We just returned from an absolutely amazing two week trip to Switzerland. So many of you on MySwissAlps were so helpful that I wanted to repay the favor in some small way by sharing our itinerary, tips, favorites, etc.
After much research and perusal of this site, we decided on the 15 day Swiss pass. If we hadn't left our kids at home, we would have stayed longer and had a few down days at some of the places we stayed, but we used the pass every day so the ease of the 15 day pass was worth every penny. I loved just being able to hop on trains without worry if I’d paid the correct amount. A few times, we made a mistake in terms of stops, but it was no big deal. This ease more than made up for any increase in cost for us. Although I also think we more than got our money’s worth. The SBB app was so impressive and made everything so easy. We did only do carry-ons and a backpack each. We saw so many people with huge luggage trying to get on/off the trains, and we were so happy that we had more manageable luggage. I plan to trim down even further next time.
My husband actually won a trip to Lucerne for work, so we were there for the first five days of our trip. We flew into Zurich and then took a bus to the resort. We stayed in the beautiful and very expensive and exclusive Burgenstock Resort (burgenstockresort.com/en) while on the company portion of the trip. It was almost unbelievable - especially the views from their pools. I doubt that we would have paid for it on our own, but it more than lived up to the hype and expense.
We had some work-related activities during this portion of the trip, but also had fun exploring Stansstad where we had an amazing dinner right on the water at Aiola (www.al-porto.ch). In fact, when we go back, we'll probably stay at a less expensive hotel in Stansstad for our Lucerne portion of the trip. Using our Swiss pass, we did took the train from Lucerne to Arth Goldau to Rigi Schiedegg (all included on STP) because we wanted to see more of the views from both sides of the ridge and because we heard Rigi Kulm was super crowded/touristy. We love to hike, so we'd rather get out and see the views versus just standing around at the top of the mountain. It was gorgeous up there. We did about an hour hike on the Panoramaweg between Schiedegg and Kulm. If we had more time, we would have taken the cog wheel train up to Kulm and then hike back to Schiedegg, but our version was great too. We explored and loved Lucerne with our trusty Rick Steves' book as our guide. The chapel bridge, just strolling the streets, and the Picasso museum were highlights. The Lion statue was being renovated, so it wasn't much to look at. We did a VERY quick tour of the Glacier Garden and the Bourbaki Panorama because we had the STP, but I would have skipped those otherwise, although we weren't mad that we did them. While staying in Lucerne, we did a day long city tour of Zurich, which was wonderful and was nice because it left us feeling like one day was enough in Zurich. When we go back, I want to try one of those swimming baths on the water though! We also did the Lindt Museum, which was fun, but I'd skip if I had a do-over. We did some hiking/walking around Burgenstock, which was lovely, and on one of the days that my husband had work stuff, I went via train to Einsiedeln Abbey (www.zuerich.com/en/visit/attractions/einsiedeln-abbey) to see the monastery there and, specifically, the Black Madonna housed there. She was magnificent, and I loved my few hour walk around the quaint town.
After the work portion of the trip, we headed down to Zermatt in hopes of catching the Matterhorn. I booked an Airbnb with views of the Matterhorn from the porch, which we never saw in all of his glory because of cloud cover. It was still gorgeous nonetheless. It was raining all day on our travel day, so we took a layover in Bern, renting a locker for our luggage for a few hours. We did a DIY Rick Steves tour for several hours in Bern. It was fun, and I’d love to go back on a sunny afternoon. After our stop in Bern, we took a very full train to Zermatt. We didn’t worry about choosing the specific trains with panorama windows because all of the trains we rode on had large windows and trying to figure out reservations (which you have to make and pay for on many of those trains) annoyed me. I loved the ease of the STP and reservations, however easy, just annoyed me to be honest. It was rainy most of the way, so while the scenery was still breathtaking, it wasn’t as amazing as it might have been on a clear day.
