Five beautiful Swiss villages located less than an hour from Zurich

Live in Zurich and want to get away but don't have too much time? These five beautiful villages are less than an hour away, making them perfect for a day trip.

The Swiss village Grüningen (ZH). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”
The Swiss village Grüningen (ZH). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”

Just a few kilometres from the financial capital of Switzerland there are little gems to be discovered in every season.

These five villages are members of the association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse” (The most beautiful Villages in Switzerland), which aims to protect and promote those villages that have a distinct architectural, landscape and historical beauty.

A pleasant journey through these lovely villages, to discover in just one day or combining them together, awaits you!

Grüningen (ZH)

In the green meadows of the Zurich countryside lies this picturesque little town with its typical local architecture and a lovely castle.

There is also a botanical garden here that is unique in Switzerland. Today, this small town in the Zurich Oberland offers a variety of cultural attractions.

No fewer than three museums, including the castle museum.

A second exhibits over 10,000 pewter figures in miniature dioramas and the last, free museum is dedicated to the world of beekeeping.

There are also several traditional markets in the off- season and a famous Christmas market.

Must see: The beautiful castle and the unique botanical garden.

READ MORE: Six beautiful Swiss villages located near the Austrian border

Bremgarten (AG)

Old churches, medieval towers and an impressive wooden bridge make this little town, enclosed between two bends of the Reuss river, an unmissable destination.

Bremgarten captivates with its intimate and poetic atmosphere.

But this Aargauer town is also exuberant, especially at carnival time, when it is invaded by the Guggenmusik of brass bands, or at the Christmas market, one of the most famous in Switzerland.

The Easter and Whitsun markets are also very popular and remind us that Bremgarten has always been a place of festivities and conviviality.

Must see: The impressive wooden bridge and the busy Marktgasse.

The Swiss village Bremgarten (AG). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”

The Swiss village Bremgarten (AG). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”

Diessenhofen (TG)

Only an old covered wooden bridge lies between this ancient little town and Germany.

Let yourself be seduced by the beauty of this place and embark on a boat trip on the Rhine.

The river here flows in all its glory, forming here one of the most beautiful river landscapes in Europe.

The symbolic covered bridge majestically spans the river over a length of 85 metres with the German-Swiss border in the middle. Excursions from the Schifflände allow you to explore this unique region with its vineyards and medieval castles.

On your way back to the historic centre of Diessenhofen, don’t miss the beautiful Siegelturm.

Must see: The old covered bridge and the Siegelturm.

The Swiss village Diessenhofen (TG). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”

The Swiss village Diessenhofen (TG). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”

Gersau (SZ)

The former independent republic is known as the ‘Riviera of Central Switzerland’ thanks to its almost Mediterranean climate and the exotic plants that can be found here in abundance.

Today, Gersau is an idyllic village on the shores of Lake Lucerne at the foot of the ‘Queen of the Mountains’ the Rigi (1798 metres).

Chestnut, fig and palm trees thrive here to such an extent that the traditional village in the heart of the national territory has an enviable southern atmosphere.

Gersau is the starting point for excursions on the lake and panoramic hikes up the ridges of the Rigi.

Must see: The museum about its rich history and the beautiful garden by the lake.

The Swiss village Gersau (SZ). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”

The Swiss village Gersau (SZ). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”

Lichtensteig (SG)

The jewel of Toggenburg is a small town founded around 1200, which lies in its crescent shape on a rocky outcrop above the Thur.

A unique historical core is complemented by a dense network of hiking trails in the surrounding hills. The view is impressive from the station as you cross the railway bridge into the centre.

You may enter Lichtensteig via the central street, which is lined with half-timbered town houses and arcaded passageways that recall the town’s former vocation as a trading town that long dominated trade in eastern Switzerland.

Must see: The lovely arcades in the central street and the Toggenburg museum.

The Swiss village Lichtensteig (SG). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”

The Swiss village Lichtensteig (SG). Photo: Association “Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse”

All of these villages and many more feature in the Les plus beaux Villages de Suisse free app available in English for iOS and Android. 

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The five most beautiful Swiss villages to discover by boat

Switzerland has beautiful villages and lakes which makes it a perfect country to discover and admire by boat. Here are five towns worth exploring from the water fronts.

