13 Epic Day Trips from Geneva (+ How to Get Everywhere)

Geneva is the start of many people’s trips to Switzerland, due to its busy airport which often has a lot of great flight deals. 

Not only that, Geneva’s perfect location on the border of France and Switzerland means that you can do an abundance of great day trips from Geneva that bring you totally different cultural experiences. 

The ease of access to France thanks to the Schengen area agreement means that a day trip to pop into one of the beautiful villages of Alsace is by no means difficult! 

You won’t even experience a proper border crossing, as there is no passport control between the Swiss and French borders due to the Schengen agreement.

You could certainly spend plenty of time exploring all the things to do in Geneva, such as touring the U.N. and world-class museums, checking out the Jet d’Eau, and taking a steamboat ride on Lac Leman.

With good reason, Geneva is one of the top places to visit in Switzerland for both its beauty and its culture, and it’s full of great things to do. 

However, you can also use it as a base for several beautiful day trips in Switzerland and France. 

Here are 13 of my favorite Geneva day trip ideas to inspire your Switzerland itinerary and beyond!

Best Day Trips from Geneva

Montreux

the beautiful chillon castle (chateau de chillon) on the banks of lac leman (lake geneva), a popular day trip from geneva

WHAT IS IT: One of my favorite towns in Switzerland, this lakeside gem that is home to the Montreux Jazz Fest each year is worth a visit no matter the time of year. 

Whether you visit at the height of summer activity or in the peacefulness of winter, Montreux’s lakeside setting surrounded by a ring of snow-capped mountains (no matter the time of year) is unbeatable. 

WHAT TO DO: The town itself is gorgeous and home to several points of interest, the most obvious of which is Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle) a beautiful medieval castle that sits as a little island right on the bank of Lac Leman. 

It’s one of those places that I’m sure you’ve seen a million times on the internet. It’s one of the most famous Swiss castles, and in a country known for its beautiful castles, that’s truly saying something. 

Besides the Chateau, which is well worth the day trip from Geneva just to see, you can also walk along the Montreux lakeside promenade.

Another great thing to do is check out the museum dedicated to Queen, which is in the studio where Freddie Mercury and the rest of his bandmates recorded several albums), or visit the nearby Chaplin’s World museum dedicated to Charlie Chaplin (another famous Montreux ex-resident) in Corsier-sur-Vevey. 

HOW TO GET THERE: The train will take you from Geneva to Montreux quite easily in about an hour and fifteen minutes. 

There are also guided tours which include Montreux and other nearby sights as well, so you can tick a few things off your Swiss bucket list simultaneously.

Book your Montreux + Lavaux vineyards tour here, or your Montreux + glacier tour here!

Lausanne

fancy building in lausanne on an overcast day with a statue in front of it and a green lawn

WHAT IS IT: One of the larger cities flanking Lac Leman (excepting Geneva, obviously), Lausanne is a must-visit city tour for fans of impressive architecture and well-curated museums. 

It’s also one of the easiest cities to visit on a day trip from Geneva due to frequent steamboat connections on the lake.

WHAT TO DO: Built on three steep hills, walking around Lausanne requires a decent bit of fitness (it offers stiff competition to San Francisco and Lisbon), but it’s well worth it!

This city is beautiful everywhere you look. One of its most famous buildings is the Chateau d’Ouchy, a gorgeous multi-turreted, red-roofed castle in the heart of town. 

For fans of museums, Lausanne won’t let you down. Perhaps the strangest museum in all of Switzerland, you shouldn’t miss the Collection de L’art Brut, which features art created by societal outcasts – prisoners, psychiatric patients, and the like – as the collector, Jean Dubuffet, became fascinated with the connection with madness and genius. 

Somewhat patronizingly, he called this work “art brut” (naïve art). The collection numbers more than 50,000 pieces spread across four floors, and it’s undoubtedly a fascinating place to while away a few hours. If you’re a fan of weird travel: this is for you. 

For people looking for a more typical museum, you won’t want to miss the world-famous Olympic Museum which has not only modern artifacts from recent Olympics but even pieces dating back to the original ancient games. 

It’s also really interactive, making it a great place to bring children (the Collection de L’art Brut, maybe not so much!).

You’ll also want to do a wander to the other side of town, on the other side of the train tracks, to see the beautiful Place de la Palud, the heart of Lausanne’s Old Town. 

Here, you’ll see buildings like the city hall, the Instagrammable wooden Escaliers du Marché, the lovely Palais de Rumine (which hosts 5 museums in one building), and other historic towns.

HOW TO GET THERE: It’s just 45 minutes by train from Geneva! 

While it seems like the ferry would be a good option, it takes almost 4 hours each way – so it’s  hardly day trip material.

If you do want to take a boat ride one way from Lausanne, I suggest doing a combined bus and ferry tour like this one, which drops you off in Lausanne by bus, gives you some time to explore the city, and then ferries you back to Geneva on a scenic 4-hour boat cruise.

Book your bus + cruise day trip to Lausanne here!

Lavaux Vineyards

vineyards and a town in the distance overlooking the beautiful still blue waters of lake geneva in the town and unesco site of lavaux, a great geneva day trip

WHAT IS IT: If there’s one thing I learned from my weeks in Switzerland, it’s that Swiss wine is freaking delicious and it’s really a shame that more of it doesn’t get exported. Only some 5% of the wine ever makes it out of the country! 

So while you’re in Switzerland, you may as well take advantage of the ease with which you can find these delicious wines. 

After all, who knows the next time you’ll see Swiss wine at your local wine shop or on a restaurant’s wine list? 

Many of the best Swiss wines come from the area around Lake Geneva, particularly in the area of Lavaux – a region so famous and beloved for its wine that it’s quite literally a UNESCO World Heritage Site! 

The vines present date all the way back to the 11th century and were tended by monasteries (both Benedictine and Cistercian) which historically controlled the land around this area. 

The Lavaux area covers 30 kilometers of land around Lake Geneva and produces some fabulous wines, so it’s time to get tasting!

WHAT TO DO: Go wine-tasting, obviously! I don’t recommend driving yourself from vineyard to vineyard for obvious reasons, so I’d suggest going on an organized wine tour of the region such as this one

The tour lasts 4 hours and involves a wine tasting, but you’d have to get yourself to Montreux (1 hour by train) in order to do this excursion.

HOW TO GET THERE: Since I don’t recommend going by car unless you have a designated driver (and even then – call the wineries you want ahead of time as most don’t have tasting rooms open all the time), I’d suggest a wine tour like this one offered on Viator

Alternately, you can pair it with a visit to Montreux and Vevey as part of a multi-stop tour like on this one (itinerary and details here).

Book your panoramic wine tasting tour in Lavaux or your tour of Montreux, Vevey, + Lavaux here.

Rochers de Naye

the brilliant blue of lake geneva as seen from high above on a mountain, views of small towns around the lakeshore

WHAT IS IT: Switzerland is famed for its scenic railways and one of the best railways in the Geneva area is up to the viewpoint at Rochers de Naye! 

At an elevation of just over 2,000 meters, you’ll get sweeping lake views and incredible hiking trails.

WHAT TO DO: The area around Rochers de Naye is mostly known for its aerial views and its hiking trails. 

You may see lots of different kinds of flowers, depending on the season obviously, and you’re likely to see some of the adorable marmot colonies who call this mountaintop home. 

There is also a panoramic restaurant, Plein Roc, where you can eat with an incredible view!

HOW TO GET THERE: There is a cogwheel railway which runs from Montreux through to Glion and then to Caux to reach the summit. 

The whole ride takes just about one hour from Montreux downtown, and you can buy tickets at the Montreux railway station.

Vevey

the lakefront promenade of the town of vevey in the swiss riviera along lac leman, a beautiful day trip option from geneva

WHAT IS IT: An underrated town on the Swiss Riviera, a visit to Vevey is a great idea if you want to skip the crowds of Montreux or Lausanne, both of which are a little more popular with tourists. 

While it doesn’t have the same major attractions as either of the aforementioned cities, it is well worth a visit for its quaint charm and lakeside beauty.

WHAT TO DO:  The most obvious answer is Chaplin’s World, the Charlie Chaplin museum in his former home. It’s the most famous attraction that Vevey claims, but it’s a tiny bit out of town (though still easily walkable). 

Other than that, there’s a well-regarded photography museum, an odd food-themed museum called Alimentarium (in front, you’ll see a puzzling fork statue stuck into the waters of Lac Leman). 

There is also supposedly a Musée de l’Absurde, which I’m sure is exactly what it sounds like! 

You can also walk a bit to Villa “Le Lac” Le Corbusier which is a minimalist-style house built by the famous Swiss architect in sync with the gorgeous lake surroundings.

HOW TO GET THERE: Located between Lausanne and Montreux, Vevey is an easy train ride away from Geneva, taking just about one hour. 

If you want to see several of the places on this Geneva day trips guide in one go – Vevey, Montreux, and the vineyards of Lavaux, there are full-day tours of the Swiss Riviera that cover all three beautiful destinations in an easy, relaxed day trip. 

Check out 3-in-1 guided tours of the Swiss Riviera here.

Annecy

the famous canals of annecy with a beautiful castle-looking building with a turret in the middle of the canals in this medieval french village

WHAT IS IT: If you’re going to leave Switzerland for any day trip to France, I highly recommend it be Annecy and its canals and houses straight out of a fairy tale! Nicknamed “Venice of the Alps”, its charming canals are a photographer’s dream.

There’s enough to do in the lakeside town of Annecy to give it a few days, but if you just have time to visit it on a day trip from Geneva, some planning (or guidance) can make your time well worth it.

WHAT TO DO: A few of the obvious things are to stroll around the Old Town (Vieille Ville) and admire the houses, getting those gorgeous photos of Annecy that everyone wants to leave with – especially the Palais de l’Isle, the quintessential Annecy snap. 

There’s also the Chateau d’Annecy which was a castle back in the 12th century and is part of the medieval town center, but it is now a museum welcoming tourists. 

Finally, the English gardens of Jardins de l’Europe on the banks of the lake also merit a stroll or even a picnic.

HOW TO GET THERE: To DIY it, you can get there by Flixbus from Geneva’s Gare Routière Station. 

Alternately, there are plenty of inexpensive day tours from Geneva which offer a little more structure if you prefer to have some context and guidance on your day trip. 

This affordable option is only a half-day tour so you can explore Annecy and still get back to Geneva in time to rest up and have a lovely dinner and walk on the lake at night. 

Check out prices and availability here.

Chamonix & Mont Blanc

red cable car going up a steep snowy mountain to chamonix mt blanc

WHAT IS IT: Want to say you’ve seen Europe’s highest mountain — well, west of Russia’s Mount Elbrus? It’s Mont Blanc in the French Alps.

It’s the 11th highest in the world and while Switzerland’s Matterhorn may have more instant recognizability, Mont Blanc is nearly a thousand feet taller (though it would take nearly a century more for the Matterhorn to be ascended, due to its technical difficulty).

While of course, climbing Mont Blanc itself is out of the question as a day trip from Geneva, you can visit the quaint ski resort town of Chamonix and admire Mont Blanc from there.

WHAT TO DO: Assuming you’re just visiting on a day trip, a few suggestions would be to see the beautiful glacier Mer de Glace, the third-largest glacier in the Alps.

It is accessible via the Chemin de Fer du Montenvers railway just a 20-minute ride from Chamonix’s center. Alternately, the cable car ride to Aiguille du Midi has incredible views over all of Chamonix.

You can also stroll the pedestrian pathway, Rue du Docteur Paccard, and sit in a café with gorgeous mountain views gorging on coffee and pastries. 

Hikers can make the trip to the photo-perfect Lac Blanc at 2,352 meters above sea level, which can be reached after a strenuous 90-minute walk from the cable car at Flegere.

HOW TO GET THERE: It’s quite easy to get to Chamonix via a Flixbus from Geneva’s Gare Routière if you want to tour Chamonix independently. It takes about one hour to get between the two cities. 

Alternately, you could go on a guided day trip which covers the cable car, the Montenvers railway, the glacier, and more with transfer included. 

Check out this Chamonix + Mont Blanc + glacier tour or do this combined Annecy + Chamonix day trip!

Gruyères

a giant swiss castle on a cloudy day with beautiful stonework and turrets and mountains in the distance

WHAT IS IT: If you’re a big fan of cheese, making a pilgrimage to Gruyères – the namesake of one of the world’s most delicious cheeses – is in order.

I mean, is there anything more prominent on any cheese-lovers bucket list?

WHAT TO DO: Besides overdose on lactose? Sights include the 13th-century Gruyères Castle, the medieval village architecture, the gorgeous Catholic Église Saint-Théodule, and the HR Giger Museum which is an art museum inside the castle.

If you go as part of a guided chocolate and cheese-themed tour to Gruyères, you can take the lovely Golden Train to make your commute part of the journey. 

You’ll get to visit a proper chocolate factory, learn to prepare Swiss fondue with the sound of real Swiss cowbells jangling behind you, and explore the sights of Gruyères village. 

HOW TO GET THERE: The most indulgent way is definitely on the Gold Tour with chocolate and cheese tastings! 

You can do the tour accompanied by a travel guide, either with the Gold train included (prices and availability here) or you can save a bit of money by swapping the luxe train for a bus ride (prices here). There are also private group tours.

Alternately, you can DIY a trip to Gruyères by going by public transportation, which takes 2 hours and involves taking two trains and then a bus. 

However, if you do that, you won’t have the option to do the chocolate factory visit or cheese tasting experience. You can visit Maison Cailler independently (learn more on their website here) but it’d be a bit tougher to time and manage.

For that reason, if budget is a concern, I’d recommend against DIYing it and picking a different Geneva day trip instead – there are plenty to choose from!

Évian-les-Bains

the beautiful french village of evian, home of the mineral water, on a sunny day with light clouds, on the waters of lac leman

WHAT IS IT: Yes – this is the town of the famous Évian water! 

it’s famous for its mineral water springs (hence the “bains” in its name, which is French for “baths”) and gorgeous lake setting on the other side of Lac Leman from Switzerland, a 35-minute ferry from Lausanne.

THINGS TO DO: Besides sampling the water from the local springs, there’s a surprising amount of beauty to find around Évian! 

Check out the art nouveau gorgeousness of the Cachat Pump Room, take the fin-de-siecle-era funicular up to the luxe Hotel Royal Evian, visit the Palais Lumiere, or check out the beautiful town hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: While you’d think you could easily go by train, the French and Swiss train connections really aren’t so good. This is why Flixbus dominates the connections between Geneva and Annecy as well as Geneva and Chamonix and Mont Blanc.

Therefore, it’s best to go Lausanne by train first (1 hour) and then get a ferry over, which takes about 35 minutes, about 2 hours total. 

There’s also a private group tour that also includes scenic Yvoire, which is a good deal for a group of 4 people or more, but it would be quite expensive for solo travelers or couples. 

Check prices & availability of the group tour here!

Glacier 3000

a small child in a green jacket and pink pants on a glacier walk in the swiss glaciers and mountains

WHAT IS IT: The nearest glacier to Geneva. 

If you only are visiting Geneva on your trip to Switzerland don’t have time to make it to more impressive glaciers like Titlis and Gorner, make it this one! It’s especially great for kids as it has a lot of activities to enjoy.

WHAT TO DO: A trip to the impressive Glacier 3000 is one of the most popular day trips from Geneva and is best done as part of a tour. 

The trip starts with a transfer from Geneva, then takes you to the cute mountain village of Les Diablerets. From there, you can take a cable car up to a glacier. 

At the glacier, there is a cool suspension bridge that connects two mountains, giving you impressive views of 20+ peaks over 4,000 meters — including the Matterhorn on a clear day! 

Kids will love adding on various activities like a snow bus ride, Alpine coaster, and Peak Walk. As a bonus, you can tack on a visit to Montreux at the end of the trip.

HOW TO GET HERE: There are two tour options at different price points. For a budget-friendly way with fewer inclusions, check out this bus tour to the glacier. 

For a more exciting, all-inclusive trip, check out the Gold Tour which has more inclusions such as the snow bus ride, the cable car, etc.

Book the glacier tour by bus or the Gold Tour with all the extras!

Bern

the beautiful aare river which is turquoise and calm flowing through the heart of the old town of bern, the swiss capital city

WHAT IS IT: The capital of Switzerland is also a downright beautiful place to visit, with the scenic Aare River running right through it in brilliant shades of turquoise.

Check out Bern to see the heart of Switzerland and how this country like no other merges the beauty of nature in with its cityscapes in a way that is hard to replicate elsewhere.

WHAT TO DO: Bern is a vibrant city with plenty to do! The most famous landmark in Bern is the Zytglogge, a medieval clock dating back to the 13th century which shows the centuries-old Swiss fascination with keeping time.

