Les Plus Beaux Villages de Suisse (or the Most beautiful Villages in Switzerland) is an association set up to recognise the beauty and significance of villages that have a particular charm and retain their historic architecture and culture.
The ‘beaux villages’ association first began in France in 1982 and the International Federation Les Plus Beaux Villages de la Terre is now joined by a number of countries, including Switzerland, Spain and Italy, who believe it is important to preserve the history and specific characteristics of their villages.
When it comes to beautiful villages, Switzerland has them in abundance but not just any village can be become a member of the association.
In order to be admitted to the Swiss association, each municipality must meet certain requirements. For example, in the oldest part of the village (the historic centre), the population must be under 2000 inhabitants and the entire municipality cannot exceed 10,000 inhabitants, at the time of admission.
The village must also have a certain homogeneity of its historic centre, have particular houses, churches and cultural buildings and it is a plus to have a museum or areas where temporary exhibitions are held.
The history of a village is also important. For instance, Gersau in Canton Schwyz, was once the smallest republic in the world. The surrounding landscape can also play a key role: belonging to a regional park, for example, is considered a plus.
There are currently 43 members of the Most Beautiful Villages of Switzerland including one village from neighbouring Liechtenstein. You can find a complete list of all member villages at the end of this article.
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15 of the Most Beautiful Villages in Switzerland and Liechtenstein
Whilst all 43 of the villages are charming in their own right, we’ve chosen 15 – one from each Canton represented and Liechtenstein – to cover in further detail below. Why not include one of two of these villages in your Switzerland itinerary?
Be warned – choosing which ones to visit will be a difficult choice!
Switzerland’s public transport network is excellent and most villages are serviced by either trains or buses. If you plan to travel by public transport, consider a Swiss Travel Pass which covers all train and bus travel within the country.
Should you prefer a little more flexibility with your timetable, driving in Switzerland gives you the option to stay a little longer in the villages if you wish to.
Notable sites: Parish church, Walser museum, wooden houses
Founded in 1253 by Walser settlers from the Valais, the tiny village of Bosco Gurin is not only the highest commune in Ticino, it is also the only German-speaking commune in the Canton. Villages in Switzerland don’t come much smaller, or much more idyllic, than this.
The charming village sits in a side valley of the Valle Maggia and, as it has for centuries, agriculture is the main source of income here. Tourism also plays a role, with the village, which sits at 1,504 metres above sea level, regarded as one of the most popular ski destinations in Ticino.
Visitors to Bosco Gurin can’t help but notice the village’s traditional architecture with the houses built of stone and wood. One of the oldest of these houses, which dates back to 1386, is now home to the local history museum.
The traditional language of the villagers is also well preserved with the local dialect Ggurijnartitsch learnt from an early age and is still spoken today.
Where to stay: >> Walser App. 31 Pozzi
Notable sites: Evangelical church, UNESCO vineyards, Winemakers’ Cellar
The Swiss village of Saint-Saphorin occupies a dramatic location among the Lavaux terraced vineyards, on a steep hillside above Montreux and overlooking the lake. Beyond the water, majestic Alpine peaks form a scenic backdrop making this what has to be one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland.
Chances are, if you search the internet for beautiful images of Switzerland, the results will include plenty of photos of Saint-Saphorin.
The Lavaux vineyards are UNESCO World Heritage listed, and fine wine is made right here from the Chasselas grapes. A highlight of any visit to this village is the winemakers’ cellar, where local vintners allow the sampling of their wares.
Saint-Saphorin’s old town is a charming area featuring cobbled lanes, narrow alleys and winding passages. The Evangelical church dates from the early 1500s and occupies a site of historical importance. Formerly, the site was home to a Roman villa and then a medieval sanctuary.
The proximity of the lake’s sparkling waters, the multi-coloured roofs, the tumbling vineyards and the elevated location give the village something of a Mediterranean feel.
Both locals and visitors mingle at the Place du Peuplier or village square or relax at the winemaker’s cellar.
Where to stay: >> Domaine du Burignon
More beautiful villages in Vaud: Avenches, Grandson, Moudon, Romainmôtier, Rougemont and Yvorne.
Notable sites: Cheese factories, Swiss heritage site houses
Grandvillard is located in the Gruyère region of Fribourg, and as such is famous for its cheesemaking heritage. The village is also home to some significant buildings, namely those houses that are listed as Swiss heritage sites.
Visitors can take a Rural Architecture Discovery trail through Grandvillard if they wish. Beginning at the Restaurant du Pic Vert, this passes by 14 buildings dating from between the 16th and 20th centuries.
