As many of you may know, this year I had the chance to live in Switzerland for 3 months during which I tried to enjoy this country as much as I could. I tried to visit a new place every weekend, and I decided to create a complete itinerary from my experience, which includes all the places I liked the most. The itinerary lasts 2 weeks and it can be divided into two parts: Western Switzerland (day 1-5) and Central Switzerland(day 6-14). If the length of your trip is less than two weeks, I would suggest skipping the Western part, because the Central part is, without doubt, the best part. The itinerary is optimised for a train tour, but of course, it is doable also by car. However, trains work really well in this country and most train routes are incredibly beautiful, so I think that using the train is the best choice (and you can also save money and travel in a greener way).
Here you can find the map where all the places of the itinerary are indicated.
The itinerary starts from Zurich because I think Zurich is the easiest city to reach from all over Europe, but of course, the itinerary can start from any point you want. I tried to balance city sightseeing and excursions in nature.
Day 1: Arrive in Zürich and city sightseeing (sleep in Zurich)
Day 2: Leave Zurich to go to Neuchatel – City sightseeing and hiking (sleep in Neuchatel)
Day 3: Leave Neuchatel to go to Lausanne – City sightseeing (sleep in Lausanne)
Day 4: Leave Lausanne to go to Geneva – City sightseeing (sleep in Geneve)
Day 5: Leave Geneva to go to Chillon Castle and Vevey – Leave Vevey to go to Bern (sleep in Bern)
Day 6: City sightseeing of Bern and Thun – (sleep in Thun)
Day 7: Day in Zermatt (sleep in Visp)
Day 8: Day on a panoramic train from Visp (sleep in Visp)
Day 9: Leave Visp to go to Interlaken – Hike and outdoor sport (sleep in Interlaken)
Day 10: Interlaken – Cities by the lake (sleep in Interlaken)
Day 11: Lauterbrunnen exploration (sleep in Alpanachstad)
Day 12: Leave Alpanachstad to go to Pilatus – Hiking (sleep in Lucerne)
Day 13: Lucerne – City sightseeing (sleep in Lucerne)
Day 14: Leave Lucerne to go to Zurich – End of the tour
Day 1: Zurich
Zurich is the biggest city in Switzerland, but I think that one day is plenty of time to appreciate it. During the morning you can stroll around the old town, which is really beautiful, try some chocolate and walk by the lake.
Here you can find useful information about what to do in this city in one day, but you surely cannot miss the view from the Lindenhof square, from which you can admire an amazing view over the Old Town.
Day 2: Zurich – Neuchatel
Leave Zurich and arrive in Neuchatel. The journey duration is about 1h and 40 minutes.
Neuchatel is located between the Three-Lakes-Region and Jura and it is an old medieval city, dominated by its castle. Two hours are more than sufficient to stroll around the city and explore the old streets (here a brochure about the best things to see, which is also available at tourist offices). If you want to hike, this is the right place. One of the most beautiful trails is the Path of time, which starts at Neuchatel and ends at Chaumont. There, there is a lookout tower offering an amazing view of the city and the lake surrounded by mountains. The entry fee is 1 CHF. If you don’t want to hike you can reach the lookout tower also using a cable car (here more info about it).
Day 3: Lausanne
Leave early from Neuchatel to go to Lausanne. The journey lasts about 1 hour. In Lausanne you can spend part of the day strolling in the lakeside area (Ouchy district). Here you can admire the beautiful Château d’Ouchy (“Castle of Ouchy”), which is an old medieval castle that has been converted into a hotel, and you can also enjoy a breathtaking view of Alps on the opposite side of the lake.
In the second part of the day, you can explore the “Old Town”, which is dominated by the cathedral, considered as Switzerland’s most impressive piece of early Gothic architecture. The overlook in front of the cathedral offers an amazing view of the city, the lake and the mountains.
If you want to spend more time in Lausanne, here you can find my post about the top things to do in this beautiful city.
Day 4: Geneva
Leave Lausanne to go to Geneva. Here you can spend the day strolling around the old town and by the Geneva Lake (or Lac Leman). The symbol of this city is the Jet d’eau, the city giant fountains which is the biggest tourist attraction. Fun fact about the fountain: when it was created, in the 19th century, it wasn’t a fountain at all, but a release valve designed to relieve over-pressure from a hydraulic pumping station that powered the machines of jewellers and watchmakers at La Coulouvrenière. 500 litres per second of water flow from the jet and the cost of running it is around 800,000 CHF a year.
Day 5: Chateau Chillon – Vevey
Leave Geneva early in the morning to go visiting the Chillon Castle. The journey lasts about 1hour and 30 minutes. This castle is the most visited historic building in Switzerland, and it is so beautiful that it’s not difficult to understand why. It’s located near Montreux and it’s certainly a must-see in Switzerland. The entry fee for adults is 12.50 CHF, and I can assure the visit is worth the price.
From this castle, the charming city of Vevey is easily reachable by train. The lakeside offers breathtaking views of the Alpine panorama which surrounds the lake. One of the reasons I particularly love this city is the amazing old carousel located in the main square.
In the late afternoon (around 5) you should leave Vevey to go to Bern so that you can experience the capital of Switzerland by night. The duration of this trip is about 1 hour and a half.
Day 6: Bern and Thun
Wake up and stroll around Bern unique old medieval city centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More information about this city can be found in the here.
