Europe Summer on Top of the World
The secret is out, there’s no use pretending otherwise. The Swiss Alps are a fantastic summer destination. Magnificent landscapes of towering peaks and deep green valleys, crisp mountain air and clear blue skies, meadows filled with colorful wildflowers and the sweet smell of pine. Leave the overcrowded beaches and sweltering cities far behind. Whether you’re searching for outdoor adventure or solitude, glamorous nightlife or charming villages, you’ll find it here in one of the world’s most dramatic mountain ranges.
DECAMP TO THE SLOPES
The idyllic Alpine village of Gstaad has beckoned the rich and famous for decades. Thanks to strict building ordinances that forbid anything but traditional Swiss architecture, Gstaad is known for its chic chalets that house cozy wood-paneled wine bars, sophisticated restaurants, designer boutiques and art galleries. Overflowing with champagne swigging merrymakers during the Christmas season, the rest of the year Gstaad is a close-knit village with less than 10,000 permanent residents and a single movie theater, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Set in the picturesque Saane river valley, the scenery is a big draw and getting out into nature is easy with the profusion of scenic trails that can accommodate any activity level. Gstaad also happens to be home to Glacier 3000, a ski resort and year-round adventure destination. Take a cable car to the 10,000-foot-high peak, where on clear days you can see the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, and take a heart-pounding walk across the world’s only suspension bridge that links two summits. For a taste of the good life, visit during the Swiss Open in late July or the Hublot Polo Gold Cup in late August when the town comes alive with late-night parties and glittering galas.
One of the first ski resorts in Switzerland and two-time host of the Winter Olympics, St. Moritz has an undeniable cache that has long attracted the jet-set crowd. Nestled snuggly in the picturesque Engadin Valley, St. Moritz has been blessed with a fairy-tale setting of rugged peaks and high-altitude lakes that, come summer, provide the perfect backdrop for scenic hikes and afternoon swims. Larger and more developed than Gstaad, St. Moritz also has a wealth of shopping and dining options, including multiple Michelin-starred restaurants and Via Serlas, the town’s Rodeo Drive equivalent.
Built around picturesque Lake St. Moritz, in the summer the town attracts a bevy of water-sport aficionados. Rowers, paddleboarders and especially sailors flock to the pristine waters where abundant sun and steady winds make for ideal sailing conditions. In heady contrast, the breathtakingly beautiful Bernina Glaciers are easily accessible either by train or scenic helicopter flight. Popular outings also include village-hopping between hamlets such as Sils and Silvaplana, both appreciated for their charming architecture, fantastic lakes and expansive mountain panoramas.
For the past century, St. Moritz has been best-known as a winter resort, but the town has been a coveted summertime retreat since the Middle Ages, when pilgrims discovered the warm mineral water bubbling up from mountain springs. The tradition of taking the waters continues today in the form of opulent spas and thermal baths that dot the town and surrounding countryside.
Located at the basis of the Matterhorn, and surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Alps, Zermatt is an exceptionally picturesque mountain paradise. A year-round ski destination, Zermatt is also particularly family-friendly with a laidback ski resort vibe and pedestrian-friendly streets (cars were banned here in 1966). Summer in Zermatt is a particularly active affair—hiking, mountain biking and skiing are popular pursuits—but with gondolas and aerial tramways galore, getting to the top of the coveted peaks is fast and comfortable.
SKY HIGH RIDES
No trip to the Swiss Alps is complete without a ride on one of the country’s spectacular scenic train routes. Unimaginable feats of human engineering, these magnificent rail lines cross over mountains and through valleys via a seemingly endless network of tunnels, bridges and viaducts.
This epic eight-hour ride from St. Moritz to Zermatt offers breathtaking panoramas of pristine maintain landscapes as well as the stunning Rhine Gorge and high-mountain Oberalp Pass.
At 11,000 feet above sea level, the Jungfraujoch is the highest rail station in Europe. Getting there is an unforgettable ride through an otherworldly landscape of ice, snow and rock.
Gotthard Panorama Express
This five-hour journey between Lugano and Lucerne includes a steamboat ride across Lake Lucerne and train cars with panoramic windows for enjoying the spectacular views.
Worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status for its remarkable engineering, this iconic line runs from Chur to Tirano, Italy, passing through Davos and St. Moritz along the way.