I once had someone tell me that when God made the Earth, he made New Zealand and Switzerland first. I couldn’t agree more with that statement! Switzerland has to be one of the top 3 most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Combine pristine landscapes, mountains, electric blue water with delicious food and kind people and you have the recipe for the ultimate destination! One of my favorite things about the country was its influence it has from its neighbors. As you drive through the country, you’ll easily notice the German (northern-region), French (eastern-region) and Italian (southern-region) parts of the country. It’s a place like no other! There’s just ONE small problem…IT’S EXPENSIVE!!!
When someone says the word ‘expensive,’ it’s obviously completely relative to the person. But I think I speak for anyone that has been to this beautiful country (or planned to go) that it is THE REAL DEAL EXPENSIVE! When one meal at McDonald’s costs $15USD, and a rest stop bowl of microwaved pasta costs $20USD (I had a heart attack), I think it’s safe to say that Switzerland can break the bank for any budget-friendly traveler. There’s a reason it’s voted the #1 most expensive country in the WORLD to travel to!
Fortunately, I found a way to bypass the bank account beat down and still see so many facets of Switzerland…in just 3 NIGHTS and 2 DAYS!
Here’s the breakdown on how it’s done:
- How to Get Around
- Where to Stay
- The Road Trip Route
- Day One: Zurich – Lucerne – Mt Titlis
- Day Two: Interlaken – Bern – Gruyeres – Geneva
- Foods to Eat & Items You Must Buy
- Places I Wish We Had Time For
How to Get Around Switzerland
It’s no secret that the Swiss know what their doing when it comes to their country, and that includes their public transportation system. If you’re on a budget then train travel will be your best bet. We chose to venture by car. Why? We wanted to see as much of the countryside as possible, go by our own schedule and we have our fluffy little lady, Miesha with us, who can roam freely around the vehicle. We used rentalcars.com to reserve our car, which costed about $300USD for two weeks (excluding gas, obviously). Also, traveling by car doesn’t limit your time frame. You can leave super early in the morning and get to your hotel really late at night, maximizing your day.
If a car rental doesn’t fit your budget, try BlaBlaCar, a safe ride-share that we used multiple times while in Europe. Flixbus also travels to Zurich, Bern, Basel and Geneva. Fortunately, each city is equipped with public transport that is super easy to navigate. If you’re tired of walking and don’t feel like navigating the local transport, there is always Uber as well! If you’re new to Uber, use my Invite Code nicholew2341ui and get your first ride free.
Tip: If you rent a car and want to save $cashmoneyyyyy, be sure to book far in advance and pick up/drop off in the same city, otherwise you’ll pay way higher prices. We picked up our car in Venice and returned it there two weeks later.
Where to Stay in Switzerland
It should go without stating that hotels in Switzerland are SUPER expensive, so that option was completely off the table for us. Fortunately, the 21st century has given us all the greatest gifts possible: Airbnb, Couch Surfing, and Hostels!
We are faithful Airbnb users because it works for us while we travel with our fluffy dog. Airbnb also allows us to have a kitchen and cook at least 1 meal (breakfast) or more inside, saving lots of cash.
You can begin your EPIC journey of Switzerland in Zurich and end in Geneva on the second day. Here’s a Google Maps link to all the stops along the way and the breakdown below:
- Zurich to Lucerne – 38 minutes driving; 39 miles (52km)
- Lucern to Mt. Titlis Rortair (Engelberg) – 41 minutes driving; 24 miles (38km)
- Mt. Titlis Engelberg to Interlaken – 1 hour, 23 minutes driving; 55 miles (89km)
- Interlaken to Bern – 43 minutes driving; 35 miles (56km)
- Bern to Gruyeres – 46 minutes driving; 41 miles (66km)
- Gruyeres to Geneva – 1 hour 25 minutes driving; 75 miles (121km)
Tip: Allot for extra time with each driving journey, because you’ll definitely be stopping often to take pictures of the gorgeous landscapes!
DAY ONE: ZURICH – LUCERNE – MT.TITLIS
The first stop along your Swiss journey is the lovely capital, Zurich. Zurich is also the largest city in Switzerland and has an absolutely lovely riverside (Limmat River) This riverside is perfect for a stroll, bike or run. We arrived in Zurich in the late afternoon from Paris, so after checking into our Zurich Airbnb, we honestly only had a few hours to roam around the cobble stoned streets of Old Town (Aldstadt). Did you know Zurich has more than 1,200 water fountains? Each of them are like a total work of art and constantly produce drinking water, so fill up your bottle! It seemed like with every block we walked, we passed one of these stunningly beautiful fountains.