There also fantastic museums in Bern, such as the Einstein Museum and the Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts), and a scenic Old Town to explore.

HOW TO GET HERE: This is an easy day trip to DIY, with frequent trains connecting Geneva with the Swiss capital. The train takes about 2 hours and involves no connections.

Zürich

aerial view from one of the churches of zurich looking over the water and the old town of zurich and its bridges on a sunny day with a few clouds

WHAT IS IT: The largest city in Switzerland, Zürich is also Switzerland’s most multicultural city. 

While Bern is the technical capital of Switzerland, Zürich is the county’s cultural capital, and it feels the most contemporary and vibrant.

WHAT TO DO: There’s so much to do in Zürich that it’s worthy of a few days in and of itself, so if you were to visit on a day trip from Geneva, you’d have to make some serious decisions about what to prioritize and what to cut!

Whether it’s window-shopping on the Banhofstrasse, checking out the medieval churches of the 11th and 12th centuries like Grossmünster and Fraumünster, or visiting the Swiss National Museum, you’ll get lots of culture on a day trip to Zürich.

HOW TO GET HERE: Geneva and Zürich handle most of the flight traffic into Switzerland, and as a result, there are several direct trains between the two cities. The train takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes and is very scenic. 

Due to the long train ride, it’s not the first day trip I’d suggest, but it is quite doable!

More Switzerland Travel Resources

Need help planning your perfect Switzerland trip? I’ve written up this Switzerland itinerary for 10 days in the country.

Prefer to DIY your own itinerary? Start with this inspiration for the best places to visit in Switzerland.

I have a day trip guide to Interlaken as well if that’s another city you’ll visit on your trip to Switzerland.

Finally, be sure to check out this Switzerland packing list for all seasons and genders! It’s your one-stop shop for everything you need to bring to Switzerland.

17 Fantastic Day Trips from Interlaken

Interlaken is considered the adventure capital of Switzerland, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Nestled between two lakes – each distinctly beautiful in its own way, with the brilliant turquoise of Lake Brienz and the calmer blue of Lake Thun – Interlaken is a place where nature reigns supreme.

The mountains that surround Interlaken offer several opportunities to get high, whether it’s on adrenaline from a paragliding flight over the beautiful Swiss valleys or on altitude from one of the many beautiful alpine peaks near Interlaken.

Here are a few of my favorite Interlaken day trips for every kind of traveler!

Small Town Day Trips from Interlaken

Lauterbrunnen

A traditional Swiss wooden chalet style house with colorful flowers in the planterboxes in the small town of Lauterbrunnen, a great day trip from Interlaken

Lauterbrunnen is so beautiful that honestly, it deserves a spot of its own on any Switzerland itinerary. This scenic spot in the Jungfrau region is one of the most picturesque places to visit in Switzerland.

However, I know time is limited for many people and therefore, a day trip from Interlaken may be all they have time for. 

Luckily, Lauterbrunnen couldn’t be easier to get to from Interlaken. From Interlaken, it’s a quick 30-minute train ride to the railway station in Lauterbrunnen. 

The whole way, you take the Bernese Oberland Railway, which is a gorgeous narrow-gauge train that passes through the Bernese Alps, lined with glacial rivers, mountain peaks, and captivating views.

My favorite thing to do in Lauterbrunnen is simply checking out the traditionally Swiss gingerbread-looking houses, made of wood and with flower boxes bursting with colorful blooms in the summer – it’s really a photographer’s dream. 

There are also two waterfalls right in town which are both well worth seeing for yourself – they comprise just two of the 72 different waterfalls you can find in Lauterbrunnen Valley.

A 45-minute walk or a short bus ride outside of central Lauterbrunnen and you can find the powerful Trümmelbach Falls, a series of 10 different glacial waterfalls, many of which are located inside a mountain.

These waterfalls are insanely powerful, churning tunnels through the mountain, and are truly a sight to behold.

Mürren

The beautiful and scenic Hotel Alpina as seen from the town of Murren in Switzerland, a beautiful and scenic Interlaken day trip to a small town in the Jungfrau region

If you want to get away from Lauterbrunnen, and sneak in a day trip on your full-day trip from Interlaken, Mürren is a great addition! 

I recommend taking the cable car and train up to the scenic village of Mürren, a beautiful car-free village tucked away up in the mountains. It’s a short walk to access the cable car from the Lauterbrunnen train station.

From there, you can also visit Gimmelwald, another beautiful village accessible by cable car or by foot, which is also quite easy to visit from Lauterbrunnen, so it’s possible to do all of the above in one quick-paced day.

Thun 

The enormous castle of Thun looming over the cute village on a sunny day.

One of the two lakes that flank Interlaken is Lake Thun, which is named for the town of Thun on its banks. 

Thun has a gorgeous castle – one of the most beautiful in Switzerland I’d say, after Chillon Castle in Montreux – and is well-worth taking the scenic boat ride from Interlaken to Thun.

The castle dates back to the 12th century and is host to a museum that exhibits prehistoric and medieval artifacts from the region. It’s located in the middle of Thun’s picturesque Old Town, which is also worth a wander. 

Further down Lake Thun, you can also visit another castle, Spiez Castle, so if you are a huge history or castle geek spending a day bouncing around the beautiful sights on Interlaken’s lakes are definitely worth making a day trip out of.

Kleine Scheidegg

Famous electric red tourist train coming down from the Jungfraujoch station (The Top of Europe) in Kleine Scheidegg.

If you want to get into the mountains on a quick one day trip from Interlaken, head to Kleine Scheidegg. This beautiful mountain pass sits just above 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) with stunning views over the Bernese Oberland mountains.

There are a few ways to get to Kleine Scheidegg but the one I would recommend is by taking the train to Männlichen (via either Grindelwald or Wengen) and then hiking to Kleine Scheidegg on the beautiful trail.

It’s only 2.75 miles one-way (and you can take a train at Kleine Scheidegg to return to Interlaken rather than having to return) and best of all, it’s all downhill with views of the most famous mountains in the Jungfrau region the entire time.

Grindelwald

The scenic Cliff Walk activity at Grindelwald First, a summer adventure center

The beautiful village of Grindelwald is one of the more popular day trips from Interlaken due to its small town charm, Bernese Alps scenery, and abundant hiking opportunities.

Use Grindelwald as a gateway to Gletscherschlucht, a stunning glacial gorge, or Bachalpsee, a beautiful alpine lake.

Grindelwald-First is also a great spot for launching adventures on your day trip to Grindelwald, such as the Cliff Walk, Trottibike, Gliders, or Mountain Carts.

Best Adventure Day Trips from Interlaken

Canyoning

a beautiful waterfall near Interlaken Switzerland

Interlaken is considered the adventure capital of Switzerland because it’s so close to so many different kinds of outdoor adventure activities. 

A lot of those activities include extreme adrenaline — bungee jumping, skydiving — but several others are a lot more low-key, such as this canyoning tour of the Saxeten Gorge.

This half-day activity is the perfect outdoor activity for people seeking a dash of adventure and outdoor time without any high-octane adrenaline. 

No previous experience is necessary and you don’t even need to be able to swim, though it is recommended. It’s a great choice for families with older kids who want to do something outdoors, but find the other offerings in Interlaken to be a bit too extreme. Keep in mind kids must be 12 years or older to join the canyoning tour.

So, what is canyoning exactly? It involves jumping and abseiling down rocks and waterfalls, though the heights are not extreme. 

On this tour, the highest jump is 7 meters high (22 feet), but it’s optional and totally possible to skip if you get a bit nervous of heights. It’s a lot of fun (I haven’t done canyoning in Interlaken, but I did do it in Nicaragua and loved it, and I’m not an adrenaline-rush person at all!).

The canyoning excursion takes place in a lush forest just 10 minutes from Interlaken: a totally different environment than the mountainous scenery you may be thinking of when you think of Switzerland. The canyoning part of the experience lasts about an hour and a half.

Book this canyoning tour of the Saxeten Gorge here!

Paragliding or skydiving over Interlaken

Stunning view of the top of Harder Kulm in Interlaken, Switzerland photographed in summer with paragliders flying around.

If you’re in the mood for a lot more adrenaline, a bucket list-worthy paragliding or skydiving experience is the ultimate Interlaken day trip!

Both the paragliding and the skydiving are tandem experiences, meaning you glide or dive with a licensed guide who ensures you do everything safely and makes you feel at ease.

Personally, I’m too much of a chicken to either paraglide or skydive, BUT it is one of the top things to do in Interlaken for adventure enthusiasts!

There are a few highly rated paragliding and skydiving tour outfitters. I suggest this company for tandem paragliding and this company for tandem skydiving.

Want even more adrenaline? You can also try bungee jumping over one of the beautiful lakes of Interlaken!

Rafting in the Lütschine River

A calmer part of the Lütschine river in Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland

Want some adrenaline but you don’t necessarily want to jump off a cliff? White water rafting is another popular outdoor activity that makes a great day trip from Interlaken.

The Lütschine River is perfect for white water rafting, as the summer water levels go hard and fast as the snow from the glaciers melt and create rapids in the river. 

Equipped with wetsuits, helmets, and all the necessary rafting gear, you’ll head out on a raft with experienced and licensed guides. You’ll enjoy an hour and a half of white water rapids and then the pace mellows out near the end on this white water rafting tour

Approaching the calm of Lake Brienz with its brilliant turquoise blue-green waters is the perfect end to a fun, adrenaline-pumping day out!

No previous rafting experience is necessary, although you do have to be able to swim independently to be able to do this tour safely.

Book your rafting trip online here!

Best Day Trips from Interlaken by Scenic Railway or Cable Car

Harder Kulm

The panoramic platform at Harder Kulm as seen from above Interlaken

The beautiful Harder Kulm (also written Harderkulm) offers a stunning vantage point 1,300 meters (4,200 feet) above sea level. 

The view overlooks the city of Interlaken and its two scenic lakes as well as the town of Unterseen.

Harder Kulm is one of the easiest day trips from Interlaken — in fact, it’s more of an activity in Interlaken than a true day tour, but I digress.

To get to Harder Kulm, simply take the funicular close to the Interlaken Ost railway station, about a 5-minute walk away from the train station. You can buy your ticket at the funicular station or save time by booking it online at a discount.

The funicular takes about 10 minutes to reach the top and once you arrive, you’ll see stunning views of the mountain peaks of the Bernese Alps: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, amongst others.

At the top, be sure to eat a meal in the panoramic restaurant, Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant — it literally looks like a castle!

Schynige Platte

A beautiful scenery of the town of Interlaken seen from above, below, you can see a red train climbing up the railway.

Another one of my favorite day trips from Interlaken, it’s quite easy to take the scenic cogwheel train up to Schynige Platte, a beautiful mountain that overlooks Interlaken. 

Starting from Interlaken, you can take the Bernese Oberland Express train one stop to Wilderswil, and then take the adorable red train about 1 hour up the mountain, taking in gorgeous views of Interlaken valley from your train window.

At the top of Schynige Platte, there’s plenty to do to while away an afternoon. You can eat at the restaurant there enjoying the views, or simply sit at the café and enjoy a coffee or glass of wine if you are on a budget. Either way, you’ll enjoy a view of the triple peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.

There are hiking trails you can take in order to get beautiful views over Interlaken, or if you’re after a more restful day, you can just kick back and enjoy the scenic train ride. For more information on the train ride, check out their official website here.

Bonus: If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, the Schynige Platte scenic railway is free!

Jungfraujoch (The Top of Europe)

The station at the Top of Europe, Jungfraujoch, on a cloudy day with a view of a mountain in the distance

If you’re intrigued by the idea of climbing to “the Top of Europe” – without having to do much more than sit on a scenic train (where my fellow lazy people at?) then you’ll love visiting Jungfraujoch

This is the highest railway in Europe, taking up to nearly 3,500 meters above sea level (more than 10,000 feet). It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, if you’re a collector of historic sights!

At the top of Jungfraujoch, you’re able to see a handful of peaks over 4,000 meters tall all around you, as well as the ancient Aletsch Glacier which has survived millennia and is still the largest glacier in the Alps. 

There is a year-round Ice Palace, carved by artists to create a wintry wonderland that will delight kids and even adults with ice sculptures taking the forms of animals.

While the view at the top can sometimes be obscured by the clouds (you are 3,500 meters up, after all – clouds are often a given) there is the Jungfraujoch panorama which gives you an immersive, cinematic experience of the snowy peaks and vastness of the glacier.

I recommend visiting Jungfraujoch as part of a guided tour that includes transportation to Grindelwald, the scenic train ride up to Jungfraujoch, a stop in Wengen and finally a stop in Lauterbrunnen, allowing you to see the most on your day trip from Interlaken. 

Check prices, reviews, and tour availability here. Or, if you prefer to go independently at your own leisure and save some money, you can just purchase the roundtrip train ticket here.

Schilthorn

Famous revolving restaurant on the top of Schilthorn mountain, Switzerland, on a sunny day in summer.

Another popular day trip from Interlaken, Schilthorn is another scenic mountain experience, but this time by cable car rather than train. 

Lower than Jungfraujoch at 2,970 meters (9,750 feet), it still offers quite an impressive vista. It may look familiar to you, as the panoramic revolving restaurant Piz Gloria was featured in the famous James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Generally, you get here via a series of cable cars, which start in Stechelberg (near Lauterbrunnen) before heading up to Gimmelwald and Mürren, then onwards to Birg for the final cable car to Schilthorn. 

You could also hike, though it would take at least 5 hours from Gimmelwald and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re insanely fit.

City Day Trips from Interlaken

Bern

The brilliant blue Aare River running through the picturesque city of Bern, Switzerland, a great and easy day trip from Interlaken

Bern is the capital of Switzerland and the heart of Bernese Oberland, the region that encompasses Interlaken and all the above-mentioned Interlaken day trips. 

But Bern is quite different, way more of a city whereas the other day trips so far on this post are all either villages or scenic mountains. 

But don’t worry, it’s still incredibly scenic: the Aare River runs right through Bern, with beautiful, impossibly turquoise waters.

Bern is famous for its Zytglogge, a medieval 13th-century clock that shows that the Swiss obsession with timeliness is not a new phenomenon. 

There are also several excellent museums, such as the Einstein Museum and the Kunst (Art) Museum, as well as a beautiful Old Town to walk through.

Trains from Bern to Interlaken run like, well, clockwork, so it’s quite easy to organize a day trip from Interlaken to Bern independently without the need to spend money on a pricy tour, so it’s a great day trip option for travelers on a budget.

Zürich

The train ride from Interlaken to Zürich is just two hours, and it passes through Bern on the way there. 

Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland despite not being the capital, and it’s a great place to go for a day tour full of sightseeing and immersing yourself in Swiss city life.

There’s a ton to do in Zürich and there’s no way you’ll see it all with just one day in the city, so pick activities based on your interest. Museums, shopping, nature, culture: Zürich has it all.

Lucerne

The Chapel Bridge (Kapelbrucke) of Lucerne, Switzerland on a partly cloudy day in summer.

From Interlaken, it’s easy to get to Lucerne, just two hours on a train, no need for any connections. Lucerne (or Luzern as it’s written in German) is a fun and vibrant city with incredibly scenic surroundings.

Take a steamboat tour of Lake Lucerne to really appreciate the beauty of the region, admiring Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Rigi, two accessible mountaintops from either lake level or by ascending them by train or gondola.

You can also explore the charming city of Lucerne, enjoying its shopping scene (be sure to pick up plenty of Gruyere cheese and chocolates!) and getting a sense of the city culture.

Geneva

View of Geneva from the height of the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, Switzerland, with the famous Geneva fountain visible in the distance

Geneva is a wonderful city that I recommend basing yourself in for a few days if you can!

Like Interlaken, Geneva also has a ton of wonderful day trips, both in Switzerland (Montreux, Lausanne, etc.) and in neighboring France (Chamonix, Annecy, etc.), that makes it an excellent base for a few days of your Switzerland travels.

However, if you only have time for a day trip to Geneva and you are based in Interlaken, it’s definitely possible to have a fantastic day in Geneva.

Check out the Jet d’Eau, the enormous water fountain that shoots water 140 meters (over 500 feet) in the air in the middle of the harbor in Lake Geneva. 

What you do on your day in Geneva depends on your interests. If you’re into history and culture, you can take a private tour of the city on foot or on Segway, explore Geneva’s incredible museums, and learn about the U.N. in Geneva. 

You can even take a tour of the U.N. building, Palais des Nations, if you book a guided tour online, although the U.N. is not yet reopened due to the pandemic.

For nature lovers, you can take a steamboat ride on Lake Geneva (also called Lac Leman) and admire the beautiful views of the Swiss Alps in the distance.

