Switzerland is much more than exclusive ski-resorts and fondue as any family smart enough to go in summer will be happy to tell you.
The country’s small enough to tour around but, so dense with history and remarkable scenery, a single region’s usually more than enough for one holiday.
Everyone knows the iconic Alps, but the land of the Matterhorn is also home to spectacular lakes, one of Europe’s oldest national parks, impressive World Heritage sites and several of the loveliest cities on earth.
And it’s not as expensive as it’s reputation suggests. Switzerland is very family-orientated, kids are welcome everywhere and the country works hard to offer a price range to suit most budgets: skiing in Zermatt will never be cheap, but a family ski-holiday in Sattel-Hochstuckli compares very well to skiing in France.
Direct flights all year round from London to Zurich, Geneva and Basel.
All areas are easily accessible
Switzerland covers just over 41,000km². It’s a fifth the size of the UK and you can travel by train from Zurich to Geneva in under three hours.
UNESCO World Heritage sites
Switzerland has 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites including: the Old City of Bern, the Jungfrau Aletsch Region and the medieval Castles of Bellinzona.
Great for ski holidays
Switzerland has five ski regions and several legendary resorts including: Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Verbier, Gstaad and Klosters.
Home to one of the world's 'best cities to live in'
2016’s Mercer Quality of Living Survey named Zurich the world’s second best city to live in, just after Vienna.
Scenic train journeys
The Bernina Express Alpine route is one of the highest rail journeys in Europe.
Swiss National Park
The 170km² Swiss National Park was established in 1914 making it the oldest in the Alps.
Where to go
Switzerland is not a cheap country: the world’s fourth most expensive hotel, Geneva’s President Wilson, will cost you £26,000 per night. Fortunately for families, there are considerably less expensive options and plenty of choice from self-catering ski chalets and apartments to family hostels on Lake Zurich, traditional guesthouses and inns in the Swiss National Park and child-friendly spas and hotels across every region.
Zurich is lively and interesting and works well as base for exploring northern and central Switzerland. There are over 130 ski resorts less than two hours’ drive from Zurich Airport. And the Sattel-Hochstuckli region, just 40 minutes east of the city, is one of the country’s great outdoor adventure areas in summer.
Zurich sits on Lake Zurich and has over 1200 fountains with water pure enough to drink.
Visit for contemporary art. The city has dozens of museums and galleries and MuDa in West Zurich is entirely dedicated to digital works.
Go for sailing, swimming and water sports on Lake Zurich, central Switzerland’s ski resorts and scenic train journeys across the entire country.
Don’t miss: Zurich Zoo, Kunsthaus Zurich, the Chinese Garden, Grössmunster Church, Bahnofstrasse and Zürirollt free city bikes.
If your knowledge of Geneva is limited to the famous Jet d’Eau, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. Built around Lake Geneva, the city’s gorgeously green, very beautiful and amazingly exciting for kids. It’s also less than two hours from top French ski resorts like Les Gets and Chamonix and under an hour from Le Grand Bornand and Les Carroz.
Geneva Airport is more convenient for skiing on the Grand Massif than most French airports.
The 1100m high Mont Salève cable car whisks you from Geneva into France in five minutes. Kids love it and they can see Mont Blanc from the top.
Geneva Old Town on the left bank of Lake Geneva is one of the loveliest historic quarters in the country.
Don’t miss: the Patek Philippe Museum, Lake Geneva cruises, 3000m² outdoor Bain-Bleu Hammam on Lake Geneva, the Carouge and the Bains district, snowmobiling in Praz de Lys and Glacier 3000 tours to the Alpine Coaster – highest bobsleigh track in the world.
Christmas in Basel is one of Europe’s loveliest spectacles but the ancient city’s just as charming to visit in spring, summer and autumn. It’s packed with engaging experiences for kids. They can learn about everything from traditional paper making to the history of cartoons in over 40 unique museums. The famous 500 year old Autumn Fair is fantastic for food, wine and white-knuckle thrills. And the annual Fasnacht is the most colourful and fun Mardi Gras celebration in the country.
Known as Switzerland’s cultural capital, Basel is home to the country’s oldest university and has some of Europe’s most unusual specialist museums.
Just 37km², kids love Basel because it’s beautiful and incredibly easy to explore – even on foot.
Take a free city tour in Basel, they’re outstanding and several are designed just for families.
Don’t miss: Rhine cruises, Basel Art Museum for the world’s largest collection of Holbein’s, Basel Old Town, Cartoonmuseum Basel, Basler Papiermühle, the new Kunstmuseum and the prettiest Christmas markets in Switzerland.
What to do
A sensational urban zoo known for its glassed elephant pool (kids can see the giants swimming underwater) and Madagascan forest.
Family winter sports’ region and incredible outdoor adventure experience in summer, just 40 minutes from Zurich.
Reitberg Museum, Zurich
Exciting and interactive museum dedicated to non-European culture, great for kid’s events and tours.
Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
The world’s largest Klee collection in a stunning, purpose-built exhibition space.
Swiss Miniatur, Melide
Small as Switzerland is, you might not be able to see it all in one holiday, see it in miniature instead at this enchanting outdoor museum.
One of Switzerland’s biggest and best water parks just an hour’s drive east of Geneva.
Bellanzona Castles, Bellanzona
Three medieval castles in one World Heritage site under an hour’s drive east of Locarno on Lake Maggiore.
Swiss National Park
The first national park in the Alps celebrated 100 years of being untouched by anything but nature in 2014.
Bernina Express, Chur
Europe’s highest rail journey through the breathtaking Alps and a choice of several other scenic train tours too.
Swiss National Museum, Zurich
The country’s most visited museum is beautiful, inside and out, visit in summer for the gardens.
Educational value for kids
The Swiss National Park is the Alp’s oldest. In over 100 years no trees have been cut down, no meadows mown and no animals hunted. Covered in 80km of trails kids can learn about everything from traditional weaving to wildlife in this unique park.
Switzerland has some of the world’s best skiing, Europe’s most snow-sure nursery slopes at Saal-Fee and award-winning ski schools in every region.
Families can rent free city bikes to tour round Zurich.
In summer the country’s five ski-regions become outdoor playgrounds for everything from climbing and hiking to heritage experiences.
Switzerland has some of Europe’s best museums and galleries, many with specially designed kids’ guided tours.
Scenic rail journeys are a Swiss speciality and take kids high into the Alps, along lakes and through some of the country’s most historic areas.
The country has twenty different regions ranging from the wildness of Jura to great cities like Geneva and Zurich.
Getting around with kids in Switzerland
For all its magnificent Alpine mountains and unspoiled landscape, Switzerland is one of Europe’s easiest countries to drive around. Hire a car for touring, take advantage of free bike hire in cities and hop aboard excellent Swiss trains as often as you can.