5 cycle routes in Switzerland to suit all abilities
With the weather starting to turn, May is the perfect month to head out for a bike ride. Thankfully, Switzerland is blessed with hundreds of stunning routes across its plains and mountains, offering views of beautiful lakes, rivers and historical sites.
The cycle route network in Switzerland explained
Switzerland is well set up for cyclists in that there is a set of defined cycle routes that run nationally, regionally and locally. These routes have been graded to suit different people's wants and abilities: some routes offer views of different landscapes, or points of interest, and naturally, some routes are more difficult than others.
You can see when you are on a designated cycle path as they are usually signposted in burgundy with a blue square with a number to designate what route you are on. Most also have yellow road markings to tell you where is safe to ride.
There are also plenty of opportunities for cyclists to take a cycling holiday in Switzerland, with many special bike hotels for you to stop at along your chosen route.
There are nine national routes stretching across the whole of Switzerland. The longest national route is the Lakes or Seen Route (Route 9), which covers a distance of 510 kilometres in 10 stages, from Montreux in Canton Vaud to Rorschach on the banks of Lake Constance.
Naturally, the Lakes Route derives its name from the many stunning Swiss lakes that the route passes by. Cyclists can also enjoy Gruyère cheese at Lac de la Gruyère and visit Lucerne, one of the most well-known Swiss cities.
For a shorter route, cyclists can try the Graubünden Route (Route 6), a 199-kilometre route through the Swiss mountains, with incredible views from up high and plenty of castles along the way. There are many other national routes that have varying distances, most of which are done over a course of six to 10 stages.
Not only does the country offer nine great national cycle routes, but it also has some excellent routes that showcase specific regions and Swiss cantons. These shorter routes can make for perfect weekend trips, with one to three-stage options available. Since these routes are shorter, there are actually quite a few of them and each has different features on offer.
From a peaceful weekend cycling holiday to an adrenaline-fuelled few days on mountain biking trails, there’s really something for everyone, and it’s a great opportunity to learn about the region surrounding where you live, its history and culture. You could also take your bike on public transport, or buy a bike rack and drive across Switzerland to find a new region that you’re curious about and follow one of the routes around there.
Lastly, local routes - the best Swiss cycle routes for a day trip! These routes are much shorter - ranging between around 15 to 70 kilometres in just one stage. Some of the easier routes are just 10 kilometres long and can be completed within a couple of hours, while still providing cyclists with beautiful scenery and activities en route.
Especially during the summer months when the weather in Switzerland is warm, these routes can be very popular with day-trippers and even foreign tourists. These routes are also a great option if you want to show visitors the best sights when they come to visit your region!
Special cycle routes (Herzroute)
The Herzroute (Heart Route or Route 99) takes cyclists through the most beautiful Alpine passes that the country has to offer, cutting right through the heart of Switzerland. It is highly recommended to use E-bikes on the Herzroute, since the trail has a lot of hills that can be exhausting, especially for less experienced cyclists.
The route curves through rural Switzerland, stopping at remote hamlets and small villages along the way. Cyclists can see alpine farms, green valleys, rugged mountains and glistening rivers throughout the route - the perfect cure for anyone seeking some peace and quiet away from the city.
5 best cycle routes for families in Switzerland
Many of the long national and mid-length regional routes are unfortunately not suitable for younger children simply due to their length and elevation. Thankfully, there are some great shorter routes that are suitable for the whole family. Here are our top picks for family-friendly cycle routes!
1. Bex - Villeneuve (Routes 59 and 1)
This short 27-kilometre route is perfect for families, taking you from the beautiful village of Bex to the dazzling Lake Geneva, near the border with France. Once you reach the Villeneuve, you’ll be greeted by incredible views across the lake, and the small village itself, which has been designated as part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites.
2. Chur - Bad Ragaz (Routes 501 and 21)
The Rhine route from Chur to Bad Ragaz takes families and cyclists on a gentle 26-kilometre bike ride, with wine stops for the adults and playground stops for the kids. The route heads through the heart of the Swiss mountains, past the dramatic Calandawind wind power plant and through the Rheinau wetlands.
3. Bellinzona - Locarno (Route 31)
For those craving that Italian feel, this easy 22-kilometre bike ride through Italian Switzerland could be perfect for a family day out! The starting point of Bellinzona is located near some of the country’s most well-known (and beautiful) mountain passes and castles. The route carries on through Ticino until the stunning endpoint, Locarno, on Lake Maggiore.
4. Sihlwald - Zurich (Route 94)
This short 15-kilometre bike ride takes cyclists through the heart of Zurich, after a trip through the Swiss wilderness and waterside. There are plenty of spots for a stone-skimming competition and lots of wild animals to see, before being plunged into the hustle and bustle of Zurich at the end of your trip!
5. Trubschachen – Burgdorf (Route 24)
A trip for the history-lovers - this route features a local history museum and an awful lot of cheese! The 29-kilometre trip through the Emmental Valley gives the whole family an opportunity to try true Emmental cheese, while the Trubschachen local history museum and the medieval town of Burgdorf provide great learning opportunities for getting to know local history.
Get on your bike!
So now that you know the best places to cycle, it’s time to head out on your bike! Make sure to take some food and a little water to stay hydrated on the way, but most importantly, remember to have fun!