Planning a Trip to Switzerland: Your Simple Travel Checklist

Switzerland tops many people’s bucket lists: from its scenic trains and soaring glaciers to its pristine lakes and picturesque cities, there’s something for everyone to fall in love with.

But planning a trip to Switzerland can be complicated, especially if you’re traveling on a budget without wanting to skimp on experiences.

I’ve gone over all the steps you need to create this simple 11-step Switzerland trip planner, to hold your hand and guide you through the process.

Planning a vacation to Switzerland may seem overwhelming at first but if you break it down bit by bit, you can tackle it one piece at a time.

Travel Checklist for Planning a Trip To Switzerland

Step 1: See if you need a visa

Switzerland is part of the Schengen Zone – so you’ll need a Schengen visa!

While not part of the EU, Switzerland is part of the Schengen zone, meaning that you’ll need a Schengen visa to visit Switzerland. 

Citizens of the following countries are not required to get a visa to visit the Schengen zone for less than 90 days out of the last 180 days.

Albania, Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macao, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Samoa, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Timor Leste, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, U.A.E., U.S.A., Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela

If you’re not on this list, check out this site for more information on getting a Schengen visa. Unfortunately, I’m not qualified to help on this step, so contact an embassy or a local travel agent if you have any questions about applying for a visa.

Step 2: Book your tickets!

Train is my favorite way to travel through Switzerland!

I generally use a combination of Skyscanner or Google Flights to find the best possible tickets in Europe. Skyscanner in particular is good at aggregating all the budget airlines and even combining tickets where it makes sense (such as flying into one European city and then switching airlines to a budget airline, booking two separate tickets to save money). 

Depending on where you’re flying from, you could pay anywhere from $40 USD to fly roundtrip from somewhere in Europe that has a budget airline connection (I can often find really cheap flights between Switzerland and Sofia, Bulgaria, where I currently live).

If you’re traveling from Asia, the Middle East, or North America, you’re likely looking are a cost more along the lines of $400 USD roundtrip if you can get a steal, and all the way up to $1000 USD roundtrip for a more typical price (possibly higher in peak season).

Step 3: Plan your Switzerland itinerary

Make sure you spend at least some time exploring the Swiss mountains!

I’ve created a 10-day Switzerland itinerary that you can follow, which you can read here. It also includes suggestions on how to lengthen and shorten your trip.

I generally recommend flying into one airport like Zurich and another like Geneva so that you can cover more ground without having to backtrack. Of course, if you’re visiting Switzerland as part a larger Euro-trip which you are doing by train, you can do this quite easily. 

If you’re a bit overwhelmed with planning your own itinerary, there are some affordable group trips that actually take the stress out for you. Whereas often, group trips will be a good deal more expensive than planning a DIY itinerary, in Switzerland you can actually often get a good deal. This is because tour operators often have exclusive discounts on tours and activities which they then pass onto you.

I recommend checking out Switzerland itineraries on TourRadar, as they break it down to a per-day cost so that you can find the best bang for your buck when it comes to planning a Switzerland trip. I saw everything from around 100 euros per person per day for hiking trips to 250 euros per person per day for guided tours, so it’s actually really quite affordable compared to planning your own trip. Check out itineraries & compare prices here.

Step 4: Budget your trip

Luckily, delicious Swiss chocolate is just a buck apiece (and hiking is free, free, free!)

How much does a trip to Switzerland cost? Unfortunately – a lot. It’s up there with Iceland as the most expensive country I’ve ever visited.

I traveled to Switzerland on as much of a budget as I could and still spent way more than I thought I would!

On average, I paid $25-40 USD a night for a bed… in a dorm with a shared bathroom. I spent about $10 per take-away meal from a grocery store or small kiosk selling sausages and the like, and $15 for McDonalds when I wanted to “treat myself.” Regular restaurants were too expensive for my budget at around $30+ USD for a simple meal like a burger.

My train pass was covered by Swiss Travel System because I was working on a project for them, but if I had to pay for it out of pocket, I would have paid about $600 for 8 days of travel (which would have been cheaper than booking everything independently as I took advantage of all the free scenic trains and discounts that are included on the pass). 

So, for a backpacking budget, I’d say you’re still looking at approximately $50-100 a day, depending on how many meals out you’re going to eat, how you’re getting around, how much you move around (visit less cities to save some serious funds as transportation is a big expense), and where you stay. If you’re planning to add on any adrenaline activities, like paragliding or canyon swinging, prepare to pay a premium!

For families and couples traveling on a budget but not necessarily staying in hostels, I’d budget around $150-200 per day per adult including transportation, and maybe an extra $50 per day per kid if applicable. Kids 15 and under are included for free on your Swiss Travel Pass when traveling with a parent or guardian, and food for kids should cost less.

Heads up if you’re traveling as a family with a youngster who needs a crib: hotels in Switzerland often charge an obscene sum — as much as $50 per hotel! — to rent a crib. My friends who traveled in Switzerland as a family recommend bringing a travel crib (they suggest the Phil & Teds travel crib) to save money. Especially if you’re visiting several different places in Switzerland, all these fees can add up, so a travel crib can be a budget-saver.

For couples and families who have a bigger budget to stretch, there’s pretty much no limit to the spending. A luxury hotel will cost around $400-500 per night, day trips like visiting Titlis or Jungfraujoch cost about $100-200 per person, and you can easily spend $50 per person on a meal, just to give you a benchmark. 

Step 5: Plan your activities

This is free with the Swiss Travel Pass!

This goes hand in hand with your budget. If you are traveling on a budget, I recommend getting a Swiss Travel Pass and taking advantage of all the inclusions and discounts on that. It’s pricy, but it becomes your transportation and activities all in one!

For example, you could do the Mt. Rigi & Mt. Pilatus scenic trains, steamboats across Lake Geneva and Lake Lucerne, the belle-epoque scenic Schynigge Platte rain, cable cars up the mountains, and visiting Chillon Castle in Montreux.

These are included all for free on your pass, which ends up being much cheaper than trying to fill your time with paid activities. Check out pricing & details about the Swiss Travel Pass here.

If you have a little more to spend, there are some really cool extras that you could add on to your Swiss Itinerary. I’ve gone over them in detail on my best places to visit in Switzerland post, but I’ll include my recommendations for top day trips and activities for the main Swiss cities below.

Recommended Geneva Activities & Day Trips

I have a full guide to Geneva day trips here, but here are my quick picks.

Recommended Montreux Activities & Day Trips

Recommended Interlaken Activities & Day Trips

I have a full guide to Interlaken day trips here, but here are my quick picks.

Recommended Zürich Activities & Day Trips

Recommended Lucerne Activities & Day Trips

Step 6: Book your accommodations!

This Wes Anderson-esque hotel can be found in Murren, near Lauterbrunnen

I strongly recommend booking your accommodations well in advance, especially if you are planning a trip to Switzerland on a budget, since the best and most budget-friendly places tend to sell out quite fast. 

I’ve gathered my recommendations for the main cities you might visit all in one place, so check out below.

Where to Stay in Geneva

Budget:  Geneva Hostel.
Mid-range: ibis budget Petit-Lancy
Luxury: The Mövenpick 

Where to Stay in Interlaken

Budget: Balmers Backpackers Hostel
Mid-range: B3 Boutique Bed & Breakfast 
Luxury: The Royal St. James 

Where to Stay in Lauterbrunnen

Budget: Schutzenbach Backpackers 
Mid-range: Hotel Staubbach 
Luxury: Hotel Silberhorn 

Where to Stay in Lucerne

Budget:  capsule hotel lucerne 
Mid-rangeibis Lucerne
Luxury:  Hotel Schweizerhof

Where to Stay in Montreux

Budget:  Montreux Youthhostel
Mid-Range: Le Coucou Hotel 
Luxury: Fairmont Le Montreux Palace

Where to Stay in Zermatt

Budget:  Matterhorn Hostel 
Mid-range: ARCA Solebad Wellness & Spa
Luxury:  Romantik Hotel Julen Superior

Where to Stay in Zürich

Budget:  City Backpacker Biber
Mid-range: Motel One Zürich
Luxury: The Park Hyatt 

Step 7: Research vaccinations & prepare travel medicine kit

You’ll want meds on hand in case you get ill!

While Switzerland is one of the safest countries to visit, I always suggest people double-check the CDC’s travel vaccination recommendations and making sure they’re up-to-date on routine shots, particularly things like tetanus that require boosters.

I also strongly recommend prepping a mini travel medicine + first aid kit, including basic over-the-counter medicine, plus any prescription medication, and some basic first-aid like bandaids, Neosporin, and a bandage in case you hurt an ankle.

Incidentally, on my trip to Switzerland, I got super super sick with the flu (in the middle of summer, go figure) and having my travel medical kit on hand saved the day as I was in no state to head out to the pharmacy, considering that even walking up a flight of stairs nearly made me pass out. I was able to take some Pepto-Bismol to stop the vomiting and Imodium to help with the… other end, and some ibuprofen to reduce my fever. It helped, and by the next day, I was feeling semi-human again and didn’t have to go to the hospital like I once feared. 

And while I’m on that note – make sure that travel insurance is part of your travel medicine kit! In case anything goes wrong, you’ll want to make sure that you can get medical care without bankrupting yourself and ruining your trip. I use World Nomads.

Step 8: Learn some basic French & Swiss-German phrases (and possibly Italian)

Reading German comes in handy in the Bernese Oberland

Generally, people in Switzerland speak some English because the country is multi-lingual and English often bridges the divide between, say, French-speaking Swiss and German-speaking Swiss. Still, it’s always polite to greet people in their native language while traveling.

Here are a few useful French phrases which you will want to use in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, which includes the following cantons: Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, and Jura.

Hello – Bonjour!
Thank you – Merci 
Please – S’il vous plait (pronounced “sill voo play”)
Goodbye – Au revoir (pronounced “ah re-vwa”

If you’re traveling in German-speaking Switzerland, which is most of the country (the following cantons: Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft, Glarus, Luzern, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Uri, Zug, and Zürich)… German will be helpful!

Hello – Guten tag 
Thank you – Danke
Please – Bitte
Goodbye – Auf Wiedersehen (pronounced “off vee-der-zen”)

Only about 7% of Switzerland speaks Italian, primarily in the Ticino canton, but if you plan a trip that includes Lugano or that general area, here are a few helpful Italian phrases.

Hello – Buon giorno!
Thank you – Grazie
Please – Per favore
Goodbye – Ciao!

Step 9: Pack your bags

Luckily for you, I’ve already written a super-comprehensive guide to what to pack for Switzerland, for all seasons and genders. You can read it here

If you just want the greatest hits of what to pack for Switzerland, here are my top 5 recommendations.

An adaptor: Annoyingly, Switzerland uses a slightly different outlet (Type J) than the rest of continental Europe. While sometimes continental Europe adaptors will work in some outlets, some are more fussy, and I ended up needing to buy a Switzerland-specific adaptor. This Type J adaptor has several outlets so you can plug in multiple devices into one adaptor, which is handy.

A guidebook: While I use travel blogs for much of my travel research (and clearly you do too!), I love a good old-fashioned guidebook as well. Lonely Planet Switzerland is recently updated and full of excellent travel inspiration and budget restaurant advice. Rick Steves’ Switzerland is also a winner. I typically download the Kindle version and bring it on my Kindle Paperwhite to minimize how much space it takes up in my bag

A rain jacket & packable down jacket: Switzerland’s weather is quite temperamental, so having a lightweight waterproof rain jacket is a must. I love my Marmot PreCip rain jacket and bring it with me everywhere – it’s lasted me years. If you plan on visiting any mountains, you’ll likely want to bring an extra layer with you – it’s cold up there even if it is sunny (and snow is possible even in the summer)! I love having this packable down jacket that I can easily roll up and place in my bag.

An anti-theft bag: While Switzerland is generally pretty safe, there is a risk of pickpockets in the major cities like Geneva, Zürich, and Lucerne. I deter thieves by carrying a stylish but practically indestructible travel backpack with security features like locking zippers, RFID blockers, and slash-proof material. PacSafe is my favorite travel security item brand (this is the exact PacSafe backpack I love and bring on every city trip).

A reusable water bottle: Water in Switzerland is safe to drink everywhere and you will find public fountains in most cities spouting out pure, glacial water that is better than anything you can buy. Save some serious money and the environment by carrying your own reusable water bottle like this Klean Kanteen.

Step 10: Prepare for your arrival

Depending on what airport you land in (or train station you arrive to) you will have to plan your route between your arrival point and your first hotel. I strongly recommend looking up public transportation ahead of time or arranging a private transfer in advance, so you’re not caught off guard on arrival. 

You should also decide if you are going to use a roaming plan on your phone or if you will purchase a local SIM card or WiFi device for your trip. Doing this research in advance can save you some nasty surprises on your phone bill!

I also recommend to have a bit of cash on hand in case your debit card gets declined for fraud when trying to withdraw cash when you arrive. Euros or USD are always a good bet and easy to convert into Swiss francs. Note that the Swiss franc is basically on par with the dollar, so easy conversions there. Credit cards are widely accepted in Switzerland, but there’s always the odd place that only accepts cash, so you’ll want to be prepared with both.

I generally always recommend you withdraw money from an ATM rather than converting cash that you’ve brought into the country with you. Your bank will usually give you a better exchange rate than a money-changer will. Don’t be tricked just because the money-changing booth says 0% commission – often, they make this up by offering a bad exchange rate. 

Step 11: Don’t forget travel insurance

From hiking accidents to random illnesses, you’ll want to be covered by travel insurance!

I touched on it super briefly above, but I wanted to remind you while it’s fresh on your mind — travel insurance is a good idea for Switzerland and for travel in general!

I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for years. It’s nice to have the peace of mind it gives me in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption. Don’t think that just because Switzerland is a safe country that it’s not necessary – accidents and illness can happen anywhere, and I almost needed to visit a hospital during my time in Switzerland and was so grateful I had travel insurance in case I had needed to check myself into the emergency room.

While Switzerland is super safe to travel around, there’s always some risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe. The last thing you want is for an illness, crime, or accident to ruin your trip – so it’s better to be prepared!

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

What to Wear in Switzerland: Packing List For All Seasons

If you’re planning a trip to Switzerland, beyond figuring your itinerary and what the best places to visit are, you’re probably wondering what to wear in Switzerland.

This Switzerland packing list is designed for all seasons, with sections for men’s and women’s clothing. It’s designed to help you decide what to bring to Switzerland on your trip with a focus on packing light, multipurpose items and leaving unnecessary weight behind.

Want to save this post for future reference? Pin it to one of your travel boards!

Wondering what to wear in Switzerland in winter or summer? Or maybe fall or spring? This guide to how to dress in Switzerland covers all your Switzerland packing list questions and includes what I recommend you bring to Switzerland (and what to leave behind)
Wondering what to wear in Switzerland in winter or summer? Or maybe fall or spring? This guide to how to dress in Switzerland covers all your Switzerland packing list questions and includes what I recommend you bring to Switzerland (and what to leave behind)

Switzerland Packing List: What to Pack Everything In

Personally, I prefer to carry a backpack for travel. Having seen too many of my friends struggle with enormous, unwieldy rolling suitcases, I personally recommend that you bring a well-designed travel backpack if it’s comfortable for you, especially if you travel in winter when you may end up trying to roll your suitcase through the freshly laid snow, which is never fun (take it from an idiot who brought a rolling suitcase to Finland in November!).

I am a light packer, so my Tortuga Setout Backpack is usually what I bring. This bag is 45L and has three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in – plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to. It’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute weight perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.

While rolling suitcases are a no-no for most of Europe due to narrow cobblestoned streets, Switzerland is way more accessible than many other European cities and therefore, if you’re traveling Switzerland in late spring, summer, or early fall, a rolling suitcase may be a good idea. I prefer rolling suitcases with four wheels, like this Samsonite spinner, as you don’t have to drag them behind you as you do with a two-wheeler, but it can glide with you at the airport or train station.

I also swear by packing cubes. If you haven’t used packing cubes before, get ready for a packing revolution. These helpful zippered bags are a miracle when it comes to organizing your clothing, keeping everything from bursting out every time you dare open your backpack or suitcase. I personally use these packing cubes and love them to the ends of the earth.

What to Wear in Switzerland for Women

The clothes that I recommend be on a women’s Switzerland packing list change a bit based on season, so check my recommendations below.

Because travel to Switzerland often involves high mountain trains (I was as high as 3,150 meters during my trip, and the temperature was just above freezing) and glaciers, even in the summer, you actually will want to bring much of the same things for summer as you would for spring or fall. Meanwhile, winter is just straight-up cold no matter where you go, so you’ll want to pack really warm for that.

