Switzerland is the perfect place for a family holiday, with enough excitement to keep children of all ages happy. Please read on for our family holiday guide including the best days out, family-friendly hotels and travel tips. You may also wish to download the MySwitzerland Family Trips App, available free on iTunes and Google Play Store.
A natural paradise for children
Switzerland is just waiting to be explored! Most regions have themed trails which are suitable for smaller walkers such as the Apple Fritter Trail on the Männlichen. On many mountain walks such as Spielboden near Saas-Fee, you may come across marmots, comical mountain creatures that will delight children. Cycling in the countryside is also very popular here and you can hire bikes in resort or at mountain stations.
Most children enjoy the water but probably haven't experienced swimming in a beautiful mountain lake. Head for Lake Untersee near Arosa or Lake Cauma near Flims for an unforgettable experience - warm water, resort facilities close at hand and a magical mountain backdrop.
Children will also be fascinated by natural wonders such as the thundering Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen or the echoing Aare Gorge in the Bernese Oberland. If they want to experience Swiss snow, you can find it year round at Glacier 3000 near Lake Geneva or Mount Titlis in Central Switzerland.
Explore by land, sea and air
The sheer variety of different modes of transport in Switzerland will fascinate many children. You can take a cruise on a paddle steamer along Lake Geneva, Lake Lucerne and Interlaken's Lakes Thun and Brienz . Some of these traditional boats are more than 100 years old. If steam is the thing, a ride on the Brienzer Rothorn steam train is highly recommended, or you could try the Furka steam train across some of the highest mountain passes (must be booked in advance).
Funiculars abound across the country. Again, some of them are over 100 years old and are a joy to travel on. Try the one from Interlaken to Harder Kulm or Lugano's Monte San Salvatore . The cable cars which glide smoothly up and down the higher mountains are a real treat for children; the Cabrio on the Stanserhorn which even has an open top deck for a truly thrilling ride.
Family fun days out
There are a variety of other attractions around the country to keep the whole family happy.
Many of the alpine villages offer a cheese making experience which the children will love. In Interlaken's Café Schuh you can try your hand at chocolate making, while the Kambly Experience is all about biscuits. Childen can see how the rural Swiss lived 100 years ago at Heidiland near Bad Ragaz and explore Swissminiature near Lugano. In Lucerne, the Transport Museum is a must with a vast array of interactive exhibitions to keep you entertained all day.
Zurich and Basel have large zoos, and children will be fascinated with the bears roaming by the river bank in Bern. A number of mountain destinations such as Davos' Rinerhorn have petting zoos with goats, marmots and the like. For prehistoric animals, head to Monte San Giorgio, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with fossils galore.
Most resorts offer sports and leisure activities such as mini golf and tennis. There are also many lidos with outdoor bathing, such as the one near Lenzerheide.
Thrills for older children
Older children and teenagers seeking a more exciting experience need not worry. Interlaken has become a centre for adventure sports such as paragliding. You can head for the First Flyer near Grindelwald for a truly thrilling ride, or try the Gelmerbahn near Meiringen, which is the steepest funicular in Europe. Rafting and canoeing can be enjoyed on the waters near Flims.
Many mountain resorts offer summer toboggan experiences which can be great fun - try the ones on Mount Pilatus near Lucerne or Saas-Fee's 'Feeblitz'. There are plenty of fixed rope parks in or near our resorts - Zermatt, Flims and Engelberg to name but a few.
Your family may also enjoy the electric 'Trotti' scooter bikes (normally suitable for age 8 and over) which can be found on mountains such as the Pfingstegg and Niederhorn in the Bernese Oberland.
Your choice of hotel is naturally very important when travelling with children. Our team will be able to offer advice on hotels with family rooms and inter-connecting rooms. You may even find that a Junior Suite works out to be better value for you.
Many of our hotels have a swimming pool, often an major consideration for families. Again, we can suggest suitable hotels.
When it comes to dinner, timing and suitability of food can be vital for younger children. The Sunstar group of hotels (in resorts across the country) allow children up to the age of 11 to order meals directly from the restaurant, whenever they feel hungry. They also offer a children's menu of simple dishes or the option of ordering individual dishes from the standard menu at half price.
The Alphubel in Saas-Fee deserves special mention for its child friendly menus, as well as a Kids Club with acitivities for younger and older children. In summer the children can play in the hotel garden which has mini golf, badminton, darts and a playground.
If outside space is an essential for letting off steam, a few examples of hotels with gardens include: Hotel Saratz (Pontresina) which also has tennis courts, Hotel Belvédère (Locarno), with outdoor games including petanque and Hotel Seeberg (Lucerne), whose gardens have direct access to lake swimming.
Travelling with children
Travelling to Switzerland
You may wish to consider travelling by rail, a journey which allows your family more room to stretch their legs and 'explore'. Eurostar coaches 1 and 18 have baby changing facilities, extra space, more family tables and the train's buffet cars have plenty of snacks. You will also be allowed to bring a pushchair in addition to the normal luggage allowance.
For those travelling by air, SWISS, British Airways and easyJet all allow free carriage of a pushchair in addition to normal luggage allowances. Most SWISS flights give out children's activity packs as well as complimentary chocolates! BA and SWISS flights include a small snack, while easyJet have kids snack packs available to buy, which include games and activities.
Onward travel to your resort
Upon arrival at Zurich and Geneva airport, you will be relieved that the transition to your onward rail transfer is very simple as the stations are housed within the airport terminals. We'll even tell you in advance which platform to head for. The double-decker InterCity trains have 'Ticki Park' family coaches with a small playground area and tables fitted with board games, while single-deck trains have 'family zones' with plenty of space for pushchairs. Families can relax here knowing that a higher level of noise will be tolerated than in other parts of the train. Stewards will pass by your seats with Lavazza coffee for the adults as well as snacks to keep the children happy.
Great value for families
We offer the following reductions on all our air and rail inclusive holidays:
SHARING WITH 2 ADULTS
Infants under 2 years, pay £75
Children aged 2-11 years, 35% off Children aged 12-15 years, 15% off
OCCUPYING THEIR OWN ROOM
Children aged 6-11 years, £75 off
The Swiss Family Card
Children up to 5 years old travel free on public transport in Switzerland. For families with 6-15 years olds, we will send you the Swiss Family Card, which entitles children to travel free when accompanied by a parent.