We were clueless when we planned our Switzerland trip, which is why I created this travel guide for you for what to do in Switzerland for 7 days. To say that Switzerland is a beautiful country would be the understatement of the century. The nature, the beauty and the charm all surpassed my expectations.
Switzerland is a very small country, just slightly larger than the state of Maryland to give you a comparison. This is good news for travelers who are hoping to see a good chunk of the country in a short period of time. When my girlfriends and I were planning the trip, we struggled to decide which parts of the country to prioritize to visit in 7 days, relying on friends’ recommendations and Rick Steves. Everyone said something different. I’m here to set the record straight. To give you a day-to-day guide on how to tackle Switzerland in 7 days.
Book a multi city flight so you can fly into one city and fly out of another (avoiding an extra train ride at the end of your trip). I would fly into Zurich and out of Geneva, making your way from Northern Switzerland (close to Germany) down to Southern Switzerland (close to France).
Arrive in Zurich.
Purchase an 8 day Swiss Pass ($385), which will get you unlimited train and bus rides around the country AND significant discounts on cable car rides at popular mountains and free access to museums. We added up the cost of individually purchasing all of our train, bus and cable car rides for our itinerary and the Swiss Pass was more cost efficient plus it saved us the headache of having to buy train and bus tickets every time we went somewhere. I should also mention here that Switzerland is a VERY expensive country, so brace yourself. Like $6 for a drip coffee, expensive. We were mindful of that and packed lots of protein bars and oats for snacks and breakfast so we didn’t have to buy every meal out.
Take the train from Zurich to Lucerne/Luzern (~ 45 minutes). Lucerne is a quintessential, charming Swiss town situated on a beautiful lake (Lake Lucerne) with iconic covered bridges and snowcapped mountains in the distance.
This is the Airbnb we stayed in. Super central – only 3 minute walk from train station and to the lake and old town. The only downside is there is no A/C if the weather is hot while you’re there.
Explore Lake Lucerne and the Old Town.
Get drinks at Hotel Montana for the SPECTACULAR VIEW.
Take the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus. A boat will pick you up from the pier at Lake Lucerne (included in Swiss Pass) and you’ll have an hour boat trip across the lake to the Alpnachstad at the base of Mount Pilatus. From there, you can take the cogwheel railway up the top of the mountain (about 30 minutes and discounted with Swiss Pass). Have lunch up at the top and take in the views! Take the aerial cableway down to the first stop, Frakmuntegg and hike from here all the way down to Kriens (about a two hour hike). From Kriens, you can take a bus back to Lucerne.(on the boat ride – you can see Mt. Pilatus in the distance)
(view from the cogwheel railway ride up the mountain)(one of the views from the top!)
Grab a bottle of wine and take out and picnic by the lake.
Visit Laderach in the train station for some of the best Swiss chocolate.Day Three:
Take the train/bus/cable car to Gimmelwald.
Gimmelwald is not a tourist destination. I repeat, Gimmelwald is not a tourist destination. In fact, if you tell locals you’re going to Gimmelwald, they’ll assume you misspoke and that you meant Grindelwald (a resort town close to Gimmelwald that is more popular among tourists). Gimmelwald is perfect if you’re looking to get off the grid, get away from cars, lots of people and the hustle and bustle of tourists. Rick Steves turned us on to Gimmelwald, saying “If heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald.” Gimmelwald is a tiny, tiny village (population: 120) located in Bernese Oberland, half way up the mountain between Stechelberg and Murren, at 4,500 feet elevation. From Lucerne, you’ll take the train to Interlaken. Change trains at Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen. Take the bus from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg. Take the cable car from Stechelberg up to Gimmelwald. The total trip from start to finish is about 3 hours.
(the town was up above this cliff)(Gimmelwald’s cable car stop)
Stay at Hotel Mittaghorn, owned by Walter, 92 years old, for a totally rustic, no frills experience. The sound of cow bells outside the hotel will rock you to sleep. This place was also recommended by Rick Steves and who knows he might just pop in while you’re there (can’t make this stuff up!)