Summer/Fall/Spring

  • 1 rain and windproof jacket: Especially if you’re visiting mountains in Switzerland, the weather can be quite unpredictable, whether you visit in summer, spring, or fall (spring being the rainiest, generally). I recommend bringing a durable jacket that will keep you warm against wind and dry against rain. I love my Marmot PreCip rain jacket and wear it all the time – here I am with it in Nendaz, Switzerland, in July, where it came in handy on a rainy day as we mountain biked around its trails.
  • 3-5 tees: In the summer and on warmer days in fall and spring, you’ll be grateful that you have some lighter layers. I generally go for dark colors to disguise sweating.
  • 3-5 sweaters and long sleeve tees: Thin but warm is your best bet – as Switzerland travel involves lots of mountains where the weather can be a lot cooler than down in the cities, you’ll get use out of these even in the summer! I’d bring 3 in summer and 5 in fall/spring.
  • 2-3 pair jeans: I was grateful I had jeans and black ponte pants even in the summer in Switzerland
  • 2 pairs shorts: That said, I also did get some use out of my shorts on lower-altitude hikes and sunny city days in Switzerland!
  • 1-3 pairs leggings: For cool weather days, travel days, and mountain days. I’d bring 1 pair in summer and 3 in fall or spring.
  • 3+ comfortable summer dresses: For cute photos and comfortable city days. You can wear with leggings in spring/fall or without in summer.
  • 1 pair flip flops or sandals: If you are staying in a hostel or hotel and just want something quick to put on your feet, I find it helpful to have slip-on sandals, even on days where the weather is slightly cold in spring/fall (though you’ll get good use out of them in summer). I’m obsessed with my Birkenstocks but rubber flip flops will do, especially if you are staying in a hostel and need to use communal showers.
  • 1 pair hiking boots: Hiking boots will serve you well in Switzerland, and honestly, the right pair can look quite cute. I love my Ahnu boots but if you have a pair at home already bring those so you don’t have to break them in. Sneakers could work in a pinch, but I much prefer boots for the ankle stability. Trust me – I fell on my ass wearing sneakers on Gornergrat about 10 seconds after this photo was taken because my dumb self didn’t bring hiking boots and broke my camera.
  • 1 thin down jacket: Nights and even days on the mountaintops can get really cold, so a small packable down like the UNIQLO ultra-light down (cheaper knockoff available here) would be a great but tiny addition to your Switzerland packing list. I got use out of mine even in July when I went up to the Gornergrat as it’s 3,000 meters above sea level.
  • Cute travel daypack : I prefer using a daypack to a purse when I travel and I always bring the same backpack with me on literally every single trip. I am completely obsessed with the PacSafe Citysafe backpack: cute, functional, slash-proof, and with locking zippers that make it virtually impossible for a pickpocket to get into your bag without you noticing. Switzerland is super safe so this isn’t really a major concern, but I still love having that extra peace of mind.

Winter

  • 2-3 thermal tops: I swear by these 32 Degrees thermal layers and recommend getting 2 or 3, as they’re so warm they can get kind of sweaty.
  • 3 warm sweaters to layer on top: Wool blends work great, and thermal layers make a nice barrier if you find wool itchy like I do. However, I’m too sensitive to wool to even wear it over a layer, so I love H&M for warm, acrylic winter sweaters.
  • 2 pairs fleece lined leggings: These are my favorite fleece leggings – so so so warm!
  • 2 pairs jeans: Wear these over your leggings for extra warmth! This won’t work if your jeans are super tight, so I’d bring jeans with a bit of give.
  • 1 heavy jacket: I recommend my beloved North Face parka, but any warm jacket will work. Look for something that is lined with down, has a hood, and is waterproof and windproof.
Me and my beloved North face on a winter trip to Istanbul
  • 2 bras: Regular or sports bra – it doesn’t matter under all the layers.
  • 7+ pairs of underwear: However much you think you’ll need for your trip, so you don’t have to do laundry at your hotel, which would inevitably be INSANELY expensive in Switzerland.
  • Bathing suit: Many hotels in the mountains of Switzerland have saunas and steam rooms. Don’t forget your bathing suit or you’ll feel left out!
  • Sandals/flip flops: For the sauna or walking around in your hotel if you don’t want to put on your proper boots
  • 1 or 2 knit hats: I love fleece-lined knit hats like this one for extra warmth.
  • 2 pairs gloves: I recommend having two pairs, one lightweight pair of touchscreen-friendly gloves and one more heavy pair of waterproof gloves for things like playing in the snow.
  • 1 super-warm infinity scarf: I love the scarves that you can wrap super close to your face, like this one. Never underestimate the power of a scarf for keeping you warm!
  • Waterproof boots: Unless you’re doing heavy-duty snow trekking and snow-shoeing, you don’t necessarily need proper snow boots: just something waterproof and with good traction. I first bought a pair of Blondo waterproof leather boots in 2008… which means I celebrated my 10-year anniversary with them last year. However, if you plan on doing a lot of hiking in the snow, you may want a proper snow boot. The Elsa snow boot by KEEN is waterproof, insulated, and looks super cozy.
  • Warm socks: no matter how insulated your shoe is, it won’t do much good if you are wearing thin, crappy cotton socks. I invested in these Smartwool socks after much hemming and hawing about the price and I’m so glad I did. You don’t need that many pairs because you can actually re-wear them a few times before they get smelly because wool is so odor-absorbent and magical. And even though I generally can’t tolerate wool because of itchiness, I don’t mind them on my feet.
My favorite bag!
  • Cute travel daypack: While traveling in Switzerland is generally safe, you won’t be immune from opportunity theft which can occur anywhere, anytime – especially in busy or crowded places. Especially if you’re checking out the busy Christmas markets, I recommend having a secure backpack. I use this PacSafe Citysafe backpackwhich is a security bag that is actually aesthetically pleasing and not horrendous to look at.

What to Wear in Switzerland for Men

Granted, I’m not a man, but here’s what I’d recommend based off what I *think* men would need on a trip to Switzerland.

Summer/Fall/Spring

  • 5 short sleeve Ts
  • 3-5 long sleeve Ts or light sweaters (more in fall/spring)
  • 2-3 pair jeans and pants
  • 2 pairs shorts (summer only)
  • 7+ pairs underwear, 1 for each day of your trip
  • flip flops or comfortable walking sandals
  • sneakers
  • hiking boots
  • waterproof rain jacket
  • swim trunks
  • 2 thicker-weight sweaters
  • ultra-light down jacket
  • 5+ pairs of socks
  • hat, gloves, scarves if you think you’ll need them for mountain/glacier visits

Winter

  • 5 thick-weight sweaters, wool or similar fabric
  • 3 thermal long-sleeve shirts for an underlayer
  • 3 pairs thermal underwear
  • 2-3 pairs jeans or other similar heavy-weight pants
  • snow or hiking boots
  • flip-flops for hotel/hostel use only
  • waterproof, windproof parka
  • 5+ pairs of warm wool socks
  • swim trunks
  • scarf
  • hat
  • gloves

What to Pack for Switzerland (Toiletries)

Women

  • Hanging Toiletry Bag: After struggling to find a good way to organize my toiletries, I stumbled across this hanging toiletry bag and purchased it on a whim to give it a try… and I promptly became a product evangelist. It’s perfect for organizing your travel toiletries like shampoo, moisturizer, make-up, hairbrushes, tweezers, etc. It has a lot of organizers and separators so you can really maximize your organization without taking up much excess space. It fits quite a bit – it’s like the Mary Poppins bag you always needed but never knew existed. It’s wonderful for girly girl travelers like myself who have a hard time leaving make-up behind when they travel.
  • Sunscreen: My skin is really sensitive on my face, so I use this fancy Japanese sunscreen to prevent acne on my face. Don’t forget this – I actually got a really bad sunburn in Switzerland one day because of the altitude.
  • Moisturizer: The wind and the sun did a number on my skin in Switzerland and I felt like my skin got quite dry due to the sun exposure in the mountains. I love a moisturizer with SPF for day like this one from Aveeno and then I use a thicker moisturizer like this Olay night cream for replenishing moisture over night.
  • Hand sanitizer: In case of a lack of soap in train stations or restaurant bathrooms, I like having hand sanitizer just in case.
  • Kleenex packets: Always handy!
  • LUSH solid shampoo: It’s life-changing. Just trust me. Buy online or in store from LUSH and you’ll save serious money over Amazon, but you can also source it on Amazon for convenience. My favorite is the Seanik seaweed shampoo – it makes my hair gorgeous and it also doesn’t take up any space in my liquid toiletry allowance.
  • Face wipesGreat for nights when you’re too exhausted to take your make-up off properly or for a quick face clean up after a  dusty hike.
  • Menstrual cup or your favorite tampon/pad brand (if applicable): If you have a specific brand allegiance, you may not find it in Switzerland. I switched to a Diva Cup for travel and love it!
  • Deodorant: I can’t rant enough about how much European deodorant sucks, plus I absolutely hate the smell of the aerosol deodorants that are so popular in Europe. Do yourself, everyone around you, and the planet a favor and buy some decent deodorant from home. I love Secret Clinical Strength and stash up on it every time I’m home in the US, but then again, I am sweatier than most people are.
  • Travel-sized liquid toiletries: If you want to bring your favorite toiletries from home, I recommend these awesome reusable silicone GoToobs.
  • Razor + shaving cream if necessary
  • Lip balm with SPF: Don’t skip this as your lips can easily burn in the snowy mountain tops!
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Body wash, conditioner, lotion – anything else you usually bring!
  • Hair brush
  • Makeup, if you want

Men

  • shampoo (and conditioner if you use it!)
  • body wash
  • deodorant (please)
  • razor and shaving cream, if applicable
  • toothbrush & toothpaste
  • sunscreen & lip balm with SPF
  • hand sanitizer & Kleenex

What to Pack for Switzerland (Electronics & Random)

  • Laptop, if necessary: I bring my 13″ MacBook Air everywhere but other people may prefer a tablet or an inexpensive netbook. I work on the road so a user-friendly, lightweight laptop is a must for me.
  • Kindle PaperwhiteI love having a Kindle for travel but if you don’t think you’ll be doing much reading on your Switzerland trip or your flight over than you can give this a skip
  • Travel camera: I use a Sony A6000 because it’s lightweight for a professional caliber camera, inexpensive, and a HUGE step up from a smartphone.
  • Extra camera batteries: Trust me, you’ll use plenty of battery taking photos in Switzerland (and your batteries will get sapped in the cold up on the mountains as well)!
  • Portable hard drive: You’ll want to back up your photos to keep your memory cards uncluttered and protect your precious photos. After my previous hard drive failed even though I never damaged it (never rely on WD My Passport) I am extra paranoid with my hard drives. I recommend Transcend hard drives instead – they are drop resistant and super sturdy.
  • Travel tripod: If you are serious about your photography you should invest in a sturdier tripod as wind on the mountains in Switzerland can be strong. There were some days I didn’t use my tripod because it didn’t feel steady enough in the gusts. I have a cheap tripod from Amazon but a sturdy tripod with a hook so that you can use that to hang your camera bag on and balance the camera would be your friend on windy days.
  • ND filters: The size of ND filter you will need depends on the size of the lens you’ll be using so check it before buying. I use these ND filters. These are useful combined with a tripod for daytime long exposure shots, getting smooth water effects.
  • GoPro or similar camera for video: If you plan on doing anything adventurous like paragliding, canyon swinging, or rafting — or if you just want some easy-to-take video of your trip — then I recommend bringing something like a GoPro
  • Portable charger: You’ll use your phone battery more than you thought in Switzerland – whether it’s using it to take photos or videos, or to check train schedules, hotel bookings, etc. Bring a portable charger to save yourself many headaches! Anker is a reliable brand and what I personally use – make sure you get one that can hold several charges at once so you don’t have to charge it every single night.
  • Adaptor: Switzerland uses a slightly different adaptor, type J (sometimes C will work, but not always). I had trouble in some of my accommodations with my standard EU plug. This is the one you want.
  • Headphones: I use simple iPhone headphones typically but you may want noise-canceling headphones if you are noise-sensitive.
  • Medicine: I actually got insanely sick in Switzerland and nearly needed to be hospitalized. I was so thankful I had my usual travel medicine kit, as I was too ill to drag myself to a pharmacy. I always bring the following items: Pepto-Bismol tablets for standard stomach troubles, a painkiller like ibuprofen for headaches and minor pains, some sort of motion sickness tablets for boat or long car rides, and some sort of cold medicine as many countries in Europe actually don’t sell this (not sure about Switzerland but it’s nearly impossible to find in Germany and the Nordics).
  • Reusable water bottle: The tap water in Switzerland is drinkable everywhere and of the highest quality. If you don’t carry a reusable bottle, you will spend a ton of unnecessary money on bottled water, and you’ll waste a lot of plastic in the process as well. I like a simple streamlined metal bottle, like this one from Klean Kanteen. If you want to further reduce your footprint, I recommend bringing along reusable tote bags as well if you plan on doing any grocery shopping during your Iceland trip.

The Epic Switzerland Itinerary: 10 Days In Switzerland

Switzerland is a land of ridiculous beauty, and the fantastic network of alarmingly on-time trains helps you zip around gorgeous landscapes without losing any time. This former New Yorker doesn’t understand how a country’s train system can run so much better than a single city’s… but I digress.

This Switzerland itinerary has you sweeping across the country by train, visiting several of its most important cities as well as cute mountain villages, valleys full of waterfalls, and lakeside towns.

A lot of people have reached out to me to help them plan an itinerary with all the best places to visit in Switzerland – this is my best attempt at laying out an easily replicated itinerary with all the best Switzerland highlights.

Quick Tips for Planning Your Switzerland Itinerary

This Swiss itinerary accounts for you arriving in Geneva; you can depart from either Geneva or Zurich (or even Milan) and all ways should take about the same amount of time.

Depending on the region of Switzerland you’re in, either French, (Swiss-)German, or Italian will dominate linguistically.

This 10 days in Switzerland itinerary is focused on French and German Switzerland, though if you wanted to dip into Italian Switzerland I would recommend skipping Zurich at the end, instead continuing onward from Zermatt to either Locarno or Lugano, and flying out of Milan or Venice.

This Swiss itinerary takes a slightly leisurely place, generally giving two nights in each destination, except for two back-to-back one night stays in the beginning of the trip.

I think it’s far more enjoyable this way. Instead of moving every night, I suggest taking day trips instead, which are easy to do with Switzerland’s excellent train system. It’ll make your 10 days in Switzerland more enjoyable and less chaotic.

I strongly recommend traveling with a Swiss Travel Pass, which covers not only travel between cities but also has several free scenic trains and steam boats and cable cars.

Using my Swiss Travel Pass, I was able to take the Schynige Platte belle époque railway, the steamboat across Lake Lucerne, the steepest cogwheel railway in the world up to Mt. Pilatus, and handfuls of scenic cable cars – all included for free in the price of my rail pass, and a discount on the Gornergrat in Zermatt to see the gorgeous Matterhorn up close.

For this 10-day Switzerland itinerary, I recommend an 8-day pass and only activating it when you’re ready to maximize the best perks (i.e., when you’re leaving Geneva). Check out pricing & details about the Swiss Travel Pass here.

If you only have 7 days in Switzerland, I recommend omitting a day in Geneva and the 2 days in Lauterbrunnen. While it’s a beautiful city, it’s a bit out of the way and time is of the essence with only one week in Switzerland.

And if the stress of itinerary planning is too much, there is always the option of a guided tour — which can actually be a good deal in pricy Switzerland, where hotel rooms, meals, and transport alone can easily destroy your budget. Click to compare prices and itineraries on the best guided tours in Switzerland.

Switzerland Itinerary: 10 Days of Chocolate, Cheese, & Trains!

Day 1: Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva is one of the most common arrival airports in Switzerland, so you’ll likely find some good fares flying into Geneva. Despite its large size and airport, Geneva has a calm and beautiful feel – likely because it’s right on Lac Leman, one of the most pristine lakes in Switzerland.

Geneva is best known for its gorgeous lakes, its fancy watches that cost more than a year of my salary (which, granted, as a ‘professional’ travel blogger is admittedly not that high), and its fantastic chocolates.

Geneva is also the heart of French Switzerland and therefore you’ll hear French spoken here, making it different than many other places on this itinerary (except Montreux, which is also French-speaking).

If you plan to hit a lot of museums, I recommend getting a Geneva Pass.

I normally don’t recommend city passes as they’re usually overpriced, but this one is pretty inexpensive compared to visiting museums individually, and it also includes public transportation (which can be quite pricy in Switzerland).

The Musée Ariana is great for art lovers, whereas history geeks will love the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum

I would recommend starting your Switzerland itinerary with a steamboat and walking tour.

This tour includes many of Geneva’s most famous attractions – the Jet d’Eau (one of the tallest fountains in the world), the Flower Clock, St. Pierre’s Cathedral – and takes up just two hours on foot, followed by a one-hour cruise of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).

