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Switzerland Family Holidays & Breaks

The joy of the great outdoors in Switzerland.The joy of the great outdoors in Switzerland.© Switzerland Tourism - swiss-image.ch/Christian Perret.
Kids taking a ski lesson.Kids taking a ski lesson.© Switzerland Tourism - swiss-image.ch/Christof Sonderegger.
Holidaying on a working farm in Switzerland.Holidaying on a working farm in Switzerland.© Switzerland Tourism - swiss-image.ch/Robert Boesch.
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 Swiss Alps for some of Europe’s best skiing and hiking or explore the country's fantastic cities and great museums, Switzerland can be a magical destination – 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

Discover the Swiss 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 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 Papiliorama in Kerzers outside the city.

Enjoy fantastic winter and summer activities in the resorts of the Bernese Oberland south of Bern. The ski resort of Interlaken between the lakes of Thun and Brienz – a fantastic base for exploring the region's snowcapped mountains, pristine lakes and waterfalls – offers endless winter sports plus lots of water-based activities in summer. With keen skiers, Grindelwald 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.

Alternatively, head for the Valais region in south-west Switzerland, home to the family-friendly ski resorts of Saas-Fee and Zermatt. It's also here that you'll find 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.

Or try the Graubünden region of south-east Switzerland: it's here that you find the luxury resort of St Moritz and the resort of Weisse Arena, combining Flims, Laax and Falera. Flims is now also popular as a summer destination, with paragliding, mountain-biking, swimming ijn the beautifully pure Caumasee lake, and rafting and canoeing in Ruinaulta canyon among the offerings.

Explore Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich, where little visitors get hands-on with pigs, ponies and pygmy goats at Zürich Zoo, see 1,200+ antique toys from all over Europe at the Zürich Toy Museum or ogle the prehistoric exhibits at the city's Aathal Dinosaur Museum. In winter, get your skates on at the 1930s-built Dolder Open-Air Ice Rink, the largest of its kind in Europe, or travel an hour out of the city to Atzmännig for fantastic skiing and winter sports. Thirty-five minutes outside Zürich, Conny-Land has great rides. 

In Basel, watch the iron figures at work in the Tinguely Fountain or make your own paper at the Basel Paper Mill 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, with some of Switzerland’s best activities for families. Base yourself in Lausanne, a dynamic and interesting city, capital of the Vaud region. Ride the steamboats on the lake 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 north-east to Broc and its 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. This area of the country also where you'll find the family-friendly ski resort of Villars-sur-Ollon with its Lake Geneva views.

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.

Have a wander around Geneva – not the most family-friendly of cities, but one with some interesting sights including the iconic Jet d'Eau whooshing up out of the lake, some great parks (especially the central Parc des Bastions with its giant outdoor chess sets) and a good, free Natural History Museum.

Eat

International cuisine including the usual child-friendly suspects is easy to come by in Switzerland, but most kids are thrilled by cheese-based Swiss specialities such as fondues, raclette (melted cheese to scoop) and rösti (fried grated potato with cheese or ham). Restaurants in Switzerland 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.

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 ski areas, accommodation is naturally more expensive in winter; in summer, it's cities that see increased prices. Self-catering options help save money wherever you are – including camping in summer.

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 Rhonda Carrier

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