Lake Lucerne from Urmiberg above Brunnen
Things to Do

Beautiful Lakes to Visit in Switzerland

June 15, 2020 Last Updated on April 11, 2024

It may be best known for the spectacular Swiss Alps but Switzerland is also home to many stunning lakes – over 1500 in fact! 

Names like Lake Lucerne, Lake Geneva and Lake Zurich probably come to mind when you think of Swiss lakes but there are plenty of breathtakingly beautiful lakes that you may not have heard of.

In this guide to the prettiest lakes to visit in Switzerland, we cover some of the better known Swiss lakes as well as some hidden gems so that you can choose which ones to visit on your trip to Switzerland.

Of course, we can’t cover all 1500+ lakes so there are still plenty more for you to stumble across on your travels.  Wherever you are in Switzerland, you’ll never be more than 16 kilometres from a lake so you are bound to discover as least one picturesque lake that steals your heart.

I asked some travel bloggers to share their favourite lakes in Switzerland with me and you can read why they love these particular lakes below.  I’ve also added my top picks to this guide to the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland.

Read on … you’ll be amazed at the array of stunning lakes in Switzerland.

Most Beautiful Lakes in Switzerland

Lake Gelmer (Gelmersee)

Canton: Bern

Lake Gelmer
Lake Gelmer is a crystal clear alpine lake that can be reached by funicular.

If you’re looking for beautiful lakes in Switzerland, you have to go to Gelmersee.

Gelmersee Lake is up in the Swiss Alps and is one of the prettiest lakes I have ever seen. The colour of the water is breathtaking, as well as the views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s the perfect place to spend an hour for a picnic, or a day hiking into the mountains.

But the BEST thing about Gelmersee is how you get to it.

There are two ways to reach the lake – by hiking up a (very, very large) mountain. Or by taking the Gelmerbahn Funicular.

The Gelmerbahn Funicular is the second steepest mountain railway in Switzerland (and possibly Europe). The gradient is 106%  and it goes STRAIGHT up the mountain. 

It was built to get miners up and down the mountain but now it’s used as a (very popular) tourist attraction.

When we visited, we didn’t really know what to expect, but it was one of the highlights of our trip to Switzerland. Tickets can be bought on arrival but be sure to get there early before the tour buses arrive. If you are travelling mid-summer you may want to book in advance.

Holders of the Regional Pass Berner Oberland receive a discount on the funicular ticket price.

You can (and should!) take a picnic up to Gelmersee lake – there are no facilities or cafe up there so you will at least need some water. 

To get back down, you can either buy a ticket for the funicular (buy it BEFORE you go up) or you can walk back down the mountain, which takes several hours and is a beautiful hike. 

Also, be sure to check out the amazing suspension bridge, near the ticket office. It’s free to walk across and take photos on – and it is a LONG way down. But if you enjoy heights, it’s a great way to see right down the valley – the views are superb. 

Contributed by Kat of Wandering Bird

Lake Tanay (Lac de Tanay)

Canton: Valais

Lac de Tanay
Lac de Tanay is relatively unknown except by hikers and locals.

Located in Valais, Switzerland, Lac de Tanay is a glistening emerald jewel, enclosed by mountainous peaks and surrounded by cute, wooden chalets. During the summer months you can drive straight up to the village but in the spring and winter months you’ll need to park further down at Le Flon. 

Declared a national natural heritage site in the 1960’s, the elevation gain is rather steep and there are two means of getting up there; the main road and the goat trail which leads up through the woods surrounding the road. Either way, it’s a steep old walk so you need to be prepared! 

Lac de Tanay is covered in a thick winter wonderland and remains frozen throughout winter into late spring and although there are plenty of trails around the lake, you’ll need snow shoes or skis to access the area before May. 

After May, but before November, the lake becomes an alpine retreat! It is surrounded by lush green grass, the lake dazzles in colour and becomes a secret swimming haven for local people as not many tourists know about it. 

There are plenty of small wooden cafes and restaurants around the lake which are open full time during holiday periods after May. Although most are shut up for winter, some remain open on the weekends with limited opening hours. 

