Switzerland has long been famed for its rich cultural life and one of a kind landscapes – majestic glacier-encrusted mountains, lush rolling hills and magnificent lakes. Though considered as a small country, Switzerland is incredibly diverse. If you’re a first-time visitor, with only 1 or 2 weeks,planning the trip and narrowing down the itinerary can be a daunting task. With our suggested itinerary for eight days, your visit to Switzerland will be much more relaxed, and you’ll get a greater sense of the diversity of its landscape, wildlife, and people. You can absolutely make any changes you like, to adapt the tour to your preferences.
Things to know before traveling to Switzerland:
1. Eight-day Swiss Travel Pass – since this suggested itinerary includes a number of train trips and other rides, purchasing an 8 consecutive day Swiss Travel Pass is recommended. The pass covers practically every transportation options in Switzerland – trains, city trams, buses, boats and 50% off cable cars, cogwheel trains and funiculars as well as free entry to 470 Swiss museums and attractions. Not only the pass can save you a lot of money, it will also provide ease of travelling in Switzerland.
2. Language – though Switzerland is not really a big country, be prepared to encounter citizens who speak different languages depending on the city you are visiting. German is widely spoken in the north, central, and eastern regions, French in the west and Italian in the south.
3. Money and costs – Switzerland is an expensive destination. Those amazing transportation options, meals, hotels and attractions come at a cost. Once you get there, expect your hotel to cost you an average of USD 200 per night and that cheap pizza at a restaurant will cost you USD 30. So before you get on that plane make sure you packed enough cash and budget accordingly so your trip doesn’t cost more than expected.
The currency in Switzerland is Swiss Franc (CHF). Euros are widely accepted but it is recommended to have enough Francs as some hotels and restaurants do not accept other currencies. You may use debit cards and credit cards but watch out for ATM fees and foreign transaction fees, which can very high per transaction (many credit cards come with no foreign transaction fees, so call your credit card issuer).
4.Food – Switzerland is home to some hearty traditional cuisine with German, French and Italian influences. Each towns and villages, however, have their own signature traditional touch. Many of Swiss food is based on cheese and potatoes.
5.The Swiss Alps – no trip to Switzerland would be complete unless you get to take in the breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. Each mountain in the alps have its own website with a weather forecast and live webcam feed so it’s easier to decide when is the best time to go.
6.Best time to visit for photography – Switzerland is an excellent location for landscape photography in all seasons. Depending on your location you can see snow-capped mountains at all times. The month of June will have greater chances of more snow while September will have greater chances of clear skies.
7.Getting there – the main airport in Switzerland is Zurich Airport. Direct flights are available from most major airport with prices starting at about 720 USD from New York, 594 USD from Hong Kong (with a connecting flight in Moscow), 110 USD from Amsterdam, 106 USD from Berlin and 1118 USD from Sydney.
Day by day Itinerary
Day 1: Zurich – Lucerne
Arrive early in the vibrant small city of Lucerne, the gateway to central Switzerland, situated on Lake Lucerne. Check in to your chosen hotel where you will be staying for 4 nights. There are several excellent hotels near the rail station and historic town center. There are also many budget hostels along the riverside with a beautiful mountain view. Head out in the afternoon to explore some of the attractions of Lucerne such as Schwanenplatz (Swan Square), St. Peter’s Church and the iconic Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge).
Where to stay in Lucerne:
Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern (Schweizerhofquai, Lucerne 6002 , Switzerland)
Art Deco Hotel Montana Luzern (Adligenswilerstrasse 22, Lucerne 6002, Switzerland)
Palace Luzern ( Haldenstrasse 10, Lucerne CH-6002, Switzerland)
Hotel Cascada (Bundesplatz 18, Lucerne 6003, Switzerland)
The Hotel Lucerne (Sempacherstrasse 14, Lucerne 6002, Switzerland)
Travel Tip: If your international flight is arriving in Zurich, then you can take a direct train from the airport to Lucerne. Travel time is approximately 46 minutes and train fare is covered with your Swiss Rail Pass. The railway station is located in a large shopping center so you can grab something to eat before you board the train.
