool table that dates to the 1700s. The inn has five rooms, some tucked away under deeply sloping rooflines. Not all have private baths, but you can’t beat the authenticity.
–written by Diana Lambdin Meyer