Switzerland would be a mighty big place if it were ironed flat” ~ Mark Twain.

With its jagged mountains dusted in snow as a picture-perfect backdrop almost everywhere, my 7 days in Switzerland itinerary will help you discover the best of the best this country has to offer. Why rush and only visit Zürich and Lucerne when there is SO MUCH more to see in these breathtaking lands?

Take the extra time to fully appreciate the incredible natural scenery, enjoy efficient transport with a 50% discount and devour delicious food (yes, I’m talking about cheese and chocolate) by spending one week in Switzerland. With her modern history dating back over 800 years, a fleeting visit isn’t going to do this gorgeous nation any justice!

Zermatt Matterhorn

Why visit Switzerland?

Perhaps you’ve read my reasons to visit Switzerland and are keen to make the trip?

As some of the world leaders in transportation technology, the Swiss make it super easy to hop from city to city with high-speed trains seamlessly connecting one side of the country to the other. It’s really such a beautiful country to explore, so make sure you know some Switzerland travel tips to be prepared before you arrive and make the most of your visit.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit this central European nation in both summer and winter – let me tell you, it’s hard to choose when is the best time to visit Switzerland because it is just so beautiful at any time of year! Summer brings more outdoor adventures like hiking and boating while winter beauty is truly stunning, with fewer tourists to boot. Perfect for non-skiers!

Did you know? Switzerland is home to four official languages spoken in different regions, or cantons. More about this and how I learn language for travel fast can be found at the conclusion of this itinerary.

I’ll help you make the most of your trip by detailing more about Switzerland’s iconic attractions as well to help you make the most of your visit. My personal tried-and-tested one week in Switzerland itinerary covers the best things to do, where to eat, where to stay, costs and exclusive tips combined from my two separate visits to the country. Read on for more!

This Switzerland itinerary and guide will cover:

  • My 7 Day Switzerland itinerary starting from Geneva includes where to stay, things to do, where to eat, getting around and costs broken down into a day-by-day guide for:
    • DAY 1: Geneva
    • DAY 2: Bern
    • DAY 3: Zermatt
    • DAY 4: Jungfraujoch & Interlaken
    • Day 5: Lucerne 
    • DAY 6: Mt Pilatus
    • DAY 7: Zurich
  • Things to keep in mind about Switzerland
    • Information about Swiss Transport Passes
    • Language
    • Currency
  • Common questions about Switzerland
    • Is Switzerland expensive?
    • What is Switzerland famous for?
    • Best souvenirs to buy in Switzerland and where to find them

 Days in Switzerland Itinerary Overview

7 Days in Switzerland Itinerary: Complete Guide for First-Timers | The Invisible Tourist #switzerlandtravel #switzerlanditinerary #visitswitzerland #thingstodoinswitzerland #switzerlandguide #invisibletourism #bern #lucerne #geneva #zurich #jungfraujoch #interlaken #zermatt #swissalps
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Complete 7 Days in Switzerland Itinerary

Before we get started

As a quick note about accommodation, I used Bern and Lucerne as bases for day trips throughout this itinerary so I am able to recommend hotels in these cities. Staying in two hotels over the trip instead of six is the most time and cost efficient way to see the Swiss cities in this itinerary. However, if you prefer to spend the night in a particular city I’ve provided more information on where you can find alternate accommodation under each corresponding city below.

The costs for transportation I’ve provided in this itinerary are after a 50% discount has been applied with this Swiss Half Fare Card. I tend to shy away from purchasing passes during my travels because they usually don’t cover the things I want them to (which is why I won’t recommend the JR Pass when visiting Japan).

Surprisingly, you can save some serious coin by using this little golden ticket when booking your rail journeys across Switzerland! I highly recommend the Swiss Half Fare Card as it saved me almost AUD 400 over the duration of this trip. Read on to find out more about this pass and where to buy it at the conclusion of this itinerary.

Augustinergasse, Zurich

You ready? Let’s rock this one week Switzerland itinerary by breaking everything down into easy yet detailed day-by-day chunks:

Day 1: Geneva

DAY 1: GENEVA

Home to international headquarters and straddling the border with France, Geneva (French: Genève) is one of the more well-known Swiss cities and is well worth a visit. Located south of Lac Leman, the Old Town of Geneva dates back to the Roman Empire. With one of of Switzerland’s major airports, it’s likely you’ll be arriving here.

Switzerland is known for being the “neutral” nation as it has rarely taken sides in regional or world wars since its founding in 1291. This is why Geneva is home to many political and global organisations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and World Health Organisation to name a few.

Bienvenue, you’re in a French-speaking region of Switzerland now!