Day 2: Lucerne
Lucerne is best explored on foot as its attractions are just a stone’s throw away from each other. In the morning, continue your historic tour of Lucerne at Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), a tower from 1602 which is a good vantage point to see the crowded market scene every Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Just beside the town hall, visit the Rosengart Haus which houses some Pablo Picasso art pieces. Then head to Spreuerbrücke (Mills Bridge) across the Reuss, an old covered bridge built in 1408 which has Medieval style plague paintings titled “Dance of Death”.
After lunch, visit the rest of the town’s attractions like Mühlenplatz (Mills Square), Weinmarkt (Wine Market), Hirschenplatz (Stag Square) and Löwendenkmal (Lion Monument). To end the day’s tour, go to Kurplatz where you can take in the best view of the lake and also the Alps.
Day 3: Lucerne – Mount Pilatus
Leave Lucerne in the morning and enjoy a day of Alpine adventure in Mount Pilatus. Here, you will enjoy the most stunning views of the Alps aboard the world’s steepest cogwheel train.
Day 4: Lucerne – Mount Titlis
Join a 5.5-hour afternoon tour of Mount Titlis from Lucerne. You will have an opportunity to board the rotating Titlis Rotair gondola for 360-degree views of gorgeous Swiss Alps. You will also have enough time in the summit to marvel at the views and enjoy the cool mountain air.
Day 5: Interlaken
On your 5th day in Switzerland, make an early start and head to Interlaken, gateway to the Bernese Oberland located between the two Alpine Lakes – Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Interlaken will be your base from Day 5 to Day 8 of your 8-day Swiss Adventure. Choose a hotel near the rail station to get better access for all attractions, including the Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn and many more.
Where to stay in Interlaken:
Hotel Roessli (Hauptstrasse 10/Box 262 | Interlaken, Unterseen, Interlaken 3800, Switzerland)
Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa (Hoheweg 41, Interlaken 3800, Switzerland)
Hotel Beausite (Seestrasse 16, Unterseen, Interlaken 3800, Switzerland)
Hotel Interlaken (Hoeheweg 74, Interlaken CH-3800, Switzerland)
Jungfrau Hotel (Schulgassli 51, Wilderswil, Interlaken 3812, Switzerland)
After lunch, begin your walking tour at Oberhofen Castle, then to the Garden of Friendship, Höheweg and Harder Kulm. In the late afternoon, head over to Lake Thun and marvel at the Swiss Alps looming large in the distance. You may also avail a dinner cruise on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz which takes you past fishing villages and castles of Interlaken.
Day 6: Interlaken – Jungfraujoch
Go on a mountain excursion on your 6th day to Jungfraujoch. There are two routes to get there one via Lauterbrunnen and the other via Grindelwald. To get the most of your day trip, go up via one route and go down via the other.
Travel Tip: Don’t waste your time to go up to Jungfraujoch without checking the weather on that day. There are several websites with interactive 360° webcams showing the current view at the top (check them out here). So skip it if there’s poor visibility and schedule the excursion on the next day.
Day 7: Interlaken Swiss Food and Culture Tour
Take a break from mountain excursions on your 7th day and go on a food and culture walking tour of Interlaken. There are several tours in Interlaken that will show you traditional aspects of Swiss culture in local settings. Along with a professional tour guide, you will be able to visit a local dairy farm, local cheese tour, woodcarvers shop and Funky Chocolate Club, where you’ll sample the best chocolate in the world.
Day 8: Interlaken – Zurich
If your flight back home is in the late afternoon or evening, you can still go on souvenir shopping in Zurich. You may go to Bürkliplatz or Kanzlei Flea Market (Kanzleistrasse 56, 8004 Zürich, Switzerland; tel: +41 79 668 50 40), two of the biggest year-round flea markets in Zurich. Even without buying or looking for something, a trip to the flea market is definitely worth it.
Travel Tip: At Zurich Airport, you will find coin-operated lockers and a supervised left luggage counter where you can leave your stuff. Please note, only CHF or EUR coins are accepted.
Have you been to Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken or Switzerland in general? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.