From decadent cheese fondue in traditional mountainside restaurants to saffron risotto at the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, to morning Bircher muesli or Zurcher Geschnetzeltes for dinner, Swiss cuisine comes in many enticing varieties. Here we take a look at 16 great restaurants in Switzerland, plus what to eat when you’re in Switzerland, from traditional chalets to a bakery. The restaurant list includes everything from Michelin starred restaurants to surprisingly excellent seafood eateries in this landlocked country. You’ll move between jaw-dropping Alpine settings to chic urban establishments. Whet your appetites with these suggestions. (Read to the end for several choices for fabulous Swiss wine to enjoy with your meal.)
1. Chez Vrony, Zermatt
When it comes to Swiss dining, you can’t leave without a traditional mountainside meal, best enjoyed after a day of epic skiing or hiking in the Alps. Chez Vrony, on Rothorn Mountain, ranks as one of the best mountainside restaurants in the world. Ski right down to it from the Sunnegga Express in tiny Findeln, then tuck into charcuterie (they cure their own meat here), a family-recipe burger and more, all with views of the Matterhorn (make a reservation ahead of time to request a table on the deck at this cute-chic Swiss chalet). Vrony is the owner – her brother is responsible for the design of the furniture and the paintings you’ll see on the walls.
2. Hotel Hofgarten, Lucerne
For farm-to-table fare in a sophisticated setting, head to one of Lucerne’s historic manor houses – the Hotel Hofgarten. Casual pub on the outside, the restaurant is all elegance inside. Your menu choices are sourced from Lucerne farmers’ markets and local cheesemongers – try the roasted scallops, porcini mushrooms, pumpkin soup and braised veal.
3. Restaurant Engiadina, St. Moritz
Not many can resist the appeal of melted cheese when traveling through Switzerland – in fact, Swiss cheese fondue was actually declared the national dish back in 1930. If you’re in St. Moritz, make it a point to dip your bread in this bubbling goodness at Restaurant Engiadina. Choose from several varieties, including the popular champagne version. And be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot for a truly special Swiss native treat.
4. Fischer’s Fritz, Zurich
You may not immediately think of fish or seafood eateries when considering Swiss dining, but look no further than Lake Zurich for fresh whitefish, trout, pike, burbot and even jellyfish. Swiss fish-and-chips is called fischknusperli and you’ll definitely want to try it. There’s even freshwater fish sushi prepared by the Japan-trained chef at this campground restaurants – a favorite of upscale urbanites on vacation.
5. Restaurant Brasserie Anker, Bern
Another traditional Swiss cuisine favorite, rosti is a pan-fried grated potato dish (think hash browns, but even better). Rosti stems from Switzerland’s German-speaking population and is available everywhere throughout the country, including this family-friendly restaurant in Bern. Wash it down with a local beer or Swiss wine.
6. Chateau de Villa, Sierre
Another must when it comes to Swiss cuisine: raclette. Pair a local Swiss wine – like La Petite Aryine – with your plates of bubbling cheese. Chateau de Villa sources its cheese from area towns to offer a subtle variety of flavors. The raclette cheese is scraped onto accompanying potatoes, other vegetables and meats, hearkening back to an Alpine tradition from the Valais and Haute Savois regions of Switzerland and France.
7. Haus Hiltl
As surprising as it may seem for a country whose cuisine is dominated by meat, cheese and potatoes, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world is in Zurich: Haus Hiltl. Founded in 1898, the restaurant offers countless vegetarian and vegan indulgences popular with plant-lovers and carnivores alike. Today, the restaurant business is run by its fourth generation of restaurateurs, who cater to diners in several Zurich locations (Sihlstrasse, Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s main station, in the multicultural district 4, at Paradeplatz and in the summer at Strandbad Mythenquai and Seebad Kilchberg). The menu brims with local and regional produce, as well as vegan wine.