Geneva

Geneva Old Town

Getting from Geneva airport to the city

Geneva Airport is only 4 kilometres from the city, making transit a breeze. The airport is located within Zone 10 of Geneva’s public transport network and adult tickets cost CHF 3.00 one way (valid for one hour). There aren’t any ticket machines on buses or trams so you’ll need to purchase your ticket at a dedicated machine before you get on board.

NOTE: No change is given at the ticket machines so hold onto your receipt to be reimbursed at a TPG agency.

By train: 6 minutes to Gare Cornavin station in the city centre via SBB Rail
By bus: 20 minutes to downtown.

Where to stay in Geneva

I personally headed straight to Bern from the airport and visited Geneva as a day trip as my flight arrived early morning. But if you arrive a bit later in the day and prefer to take your time on your arrival to Switzerland, I’d recommend spending the night in Geneva. Staying north of Pont du Mont Blanc bridge is where the action is. Keep in mind, the closer the hotel is to Lake Geneva, the pricer it is!

However, if I were to stay tomorrow: Based on reviews, location, proximity to transport and within a mid-range budget I would recommend Hotel des Alpes. Click here to check your dates and book.

Need more information and pricing for Geneva hotels? Be sure to check out:

Where you can find alternative hotels in Geneva’s Old Town.
Read more reviews and compare greater Geneva hotel prices here.
Find out why I don’t recommend Airbnb here.

Jet d'Eau

Things to do in Geneva

  • Admire the Water Jet (Jet d’Eau), the large water fountain on Lake Geneva. This 140 metre-high water jet is iconic to the city. It’s hard to miss from the waterfront or walking along Pont du Mont Blanc bridge.
  • Appreciate the Flower Clock (l’horloge fleurie), located along the western side of English Garden (Jardain Anglais). Made with over 6,000 flowers and small plants, this working clock is symbolic to the watch-making country.
  • Head to Place du Bourg-de-Four to marvel at St Piere Cathedral. It’s been standing in prominent location since the 10th century!
  • Take a stroll along the Reformation Wall. These figures carved into Geneva’s old city walls depict important people from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Today, this wall is located inside the University of Geneva.
  • Play an oversized game of chess in green Bastions Park (along Promenade des Bastions) and leisurely walk around its botanical garden.
  • Step back in time to the Renaissance era when visiting Hôtel de Ville, Geneva’s government headquarters. Here it’s said that nobles used to be able to ride up to the highest floor on horseback.
  • Not far from Hotel de Ville, find the Old Arsenal (Ancien Arsenel) located in the maze of cobbled streets in Geneva’s Old Town. Originally a market during Roman times, the area was converted to a military store in the 18th century to defend Geneva from neighbouring enemies. Don’t forget to take in the beauty of the detailed frescos painted beneath the archways – they’re absolutely stunning and depict Geneva’s history.
  • Shop up a storm on Rue du Marche in the Old Town (or simply window shop, the displays are lovely).

Cobbled streets in Geneva's Old Town

Have some extra time in Geneva?

  • Trek to the United Nations headquarters located in the city’s north.
  • Reflect at the famous Broken Chair sculpture. Created by local artist Daniel Berset, this three-legged chair was made to protest against the global use of land mines It also pays tribute to handicapped landmine victims.

READ MORE: How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in 10 Easy Steps


Day 2: Bern

DAY 2: BERN

In my opinion, Bern (French: Berne) is one of Europe’s most underrated capital cities. Can you believe much of the city has remained unchanged since its founding in 1191? It’s almost as though time has stood still here! The beautifully preserved architecture is one of the reasons why the entire Old Town was dedicated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. It really is a must-see to add to your Switzerland itinerary.

Bern’s compact size makes it ideal for covering all the main attractions on foot and allows you to explore at an easy, enjoyable pace. Remember you’re now in a German-speaking region of Switzerland, although French is still written and understood.

This region on Switzerland is German-speaking (willkommen!), although written French is common and it’s likely you’ll find people who speak English. Be sure to use your German first when asking a local if you need assistance.

View from Kirchenfeld Bridge, Bern

Arcades beneath the buildings in Bern
Arcades beneath the buildings in Bern

Getting from Geneva to Bern

SBB Rail: Geneva to Bern Hauptbahnhof, 1h 50mins (direction: St Gallen)
Cost: Adult 2nd class, CHF 25.50 one way with Swiss Half Fare Card

Where to stay in Bern

For location, Best Western Hotel Bern (see note below). The location is incredible! Multilingual staff were very helpful. I stayed during the winter months so the lack of cool air conditioning was no bother. Rooms had quirky furniture but were very clean and comfortable. Continental breakfast was decent and was a good way to start the day. It was a very convenient base in the city, less than 10 minutes walk to Hauptbahnhof Bern station with lots of restaurants, shops and attractions nearby.

