Now that you know why you should (and you really want to) go to Switzerland, lets look at some itineraries.
If You Have 3 Days
What were you thinking???
Not to worry, just head for the amazing Bernese Oberland.Good2Know> 1 CHF (Swiss Franc) = .95 USD
Day 1-3: Bernese Oberland
Don’t waste your time in Zurich, Geneva or else where. Regardless of how and where you enter Switzerland, catch the next train (which should not make you wait more than 30-40 min.) to Bernese Oberland (B.O.). Trains arrive at one of Interlaken’s train stations and you continue on from there to your final destination in B.O.
Interlaken is the largest town in B.O. and it would not be my first choice to anchor yourself at. There are two major train stations in Interlaken, West and Ost. So make sure which you are arriving at. Interlaken West is at the city center and more useful if you are staying or sightseeing there. However, mainline trains including those from Luzern (Lucerne), Bern, etc. terminate in Interlaken Ost station. If traveling by boat, some dock behind Ost and the others by West. Trains and city buses, running roughly every ten minutes, link the two stations.
My favorite town to stay at in B.O. region is the unforgettable Wengen. While many of the towns around are also car-free, I like Wengen the most. We stayed at a cozy and family owned inn called Hotel Berghaus. If you are looking for a plush/luxe place to stay at, then this is not the right choice for you. The rooms are a bit tired but comfortable and the entire hotel is in need of some TLC. However, it has the most perfect location and view, not to mention a great kitchen and warm service. We loved our short -traffic free- daily walks to and from the train station while watching the adorable homes and their beautiful gardens.
Our room had a balcony which opened up to the meadows and Jungfrau (the famous peak). The daughter and father team are very nice and accommodating. You could choose to have dinners at the inn which I highly recommend. Even though we did not book our room with dinner option; we quickly changed our mind once arrived there. The father is the chef and we had 3 wonderful dinners there while watching the beautiful scenery. Our room was around $220/day including breakfast and the 4-course gourmet dinner was an additional $23/person/day. An absolute bargain! There are other dining choices in and around the town. Most are rustic and family-oriented restaurants. But after full days of sightseeing, hiking, biking and walking- it is so much nicer to freshen up and come down for a fantastic dinner while taking in Jungfrau(4,158 m), Monch(4,099 m) and Eiger(3,970 m) peaks.
Good2Know>For Wengen: Get off at Interlaken Ost>take Luaterbrunnen train> take Wengen train (35min)
Things to do:
Scenic train to the famous Jungfrau peak, cable car rides to Schilthorn (one of 007 movies was shot here) and tiny villages of Gimmelwald, Murren, etc., listening to the melody of cow bells, easy to difficult hiking and/or biking to various points (take a picnic lunch with you), sightseeing of small neighboring villages and Interlaken, Trummelbach Falls (a series of 10 Glacier Falls inside the mountain) and much more.
If You have 5 Days
Day 1-2: [Zurich to Luzern] Luzern (1 hr train ride from Zurich/Zurich Airport, 2 hrs from Interlaken)
Day 3-5: [Luzern to Interlaken to Wengen] Wengen (or elsewhere in Bernese Oberland)
Good2Know>This train ride is part of the Scenic Golden Pass which starts in Luzern and ends in Montreux by Lake Geneva.
Luzern is gorgeous and every bend in the Old Town is ready to be photographed. Choose one of many hotels within walking distance of train station. We stayed at Hotel Luzern, only a few blocks from train station and within walking distance of most major sightseeing. Check into your hotel and head out to walk the old town and beautiful bridges.
On your 2nd day head for Mt. Pilatus for a relaxing boat excursion over Lake Luzern combined with aerial cable-cars and gondola rides; not to mention traveling on the world’s steepest cogwheel train. Take the boat and cogwheel train going up and on the way down use cable-cars/gondola/bus combination.
Good2Know> For fine dining in Luzern with fantastic views try Chateau Gutsch or Scala at Art Deco Hotel Montana
If You have 9 Days
Add St. Moritz, Lugano & Zurich:
Day 1: [Zurich to St. Moritz] St. Moritz (1)
Day 2: [St. Moritz to Lugano via Bernina Express] Lugano (1)
Day 3-5: [Lugano to Luzern via direct train or William Tell Express] Luzern (3)
Day 6-8: [Luzern to Interlaken/B.O. via Golden Pass/1st section] Wengen/B.O. (3)
Day 9: [Wengen/Interlaken to Zurich] Zurich (1)
Wow! Lots of fabulous train rides.
St. Moritz is worth a visit because: 1) it is serene (part of the year), small and pretty 2) it is on the famous and scenic Bernina Express train/bus route from Chur to Lugano
Most U.S. flights arrive at Zurich Airport early morning. Take the Chur/St. Moritz train and you should make it to St. Moritz by early afternoon. Check-in and start walking (Yessss). The town is compact and and pretty and exploring it does not take much time. Take the funicular/gondola ride up to Corviglia and Piz Nair (from downtown) for a great view over the mountains, Lakes and St. Moritz.
