Switzerland is a beautiful Alpine country that offers much to its visitors. From breathtaking scenery to an amazing public transportation system, you will be dazzled by the majestic snowcapped Swiss Alps, the crystal clear lakes, the rolling hills filled with grazing cows, the charming cities and of course the world-class chocolates and cheese.
Best way to travel?
You can get almost everywhere in Switzerland using its efficient public transportation system. All 3 options below allow you unlimited travel using the rail, bus and boat Swiss Travel System Network.
Bear in mind that the Swiss Travel Pass is the most expensive per day as it includes free entrance to museums and exhibitions.
If you do not live in Switzerland (hence will not have the Half Price Card) this costs a minimum of 52chf – the earlier you book, the cheaper. You can buy this one month in advance of your date of travel.
If you know someone living in Switzerland, you can ask for their help to get you this day-pass for 39chf two months in advance of your travel date. The tickets are available for purchase from 12 midnight onwards (do this if you want to get tickets on weekends as they go very quick!) and will need to be collected from their respective Gemeinde(s) (local authorities).
Best places to visit?
The itinerary I am recommending is only for those adventurous enough and want to pack in, see and experience as much as possible in the limited time you are here in this gorgeous Alpine country.
It requires full days out and a good level of fitness and energy. Bear in mind you will only have a couple of hours at most to spare at each destination.
Especially if traveling with kids, you might want to skip some of the places mentioned in each day and adjust your travel plans according to their pace. I do know the below are all possible if timed right – wake up early and get back after dinner!
You will unlikely have time for a relaxing 2 hour lunch but can certainly grab a quick bite somewhere along the way (perhaps from Coop or Migros, our local versions of Tesco and Sainsbury’s).
Luzern – Mt Rigi – Zurich
Explore the Alps:
Interlaken – Lauterbrunnen – Trümmelbach Falls – Spiez – Oberhofen Castle
Western Switzerland (French-speaking):
Geneva – Lausanne (Evian in France) – Montreux
This picturesque gateway to central Switzerland is the city to visit before you head up one of the many nearby surrounding mountains. One I would recommend is Rigi as this is included in the Swiss Pass and the Tageskarte.
Some must-visit places in Luzern include the Chapel Bridge, the Lion Monument and the many historical buildings around the Old Town. If you want to take advantage of the free entrance to the many museums using your Swiss Pass, Luzern is also home to the famous Swiss Transport Museum which has the iconic tunnel boring machine at its entrance.
Mt Rigi has lots to offer depending on the season. Take either a boat on the lake before heading up with the cog railway or you can take the cable car from Weggis – another beautiful little town on the Lake of Luzern. The spa Rigi Kaltbad is open all year round if you fancy a swim with breathtaking views of the Alps.
There are other mountains in the surrounding area I would recommend such as Mt Pilatus where you climb up Pilatus Kulm on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway after a boat ride from Lucerne across the lake to Alpnachstad.
Stanserhorn was another favourite of mine as we ascended the mountain on the CabriO, the world’s first roofless upper deck cable car.
On a clear day, you can see the Alps as you stroll down the streets heading towards the Lake. Get lost in the tiny winding streets off the main shopping street of Bahnhofstrasse. Walk up Rennweg towards Lindenhof where you are greeted with a spectacular view of the city.
If you love desserts, please stop by Sprüngli at Paradeplatz on Bahnhofstrasse famed for their Luxembürgerli (macarons) and delicious desserts. For the best chocolates, go to Läderach at the start of Bahnhofstrasse.
Cafe Peclard im Schober in the old town has arguably the best hot chocolate (for 10chf) and my favourite thing to get for breakfast has to be the chocolate croissant (Schoggigipfel) from Buchmann Bäckerei (underground in the main train station or basement of Jelmoli mall).
If you’re here in the summer, why not go swimming in the lake?
Nestled in the Swiss Alps and surrounded by lakes, rivers and mountains, this little adventure capital of Switzerland has much to offer.
If you are looking for some adventure, this will be the place you can be based at to go rafting, canyoning, paragliding, skydiving and more.
For the faint of heart, just have a stroll along the main street and check out the many souvenir stores or have a walk along the Aare River and have a peek at both Lake Brienz and Lake Thun.
Interlaken is the gateway to the many famous mountains in this area such as Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn and Schynige Platte. Just look at the views we had of the 3 famous Bernese mountains of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau from the Birg cable car station on the way up to Schilthorn.
The 72 waterfalls that make up the Lauterbrunnen Valley situated between steep gigantic rock faces and mountain peaks is only a short train ride away from Interlaken.
The imposing Staubbach Falls in the picture below plunges almost 300 meters down making it one of Europe’s highest free-falling waterfall.
Another famous waterfall is the Trümmelbach Falls, the world’s only glacier waterfalls accessible underground by lift, galleries, tunnels, paths and platforms. Please be aware that children below 4 are not allowed to enter as the paths can be slippery and dangerous.
From the Trümmelbach Falls, catch the bus back to Lauterbrunnen and then a train to Spiez and walk down towards the Lake.
Hop on a boat and get off at your next destination which is arguably my favourite castle in Switzerland –
On a clear day, the views of the Alps from here (either from the amazing floor to ceiling glass windows of the restaurant inside the castle or from the Pier 17 cafe) have to be some of the best in the world.
Make sure you take a free stroll along the gardens of the castle’s park and if the water is warm enough, why not go for a swim in the lake. You can then take the bus back to Thun before a train back to where you’re spending the night.
Famed for being the headquarters of the United Nations and Red Cross, Geneva is ranked the third greenest city in the world offering lots of choices of activities and events for young and old alike.
Home to the Olympic Museum, this hilly old city has medieval, shop-lined streets and an impressive 12th century Gothic cathedral.