View from Hotel Bern

NOTE: As of May 2019 I am of the understanding that Best Western Hotel Bern is undergoing reconstruction, therefore I don’t think it’s fair to recommend it if your stay is within the next few months from the time of writing (unless you don’t mind some construction noise in the early morning).

A similar hotel also on Zeughausgasse and only a few doors down from Best Western Hotel Bern is Kreuz Bern Modern City Hotel. The cost per night, location, reviews and amenities are comparable to Best Western Hotel Bern so I recommend to stay there instead. I’ve read it also has air conditioning if you’re staying over the warmer months, so be sure to take a look!

Need some more information on Bern hotels? Check out:

Where you can find alternative hotels in Old Town Bern.
Read more reviews and compare greater Bern hotel prices here.

 

Where to eat in Bern

Spaghetti Factory, Einstein House Café (in the building where Einstein himself once lived!), Confiserie Eichenberger all located within the Old Town.

Confiserie Eichenberger
Spoil yourself at Confiserie Eichenberger

Things to do in Bern

  • Explore the gorgeous Old Town (Aldstat). Head across Nydeggbrucke in the east and Kornhausbruke in the north outskirts for incredible views over Bernese rooftops by the Aare River!
  • Stare in awe at the beautiful detail of Zytglogge. This 15th century astronomical clock tower rising high above the cobbled streets below has even served as a guard tower and prison throughout the centuries. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a spectacular icon of the city.
  • Walk beneath the winding medieval arcades and maybe do a spot of shopping. Bern is the place to shop after all, with over six kilometres of arcades to shield you from the wind and snow!
  • Admire the grandeur of the ritzy Bellevue Palace Hotel and Parliament (Bundenhaus)buildings. The best view of their exteriors can be seen from Kirchenfeld Bridge(Kirchenfeldbrücke) in the city’s south.
  • If you’re feeling lucky and pop in for a game or two and the Grand Casino Bern, the ornate establishment boasts a deck with amazing views of the city below. (Cost: Entry CHF 10 ea for over 18’s and includes a welcome drink).
  • Pay a visit to the city’s living emblems at Bear Park (Barenpark). Situated beside Nydeggbrucke, the views over Bern’s rooftops are hard to beat from here. As the city’s symbol, bears have been residing in Bern’s city centre since 1513! Today, the three bears who call this park home have been there since 2009. It’s possible to enter the park and take a guided tour, although I was lucky enough to see the bears from the bridge and viewing platform. Cost: Free
  • Go on a 16th century fountain hunt. Did you know Bern is also known as the city of fountains? See if you can find 11 interesting characters towering above the fountains dotted throughout the old town. There’s even an ogre munching on a small child! These fascinating figures depict characters in Swiss folklore.
  • Finally, stop by Confiserie Eichenberger to hand-select some authentic and delectable Swiss chocolates. You’ve deserved it after all that walking!

Zytglogge, Bern

Snowy Bern in winter

Day 3: Zermatt

DAY 3: ZERMATT

The area of Zermatt is surrounded by 38 mountain peaks, all of which are over 4,000 metres high! This unique environment has meant Zermatt has inherited the nickname of the “Sunniest Corner of Switzerland” as few clouds tend to form here. For you, this means the likelihood of seeing the Matterhorn is more than 62% according to MeteoSchweiz. Those odds sounds pretty good to me!

Getting from Bern to Zermatt

SBB Rail: Bern Hauptbahnhof to Zermatt, 2h 14mins (direction: Brig, 1 change at Visp)
Cost: Adult 2nd class, CHF 75.00 return with Swiss Half Fare Card

Where to stay in Zermatt

As I visited Zermatt as a day trip from Bern, I didn’t spend the night. If you’re planning on staying, make sure you read some reviews, compare pricing and availability.

Need more information and prices for hotels in Zermatt? Be sure to check out:

Where you can find hotels in Zermatt’s city centre.
Read more reviews and compare greater Zermatt hotel prices here.

Zermatterhof Hotel

Things to do in Zermatt

There are loads of amazing sights to see in this winter wonderland, especially the Matterhorn. The thickness of snow coating the rooftops was so smooth it reminded me of cake icing!

DON’T MISS: Gornergrat Bahn to admire the Matterhorn, 3,135m

Marvel at the Matterhorn by taking the Gornergrat Bahn up to the spectacular Gornergrat Lookout. The entire train journey is absolutely stunning with the Matterhorn popping in and out of view along the way. You’re bound to recognise this beloved Swiss icon as it’s used in logos of global companies such as Toblerone and Paramount Pictures. A word of caution: Prepare to have your breath taken away when the Matterhorn welcomes you!

Gornergrat Bahn: Zermatt to Gornergrat Lookout, 33 mins (trains running approx. every half hour)
Cost: Adult CHF 38.00 return with Swiss Half Fare Card.

