As summer approaches, Switzerland is on my mind again. I traveled there with my family last August! Switzerland definitely is at the top of my list for favorite places I’ve been. We had some wonderfully diverse experiences within just a few hours of each other — city, town, and picturesque nature! We started in Zürich, visited Lucerne, then spent a few days in Interlaken.
Planning trips is actually one of my favorite things to do. I try to seek out travel bloggers, especially those who live in the place I’m visiting or have been there a lot. For Switzerland, and especially Interlaken, Arzo Travels was super helpful.
When I visit a city, I personally love going on a walking tour. Many companies offer free walking tours around downtown or the Old Town of a city, and local guides really make your experience great. I’ve done walking tours in Tallinn, Prague, Berlin, and so many more! Before you travel to a new city, do a quick internet search for “free walking tours [city],” sign up or take note of the meeting times, and you’ll be all set.
We arrived in Zürich in the morning and got settled before heading out for the day. Wandering around the city, we explored Bahnhofstrasse, which is world-famous for being one of the most beautiful shopping streets on earth! It’s perfect to just walk around, starting at Bahnhofplatz and heading down all the way to the lake (about a mile). And it is indeed beautiful! Here’s a handy guide.
Of course, don’t miss out on the chocolate and cheese. Here’s a sweet fact that I love to share: Switzerland is not only the biggest producer of chocolate in the world, but the Swiss also eat more chocolate per capita than any other people — almost 20 pounds a year!
Obsessed as I am, I actually put together a list of the chocolate shops I wanted to visit in advance. If you’re really into chocolate, you could also try a chocolate tour. Laderach was one of my favorite places — they sell slabs of chocolate by the kilo! We bought a bunch of different flavors to try, including almond and candied orange, and they took us probably a week to eat. We passed Honold Confiserie, an adorable shop in old town. Teuscher and Sprungli are definitely both worth a visit as well! There’s actually a Teuscher in Boston, on Newbury Street, that I have been dying to visit.
After that, we found ourselves at city park Lindenhof! It’s an elevated fort from the fourth century that was converted into a park. The view from Lindenhof was incredible, and of course we swung on the swingset like little kids! It would be a great place to have a picnic.
Zürich from above was an amazing sight, especially as it was awash in the golden afternoon light. We could see the Grossmünster (“great minster”) with its double towers, trams passing through, people walking around, and so much more beautiful architecture.
Heading down from Lindenhof, we crossed the Rathausbrücke (Rathaus Bridge) into Zürich’s picturesque old town. We half-followed this walking tour and half-wandered down Niederdorfstrasse. There are so many things to see, like churches, Europe’s largest clock face, Peterskirche, museums, galleries, fountains, and more!
We didn’t have much time in Zürich, but if you have more time, I would definitely recommend walking around near Lake Zürich or taking a boat ride! The nightlife is fun, the food is amazing, and it is definitely one of the friendlist cities I’ve visited.
The next morning, we took the train about an hour away to the town of Lucerne. We knew we would be traveling by train frequently during the trip, so we bought Swiss travel passes.
We crossed the famous Chapel Bridge, covered with vibrant pink flowers.
After that, we took an excursion by boat to Mount Rigi. Our train passes actually included this excursion for no additional cost! The views from the boat were lovely as we left Lucerne and viewed the city from afar. The water was such a bright turquoise, like no lake I had seen before.
Once we reached land, we took Europe’s first mountain railway up to the top! The Vitznau-Rigi Kulm cogwheel railway opened in 1871 and is still operational. In some places, it was so steep that I felt like I was going up a roller coaster. The views were so picturesque that it was worth it, though!
Once at the top, we hiked around, enjoyed the incredible view of the lake, saw some cows, and enjoyed warm soup from the café. Then, we took the cogwheel train all the way back down.
Back in town, we visited some shops (chocolate shops ??) and went to see the famous Lucerne Lion monument. This moving sculpture of a wounded lion was crafted in memory of the Swiss guards who were lost during the French Revolution.
In the evening, we headed back to Zürich by train.
Bright and early the next morning, we set off for Interlaken! This was the portion of the trip I was most looking forward to; I had read up on Interlaken and I was super excited to finally visit. We took the train, passing through Bern, and arrived in the late morning. To be honest, I usually read a book on long car and train rides, but I couldn’t stop looking out the window. Since it was August, everything was so green from the spring and summer rains and the melting snow. There are thousands of lakes dotting the countryside, and they were the most brilliant blue.
If you are planning to visit Interlaken (or need some convincing) look no further than this article. Arzo is so passionate about Switzerland, and her love of the beautiful Interlaken region is sure to inspire you!
