There’s a Swiss-inspired Town in the North Carolina Mountains — and It’s Only Open 6 Months a Year

Here’s what you should know about visiting Little Switzerland, a small mountain town named for the area’s resemblance to the Swiss Alps.

You don’t have to book a transatlantic flight to experience a little bit of Europe this summer and fall. In fact, you only need to hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway — the 469-mile drive connecting Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park — and head toward mile marker 334. Here, you’ll find Little Switzerland, North Carolina, an unincorporated community with direct access to the parkway. Its origins go back to 1910, when a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court came across the area and decided to construct a resort town. As the name suggests, Little Switzerland has elements of Swiss architectural styles, but its geography is the original inspiration for the overall aesthetic. 

Sitting at an elevation of nearly 3,500 feet, Little Switzerland overlooks the region’s breathtaking valleys and mountains — including Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains. Said to resemble the foothills of the Swiss Alps, these sweeping vistas are just one of the reasons travelers make the journey to experience the self-proclaimed “jewel of the Blue Ridge Parkway.”

Aerial shot of Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland, NC

Courtesy of Visit North Carolina

Best Things to Do in Little Switzerland, North Carolina

Little Switzerland and the surrounding area offer plenty to do for the whole family. Exploring the town itself won’t take very long, but there are a few must-see stops while there. Bibliophiles will appreciate Little Switzerland Books and Beans, a three-story bookstore and coffee shop that encourages browsing through the stacks and its maze of rooms. Souvenirs and kitschy items are available at Little Switzerland Trading Company, and you can spend an afternoon gazing upon the mountain views from Switzerland Inn. If live music is more up your alley, make sure to visit over a summer weekend. Every Saturday evening in July and August, Geneva Hall hosts mountain music and traditional square dancing. 

Inside a bookshop

Courtesy of Visit North Carolina

Emerald Village, which includes the North Carolina Mining Museum, is one of the more popular stops in the region. About a 10-minute drive from Little Switzerland, Emerald Village features 12 historic mines, underground tours, and the opportunity to pan for gems and gold — you get to keep what you find, too.

You can’t visit Western North Carolina without experiencing the excellent hiking opportunities and various waterfalls. Linville Falls and Crabtree Falls are both within driving distance of Little Switzerland, and you’ll want to stop at Chestoa View to look out on Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain. In the fall, apple and “U-pick” season arrives, although the Orchard at Altapass and its general store are open in the summer months too, with live music, walking trails, a butterfly garden, and tractor-pulled “heyrides.”

Given its location along the Blue Ridge Parkway, many visitors are drawn to Little Switzerland for the drive itself — keep an eye out for Little Switzerland Tunnel, one of the parkway’s 26 tunnels. The Diamondback, in particular, appeals to motorsports enthusiasts. The curvy NC-226A route is packed with S-curves and switchbacks that twist through the mountains, cresting right at Switzerland Inn.

Landscape view of woman and her dog walking through the craft market in Little Switzerland.

Courtesy of Visit North Carolina

Little Switzerland Hotels

If you want the full Little Switzerland experience, you’ll want to book a room at the historic Switzerland Inn, which has a spa, outdoor pool, hot tubs, and, of course, expansive mountain views. The 16-room Sky Line Inn also boasts panoramic scenes that guests can soak up while sipping coffee on the shared balcony. There are 12 rooms at Alpine Inn, a rustic option down the road from the center of town, and Big Lynn Lodge, a 42-room inn, offers complimentary dinner and breakfast with bookings. Although each of the area’s hotels is slightly different, they all have that distinct chalet-style look and feel synonymous with Little Switzerland.

Where to Eat and Drink in Little Switzerland, North Carolina

Within Switzerland Inn, you’ll find Chalet Restaurant and Fowl Play Pub & Tap Room. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all overlooking the nearby mountain range. In good weather, meals can be taken out on the terrace. Dining reservations can only be made by hotel guests; otherwise, it’s first come, first served. Inside the pub, guests can cozy up to the bar for a burger, steak, or buffalo wings (typical pub fare), as well as a large selection of beers on tap. Those with a sweet tooth can get their fix at The Swiss Shoppe (also inside Switzerland Inn), which offers candy, sweet treats, and locally made ice cream. For something outside of the inn, but still equally iconic, there’s the Switzerland Cafe and General Store, known for its North Carolina barbecue and smoked trout BLT sandwich.

Aerial landscape view of the shops of Little Switzerland Village peeking through trees during daytime.

Courtesy of Visit North Carolina

Best Time to Visit 

Little Switzerland is only open from mid-April through October, so you’ll need to plan your visit in late spring, summer, or early fall. The warmer months provide lush greenery, but autumn comes with gorgeous oranges and reds of the fall foliage as well as apple picking season. If you’re visiting at the beginning or end of the season, it’s a good idea to call ahead to ensure your desired stops are open to the public as exact dates may vary. 

Getting There

Little Switzerland sits between Asheville and Boone, North Carolina; both are about an hour’s drive away. Depending on where you’re driving from, you can take the Blue Ridge Parkway (by far the most scenic option) or a combination of I-40 and state routes. Asheville Region Airport (AVL) is the closest airport to Little Switzerland, although it’s 60 miles away, so you’ll need to rent a car.

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