Matterhorn from the Gornergrat lookout

  • After returning to Zermatt from the Gornergrat, take a wander around the snowy paths and check out the ski resorts. See if you can find the unusual way many of the buildings are elevated off the ground!
  • If time permits, check out the Matterhorn Museum. Its turquoise-pyramid roof is easy to spot in Kirchplatz. Artefacts include a Neolithic Age (c. 3000 BC) stone axe and a snapped rope from the very first ascent in 1865. Opening times from 3pm – 6pm daily. Cost: Adult CHF 10.00
  • Pick up some hand-made souvenirs from Matterland Souvenirs, Zermatter Souvenirs for Swiss Army knives, and Swiss Shop Schweizerhof for textiles, crafts, jewellery and decor.
  • Stroll along picturesque Hofmattstrasse. Be sure to take some postcard-worthy shots of the traditional wooden chalets complete with a stunning mountain range backdrop.

Zermatt skiers

Where to eat in Zermatt

At the Gornergrat Lookout, obviously food choices are limited (you’re at the summit of a mountain after all). Regardless, it’s the perfect place to enjoy lunch with a view! Self Panorama offer a hot buffet-style lunch and and cozy blankets are provided if you choose to dine outside with sweeping views of the Matterhorn and surrounding mountains. It’s absolutely beautiful and you’ll wonder why blackbirds are even up here until you see them eyeing off your hot chips.

If you feel like treating yourself to an a la carte menu , Vis-à-vis inside the 3100 Kulm Hotel is for you (and the desserts sound incredible!).

Blackbirds at the Gornergrat Lookout

READ MORE: 42 UNESCO Sites in Europe Essential to Your Bucket List


Day 4: Jungfraujoch & Interlaken

DAY 4: JUNGFRAUJOCH & INTERLAKEN

Jungfraujoch is the jewel in the Bernese Oberlands’ crown and boasts the highest railway station in all of Europe, hence its nickname “Top of Europe”. As an added bonus you’ll come face-to-face with the Eiger, Europe’s most notorious mountain when you arrive at Kleine Scheidegg. In the afternoon, stop by beautiful Interlaken on your way back to Bern.

Jungfraujoch Highlights
JUNGFRAUJOCH HIGHLIGHTS: 1) Ice Sculptures ~ 2) Ice Tunnel ~ 3) Mini Museum ~ 4 & 5) View from Sphinx Observatory ~ 6) Weather during my visit

Getting from Bern to Jungfraujoch (Top of Europe)

SBB Rail: Bern Hauptbahnhof to Jungfraujoch, 3h 7 mins (3 changes: Interlaken Ost, Lauterbrunnen, Kleine Scheidegg)
NOTE: From Kleine Scheidegg board the Jungfraubahn to complete the journey to Jungfraujoch
Cost: Adult 2nd class, CHF 120.40 return with Swiss Half Fare Card.

This is the longest day trip in this itinerary, but oh-so-worth-it! The entire journey is picturesque, with the trains cutting through mountains and countrysides until you reach your destination on the Top of Europe – 3,466 metres up! It’s amazing to think the Jungfraubahn railway was completed in 1912, and was first thought of as early as 1860. It was a huge achievement in engineering for its time.

Thankfully the Jungfraubahn stops for a few moments at Eismeer station before reaching Jungfraujoch. This station is built into the mountainside so only a glass window separates you from the incredible the sea of ice outside!

View out the window from Eismeer Station, Jungfraubahn
View out the window from Eismeer Station, Jungfraubahn

Things to do in Jungfraujoch

  • Admire Alpine Sensation, a giant snow globe with little moving figures depicting workers who helped build the Jungfraubahn. The globe dedicated to the miners who lost their lives to make it happen.
  • Head to the Sphinx Observation Deck to have your breath taken away by the enormity of the Aletsch glacier. The lift up climbs 108 metres in only 25 seconds! There’s nothing like that crisp mountain air hitting your face.
  • Stroll around the Ice Palace, complete with ice sculptures and an entire tunnel made from ice.
  • Be awe-struck by the digital Jungfrau Panorama. These 360-degree screens projecting imagery from Jungfraujoch allow you to see what it’s really like at this natural wonder if the clouds interfere with your visit.
  • Sample some delicious Lindt chocolates at the Swiss Chocolate Heaven store.
  • Souvenir shop at the Top of Europe stores.
  • Try your hand at snowy activities such as snowtubing, sledging, skiing and more at Snow Fun Park.
  • Remember to stop off at Interlaken on your way back to Bern in the late afternoon. There’s a casino, boutiques (especially for Swiss watches) and beautiful grand hotels to admire against a jagged mountain backdrop. Horse-drawn carriage rides are also available. If time permits, head up the funicular to Harder Kulm lookout, Interlaken’s own peak for amazing views down over the town below.

