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6 sublime lakes in Switzerland

Clear waters, chic cities and fresh air

More than a twentieth of Europe’s entire freshwater stock is in the relatively small country of Switzerland, famous for its Alpine scenery, immense mountains and high standard of living. The incredible Swiss lakes are another reason to visit this beautiful landlocked country. Many of the lakes in Switzerland are so large, they share borders with neighbouring countries. Others are tiny, hidden jewels, nestled within unspoilt valleys.

  1. Lake Geneva
  2. Lake Brienz
  3. Lake Lucerne
  4. Lake Neuchatel
  5. Lake Blausee
  6. Lake Zurich

Whether you want easy access to the slopes, an authentic Alpine holiday, to be surrounded by natural beauty or to have access to Switzerland’s most sophisticated cities, we’ve selected the six best lakes to choose from for your Swiss travel adventure.

1. Lake Geneva

Although there are numerous lakes in Geneva and the surrounding area, the largest and most noteworthy is Lake Geneva itself, also known as Lac Leman. The largest body of fresh water in Western Europe, this vast, crescent-shaped lake is so large, only 60% of it is in Switzerland, the other 40% is in France. There are plenty of cities to base yourself in for a holiday on Lake Geneva, from the grand city of Geneva itself to trendy Lausanne, the skateboarding capital of Europe. During the ski season the regions of Mont Blanc, Chamonix and Aravis are all within easy reach.

Things to do: visit the medieval Chateau de Chillon, the illuminated Jet d’eau falls or take a scenic train ride.

Summer activities: swimming, yachting, cycling, paddleboarding and hiking.

2. Lake Brienz

Lake Brienz in the Bern region of Switzerland is a striking shade of turquoise, entirely enveloped by the mountainous terrain of the Bernese Oberland. Take the vintage Lötschberg paddle steamer to experience the best of the mountain scenery, with onboard Swiss dining. Alternatively, take a steam train to the peak of Brienzer Rothern for unrivalled views across the lake and beyond. Visitors typically stay at the alpine resort town of Interlaken, perfect for accessing the many winter and summer activities available in the region, as well as the neighbouring Lake Thun. Those seeking an true Alpine escape should stay at the lake’s charming namesake village, Brienz, located on the eastern bank.

Don’t miss: the dramatic Giessbach Falls and the grand Giessbach Hotel.

Best Swiss lake for: outdoor family adventures.

3. Lake Lucerne

The uniquely irregular shape of Lake Lucerne is only part of the charm of this unforgettable body of water. Located in central Switzerland, this vast lake takes in the Swiss Alps to the south and the charming city of Lucerne on its northern bank. Popular activities on the water include boat rentals, water-skiing, windsurfing, yachting and diving, making it the ideal choice for active holidaymakers. Regularly tipped as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, be sure to dedicate plenty of time to exploring Lucerne, a medieval fairy-tale city, with its famous 14th-century wooden bridge, colourful facades and Jesuit Church.

Don't miss: a walk along the ‘Swiss Path’, the Lion Monument and the Glacier Garden.

How to get there: take the train from Zurich Airport in under an hour.

4. Lake Neuchatel

The largest lake that lies entirely within Switzerland, Lake Neuchatel is overlooked by the majestic Jura Mountains and a series of fertile vineyards along the northern bank. Also on the north bank is the historic city of Neuchatel, the perfect base to explore this impressive lake. Warm enough to swim in throughout summer, it’s also a popular choice for fishing, boat tours and cycling. To the south is a much less populated and rural region, which incorporates Grande Cariçaie, the largest protected nature reserve in Switzerland.

Things to do: check out the amazing rock formations at Creux du Van and take a wander around Neuchatel Old Town.

When to go: as one of Switzerland’s less-visited lakes, it’s perfect all year round.

5. Lake Blausee

With a name that translates into English as ‘Blue Lake’, the Lake Blausee certainly delivers with its un-worldly shade of blue. By far the smallest lake on this list, it’s nestled within the lush Kander valley at the heart of a natural park in the Bernese Oberland region. Legend has it the water turned blue after a maid drowned whilst mourning her lover. In fact the spectacular shade of the water is due to the natural springs that fill the lake. A fairy-tale setting surrounded by woodland trails, shaded picnic spots, and even children’s play areas, it’s the perfect choice for a day trip.

Must do: a glass-bottomed boat tour before cooking your own food on the fire-pits provided.

How to get there: travel to Blausee Mitholz by rail from Bern, changing at Speiz.

6. Lake Zurich

The biggest and most well-known of all the lakes in Zurich, the clean, warm waters of Lake Zurich are hugely popular with swimmers, especially in the summer months. At the northern tip of the lake is the city of Zurich. The largest in Switzerland, it is ranked as one of the best cities to live in the world. Zurich hosts a year-round calendar of festivals and events, making it a great base for culture fans and families. Despite incorporating a large city, Lake Zurich also offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with extensive bike and hiking trails.

Best lake for: city breaks, young families and watersports enthusiasts.

Don’t miss: Zurich Old Town, the Museum of Fine Arts and Zurich Cathedral.

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