My favourite hike from Lac de Tanay is up to Les Jumelles (2182 metres and 2215 metres). It’s a little known hike and it isn’t signposted. If you want to go up to Les Jumelles, you can either follow ‘Grammont’ or go via La Combe. Either route you take will be a steep hike of 400 metres ascension.

If you can make it above the lake, you’ll be reaching approximately 2000 metres in height and you should see plenty of Ibex and birds of prey. 

Contributed by Emma of Journey of a Nomadic Family

Lake Zurich (Zurichsee)

Canton: Zurich, Schwyz and St. Gallen

Lake Zurich
Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich, sits on the shores of Lake Zurich.

Lake Zurich is one of the most stunning lakes in Switzerland, if not in all of Europe. It extends southeast from the city of Zurich (the largest city in Switzerland) all the way to the municipality of Schmerikon in a banana-like shape, and is shared between the cantons of Zurich, Schwyz and St Gallen. It is framed by picturesque hills, with some of Europe’s most exclusive properties located on the lake shore. 

Whether travelling to Switzerland in summer or winter, Lake Zurich offers plenty of things to do. During the summer time, the temperature of the lake reaches a mild 20C (68F) and you’ll be sure to find both locals and tourists alike taking a dip.

If not keen on swimming and water sports, visitors can just relax on the lakeshore or have a picnic in a quiet spot.

If travelling during the winter, why not have a go at ice-skating on one of the ice rinks directly next to the lakeshore. Ice-skating on the lake is also possible if the lake is completely frozen over!

Whilst this has happened over two dozen times throughout history, the last time this happened was 1963 so you may not want to assume you’ll be able to try this.

Around the lake are various restaurants that offer diners beautiful views and the opportunity to try some local cuisine. ‘Fischknusperli’ is a local dish that involves batter-fried fresh fish caught straight from the lake.

There are three transport centres surrounding Lake Zurich in the towns of Zurich, Pfaffikon and Rapperswill, but if you’re looking to get the best views of different parts of the lake, why not take a boat trip on one of the two paddle steamers available. You can read all about that here.

Contributed by Sarah of Dukes Avenue

Lake Oeschinen (Oeschinensee)

Canton: Bern

Lake Oeschinen
A visit to Lake Oeschinen, with its turquoise water, will not disappoint.

The Alpine lake of Oeschinensee is one of the most stunning mountain lakes in Switzerland. Icy blue in colour and surrounded by rugged mountain peaks, Oeschinensee is guaranteed to take your breath away. Of course, the fact that you might be winded a little from the hike up to the lake may also contribute!

However, in all seriousness, one of the best places to visit in Switzerland is Lake Oeschinen in the Bernese Oberland region. Located at an altitude of ~1600 metres at the foot of the Blüemlisalp in the middle of Switzerland, Oeschinensee is the perfect place for nature lovers, hikers and swimmers.

Multiple hiking paths surround the lake and you can choose the one most suited to you – whether it’s the easiest straight route to the lake or the slightly more difficult one up in the mountains, you will be rewarded by stunning views all around you. 

The lake is bordered by a sandy ‘beach’ which is perfect for picnics, swims or just laying out in the sun. You could also rent a canoe and paddle closer to the waterfall at the edge of the lake – yes, there’s a waterfall here too! A small one, but incredibly beautiful.

There are a couple of restaurants and ice cream shops up at the lake so you can enjoy a leisurely meal taking in the tranquil view. Try some of the Swiss specialities here.

To get to Oeschinensee, head to the town of Kandersteg on a beautiful train or car ride through the Swiss Alps. 

You need to take a gondola from the Oeschinensee cable car station at Kandersteg up to the Oeschinen Bergstation (free with the Regional Pass Berner Oberland) from where a beautiful (and a very easy!) hike will bring you to the lake. A small bus also runs on the route if you’d rather not hike, so really there’s no excuse to not visit this lake.

Contributed by Smita of My Faulty Compass

Lake Lugano (Lago Lugano)

Canton: Ticino

Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano straddles both Switzerland and Italy and is surrounded by mountain peaks.