Where to stay in Interlaken

It’s not possible to stay on Jungfraujoch, but Interlaken is a lovely place to stay close by. As I visited Interlaken as a day trip from Bern, I didn’t spend the night.

If you’re planning on staying in Interlaken, be sure to check out:

Where you can find hotels in Interlaken city centre.
Read more reviews and compare greater Interlaken hotel prices here.

Horse-drawn carriage, Interlaken Interlaken


Day 5: Lucerne

DAY 5: LUCERNE

Lucerne (German: Luzern) is the destination you see on picture-perfect postcards, it’s just so darn gorgeous. Situated beside her namesake lake, Lucerne has been a huge drawcard for tourists visiting the region and it’s easy to see why. No trip to Switzerland is complete without adding this bucket list city to your itinerary!

Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge), Lucerne

Getting from Bern to Lucerne

SBB Rail: Bern Hauptbahnhof to Lucerne, 1h 7mins (direction: Lucerne)
Cost: Adult 2nd class CHF 19.50 one way with Swiss Half Fare Card.

Where to stay in Lucerne

If you like your hotels to be right in the city centres like me, you’ll love Hotel des Balances in Lucerne’s Old Town. My time at this 4* hotel could not be faulted and I wish I could have stayed longer! It’s beautifully decorated inside and out, and service is top notch.

Hotel des Balances - Lucerne, Switzerland
View from my balcony at the stunning Hotel des Balances, Lucerne

During my winter visit I was able to snap up an amazing deal that meant I could stay in a room overlooking the Reuss River for the same price as my usual accommodation budget, so keep your eyes peeled for discounts during the winter months.

Waking up to Mt Pilatus peeking out from behind the clouds just outside my window was something I’ll never forget. The location cannot be beaten as it’s just steps away from restaurants, shops, Lucerne railway station and the main sights. I also adored that the façade above the hotel entrance was decorated in beautiful medieval paintings.

Need some more information on Lucerne hotels? Check out:

Where you can find hotels in Lucerne’s city centre.
Read more reviews and compare greater Lucerne hotel prices here.

 

Things to do in Lucerne

  • Explore the Old Town (Altstadt) and hunt down the intricately painted buildings. Some of Lucerne’s façades have been preserved this way since the Middle Ages! You’ll be able to find most of them north of the Reuss River, around Hirschenplatz, Sternenplatz, Weinmarkt and Metzgerrainle.
  • Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) is said to be the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe, dating back to 1333! Although, a large portion was destroyed by fire in 1993 and has since been restored. The paintings decorating the roof’s interior date back to the 17th century.
  • The Church of St. Leodegar (Hofkirche Luzern) was commissioned in 1666 by Jesuits and its twin spires are iconic to Lucerne’s skyline.
  • Don’t miss the Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal), a emotional tribute to a the Swiss Guards killed by revolutionaries at Tuileries Palace, France in 1792. With pain etched onto his stone face, this lion lays fatally wounded carved into the cliffside. He’s one of Switzerland’s most famous monuments.
  • Take a close look at Jesuitenkirche, the interesting church in baroque architecture style. It’s onion-shaped toppers are an icon of the city.
  • Admire the Town Hall Clock on Kornmarkt and be amazed to know it’s been standing there since the 1606!
  • Spoil yourself with a traditional Swiss meal at the Old Swiss House. This fine-dining restuarant has won various awards and is an experience in itself as waitresses make your schnitzel right in front of you! This striking red and white cottage is almost 150 years old and houses antiques throughout the building’s history. It’s definitely one of the unique things to do in Switzerland!

Old Swiss House

Painted façades in Lucerne's Old Town
Painted façades in Lucerne’s Old Town

Where to eat in Lucerne

Old Swiss House as mentioned above, Heini for coffee and cake, any number of pubs along the Reuss River, and food from the train station is fresh and affordable.

READ MORE: How to Skip the Line at these 10 Europe Attractions


Day 6: Mt Pilatus

DAY 6: MT PILATUS

You can’t make the effort to visit Lucerne and not bother making a trip up to her iconic mountain’s summit! No matter the time of year, you’ll want to add Mt Pilatus to your summer or winter Switzerland itinerary. During the Middle Ages, it was thought that dragons with healing powers lived inside the mountain. This is why you’ll see the symbol for Mt Pilatus today is Pilu, the red dragon.

Taking a gondola ride up to Mt Pilatus
Taking a gondola ride up to Mt Pilatus

Getting from Lucerne to Kriens

Catch a Bus no. 1 to Kriens Zentrum Pilatus (15mins from Lucerne) to the base of the gondola. Purchase your ticket and take the gondola up to Mt Pilatus. Dining options are available at the summit as well as a gift shop and views to stay with you forever!
Bus Cost: Adult approx CHF 1.50 with the Swiss Half Fare Card
Gondola Cost:
 Adult CHF 36.00 return with the Swiss Half Fare Card.

