Travel Tips for Switzerland
With typical efficiency, Switzerland’s road system is so excellent you could drive from one end of the country to the other in a day – but you wouldn’t see much. For a real flavour of this wonderful Alpine gem, rent a car and visit the cities of Zurich, Lucerne, Bern, Lausanne, and Geneva.
Your starting point is likely to be Zurich. Start early with a walking tour of Bahnhofstrasse and admire all the Swiss watches and jewellery you can’t afford. Then take a boat trip along Lake Zurich, before strolling the quays of Zurich, particularly the famous Limmatquai. Dusk is a good time to check out the stained-glass windows at the church, Fraumünster. Have dinner at Zurich’s celebrated Bierhalle Kropf or at the 15th-century Zeughauskeller.
Next day, start with another walking tour – this time of Zurich’s Altstadt, where you can admire the Romanesque and Gothic cathedral of Grossmünster. Another must-see is the Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum), which will give you an instant potted history of the Swiss. Take in one of Europe’s greatest art collections at the Kunsthaus Zürich, and follow up with a tour by boat and aerial cableway to Felsenegg at 795m (2,608 ft.). With its stunning views of the surrounding countryside, this is a great way to bid farewell to Zurich.
Drive 50km south of Zurich to picture-perfect Lake Lucerne. Spend the morning taking in your enchanting surroundings before visiting the Verkehrshaus der Schweiz (Swiss Transport Museum), one of the world’s best museums of its kind.
Depending on your interests, take your pick of the Picasso Museum, the Gletschergarten (Glacier Garden), or the Neues Kunstmuseum (Modern Art Museum). If you have another day in Lucerne, head for the mountains. First, take a trip by steamer and train 15km south to Mount Pilatus; then, visit Rigi, 24km east of Lucerne for the most famous celebrated view in the entire country.
Your next stop is the Swiss capital, Bern, 111km west of Lucerne. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its medieval architecture, Bern has a beautiful Altstadt that you really need to devote a couple of hours to exploring. Follow your walking tour with a visit to Mount Gurten (844m) for a sweeping view of your stunning surroundings. Then, visit the Kunstmuseum (Fine Arts Museum) to see the capital’s biggest collection of paintings by European masters. You cannot leave Bern without seeing the the famous Bärengraben (Bear Pits). End your visit with a hearty dinner of regional food and abundant wine at Klötzlikeller, the city’s oldest wine tavern.
Drive 101km southwest of Bern to the lakeside city of Lausanne, where the main draws are scenic boat trips and the medieval maze of its Vieille Ville (Old Town). Having flourished under the Romans, the town became a favourite haunts among literary giants from Dickens to Thackeray and T. S. Eliot. Devote a couple of hours to walking around Haute Ville, the Upper Town, visiting the Cathedral of Lausanne and other attractions. After lunch, stroll around Ouchy, the port and resort area of Lausanne. Picturesque flower gardens extend along the quays for half a mile. The most scenic quays are the lakeside promenades of quai de Belgique and Quai d’Ouchy.
Though a mere 60km away, Geneva is very different from Lausanne. Set at the confluence between the Rhône River and Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), the city will easily fill one hectic day of sightseeing, so start as early as you can. Spend a morning discovering La Vieille Ville (Old Town, the standout of which is the Cathédrale de St. Pierre. Spend a couple of hours walking the quays and Old Town, taking in the renowned Jet d’Eau fountain and the Flower Clock in the Jardin Anglais. If you have time, you really should join one of the boat tours of the lake.