If you’re looking for natural beauty and outdoors activities, Switzerland is the place to go! The scenery is stunning and there are so many hikes, lakes and mountains. If you aren’t outdoorsy (hi!), the trains allow you to see this gorgeous country without leaving the comfort of a temperature-controlled environment with a bathroom. You could take the Glacier Express across Switzerland, but even just the normal trains offer great views—the ride up to Zermatt was my favorite! If you’re looking for a city vibe, Lucerne, Zurich and Bern are great stops. I don’t think they offer quite as much to see compared to other large cities in Europe, but they are still beautiful and unique. Before I get more into our trip details, let me warn you: Switzerland is SO expensive! A few people told us that beforehand, but we didn’t realize quite how much more everything is. The food, souvenirs, places to stay, etc. cost a lot more here than at the rest of our stops in Europe. Even McDonald’s is like three times the US prices. To save some money we went to the grocery stores instead of eating out at restaurants for every meal. Overall I think it’s worth the price, though! My husband disagrees, but I think it’s one of those places you need to see at least once in your life.
Zermatt was our first stop in Switzerland and it set the bar really high! The train ride up to this quaint mountain town was beautiful. The tall peaks, river with icy blue water and cows grazing in the meadows are amazing sites to see. Once you reach the town it feels like a completely different world, especially since we were used to the craziness of Paris. It’s quaint, quiet and so charming! The Bavarian style buildings are adorable (even though quite a few of them house stores and restaurants that we have in the US, like McDonald’s and Rolex). There are also a variety of cozy eateries that would be perfect for a post ski day bite.
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We stayed there for two nights and unfortunately the weather wasn’t great. We weren’t able to see the Matterhorn until our final morning as we were walking to the train station. I’m just glad we got to see it at all, otherwise I would have been really disappointed. If the weather had been better, there are a variety of outdoor activities, such as Gorner Gorge, tours to the Matterhorn and a cool suspension bridge. Otherwise you’ll want to spend most of your time at a cozy café or just walking around town. We had dinner at Café Du Pont one evening, which served authentic Swiss food such as cheese fondue and Rösti in a cozy atmosphere. Overall I loved the small, ski town vibe of Zermatt!
Our next stop was Lucerne for one night, which unfortunately was a holiday in Lucerne, so most of the restaurants and shops were closed. However, it was still fun to walk along the lake and river and see some of the other sites. Rob thought the Lion Monument was pretty cool (I didn’t) and we both liked the Musegg Wall. My favorite part of Lucerne was the Chapel Bridge. The old wood bridge is beautifully lined with flowers and crosses the bright blue water of the Reuss. As for food, we enjoyed Confiserie Bachmann because it had reasonably priced sandwiches, plus a variety of sweets! I had their hazelnut chocolate gelato, which was probably the best gelato I’ve ever had. It’s not Nutella, it’s a legit hazelnut-flavored base with chocolate swirls. We noticed that hazelnut is much more prevalent in Europe than it is in the US, which I am all for!
Last but not least—Zurich! It’s definitely the biggest city we visited in Switzerland, but it still has that charming feel to it. We spent most of our first day walking around the cobble stone streets of Old Town, which are lined with various shops, restaurants and cafes. There are also some beautiful churches in this area. The Grossmünster is one of Zurich’s most famous landmarks and has two tall towers which you can walk up and get a beautiful view of the city. Lindenhof hill also offers a gorgeous look at the city. It’s a beautiful park that looks like a secret garden when you enter and overlooks the river and Old Town.
Our favorite activity in Zurich was the boat tour on the lake. It’s 90 minutes and gives you a great view of the different villages outside of Zurich. You can also order drinks and food onboard (or sneak on your own bottle of wine). There is also a shorter tour on the river, which is 50 minutes and you get to see more of the city. Both are great ways to rest your feet while still getting a feel for what Zurich is all about.
Make sure to get some chocolate while you’re here! We loved the truffles at Confiserie Sprüngli. Cheese fondue is another must-try food item while in Switzerland. I’ll be honest, ours at Le Dézaley was slightly underwhelming and not worth the price ($30 for the cheese and house bread, which is typical). I’m glad we tried it at least once, though!
If you want to do some shopping, Bahnhofstrasse is the main street for retail. It has high end stores, but also H&M, Zara and more affordable shops. It’s just fun to window shop! There are also some unique stores along Im Viadukt, but most of them were closed when we walked by (basically the story of our trip haha). If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy spot while you’re in this area, check out the umbrellas outside of Gerold Chuchi. Honestly they weren’t that impressive in person, but they do look pretty cool in photos!
Overall I’m really glad we were able to visit Switzerland. We probably could have spent less time here, but it’s a beautiful country and I especially loved Zermatt!
Have you been to Switzerland before? What are some of your recommendations?