We stayed at the Hotel Stella Interlaken. It’s very close to the train station and the center of town. The rooms were super cute, and we had a balcony with an incredible view of the mountain. The breakfast there was also amazing. ??
We had been planning some walking, water sports, or boat rides, but unfortunately we got rained out! Not to fear; we had a backup plan. In retrospect, it was one of the coolest sights. We took a bus out to the St. Beatus Caves in Beatenberg. A series of stairs, bridges, and waterfalls crawling up the face of the mountain looks like something out of a fairytale. We went inside with a guide, and the formations were incredible! Now here’s the crazy part; after a while, we were ushered out and down the mountain… because there was a wedding happening. Yes, a couple was getting married inside the St. Beatus caves! (And you can do it too.)
The caves look down upon the lovely Thunersee (Lake Thun), so we decided to continue by bus on westward to the town of Thun. Interlaken (literally “between lakes”) is set right between two incredible lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. On the other side of each lake are the towns Thun and Brienz, respectively.
It turns out that it was the day of the Thun marathon! The whole town was alive as so many residents from Thun and the neighboring region came to run in the marathon. We walked around the town and got to catch some of the children’s race, which was super cute. I also had the absolute best hot chocolate I have ever had. Oh my gosh. If I ever remember the name of that little cafe, I will definitely let you guys know.
We headed back along the south edge of Lake Thun and stopped in Spiez for a quick photo op. It was so picturesque, almost like a postcard! By dinnertime, we were back in Interlaken.
Although it’s traditionally only eaten in winter, we knew we couldn’t leave without trying Swiss fondue! We chose a place based on the recommendation of the concierge at our hotel. Since then, cheese has never been the same for me. Honestly. I’ve been trying to find a good fondue place in Boston for ages. When we think of fondue here in the U.S., I think chocolate comes to mind more than cheese, with various fruits and marshmallows for dipping. This is something else altogether. Melty Swiss cheese, paired with simple bread and potato pieces. So. Good.
P.S. How cute is this cheese that comes packaged in little rolls?
On our final day in Interlaken, we went canyoning with Outdoor Interlaken! White water rafting and canyoning are definitely both very popular there. I had been white water rafting once before, in Yosemite, and I absolutely loved it. But it was sold out, and I’d never been canyoning before, so it sounded like it would be a cool adventure.
Turns out I am a little… tiny bit… scared of heights? Even then, canyoning was awesome. Again, the experience was totally new to me, and although it was a little scary, climbing among rapids and jumping down waterfalls into freezing, rushing water was so thrilling! If you’re the adventurous type, I definitely recommend it!
After warming ourselves up a bit, we took a bus over to Lauterbrunnen so we could summit Schilthorn. This mountain peak is home to the unique rotating restaurant Piz Gloria, and was the filming site for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There’s a James Bond museum and a 007 Walk of Fame. A little bit down the mountain, there’s another surprise…
We took a cable car up the mountain to the first stop, Mürren. Framed by three mountains, including the famous Jungfrau, Mürren is a car-free village nestled in the mountain. We continued on to Birg. This stop is home to what is known as the Thrill Walk.
In addition to the skyline walk, which wraps around the mountain and gives stunning views of the scenery, the almost-top of the mountain hosts a series of challenges called the Thrill Walk. This included glass pathways, swinging walkways, and scariest of all, a tubelike cage hanging thousands of feet above the ground. You could climb through the tube—and I did—and dangle in the cage over thin air. Thrilling indeed!
The highest stop on the cable car was home to even more spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We watched the scenery, visited the rotating restaurant, and explored the Bond Museum. Overall, going up Schilthorn is definitely worthwhile!
We had dinner at Husi Bierhaus, which was close to our hotel and had a great atmosphere! My brother got the mac and cheese and it was to die for. My general rule of thumb is that anything involving cheese, especially in Switzerland, is excellent. Burgers are also popular in Switzerland, and they were great there. And as I was 18 when we visited, I was very excited to be able to actually order a drink at a restaurant!
We wrapped up the evening by strolling along some of the main shopping streets in Interlaken as the sun set.
Overall, Switzerland was one of the most beautiful places I have had the pleasure of visiting. Its incredible nature, wealth of activities, and smaller size make it great for any length of a trip. Plan out a couple weeks, or stop for just a few days on your way from France to Germany. After Switzerland, we continued on to Venice and then Greece! I fell in love with Switzerland, and you will too.
Have you been to Switzerland? Tell me about it in the comments below!