Zermatt was busy and touristy, but it should be - it’s adorable and gorgeous. We ate that evening at Grizzly’s, which was tasty and cozy. We decided to get up early the next morning to check the weather about heading up to Gornergrat. When we got up, Zermatt was still pretty covered up with clouds, but MeteoSwiss (www.meteoswiss.admin.ch/local-forecasts/sion/1950.html#forecast-tab=weekly-overview) said that we would have a window from 10-noon, so we headed down to catch the 10ish train up to Gornergrat. Thanks to advice here, we decided to skip the Matterhorn Glacier Express in favor of heading up to Gornergrat by cog wheel train and hiking down to Riffelburg via the Riffelseeweg Trail. As we left the station in Zermatt, the Matterhorn was still pretty covered up, but as we pulled into Riffelburg on the way up, the clouds moved and we could see the Matterhorn clearly. I’m not ashamed to say that the beauty of it brought me to tears. We also happened to be doing this on the day of the treacherous Zermatt marathon and ultra, which just added to the energy, emotion, and beauty of our day. We went to the top at Gornergrat, took a million pictures, and then had a picnic on Steinmännchen (the rocky hill with the perfect view of the Matterhorn). At the point, the clouds rolled in to cover the Matterhorn, but our hike along the Riffelseeweg was still breath-taking and all downhill, passing frequently to cheer on the runners. It was an epic day to say the least. We took the train back down from Riffelburg into Zermatt and explored town for awhile, stopping for wine when it started to rain. We had a delicious fondue dinner at Hotel DuPont (www.restaurant-dupont.ch/).
(We also had some of the best bread of our lives at several bakeries there that they called “mountain guide bread” we think. I forgot to write it down if anyone knows what it’s called!)
From Zermatt, we headed to Wengen. It was a beautiful day, and the train ride was gorgeous. We stopped at a Coop in Zermatt for salads and had lunch on the train along the way. Wengen stole my heart. I could happily go back and just stay there for three weeks if money (and climate change) were no option! We stayed at an Airbnb with a view (and laundry) and ate most of our dinners at Ristorante da Sina, which had gorgeous views on the porch, lovely inside, reasonably priced, and the staff was wonderful. On the first day, we took the gondola up from Wengen to Männlichen (half price with our STP). The clouds were heavy when we got up there, so we hiked the Royal Walk up to the top rather than start toward Kleine Scheidegg on the panorama trail in hopes of the clouds clearing out. The clouds never cleared out enough for us to see all three peaks, but it was a glorious hike nonetheless. We had a delicious lunch at Restaurant Grindelwaldblick just before we strolled into Kleine Scheidegg. We decided to hike back to Wengen instead of taking the train back down. It was all downhill. I loved it because we got to see so much, but I think my husband would have just done the train back down next time.
The following day was our best, clearest weather day, so we headed over to Grütschalp for the hike from there to Mürren. It was glorious and breathtaking in every sense of the word. We had a delicious lunch with amazing views at Hotel Sonnenberg (jungfrauregion.swiss/en/summer/eat-and-stay/mountain-hotels-huts/mountain-hotel-sonnenberg/) before strolling into Mürren proper. They recently opened under new management, and we were very impressed. We continued onto Mürren, which was lovely (but I would stay in Wengen every time). From there, we continued onto Gimmelwald, which I would spend more time in next time. We had the best beer of the trip at Schwarz Monch (www.schwarzmonch.com/) before taking the cable car back down to Stechelberg where we caught a bus to Lauterbrunnen and then back to Wengen.
On our final full day in Wengen, we did the walk down to Lauterbrunnen and spent a few hours exploring Lauterbrunnen. We skipped the Trummelbach Falls because it started pouring, but the walk from Wengen to Lauterbrunnen was wonderful because you got to see Trummelbach and other falls from different perspectives all the way down. My husband rented hiking sticks in Wengen because we didn’t have room for his in our luggage. They were $4 a day (or less depending on how long you rented them for) and worth every penny, he said.