Around 5pm you should leave Bern and go to Thun. This journey lasts about 30 minutes both via train or car. Thun is a quite small city, so you can visit it in a couple of hours and sleep there.
Day 7: Zermatt
Leave Thun early in the morning to go to Zermatt. Zermatt is a lovely ski-resort in the district of Visp, in the German-speaking section of the canton of Valais, in Switzerland, and it is a place that you cannot really miss if you are in this beautiful country. The best way to go to the Zermatt village is by train since the area is a car-free area. Trains depart from Visp every half-hour and the ride, which takes about 1 hour, will bring you through the beautiful landscape of the deepest cleft valley in Switzerland (here you can find more info about train prices).
Once arrived at Zermatt station, which is inside the village, I suggest spending half-day exploring the village and the other half-day going up to Gornergrat, to admire the beautiful view of the Matterhorn and the surrounding mountains.
If you want to know more information about this place, here my post about what to do one day in Zermatt. At the end of the day, you should return to Visp and sleep there.
Day 8: Panoramic train (Visp – Andermatt)
It’s time to take a day to rest. Take the train which will bring you from Visp to Andermatt and spend the day 8 enjoying the view of one of the most scenic train routes in Switzerland from the train windows.
This route can be done using the Glacier Express or the regional train, which I think is the best option. If you use the regional train indeed you don’t spend extra for the touristic train and you can also stop in random small towns. For example, you can stop in Fiesch, and from there can take the cable car to reach the Jungfrau-Aletsch glacier, which is a UNESCO natural World Heritage property, or you can spend some time strolling around the cute little town.
You should be back in Visp for the night.
Day 9 and 10: Interlaken
Leave Visp early in the morning. Direction: Interlaken! This journey takes about 1 hour. The Interlaken area is the best place in Switzerland for me. How it is easy to understand, it is called Interlaken because it lies between two lakes: Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. The two lakes, with their unbelievable blue water, create a unique landscape and, at the same time, the cities around the lakes are so beautiful that you really don’t want to leave. Additionally, the area offers tons of outdoor activities to do. The first day is dedicated to outdoor activities. At the back of the Interlaken Ost station, you can start your hike to the Harderkulm, which, being the highest point of Interlaken, offers the best views of this area. If you really don’t want to hike, you can use the funicular which starts from Harder Railway valley station and takes about 10 minutes to reach the top (here you can find more information about the funicular).
In the afternoon, you can try other outdoor activities, from cycling or canoeing to bungee jumping and skydiving. You can decide the one that suits you best and do it. I decided to try paragliding for the first time in my life and it was unbelievable!
Day 11: Lauterbrunnen
The day 11 is dedicated to the exploration of Lauterbrunnen Valley. The ride from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen train station is about 20 minutes and it is provided by a private train company, thus the interrail pass is not valid (but don’t worry, the Swiss pass is still valid). The original name ‘Lauter Brunnen’ means ‘many fountains’. There are indeed 72 waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, the most famous being the Staubbach Falls.
Unfortunately, when I was there, waterfalls were not impressive probably because water was still frozen on top of the mountains, but the valley view was still really magical. Can you spot the really small waterfall in the picture?
Take your time to explore the valley and return to the station at around 4pm. Leave Interlaken to take the train to Alpanachstad, where you can sleep for the night. This ride takes about 2 hours.
Day 12: Pilatus
Mt. Pilatus is located just outside Lucerne and the top of the mountain (2119 m) can be reached by two different routes: a cogwheel train from Alpnachstad and a cable car from Kriens, a suburb of Lucerne. I used the cableway, which is divided into two rides. The first ride will bring you from Kriens to the Pilatus-Kulm stop. From there, another bigger cable car will bring you to the summit, from which you can see an amazing view of the Alps and Lake Lucerne.
If you are brave enough (and physically ready) you can also hike from Alpanachstad to the top of Pilatus. The hike starts in the big parking area north of town and it is quite long and physically demanding, but there is a great option to start the hike from Ämsigen which is the first stop of the cogwheel railway. (Here you can find more information about this hike).
Day 13: Lucerne
The city of Lucerne is one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland. The heart of the city is the Lake Lucerne. The old city is indeed built on its bank, and the landscape is completed by the surrounding Alps. When you arrive in Lucerne take some time to sit by the lake to admire the city and Alps in the background and then take some time strolling around the charming old town. The most important attractions of the city are the Kapellbrücke and the Lion Monument.
Day 14: Zurich – Back home
Your trip is over and it’s time to go back. This tour ends in Zurich, exactly where it started (assuming that you have to take a flight again from this city). If you have extra time to spend in Zurich you should go to the Uetliberg Mountain, where there is a lookout tower which offers a stunning view over the city, the lake and on to the Alps. I would also suggest taking a cruise to the lake (here more information).
This tour can be done by train or car. If you do it by train you should consider buying the Swiss Travel Pass. This pass covers all public transport (including city buses), but it doesn’t cover mountain lifts. However, it earns you a 50 percent discount on most of the mountain lifts and museums. If you are interested just to trains then you can buy the interrail ticket, which is cheaper than the Swiss Travel Pass, but it does not include buses and private train companies (like the one which goes to Lauterbrunnen). In this video, you can find more info about the Swiss Travel Pass.
Hope you found this post informative. Let me know if you wish to know more about places that are mentioned in this post.