One of the greatest gifts to residents and visitors in Switzerland is the digital map from The Federal Office of Topography which gives you a high resolution ordinance survey map of the entire country. It loads fast, it is easy to use, and amazingly it is free without even having to sign in or deal with adverts. I find that they are especially useful for planning hikes.
Website – https://map.geo.admin.ch/
I mostly use this for checking the path/road type and options for potential routes or areas (you can turn the hiking network on as a layer), but there are endless layers you can use here for whatever interest you might have.
- For hiking the ‘Hiking trails’ and ‘Closures Hiking trails’ layers are in the default menu so are easy to turn on. For the numbered national/regional/local routes you need to search for and add the ‘Wanderland’ layer, then you can then click to see the section and get a link to the appropriate Switzerland Mobility page. Likewise with ‘Public transport stops’ you can see all the locations and their timetables. As far as I can tell there is no way to calculate routes in the browser version like you can on the mobile app.
- Under the ‘print’ menu you can download sections as PDFs at whatever size and scale you like.
- Everything you could possibly think to show and then some is on there in the ‘geotag’ section. Geology, location of nuclear power plants, location of army bases, radon background radiation, night time railway noise, Alps with guard dogs, UNESCO sites……
- One of the best is the ‘journey through time’ layer with a number of maps going back every 4 years to 1847 (1864 is the default which is when the first full map of the country was complete). I have spent far too much time flicking back and forth seeing how towns have grown and glaciers have shrunk. After selecting a date you can turn on ‘compare’ under the advanced menu to make it an easy swipe back and forth.
Mobile App – SwissTopo
The app and all the features on it are free without any login or other faff.
Most people will recommend using the Switzerland Mobility (SchweizMobil) website/app, but the SwissTopo app lets you download the map of the entire country and plan routes on the hiking network for free. I would say it is the best map app for Switzerland, and a must have app for anyone planning to hike or cycle in Switzerland.
- The App does not have the extensive range of layers that the website does, it is unsurprisingly much more focused on what might be useful to someone who is one the move. Most of the layers you can show are sport focused (hiking, biking, snow sports). So you can for example see the hiking network and the long distance Switzerland Mobility routes, with the option of also showing public transport stops.
- The “Pro” layers at the end of the list has an option to show snow depth which is one of the more reliable ways to estimate how much snow there might be on the path.
- By far the most useful function is that you can draw routes which will follow the sign posted hiking path network – a feature which is otherwise limited to those with a 35 CHF per year paid ‘Plus’ subscription on Switzerland Mobility:
– Hold your finger down for a second where you want to start, select to draw a new tour, then hold your finger down on a point further along to place the next marker (hold it again after placing it to move it), and so on. The routing can take a few seconds to be calculated so it is best to do this in a series of short hops rather than a whole 20km route in one go (can’t complain given it is free).
– You are given the distance, height change, and an estimated time. You can export these as .kml or .gpx files. Meaning you can save it to your phone as a .kml and then open it in SwissTopo or another app like Maps.me, or send it to a GPS device for navigation.
– If you start drawing a route it will be saved even if you don’t want it to be. So if you play around with a few ideas you might find your route list suddenly contains 20 untitled routes that you didn’t want.
- You can download the map for offline use for free. You can download any area of the map to your phone (16GB for the whole country). If you have drawn a route on the App then you can select to download the map along that route.
- I have a Switzerland Mobility Plus abo and find it much easier and quicker to use the Switzerland Mobility version on my browser for route planning (the Switzerland Mobility mobile app itself is still a bit basic and sends you to your web browser to do route planning) and the SwissTopo app does not work for bike routes (yet); so I won’t be cancelling my subscription anytime soon, but the SwissTopo app is sufficient for those who are just visiting, or not out and about very often.