If we didn’t have reservations at our final stop, I would have happily stayed in Wengen, but we headed out the morning of our last day for Lake Brienz. We took the boat (free with STP) across to Isetwald. We had originally planned to ditch our luggage at the lockers in Interlaken, so that we could get off the boat at Giessbach Falls and do the walk to Isetwald, but the Interlaken Ost train station only took cash for the lockers, and we didn’t have enough and didn’t have time to change before the train we needed left. It ended up working out because you get a nice view of Giessbach Falls from the boat (and we were tired!). We got off at Isetwald, walked through town down to the swimming beach for a dip before catching the bus back to Interlaken Ost. We had a picnic along the river, and then did some shopping before catching an afternoon train to Vevey, our final destination.
Vevey felt much more like France when I’ve been in the past than any of the other places we went to in Switzerland - for obvious reasons, but, even still, I was surprised with how different it felt. The language barrier was more of an issue in Vevey than anywhere else we went. We had dinner after walking along the lake for a few hours. On our last day, we took the train to Chexbres and then walked the Terrasses de Lavaux to St. Saphorin. It was beautiful, but I don’t think you need more than an hour on the Terrasses de Lavaux trail because it all pretty much looks the same - beautiful, but the same. It’s also very hot on a sunny day because of the microclimate there that makes it so great for growing grapes. I wish we would have arrived a little later in St. Saphorin because it was charming, and I would have loved to have lunch there. Instead, we caught the train to Montreux. We hit Montreux in the midst of the jazz festival, so there were fun booths setup all along the water. Montreux was much more our speed than Vevey - it seemed quieter and more laid back. Weirdly, maybe because of the popularity of the jazz festival, many more people spoke English despite it being only one train stop from Vevey, However, I wonder if, without the jazz festival, it would have been *too* quiet for us. After a really lovely long lunch with a beautiful view of the lake at Les Voiles de La Rouvenaz (www.facebook.com/lesvoilesdelarouvenaz/). From there, we decided to head back to Vevey for a swim before dinner. We ended up on the “docks” under an umbrella and were having so much fun that I just went to the nearest Coop to get charcuterie stuff for dinner instead of going out. We had a few bottles of wine as the sun set and a band played along the water. It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip.
A note on prices: Every time we said we were going to Switzerland, people remarked how expensive it was, and I found it pricey, yes, but not as bad as I thought it would be. For one, I don’t have a problem paying for good food at home - we eat local and from farms using organic methods, as well as grow a lot of our own food, as much as possible (and have for two decades so the recent inflationary increases haven’t been nearly as much of an issue for our budget as others’ because the local food costs haven’t increased nearly as much). For two, Swiss prices on great quality cheese, bread, chocolate, meats, and wine were great and much better than what you’d find here if you could even find similar quality. For three, the Swiss don’t expect tipping unless service was way over the top, so a $25 dish is like eating a $15-$18 one at home, which is what I pay at restaurants at home. We kept our food spending under $150 a day and most days under $125, while eating and drinking great. That seems reasonable for Europe to me, especially when we were eating such great quality and delicious meals.
My tips to keep costs down would be to find local spots instead of chain type spots that seemed to be better quality, and I’m OBSESSED with their Coop stores - it was like a mix between a better Whole Foods and a local farmers market. We would buy breakfast stuff there and eat over a few days especially if we needed to get up early to hike. They also had really delicious premade sandwiches under $10 and meal-sized salads for $10.
I linked to some of our most used purchases in the great Facebook group Travel Fashion Girls if you’re a member there: www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/posts/6628662870518164/. And if you want tons of pictures of our travels, I saved all of my stories (so many!) from our trip to my Instagram highlights: www.instagram.com/sarabytheseason
Thanks to everyone at MySwissAlps for helping us plan such a wonderful trip. We loved every minute and are already saving up to take the whole family back in a few years.