Note that if you have a Swiss Travel Pass the cruise on Lake Geneva should be free, so you may just want the walking tour alone.

The steamboat ride on Lac Leman is one of the highlights of a trip to Switzerland so really, you shouldn’t miss it!

Other things to do in Geneva include sampling some of the chocolate the city is known for (here are 5 of the best chocolate shops in the city), window-shopping along the ultra-fancy Rue du Rhône, and strolling along the Jonction, where the Rhône and Arve Rivers collide.

Where to Stay in Geneva

Throughout this Switzerland itinerary, I’ve included hotel recommendations for each of the cities in this post, one for each budget category when possible.

However, keep in mind that visiting Switzerland on a budget is essentially a contradiction in terms. Therefore, I’ve tried to find the cheapest option in each Swiss city, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything under $100 per night (and when you do… book it ASAP because seriously, a crappy bunk for one costs $40 per night in a hostel).

Budget: The best-reviewed hostel that several of my friends have stayed in is Geneva Hostel, which is no frills but quite affordable for pricy Switzerland. It has spacious lockers, friendly staff, breakfast included, and best of all, it comes with a free travel card which is really useful if you’re not using a Travel Pass in Geneva. Check hostel availability and prices here.

Mid-range: I’m a big fan of ibis hotels and stay at them as much as I can: they’re always clean, reliable, private, and inexpensive for the region. They don’t have the most personality, sure, but sometimes you just want a clean, private room to rest your head in. There are several branches of ibis in Geneva, but ibis budget Petit-Lancy is the most affordable. Like Geneva Hostel, it also includes a free travel card, which means that even though you’re located a bit outside the center you can get into the heart of the city easily without spending a dime. Check lowest prices and availability here.

Luxury: The Mövenpick is one of my most trusted luxury hotel brands, and the one in Geneva is well-reviewed and not absurdly expensive (for a luxury option in Switzerland, that is) Check best prices and availability here. Additionally, Hotel de la Cigogne is an excellent 5* option, but it’s priced to match. Still, it may be worth it for the central location, luxury amenities, and artist-inspired décor. Check availability and prices online.

Day 2: Geneva, Switzerland

Use your second day in Geneva as a base for one of the awesome day trips from Geneva in the west of the country (or even dip into France for a day!)

Annecy – one of the best day trips from Geneva!

If you want the whole Swiss bucket list in one go — trains,  mountains, chocolate, and cheese — you can’t miss a full-day tour to Gruyères – yes, that Gruyères!

You’ll learn about chocolate making, meet Swiss cows, see how cheese is made in Switzerland, indulge in fondue, and get to ride the Golden Express, one of Switzerland’s most famous trains. 

This tour is popular so book in advance here. For a cheaper option that doesn’t include the train, you can book just a tour of the chocolate and cheese factories here.

If you’re interested in visiting France on a day trip, there are several exciting day trip options. The most picturesque is Annecy, the so-called “Venice of the Alps,” a gorgeous pastel town where the turquoise Thiou River meets Lake Annecy.

It’s famous for its Old Town (Vieille Ville – try saying that 5 times fast!), gorgeous canals, and just general Instagram-dreaminess. It’s an easy day trip from Geneva.

Book a day trip online here!

If you’re more interested in mountains than cute old towns, be sure to check out the French side of the Alps!

Chamonix is a gorgeous ski town with charming architecture and insanely beautiful views. You can view the tallest mountain in Europe (well, excluding Russia), Mont Blanc, easily on a day trip here from Geneva – a must for any mountain lover.

Check out a Chamonix & Mont Blanc day trip here.

Day 3: Montreux, Switzerland

While you may be done with Geneva, you’re not done with its lake just yet.

Head about 1 hour away to the beautiful lakeside town of Montreux, best known for being the host of the yearly two-week-long Jazz Festival and for being the muse of many famous artists, including Freddie Mercury.

When your train arrives in Montreux, trust me – you’ll understand why.

This city has one of the most incredible settings you can imagine, with Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) in the backdrop of everything.

Despite only being one hour away from Geneva, the vibe in Montreux is decidedly different – calmer and more pristine.

I really enjoyed sitting in town and enjoying a cappuccino, watching the slower pace of the city.

The main draw for Montreux is the stunning island castle, Chateau de Chillon.

This gorgeous building dates back to the 11th century in some form or another and has been built upon and kept up well over the centuries.

It’s one of the most lovely places in Switzerland, thanks to its stunning lake and mountain views framing the castle. Entrance is 12.50 CHF (about $13 USD).

However, if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, entrance is included with your train pass.

After visiting Chateau de Chillon, take some time to walk the lakeside promenade.

Fans of classic films won’t want to miss Chaplin’s World, a museum dedicated to Charlie Chaplin, as he spent many years of his life here (alongside other celebrities like Freddie Mercury).

If time and weather permit, you can also take the scenic train up to Rochers de Naye for an aerial lake view.

Normally it’s 70 CHF, but if you have a Swiss Travel Pass you can make the journey for a much lower 26 CHF roundtrip.

This is because the first leg of the trip is included on the pass, and you get a 50% discount on the second part of the trip.

Otherwise, you can just enjoy this lakeside town and have a peaceful night in Montreux.

Where to Stay in Montreux

Budget: There’s only one hostel in town that I’m aware of, and that’s where I stayed (I was on a tight budget during my entire time in Switzerland). I stayed at the Montreux Youthhostel. It includes breakfast– an excellent value in pricy Switzerland! Keep in mind their late 4 PM check in, which is common throughout Switzerland. Check rates and current availability here.

Mid-Range: If you’re on a bit of a budget but still want to stay somewhere that is a proper hotel, Le Coucou Hotel has excellent prices, a breathtaking view, and a well-reviewed restaurant. It is a bit far away from Montreux town proper, near a different train station (Haut-de-Caux). Check lowest rates and availability here.

Luxury: A favorite of celebrities like the late Freddie Mercury, it’s not surprising that Montreux offers no shortage of luxury options. The best balance of luxury to price ration is Fairmont Le Montreux Palace. I mean, just look at that building façade — it’s basically the architectural equivalent of the heart-eyes emoji. Check lowest rates and availability here.

Day 4: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

If I had to pick a favorite place on this Switzerland itinerary, it would have to be Lauterbrunnen.

This town is quintessentially Swiss, with beautiful wooden buildings with traditional flower boxes and Swiss flags fluttering in the cool mountain breeze.

It’s also one of the cheaper places to visit in Switzerland, with plentiful budget accommodation, making it a favorite for those backpacking Switzerland.

While the journey from Montreux to Lauterbrunnen takes about 3 hours and involves 3 connections, it is entirely worth it!

Plus, the train ride is incredibly beautiful and the connections are well-timed so you’re never actually waiting long.

The train lines all sync up so that you never wait more than 10 minutes or so for a train (and if the trains run late for whatever reason, the trains are so well-run that they stagger all the connections!).

Still, get an early start to your day so you can make the most of your time in Lauterbrunnen.

Arriving in Lauterbrunnen, you’ll want to spend the day enjoying the village and its two waterfalls in the heart of town.

It’s an extremely typical Swiss town with traditional wooden architecture and flower boxes bursting with gorgeous blooms. Lauterbrunnen Valley itself is famous for being home to 72 waterfalls and you’ll be able to see a number of them from Lauterbrunnen itself.

The most impressive are at Trummelbach Falls, which this Switzerland itinerary has you visiting tomorrow.

Today, I recommend dropping your luggage off at your hotel, into your hotel and then picking one of two excursions: Schilthorn or Schynige Platte. Both are beautiful and whichever you coose, you won’t go wrong.

Schilthorn is pricier but arguably more impressive if you are visiting Switzerland for its glaciers and mountains. Its gorgeous revolving restaurant (at nearly 3,000 meters high!)

Piz Gloria was the filming location of the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Check tickets here – note that they do not include dinner, so reserve that separately if you are looking to dine here as well.

As I was traveling on a budget I chose to go on the tour included on my Swiss Travel Pass – the route to Schynige Platte via scenic cogwheel railway.

Despite the low price tag, I’d be willing to reckon it offers one of the most beautiful views in Switzerland, with beautiful views overlooking Interlaken’s twin lakes.

There are some short hikes you can do that offer maximum reward for a minimum of effort.

However, if you want snow-capped peaks, definitely opt for Schilthorn or even Jungfraujoch (the highest railway station in all of Europe!) if finances allow.

Where to Stay in Lauterbrunnen

Budget: Lauterbrunnen is one of the best towns to visit in Switzerland if you’re on a budget. I stayed at Schutzenbach Backpackers and it was the cheapest hostel I stayed at during my entire time in Switzerland.

It had an amazing location and everything was comfortable, but there were some weird quirks (like you had to pay for hot water by the minute and pay for using the electric burners!) that I found rather annoying. It’s a short walk out of town (20 minutes) but you can also take a bus if you want, which should be free with a Swiss Travel Pass. Check prices and availability here.

Mid-range: If you have a medium budget, Hotel Staubbach is your best bet. It has great waterfall views and a super convenient location. It’s cozy, but not ultra-luxurious. You could also stay in Mürren, Gimmelwald, or one of the other cute mountain towns in the area! Check lowest prices and availability here.

Luxury: For those with money to spare, Hotel Silberhorn is one of the nicest hotels in town. They have a beautiful sun terrace with an amazing panoramic view of the Jungfrau mountains and an Alpine-style restaurant. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Day 5: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Start the day with an early morning cable car and train combination up to the car-free village of Mürren via Winteregg. (Note: this whole route is free with a Swiss Travel Pass; not sure how much it would cost if you bought all your tickets individually).

Along the cable car and train route, you’ll have gorgeous views overlooking Lauterbrunnen Valley – made all the sweeter by the Swiss cows you’ll share the panoramic views with. You’ll also find the lovely Hotel Alpinahere, straight out of a Wes Anderson movie.

Afterward, you can hike down to Gimmelwald, enjoying beautiful views along the way.

When in Gimmelwald be sure to check out the Honesty Shop — Europe’s first village store based entirely on trust. It’s completely unstaffed and unwatched, relying on the kindness and honesty of its patrons to pay for the goods they take.

I was tired of walking at this point, so I took the cable car to the bottom and then hopped on a bus. From there, it wasn’t a long ride to the insanely powerful Trümmelbach Falls on the outskirts of Lauterbrunnen. Admission is CHF 8 if I recall correctly and is entirely worth it.

You’ll get to go up inside the mountain via elevator (the Swiss are amazing with engineering!) and then check out all the powerful glacial waterfalls which churn their way through this mountain with such insane force that it creates tunnels. There is a series of ten or so waterfalls you can see: allocate about one or two hours to explore them all.

From there, you can easily walk back into town, which takes about 30 minutes or so. Have a tasty fondue for dinner – you will have earned it!

Day 6: Lucerne, Switzerland

The train from Lauterbrunnen to Lucerne is another long one (3 hours and 3 connections), but well worth it. Trains in Switzerland are so beautiful that it’s basically seated sightseeing in and of itself!

Lucerne is a lovely, walkable town with plenty to see. Its most famous landmark, the Lion Statue of Lucerne, is a letdown (feel free to skip it). Kapellbrücke, however, is definitely worth the hype. This covered bridge dates back to the 14th century and it is absolutely gorgeous.

Once you’ve got your luggage at your next hotel, take a half-day trip to one of the nearby mountains. Both Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus are extremely closeby and offer excellent views over Lake Lucerne as well as some light hiking opportunities.

I chose Mount Pilatus, but I wish I had time for Rigi, too! These are both included if you have a Swiss Travel Pass; if you’re not using a pass and are buying tickets point-to-point, you can grab an a la carte ticket.

I ended up choosing Mount Pilatus because you can experience the awesome efficiency of Swiss transportation in 4 different forms on this tour: steamboat, railway, cable car, and bus. There are gorgeous views on almost all of them (though admittedly the suburban bus is less exciting).

This tour takes you gliding across peaceful Lake Lucerne on a steamboat and then goes up the mountain via the world’s steepest cogwheel railroad. It’s truly impressive to see the incline for yourself.

At the top, you’ll enjoy some spectacular views over the lake you just crossed by boat. You can also stop for lunch here or go for some short hikes. Afterward, you can descend using a cable car (and finish your trip back to Lucerne with a brief bus ride).

In the evening, spend your day walking the main pedestrian boulevard in the heart of Lucerne, Kornmarkt, or walking alongside the lake promenade – a fantastic place to walk as the city lights up after dark.

Where to Stay in Lucerne

Budget: I stayed at Lion Lodge when in Lucerne. It’s okay and friendly to the wallet, but nothing that great. I’d stay somewhere else next time. Instead, I’d opt for the cool and sleek capsule hotel lucerne for something vaguely futuristic yet surprisingly budget-friendly. Check it out here.

Mid-range: Had I not been traveling on such a strict budget, I likely would have opted for the ibis Lucerne. Ibis hotels are clean, affordable, and pretty inoffensive — but they’re not exactly luxurious. Still, if you want privacy and cleanliness, ibis is reliable. Just be aware it’s about a kilometer’s walk from town, though Lucerne is pretty well connected when it comes to public transport. Check prices and availability here.

Luxury: If you want the best of the best, Hotel Schweizerhof can’t be beat. It’s beautiful — just look at the front of that building all lit up at night! — with an amazing lake view, a Finnish sauna, a bio sauna (whatever that is), and a spa. One cool quirk about the hotel is that each room is furnished to a represent the personal style of a famous person who has stayed at the hotel in the past, making it a super unique place to visit in Switzerland. Check the prices and availability here, keeping in mind you need to book in advance in the busy months.

Day 7: Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne also makes a great day trip base. Here are a few of the best day trips from Lucerne.

Incredible views at. Jungfraujoch!

Mount Titlis is the highlight of Central Switzerland and it’s a must-visit for snow lovers. At over 3,000 meters tall, it’s capped with snow every day of the year, even in summer, and it’s the only easily accessible glacier in this part of Switzerland.

You get to ride up in a scenic revolving cable car, and from the top, you can visit a glacier cave and cross a scenic suspension bridge.

Check out more details about the day trip here!

Jungfraujoch is also accessible as a day trip from Lucerne, so if you missed that while in Lauterbrunnen you can do it now!

Book your trip from Lucerne to Jungfraujoch here!

Finally, a few Swiss cities you can easily access included on your Swiss Travel Pass or by train: Bern, Basel, or Zug. If you prefer the context that comes with a tour, guided day trips are also available to Bern.

Day 8: Zermatt, Switzerland

By now, long yet efficient train rides should be the norm. Head down to Zermatt, a car-free village in the Alps famous for its picture-perfect view of the Matterhorn from the heart of town.

On a clear day, the peak is clearly visible from any unobstructed view – other days, the Matterhorn is surrounded by clouds, which makes sighting it even more majestic when it finally appears!

Depending on what you feel like, you could wander around the heart of Zermatt village, exploring the Walser architecture or the excellent Matterhorn Museum which details the harrowing stories of mountaineers who attempted (and sometimes succeeded) in ascending the Matterhorn.

For a sad reminder of the fate many of them met, check out the sobering Mountaineers’ Cemetery, where many daring alpinists have been laid to rest with an eternal view of the mountain that felled them.

Other things include visiting Gorner Gorge, about 15 minutes walk away from the center of Zermatt, as well as the hike from Blauhard to Sunnegga, aka the Five Lakes Hike, which is 9 kilometers long and takes approximately 3 hours to complete, using gondolas to get you up into the mountains efficiently.

Alternately, you could just have a spa day at one of the luxurious mountain hotels in the village and give yourself some R&R!

Where to Stay in Zermatt

Budget: As one of the more popular touristic places to visit in Switzerland, Zermatt has a wide range of options, but they go quickly. I enjoyed my stay at Matterhorn Hostel and thought the price was really good for Switzerland. Book in advance here.

Mid-range: A surprisingly good value is ARCA Solebad Wellness & Spa. It’s right by the center train station and, as the name suggests, is home to an excellent spa! It also has a salted heated swimming pool, steam bath, and sauna. Check prices and availability here.

Luxury: One of the most romantic and beautiful hotels in all of Zermatt is Romantik Hotel Julen Superior. The outside of the building couldn’t be any more adorably Swiss, with wood design and flower boxes everywhere. I also really loved the warm, wood interiors and amazing detailing. Plus, the location can’t be beat — after all, Matterhorn views are never far away. Check prices, ratings, and availability here.

Day 9: Zermatt, Switzerland

On your final day in Zermatt, head up the Gornergrat for some of the most impressive views possible – the perfect way to end your 10 day Switzerland itinerary!

If you have a good weather day, it’s definitely worth it to go up to the Gornergrat station on the scenic railway. I took three scenic mountain railways while in Switzerland and the Gornergrat was definitely the most awe-inspiring.

