7 Days in Switzerland - A Swiss Travel Guide
To celebrate my brother’s college graduation, we took a 7-day trip across Switzerland! It was the trip of a lifetime, and I hope to go back someday. (Maybe to photograph a wedding? Hit me up if you’re getting married here!) Travel blogs were a helpful resource for us as we planned our trip, so I wanted to document the photos and details of our travels to help anyone else planning to visit Switzerland. After tons of research, Tyler and I decided to stay in Zurich, Lauterbrunnen, and Montreux, with lots of day trips in between. We’re outdoorsy people, so places with good hiking and views of the Swiss Alps were priorities for us!
Switzerland Travel Cost
Switzerland is known for being an expensive place to travel, so I wanted to share our costs. Airfare was our biggest expense - $800 each from NYC to Zurich. But we booked our flights last minute (just 5 weeks before we left), and I’m sure we could have gotten a better deal if we’d planned further ahead.
Our Swiss Travel Passes were the next largest expense at CHF 418 for me and CHF 360 for Tyler’s youth pass since he’s under age 26. (1 Swiss franc is almost equal to 1 U.S. dollar, which made things easy when shopping!) These train passes covered basically all of our travel within Switzerland, and I’ll talk about them more later on.
Our Airbnbs and hostel ranged from $75-93 a night.
The only credit card I have that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees is my Discover, but of course no one in Switzerland accepted Discover haha. We brought 500 Swiss francs in cash with us, but I ended up using a credit card at times and that cost me about $40 in fees. We each spent around $40 in souvenirs, and I’ll go through our “activity” fees below, but they were minimal.
I didn’t keep detailed track of our food expenses, but they were kind of ridiculous. Our first day we went out for breakfast at a little cafe, and spent CHF 30 on eggs and toast. Just to give you an idea! We quickly realized it was a better plan to buy food at the local grocery store (Coop) and ended up making about 50% of our meals ourselves.
In total we spent around $1900 each for our 7 day trip.
Our first Swiss adventure was one of my favorites - although we were staying in Zurich, we headed outside of the city to hike Mount Rigi. We had a beautiful, sunny day and gorgeous views of the Swiss Alps and Lake Lucerne for the entire hike!
We took the train from Zurich Main Station (Zurich HB) to Arth-Goldau. From there, we had about a million different route options for how to get to the top of the mountain. So many combinations of trails/trains/cable cars! We decided to take the cogwheel train up to Kräbel, and then took a cable car from there to Rigi Scheidegg (normally CHF 36 but free with our Swiss Travel Pass). That’s where we started our hike on the Panorama Trail.
We had the trail to ourselves for the majority of the day, but all of the other hikers we passed were women in their 60s and 70s! Hell yes, Swiss ladies. I hope I’m still climbing mountains at that age.
One important piece of advice for anyone doing this hike - PAY ATTENTION TO THE TIMETABLE. We made sure to keep a quick pace on this hike, because we wanted to catch the last cogwheel train down the mountain in the evening (you know, instead of hiking in the dark.) But we cut it pretty dang close!
THESE VIEWS! I couldn’t put my camera down. The mountains at home just don’t compare.
These yellow signs were all over Switzerland, and were so helpful for navigating! Not just on hiking trails, but they were in the towns too, pointing to all of the major tourist attractions.
Although we were heading towards Rigi Kulm, we took the advice of another hiker and veered off the Panorama Trail onto the more difficult mountain trail (with red/white blazes). The mountain trail description warned that “hikers should be sure-footed, unafraid of heights, in very good physical shape and aware of the dangers involved in hiking in the Alps.” And I had badly sprained my ankle (sporting a fashionable walking boot) just two weeks before this trip! So I was a tiny bit nervous, but it ended up being perfectly fine. The trail was definitely narrower and not as flat as Panorama, but still relatively easy and the lake views were amazing!
One thing I will always remember about my trip to Switzerland is the cows. They were everywhere, and the sound of ringing cowbells was constant on this hike.
We finished our hike at Rigi Wölfertschen-First, where we caught back up with the cogwheel train to bring us to the top of the mountain at Rigi Kulm. There was one other passenger on the train, who was wearing a huge backpack. I assumed he was starting a long hike from the top of the mountain, but we quickly figured out that he was actually paragliding! Paragliding in the Alps seems to be a pretty popular activity, because we saw lots of it throughout our trip.
We took the train EVERYWHERE during our Switzerland trip, and it was so easy to use. We downloaded the SBB Mobile app to plan all of our travels. You enter your arrival and departure cities, and it tells you the upcoming train times, connections, platforms, and if there are any delays. We didn’t miss a single train or get off at any wrong stops the entire trip!
