Nestled in between Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Lichtenstein, Switzerland is a beautiful mix of individuality and blend of cultures. The scenery feels like it has been hand crafted and there is a general sensation of being in an advert for luxury yoghurt or chocolate wherever you go- well there was for me anyway! Snow capped mountains, glistening lakes and flower filled meadows are just some of the delights you can explore or head into the city for cobble stones, quaint architecture and fantastic people watching.
Particularly well known as a great ski destination Switzerland’s topography makes it perfect for any season. The transport is some of the most efficient, timely and fun in the world allowing you to get around easily whilst having a good time! So let’s explore Switzerland in a weekend!
Fly into Zurich and set up base here, you’ll find the cheapest flight deals and with over 1450 connections and departures via rail, bus and tram you can access pretty much anywhere.
Having arrived and checked-in to your accommodation, freshen up and head straight down town via the tram. For such an influential, business orientated city I was taken aback as to how beautiful and historic the center was. Central Alstadt could be considered living history, you literally feel like you’ve been transported back into Medival times. The beautiful winding lanes, leaning buildings and towering church spires are something of a wonder. The cobbled streets lead you to Grossmünster, the Great Minster with iconic double towers or the Fraumünster where you can see the spectacular stained glass windows. Keep your eye out for the biggest clock face in Europe which sits on Peterskirche or window shop at the expensive boutiques nestled in the uneven shop fronts.
Next I took a walk towards Lake Zurich for a picnic or spot of lunch. Everything here has been designed to optimize your enjoyment of the water and surrounding areas. Everywhere you look people are sunbathing, playing games, taking a plunge, or enjoying deliciously expensive ice cream. Find a rock to perch on or lay out a towel on the grass, dangle your feet in the water whilst reading a book or stop by a bench to people watch.
After devouring my ice cream and watching the model like population enjoy the lake I jumped on the water taxi to take the most scenic public transport in town. A beautiful way to travel, we floated under bridges, alongside old buildings and fascinated tourists. It gives you another perspective of this beautiful city whilst allowing you to relax and enjoy the water. For dinner I grabbed sidewalk dim sum to finish the day and ate it next to the river watching the water taxi’s drop off and pick up more clients.
Excited at the prospect of getting out of the city and seeing the mountains I jumped out of bed and made my way to the train station. Here you can purchase a ticket that gives you access to a variety of transport all day, from the train to trams, boats or water taxis, everything is included for 24 hours in the specified zones. It’s good value and an easy way to see more of Switzerland and breath some of that fresh mountain air.
With my ticket in hand- which may have taken a little time to acquire due to the language barrier- I would also recommend coming equipped with sturdy shoes, a warm layer or waterproof and a little pack with water and snacks. Now it was time to begin my challenge to ride as many forms of transport as possible.
I started with the train and rode it on down to from Zurich to Lucerne. A point to note here, Swiss trains run on time to the second, they are some of the most efficient transport systems in the World so just remember that if you are running a little late, chances are you’ll miss your train! After disembarking the train I had a pleasant amble through the little village to the funicular railway or cogwheel train stop. This tram like train is designed specifically for very steep inclines, basically as the cogs turn they lock in every time to prevent the train running back down the hill! Although it’s slower it makes for a very enjoyable scenic trip to the top of beautiful Mount Rigi. You can get off at any point along your journey but I would suggest waiting until the last stop- Rigi Kulm which takes you to the mountains highest point. On a clear day you can see across the Alps and into North Germany if you’re lucky, which given the fog that day I was not!
I stopped for a machined hot chocolate at the cafe on the top after a wander around all the views. To get back to the bottom you could catch the same train down or, like I did, walk. It’s a beautiful trail that takes you by tracks, through tiny little clusters of houses and rewards you with even more views. It’s an easy trail that takes you about an hour and brings you nicely to the next form of transport, the cable car.
An extremely fun and steep ride down the rest of the mountain, you can see the lake getting ever closer as you near the bottom. The town of Weggis is beautiful, flower lined with an open pavilion where you can watch people take a dance class whilst you wait for the ferry to arrive. I decided to sit on the outside deck in order to take in as much of the view as possible, with mountains surrounding me and the lake glistening it was all but picture perfect, aside from the gusting wind coming off the water. The ferry drops you in Lucerne in a great central location to allow you to explore the town.
I found Lucerne to be yet another stunning place with authentic Medieval architecture, another beautiful Alstadt and interesting history. One of the most iconic features here is the Kapellbrücke, a covered wooden bridge built in 1333, it has paintings on the roof running all along that show of times past. Not all are intact due to a fire that occurred, but those that have been saved are great to look at. The diagonal bridge runs across the river and has a water tower built into it which makes it fascinating to walk on and look at from a distance. I stopped for a spot of lunch whilst sitting on a grassed area next to the water that had beer trucks and sunshine!
With my legs tired and sightseeing maxed out I caught the train back to Zurich and met a friend for Fondue, a Swiss speciality that you must try. Selections of bread and meat that you can dip in a variety of oils and vinegars before submerging it into a pan of melted cheeses. How else would you end the perfect day?!
For my final day in Switzerland I combined both Mountains and the City. Making the most of the sunshine and fresh air I visited Uetliberg, Zurich’s local mountain, for some amazing views and meadow walks. The train too me to the summit which allows for a mildly strenuous walk to the lookout point, which is completely worth it. At the top there is a steel framed unit that you can climb to get even wider views or stop for a coffee and frankfurter at the cafe. After having admired all that Zurich has to offer I started off one of the trails. This time I enjoyed alpine meadows filled with flowers, remote barns selling their homemade jams and forests to provide a little shade. I’d by lying if I didn’t feel like I was in the Sound of Music, frolicking through fields with cows who wore bells, which made this experience even more enjoyable for me! You can take this trail at your own pace and cover a variety of distances which adds a great flexibility.
Having taken in the mountain air and stretched my legs I headed back into Zurich to enjoy dinner with a friend. Despite the city being a popular financial hub with a unique Old Town, there are still areas of the city that have a lot of personality. Dinner this evening for example was at Frau Gerolds Garten, frankfurters on a wooden balcony that looked onto a stack of converted containers- for which I have a personal obsession. The atmosphere was fantastic with fairy lights and locals and a million miles away from downtown. I finished the night with dessert in Clouds @ Prime Tower, a cocktail bar and restaurant that provides views of the city and Zurich’s intricate railway system. Although top end pricing it was a fun experience and a great place to meet up with a friend.
Switzerland is a place, filled with such beauty it appears never ending. Three days of course won’t be enough to see everything, but I think it gives you a good taste of what this country is about and provides inspiration for the future trips you will naturally be planning!