From art and history to teddy bears and chocolate, we explore the best museums in Switzerland that offer visitors a unique glimpse into Swiss life.
Switzerland is a country steeped in rich history and culture, and this is reflected in its many museums. In fact, there are more than 900 of them dotted throughout the country; a number that has tripled since the end of WWII. These cultural institutions showcase everything from natural history and art to teddy bears – and even chocolate! Needless to say, whether you are living in Switzerland or just passing through, there is plenty to pique your interest. Just take a look at these top museums throughout Switzerland for some inspiration.
If you’re passionate about art, then Kunstmuseum Bern should definitely top your list of museums to visit in Switzerland. This is the oldest art museum in the country and houses works that date back to the Middle Ages until the present day. Among the 3,000 paintings and sculptures on display are masterpieces by some of the greatest names in international art history. These include Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Monet, van Gogh, and more contemporary artists like Kandinsky, Picasso, and Pollock.
Those with knowledge of art will no doubt enjoy embarking on a journey through eight centuries of artistic movements; including impressionism, cubism, expressionism, and surrealism. On a more local level, the ground floor is devoted to Swiss art from the nineteenth century. Special highlights include works by Arnold Böcklin, who was born in Basel, and Ferdinand Hodler; one of the best-known Swiss painters of the nineteenth century.
Kunstmuseum Bern, Hodlerstrasse 12, 3011 Bern
The Einstein Haus – Bern
You might not know it but Albert Einstein actually moved to Switzerland in 1895. Remarkably, he forsook his German citizenship to become an official Swiss in 1901. Those with an interest in the great physicist can visit his former residence in Bern where he lived between 1903 and 1905. It was within this humble second-floor apartment, located on Kramgasse 49, that Einstein developed his revolutionary Theory of Relativity.
The Einstein Haus gives visitors a chance to see where Albert lived with his wife and son during this time. Within the small dwelling, which is furnished in the style of Einstein’s time, they can learn more about his personal life. Meanwhile, upstairs on the third floor, guests can explore a special exhibition that presents Einstein’s biography and scientific discoveries through a series of information panels; plus a 20-minute video that introduces his life, thoughts, and work. And, if they want to buy souvenirs, there is a selection of books and postcards on sale, too.
The Einstein Haus, Kramgasse 49, 3011 Bern
If you have recently arrived in Switzerland and want to delve into the history and culture of your new home, then fewer places beat the Landesmuseum Zürich. Located in Zurich, the country’s most visited museum invites guests to embark on a journey through the centuries to discover how life in the alpine nation has evolved over time.
Visitors can explore a range of fascinating permanent and temporary exhibitions that cover all manner of topics. For instance, they can browse more than 1,400 everyday objects that date back to prehistoric times in the Archaeology in Switzerland exhibit. Or they can discover how the country has evolved since the Middle Ages up to the present day in the 1,000-square-meter History of Switzerland display. Meanwhile, children can let their imaginations run wild at the family exhibition, A Magic Carpet Ride through History, which features an Arabian palace, a large sailing ship, and a vintage railway carriage.
Landesmuseum Zürich, Museumstrasse 2, 8001 Zürich
Lindt Home of Chocolate – Kilchberg
Chocoholics will no doubt have the time of their lives exploring the many delectable wonders on display at the world’s largest chocolate museum in Kilchberg. Featuring a drool-inducing 9-meter-tall chocolate fountain and around 6,000 square meters of chocolate-centric exhibits and attractions, the Lindt Home of Chocolate is an absolute must-visit for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Within the impressive museum, visitors can learn about the history and production of the world-famous Swiss chocolate brand. Better still, they can try making some themselves by taking a class at the Chocolateria. Here, they can learn how to make chocolate bars, lollipops, figurines, pralines, and truffles. And, of course, they can stock up on goodies at the Lindt chocolate shop before they leave.
Lindt Home of Chocolate, Schokoladenplatz 1, Seestrasse 204, 8802 Kilchberg
Musée de l’Elysée – Lausanne
The Musée de l’Elysée is internationally acclaimed for its permanent and special exhibitions. These present the world of photography dating back to the 19th century up until the present day. Currently housed inside a beautiful 18th-century villa overlooking Lake Geneva, the collection includes around 120,000 original photographs. These feature the works of 19th-century artists such as Gabriel Lippmann and Adolphe Braun, through to 20th-century names like Raymond Depardon and Mario Giacomelli.
The collection also covers a wide variety of photography processes that have evolved over time. With eight exhibition rooms to explore, spanning four floors, there is certainly a lot to take in. That said, big plans are currently underway to move the collection to PLATEFORME 10 (pictured); the new arts district in Lausanne. The inauguration of the exhibition spaces is scheduled for June 2022, so watch this space for further updates!
Musée de l’Elysée, Avenue de l’Elysée 18, 1006 Lausanne
Spielzeug Welten Museum – Basel
If you’re looking to entertain your little ones, then a visit to the Spielzeug Welten Museum in Basel will certainly make for a fun day out. Showcasing more than 6,000 items, spread over four floors, the impressive collection of toys and games is the largest of its kind in Europe. Children will no doubt love exploring the countless teddy bears and dollhouses on display; many of which date back to the turn of the 20th century. These are all beautifully displayed in wood and glass display cabinets along with playful themes.
As well as showcasing antique teddy bears and dollhouses, the museum features more contemporary miniatures and other objects on the third floor. Those who want to learn more about the items on display can also use the interactive museum guide on their own smartphones or tablets. Interactive touchscreens dotted throughout the museum also help bring the magic of the toys to life for kids – and big kids at heart. This is undoubtedly one of the sweetest museums in Switzerland that is well worth a peek.
Spielzeug Welten Museum, Steinenvorstadt 1, CH-4051 Basel
The Olympic Museum – Lausanne
As you might expect from a country with such diverse natural landscapes, Switzerland has a long-standing history with sport. The resort of St Moritz, for instance, hosted the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948. Moreover, the Swiss Olympic team regularly returns home from the games with medals. Budding athletes can delve into the country’s relationship with sport and the origins of the legendary games at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.
Located in Ouchy on beautiful Lake Geneva, the popular museum is the world’s largest information archive on the subject. It aims to reflect the spirit of the games which bring nations together. Covering an area of 3,000 square meters, spread over three levels, the museum houses documents, films, and around 1,500 objects dating back to Greek antiquity. Visitors can immerse themselves in seven hours of audio-visual and interactive presentations. These explore all there is to know about the games. Needless to say, this is an absolute must-visit for die-hard sports fans.
The Olympic Museum, Quai d’Ouchy 1, 1006 Lausanne
Naturhistorisches Museum Bern
The Naturhistorisches Museum Bern is not only one of the most important museums in Switzerland but also the oldest in the capital. Its impressive historical exhibitions of domestic and exotic animals are unique to Europe and have earned it a global reputation. Among the fascinating creatures on display is Barry, the famous mountain rescue dog who helped save more than 40 lives during his lifetime in Switzerland and Italy.
Another highlight is the dazzling cluster of giant quartz crystals taken from a mine in the Planggenstock mountain in the Alps. With around 6.5 million objects on display, there is certainly plenty to fill your visit. The museum also hosts regular thematic exhibitions as well as a vibrant program of cultural events such as the ‘Help, it’s alive!’ series and the ‘Bar of dead animals’. The children’s storytelling lessons and workshops, meanwhile, are sure to keep curious little minds enchanted and entertained.
Naturhistorisches Museum Bern, Bernastrasse 15, 3005 Bern