Mt Pilatus summit in winter | The Invisible Tourist

Activities on Mt Pilatus

Winter activities

  • Enjoy a delicious Sunday brunch at Pilatus Kulm
  • Get involved in various Christmas and New Year’s Eve activities (including a Christmas Market)
  • Dine with a view over snowcapped mountains at Pilatus Kulm restaurant
  • Admire ice sculptures
  • Indulge in Fondue Fun
  • Stare in awe at icicles suspended from the roof outside that easily extend over 6 foot in length!

Summer activities

  • Relax at Pilatus Kulm for drinks on the deck chairs overlooking Lucerne and the Alps below
  • Hike the Dragon’s Trail
  • Go paragliding
  • Ride the world’s steepest cog railway
  • Visit Mt Pilatus Rope Park
  • Ride Switzerland’s longest toboggan run, Fräkigaudi a whopping 1.3 kilometres long (my personal favourite!) Cost: CHF 8.00 per ride.

More things to do in Lucerne

Here’s a few more ideas for things to see and do in and around Lucerne:

  • Hire a paddle boat and take in the view of the city from Lake Lucerne in summer
  • Enjoy a 1 hour cruise on Lake Lucerne and ride the world’s steepest cog railway (varies by season)
  • Do a half-day trip to Mt Titlus, complete with fully rotating cable car, and brave Europe’s highest suspension bridge!

READ MORE: 4 Days in Prague Itinerary: Complete Guide for First-Timers


Day 7: Zurich

DAY 7: ZÜRICH

Switzerland’s financial capital is often mistaken as the country’s capital! Zurich has been mentioned in many lists as one of the most expensive cities in the world. From a tourist’s perspective, I only found things such as food and clothing to be slighter higher than other areas of Switzerland in this itinerary. The lovely Bahnhofstrasse is said to be Europe’s most expensive shopping street!

Getting from Lucerne to Zurich

SBB Rail: Lucerne Hauptbahnhof to Zurich, 46mins (direction: Zurich Flughafen)
Cost: Adult 2nd class CHF 25.00 return with Swiss Half Fare Card.

St Peter's Clock Tower, Zurich

Gorgeous view over Zürich from Lindenhof
Gorgeous view over Zürich from Lindenhof

Where to stay in Zurich

As I visited Zurich as a day trip from Lucerne, I didn’t spend the night. If I were to stay tomorrow, I’d recommend staying in a hotel nearby the Augustinergasse & Lindenhof areas to the west of the Limmat River, or somewhere near Munstergasse in the Aldtstat area on the east side, depending on your preference. There are loads of shops and restaurants in both areas and all the main sights are within walking distance.

If you’re planning on staying in Zurich, be sure to check out:

Where you can find hotels in Zurich city centre.
Read more reviews and compare greater Zurich hotel prices here.

 

Colourful buildings along Augustinergasse, Zürich
Colourful buildings along Augustinergasse, Zürich

Things to do in Zurich

  • From Zurich Hauptbahnhof, stroll along Bahnhopfstrasse which is considered the most expensive shopping street in Europe! Depending on how you feel you may be happy just window shopping instead.
  • Explore the narrow backstreets in the Schipfe district, one of Zurich’s oldest neighbourhoods. Would you believe there have been traces found here of pre-Roman settlements in the first century BC?
  • For the best view in Zurich, head to Lindenhof for sweeping panoramic views over the city and Limmat River. Perched high on this hill was once a Roman castle dating back to the 4thcentury. Today you can try your hand at a life-sized game of chess incorporated into the grounds here.
  • Make your way to St Peter Kirche with its iconic 15th century clock tower. Did you know it’s also the largest church clock in all of Europe? Surprisingly, the diameter of each clock face measures a huge 8.64 metres, the minute hand 5.73 metres and the hour hand 5.07 metres. Woah! No wonder it was the keeper of Zurich’s official local time for centuries!
  • Prepare your eyes to absorb the rainbow of buildings that is Augustinergasse. This was my favourite street in all of Zurich! In the 17th century store owners competed with each other for the best façade, which resulted in the vivid colours and intricate wood carvings that adorn the buildings to this day.
  • Take in the intricate details on Fraumünster’s tower, an icon of Zurich as it pierces high above the city’s skyline. Dating back to the Middle Ages, this gorgeous church is adorned with stained-glass windows by Chagall and Giacometti!
  • Seek out the Grossmünster, one of the most recognised structures in Zurich with its two domed towers along the Limmat River. It’s said the current structure dates waaaay back to the 13th century.
  • Finally, find the city’s Town Hall (Rathaus Zurich), which remains largely in its original condition. It’s home to the city’s parliament and legislative chambers.