As in, I almost wanted to weep when I saw the Matterhorn finally peeking from behind the clouds on my last day in Zermatt.

The Gornergrat is not fully included with the Swiss Travel Pass, but you’ll get a 50% reduction on the return ticket price of 94 CHF (for a total cost of 47 CHF – aka, pennies in the alternate universe that is Switzerland travel costs).

Be sure to stop at Rotenboden for stunning views of one of the many alpine lakes dotting the region – with luck, you may get a glimpse of the Matterhorn reflected in the Riffelsee.

It was rather cloudy when I went up to Gornergrat, so my views weren’t quite as good as they could be. Check the forecast (or just look at the Matterhorn to see if you can see it!) before purchasing your tickets if you are going to be disappointed if you have bad weather.

While looking at the Matterhorn from afar is great, hiking it is reserved only for serious alpinists. Hike in the Gornergrat area instead if you are a casual hiker and not a serious mountaineer.

Day 10: Depart via Zurich or Geneva

Whatever your departure airport is, now’s the time to start making your way there.

If possible, I recommend entering via Geneva and departing via Zurich you can see a little of both major cities in Switzerland, but either way will take about 3 or so hours from Zermatt.

You could also depart via Milan as well, which will also take about 3 hours, but if you have a Swiss Travel Pass it would not be fully included as it is an international train.

And that’s it – your Switzerland itinerary in a nutshell!

5 Important Things to Pack for Switzerland

I’ve actually written a whole all-season packing list for Switzerland (for men and women) but here are the 5 essentials in case you want the quick version.

An adaptor: Annoyingly, Switzerland uses a slightly different outlet (Type J) than the rest of continental Europe. While sometimes continental Europe adaptors will work in some outlets, some are more fussy, and I ended up needing to buy a Switzerland-specific adaptor. This Type J adaptor has several outlets so you can plug in multiple devices into one adaptor, which is handy.

A guidebook: While I use travel blogs for much of my travel research (and clearly you do too!), I love a good old-fashioned guidebook as well. Lonely Planet Switzerland is recently updated and full of excellent travel inspiration and budget restaurant advice. Rick Steves’ Switzerland is also a winner. I typically download the Kindle version and bring it on my Kindle Paperwhite to minimize how much space it takes up in my bag

A rain jacket & packable down jacket: Switzerland’s weather is quite temperamental, so having a lightweight waterproof rain jacket is a must. I love my Marmot PreCip rain jacket and bring it with me everywhere – it’s lasted me years. If you plan on visiting any mountains, you’ll likely want to bring an extra layer with you – it’s cold up there even if it is sunny (and snow is possible even in the summer)! I love having this packable down jacket that I can easily roll up and place in my bag.

An anti-theft bag: While Switzerland is generally pretty safe, there is a risk of pickpockets in the major cities like Geneva, Zürich, and Lucerne. I deter thieves by carrying a stylish but practically indestructible travel backpack with security features like locking zippers, RFID blockers, and slash-proof material. PacSafe is my favorite travel security item brand (this is the exact PacSafe backpack I love and bring on every city trip).

A reusable water bottle: Water in Switzerland is safe to drink everywhere and you will find public fountains in most cities spouting out pure, glacial water that is better than anything you can buy. Save some serious money and the environment by carrying your own reusable water bottle like this Klean Kanteen.

ONE FINAL NOTE: It’s always a good idea to travel with insurance to cover you in case of unexpected illness, accidents, theft, or trip interruption. I’ve been a paying customer of World Nomads for years and am happy to recommend them to fellow travelers. I actually got insanely sick with the flu in Switzerland and nearly had to visit a hospital. Luckily, I got better on my own, but if I hadn’t, travel insurance means that I would have been able to seek treatment and get reimbursed for my medical care later. Travel insurance is one of the most important things you can “pack,” so don’t forget about it!

More Switzerland Travel Resources

Need help planning your perfect Switzerland trip? Check out the 9 most beautiful places in Switzerland for more inspiration.

I have posts on all the best day trips from Interlaken as well as the best day trips from Geneva, including side trips to France!

Finally, be sure to check out this Switzerland packing list for all seasons and genders! It’s your one-stop shop for everything you need to bring to Switzerland.

Why Nendaz, Switzerland Needs to be On Your Radar

Nendaz, Switzerland is famous for its ski resorts — but I’m of the opinion that it makes the perfect off the beaten path Switzerland getaway, even in the summer off-season. With quirky traditional Swiss festivals, beautiful mountain views, and outdoor activities in abundance, Nendaz is Swiss perfection pretty much any time of year, and made my top scenic places in Switzerland list quite easily.

But if you’re not planning on skiing, what else is there to do, you may ask? I’ve written down some of my favorite Nendaz activities so you can plan an epic summer trip.

Why is Nendaz so beautiful?
Just another view in Nendaz, no big deal…

Attend a cheesemaking workshop in Nendaz

For many, Switzerland is synonymous with cheese and chocolate. While we outside of Switzerland just immediately think of “Swiss cheese” as being the mild white cheese with holes we use on our sandwiches, the reality is that cheese-making in Switzerland is so much more varied and interesting than just Emmental cheese.

cheesemaking in Nendaz Switzerland - Valais region
Fresh cheese soaking for one day before beginning the aging process. Am I the only one who finds this vaguely erotic? Probably…

 

I love Nendaz cheese!
The look of love… is in her eyes.

The most beloved cheese in Switzerland is perhaps raclette – which is often served heated until bubbling and scraped off onto potatoes, cornichons, onions, or pretty much whatever your cheese-loving heart desires.

We woke up bright and early to attend a cheesemaking workshop. After catcalling a number of disinterested cows (sorry ladies, no disrespect meant) we went into the cheese room to see the magic of how cheese is created in the Valais region.

As an animal lover and omnivore, I often feel conflicted between my love of animal meat and products and my knowledge that animal welfare is often severely lacking. This is most certainly not the case in Switzerland, where the cows enjoy countless acres to roam and are treated lovingly by a small group of dedicated cheesemakers.

The cows of Nendaz Switzerland - so adorable!
Love the sass in her eyes! Now that is one happy cow.

 

A beautiful rainbow in Nendaz, Valais, Switzerland
As if the moment needed to be more magical, a freaking rainbow appeared. Like what is happening, Switzerland?

Hike around the Tracouet near Nendaz

Tracouet is the small mountain right in Nendaz’s backyard. With a simple lift ticket, you can be swept up the télécabine to a height of over 2000 meters in a matter of minutes.

The telecabine
A view from the télécabine over Nendaz

A cable car ride in Nendaz
How epic are those mountains in the background?

On top of Tracouet, there’s a number of hiking and mountain biking trails with stunning views. You can see down below to Nendaz and even as far as the nearby town of Sion on one side.

On another, there’s a stunning lake with mountain views. You can hike or bike to nearby towns such as Siviez or just enjoy the peace and quiet of a nature walk.

Peace in Nendaz near the lakes of Tracouet
Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool….

Hike along one of Nendaz’s historic bisse channels

If true mountain hiking is a bit too demanding for you, Nendaz has a number of “bisses” – stunning water channels alongside easy hikes.

There are 98 kilometers of bisse walks which are well mapped out and marked throughout the Nendaz region. For more information and maps, read here.

Views like this? Pretty much everywhere you walk.

Attend one of Nendaz’s many summer festivals

If you’re lucky, you’ll be in Nendaz during one of the famous summer festivals. We were there just in time to see the Alphorn Festival, where traditional Swiss musicians play alphorn melodies in, well, the Alps!

In addition to some beautiful music and fascinating traditional costumes, there was also tons of festival food options to keep my heart (and belly) content.

At the Nendaz alphorn festival
Alphorn musicians prepare for a performance

 

Nendaz's famous alphorn festival preparations
Some flag action before the alphorn main attraction

 

A moth hanging out on the alphorn!
A surprise musical guest….

The Drink Pure festival was also on while we were there, so we could sample plenty of delicious local wines and even attend a local pop-up market with tons of food and wine to be had — a great atmosphere and tons of fun!

I especially love Swiss rosé – which rivals that of Provence – and sadly is not exported out of the country that often. In fact, 90% of Swiss wine is consumed in country, and a mere 10% is exported! Once you taste it, you’ll know why — they want it all for themselves (who can blame them?)

Raclette in Nendaz - sooo tasty
The beautiful, the one, the only: raclette <3 and at only 4 francs, you won’t feel bad going back for seconds, or thirds…

 

A raclette break with a delicious chocolate crepe – pairs perfectly with local rosé

Conquer your fears and go mountain biking

We went mountain biking with Neige Aventure and it was perhaps my favorite day in Nendaz… even though I’m a totally uncoordinated fraidy-cat on a bike who managed to eat it not once but twice.

And the clumsiness begins in 5, 4, 3….

If you’re  not super physically fit (i.e., me) you even have the option of renting an e-bike with motor assistance. I highly recommend renting an e-bike if you’re not an experienced mountain biker because some of the hills in and around Nendaz are intense, even for an experienced urban cyclist.

Going downhill? Equal parts terrifying and exciting. No, I lied, mostly just terrifying.

It was raining nearly our entire bike ride, but thanks to the enthusiastic spirit of our guides, we didn’t mind a little wetness.

Plus, it made our fondue, meat plate, and tea break all the more special!

food in Nendaz is amazing
An epic meal break with Neige Aventure

 

YAS QUEEN

Swim in the world’s most beautiful public pool

Those views are too beautiful for me to even pun about

Guys… I used to live in New York City, and let me tell you, you couldn’t pay me enough money to get back in the water of one of those public (cess)pools.

Thank god Nendaz’s public pool is literally one of the most beautiful pools I’ve ever had the pleasure of swimming in. I mean, come on, look at those views. Plus, entrance is only 6 francs (about $6 USD) — a steal if I ever heard one.

Forgive the gratuitous bikini shots but I mean, with a background like that, you gotta do it for the ‘gram.

Happiest place on earth.

Have a spa day at 4 Vallées

The best way to recover from a rough day of hiking or mountain biking? A spa day in one of Switzerland’s most scenic towns, naturally.

The spa at the hotel 4 Vallées has a dizzingly large number of options to choose from. There is a Turkish style hammam steam room, a Finnish pine sauna, a traditional sauna, a salt room, an ice room, a stone room, a saltwater pool, a hot tub, an outdoor pool, and indoor pool…. and I’ve probably already missed something.

When you go to a spa with five other bloggers, prepare to get extra

Eat at Nendaz’s absurdly amazing restaurants

While eating out in Switzerland is undoubtedly an expensive experience, I think it’s worth experiencing Swiss cuisine. I found that often, the price between an average meal was not much different than an outstanding meal. So do your research and pick some of the best places to go, and you will be rewarded in kind.

Two places stand out in my mind in Nendaz: one in Basse-Nendaz, the other in Haute-Nendaz.

The menu at Café du Sapin Blanc, with plenty of omnivorous and vegetarian options!

 

Swiss wine, you slay me

Café du Sapin Blanc has a beautiful terrace and a cozy interior which was actually built all the way back in 1795: perfect atmosphere for either kind of weather. We enjoyed a couple glasses of delicious white wine (Fendant is a traditional Swiss varietal that I highly recommend!) before getting too chilly to enjoy the terrace.

Inside, we had some amazing starters: my favorites with the traditional assiette valaisanne (Valais plate) which is piled high with delicious, perfectly sliced meats and cheeses.

Come to mama

 

The most insane beef carpaccio of my life, with flakes of crystallized aged parmesan and an accent of homemade pesto. ALL THE YES.

The mains were similarly delicious, particularly the fish dishes and the alpine macaroni!

Another favorite was La Lanterne et Le Vieux Chaletlocated in Haute Nendaz. The owner, Alex, is amazingly passionate about the food he cooks.  Heed his advice when ordering for the best possible meal — he’ll give you a selection of outrageously delicious salads, appetizers, mains, and of course, dessert for a supremely reasonable price. The wines there are similarly fantastic, with lots of options including biodynamic local wines!

He will also gladly accommodate special diets if you contact him in advance. We accidentally forgot to tell him we had a vegan in our midst; even put on the spot,  Alex went above and beyond to create a fabulous, vegan-friendly meal with literally no advance notice, paced perfectly so that our friend never felt left out or hungry.

Catch the sunrise (or at least try to) on Mont-Fort

I won’t lie – we had bad luck trying to see the sunrise on Mont-Fort, and I can’t say it’s anything less than a gamble to try to see it. Since Mont-Fort is at an altitude of 3328 meters, you’re likely to get stuck in a cloud.

The good news is that the trip up to Mont-Fort in the dark is one of the most interesting and disembodying experiences I’ve ever had. Imagine riding up a chair-lift in the absolute pitch black, sleep-deprived, confused, and giggling up a storm with your friends.


What it should have looked like!

Then, the cup of cocoa, coffee, or tea you get included with your trip to Mont-Fort is the most welcome surprise. Hang out in “The Igloo” while waiting for the sun to hopefully make an appearance!

Where to Stay in Nendaz

Travelopo offers outstanding chalets in Nendaz – the one we stayed in could have quite literally slept 15 people comfortably. The living room and kitchen were fabulous, and our views were truly unbeatable. I definitely highly recommend this particular chalet, especially for large groups – it’d be fantastic in both winter and summer.

Check out our Travelopo luxury villa 

Our ridiculously lush chalet in Nendaz, courtesy of Travelopo

If you’re traveling in a smaller group and are just looking for a hotel, 4 Vallées comes highly recommended. While I didn’t stay in the hotel itself, if the spa is any indication, this is one classy place!

Check out Hotel 4 Vallées availability & pricing

 

Note: Many thanks to Nendaz Tourism and Travelopo for hosting us and helping us coordinate our amazing time in Nendaz, and to Cafe du Sapin Blanc and La Lanterne et Le Vieux Chalet for kindly having us as guests. As always, all opinions are my own — no BS, as always! This post contains some affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one these links, I’ll make a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Nendaz, Switzerland - a town of ski chalets and resorts in the Alps - is also pure luxury to travel to in the summer. Check out this stunning place in the Valais region and explore festivals, mountain biking, spa days, mountain walks, fondue and other foods, & so much more!

11 Most Breathtaking Places to Visit in Switzerland

Switzerland just may be the most beautiful country in Europe, especially in summer. There’s something about the way the mountains still glisten with snow even into the sunniest of summer days, the turquoise lakes — all of which are amongst the cleanest in the world — the fields of alpine flowers… it just goes on and on.

Whether you opt for a luxury rental in Switzerland or try to experience the country cheaply by staying in hostels (to which I say good luck — I paid a crippling $40 for a bunk in a hostel, an experience I hope to never repeat), the best part is that many of the most stunning views in Switzerland are completely free!

[woman on a train] - best places to visit in Switzerland

I used an 8-day Swiss Travel Pass to explore some of the best places to visit in Switzerland, all by train. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most beautiful places in Switzerland to help you plan the best stops for sightseeing in Switzerland by train. Rather than just give the usual Switzerland tourist spots, I’ve tried to show some more off the beaten path Switzerland highlights, plus popular cities like Zürich and Geneva.

Using my Swiss Travel Pass, I was able to take the Schynige Platte belle époque railway, the steamboat across Lake Lucerne, the steepest cogwheel railway in the world up to Mt. Pilatus, and handfuls of scenic cable cars – all included for free in the price of my rail pass, and a discount on the Gornergrat in Zermatt to see the gorgeous Matterhorn up close. Check out pricing & details about the Swiss Travel Pass here.

Swiss Travel System offers a variety of different travel passes for different budgets and trip durations. Starting at 205 euros (around $229 USD) for a 3 consecutive day 2nd class pass, there are also 4, 8, and 15 day passes, offering more value the longer you stay. Kids under 16 travel for free with their parent or guardian, and youth aged 16-25 get to ride at a significant discount.

There are also flex tickets where you can travel 3, 4, 8, or 15 days of your choice within a one-month period if you’re more into slow travel. To see a full breakdown of ticket choices and prices, check out options here.

[mountains and fields and blue sky] - off the beaten path Switzerland

This guide will cover 9 of the absolute best places in Switzerland, and if you want to see how to organize all these places into a logical itinerary, I’ve done the work for you and created a 10-day Switzerland itinerary that incorporates as many of the places on this list as I could while still not traveling at a breakneck pace so you can still enjoy your vacation. I include recommendations as well for what to do if you have more or fewer days.

And if the stress of itinerary planning is too much, there is always the option of a guided tour — which can actually be a good deal in pricy Switzerland, where hotel rooms, meals, and transport alone can easily destroy your budget. Click to compare prices and itineraries on the best guided tours in Switzerland.