The five most beautiful Swiss villages to discover by boat

Switzerland has 6 percent of Europe’s freshwater reserves, and to confirm this you only have to look at the huge number of lakes dotting the Confederation.

Each of these lakes possesses a unique flair, and to discover them to the fullest we recommend a boat tour, starting from these 5 beautiful villages, all members of the “The Most Beautiful Villages in Switzerland” network.

1. Gersau – Lake Lucerne (SZ)

In the heart of Switzerland we find Lake Vierwaldstättersee, commonly called Lake Lucerne. Here, in a gentle green patch of land, lies the hamlet of Gersau. In ancient times this municipality was a tiny independent state, remaining the world’s smallest republic until 1817, when it was annexed to Canton Schwyz. This region enjoys a Mediterranean micro climate, so it is not surprising to find a rich vegetation of exotic flowers and plants.

Gersau swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

From Gersau it is possible to take an unforgettable boat tour on Lake Lucerne to other neighboring villages such as Beckenried and Kehrsiten or directly to the city of Lucerne.

Gersau swiss village

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

2. Saint Saphorin – Lake Geneva (VD)

In the Lavaux region, one of Switzerland’s UNESCO sites, the charming old village of Saint-Saphorin can be found among the vineyards. A few houses gather compactly around the church of Saint Symphorien, which gave its name to the village, which was once called Glerula. The square in the old town invites tourists for a stop, perhaps to enjoy an excellent fish dish and sip a glass of local wine.

saint saphorin lake Geneva Swiss villages
(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

Saint-Saphorin overlooks Lake Geneva, the largest lake in all of Europe that bathes the Swiss and French coasts. From here it is possible to reach the cities of Vevey and Cully by boat and even go as far as Lausanne.

saint saphorin lake Geneva Swiss villages
(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

3. Ascona – Lake Maggiore (TI)

Ascona is one of the most popular and well-known destinations in Switzerland, thanks to its mild climate and Mediterranean atmosphere. The lakefront is full of restaurants and bars where to enjoy an aperitif, while in the old town center we find many boutiques, stores but also museums and exhibition centers of some importance.

Going up the hill we then reach Monte Verità: a fascinating place that once served as a meeting place for those who followed an alternative life away from the hectic daily routine.

ascona lake maggiore Swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

From Ascona it is possible to take beautiful boat tours on Lake Maggiore to nearby destinations such as S. Nazzaro in the Gambarogno or to the Brissago Islands, which are home to the only island botanical garden in all of Switzerland.

ascona lake maggiore swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

4. Erlach – Lake Biel (BE)

Erlach is a unique village overlooking Lake Biel. In the upper part of the town we find the old castle, which now houses a museum and school, and beautiful houses that gradually descend to the shores of the lake, creating a picture-postcard view. All around, the vineyard takes center stage, and there is no shortage of several wine cellars where wine tasting can take place.

Erlach lake Biel swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

Lake Biel possesses a strip of land that stretches from Erlach for several kilometers to the island of St. Peter (now in fact turned into a peninsula), which was home for some time to the well-known philosopher Rousseau. From Erlach it is possible to reach by boat the beautiful villages of Le Landeron and La Neuveville, both members of the same network of “The Most Beautiful Villages in Switzerland”.

erlach lake Biel swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

5. Grandson – Lake Neuchâtel (VD)

On the romantic Lake Neuchâtel, it is impossible not to notice from afar the small town of Grandson. Of great note are its colorful houses and the old St. Baptist Church, a national historic monument. Walking through the narrow lanes we will find ourselves in many small squares and nooks that are decorated and well-kept and all with jaw-dropping views of the lake. Grandson’s star is its immense 11th-century castle, which houses an outstanding collection of arms and armor.

grandson lake Neuchatel swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

Lake Neuchâtel is an ideal summer destination for cooling off in its clear waters. In Grandson, for example, there is certainly no shortage of lidos and green areas to relax. On board the boat you can take part in tours and discover the secrets of the lake’s preserved shores.

grandson lake neuchatel swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

You can find out more about these 5 villages and many others by downloading the official “Beaux Villages” app for iOS and Android.