Lake Lugano is a beautiful lake in the Ticino canton of Switzerland. Its location on the border between southern Switzerland and northern Italy has created a unique mix of Swiss and Italian culture in the charming lakeside communities, including the city of Lugano, from which the lake takes its name.

What makes Lake Lugano so irresistibly beautiful is the sparkling blue water that fills its basin and the mountains framing its border. Notable peaks include Monte San Salvatore, Monte Brè, and Monte Generoso, the highest mountain near Lake Lugano. 

One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Lake Lugano is by taking a funicular to the top of Monte Brè or Monte San Salvatore. Each peak offers gorgeous views of the lake below, as well as footpaths leading to little mountain villages. The terrace of Ristorante Vetta on Monte Brè is an especially lovely place to sit and admire the lake and its surroundings. 

Another enjoyable way to experience Lake Lugano is by taking a boat cruise around the lake. During the trip you’ll not only see more of Lake Lugano’s natural beauty, but you’ll also pass by some colourful communities, like the quaint fishing village of Gandria. 

Adding to Lake Lugano’s beauty are numerous parks and tree-shaded promenades where you can sit or wander along the shoreline to take in the views.

The most convenient base for exploring Lake Lugano is the city of Lugano, which can easily be reached by train and bus from other destinations in Switzerland and Italy.

Contributed by Rhonda of Travel Yes Please

Lake Bachalp (Bachalpsee)

Canton: Bern

Lake Bachalp
An easy walk from First (above Grindelwald) brings you to pretty Lake Bachalp which can remain frozen until summer.

Hidden in the Swiss Alps, Bachalpsee is my favourite lake in Switzerland, closely followed by Lake Geneva.

Bachalpsee is near the First mountains pass, on the top of the mountain peaks towering over the cute little Swiss village, Grindelwald.

The trip to Bachalpsee itself is a part of a wonderful experience. Grindelwald, First, and Bachalpsee make for an ideal day trip in Switzerland. This trip will have everything Switzerland is known for – Alpine peaks, green meadows, pristine lakes, and hundreds of waterfalls.

The lake is ideal for having a nice picnic in a pretty alpine setting. The blue lake makes for stunning photo opportunities, especially during spring when the lake is half frozen and half-submerged in deep blue waters.

The surroundings near the lake add to the charm. You will find small creeks of melting snow here and there, offering you some of the cleanest water. Visitors can even fill up their water bottles in these creeks.

To reach the lake, take a regional train to Grindelwald. After a nice walk in the town, go to the gondola ride station. The last stop for the Gondola ride is First.

First provides great views over the villages and the mountain peaks in the area. It is also famous for the Tissot Cliff Walk experience, which is free of charge. There is also a restaurant where you can enjoy some fresh meals with the glorious views of the alpine peaks around First.

To reach Bachalpsee, you need to walk about 50 minutes from the Gondola station, mostly on the flat surface, except for the initial climb. I recommend bringing an extra layer of clothing since the lake is at quite some height and it can be colder than down in Grindelwald. The weather can change quickly here.

Contributed by Nisha of Nerdy Footsteps

Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstattersee)

Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
Lake Lucerne is framed by towering mountain peaks including Mt Rigi and Mt Pilatus.

Canton: Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne

Switzerland’s fourth-largest lake, Lake Lucerne, is a sparkling jewel in the centre of the country with four arms that stretch towards many lovely towns.

Covering 114 square kilometres and located at 434 metres , it has stunning scenery and a shoreline rising into soaring mountains, including Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus.

Spread across the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne, from above, Lake Lucerne is one of the most beautiful natural landmarks in Switzerland

You can travel around the lake by train or by road, but the most tranquil way to enjoy the lake is by boat. There are plenty of paddlewheel steamers, and other types of boats that cruise from village to village around the lake but the most popular place to enjoy the lake is from the city of Lucerne.

A boat trip takes you past charming churches, lush and lush meadows. An iconic thing to do is to take a boat trip on the lake to Alpnachstad and ride the steepest cog-railway in the world up to Mount Pilatus Kulm. The train ride itself is an experience to remember and rises steeply from the lake to the mountain, where you can stay at Hotel Bellevue.