If you’re planning to be traveling in Switzerland for several days, I highly recommend purchasing the Swiss Travel Pass. The Travel Pass covered all of our train travel, as well as all buses, boats, most of the cable cars, and most of the museums we visited! Before our trip I had to calculate the cost of the traveling we were planning to do, and quickly figured out that it made more sense to purchase the pass. It also saved us lots of time at the train stations, because we didn’t have to purchase individual tickets for each trip.
I’ll bring up the Travel Pass a lot in this blog when talking about prices, but I’m not making any commission off promoting it! I’m just so glad we got it, so want to spread the word.
After our hike, we had dinner in Zurich at a delicious vegetarian restaurant called Hiltl.
We stayed in Zurich for just one night, and our next stop (where we stayed for three nights), was the village of Lauterbrunnen. This was the place I was most looking forward to! While planning our trip, whenever I asked anyone where we should go in Switzerland, everyone raved about Lauterbrunnen. There are 72 waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and you can see and hear them from pretty much anywhere in the village. The signature waterfall, Staubbach Falls, is the largest waterfall right in the center of town. This valley is what inspired Tolkien’s Rivendell from the Lord of the Rings books!
For this leg of our trip, we stayed at a hostel (Schutzenbach Backpackers) instead of an Airbnb. It’s such a great way to meet other travelers, and we made lots of friends to go exploring with!
On our first day, we went out for lunch at Hotel Oberland. I got a traditional Swiss rosti - a potato dish similar to hash browns. It was delicious!
We decided the first place we wanted to check out was Trümmelbach Falls, and opted to take the 30-minute walk from town to the falls rather than the bus. I’m so glad we did because the views on the walk were incredible!
I really just want to buy this house and live next to the waterfalls. I can’t even imagine having this as your front yard!
Trümmelbach Falls is a series of 10 glacial waterfalls cutting through the side of a mountain. Entry fee was CHF 11. The path to the falls was a mixture of outside along cliffs and inside the mountain through caves. It was very wet and misty so I was glad we had rain coats! And oh my gosh was it loud - the water was coming down so fast! This was actually one of the recommended “rainy day activities” I had found for Lauterbrunnen, because you’re going to get wet anyways. There was also a great view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley as we walked up Trümmelbach!
Wengen and Männlichen
The next day we took the cogwheel train up to Wengen, a cute, car-free village that is only accessible by train. We took a cable car up to Männlichen, which on nice days is a mountain with great views and hiking trails. On a rainy, overcast day though, we couldn’t see a thing. Many of the trails were still closed for winter (yes, even though it was June!), and with zero visibility, we were back on the cable car heading down within just a few minutes. This was the only thing of our whole trip that was a waste of money haha, but thankfully wasn’t much. The Männlichen cable car wasn’t included in our Swiss Travel Pass, but we got a 50% discount so we paid CHF 11.50 instead of the normal CHF 23.
We learned afterwards that you can actually view live footage of Männlichen on their website, and can do the same at most of the mountain peaks! Definitely worth checking the footage before you head up to any of them, to make sure cloud cover won’t obstruct your views.
On the train back to Lauterbrunnen, we overheard someone offering advice to another traveler about a great rainy day activity - Giessbach Falls. We met up with some friends from the hostel, and took the short train ride from Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken. From there we took a boat cruise on Lake Brienz to the falls at Giessbach See (boat cruise was free with our Travel pass, normally round trip is CHF 43). The boats were all really nice, and even had restaurants inside. I got some hot chocolate to warm up on the rainy day!
There was a great view of the falls from the bottom, near the Grandhotel Giessbach, but of course we wanted to hike to the top! This was probably the most tiring hike of our whole trip. It was very steep, but so worth it. Although the narrow bridges over the waterfalls and behind them were slightly terrifying (and I was clutching my camera close to me), it was such a cool experience.
After our hike, we went back to Lauterbrunnen and had dinner at the Hotel Silberhorn. Had some more traditional Swiss food - rosti and fondue!
The next day we had sun again! We walked around the village of Mürren (another car-free village like Wengen), and met up again with friends to take the cable car from there up to Schilthorn. This cable car ride normally costs CHF 82, but thankfully was included in our Swiss Travel Pass! This mountain was actually the filming location for a James Bond movie - On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. So there’s a fun little 007 museum (free entry), and of course we had to take pictures with the cardboard cutout of James Bond.
And the views of the Alps up here were incredible! Just 360 degrees of snow-covered mountains. You could stay on the main viewing platform, or walk down through the snow to a smaller platform below. It wasn’t a long walk, but it was kind of treacherous! The snow was slippery, and that flimsy little orange fencing was not going to stop anyone from falling off the side of the mountain to their death haha.
The cable car ride from Schilthorn down to Mürren has a stop in between at Birg. We stopped there to get lunch and to do the Thrill Walk! It was free entry, and I’m not sure I would have paid money to hang off a cliff and fear for my life anyways! The walk had lots of obstacles along the way, but I used the “oh I need to take pictures of all you guys doing it” excuse to avoid doing any myself.