The area’s cheesemaking past is evident on the peasant architecture of the village’s homes and barns. Buildings are rich in stone and wood, and some have gothic-style windows.
The Church of San Bartolomeo and Giacomo is worth visiting, and there are also many small chapels to be found around this mountainous area on the edge of the forest.
Where to stay: >> Hotel du Vanil-Noir
Nearby Gruyères is another of the Most Beautiful Villages in Fribourg.
Notable sites: The Castle, the collegiate Church of St Peter, the Bourg
Valangin’s rich history dates back to at least the 12th century, and the village was governed by the Counts of Aarberg until the late 1500s. The latter constructed the fortified walls, towers and castle.
The village enjoys a pleasant and protected position below the hills and among the peaceful Swiss forests. Many visitors reach Valangin via paths through the trees, before being greeted by the imposing sight of the castle and its walls and towers.
With an idyllic location by Lake Neuchâtel, Valangin is a place where many relax and unwind. The active can hike the nearby first trails, while those interested in history and culture can take in the collegiate church, Bourg and of course the castle.
Where to stay: >> Chalet Le Trient (7km from Valangin)
Also in Neuchâtel canton is Le Landeron.
Notable sites: Town Hall, Collegiate Church and Bell Tower, Three City Gates
Occupying a tranquil site by the Doubs river, Saint-Ursanne is a well-preserved Swiss settlement that dates back to Medieval times and is one of the most attractive small towns in Switzerland.
To this day, the old town can only be accessed via four entryways. One of these is the Saint-Jean Népomucène bridge, while the other three are the original city gates. These are St Peter’s Gate in the east, St John’s Gate to the south and St Paul’s Gate to the west. The latter is sometimes known as the Porrentruy Gate.
The bridge was subject to renovation in 2016, while the village’s collegiate church and cloister were built in the 1100s and 1200s. A reminder of the past exists in the form of a medieval garden, where medicinal plants and vegetables are still grown.
Saint-Ursanne is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Jura’. It is certainly an attractive village, with ancient pale stone buildings set against a backdrop of lush green trees – all nestled on the banks of the Doubs river.
Where to stay: >> St-Ursanne
Whilst in Jura, why not also visit Porrentruy?
Notable sites: Wooden Bridge, Castle of Unterhof, Convent of St Katharinental
Diessenhofen is a pretty riverside village located in the Rhine region of Switzerland between the popular towns of Schaffhausen and Stein am Rhein. It is also close to the Rhine Falls. This is one of the most scenic river landscapes anywhere in the world, and a boat trip along the Rhine is a must for many visitors.
The wooden bridge in Diessenhofen is famous for several reasons. It forms the border between Germany and Switzerland and is over 150 years old. Passing boats must lower their cabins and awnings as well as masts to pass beneath it unhindered.
This picturesque Swiss village is surrounded by countryside, which certainly adds to its appeal. From the banks of the Rhine, visitors can see rolling green hills dotted with the vineyards of this winemaking region as well as castles and other ancient buildings.
A charming footpath leads to the convent of St Katharinental, a Dominincan structure that is Baroque in style within. Unterhof Castle, meanwhile, is a Swiss heritage site of national significance.
Where to stay: >> Sorell Hotel Ruden, Schaffhausen (8km from Diessenhofen)
Notable sites: Simplon Pass, Village Square
This Valais village is a Swiss site of national importance. At almost 1,500 metres above sea level, Simplon Dorf lies to the southern end of the Simplon Pass.
There are many nods to nearby Italy in this Swiss village, including the central village square which is Italianate in style. The buildings also have stone slab roofs typical of those found in the neighbouring country.
The section of the Simplon Pass that goes via Gondo Gorge is the most spectacular, with granite walls rising high on either side. Simplon Pass first came into use during the 1600s, when it was first used for pack animals who carried salt from the Mediterranean across the Alps.
Other sites of interest in this village include small churches as well as a dairy and a traditional Swiss bakery.
Where to stay: >> Hotel-Restaurant Grina
There are numerous members of the Most Beautiful Villages in Switzerland in the canton of Valais. Be sure to visit Albinen, Appoint, Evolène, Grimentz and Saillon.
Notable sites: Erlach Castle, St Peter’s Island, The Knight’s Hall
Erlach is the ‘Pearl on Lake Biel’ and dates back to the late 11th century. With its picturesque location and well-preserved medieval architecture, it is considered one of the most charming fairytale towns in Switzerland.
A castle was first built on the site by a bishop from Basel. Now, the Knight’s Hall is a fine example of medieval architecture, with Romanesque pillars supporting the impressive beamed ceiling overhead.