8. Restaurant Findlerhof
If you’re looking for a traditional Swiss restaurant with a staggering alpine view, head to the hamlet of Finland. You’ll want to spend hours on the chalet’s sunny patio overlooking the Matterhorn, feasting on local specialties and fine food. Traditional options include veal cutlet, veal liver roast and rosti, risotto and the Matterkuchen (Matterhorn quiche), made from eggs, bacon and leeks.
9. YOU Restaurant, Zurich
YOU seamlessly melds French cuisine and Far East Asian flavors. Worthy of its Michelin star, YOU has also earned 15 Gault Millau points. Set in the Kameha Grand Zurich, the elegant restaurant offers everything from wasabi and tuna bits to gruyere cheese foam, Norwegian lobster to codfish with local white asparagus (making it also one of the best seafood eateries in Switzerland). The waiters are well versed in local wines and Japanese sake.
10. Le Chat-Botte, Geneva
Within the elegant Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva, Le Chat-Botte (Puss in Boots) not only offer gastronomic delights, but beautiful views of Lake Geneva. Feast on seasonal French cuisine, perhaps opting for the exclusive Chef’s Table where the chef will specially prepare Michelin-starred treats for you and your party.
11. Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville de Crissier
Voted world’s best restaurant by La Liste and in the top-ten list in past years as well, Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville de Crissier offers such incredible-sounding dishes as “Penthereaz endive crab and lemon pearls Imperial style” and “duck fois gras with Fechy thrush pear-grape chutney.” Intrigued? You can also take a cooking class from the restaurant’s academy and learn tricks of the trade from Chef Giovanni.
12. Cheval Blanc, Basel
This Michelin starred restaurant sits in the historical center of Basel on the banks of the Rhine River. The award-winning chef will treat you to delicacies influence by Asia and the Mediterranean region, such as ravioli with white truffle from Alba, and smoked eel, beetroot, black garlic and wasabi. Chef Peter Knogl specialized in haute cuisine, preparing his menu from the best with which nature provides us.
13. Schauenstein Schloss Restaurant
Ranked one of the world’s 50 best restaurants, Schauenstein Schloss in the Domleschg Valley has earned three Michelin stars. You’ll love the setting as much as the food, here in a tiny castle in Furstenau. Award-winning chef Andreas Caminada works magic with Graubunden lamb, lemon ravioli, langoustine tartare, truffled-potato crème brulee and more. The farm from which much of the meat comes from is within eyesight.
14. Zeughauskeller, Zurich
Within a 15th-century building sits this iconic beer hall on Paradeplatz in Zurich. Under wooden beams and between stone columns and ancient arched windows, you can feast on veal steaks and house beer rom the local TurbinenBrau brewery.
15. Restaurant le Chalet de Gruyeres
Cheese aficionados can’t miss out on the Restaurant le Chalet de Gruyeres in, you guessed it, Gruyeres. Heaping platters of locally dried meats and fresh greens complement generous portions of Gruyere cheese. The variations on how to enjoy it are many: open-faced grilled-cheese sandwich, traditional raclette, Alpine mac-and-cheese, quiche, fondue and more. Wash it down with a Swiss wine such as chasselas.
16. Restaurant Lapin
For upscale classic Swiss cuisine, consider the Restaurant Lapin. Set in the family-run Hotel de la Paix, this charming venue offers the kebab-style Lucerne Fritschipastete, flambeed right at your table. The specials change daily, making the restaurant a favorite of local foodies.
Looking for a Bakery?
OK, we admit, it’s hard to narrow Switzerland’s amazing bakeries down to one or two favorites. Instead, we’ll recommend what to order when you come across a bakery (or ten) that looks worth a stop.
Look for these distinctly horseshoe-shaped Bernese pastries at bakeries in the German-speaking part of Switzerland (in the French parts of the country, they’re called Viennese croissant). Finger-thick dough is stuffed with sweetened hazelnuts, orange peel, lemon zest, cinnamon and sugar.