Popular activities around Lake Lucerne in summer are swimming, sunbathing or enjoying a picnic in a beautiful spot around the lake. Pick any town around Lake Lucerne and you’ll find many ways to enjoy the lakeside atmosphere.

Other towns around Lake Lucerne are Hergiswil, Stansstad, Kehrsiten-Bürgenstock, Ennetbürgen, Buochs and Beckenried.

The Gotthard Panorama Express is another perfect way to enjoy Lake Lucerne. From Lucerne, take a cruise to Flüelen, and then enjoy the views from the first-class panorama carriages while riding the Gotthard railway to Ticino.

Contributed by Christina of Travel2Next

Lake Thun (Thunersee)

Lake Thun, Switzerland
Picturesque Lake Thun stretches all the way to Interlaken. Some of the best views of the lake can be admired from the tower of Thun Castle.

Canton: Bern

Lake Thun (Thunersee in German) is one of the most scenic and well-known lakes in Switzerland. Located in the canton of Bern, the deep blue lake is surrounded by the spectacular mountains of the Swiss Alps and bookended by the popular towns of Thun and Interlaken.

Lake Thun is easily reached via the Swiss Rail System (SBB) from Bern or Zurich, as well as by car. A favorite lake for swimmers, sailors and windsurfers, Lake Thun also appeals for its popular cruises, including the restored paddlewheel steamship “Blümlisalp” that ferries passengers from Thun to Interlaken.

Visitors can board comfortable lake cruising ships in Thun to spend a day on the water, enjoying a meal and a glass of delicious Swiss wine and appreciating the views of villages, medieval castles and of course, the mountains.

On sunny days, the peaks of the Niesen, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau can be seen in the distance.

Visitors to the region should enjoy discovering the castles of Thun. Oberhofen Castle, a 13th century medieval keep on the shore of Lake Thun, houses a living museum, including a dungeon, as well as beautiful gardens along the water.

The 12th century Thun Castle dominates the skyline of the city and offers picturesque views of the town, lake and mountains from its corner towers. An immersive castle tour transports guests back to the Middle Ages, and showcases the well-preserved medieval Knights’ Hall and history of the region.

Interlaken is rightly famous for its superb location between Lakes Thun and Brienz, and dominant views of the imposing Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. It’s the gateway to the winter skiing and summer hiking paradise of the Bernese Oberland.

Contributed by Claudia of The Travelling Mom

Lake Constance (Bodensee)

Lake Constance
A 50-minute cruise from Rorschach on Lake Bodensee’s Swiss shores will bring you to Lindau on the German side.

Canton: Thurgau

This multi-national lake that serves as a three-way border between Switzerland, Germany and Austria is Europe’s playground for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. A number of villages on the lake, which is actually two lakes in one, are easily reached by public transport.

On the Swiss side of the lake, villages like Romanshorn, Arbon and Rorschach are serviced by Swiss trains. These villages are also connected by boat to the German side of the lake. 

It’s also pretty easy to reach Konstanz, the German city that gives the lake its English name, Lake Constance. Just take a train from anywhere in Switzerland to the town of Kreuzlingen, and then walk across the bridge to Konstanz.

Most visitors to this part of the lake choose to stay in Konstanz rather than Kreuzlingen, as it’s more economical and also has more sightseeing to offer. But if you want to get away from big cities, there are plenty of smaller towns and villages on the lakeshore where you could base yourself instead.

Hiking and cycling opportunities abound and run the gamut from short half-day jaunts to the full 260-kilometre circumambulation of the lake.

Reichenau Island and Mainau Island, on either side of Konstanz, are both worth visiting. Reichenau’s medieval abbey once house an important manuscript workshop, and Mainau is covered in beautiful flowers.

And while most people organize their Lake Constance holidays in summer, it’s actually a worthwhile winter destination as well, particularly in December. This is when the streets of Konstanz are taken over by the “Weihnachsmarkt am See”, or the “Christmas Market on the Lake”.

