Picture Switzerland and the snow-capped peaks of the Alps are usually what springs to mind. Nevertheless, this idyllic land-locked country has much to offer when its glaciers start to melt and the hilly landscapes become lush with wildflowers.
Whether you want to go swimming in a crystal-clear lake, for a hike up a dramatic crag or simply relax in one of the region’s best spas, Chic Retreats is here to guide you on where to stay, what to do and where to eat when summering in Switzerland. Ski resorts will likely be out but there’s still a huge range of glorious boutique hotels and contemporary hotel options to suit all needs and budgets.
Places to visit when spending the Summer in Switzerland
Like many destinations, a change of season brings out a whole host of new attractions and opportunities in Switzerland. Outdoor pursuits like hiking, hot air ballooning, tobogganing, mountain biking and climbing are ideal for those hoping for fresh air and an adrenaline rush, while days swimming in lakes and indulging in alfresco dining are perfect for a more relaxing retreat.
Authentically Swiss Gstaad is nestled in between the alps with hiking routes open year-round. Known as a winter haunt for celebrities and royalties looking for great skiing and après ski this winter wonderland transforms into a playground for the active and is a great choice if you’re looking for something a little different for the family over the summer.
Our favourite luxury hotel in Gstaad is Le Grand Bellevue where, during the summer months, you can play a game of tennis on the Swiss Open court, take a chauffeur-driven tour in a vintage Bentley, hike the slopes or book in a hot-air-ballooning flight for a drone’s view of the town. When you’re out and about you may spot the local animal the Saanen goat, they’re cute little white goats scattered across the slopes and they’re very friendly so stop and give them a pat!
If you’re in Gstaad for a few days (why wouldn’t you be?) and enjoy a good hike bring your winter coat and hiking boots and head up Glacier 3000. Take the cable car up to more than 3000m above sea level and once there visit the Peak Walk, a bridge suspended between two mountain peaks, an unmissable experience.
Kids are looked after in the dedicated playroom and there are even family hours in the pool. So while they’re having fun in the Kids Club why not head to Le Grand Spa for a bit of pampering.
No need to go far for some great food as Le Grand Bellevue has plenty of fantastic restaurants to choose from (all with high chairs and kids menus).
Switzerland is home to thousands of lakes but Lugano is one of its biggest and best. It’s found in the country’s Ticino region that’s near the Italian border and sandwiched between two other great stretches of water – Lake Maggiore and Lake Como.
The city of Lugano overlooks the lake and has a charming mix of traditional Swiss and Mediterranean culture. There’s plenty of wonderful architecture to admire, including the space-age design of the Lugano Art and Culture centre, as well as artistic attractions like the Museo d’Arte della Svizzera Italiana.
Summer on Lake Lugano can mean spending your days strolling around beautiful Belvedere Gardens in Lugano, marvelling at the Swiss miniature model village at Melide, and taking to the water on a boat or kayak. Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè are also wonderful locations for a hike with spectacular views and lots of crisp Alpine air.
Where to stay in Lake Lugano:
If you like the sound of staying on the shores of Lake Lugano, Villa Principe Leopoldo is an excellent luxury hotel option. Its five-star facilities include 37 sumptuously decorated suites – many with terraces overlooking the lake and the hotel’s manicured gardens — and an outdoor pool that’s a tranquil (and refreshing) oasis during the hot summer months.
Another boutique hotel possibility is Kurhaus Cademario, a luxury spa hotel with an elegant façade and a huge outdoor pool and hot tub overlooking the lake. The suites at Kurhaus Cademario are sophisticated and feature high ceilings and generous windows with beautiful rural views. One of the hotel’s best features has to be its huge spa which offers myriad of indulgent treatments and facilities, including a Hamman and Turkish steam bath as well as an indoor massage pool.
For a different and rather modern boutique hotel experience then try the award-winning boutique hotel THE VIEW Lugano which sits high on the hill of Paradiso with majestic views across the Lake of Lugano. Surrounded by stunning naval teak a stay here gives you the feeling of being on a luxury yacht. A design first with contemporary suites and modern spa, THE VIEW Lugano is the best small luxury hotel in the city.