The next day board the Bernina Express train heading South to Lugano. Although this ride will take most of your day; it is definitely worth it. You will pass by magnificent mountains, lakes, valleys and villages on your way to Italian section of Switzerland and the beautiful Lake Lugano. Lugano lacks the charm of many Swiss town but the Lake is beautiful. The next morning take a quick walk around the Old Town and take a ferry ride over the lake and get off at one of the villages around Lake Lugano for a quick walk. My favorite town to visit: Gandria
Take one of the early afternoon direct train (1:12pm or 3:12pm) to Luzern (2.5 hrs). If you are willing to spend another day on train/boat ride, then opt for William Tell Express. In this case, do your Lugano sightseeing on the previous afternoon.
After visiting Luzern and Bernese Oberland -on your last day- take the morning train from Interlaken to Zurich. The quickest way is via Bern (1.5 hrs) and there are at least 2 trains every hour. Once at Zurich, check into your hotel and start walking the Old Town. You could visit a museum as well (Swiss National Museum or the Fine Arts). I would recommend choosing a hotel within walking distance of the central train station (Hauptbahnhof). You would be by the Old Town and beautiful Lake Zurich. Also, you would be able to quickly take the train to Zurich Airport (9-11 minutes, 3 trains/hr) the next day. Zurich hotels are on the expensive side. There are many budget/3-stars properties around the station. We stayed at Lady’s First which was within walking distance of the Lake and a 5 minutes tram ride would take us to the train station. The rates start at around $200/nigh/double including a simple breakfast. It is located on a quiet, residential street and rooms are small but clean.
If You have 12 Days
Add Lausanne/Montreux & Bern :
Follow the itinerary for 9 Days, up to Day 8, then:
Day 9-10: [Wengen/Bernese Oberland to Montreux/Lake Geneva] Continue your Golden Pass train journey from Interlaken to Montreux on Day 8. Stay in Montreux or travel another 20 minutes and stay at Lausanne. (2)
Things to do:
Visit the Olympic Museum in Lausanne as the ground are pretty and the museum itself is interesting. A lake excursion is very relaxing. Definitely visit Chateau de Chillon immortalized in Lord Byron’s poem “The Prisoner of Chillon”. He even engraved his name on one of the dungeon’s pillars. Buy some sandwiches and have them on one of picturesque spots by the Lake. Take a day excursion to the quaint village of Gruyere, famous for its delicious cheese.
Day 11-12: [Lake Geneva to Bern and/or Zurich] Although you can do a day trip to Bern, it is on your way to Zurich and better to stay there. Also, you can eliminate staying at Zurich if you wish and just take the direct train from Bern to Zurich Airport (1 hr) or stay 2 nights in Bern and visit Zurich as a day trip on your last day.
Bern is famous for its fountains. The main train station is right at the beginning of the Old Town and it is truly a pleasure to walk its streets toward the pristine and beautiful Aar River.
Things to do:
Pick up a walking map at the tourist information (inside train station). Walk and walk and then walk some more. The Old Town is really easy and nice to explore on foot. Notice the ornate fountains along the way. Drop by a church or two. See the famous Clock Tower dating back to 1191 AD which was Einstein’s inspiration for the theory or Relativity. Visit the Einstein House/Museum. If you are a Paul Klee fan, check out the Paul Klee Collection. Spend some time by the river. You can take a swim in it you know.
Good2Know> Don’t carry cash around and pay for currency exchange. Use the convenient ATM’s.
If You have 12 Days
Add the following destinations:
Zermatt/Matterhorn (2)- If still not tired of all the scenic train rides; you can work Galcier Express Train which runs between St. Moritz and Zermatt (7.5 hrs.) into you itinerary. The famous Matterhorn peak (4,478 m) overlooks the town.
Appenzell and Northeast Switzerland- For some Yodeling! This is the most traditional and remote region of Switzerland.
- Priority of Sightseeing:
- Bernese Oberland
- Lake Geneva
- St. Moritz & Lugano
- Bern & Zurich
- Appenzell & the Northeast
- Switzerland is easy. Good for all from solo travelers to romantic getaways and family trips; it has something for everyone.
- Don’t forget to bring along high altitude medications.
- Do not sacrifice your time in Bernese Oberland. It is an amazing place and should not be rushed.
- Make sure you buy/order Swiss Pass at least a week (preferably 10 days) before leaving for Switzerland to make sure you receive your tickets.
- Look into which Swiss Pass works best for you. Click here to compare them.
- Don’t forget to take advantage of super cheap baggage delivery service both from abroad and within Switzerland. It will make you trip much easier. Click here to find out more.
Read previous post “Plan A Vacation> Switzerland> Part I: Why Go?”
- Don’t worry about making specific train reservations before your arrival in Switzerland. It is cheaper to do this once you are there.
- Have a question? Go ahead and ask under “Ask a Travel ?” page.
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