Cute, totally instagrammable chocolate box villages are kind of Switzerland’s thing, at pretty much any time of the year. Whether under the snow or the warm sun, it is well worthwhile to add at least a couple to your Swiss roadmap. You’re probably thinking “if I do one, I’ve pretty much done them all, right?”. Wrong. You’ll probably call us a broken record if we say this, but it’s so true: each one of our villages is absolutely unique in its style, spirit, architecture, traditions, backdrop, food specialties… and also how known they are.
Indeed, some can be synonymous with crowds in the busier months of the year. So if you’re looking to step into the locals’ shoes and visit some lesser known gems, here are five of our favorite authentic Swiss villages.
Grimentz, Val d’Anniviers
Chances are, you haven’t heard of Grimentz. And that’s because it’s probably one of Switzerland’s very best kept secrets. We’ve been lucky enough to visit most parts of our country, but we’ve come across few places that have preserved their strong heritage and traditions like this one.
This is not the type of place you go to cross off “points of interests” off your list. Instead, we suggest that you give your eyes a real treat by just wandering around in the maze of narrow chalet streets. Let yourself be amazed by the small details you’ll spot here and there, as you surround yourself by remarkable perfection.
That’s because these chalets dating as far back as 1530 are preserved and regularly thoroughly refurbished by the village association to keep its traditions alive. To dive into the history of the village, we suggest that you visit the immersive museum set in one of these chalets, fitted with the decor, furniture, tools and equipment from 150 years ago.
Sirgiswil, Berner Oberland
Your journey to Switzerland will most likely include a stop in the Berner Oberland, one of the most famous and beautiful regions of Switzerland. Here, the lovely towns and villages are countless. But one that is lesser known than the others is the small hamlet of Sirgiswil, set high above Lake Thun amidst the nature, overlooking the jaw-dropping alps. You’ll find that the center is quite small, though impeccably maintained. But it’s worth a detour not only for the views, but also for its 340m panorama bridge at 180m in altitude! A fun experience for the whole family.
For more hidden gems in the Berner Oberland, click here.
Insider Tip: Hidden behind Sigriswil is the Grabenmühle nature park where you can spot alpacas, go fishing in the idyllic ponds or just grab a bite to eat at the charming café.
Saanen, Berner Oberland
Another day, another chalet village. But as you’ll notice from the photo (and when you go there in person), each is absolutely unique in its character… and that goes for the car-free hamlet of Saanen too, the lesser-known neighbor to the world-famous glitz-and-glamoury Gstaad.
Here you’ll find more Swiss than tourists, more local boutiques than high-fashion brand names and a generally more laid back feel. But one of the reasons we particularly love this little gem is because it is home to a number of high-quality family run restaurants. Just come as you are, as you enjoy the tasty, locally-sourced food that is offered by the likes of The 16eme. Bon Appétit!
For more about the Saanenland region, click here.
If you truly want a remote village that will have you step back in time, look no further than the village of Vals in Graubunden. Here, you’ll truly feel like all of your troubles are miles and miles away as you bid goodbye to high street names, international hotel chains and big “stylish” restaurants.
Surrounded completely by alps, in addition to a couple of family-run restaurants and just what you need in terms of convenience stores, this secluded gem is apparently home to “1’000 sheep, 1’000 locals and 1’000 hotel beds”.
Why have so many beds if it is so secluded? Well, because the village is beloved by spa connoisseurs for its thermal baths designed by Peter Zumthor that come from the Saint Peter spring. It’s just what the doctor ordered to clear your mind in the great outdoors!
This might be another name you might never have heard of, and to be honest, neither had we until this year… that’s how much of a hidden gem it is!
Set in the Engadine, just after the breath-taking Majola pass and just before the Italian border, arriving in Soglio is like landing in some sort of dream. Here you’ll find a maze of narrow streets with notable houses dating back to the 14th century, chestnut (the local specialty) and fruit trees growing at 1’100m in altitude, mountain peaks reaching above 3’000m, and flavoursome Italian-inspired cuisine. Again, there’s nothing “particular” to visit per se, but it’s one of those places that truly inspires you to live in the moment.
Insider Tip: Have lunch or dinner at Stua Granda or the Palazzo Salis, two high-quality local favorites, and pick up a chestnut delicacy at the Bottega self-serve shop.
Of course, there are many, many other beautiful villages in Switzerland for you to choose from. We’re thinking of places like Guarda (Engadine), Sils (Engadine), Gandria (Ticino), Sonogno (Ticino), Trubschachen (Emmental), Brienz (Berner Oberland), and Appenzell (Appenzell), and the list could go on for days. If you’re not sure which one’s that right one for you, just get in touch with us, and we’ll recommend the ones that we think you would love!
About Chantal & Max Switzerland Travel Design
Because your holidays are too precious not to be extraordinary, at Chantal & Max Switzerland Travel Design we save you the time and stress of internet research, and seamlessly connect you to the heart of Switzerland with our bespoke itineraries, private guided tours and expert travel planning services. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking here for your custom-designed luxury vacation to Switzerland that you will never forget!