Vibrant facade in Zurich

Where to eat in Zurich

If you were a fan of Spaghetti Factory in Bern, you’ll be pleased to know there’s one right here in Zurich, too! Just like a home-cooked meal your grandmother prepared for you.

Spaghetti Factory Zurich

READ MORE: Why Damme, Belgium is the Perfect Day Trip from Bruges

Planning a Switzerland itinerary: Things to know before you go

Information about Swiss Travel Passes

It can be a bit overwhelming when deciding to purchase a transport pass for Switzerland as there are quite a few to choose from, each with different benefits. Luckily, I’ve done the hard work for you!

After calculating the costs of transport in Switzerland without using a pass versus buying a pass, this Switzerland itinerary undoubtedly benefits from the Swiss Half Fare card! You can save serious coin by using this card when booking your rail journeys across Switzerland if you decide to follow this itinerary. For my trip, I saved almost AUD 400 on transportation by purchasing this pass before my trip, so the outlay of CHF 120.00 made it very worthwhile.

As mentioned earlier, I usually don’t buy passes during my travels. Before my trip I prefer to consider whether outlaying the cost for a pass will be worthwhile for the places I actually plan on visiting in the time I have. In most cases it works out cheaper to pay as I go for what I want. You could say I was very pleasantly surprised with this result:

Without using Swiss Half Fare Card

All transport journeys mentioned
= CHF 784.80

Using Swiss Half Fare Card

All transport journeys mentioned
CHF 392.40 + Card Purchase CHF 120.00
= CHF 512.40 (CHF 272.40 SAVING!)

 

Click here to purchase the Swiss Half Fare Card to ensure you receive your 50% discount on trains, boats and buses in Switzerland!

Don’t take my word for it though, you can check SBB’s website to add up the individual journeys before the Swiss Half Fare Card’s discount is applied, and see for yourself.

Currency in Switzerland

Swiss Francs
Swiss Francs (credit softcodex via Pixabay)

Swiss Francs are the official currency used in Switzerland, not the Euro. The CHF or Confederation Helvetia Franc is a usually stable currency so if you’re booking your trip well in advance you probably won’t have to worry much about currency fluctuation (the bane of my existence as an Aussie when visiting the United States!)

It’s possible to purchase items with Euros in some places in Switzerland, although expect your change to be given back to you in the Swiss Francs equivalent.

Language in Switzerland

Be prepared to wear your French hat one day and German the next! As mentioned earlier, there are four official languages in Switzerland (aren’t they a clever bunch?).

Languages of Switzerland
Languages of Switzerland (image credit: Marco Zanoli via Wikimedia Commons)

French is spoken in the west, especially in Geneva and along the French border; Italian in the south in the Ticino region bordering Italy; Romansch in the country’s south-east and German in the majority. The above diagram will give you a clearer idea of where to speak what. Be sure to have a read of the recommended resources I use to learn language for travel – and fast!


Common questions about Switzerland

If you’ve made it this far and are keen to read on, let’s go over some of the most common questions asked about this landlocked nation:

Is Switzerland expensive?

Let’s talk about the big ol’ elephant in the room here: If you’ve been hiding under a rock, Switzerland has a rather unfortunate reputation for being quite expensive. While “expensive” has a different definition depending on the type of traveller you are and what you value, from my personal experience I didn’t think it was too bad (and that’s coming from an Aussie where our exchange rate is usually rubbish).

The Swiss Franc is quite a stable currency and has increased in strength slightly since it was unpegged from the Euro. I highly suggest finding out what your main costs are beforehand so you aren’t left with any nasty surprises once you arrive in Switzerland:

Kornhausbruke, Bern

Transport costs in Switzerland

If you highly value your time when travelling like I do, you may prefer to spend more on the fastest transport options, like high-speed rail in order to have more time to exploring at your destination. Personally I just factor in the higher costs of transport as a necessary expense of the trip. This is where purchasing the Swiss Half Fare Card will come in handy as I’ve discussed earlier.

Eating out costs in Switzerland

When eating out, I found the cost of food to be roughly the same (maybe only a little more) than what I would spend back home if I were to go out in the Sydney CBD. Again, I just factored this into the cost of visiting Switzerland and it wasn’t a shock or something that negatively impacted my trip as I was prepared for it.

For instance, a glass of wine was around CHF 6 (USD 6.05) and a main meal at a nice restaurant was about CHF 24 (around USD 30). As I mentioned, this may seem expensive for some but hey – you’re on holiday! While some prices are on the higher side in Switzerland you can expect the quality to match, which is a relief.

What is Switzerland famous for?