It was WINDY which made the walk even more scary. I’ve got some hilarious pictures of my brother’s terrified face, but I’m being a good big sister and leaving those off the internet. You’re welcome Ty.
The temperature change when we got back down to Mürren was drastic - the cold weather at the top of Schilthorn was gone, and it was time to ditch the jackets. From Mürren, we decided to hike down to Gimmelwald, following those helpful yellow signs I’d mentioned before. It was a short, easy hike with lots of cows, and of course those Swiss Alps views all around.
From Gimmelwald, we took another cable car down to Stechelberg, and caught the bus to bring us back to Lauterbrunnen.
Remember how I said you could see waterfalls everywhere? These were the views right outside our hostel!
Leaving Lauterbrunnen and the German-speaking area of Switzerland, we head to the French region, to the city of Montreux. This beautiful city on Lake Geneva is known for its music. Montreux hosts the second largest jazz festival in the world every July - we missed it by just a couple weeks. Probably for the best, because it would have been hard to find an affordable Airbnb! The musical influence is everywhere - there’s a park with statues of famous jazz musicians, and a giant Freddie Mercury statue on the shore of the lake.
We took another cogwheel train from Montreux up to Rochers-de-Naye. Like every single train ride we took in Switzerland, the views were beautiful! This one was part of the special GoldenPass rail system, known for it’s panoramic views, and not covered in our Travel Pass. It got us a discount though, so it only cost CHF 25 instead of the normal CHF 70. Totally worth it for the views at the top!
We didn’t hike too far (lots of the trails were still covered in snow), but I loved looking down over Lake Geneva while surrounded by the Alpine peaks. There was also a “Marmot Paradise” exhibit, which consisted of one marmot in a cage. Maybe they are more active at different times of the day or year, but I wasn’t too impressed haha.
One of the best things to do in Montreux is to walk along Lake Geneva on the promenade. There were beautiful flowers lining the entire path, and lots of vendor booths and live music. The empty docks made for perfect, Instagram-worthy photos with the lake and Alps in the background. (Some docks had privacy signs up; I’m sure all the tourists taking pictures on them must get annoying).
We walked all the way down to the castle, Château de Chillon, but it was already closed for the day. Right next to the castle was a small beach area, where lots of people were laying out and going swimming!
Our next day in Montreux was rainy, so we decided to do a few museums. Our first stop was Nest, all about the history of the Nestlé company. It wasn’t actually in Montreux, but nearby in the town of Vevey. Now I am NOT a museum person - I usually get bored very quickly, but I thought this one was great. It was very interactive, and I thought the history of the company was really interesting (I had no idea Henri Nest actually started it making infant formula!) I don’t know that I’d say it’s worth the entrance fee (CHF 18), but for free with the Travel Pass I’d recommend it.
Our next museum stop was the Alimentarium - a museum about food. While I love to eat food as much as the next person, the museum wasn’t that interesting. It might be more fun for kids, just not for adults. But I did enjoy the giant fork in the lake out front! Entrance fee was CHF 13, or free with the Swiss Travel Pass.
Château de Chillon
Instead of walking to Chillon Castle this time, we took another boat cruise (free with our Travel Pass). This thousand-year-old historic castle made me feel like I was in Game of Thrones! It was a lot of fun to walk the grounds; it seemed like almost everything was accessible. At lots of historic sites there are roped off sections you can’t access, but I felt like we could walk everywhere! We only did a self-guided tour, but they do have tour guides as well. The free pamphlet gave a recommended path to take through the castle, and there were also audioguides available for rent. Entry fee is CHF 12.50 or free with the Swiss Travel Pass.
Queen: The Studio Experience
Our last stop in Montreux was at Queen: The Studio Experience. Mountain Studios was where Queen recorded seven of their albums, and it’s where Freddie Mercury recorded his last song. The small museum had lots of Freddie’s costumes, handwritten lyrics, the band’s instruments, and you could play in the sound studio to create your own version of “Made in Heaven.” On the outside of the building was a huge wall where fans have left messages and drawings. There was no entrance fee, but donations are accepted. Sitting in the same room where Freddie Mercury recorded is a very cool experience for any music fan!
FIFA World Football Museum
Before catching our flight out of Switzerland, we had one final stop to make in Zurich at the FIFA World Football Museum. There was tons of memorabilia, with each World Cup getting its own display. Lots of jerseys, fun soccer trivia, and the actual World Cup trophy! This would be a blast for kids too, because they had tons of little soccer games to play.
Our week in Switzerland flew by so fast! We only scratched the surface of all the things to see and do there, but were happy with our itinerary and the places we got to visit. Hopefully this guide is helpful for anyone else planning a trip. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
Making other travel plans? Check out my blog post about my trip to Madeira, Portugal!