Where to eat in Lake Lugano:
For a Mediterranean-inspired meal with magnificent views, book a table at Kurhaus Cademario’s smart restaurant that offers up creative takes on traditional dishes. Villa Principe Leopoldo also has an exquisite restaurant that largely serves homemade Italian fare. During the summer months, asking for a table on its huge terrace is a must.
Mauro Grandi’s on-site restaurant ‘Innocenti Evasioni’ at THE VIEW is born from their passion & creativity, and their recipe for success lies in the flavours and originality of their dishes. A must if you’re in Lugano for a few days.
In Lugano itself, savour some Swiss-Italian fusion cooking at lakeside Antica Osteria del Porto or head to La Cucina di Alice for unique but mouth-watering dishes like wild boar ragu fettuccine or amaretto, pumpkin and fontina cheese flans.
Bountiful natural trails and unique sporting adventures put the northerly region of Graubünden high on our summer bucket list. If you fancy tackling the mountains, the Engadin Valley is the place for bouldering and climbing, plus it’s pretty picturesque thanks to quaint villages adorned with ornate white-washed houses.
Graubünden is additionally home to St. Moritz, a much-loved resort town largely thought of as the birthplace of Alpine winter sports. While many of its facilities are closed during the warmer season, you can still make the most of its indoor ice skating rink and its golf courses as well as the surrounding countryside that’s crisscrossed with walking trails.
Where to stay in Graubünden:
A Chic Retreat favourite is the small but charming luxury boutique hotel Hotel Bellevue that sits high up in the Graubünden mountains. It boasts just 22 rooms with tasteful lodge-style interiors, from bespoke stag patterned wallpaper to handmade wooden furnishings. Some even have stunning views of the surrounding peaks, plus there are spacious family rooms available if you’re travelling with kids in tow.
Where to eat in Graubünden:
The region’s rural location makes restaurants a little sparse, however, there are a few eateries worth trying. Grand Hotel Bellevue’s own restaurant features a seasonal menu of hearty Swiss classics typically created using locally sourced ingredients. Nearby Jenisberger Gässälibeiz is the perfect spot for lunch halfway through a hike thanks to its rustic, cosy interiors and tasty homemade cakes.
Switzerland’s largest city and a hub of finance and contemporary culture, Zürich is a great spot for a summer vacation. Spend some time wandering around the old town, ducking into sights like the 12th-century Grossmünster cathedral.
Not just a city of history, Zürich also has a chic, modern side to it thanks to modern art galleries like Kunsthaus and Viadukt, a stretch of hip shops, bars and cafés housed in the arches of an old railway line.
Zürich’s position on the shores of Lake Zürich also makes it a great jumping off point for outdoor pursuits. Opt for a leisurely boat trip or get your heart racing with a walk up Uetilberg, a neighbouring mountain with an observation tower at its peak.
Where to eat in Zürich:
As one of Switzerland’s largest and most cosmopolitan cities, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to cuisine. Fine dining options come in the form of Michelin-starred eateries like Ecco and Pavillon, while more casual places such as Zeughauskeller — housed in a 15th-century armoury — serve up more traditional dishes.
Zermatt is in southern Switzerland’s Valais canton famous for skiing, climbing and hiking. Zermatt lies at the foot of the highest mountains in the entire Alpine mountain range below Matterhorn peak a magnificent mountain. Its main street, Bahnhofstrasse is lined with boutique shops, hotels and restaurants. There are public outdoor rinks for ice-skating and curling. The 5-Seenweg (Five Lakes Walk) is in a hiking class of its own with superb views of the mountain lakes and a trail full of variety.
Where to stay in Zermatt:
Found in the very heart of Zermatt and opposite the main train station, Hotel Schweizerhof is a charming accommodation option recently reopened after a full renovation. It combines contemporary amenities and traditional luxury, with its range of different rooms and suites all boasting elegant floor-to-ceiling windows and comfortable furnishings.
Relax in your room with its state-of-the-art entertainment system or head downstairs to one of the hotel’s two fantastic restaurants or the sleek Schweizerhof bar.