Erlach Castle is one of Bern canton’s oldest. Originally constructed to protect the route towards Lake Biel, it dates from around 1100. The old town was gradually added to during the 1200s, and by stages it grew into the more sizeable settlement that it is today.
The natural beauty of Lake Biel is one of the draws of Erlach. Fishing is also a popular pastime on the lake. Many like to visit St Peter’s Island, which is now actually a peninsula forming part of Erlach.
It is rich in natural beauty, and famed for its marshes, reed beds and meadows. In the wider area, wine tastings and vineyard tours are other activities enjoyed by many.
Where to stay: >> Hotel Jean-Jacques Rousseau, La Neuveville (2km from Erlach)
Also in the canton of Bern are the member villages of Büren on the Aare and La Neuveville.
Notable sites: St Ulrich Church, Luthern Bad
Luthern is centred around a pretty village square with a large, handsome lime tree at its centre. St Ulrich Church and the nearby buildings of the rectory, parish hall and tithe storehouse complete an idyllic Swiss village scene.
Luthern sits on the border between the cantons of Bern and Lucerne. It is nestled in a sunny valley, surrounded by green hills and woodland. Below this valley lies Luthern Bad, a pilgrimage site dating back to the late 1500s.
Luthern Bad is not only a destination for pilgrims – its spring water is said to strengthen both the body and mind of anyone who bathes their arms or feet in the custom-made bath.
Visitors to Luthern can take the waters at Luthern Bad, enjoy the majesty of Mt. Napf, appreciate this as a special place of pilgrimage and enjoy the serene and uniquely Swiss scenery.
Where to stay: >> Ferienwohnung Napf-Chasi
Notable sites: Lake Lucerne, Mount Rigi, Municipal Museum
Abundant in natural beauty thanks to its proximity to Lake Lucerne, Gersau is also a starting point for trips up Mount Rigi. It was also once the world’s smallest republic. The Republic of Altfrye once occupied an area of just 24 square kilometres.
Now, it is a Swiss village with a Mediterranean air. Not least because of the palm and fig trees that flourish in the mild climate and can be seen in front gardens as well as the parks. This relatively warm weather explains why the village is also sometimes called ‘The Riviera of Switzerland’.
The warm welcome extended to guests is also a notable feature of any visit to Gersau. The locals love to show off their beautiful Swiss village. If that piques your interest in local history, then the municipal museum is worth a visit.
Where to stay: >> Apartment Seeblick
Notable sites: The Untergass, the Rhine, the Vineyards
Eglisau, to the north of Zurich and in the same canton, is also on the Rhine. This is more of a small Swiss town than a village, with over 5,000 inhabitants. Over the centuries, it has grown from its role in ancient times as a transit route connecting both banks of the river.
As you may expect from the name of the river, Eglisau sits within a wine-growing region, and vineyards can be seen on the hill. The two main streets – Untergass and Obergass – are long thoroughfares still displaying various examples of Baroque and Renaissance architectural features.
Visitors to Eglisau also enjoy taking boat trips on the Rhine, exploring the vineyards and attending wine tastings, and hiking the various trails of the area.
Where to stay: >> Gasthof Hirschen
Notable sites: The late-Gothic church, Donna Lupa fountain,
Sitting on a sunny terrace at 1,500 metres and overlooking the Lower Engadine and the River Inn, is the picturesque village of Tschlin. The village has an interesting history and has been known over the centuries by many names including Ciline, de Sline and Schlines, and until 1943, was known by the German name, Schleins.
Tschlin is a well-preserved traditional Graubunden village, the main feature being the late-Gothic church with a polygonal choir and early 16th century frescoes. In front of the church, the Donna Lupa fountain takes centre stage.
Tschlin’s cobbled streets are lined with beautifully kept houses with decorated facades and the pristine landscape around the village is ideal for hiking, with many trails to be found nearby. The area is also a haven for birdlife, and the views across to nearby Austria are breathtaking.
Definitely worth visiting is Alpenbrauerei GIRUN, Tschlin’s own alpine brewery. Pop in for a guided tour and tasting of both the specially brewed beer and local produce.
Where to stay: >> Ferienwohnung Caviezel
The canton of Graübunden has six members of the Most Beautiful Villages of Switzerland. The other five are Bergün-Bravuogn, Breil-Brigels, Madulain, Poschiavo, Soglio and Splügen.
Canton: St. Gallen
Notable sites: Old Town, Town Hall, Loreto Chapel, Toggenburg Museum, Äuli Gorge
Perched on a rocky spur above the River Thur, the market town of Lichtensteig is built in a semi-circle and was once ringed by moats and boundary walls. The 13th century town centre, with its white houses topped with red roofs, is perfectly preserved and features narrow streets, high arcades and numerous fountains.