(you can just see the top of the hotel we stayed at in the distance)
(the honesty shop is a real thing. you walk in. you leave your money in a box and take your items. such a beautiful concept.)
Take the cable car up to Mount Schilthorn. Take in the views at the 360 degree rotating restaurant, Piz Gloria, and at the lookout point. And get ready for more James Bond branding than you could ever imagine. They filmed an old James Bond movie at this mountain top and they are obviously very, very proud of their hollywood claim to fame. Try to time this trip up to the top on a clear day. We hit a bout of bad weather when we were in Gimmelwald and unfortunately saw more clouds up at the top than we did mountains.
(look Ma, I’m in the clouds!)
(And there’s Bond! James, Bond.)
Have fondue for dinner in the town of Murren at Restaurant La Grotte in the Hotel Blumental. Murren is a slightly bigger (population: whopping 450) town one cable car stop up the mountain (or 30 minute hike) from Gimmelwald. This restaurant was also recommended by Mr. Rick Steves and the fondue was FANTASTIC. It totally surpassed the fondue I had later in the trip that was named “Switzerland’s best fondue by the Wall Street Journal.” Ask for a table outside so you can eat your delicious fondue while gazing out at the mountains that surround you
Have a gluhwein (German mulled wine) for a night cap at Hotel Alpenruh in Murren.
Go for a long hike on one of the many hiking trails on the mountain.
Have lunch or dinner at the Hotel Pension Restaurant in Gimmelwald. Small menu but delicious, homemade foods and possibly some impromptu live music at night if you’re lucky!
Meet Rick Steves! Seriously, we just happened to be hanging in the hotel common area (trying to dry off after getting caught in the rain from a hike) and who walks in the old hotel door, the man of the hour, Rick Steves! He was super sweet and humble and thanked us for following his travel guides.
Take the cable car/bus/train to Geneva. You’ll take the cable car down to Stechelberg. The bus back to Lauterbrunnen. The train from Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken. Interlaken to Bern. And Bern to Geneva. The trip in total takes about four hours.
stay at this airbnb in Geneva – super comfortable and great central location, 5 minute walk from the train station.
Explore Old Town Geneva.
Explore the Happy Hour Scene on Rue de l’Ecole-de-Médecine. Stop at Cafe du Lys for a glass of Swiss rose.
Grab Dinner at Le Comptoir Canaille for a delicious, fresh, homemade meal with the sweetest owner.
Geneva wasn’t my favorite city but there is plenty to do outside of Geneva by taking day trips. Stay tuned for another blog post on day trips outside of Geneva!
Visit Lavaux (wine) region. Take the train from Geneva to Lausanne and then to Cully. Travel time: about 1 hour.
Wine (and cheese) taste at VINORAMA.
Grab a casual meze dinner at Cafe Gavroche.
Take a day trip to Gruyeres, where they make Gruyere cheese! Take train from Geneva to Romont. Romont to Bulle. And Bulle to Gruyeres. About 2 hours total travel time.Visit La Maison du Gruyere and try to catch them making cheese!
Walk the Old Town and Visit Gruyeres Castle.
Eat fondue at Le Chalet – Wall Street Journal named its fondue “the best in Switzerland.”
Get creeped out (and a drink) at HR Giger Bar.For more deets on the day trips to Lavaux, Gruyeres and Annecy, France, stay tuned for another blog post next week!
5 Key Takeaways to Remember When Traveling Switzerland for 7 Days:
- The train is super efficient and easy to navigate to make your way around Switzerland without having to worry about renting a car and parking. Get a swiss pass if you’ll be taking the train around!
- Make sure you balance your time between cities and remote mountain locations. The cities are great but the small little mountain town was by far my favorite.
- Remember Switzerland is an expensive country so plan accordingly. Plan to make breakfast and coffee wherever you’re staying to cut costs. I mean who really wants to spend $6 on a small black coffee?!
- Consider day trips outside of the cities to explore more remote locations.
- Prepare yourself for eating copious amounts of cheese for a week ;).
Tell me, have you ever been to Switzerland? Was this travel guide helpful?