2. Blue Cake
Don’t worry, the cake isn’t blue. Stemming from the Frutig valley, the Blue Cake is a simple puff pastry. It’s names refers to “blau machen,” which means “to take a vacation.” Fill up your free time taste testing these delightful pastries, usually eaten with cold cuts, cheese, butter or jam – and always coffee.
3. Spanisch Brotli
Originating from Badem im Aargau, Spanisch brotli is square-shaped and filled with roasted hazelnuts and apricot jam.
Dried pears are the main filling ingredient for the delectable birnbrot. Other varieties may include walnuts, raisins, figs, brandy, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and anise.
The pretty little carac is a shortbread pie with chocolate, cream and iconic green icing. They’re typically small, but can be made bigger for celebrations and gatherings.
6. Lekerlis Biscuits
While you can find these hazelnut-filled biscuits year-round, they’re particularly savored at Christmastime. They’re related to the German Lebkuchen, with a spiced, gingerbread quality with the added tastes hazelnut variance. Spicy, sweet and worth getting sticky for.
What to Eat While You’re in Switzerland
Don’t miss these traditional menu items when you’re out and about in Switzerland, from the Alps to the urban centers.
Embrace the cliché and treat yourself to all the fondue. Crusty bread and bubbling cheese – what’s not to love? Our favorite is a combo of gruyere cheese and vacheron, with wine and garlic. Wash it down with a delightful, local white wine or schnapps.
2. Papet Vaudois
Otherwise known as leeks with potatoes and sausage, this earthy favorite hits the spot on a cold winter’s night.
A national dish of Switzerland, rosti is made from thinly grated potatoes that are pan-fried until crispy. It started in Bern and is now eaten any time of day countrywide. In Valais, try rosti Valaisanne, in which rosti is topped with bacon, fried egg and melted raclette cheese with gherkins and pickled onions.
4. Roasted Flour Soup
A traditional dish from Basel, roasted flour soup comes in many varieties, but it’s always based on flour, butter, onion and beef stock. If you happen to be in town for the lively Basel Carnival, order it at 3 AM, when it’s traditional served.
Originating in Valais, the raclette experience conjures up images of wood-burning fireplaces, mugs of schnapps and stories of the Alps. Sit back and say “mmmmmm” as you tuck into bubbling melted cheese over boiled potatoes, sausages, pickles and onions.
6. Polenta and Braised Beef
From the Italian-speaking area of Ticino, Switzerland derived this polenta dish – cornmeal cooked into a steaming porridge, to which wine-tinged braised beef is added. The perfect thick, rustic taste.
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7. Zurcher Geschnetzeltes (Veal and Mushroom)
Another iconic Swiss dish, Zurcher geschnetzeltes is a delightful ragout of veal, calves’ kidneys and sweetbreads, onions, butter, cream, white wine and mushrooms. It’s arguably one of the richest items on the menu in Switzerland.
If you love a good quiche, you have to try tartiflette, based on local Reblochon cheese that dates back to the 16th century. Most ski resorts offer this yummy savory pie of thinly sliced potatoes, smokey bacon, carmelized onions and nutty Reblochon cheese.
9. Seasonal Cheese (Mont-d’Or Vacherin)
There’s a cheese for every season in Switzerland. If you’re there between September and April, try the Mont-d’Or Vacherin, a soft and pungent cow’s-milk cheese made in the villages of the Jura region. It’s best served warm and gooey over potatoes.
What Wine to Drink in Switzerland
We’ve given you plenty of dining options – now, to wash it down in local style, complement your meal with one of these top-ranked Swiss wines. Unless you’re a well-versed oenophile, you may not even have known that Switzerland produces some excellent wine. In fact, there are 40 varieties of indigenous grapes grown in the country – Valais is the largest-growing wine region. Here are some to try:
2007 Cave de la cote Oenoline la Cote
2007 Robert Gilliard les Murettes Fendant
2006 Serge Roh Les Ruinettes Amigne de Vetroz Grand Cru
2007 Chateau d’Auvernier Oeil de Perdrix
2005 Caves Cidis Gamaret la Cote