This market really lives up to its name, as the stalls set up not just along the streets but even on the ‘Christmas Ship’ moored in the lake itself. 

Contributed by Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan

Lake Geneva (Lac Léman)

Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva, with its famous Jet d’Eau fountain, is just one of the reasons to visit the Swiss city of Geneva.

Canton: Vaud, Geneva, and Valais

Lake Geneva is the largest body of freshwater in both Switzerland and France – where it is known as Lac Léman. The lake is located between these two countries, shared by the department of Haute Savoye in France and the cantons of Vaud, Geneva, and Valais on the Swiss side.

Lake Geneva is not the most picturesque lake in Switzerland – at least if we compare it to other smaller and secluded lakes in the country. However, it is surrounded by the beautiful Jura mountains in France as well as the Swiss Alps, and from some places along the lake it is possible to see the summit of Mont Blanc in the French Alps.

The city of Geneva, on the shores of the lake, is the most convenient place to explore Lake Geneva and it is a city with all the commodities, very easy to reach by train from the main Swiss cities and major towns. Staying in Geneva offers also many sightseeing and cultural opportunities other than enjoying the lake.

If you are planning to visit Lake Geneva we recommend traveling between May to early November, when sunny days are common and the temperatures are pleasant. Generally speaking, the period between June to end of September is considered the high season in Europe so if you decide to visit the lake in these months book your accommodation well in advance!

Apart from taking some snaps of the water jet that decorates the lake, you may want to come to Lake Geneva for its outdoor and water activities.

The list of most popular activities in Lake Geneva includes cycling or hiking around the lake, and boating whilst the most active visitors will prefer kayaking, windsurf, or water skiing. Swimming is also possible in Lake Geneva and the best time to do so is between June and September.

Contributed by Elisa of France Bucket List

Lake Brienz (Brienzersee)

Kayaking on Lake Brienz, Switzerland
Kayaking is a fantastic way to see the picturesque villages dotted along the shoreline of Lake Brienz.

Canton: Bern

The list of Switzerland’s most beautiful lakes is incomplete without the mention of Lake Brienz. Lake Brienz is a 14 kilometre long lake situated in the Bern canton near the resort town of Interlaken.

Interlaken is a tourist hot spot for its central location close to most tourist attractions and the range of activities that the town has to offer, some of which include attractions by this lake. 

While in Interlaken, you simply cannot miss the view of this gorgeous lake, surrounded by the glorious Alps and gorgeous wooden Swiss cottages.

Take a walking tour of Interlaken, or cycle around, hike up to Harder Kulm, go paragliding or kayaking. Whatever you decide, you’ll get to see the mesmerizing turquoise waters of Lake Brienz, that will leave a lasting impression of one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland. 

Kayaking on Lake Brienz is one of the best ways to explore the true beauty of Lake Brienz. You can rent a kayak from Boningen and paddle to the opposite end of the lake to explore the Ringgenberg castle. From the top of the castle, you can get a panoramic view of Ringgenberg town and the turquoise lake at the foot of the Alps.

Lake Brienz is one of the best spots to witness Swiss sunsets while kayaking over the lake. Watching the last rays of the sun turn the snow-capped Alps look pink as the sun sets make for one of the most pristine views you will ever witness!

Fun Fact: With the railway line built parallel to the lake, you can also get a view of Lake Brienz from the Swiss trains as they travel along the line between Interlaken and Lucerne. 

Contributed by Parampara of Awara Diaries

Whilst all the Swiss lakes mentioned above are well worth a visit, this guide wouldn’t be complete without a few of my favourites.

Blue Lake (Blausee)

Blausee, Switzerland
The Blue Lake is nestled amongst pine trees in a beautiful nature reserve.

Canton: Bern

The turquoise waters of the Blue Lake have to be seen to be believed.  The lake is fed by an underground stream of the Kander Valley, and its colour is said to be a result of the water’s clarity.

Nestled in the Blue Lake Nature Park, the small lake is surrounded by forest in an idyllic fairytale setting. 

A path leads through the forest from the Park’s main entrance to the lake where there are picnic and BBQ facilities, a playground, an organic trout farm, a restaurant and even a hotel.

