In Swiss fashion, the bulk of hotels are decently clean and comfortable. The luxury segment is bursting with some of the finest hotels on the planet; after all, César Ritz came from Switzerland. On the other end of the spectrum, even a one-star hotel with the most limited of facilities can be reasonably comfortable and in a wonderful location.
All accommodations listed in this guide have private bathrooms unless otherwise noted.
Can You Keep Your Cool?
Be aware that many hotels in Switzerland do not have air-conditioning, though they may provide a fan. If sleeping in summer heat would trouble you, check ahead with the hotel to be sure. While a decade or two ago A/C was not a required amenity, Switzerland, alas, has been affected by climate change. The average temperature has been increasing, there has been less snow, and the number of hot and sunny days has risen dramatically. Still, a number of fine properties across all price points are A/C-free and most of the year, it’s not (yet) an issue.
Keeping Costs Down
To save money, try these rules of thumb:
- Choose your season carefully. Demand (and, typically, prices) are highest in the mountain areas around Christmas and New Year, and when Swiss and European schools have break in February and mid-July–mid-August. Cities stay busy with business travel and depend less on tourism, so fluctuations are milder, though prices may skyrocket during major events. Often, the lowest rates apply midweek; or conversely, in business-oriented hotels, on the weekend.
- Buy a money-saving package deal. A travel package combining airfare and a hotel stay for one price may be a bargain. But be wary of packages that include meals and other extras, since these might be less expensive if purchased separately or outside the hotel. The usual booking websites (Expedia, Travelocity, and the like) offer packages.
- Shop around. Once you’ve done some shopping around online, contact the property directly and ask for the lowest possible rate—it’s often that simple, and don’t be shy about asking for a better deal. Or at least check the hotel’s website, as many guarantee the best rate. Then keep shopfping—most reservations are fully refundable almost to time of check-in, so if you find a better price go back to the hotel of choice and renegotiate.
- Choose a chain. With some exceptions, we have not listed mass-volume chain hotels in this guide. In our opinion, they tend to lack the character and local feel that many independently run hotels bring to the travel experience. That said, you may be able to use reward points or some type of corporate discount at these chains. And some are making greater efforts to incorporate a unique flair and reflect their local surroundings. Ibis (www.ibis.com) hotels are often a decent, lower-priced urban option.
- Consider private B&B’s and other alternatives to hotels. See below for more on this type of accommodation.
Alternatives to Hotels
Bed & Breakfasts—The Swiss concept of a bed-and-breakfast differs from that in many English-speaking lands. In Switzerland, B&Bs are often more like small hotels than private homes. You can find both types at Bed and Breakfast Switzerland (www.bnb.ch). Switzerland Tourism (www.myswitzerland.com) also has about 790 B&Bs listed, as well as several accommodations in igloos, weather conditions pending (yes, igloos. Bring thermal underwear).
Alpine Huts—Stay in a wooden or stone Alpine cabins, and you might just be moved to try yodeling. Luckily, there probably won’t be many people around to hear. Switzerland Tourism hosts the booking site https:// alp.holidaybooking.ch with rustic rentals—some on farms, some historic, some fairly rough, and others luxe.
Chalet, House & Apartment Rentals—Local tourist offices or Switzerland Tourism can provide listings of apartments and chalets to rent. Or there’s always Airbnb (www.airbnb.com), which offers everything from cheap single rooms to plush apartments. Alternatively, find vacation homes to rent through Switzerland-based company Interhome (www.interhome.ch), which represents some 40,000 quality-controlled properties in 32 countries.
Camping—Another way to get the most out of the region’s natural bounty and save a franc or two is camping. Some campgrounds also have bungalows or rooms to rent as well as other equipment. Camping.ch (www.camping.ch; tel. 044/360-80-30) lists close to 400 sites, with lots of information in English. If your focus is the outdoors, you could even rent a camper van from McRent (www.mcrent.eu; tel. 041/761-40-45) or MyCamper (www.mycamper.ch; tel. 076/823-67-11) and use public transport for the odd city adventure.
Farm Stays—Hit the hay—or a regular bed, if you prefer—on a farm via Agrotourism Switzerland (www.myfarm.ch). Some have a focus on wine or riding, say, some have you sleep on a bed of straw (Schlafen im Stroh) and several let you do farm chores such as caring for the animals. These can be terrific for families, and a way to experience the farm culture that is very dear to the Swiss.
Youth Hostels—Some of the roughly 50 Swiss Youth Hostels (www.youthhostel.ch) don’t at all jibe with the old image of youth hostels as bare-bones sardine boxes for partying backpackers. Many offer private rooms in addition to dorms and are in prime locations. Some are in castles, or even boast wellness facilities. They aren’t just for youth, but some are exceptionally family friendly, with baby equipment and play areas, and wheelchair-accessible. They can fill up fast at peak travel times. You can also find some inexpensive independent hostels outside of the Swiss Youth Hostels system, but quality is mixed.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.