There are a number of buildings of importance in Lichtensteig including the Rathaus (Town Hall) and the baroque Loreto Chapel which is crowned by turrets, whilst the Toggenburg Museum is the place to head to learn about the history of the village.
One of Lichtensteig’s natural highlights is the Äuli Gorge, where the River Thur has carved its way through the land. Surrounded by forest, the gorge hidden ravines and waterholes are the ideal place to soak in the beauty of the area.
Where to stay: >> Destimotel
Canton: Appenzell Ausserrhoden
Notable sites: 16th century church, lower Mill, Puzzle Trail
With a backdrop of lush green fields and views stretching as far as the Alpstein and Lake Constance, the charming village of Schwellbrunn is one of the most picturesque in Switzerland. The village is a heritage site of national significance thanks to its beautiful houses with their historic detail.
Traditional customs play a big role in the lives of folks from Appenzell Ausserrhoden and the villagers of Schwellbrunn embrace their cultural heritage, too. Agriculture and gastronomy are highly regarded pastimes with cows from the surrounding fields contributing to the famous Appenzell cheese.
Hiking opportunities abound in the area with a number of different trails on offer including the family-friendly Puzzle Trail. In winter time, skiing, snowshoeing and sledding are popular activities to enjoy outdoors.
Schwellbrunn is the highest village in Appenzell Ausserhoden and with its small village ambience, it’s bound to charm you.
Where to stay: >> Hotel Garni Traube
Whilst in Appenzell Ausserrhoden, be sure to also visit the village of Trogen, which you can read about here.
Country: Principality of Liechtenstein
Notable sites: Parish church, Walser Museum, traditional Walser houses
The only member of the Most Beautiful Villages in Switzerland association that isn’t actually in Switzerland, Triesenberg is a worthy inclusion just the same.
Dating back to 1280 when it was settled by the Walsers, Triesenberg sits above the capital Vaduz and the River Rhine. The locals speak a well-preserved Walser dialect and are very proud of their Walser heritage.
Visitors can learn more about the history and customs of the Walsers in the informative Walser Museum in the heart of the village. The museum features a 400-year-old Walser house, a collection of historic objects and an interactive display.
Another significant building in Triesenberg is the attractive St. Joseph’s Parish Church with its distinctive green onion dome. The wooden interior is well worth admiring.
Surrounded by mountains and rolling fields, Triesenberg is a popular destination for Liechtensteiners who come to enjoy the unspoilt nature and soak up the sun in the village regarded as Liechtenstein’s sun terrace.
Where to stay: >> Hotel Oberland
As you can see from the villages featured above, the common theme of history, culture and charm makes all these villages worthy members of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de Suisse.
Spread across the whole of Switzerland, there is sure to be a village close to where your Swiss travels take you. I encourage you to visit one or more of these villages and appreciate their beauty first hand.
Podcast: An Interview with Kevin Quattropani, President of The Most Beautiful Villages in Switzerland
Complete list of the Most Beautiful Villages in Switzerland
- Avenches – Vaud
- Grandson – Vaud
- Moudon – Vaud
- Romainmôtier – Vaud
- Rougemont – Vaud
- Saint-Saphorin – Vaud
- Yvorne – Vaud
- Grandvillard – Fribourg
- Gruyères – Fribourg
- Le Landeron – Neuchâtel
- Valangin – Neuchâtel
- Porrentruy – Jura
- Saint-Ursanne – Jura
Mittelland, Bernese Oberland and Valais
- Büren on the Aare – Bern
- Erlach – Bern
- La Neuveville – Bern
- Albinen – Valais
- Appoint – Valais
- Evolène – Valais
- Grimentz – Valais
- Saillon – Valais
- Simplon village – Valais
Central Switzerland and Ticino
- Aarburg – Aargau
- Bremgarten – Aargau
- Luther – Lucerne
- Gersau – Schwyz
- Morcote – Ticino
- Ascona – Ticino
- Bosco Gurin – Ticino
- Muggio – Ticino
- Eglisau – Zurich
Eastern Switzerland and Graubünden
- Bergün-Bravuogn – Graubünden
- Breil-Brigels – Graubünden
- Madulain – Graubünden
- Poschiavo – Graübunden
- Soglio – Graubünden
- Splügen – Graubünden
- Tschlin – Graubünden
- Diessenhofen – Thurgau
- Lichtensteig – St Gallen
- Schwellbrunn – Appenzell Ausserrhoden
- Trogen – Appenzell Ausserrhoden
- Triesenberg – Liechtenstein
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