I went on this trip with my parents. So you know this is a very chill trip. We spent a lot of time soaking up the beauty of Swiss cities and mountains without lengthy strenuous hikes that my wife and I would surely have done. We took full advantage of the great transportation system in Switzerland and traveled north to south through the country during our one week vacation.
Day 1: Flight from Seattle to Zurich (1 night in Zurich)
Zurich is as beautiful as one can expect of a modern European metropolis. The city is built on the northwest end of Lake Zurich with the River Limmat running through it. The water is so clear that you can see the bottom and little fish swimming on the edge. I took this picture on the bridge just outside of Zurich HB (main train station).
I got into Zurich around noon and had all afternoon to explore the city. There was a street festival going on. Of course I got some street food.
Day 2: Morning train to Lucerne (40 mins) (2 days, 1 night in Lucerne)
Train system is Switzerland is much like that of Germany: clean and punctual. We planned two days and one night in Lucerne. And we were very fortunate to have fantastic weather both days.
In the first day in Lucerne, we walked around the old city starting from the city wall up the hill then followed the steps down into the city. We toured these beautiful covered bridges and a couple museums in the city. Here’s what I’d recommend for Lucerne:
- Alstadt (Old town) – very enjoyable walk, a couple hours
- Transportation Museum – huge museum, worth a visit
- Picasso museum (Rosegarten Collection) – well located in the city center. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was supposed to appreciate.
Day 3: Morning boat to Mt. Pilatus (night in Interlaken)
We took a morning boat (twice a day it’s a steam boat) from Lucerne to Alpnachstad on Lake Lucerne. Once at Alpnachstad, we hopped on a cogwheel train to the top of Mt. Pilatus. The panoramic view from the top is stunning. Once you are on top of Mt. Pilatus, you have three options to come down.
- Cogwheel train then boat or train back to Lucerne.
- Gondola (cable lifts) 2 stops get you to the bottom of other side of the mountain. From there, you need to walk about 10 minutes to bus line 1 which will take you back to Lucerne. Plenty of signs to guide you to the bus stop.
- Good old fashion walk down.
Day 4: Jungfraujock (night in Interlaken)
Interlaken is located in the middle of the country. I figured it is a good home station for several trips. As the name implies, there are two beautiful lakes on the two sides of this town with a turquoise river winding its way through it.
Going up to Junfraujock requires two train changes. Unfortunately, even if you buy a Swiss Travel Pass, you will have to pay for these tickets (albeit at a 25% discount). We payed $140 per person with Swiss Travel Pass. As shown in the picture below, there are two ways to the top .
We took Interlaken-Ost-> Lauterbrunnen -> Klein Scheidegg -> Jungfraujoch on the way up. On the way down, we went Jungfraujock -> Klein Scheidegg -> Grindelwald -> Interlaken-Ost. You do need to switch trains on this trip, but the trains are well scheduled so the wait is not long. Sit on the right side of train both ways. I thought the view was better.
Day 5: day trip to Thun and Bern (night in Interlaken)
We decided to take a day trip up to Bern from Interlaken with a quick stop in Thun. Needless to say, another two beautiful cities of Switzerland.
Let me show you some pictures of Thun:
It was well worth my three hours to walk around Thun. We sat by the river and ate a sandwich for lunch while watching guys surfing the waves, created by a river dam, below.
Now, Bern is perhaps one of my favorite cities of Switzerland. I think that is 80% because of this river which makes a u-turn around the city. Many people were floating down this river which made me very jealous. Bern is clearly a city with history and pride. It’s one of the smaller capitals of a major European country.
The tourist sites I’d recommend for a day tripper to Bern:
- Alstadt (old city)
- Munster Kirche (a beautiful cathedral)
- Clock tower
- Einstein House (he lived there for a few years right after his first marriage)
- Barengraben (A bear pit? Yes yes, I saw two black bears. I don’t know why it’s there, but it is.)
Day 6: Zermatt (night in Zermatt)
The streak of beautiful weather ended when we got to Zermatt. Zermatt is where you’d go to see the famous Matterhorn peak. If you were interested in “The Matterhorn Story“, it would be even more impressive when you see the peak with your own eyes. I am certain… Well, except we got into Zermatt on a rainy day with all the surrounding mountains socked in fog and rain, we didn’t even bother to go up the mountain. Instead, we walked around the town, toured their museums, and enjoyed a delicious hot dinner. Here are some rainy pictures of Zermatt:
Day 7: Back to Lucerne (night in Lucerne)
We caught a morning train back to Lucerne which was also rainy. The temperature also dropped noticeably as if we caught the end of summer in the beginning of the week and stepped into the fall towards the end of the week. We toured more museums in Lucerne. I’d probably never go there if it was a sunny day, but it was rainy. So Fifa museum, here I come!
Day 8: flight out
Goodbye Switzerland! It has been a fun time!
These are not criticisms of Switzerland but just my wishful thinking:
- A little bit cheaper would be nice. My parents and I spent on average $100 on every meal. It’s probably not that outrageous but some of the meals are pretty simple and I thought it was too expensive for what we got.
- A bit better food would also be nice. I enjoy food with big flavors and large portions. Swiss food had neither. It’s a matter of personal preference, I guess.
As my wife would say, it’s mostly my own fault for not trying harder to go to places with cheaper and tastier food. Perhaps true.
What do you think? Anything else I should’ve done in these cities? Feel free to leave your thoughts on a comment or any questions.