If time permits, you absolutely shouldn’t miss Lake Zurich, the Botanical Gardens and a hike up the hill to Lidenhof Hill to get a birds eye view of the city. BONUS: all these attractions are free! Yay! If you have some extra cash, check out the cable car Felsenegg and have dinner overlooking the beautiful city or enjoy a show at the Zurich Opera House.
If you’re hungry and looking for something more casual, we totally fell in the love with the chill atmosphere, service and food of Sternen Grill. Sternen Grill is perfect because you can enjoy some Swiss Sausage and wash it down with a draft beer. I’m a vegetarian, so why Josh was gobbling down sausage, I stumbled upon the amazing Tibits. This place is a offers up an entire vegetarian bar from heaven! Just select your items in a take-away container, weigh, pay and enjoy!
STOP 2: LUCERNE
After leaving Zurich, make your way to Lucerne, which is just a 40-minute drive. Lucern is totally picturesque, with its cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture and of course, its famous Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke). The Chapel Bridge (built in 1933) was sadly destroyed by a fire in 1993 and reconstructed. The bridge crosses diagonally across the Russ River. It’s truly a unique structure in that, as you walk across it, you’ll notice a countless number of paintings inside. These date all the way back to the 17th century! It’s the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge.
Be sure to snap a pic of the Lucerne Rathaus (town hall) with it’s Italian Renaissance-style architecture, and the more modern Church of St. Leodegar. Explore the narrow cobble-stone streets of Old Town Lucerne (Museggmauer) where you’ll make your way to the Musegg Wall with it’s four distinct towers. These were a part of the rampart walls built in 1386. While you’re there, walk over to Lake Lucerne. You can just walk along the water and enjoy the atmosphere, or rent a peddle boat for CHF20 ($20USD) (30min).
STOP 3: MT. TITLIS (ENGELBERG)
After enjoying your time in Lucerne, drive 40 minutes to Mt. Titlis in Engelberg, a stop that you surely will never forget! This part of the trip was one of the highlights of our trip in Switzerland! Why? Because you get to ride in a cable car up the mountain then change to a 360-degree rotating Rotair gondola up 10,000 feet (3,000m) to the snow-covered summit. The Titlis Rotair departs from the middle station and is a MUST, as it’s the world’s first revolving cable car. You’ll surely have the most unforgettable, incredible panoramic views of the Swiss Alps from the top! The cost to ride up to the top is $92USD and worth every single dollar!
While you’re at the very top, your admission will also include exploring a glacier cave (it’s COLD) and, if you’re brave enough, crossing over a suspension bridge (I was petrified but did it)! My photos don’t even do this place 1% of justice. This was truly one of the most gorgeous sights I have ever seen!
Mt. Titlis also offers an endless amount of other activities to participate in, from skiing to hiking, rowing and kayaking, there is surely something for everyone here in the great outdoors of the Swiss Alps!
Tip: Plan a few extra hours here, you’ll be really happy you did! Also, Switzerland is SUPER dog friendly! So much so, that Miesha (our fur baby) was permitted (out of her carrier) to ride inside the gondola and Rotair!
From Engelberg, you’ll drive 1 hour and 30 minutes to Interlaken, where you can check into your Airbnb, get a quick beer at The Barrell (GREAT draught beer!), some Thai food at Little Thai and catch some rest.
DAY TWO: INTERLAKEN – BERN- GENEVA
Interlaken, a city that literally means ‘between lakes.’ It’s s nestled in a valley between the charming, small-town Alpine villages of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Interlaken is so uniquely different than the other cities of Switzerland. You could literally spend a week hiking around this stunning region.
Interlaken is known as the outdoor sports’ capital of all of Europe (think Queenstown, New Zealand). Here, you’ll have endless adventure options at your fingertips: paragliding, skydiving, rafting, hang gliding, and canyoning. I totally wish we had more time to skydive here, as we did in New Zealand and it was unforgettable!
