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Expat Exchange - Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Switzerland (Plus, Itineraries) 2024
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Zug, Switzerland

Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Switzerland (Plus, Itineraries)

By Joshua Wood, LPC

William Russell
William Russell

Summary: Considering a move to Switzerland but uncertain about where to settle? Venturing on an exploratory trip to visit multiple popular expat destinations can be incredibly enlightening. Here's a list of recommended places to consider during your exploration of Switzerland.

Embarking on a Look-See trip to Switzerland is a crucial step for anyone considering a move to this picturesque country. Such a trip allows potential expats to explore various cities and towns, get a feel for the local culture, and assess the practicalities of daily life. It's an opportunity to envision your future in different settings, from bustling cities to serene mountain villages, and to make informed decisions about where you might want to settle down. Whether you're a retiree seeking tranquility, an expat looking for career opportunities, or a digital nomad in search of inspiration, a reconnaissance trip can help you find your ideal Swiss locale.

Recommended Itineraries

For a 10-day trip, consider starting in Zurich, then moving on to Lucerne, Bern, and Geneva, spending a couple of days in each city to get a sense of the different lifestyles and opportunities they offer. If you have 20 days, you can extend your journey to include Lausanne, Basel, and Lugano, as well as a visit to the regions of Valais and Graubünden, where you can explore towns like Zermatt, Davos, and St. Moritz. This extended itinerary allows for a deeper dive into each area's unique character and the chance to visit smaller towns that might be more suitable for those seeking a quieter life.


Zurich, Switzerland's largest city, is known for its high quality of life, vibrant cultural scene, and robust job market. With a population of over 400,000, it offers a cosmopolitan atmosphere while still being close to nature, with the Zurich Lake and nearby Alps. Expats and digital nomads are drawn to Zurich for its efficient public transportation, diverse international community, and thriving financial sector. The cost of living is high, but so is the standard of living, making it an attractive option for those who can afford it.

Travel Tip: While in Zurich, don't miss the opportunity to dine at Zeughauskeller, a historic restaurant known for its traditional Swiss cuisine. Also, take a stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse, one of the world's most exclusive shopping streets.


Lucerne is a charming city that boasts a stunning lakeside setting and a view of the majestic Mount Pilatus. With a population of around 82,000, it offers a more relaxed pace of life compared to Zurich. The city is popular among expats who appreciate its historical architecture, the walkable old town, and the high-quality education system. Lucerne's cost of living is slightly lower than Zurich's, but it still provides a comfortable lifestyle with plenty of amenities.

Travel Tip: Be sure to visit the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, and enjoy a meal at the Rathaus Brauerei, where you can taste locally brewed beer.


Bern, the capital of Switzerland, offers a blend of political significance and a relaxed lifestyle. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site with a population of about 133,000. Expats are attracted to Bern for its high-quality healthcare, education, and a slower pace of life. The cost of living is moderate, and the city is known for its green spaces and the Aare River that curves through it, offering a picturesque setting for daily life.

Travel Tip: Enjoy a meal at the historic Kornhauskeller in Bern's old town, and don't forget to visit the Bear Park, where you can see Bern's symbolic animals in a natural environment.


Geneva is a global hub for diplomacy and banking, with a diverse population that includes many international expats. The city, with around 200,000 residents, sits on the shores of Lake Geneva and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Geneva is known for its international organizations, high cost of living, and luxurious lifestyle. It's ideal for expats looking for career opportunities in international relations or finance.

Travel Tip: Dine at Café du Soleil, one of the city's oldest restaurants, and visit the iconic Jet d'Eau, a large fountain on Lake Geneva that's one of the city's most famous landmarks.


Lausanne, the Olympic capital, is situated on the northern shore of Lake Geneva. With a population of around 140,000, it's known for its vibrant student population, thanks to the prestigious University of Lausanne and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The city's hilly landscape offers beautiful views and a dynamic cultural life. Lausanne is attractive for expats who value education, sports, and a high standard of living.

Travel Tip: Visit the Olympic Museum to explore the history of the games, and enjoy a meal at the Café de Grancy, a favorite among locals and expats alike.


Basel, located on the Rhine River at the border with France and Germany, is a cultural hotspot with a population of about 200,000. It's known for its museums, art galleries, and the annual Art Basel fair. The pharmaceutical and chemical industries are prominent here, making it a good choice for professionals in these fields. Basel's cost of living is high, but it offers a rich cultural life and a family-friendly environment.

Travel Tip: Explore the Kunstmuseum, the oldest public art collection in the world, and enjoy a meal at the historic Restaurant zum Isaak on the Munsterplatz.


Lugano, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, offers a mix of Swiss efficiency and Italian flair. With a population of around 63,000, it's a financial and cultural center with a Mediterranean climate. The city is popular among expats who enjoy its lakeside setting, subtropical gardens, and the blend of Swiss and Italian cultures. The cost of living is high, but the quality of life is equally elevated, with excellent food, shopping, and outdoor activities.

Travel Tip: Visit Parco Civico, a beautiful park by the lake, and dine at Ristorante Galleria Arté al Lago, a Michelin-starred restaurant with stunning views.

Valais and Graubünden Regions

The regions of Valais and Graubünden are known for their alpine beauty and outdoor activities. In Valais, consider visiting Zermatt, famous for the Matterhorn, and in Graubünden, explore Davos and St. Moritz, renowned for their ski resorts and luxury accommodations. These regions are ideal for expats and retirees who love nature and seek a peaceful environment. The cost of living varies, with some towns offering more affordable options than the upscale resort areas.

Travel Tip: In Zermatt, dine at Chez Vrony, a restaurant with a century-old tradition and panoramic views of the mountains. In St. Moritz, visit the Segantini Museum, dedicated to the artist Giovanni Segantini.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

William Russell
William Russell

William Russell
William Russell

Zug, Switzerland

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