Switzerland’s Enchanting Car-Free Villages

May 11, 2018 - 1:30 PM

"Room with a view” is a given in Switzerland’s magical car-free villages, which are largely accessible by train, aerial tram, or funicular. You won’t find the glam of the swankiest Swiss resorts, but these mountain getaways offer a good measure of alpine chic along with stunning vistas and nature-inspired recreation. With no traffic noise and a peaceful pedestrian atmosphere, the communities feel a bit surreal, yet totally authentic (especially when you’re riding a morning tram with youngsters heading to school).

There are nearly a dozen of these car-free destinations, and a day trip will suffice for some of them, such as Lake Lucerne’s Mount Rigi, with sunrise excursions and legendary views; and family-friendly Stoos, which boasts the world’s steepest funicular. Other villages merit a longer stay, however. Here are five
to consider:

Zermatt. Nestled against the iconic Matterhorn, this famous mountaineering town offers luxury lodging, gastronomy, skiing, and trekking along 13th century mule traders’ trails. Ride the Gornergrat cog railway for views of the Swiss, Italian, and French Alps.

Saas-Fee. Surrounded by 12,000-foot peaks, the “Pearl of the Alps” ski resort shines in summer as well as winter with adventure and wellness-themed trails and sun-terrace dining. Take the Metro Alpin funicular to the world’s highest revolving restaurant.  

Bettmeralp. A lesser-known gem, this serene alpine village is a gateway for exploring the Great Aletsch Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Take a guided glacier hike and ride the tram to Eggishorn for top-of-the-world views.

Wengen. Perched above Lauterbrunnen Valley, this lively village is a hub for myriad alpine treks in the shadow of Switzerland’s famous triple peaks—Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. You can ride the train to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station.

Mürren. Across the valley from Wengen, this smaller hamlet is a hiker’s paradise and prime launch site for paragliding. If you’re a James Bond fan, take the cable car to Schilthorn, filming location of the sixth Bond thriller, and experience the interactive Bond World 007 exhibition.

To visit these villages, fly into Zurich International Airport, which has four private jet terminals. On the ground, consider private transfer or a first-class Swiss Travel Pass. From scenic rail to zippy alpine ascent, the Swiss Travel System is efficient and will even deliver your luggage to your destination.