Wondering where to go in Switzerland? I’ve got you covered below, with 9 recommended stops for your Switzerland itinerary plus accommodation and activity recommendations. Check out the video below for a few highlights and a quick preview of the 9 spots I’ve chosen to highlight in Switzerland.

My Top 11 Best Places to Visit in Switzerland

Montreux and Lac Leman

Montreux is a normally quiet town on Lac Leman near Geneva that pops off for two weeks each year when the Jazz Festival (and 200,000+ visitors!) come to town.

Try to line up your time in Montreux with the Jazz Festival, when tons of musical acts (not just jazz) come to town and street food is available all up and down the main lakeside promenade.

Or you can grab some food from the local Coop, take advantage of the open container laws, and have a lakeside picnic while buskers entertain you before the main acts at night.

[orange flowers and blue lake, Montreux]
[sign for Montreux jazz fest]

What to Do in Montreux

Montreux is at its best during its yearly Jazz Fest. But your timing doesn’t line up, there’s still plenty to do in Montreux to experience one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland to its fullest.

Montreux is home to the stunning island Chateau de Chillon, a castle that dates back to the 11th century and which has been marvelously kept up over the centuries.

It’s certainly one of the most scenic places in Switzerland with stunning lake and mountain views framing the turrets of the castle. Entrance is 12.50 CHF (about $13) but the entrance fee is included with your Swiss Travel Pass if you have one – a great tool for sightseeing in Switzerland!

If you aren’t buying a Swiss Travel Pass, but paying for each train individually without a pass, you can pre-book your castle entrance ticket here and skip the line.

Of course, the Lake Promenade (which you can take to walk to the castle) is absolutely stunning and definitely worth dedicating some time to enjoying.

The nearby Chaplin’s World is also a popular Montreux attraction. Charlie Chaplin, like many other celebrities, spent many years of his life enjoying Montreux and as a result you can enjoy a museum in his former home.

Day Trips and Tours from Montreux

Glacier 3000: A tour to the Glacier 3000 is one of the most loved day trips from Montreux. You start in the cute mountain village of Les Diablerets, where you can take a cable car up to a glacier. At the glacier, there is a cool suspension bridge that connects two mountains, giving you impressive views of 20+ peaks over 4,000 meters — including the Matterhorn on a clear day. You can see snow even in the middle of summer here!

This is the most popular day trip from Montreux, so be sure to book in advance! Check prices, ratings, and availability of the tour here

Rochers de Naye: If time (and weather) permits, you can also take the scenic train up to Rochers de Naye for an aerial lake view. Normally 70 CHF, if you have a Swiss Travel Pass you can make the journey for a much better 26 CHF roundtrip, as the first leg of the trip is included and you get a 50% discount on the second part of the trip.

Lausanne: A side trip to nearby Lausanne is a popular option for travelers staying in Montreux. Lausanne is famous for its excellent Olympic museum, the historic Old Town centered around Place de la Palud, and its gorgeous traditional architecture. You can take the train to Lausanne in just a few minutes from Montreux – it’s quite fast and inexpensive by Swiss standards.

[castle on a lake edge - one of the most scenic places to visit in Switzerland]

Where to Stay in Montreux

Budget: There’s only one hostel in town that I’m aware of, and that’s where I stayed (I was on a tight budget during my entire time in Switzerland). I stayed at the Montreux Youthhostel. It includes breakfast– an excellent value in pricy Switzerland! Keep in mind their late 4 PM check in, which is common throughout Switzerland. Check rates and current availability here.

Mid-Range: If you’re on a bit of a budget, Le Coucou Hotel has excellent prices, a breathtaking view, and a well-reviewed restaurant. It is a bit from Montreux proper, though it is close to a different train station (Haut-de-Caux). Check lowest rates and availability here.

Luxury: A favorite of celebrities like the late Freddie Mercury, it’s not surprising that Montreux offers no shortage of luxury options. The best balance of luxury to price ration is Fairmont Le Montreux Palace. I mean, just look at that building façade — it’s basically the architectural equivalent of the heart-eyes emoji. Check lowest rates and availability here.

Geneva

Geneva is one of the most common arrival airports for travelers visiting Switzerland, so there’s a good chance that you’ll be at the very least transiting via Geneva at some point during your Switzerland itinerary. Located right on Lac Leman, despite its large size Geneva is still one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland.

Geneva is also great for chocolate lovers – you’ll find chocolatiers all over the city, as well as plenty of tours themed around sampling the best Swiss chocolate you can find. Besides that, Geneva is known for its museums, its delicious fondue, and its stunning lake and mountain views. The Jet d’Eau pictured below is one of Geneva’s most famous landmarks and is one of the tallest fountains in the world.

Things to Do in Geneva

The best way to explore Geneva is by foot. Walk around the historic city and marvel at all the beautiful buildings and all the watches you’ll never be able to afford. Definitely stop into some of the different chocolate shops and sample some of Switzerland’s finest!

A common must-see on Geneva itineraries is the Jet D’Eau, a massive water fountain shooting water up a massive 140 meters in the air on Lake Geneva — it’s especially beautiful at night when it’s all lit up. The Palace of Nations, home to a huge branch of the United Nations, is also quite popular to visit when in Geneva.

Geneva is also famous for having a ton of unique museums. The Musée Ariana is great for glass and ceramics lovers, whereas those interested in history will appreciate the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum.  I recommend using the Geneva Pass to save money if you plan on seeing a few museums and attractions as the savings will quickly add up.

Pro Tip: If spending a few days in Geneva, the pass will be well-worth it, with admission to over 40 attractions plus included public transit. Click to prebook your Geneva Pass and pick it up when you arrive in Geneva.

Aside from museums, don’t miss a steamboat ride on Lake Geneva, or visiting some of the vineyards of Lavaux (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) nearby!

Day Trips and Tours from Geneva

Gruyeres: If you want the whole Swiss bucket list in one go — trains,  mountains, chocolate, and cheese — you can’t miss a full-day tour to Gruyères – yes, that Gruyères!

You’ll learn about chocolate making, meet Swiss cows, see how cheese is made in Switzerland, indulge in fondue, and get to ride the Golden Express, one of Switzerland’s most famous trains.

Want the full experience with a ride on the Golden Express? Be sure to book in advance – it’s #1 on many people’s Swiss bucket lists. Book in advance here to not miss your spot!

Money-Saving Tip: For a cheaper option that doesn’t include the train, you can book just a tour of the chocolate and cheese factories here.

Glacier 3000: This is far and away the most popular day trip from Geneva! Similar to the tour from Montreux, the tour takes you to the picturesque village of Les Diablerets, then sweeps you up a 3,000-meter high glacier where you can embark on the Peak Walk, a stunning suspension bridge that brings together two peaks, over 4,000 meters high.

If traveling in summer, there’s also a toboggan run which kids (and the young at heart!) will adore! It also includes a stop in Montreux on the way back.

Check prices, ratings, and availability of the tour here.

Steamboat on Lac Léman: A traditional steamboat ride on Lake Geneva (also called Lac Léman) is one of the most popular things to do in Geneva.

You can combine it with a city tour or if you have the Swiss Travel Pass it should be included on your ticket.

Book your steamboat ride on Lac Léman (plus a bonus city tour) today!

France! If you’re keen to visit a bit of France, Geneva is also extremely close to Chamonix which is at the foot of Mont Blanc as well as the fairytale town of Annecy. Both can be done as day trips from Geneva. There are very affordable half-day tours to Annecy (pictured below!) and slightly more expensive full-day trips to Chamonix as well.

Check out affordable half-day tours to Annecy
or …
Check out full-day trips to Chamonix and Mount Blanc

Lavaux: Love wine tasting? You’ll love Swiss wines and these UNESCO-listed vineyards. The Swiss like to say that Swiss wine is too delicious to export, and they drink it all at home in Switzerland!

I have to agree — Swiss wines are especially tasty, similar to German or Austrian wines but with a terroir all of their own. This affordable tour visits it with a group, or if you’re traveling with a partner, you can book this romantic private tour for two.

Where to Stay in Geneva

Budget: I flew into in Geneva and made my way over to Montreux for the night, so I haven’t stayed in any Geneva hostels personally. The best-reviewed hostel that several of my friends have stayed in is Geneva Hostel, which is no frills but quite affordable for pricy Switzerland. It has spacious lockers, friendly staff, breakfast included, and best of all, it comes with a free travel card which will definitely help you save some money in pricy Geneva. Check hostel availability and prices here.

Mid-range: Geneva has a decent selection of mid-range offerings. I’m a big fan of ibis hotels because they’re always clean, reliable, private, and inexpensive. They don’t have the most personality, but sometimes you just want a clean, private room to rest your head in. There are several branches of ibis in Geneva, but ibis budget Petit-Lancy is the most affordable. Like Geneva Hostel, it also includes a free travel card, which means that even though you’re located a bit outside the center you can get into the heart of the city easily without spending a dime. Check lowest prices and availability here.

Luxury: The Mövenpick is one of my most trusted luxury hotel brands, and the one in Geneva is well-reviewed and not absurdly expensive (for a luxury option in Switzerland, that is) Check best prices and availability here. Hotel de la Cigogne is an excellent 5* option, but it’s priced to match. Still, it may be worth it for the central location, luxury amenities, and artist-inspired décor. Check availability and prices online.

Lauterbrunnen Valley and surrounding towns

[brown house with red shutters in a valley] Lauterbrunnen is one of the most scenic places in Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen is an adorable, typically Swiss town nestled in a mountain valley famed for being home to 72 waterfalls — two of which are prominently but casually hanging out in the center of town like it’s no big deal. It’s definitely one of the top must-visit places in Switzerland with super traditional architecture and flower boxes.

Just 20 minutes from Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen is an oasis of calm with tons of opportunities for hiking if you’re feeling tame and all sorts of adventure activities if you’re keen to get your adrenaline pumping – there’s tons of things to do in Switzerland in the summer and Lauterbrunnen is one of the best bases to experience it from! It’s also one of the more affordable towns in Switzerland, with plenty of affordable accommodations choices, so it’s a popular choice for those backpacking Switzerland.

[pile of wood in a shed with flowers]

Things to Do in Lauterbrunnen

If you’re a fan of waterfalls, you’ll be in heaven here: Lauterbrunnen is the best place to go in Switzerland for waterfall chasing, as there are some 72 of them in Lauterbrunnen Valley alone. There are countless hikes to embark on and other adventurous things to do in Lauterbrunnen to keep you busy for days.

Be sure to take the cable car and scenic train up to Mürren via Winteregg for stunning mountain and valley views — complete with lots of Swiss cows (and cowbells!). Afterward, you can either hike down to Gimmelwald or take a cable car. When in Gimmelwald be sure to check out the Honesty Shop — Europe’s first village store based entirely on trust.

No shopkeepers or cameras — just trust, and it works perfectly. For this jaded New Yorker, it was actually a bit of an emotional experience to see this shop in action.

[storefront with wheelbarrow reading 'the honesty shop'] in Gimmelwald, one of the best places to visit in Switerland

Finally, be sure to check out the insanely powerful Trümmelbach Falls in between Lauterbrunnen and Stechelberg. It’s a series of 10 glacial waterfalls which tumble INSIDE of a mountain, which has been carved out by both nature and man so you can see the insane power of the melting glacial water at work.

This is no dainty, Instagrammable waterfall — it’s sheer force and power, and an absolute sight to behold.

[waterfall from above]

If you’re keen to get your adrenaline pumping, there are several adventurous things you can do in Lauterbrunnen. Common options include helicopter flights, paragliding, and skydiving, though of course — none of these activities come cheap! If you’re on a budget, stick to hikes and exploring the cable cars and scenic trains in the region.

There are also more expensive scenic trains such as to Jungfraujoch (the “Top of Europe”) and Schilthorn (where James Bond was filmed) if you’re keen to get some height without the adrenaline rush, but it won’t come cheap.

Where to Stay in Lauterbrunnen

[hotel with snowy mountains in the background] one of the most scenic parts of Switzerland

Budget: There are plenty of hostels in Lauterbrunnen. Even though Switzerland is expensive, I think Lauterbrunnen is one of the best towns to visit in Switzerland if you’re on a budget. I stayed at Schutzenbach Backpackers and it was the cheapest hostel I stayed at during my entire time in Switzerland.

It had an amazing location and everything was comfortable, but there were some weird quirks (like you had to pay for hot water by the minute and pay for using the electric burners!) that I found annoying. It’s a short walk out of town (20 minutes) but you can also take a bus. Check all hostel options here.

Mid-range: If you have a medium budget, Hotel Staubbach is your best bet. It has great waterfall views and a super convenient location. It’s cozy, but not ultra-luxurious. You could also stay in Mürren, Gimmelwald, or one of the other cute mountain towns in the area! Check lowest prices and availability here.

Luxury: For those with money to spare, Hotel Silberhorn is one of the nicest hotels in town. They have a beautiful sun terrace with an amazing panoramic view of the Jungfrau mountains and an Alpine-style restaurant. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Interlaken

Interlaken is between two lakes (hence the name), Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Both are stunning, but Lake Brienz is a particular charmer, the same color turquoise as Insta-famous Lake Louise.

Interlaken is commonly known as the adventure sports capital of Switzerland. Here, you’ll find activities such as paragliding and skydiving offered everywhere – though of course, being Switzerland, the prices are on the high side!

What to Do in Interlaken

As Interlaken is a mecca for adventure lovers, you really should try to save room in your budget for at least one adventurous splurge. Whether that’s paragliding over the twin lakes of Thun and Brienz, taking a speedboat through one of the beautiful lakes, or even skydiving over one of the most beautiful parts of Switzerland, there’s a lot to do in Interlaken that will get your heart racing.

The bravest amongst us can try their hand at paragliding over the twin lakes – one of the best views of Switzerland, which I can attest, though admittedly I was only brave enough to see it on my own two feet at the peak of Schynige Platte (anxiety and heights don’t mix!)

If you’re going to paraglide, ensure you’re going with a reputable company that has a good track record. Flying over the mountains with only another person and a parachute is not a place to pinch a penny! I would recommend this paragliding experience, which won the Best Adrenaline Rush from GetYourGuide in 2019!

Book your paragliding experience with a trusted, award-winning company here!

If you prefer a different kind of adrenaline rush, you can try river rafting down the nearby Lütschine River as well.

But if you keep your feet on the ground, or if you are working with a tight budget, don’t worry – there are still plenty of other worthwhile things to see in Interlaken.

 Indulge your sweet tooth at the Funky Chocolate Club, take the funicular 10 minutes up to the top of Harder Kulm for an epic view, or rent a kayak or paddleboard on Lake Brienz (or Thun, for that matter, but in my opinion, Brienz is way prettier).

Friendly Reminder: Whether you are doing crazy things like skydiving or having a more low-adrenaline trip, don’t forget to buy travel insurance! I actually got insanely sick with a freak flu virus in Switzerland and almost needed to visit a hospital – something that, had I not had insurance, would have cost me a fortune. I use World Nomads to cover me from anything from everything from trip cancellation to illness to injury on the road.

Day Trips and Tours from Interlaken

Jungfraujoch: This is the most popular day trip from Interlaken and with good reason: it’s the highest train station in all of Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Called “The Top of Europe,” this impressive superlative has great viewing areas, an ice palace that you can hang out in (even in the summer), and stunning views of the Jungfrau region and its famous mountains.

It’s not a cheap tour – check out prices here – but it’s on the top of many people’s Swiss bucket lists for good reason.

This tour is incredibly popular in summer, so book in advance here!

Castles: Interlaken is near several beautiful castles. Check out the spectacular Thun Castle, or see the even more beautiful Oberhofen Castle on the edge of gorgeous Lake Thun.

Schynige Platte: This is one of the best day trips in all of Switzerland and where you’ll get the most spectacular views of Interlaken. Better yet, if you have a Swiss Travel Pass then it is already included in your ticket price. If you’re on a budget, I would recommend this over the Jungfraujoch train. The views are less impressive, but it’s entirely free with a pass! I’ll go into this in more detail below.

Where to Stay in Interlaken

Budget: Backpackers, rejoice! Interlaken is one of the most affordable cities in all of Switzerland. I’d recommend spending a little more time here if you’re on a budget. There are several hostel options (unlike in other Swiss towns and cities, where the options are minimal). One of the cheapest and best-reviewed is Balmers Backpackers Hostel, and since it comes with free breakfast, it’s really a great deal for Switzerland! Book in advance here as hostels in Switzerland often fill up early.

Mid-range: Switzerland doesn’t have a ton of boutique hotels – more often, you’ll choose between guesthouses and fancy chain hotels – but B3 Boutique Bed & Breakfast looks like a real charmer. It’s a touch outside of central Interlaken in a town called Gsteigwiler, but for the great price and rave reviews, it’s a great choice in Interlaken. Check availability and reviews here.