Entry to the Blausee Nature Park includes a ride in a glass-bottom boat across the lake.

Thanks to its location near Kandersteg, it is possible to visit both the Blue Lake and Lake Oeschinen in one day.

Lake Lungern (Lungerersee)

Lake Lungern, Switzerland
You can get great views of the postcard-perfect Lake Lungern from a designated viewing point on the road between Interlaken and Lucerne.

Canton: Obwalden

The red-roofed chalets of Lungern dot the shoreline of the lake which takes the village’s name and contrast perfectly with the lush green pastures beside the village.

Situated midway between Interlaken and Lucerne, the lake can be seen from the railway line which runs beside it.  Hourly trains connect Lungern with Bern, Interlaken and Lucerne.

If you are travelling by car, there’s a wonderful viewpoint beside the main road at the end of the Brunig Pass (Lucerne end), as well as a couple of other nominated places to stop and take photos.

Lake Lungern is a small lake in a tranquil position and is perfect for swimming, fishing and relaxing.

Planning a trip to Switzerland?

At Holidays to Switzerland we are passionate about sharing our love of Switzerland and helping you to plan the perfect trip. Read our guide to planning a trip to Switzerland to kick start your travel plans and join our free Switzerland Travel Planning group on Facebook to chat with other past and future travellers.

Want monthly news and podcast updates, helpful travel tips and special deals sent straight to your inbox? Subscribe to Holidays to Switzerland and we’ll send you a bonus copy of our 10 Useful Things to Know Before You Visit Switzerland guide.

🇨🇭 Check out our exclusive discount offers and save on your Swiss vacation. 🇨🇭

Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore)

Ascona, Lake Maggiore, Switzerland
Ascona’s brightly coloured buildings which line the promenade are just one of the highlights of Lake Maggiore.

Canton: Ticino

With its Mediterranean climate, you can be forgiven for thinking you are in Italy when you visit Lake Maggiore.  In fact, about three quarters of the lake IS in Italy with only the top quarter in Switzerland.

The Swiss town of Ascona is postcard-worthy: brightly painted buildings line the car-free lakeside promenade whilst boats bob on the lapping waters ready to take passengers out for a gentle cruise.

Another lakeside favourite, Locarno, is a popular holiday resort with plenty of water and non-water activities on offer.  For incredible views of the lake, be sure to take the funicular to Orselina or the cable car to Cimetta.

Well worth a visit is the Brissago Botanical Gardens, a 2.5 hectare garden on the larger of the two Brissago Islands.  Ferries operate between the garden and Ascona and the smaller town of Brissago regularly. It’s also possible to enjoy a cruise to Italy and back!

Lake Riffel (Riffelsee)

Riffelsee with Matterhorn reflection
On a clear day, the Matterhorn’s mirror image can be seen in Riffelsee.

Canton: Valais

A crystal clear alpine lake is pretty enough on its own but when it provides a mirror image of the mighty Matterhorn, it’s even better.

Riffelsee does just that – but you’ll have to lace up those walking shoes to reach it!  I guarantee it’s worth it, though.

Located on the way to Gornergrat, the best way to reach Lake Riffel is to take the Gornergratbahn from Zermatt.  I suggest you go all the way to Gornergrat and spend some time there, then, on your return journey, hop off the train at Rotenboden.

It’s then a fairly easy downhill walk (about ten minutes) to Riffelsee where, on a clear day, you can admire a reflection of the Matterhorn in the tranquil waters.

There are numerous climbing routes that start near the lake but if you’re not that adventurous there are two options.  Either walk back up to Rotenboden station or continue walking downhill (the path is well sign-posted) to Riffelberg.

Here you can enjoy a more incredible views, indulge in a delicious lunch or drink and then catch the train back to Zermatt.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Switzerland’s lakes come in all shapes and sizes. From lakes where bustling cities inhabit their shores to tiny pools of crystal clear alpine water, they all have one thing in common – their beauty.

I hope you’ll visit at least one of these beautiful lakes in Switzerland on your travels.


Prettiest lakes in Switzerland