While in Interlaken there is absolutely one thing that you cannot miss, Harder Klum! As the website states, which I totally agree with “If Interlaken had a king, he would reside on the Harder Kulm.” Take a 10-minute funicular ride up to the viewing platform 4,337 feet (1,322m) where you’ll have STUNNING 360-panaromic views of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. In the distance you’ll see the peaks of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
If you’ve allotted additional time in your schedule, you can hike to the top of Harder Klum (something I wish I would’ve had time for). This hike will take about 2-2.5 hours. The funicular costs 38CHF ($38USD) per person. If you can get your hands on a discount card somewhere in town (we received ours from our kind Airbnb host), then it will reduce the cost to $25pp.
STOP 2: BERN
After leaving the unforgettable views of Harder Klum in Interlaken, you’ll drive 40-minutes to Bern. Bern completely surprised me! At this point in the trip, I thought I had seen all there was to see in Switzerland and Bern would be ‘just another town.’ Boy, was I wrong! Bern is truly unique and CANNOT be missed!
The Old Town of Bern became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and is regarded as one of the Top 10 cities for the BEST quality of life in the world. After roaming the streets, you’ll completely understand why! The architecture in Bern is like no other, with picturesque clock towers and trams at every turn. Be sure to see the 13th century-built Zytglogge Astronomical Clock, the towns 100+ water fountains, Minster Cathedral, and the Bern Historical Museum. Fortunately, the city is packed full of endless stores and boutiques for shopping, in case you want to satisfy your inner shopaholic.
STOP 3: GRUYERE
After leaving Bern, you’ll drive 45-minutes to the small town of Gruyere. As soon as you arrive in Switzerland, you’ll quickly realize that cheese fondue is king and it’s pretty much available in every fascent of every city. So, if you haven’t eaten any fondue yet on your trip, the city of Gruyere is perfect to get your fondue on!
La Maison du Gruyere should be your last stop after exploring the town, as you’ll be so full from delicious cheese and treats, that I doubt you’ll want to walk around. Founded in 1115, this cheesy gem offers up a 45-minute cheese museum tour where you’ll learn all about the history of gruyere cheese and how its made. After filling your brain, it’s time to fill your stomach! Head over to the restaurant where you can oder endless amounts of fondue and other Swiss dishes.
STOP 4: GENEVA
After stuffing yourself full in Gruyere, you’ll make the final 1.5 hour drive to Geneva (maybe grab some coffee after your food coma), the French-influenced city, which is home to the United Nations and the Red Cross. It’s also a super hub for banking. The Jet D’eau is the cities landmark and cannot be missed. It shoots 460 feet (140m) into the air, with over 130 gallons (500L) passing through it per second at a speed of over 120mph (200km). Next in line is the Palais Des Nations, the home of the European headquarters of the United Nations. Constructed between 1929 and 1936, it offers daily guided tours. Finally, grab some local food at the endless amounts of restaurants in the city, head to your Airbnb and celebrate, because you’ve just CONQUERED SWITZERLAND!
Aside from it’s amazing landscapes, Switzerland offers up INCREIBLE food! Swiss Chocolate is a MUST while your visiting and Lindt is the mack daddy of them all! You can even join their Chocolate Experience Tour in Zurich!
As stated above, Swiss cheese should totally be on your list to gobble down while you’re there. Fortunately, you can find fondue just about everywhere! Rösti is a fritter style potato (almost like a potato pancake) and is arguably considered Switzerlands national dish. Finally, alplermagronen is literally Alpine Macaroni and I promise that it’s much better than that Kraft Mac & Cheese you eat back home! Check out this list on Wikipedia for more local food options that you MUST try!
You CANNOT go to Switzerland without buying a Swiss Army knife! And you can get them engraved! Manufactured by Victorinox AG, these knives make great gifts and are actually super practical to have on hand all the time. We purchased ours in Lucerne’s Old Town. Tip: BE SURE to put your Swiss Army knives in your CHECKED bag, because they’ll be taken at the airport if they’re in your carry-on (trust me, I sadly know from experience).
This great country has SO much to offer and, although we covered a lot in 2 days, we barely scratched the surface. I really wish we would’ve had time to explore more of the Jungfrau Region, Chillon Castle, Lugano, Matterhorn in Zermatt, and Lauterbrunnen…and SO many more! I guess we’ll just have to go back again 😉
Thank you SOOOO much for stopping by!
XOXO The Traveling Blondie