Luxury: The Royal St. James is a Sofitel property, a chain of hotels I trust. It’s a gorgeous building with a great location, spa and sauna, and raved-over breakfasts. I think it’s one of the best luxury options in Interlaken. Check prices and availability here.

Schynige Platte

[girl with flowers in hair and mountains]

Wondering where to visit in Switzerland for the most sweepingly epic views? You can’t miss Schynige Platte and its views over the twin lakes of Interlaken.

When staying in Lauterbrunnen or nearby Interlaken, you simply must take a day trip using the scenic train up to Schynige Platte alpine garden departing from Wilderwil, one of the best train journeys in Europe. The scenic railway will take you up a hill to incredible views of Lake Thun and the even more stunning turquoise Lake Brienz.

You end at the top of a mountain with views of the three of the tallest peaks in the Jungfrau region – Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau herself. The three mountains on one side; the lakes on the other… is this any wonder it’s one of the most scenic places in Switzerland?

[a train snaking its way up to the mountain peak, with lake views]

Up at the top, you can enjoy a ton of different hiking trails of mild to moderate difficulty. There’s a kiosk selling surprisingly affordably priced coffee, wine, and beer, as well as a restaurant if you really feel like splashing out and getting fancy.

But still, you’ll enjoy relative peace and quiet, as this scenic train in Switzerland is not super well known, making it one of off the beaten path Switzerland’s best-hidden gems.

The best part? A return trip to Schynige Platte is 100% included on your Swiss Travel Pass, making it one of the best places to visit in Switzerland in the summer.

Where to Stay for Schynige Platte

This is easy to do as a day trip from Lauterbrunnen, which I recommend, though you could also check out hostels and hotels in Interlaken if you want a bit more of a city feel than a country vibe. Check out check out hotel and hostel prices and availability in Interlaken if you prefer to stay in a hotel or guesthouse in one of the prettiest places in Switzerland.

Lucerne & Mt. Pilatus

Lucerne is one of the best places in Switzerland for proximity to mountain views. Probably one of the most fun days I had in Switzerland was the day I took the steamer boat across Lake Lucerne to Alpnachstad, then the cogwheel railway up to Mount Pilatus at 2073 meters.

The cogwheel railway up to Mount Pilatus is literally the steepest in the world, with a staggering gradient of 48% incline! The views at the top are spectacular, definitely one of the things you must see in Switzerland.

You can get some stunning views over Lake Lucerne from the top of Pilatus, do some hikes through alpine flowers, see the adorable mountain ibexes who call it home…. then go back down to Lucerne via cable car and bus. 4 distinctly different modes of transit in one day, all included on your Swiss Travel Pass — all running with insane efficiency.

Switzerland, you make my anxious heart very, very happy.

What to Do in Lucerne

Lucerne is a lovely, walkable town, and there’s plenty of things to see and do in Lucerne. You definitely have to enjoy a river cruise on one of the old-fashioned steamer.

It’s also quite close to Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus, both of which offer excellent views and hiking opportunities. I chose Mount Pilatus, but I wish I had time for Rigi, too! These are included if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, or you can purchase tickets a la carte if you’re not using a pass.

There is also the Lion Statue of Lucerne which is…. not very exciting, to be honest. Kapellbrücke, however, is definitely worth the hype. This covered bridge dates back to the 14th century and it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s usually crowded during the day so if you want the best photos I recommend getting an early start.

Finally, a cruise on Lake Lucerne is a must! You can skip this if you are doing the trip to Mount Pilatus, as it’s included in the excursion. But if you aren’t planning to go there, a yacht cruise is an essential (and affordable) thing to do in Lucerne!

Book yours online here!

Day Trips and Tours from Lucerne

Mount Pilatus: This is the classic day trip option from Lucerne. It’s included with a Swiss Travel Pass or you can purchase a day trip a la carte here.

This self-guided tour takes you across Lake Lucerne on a steamboat, ascends via the world’s steepest cogwheel railroad, then you descend using a cable car (and finish your trip back to Lucerne by a short bus ride).

You can experience the awesome efficiency of Swiss transport in 4 different forms on this tour, with gorgeous views on all of them (well, I guess the bus is less spectacular).

Book the self-guided day trip if you don’t have a travel pass!

Jungfraujoch: The highest point of Europe, visiting the mountain station of Jungfraujoch is also available as a day trip from Lucerne if you don’t have plans to make it to Interlaken.

Book the day trip to Jungfraujoch here!

Titlis: For a nearer (and cheaper) day trip option if you’d like to see a glacier up close, Titlis is incredible!

The coolest thing about visiting Titlis is that you get to ascend to the glacier in a beautiful cable car, seeing a glacier from a totally different perspective than the typical train experience you’ll get used to after some time in Switzerland.

Check prices and tour reviews here!

Where to Stay in Lucerne

Budget: I stayed at Lion Lodge when in Lucerne. It’s okay and friendly to the wallet, but nothing that great. I’d stay somewhere else next time.

Mid-range: Had I not been traveling on such a strict budget, I likely would have opted for the ibis Lucerne. Ibis hotels are clean, affordable, and pretty inoffensive — but they’re not exactly luxurious. Still, if you want privacy and cleanliness, ibis is reliable. Just be aware it’s about a kilometer’s walk from town, though Lucerne is pretty well connected when it comes to public transport. Check prices and availability here.

Luxury: If you want the best of the best, Hotel Schweizerhof can’t be beaten. It’s beautiful — just look at the front of that building all lit up at night! — with an amazing lake view, a Finnish sauna, a bio sauna (whatever that is), and a spa.

One cool quirk about the hotel is that each room is furnished to represent the personal style of a famous person who has stayed at the hotel in the past, making it a super unique place to visit in Switzerland. Check the prices and availability here, keeping in mind you need to book in advance in the busy months.

Zürich

I didn’t spend too much time in Zürich, but the little time I did spend there was gorgeous!

Zürich spans the beautiful Limmat River, which makes all the old architecture even more beautiful. Zürich is also the most cosmopolitan city in Switzerland, so this is where you’ll find a lot of different international cuisines in case you’re starting to tire of fondue (yes, anything is possible!).

Zürich is also one of the major entry points to Switzerland, so if you find yourself transiting through the city, you’ll likely want to give yourself at least a day to explore the city before getting out and seeing more.

What to Do in Zürich

There’s plenty to do in Zürich proper, from exploring the beautiful churches of Grossmünster and Fraumünster, taking a walking tour of the Old Town, strolling down the luxurious shopping street of Bahnhofstrasse, or perusing some of the country’s best museums at a discount using a Zürich Pass.

Note: The Zürich pass is a good option if you have at least 24 hours in the city planned, so you can maximize your use of it. It’s inexpensive, covers museums and other sights you’d want to see, and covers public transit as well. Pre-book yours here!

However, if you have limited time in Zürich, I recommend this 4-hour tour which includes a ferry ride, a cable car, and coach tour of the city: you will cover the most ground and get the best views this way!

Book the 4-hour tour here!

For something a bit different: foodies can taste traditional Swiss chocolate at Maestrani’s or take a culinary walking tour of the city.

Those who like to hang out with the locals should not miss Frau Gerolds Garten. This urban gardening project features container bars with craft beers, small boutiques, and wall murals – it’s pretty cool!

As the biggest city in Switzerland and the entry point for many travelers, Zürich is a great place to base yourself while doing day trips to beautiful lakes and mountains in the Swiss countryside. Bernese Oberland is nearby, as well as beautiful Lake Constanz.

Day Trips and Tours from Zürich

Mount Titlis: I mentioned it above for a day trip from Lucerne, but it is also a very popular option to do a day trip from Zürich to this beautiful glacier via cable car.

This trip is beloved by fellow travelers, with over 700 5-star reviews. Read the itinerary and book it here!

Jungfraujoch: Also available from Interlaken and Lucerne, you can also make this day trip from Zürich. Check it out here!

Rhine Falls: This is one of the most popular day trips from Zürich. It’s been called Europe’s biggest waterfall – but that’s more for the sheer power of its rushing water than more impressive factors like width or height. It’s still incredibly beautiful and an absolute force of nature. You can also see the beautiful town of Stein am Rhein, one of Switzerland’s most gorgeous small towns

Shop tours to Rhine Falls here

Liechtenstein: You can take a day trip to Liechtenstein, one of Europe’s smallest countries, if you are a country counter or just want to see some more beautiful mountains.

Take the train from Zürich to the Swiss border town Sargans. From there, you can catch bus #11 to Vaduz, the tiny mountainous capital of Liechtenstein. No guided tours are available, but it’s easy enough to do independently.

Grindelwald & Interlaken: No time for a proper stop in Interlaken on your Switzerland trip? Luckily, a day trip to beautiful Bernese Oberland is ultra-easy. Check out this tour here.

Where to Stay in Zürich

Budget: Zürich is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and the hostel prices match that. City Backpacker Biber is the best combination of low-ish prices and good reviews, and with a central location, you’ll save on transport costs which are no small matter in Switzerland. Again, be sure to book hostels in advance as they fill up quickly.

Mid-range: If you can afford to upgrade to mid-range, this is where Zürich really shines. The Motel One Zürich, despite the humble name, is one of the most gorgeous and conveniently located hotels in the city. The design is gorgeous and trendy, the staff friendly, impeccably clean, and it’s located only a 10-minute walk from the central train station. Check prices and availability here.

Luxury: Of course, this being Switzerland, plenty of luxury options abound for travelers with deep pockets. The Park Hyatt is probably the nicest hotel in the city, but costs approximately one kidney to book. A luxe but more affordable option would be the Hotel Schweizerhof Zürich, which certainly isn’t cheap but is about half the price of staying at the Park Hyatt. Check lowest prices and availability here.

Zermatt and the Gornergrat

There’s a reason why Zermatt is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland.

It’s rightfully famous for the glimpse of the Matterhorn’s famous silhouette which you can see from certain angles within the town. On a sunny day, the peak is clearly visible – other days, the Matterhorn shrouds herself in clouds, which makes sighting her even more majestic when it finally happens.

[top of Matterhorn hidden behind trees]
[smiling girl on a mountain]

What to Do in Zermatt

When you have a good weather day, it’s definitely worth it to go up to the Gornergrat station on the scenic railway.

I took three mountain railways while in Switzerland and the Gornergrat was definitely the most awe-inspiring. As in, I almost wanted to weep when I saw the Matterhorn peeking from behind the clouds on my last day in Zermatt!

The Gornergat is not 100% included with the Swiss Travel Pass, but you’ll get a 50% reduction on the return ticket price of 94 CHF (for a total cost of 47 CHF, an insanely good deal for Switzerland).

If you don’t have the Swiss Travel Pass, you’ll need to buy it individually. I strongly recommend buying online in advance to avoid the massive crowds at Gornergrat station. After all, this is the picture-perfect Matterhorn viewpoint in the Instagram age, and it is crowded.

Beat the crowds – book your Gornergrat skip-the-line ticket here!

[train at top of mountain] a beautiful place in Switzerland!
[lake in the mountains] where to visit in Switzerland

Be sure to stop at Rotenboden for stunning views of one of the many alpine lakes dotting the region — if you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of the Matterhorn hanging out reflected in the Riffelsee.

Unfortunately, as you can see, it was rather cloudy when I went up to Gornergrat, so my views weren’t quite as good as they could be. Check the forecast (or just look at the Matterhorn to see if you can see it!) before purchasing your tickets.

While looking at the Matterhorn from afar is great, hiking it is reserved only for serious alpinists. Hike in the Gornergrat area instead if you are a casual hiker and not a serious mountaineer.

Where to Stay in Zermatt

Budget: As one of the more popular touristic places to visit in Switzerland, Zermatt has a wide range of options, but they go quickly. I enjoyed my stay at Matterhorn Hostel and thought the price was really good for Switzerland. Book in advance here.

Mid-range: A surprisingly good value is ARCA Solebad Wellness & Spa. It’s right by the center train station and, as the name suggests, is home to an excellent spa! It also has a salted heated swimming pool, steam bath, and sauna. Check prices and availability here.

Luxury: One of the most romantic and beautiful hotels in all of Zermatt is Romantik Hotel Julen Superior. The outside of the building couldn’t be any more adorably Swiss, with wood design and flower boxes everywhere. I also really loved the warm, wood interiors and amazing detailing. Plus, the location can’t be beat — after all, Matterhorn views are never far away. Check prices, ratings, and availability here.

Nendaz and the Valais region

[mountain biking]

The Valais region is famed for its wines, cheeses, and mountains — literally three of my favorite things. Virtually everywhere in the Valais is stunning, but the beautiful mountain town of Nendaz is a fantastic place to enjoy scenic mountain views and traditional Valaisianne cuisine and culture.

What to Do in Nendaz

Nendaz is a ski resort town, but surprisingly, there is so much to do in the summer! I suggest trying to go when the summer alphorn festival is happening – it’s a great cultural experience and the music is lovely, especially with those Swiss Alp views!

Otherwise, you can swim in one of the world’s most beautiful public pools, take the cable car up to Tracouet for some beautiful hikes, relax in the spa at 4 Vallées with a day pass, taste lots of fondue, or even go mountain biking!

I spent an entire week in Nendaz and you’re welcome to read all about it here if you want more detailed recommendations!

Where to Stay in Nendaz

Budget: Nendaz is super small and there’s really not much in the way of budget accommodation — certainly no hostels! I’d recommend doing an apartment rental if you’re on a budget.

Mid-range: Your best bet if you are trying not to spend too much is to try to find an apartmental rental on Booking.com or to check out Airbnb.

Luxury: One of the best ways to enjoy the mountains is to book a luxury chalet rental in Switzerland. If you prefer a hotel, I visited the spa at Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa and holy heck guys it was AMAZING. They have a ridiculous number of saunas and steam rooms, an ice room, indoor and outdoor pools, a salt/floating pool… and probably so much more that I’ve already forgotten. Even if you don’t stay here, I recommend visiting their spa on a day pass! Check out reviews, availability, and prices here.

5 Important Things to Pack for Switzerland

I’ve actually written a whole all-season packing list for Switzerland (for men and women) but here are the 5 essentials in case you want the quick version.

  • An adaptor: Annoyingly, Switzerland uses a slightly different outlet (Type J) than the rest of continental Europe. While sometimes continental Europe adaptors will work in some outlets, some are more fussy, and I ended up needing to buy a Switzerland-specific adaptor. This Type J adaptor has several outlets so you can plug in multiple devices into one adaptor, which is handy.
  • A guidebook: While I use travel blogs for much of my travel research, I love a good old-fashioned guidebook as well. Lonely Planet Switzerland is recently updated and full of excellent travel inspiration and budget restaurant advice. Rick Steves’ Switzerland is also a winner. I typically download the Kindle version and bring it on my Kindle Paperwhite to minimize how much space it takes up in my bag
  • A rain jacket & packable down jacket: Switzerland can occasionally be quite rainy, so having a lightweight waterproof rain jacket is a must. I love my Marmot PreCip rain jacket and bring it with me everywhere – it’s lasted me years. If you plan on visiting any mountains, you’ll likely want to bring an extra layer with you – it’s cold up there even if it is sunny! I love having this packable down jacket that I can easily roll up and place in my bag.
  • A theft-proof bag: While Switzerland is generally pretty safe, there is a risk of pickpockets in the major cities like Geneva, Zürich, and Lucerne. I deter thieves by carrying a fashionable travel backpack with security features like locking zippers, RFID blockers, and slash-proof material. PacSafe is my favorite travel security item brand (this is the exact PacSafe backpack I love and bring on every city trip).
  • A reusable water bottle: Water in Switzerland is safe to drink everywhere and you will find public fountains in most cities spouting out pure, glacial water that is better than anything you can buy. Save some serious money and the environment by carrying your own reusable water bottle like this Klean Kanteen.
Friendly Reminder: Don’t forget to buy travel insurance before your trip. I’ve been using World Nomads for the past 3+ years of travel, to cover me from anything from trip cancellation to illness to injury on the road.

More Switzerland Travel Resources

Need help planning your perfect Switzerland trip? I’ve written up this itinerary for 10 days in Switzerland, as well as suggestions for how to modify the itinerary if you have more or less time.

I have posts on all the best day trips from Interlaken as well as the best day trips from Geneva, including side trips to France!

Finally, be sure to check out this Switzerland packing list for all seasons and genders! It’s your one-stop shop for everything you need to bring to Switzerland.

Note: This post was written in collaboration with Swiss Travel Pass. I received an 8-day travel pass for train travel in Switzerland while writing this post. All opinions are my own, as always.

All the most stunning places in Switzerland in summer — Lucerne, the Matterhorn and Zermatt, Interlaken, the Alps, the Valais, Lauterbrunnen, Montreux & more — and ideas on things to do & how to best get around by train.