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Switzerland is the dreamiest place I’ve ever been to. The Swiss Alps, mountain peaks galore, Swiss chocolate and Swiss cheese!
This post will take you through a Switzerland itinerary that you can cover in anywhere between one to two weeks, depending on your time and budget.
I’ve included a map below to make it convenient for you to visually see the location of the cities mentioned further on.
Zurich and Geneva are the start and end points of this trip, respectively, as both of them have airports to fly into/out from.
Between two of the most expensive cities in the world, Geneva is the cheaper option when it comes to eateries, bars, etc.
So, I’ve kept the option open for you to do the trip backward and start from Geneva as well. Ultimately, it would depend on your budget.
Swiss Travel Pass
The Swiss Travel pass or STP is an all-in-one ticket to travel in Switzerland. It has many freebies and benefits included, a few of which are mentioned below.
What you get
1. Unlimited use of public transport (train, bus and boat) in more than 90 towns & cities
2. Unlimited travel on premium panorama trains
3. Free admission to more than 500 museums
4. Entrance to La Maison du Gruyère (cheese factory) and Maison Cailler (chocolate factory)
5. Entrance to Chillon Castle
6. Cable cars, cogwheel trains and funiculars are discounted by 50%
7. Any other mountain excursions other than the ones mentioned above have up to 50% off
For more details visit Swiss Federal Railways.
Here’s what the Swiss Pass charges for various durations are:
|Duration||Cost in CHF||Cost in $|
|3 days pass||232||233|
|4 days pass||281||282-283|
|8 days pass||418||420-421|
|15 days pass||513||516|
If you only have one week to 10 days to explore the Swiss land, you can opt to solely visit the main cities mentioned in the itinerary. You can also pick up a day pass for each destination, but that might add up to be an expensive deal real fast!
If you have a little more time, say around 2 weeks or so, then you can add the nearby attractions to your itinerary as well.
THE ULTIMATE SWITZERLAND ITINERARY
Zurich (2 days)
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and is one of the most expensive cities in the world. The entire city can be covered by taking a walking tour.
Day 1: Land in Zurich.
You can opt to reach Zurich during the day so you get till the evening to relax and then go out exploring the city.
To keep the 1st day a little light on travel in case you’ve to get over jet lag, you can stroll along Zurich’s main downtown street, Bahnhofstrasse.
Here you can either window shop or go ahead with the occasional splurge depending on your budget. I say this because it is one of the world’s most expensive shopping avenues.
Or if you think you’d rather skip this then take a trip to Zurich’s Chinese Garden, situated right next to Lake Zurich.
And there’s no better way to end your 1st day than by leisurely walking along the lakeside promenade or by taking in the views from the town square, Bürkliplatz.
Day 2: Visit Old Town
Make your way towards the Old Town in the Lindenhof district in the morning. Here you’ll find four major churches, each architecturally unique serving different communities, and landmarks in their own right.
Grossmünster is the most iconic landmark in Zurich due to its two towers. If you’re up for it, make sure to climb to the top to enjoy the gorgeous view.
Fraumünster was built on the remains of a former abbey and is famous for its five stained glass windows by renowned artists.
Predigerkirche Zürich was the first Romanesque church built and houses a tall bell tower.
And finally, there’s the iconic Peterskirche or St. Peter’s Church which is has a tower with the largest clock face in Europe.
Three out of the four were built using Romanesque-style architecture but later on parts of them were either reconstructed or added using Gothic elements. The last one is a Baroque styled church.
You can also visit the FIFA World Football Museum and National Museum Zurich.
After all the walking, you can head to Zurich’s culinary district, Zurich West, in the evening. The foodies will love this cultural hub where you’ll find hip and innovative restaurants, cafes and clubs. Take a walking food tour here and learn about Zurich’s food history along the way.
Optional: Tuk Tuks have always been associated with Bangkok but you’ll find a unique version of the same in Zurich. And if trying fondue was on your list then you can combine the experiences to try this one out.
The world’s first fondue eTukTuk lets you not only indulge in cheese fondue but also gives you a city tour while at it. The prices are quite steep but if you want a one-of-a-kind experience combined with a city tour go ahead, grab your friends (max. 4) and enjoy this ride.
Nearby Attractions (1 day)
Take a 1 to 1.5-hour rail ride from Zurich to Abbey Library of Saint Gall. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that houses one of the oldest medieval libraries in the world. It was also one of the most important abbeys in Europe.
Day trip by train (45 mins to 1 hour): Zurich —> Lucerne
Lucerne (3-5 days)
A city that can be covered by foot, a lake that you can paddle boat on, mountains accessible by cableways and a stroll along historic houses what more could a traveller ask for?
Lucerne or Luzern, as it is locally called, is all of that rolled into one picturesque centrally located city. If all this doesn’t make you want to immediately pack your bags and head to Switzerland then I don’t know what will.
Lucerne is not only the most beautiful city it also acts as a gateway to many popular spots around it.
Travel tip: Get a Lucerne Visitor Card
You can collect a free Visitor Card when you check into your hotel. This card gets you free travel on public transport (except boats) and discounts on local attractions in the city of Lucerne. It will come very handy to explore the city.
