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Switzerland Family Holidays & Breaks

Eastern Switzerland Eastern Switzerland swiss-image.ch/Christian Perret© Switzerland Tourism
Kids' ski lessonKids' ski lessonswiss-image.ch/Christof Sonderegger© Switzerland Tourism
Adventure forest in Saas-Fee Adventure forest in Saas-Fee swiss-image.ch/Robert Boesch© Switzerland Tourism
Holidaying on a working farmHolidaying on a working farmswiss-image.ch/Robert Boesch© Switzerland Tourism
Capital City Bern
Flying Time 1.75hrs
Carbon Footprint 0.72 CO2
Timezone GMT +1
Currency Swiss Franc

Today

Overview

Whether you head to the Alps for some of Europe’s best skiing and hiking or explore the fantastic cities and great museums, Switzerland can be a magical country – if not a cheap one – for family holidays and breaks, especially with children who love the great outdoors.

Things to do with kids in Switzerland

Follow the example of other families heading for the fantastic winter and summer activities in the resorts of Bernese Oberland and the Swiss Alps. The ski resort of Interlaken between the lakes of Thun and Brienz, a fantastic base for exploring the snowcapped mountains, pristine lakes and waterfalls of the Bernese Oberland, offers endless winter sports, plus lots of water-based activities in summer. For family holidays or breaks with keen skiers, Grindelwald, another great base in the Bernese Oberland, is of the most well-established skiing and hiking centres in the region, with slopes for beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers. It's also the capital of summer walking in the Swiss Alps. And don’t leave Switzerland without visiting the Matterhorn, Switzerland’s most recognisable landmark. This great, craggy peak has superb visitor facilities including year-round snowboarding, and you can go on any number of tours around it, on foot or by other means.

Discover the capital Bern: ride the Gurten Funicular to the top of its local mountain for 360° views of the city and the Alps, and in summer let the kids run off some steam in the Gurten playground or enjoy one of the mountain’s many hiking trails. In winter the Gurten Park also offers great tobogganing. Back on lower ground, explore the interactive exhibits at the Bern Museum of Communication or take your kids to create their own work of art at the Kindermuseum Creaviva. See the animals at the Tierpark Bern or discover the world of tropical birds, insects and butterflies at Papilorama in Kerzers outside the city.

Explore Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich, where little visitors can get hands-on with pigs, ponies and pygmy goats at Zürich Zoo, see more than 1,200 antique toys from all over Europe at the Zürich Toy Museum or ogle the prehistoric exhibits at the city’s Dinosaur Museum. In winter, get your skates on at the Dolder Open-Air Ice Rink, the largest of its kind in Europe, or travel 55mins journey out of the city to Atzmännig for fantastic skiing and winter sports. Thirty-five minutes outside Zurich, Connyland offers great rides plus sealion and dolphin shows in the warmer months. 

In Basel, watch the iron figures at work in the Tinguely Fountain or make your own paper at the Basel Paper Museum. Little animal-lovers enjoy Basel Zoo, and there are teddy bears and toys on display at the Basel Doll Museum.

Visit Lake Geneva, also known as Lac Léman and home to some of Switzerland’s best activities for families. Base yourself in Lausanne, a dynamic and interesting city. Ride the steamboats on the lake and then hire a car to take advantage of activities around the lake. On the northeastern shore, pay a visit to the Swiss Museum of Games at La Tour-de-Peilz, then head northeast to the Maison Cailler, a chocolate museum dedicated to the man who brought the first chocolate recipe to Switzerland in 1819.

On the southern shores of Lake Geneva, head to Aqua Parc in the southeast corner for year-round watery fun, or take a picnic to the 3km adventure maze at Labyrinthe Aventure d'Evionnaz. Also southeast of the lake is Happyland, the largest themepark in Switzerland, easily accessible from Geneva and Lausanne. 

Head due north of Lausanne, to the capital of Swiss musicboxes, Sainte-Croix – little visitors will enjoy its Museum of Music Boxes and Automatons. The area north of Lausanne is also home to the Aubonne Arboretum, offering fantastic woodland walks, and Juraparc, a great animal park with wolves, bears and bison.

Venture west of Lake Geneva for more fun for little animal-lovers at Zoo La Garenne, as well as getting the chance to swing from the trees at the Forestland adventure circuit.

Eat

International cuisine including the usual child-friendly suspects is easy to come by in Switzerland, making family holidays and breaks a doddle. But most kids will be thrilled by cheese-based Swiss specialities such as fondues, raclette (melted cheese to scoop) and rösti (fried grated potato with cheese or ham).

Restaurants are expensive, but you can keep costs down by frequenting some of the many snack bars selling mainly German and Italian snacks such as bratwurst and pizza. Desserts (often Austrian) are excellent, as is the coffee. 

When to go to Switzerland

Dec–March is peak ski season in Switzerland, while July and August are ideal for hiking. There can be more rain in August and September, which is worth bearing in mind when planning family holidays and breaks.

In the higher Alpine regions, temperatures tend to be low, while the lower land of the northern area has higher temperatures and warm summers. Expect summer temperatures of around 24°C and winter temperatures from -2°C to 3 or 4°C. 

Outside the ski season, May sees the three-day Lausanne Carnival with live street theatre and music and an annual parade. 

Cost

Switzerland is a notoriously expensive country to live in or visit. In skiing areas, accommodation is naturally more expensive in winter; in summer, it's cities that see increased prices. Self-catering options will help you to save money wherever you are – including camping in summertime.

If you're not going for the skiing, think about going in the shoulder season (May/June and Sept/Oct), when the weather is pleasantly mild and ideal for family holidays and breaks.

By Zannah Ingraham

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