If you enjoy walking, don’t miss doing the walk along the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, home to the largest vineyard region in Switzerland.
You can also take a boat from Lausanne to Evian in France (Yes like the famous mineral water bottle) which is on the other side of the lake. Alternatively, catch the train to your next destination…
Known for the Montreux Jazz Festival, this town on the east end of Lake Geneva is best enjoyed by strolling along the long flower-bordered lake promenade which takes you all the way to the famous Chillon Castle (its entrance fee is also covered in your Swiss Pass).
A spot not to be missed by all Queen / Freddie Mercury fans is this statue along the lake.
More time to spare in Switzerland?
Here are some other places you can visit:
A famous ski destination and holiday getaway, this picturesque car-free town is home to the iconic Matterhorn, the logo for the world’s beloved Toblerone chocolate.
Take the Gornergratbahn, the highest open-air railway in Europe for an unparalleled view of the Matterhorn.
Basel, Bern and Murten
If traveling in the summer, don’t miss jumping into the rivers in Basel and Bern and float down with the locals as the city passes you by. There is surely no better Swiss experience.
Basel is home to the biggest Carnival (Fasnacht) in Switzerland, Baselworld (the world’s largest watch and jewelry fair), Art Basel, Swiss Indoors (Tennis), Herbstmesse (biggest Autumn Fair in Switzerland), the tallest building in Switzerland (Roche), and some world famous museums like Fondation Beyeler.
The historic town center of Bern is filled with ancient clocktowers, churches, shops, museums, cafes and restaurants. Don’t forget to check out the local bears!
Bernina Express or the Glacier Express
Two of the famous panoramic train rides in Switzerland have to be the Bernina and the Glacier Express. Be warned that although these will possibly be the most scenic train rides you have ever been on, they are VERY long. You have to pay an additional fee to reserve a seat if you have the Swiss Pass and the Tageskarte.
Go hiking or just take a cable car up another mountain!
To be so high up a mountain in that fresh air surrounded by the most stunning scenery is such an incredible experience.
Where exactly to go?
I have too many to suggest!
Mt Titlis, Engelberg
Titlis Cliff Walk – Europe’s highest suspension bridge
The James Bond mountain where you can dine in its revolving restaurant
CabriO – the world’s first roofless upper deck cable car
Top of Europe – Europe’s highest railway station
Stop for the best rösti in Switzerland (according to a Swiss TV programme) for lunch in this house in the cliffs
Hoher Kasten (on the other side of Aescher-Ai)
after which you can explore the little town of Altstätten
Oeschinensee in Kandersteg
Don’t miss the fun going down the 750m Alpine slide or rowing on the lake.
Europe’s now second steepest funicular railway
Peak Walk by Tissot
World’s only suspension bridge connecting two mountain tops
If the skies are clear of clouds, you will be greeted with an amazing view of Lake Luzern
Even more time to explore in Switzerland?
1) Go and check out the Italian speaking part!
Lake Lugano and Maggiore have tonnes to offer. Our trip to Bellinzona, Locarno and Ascano this past Easter was a great one.
2) What about Meiringen (purportedly the birthplace of meringue, home to Reichenbach Falls where Sherlock Holmes died, the Sherlock Holmes Museum and the Aare Gorge) and drive along the winding roads of the Furka Pass to get to Andermatt?
You will definitely need a car to do this trip.
3) Another easy day trip would be to the Rhine Falls (Switzerland’s largest) and Schaffhausen.
4) A true Swiss experience would possibly be to visit a cheese and chocolate factory. It is possible to combine this trip by visiting the Cailler Chocolate Factory in Broc and the Cheese Factory in the medieval town of Gruyeres.
Why not spoil yourself in the largest thermal spa resort in the Alps? The view of the mountains from the outdoor pools are breathtaking. For those adventurous enough, don’t miss out on Switzerland’s longest via ferrata if there in the summer.
For those with kids, Leukerbad Therme has much to offer for the little ones.
6) If you are looking for a unique hotel experience in Switzerland, check out:
Whitepod near Montreux
7) Switzerland also has many hotels with the most amazing views such as:
The Cambrian in Adelboden
It was once voted the world’s second best outdoor pool in the world by Tripadvisor
Switzerland isn’t enough for you?
Less than an hour from Geneva, the cobbled streets of Annecy’s Vieille Ville (old town), its winding canals and pastel-colored houses are a sight to behold.
Best time to visit is undoubtedly in the summer. I would suggest bringing your swim wear (and a picnic) and frolic away in the turquoise clear waters of this French lake.
Also known as “Petite Venise” for its endless canals, Colmar is an easy one-hour drive away from Basel. If you appreciate architecture, enjoy soaking in the beauty of the half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings in the old town.
Dessert lovers, don’t miss a trip to Gilg at 69 Grand Rue. Lovers of milk chocolate, the one to get is called “Le Cube”.
Just an hour further north is Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament as well as one of Europe’s best Christmas markets.
Located an hour’s drive away from Zurich in Germany, Konstanz is a city on Lake Constance that has much to offer. Check out the Gothic spire of the Romanesque
Konstanz Cathedral in its preserved medieval district of Niederburg. If going with a fellow Swiss, you might be dragged to go grocery shopping or to the dentist.
Known as the “Jewel of the Black Forest”, this university city in Germany is just an hour’s drive from Basel.
If looking for something fun for the family, Europa Park (Germany’s biggest theme park and the second most famous in Europe after Disneyland Paris) is just a short 30 minutes drive north.
I hope this has been informative and useful to help you plan your trip to Switzerland.
Please do leave me a comment if you have any thoughts to share or have been to any of the places mentioned above.
For all my other posts on Switzerland, click here.