P.S. If you’ve already bought a Swiss Travel Pass (STP) then you can skip getting this.
Day 3: Old Town, Lion of Lucerne and Glacier Garden
Lucerne boasts of a number of medieval landmarks. Europe’s oldest covered bridge that stretches across Lake Lucerne, Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) is a must visit, especially at night.
So is Musegg Wall (Museggmauer) and its 9 towers, which are a part of the city’s rampart walls. Both were built way back in the 14th century. They are some of the striking and prominent features of Old Town.
For the lovers of history and art, the next two are for you. The Lion of Lucerne (Löwendenkmal) has great historical significance as it was built as a tribute to the Swiss Guard who lost their lives in the French Revolution. It comprises a tragic lion on the brink of death on a rock face.
Travel back in time to the Ice Age to discover the ice and glacier laden land of Lucerne with the Glacier Garden of Lucerne.
It is a local history museum and garden with the ice glacier exhibits and a 19th century modelled mirror maze being the main attractions. Catch the Million Year Show (the world’s oldest raised-relief map of mountains from the 18th century) and be amazed by the sights.
P.S. There is construction and expansion work going on here. So, if you’re travelling before 2021 to this attraction, the Garden will be open with a few temporary restrictions but the mirror maze will be shut until May 2020.
In the evening, you can stroll along Lake Lucerne and grab a bite at any of the lakeside eateries and enjoy the lakeview.
Day 4: Lake Lucerne and the Golden Round Trip
Lake Lucerne, located in central Switzerland, is one of the most popular tourist attractions of this town. A lot of activities revolve around this distinctly shaped lake. Take a steamboat ride (covered for free by your STP) or paddle-boat across Lake Lucerne.
Golden Round Trip
Holiday trips are all about experiences, right? So, here’s a unique one that will take you on not one, not two, but THREE modes of transport! A trip that starts by boat on Lake Lucerne, then board the cogwheel railway at Alpnachstad to the Mount Pilatus summit and finally back down on an aerial cableway (Dragon Ride) down to Kriens on Panorama gondolas.
The cable car and cogwheel tickets are discounted at 50% if you have an STP (Swiss Travel Pass). The boat, and optional bus, ride is free. You can only go on this trip from May to October and tickets have to be bought at physical stations/locations.
Image courtesy: https://www.pilatus.ch/en/discover/golden-round-trip/
Day 5: Golden Pass Line and Montreux
Golden Pass Line
The Golden Pass includes a return fare for 2 days, 1 night in 2nd class. The Golden Pass Panoramic Line has modern trains with panoramic windows that allow you to immerse yourself with the landscape around you.
The journey is a leisurely and scenic one but leave early as one-way takes around 5-5.5 hours long non-stop.
The journey takes you from Lucerne to Montreux or vice versa with two train changes – one at Interlaken and the other at Zweisimmen. The route is lined with lakes, valleys and even chalets.
The Route: Lake Lucerne – Brünig Pass – Lake Brienz – Interlaken – Zweisimmen (via Gstaad) – Lake Geneva – Montreux – Return (or vice versa).
You can halt at Montreux and spend the day exploring the resort town or walking along the quays. Now you can use Montreux as a base for a couple of day trips.
Day 6: Explore Château Chillon
You can explore Château Chillon, a castle that sits atop Lake Geneva with mesmerizing views of the mountain ranges. I won’t blame you if you feel like you’ve been transported to fairy tale land upon experiencing all this. But save a couple of hours if you plan on exploring the castle because boy will it take a few hours!
Travel tip: You can even check out the dungeons!
If time permits, go onward on a scenic trip via the cogwheel train up to Rochers-de-Naye.
The scenic route and the aerial view of Lake Geneva from the hills is breath-taking. Once at the summit, you can satisfy your taste buds at the panoramic restaurant offering you a spectacular 360-degree view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
Or you can head back to Montreux to relax for the rest of the evening.
Day 7: Indulge in cheese and chocolate at Gruyères and Broc, respectively
Gruyères is the cheese capital of Switzerland and famed world over for its cheese for fondue, aptly named Les Gruyères. So head to La Maison du Gruyère to indulge in some cheese. It takes 45 mins to an hour by road and approx. 2 hrs by train from Montreux.
Approx. 10-15 mins away from Gruyères is a small town named Broc. Maison Cailler, the Swiss Chocolate Factory is located here.
Head back to Montreux.
Optional: Mount Titlis
Take a 2-hour train ride from Lucerne to Mount Titlis to experience walking on the Titlis Cliff Walk, the world’s highest suspension footbridge, 3000 meters above sea level. You can take the Titlis Rotair, the world’s first revolving cable car up to the summit. The sight from up there is breath-taking, in a wonderful and terrifying way, at the same time. Acrophobic people can skip this.
Take the Golden Pass Line train back to Lucerne and then proceed to Interlaken. Or catch a train directly to Interlaken.
Day trip by train (approx. 2 hours): Montreux —> Interlaken or Lucerne —> Interlaken
Interlaken (2 days)
This beautiful, eponymous small town gets its name as it is situated between two clear lakes – Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. It has some of the tallest Swiss peaks as its surroundings hence has stunning views wherever you look.