Sailing with acMt Pilatus view, Lucerne

The Swiss Alps are some of the highest mountain ranges in Europe, their irregular shapes becoming icons for many Swiss brands. Expect to see loads of mountains, admire glistening lakes, eat tonnes of chocolate and breathe in crisp alpine air during your stay. Fondue is a popular cheesy treat for tourists, although I personally prefer the chocolate and fruit version!

The Swiss Army is also known as one of the best in the world, despite Switzerland remaining a neutral country in conflicts. Maybe it’s because anyone who is anyone has a Swiss bank account and the powers that be don’t want to destabilise the country!

What are the best souvenirs to buy in Switzerland?

If you’re a lover of shopping like me, the best souvenirs from Switzerland to bring home are:

  • Swiss Army Knives: As the name suggests, these made popular by the Swiss Army and are handy to have with you for life’s little emergencies. Victorinox is a popular, quality brand. Remember to put these in a checked bag on your flight!
  • Stunning Swiss watches: A little pricey for some, but the craftsmanship is world-class and they will last a lifetime
  • Mondaine Railway Clocks: Replica clocks of the all important ones found at Swiss railway stations
  • Small trinkets like Trychel cowbells: They come in varying sizes ranging from keyrings to full-sized
  • Swiss cheese: Hard yellow cheeses like Gruyère (named after the town of Gruyères), semi-hard cheeses like Appenzeller (from north-east Switzerland) and semi-soft spreadable cheeses such as Gala.
  • Swiss chocolates: My personal favourites that I feel are the best in the world like Lindt, Toblerone and Milka, of course!

You’l find dedicated souvenir stores in towns across Switzerland such as Eidelweiss, and the edible items can be purchased from local supermarkets such as Coop or Aldi.

TIP: Just be sure to check with your federal customs and quarantine agencies that the edible food items can be brought back with you. It would be such a shame to have your Swiss goodies confiscated by quarantine on your return home!

Souvenirs from Switzerland | The Invisible Tourist


Concluding my 1 week in Switzerland itinerary

So, there you have it! Now you’re set to visit with my complete Switzerland itinerary. I absolutely LOVED my two visits to this gorgeous alpine nation and I hope you do, too. There really is so much to experience in this compact country and the high-speed trains make to so simple to travel around. The more I cross off my Switzerland bucket list, the more I seem to add to it!

You could really spend so much more time in the country but I feel as though my one week Switzerland itinerary is a great introduction for your first visit. What do you think of this itinerary? Does it cover what you’re after for your first time visit? Let me know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to pick up your Swiss Half Fare Card if you haven’t already to receive 50% off your train, bus, boat and even cable car rides throughout Switzerland!

If you found my Switzerland travel guide helpful or are planning to use it on your trip, I would LOVE if you could please share it with your friends! You can also come and join me on Facebook,Pinterest, Instagram or follow my blog with Bloglovin for more Europe travel inspiration!

Until next time,The Invisible Tourist


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Alyse
Author

Australian-based Alyse has been travelling "The Invisible Tourist Way" for eleven years and hopes to encourage fellow travellers to do so, too. She's passionate about history, preserving local cultures and travelling efficiently. A professional language hoarder, she can usually be found burying herself in travel books and Wikipedia articles. Her dreams? Always about the next destination and how to make the most of the experience.

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Really detailed information for travelling to Switzerland in winter for first timers like myself. Appreciate the breakdown of getting there, where to stay and things to do for each area on your itinerary – you’ve done all the hard work, making it easy for me when planning my trip!

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Thanks so much, Marie! That was the idea, I love creating and sharing itineraries. Sometimes they can take a little while to put together but then it’s done and easy for my readers to know everything before their trip 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Stephanie

    This was so helpful ! I will be travelling to Switzerland this coming February with my boyfriend from Singapore. We’ve never been there before & i found it very confusing and hard to plan this trip on my own. So thank you so much for posting this !

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      I am SO glad to hear that, Stephanie! I agree, sometimes planning can be a little confusing especially when you have to find little bits of information from many different sources. That’s exactly why I wanted to share my itinerary to help others so everything was in one place 🙂 I hope you and your boyfriend have a wonderful time in Switzerland! February will be a great time to visit as well!

  3. Avatar

    Thanks Alyse for the very valuable info.. i will consider the info when planning my itinerary to swiss end of this year

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      I’m so glad to hear that, yusof! I hope you love Switzerland as much as I did. Have a wonderful trip 🙂

  4. Avatar

    Thanks Alyse,
    It’s a set of some very practical information., while planning a trip to Switzerland. Loved it. The best part is the transportation tips!
    Keep on roaming and enlightening other travelers!!

    • Alyse
      Alyse

      Thanks so much, Ridhdhi! Really glad you loved the transport tips as well 🙂

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