Day 8: Interlaken and Herder Kulm
Arrive at Interlaken OST or Interlaken West train stations.
Do bird’s eye city views give you a thrill, like me? Then, you can take a funicular up to the Harder Kulm, a viewpoint at 1,322 meters, overlooking the city.
Interlaken on its own can be explored within a day if you’re not the adventurous kind. So, you can save the rest of the day to explore the town.
Day 9: Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn
Take a 2-hour train ride to Jungfraujoch, also known as the Roof of Europe. It has the highest-altitude railway station; only accessible by train or by hiking up a trail. If you have the STP then you can avail a 25% off.
From there, you can take a 1 to 1.5-hour train ride, the last bit of the journey being a ski lift ride, to the Schilthorn summit. Among all the high-altitude sights on offer, this one has a 360-degree revolving restaurant with Mont Blanc in sight, among other peaks.
Day 10: Trummelbach Falls
Trümmelbach Falls is the largest subterranean series of waterfalls with 72 falls, made accessible by a tunnel-funicular and stairs. It takes approx. half an hour from Interlaken by train to get here.
Optional Activities (1-2 days)
The thrill-seekers can extend by a day or two as Interlaken has a range of activities to offer – right from sky diving to ice-climbing to mountain biking.
Day trip by train (approx. 2.5 hours): Interlaken —> Zermatt
Zermatt (2 days)
This famous resort town in Switzerland is the highest in Europe. It is very unique because it is a car-free town. Instead, you’ll find horse-drawn carriages to take you around, even to your hotel.
It enjoys ski season throughout the year that takes place on Zermatt’s glacier.
Day 11: Ice-skating or Skiing
You can spend the day going around town in a horse-drawn carriage or leisurely relax at your hotel.
In the evening, you can opt to try out one of the many public natural and artificial outdoor rinks in the middle of the town for ice-skating and curling. These are open only during the winter.
With all the skiing, one is sure to be famished and Zermatt makes sure there is no dearth of world-class cuisine for après ski dining with two restaurants being awarded Michelin stars in 2015.
Day 12: Mount Matterhorn
Zermatt lies at the base of the world’s most photographed mountain, the famous Mount Matterhorn. So, if you’re enjoy hiking, you can hike up the Matterhorn Glacier Trail.
Day trip by train (4-5 hours): Zermatt —> Geneva
Geneva (2 days)
Geneva is famous for being the headquarters of the United Nations and is truly a global city thanks to it. It is situated on the border of Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman as the locals call it and is surrounded by the Alps and the Jura mountains. You can see Mont Blanc from here.
Day 12: Rue de Lausanne, Lake Geneva and Jet d’Eau
Upon arriving at Gare Cornavin or Genève, Geneva’s main train station, head to the nearby Rue de Lausanne to satisfy your hunger. Here you will find a variety of cuisines from Italian to African or even Peruvian.
Post lunch, you can head to the famous Broken Chair on Palais des Nations or Place of Nations. It is gigantic chair sculpture with a broken leg and made using wood. Next you can Head up Avenue de la Paix to take a tour of the Palais or just relax at Parc d l’Ariana.
In the evening, you can take a stroll along one of the biggest lakes in Europe, Lake Geneva and later catch the Jet d’eau, or the Geneva Water Fountain, which is an iconic and unmissable fountain shooting water 140 m upwards from the lake into the air.
Day 13: CERN
And here’s something for all you science enthusiasts and budding cosmologists reading this – Lucerne houses the headquarters of The European Organization for Nuclear Research or CERN where you can learn about the origins of the Universe and catch the sight of the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider.
Festival alert! December is a time for many festivals and celebrations including the biggest of them all, Christmas. Geneva celebrates this month for a different reason. In 1602, the Swiss defeated the French House of Savoy and to commemorate this victory, Fête de l’Escalade is celebrated.
You can witness the re-enactment of the famous victory on Geneva’s streets. People in period costumes parade through the Old Town and traditional chocolate cauldron (marmite en chocolat) are cracked open and indulged in.
RESOURCES FOR BOOKING YOUR SWITZERLAND ITINERARY
- Skyscanner to find cheap flight deals.
- Rental Cars to hop on your next road trip.
- Booking.com to find a hotel deal.
- Hostel World to find a backpacker hostel.
- World Nomads to insure your travel.
- Viator to find a cool day tour.
- Or my Global Packing List.
I hope you liked this Switzerland Itinerary. Here are a few other posts you will love:
- 19 Germany Travel Tips To Save You Money
- How To Spend Two Weeks In Italy On A Budget
- The Ultimate Zadar Travel Guide
- Top 7 Things To Do In Austria
- 10 Cheap Europe Winter Destinations
- 10 Cheapest European Countries To Visit
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Kiersten DeCook says
This is a great guide! I’m planning a backpacking trip to Europe this summer and Switzerland is at the top of my list. I’m looking forward to using this guide as I’m planning.
Shruti Pangtey says
Thanks Kiersten, happy you were able to use it! 🙂