Snow-covered Alps. Pristine, glimmering lakes. Lots of cheese and chocolate. Switzerland is at once modern and historic, where you can cross a wooden bridge adorned with 15th-century paintings, as well as take a train up a mountain to see the Matterhorn up close and personal. Nature here is imminent, beauty is everywhere, and Switzerland is truly as stunning as they say (“they” being me!). And you can all this and more on an incredible 5-day Switzerland itinerary!
This itinerary takes you through the best of Switzerland in a short 5 days. From the old town of Zurich with stunning churches and cobblestone streets, to Lucerne with its enormous glittering lake and historic fortress you can climb to see the city from a bird’s eye view.
You’ll be traveling up the side of mountains in Lauterbrunnen by cable car to stay in the world’s most beautiful hostel in the Alps, where flowers bloom all summer and the sound of cowbells fill the air. And you’ll come face to face with the famed Matterhorn, the face of a country (and a candy bar).
Not to mention dining on cheese and chocolate. There’s lots of that.
Switzerland has so many surprises that are just waiting to be explored (like glacial waterfalls in a mountain!?) and this 5-day Switzerland itinerary will tell you how to do them all. Let’s get to it!
Psst: Planning a visit to Europe or the Switzerland area? Check out some of our other posts to help you plan your trip!
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Things to Know about Visiting Switzerland
I had lots of questions before heading to Switzerland. Like, how do I get around by train? (Easily, luckily!) How much German do I need? (Not a whole lot it turns out.) Can I survive on cheese and chocolate alone? (Apparently yes, though I did start to crave a vegetable now and again.)
Are five days enough to explore Switzerland?
Since 200 years is not a viable option, this 5-day Switzerland itinerary definitely gets the job done (this itinerary does not include travel days). In five days you are able to see four cities/towns with varying landscapes and get a taste of what Switzerland has to offer (like cheese and chocolate).
Where does this 5-day Switzerland itinerary start and end?
You will be flying in and out of Zurich Airport, Switzerland for this itinerary, since it’s the biggest airport in Switzerland and therefore the cheapest and easiest to access!
How do I get around Switzerland?
Switzerland has an incredible train system that is not only extremely reliable and on time, but will get you between each of the destinations on the itinerary within one and 3.5 hours, since the entire country is about the size of the state of Kentucky. The trains are also very clean and super relaxing; you will literally be sitting and oohing and ahhing over the landscapes as you travel to your next destination!
Exploring each of the cities and towns on the itinerary is just as easy – there are buses, cable cars, and most of the places you will be exploring will be done on foot!
I highly recommend getting a 6-day 2nd class Swiss Travel Pass (remember, you’ll have to get back to the airport), which not only covers trains but most of the excursion transportation on this 5-day Switzerland itinerary (I’ll denote the one excursion it doesn’t work for). This pass pays for itself and takes the guesswork out of buying each ticket and excursion tickets. It’s really a lifesaver and a deal!
What’s the best time of the year to visit Switzerland?
Since this 5-day Switzerland itinerary is for warm-weather activities, the best time to visit Switzerland is July-October.
I visited at the end of September and the weather was nearly perfect – days in the mid-70s while some nights in the alps got into the 40s. That being said, you will be taking an excursion to see the Matterhorn up close so you’ll want a winter jacket and boots for the snow! September is also a great time if you want to see the parade of cows in Lauterbrunnen.
Since it is so temperate during this time, you can expect to see lots of beautiful wildflowers and gardens, especially up in the Alps, where it’s like perpetual spring.
Do I need to learn German?
Lia swore I didn’t need any German… but I think a little German goes a long way!
I am a person who loves learning languages, and if I didn’t spend two weeks frantically planning this itinerary I would have studied German on Duolingo. While nothing bad happened by not knowing any German, I did have some lost in translation moments that would have been helpful with a little conversational ability.
And though I keep saying “German”, you should know that German is only one of FOUR national languages of Switzerland. That’s right. Four. German, Italian, French, and Romansh.
While this itinerary takes you mostly through German-speaking Switzerland, expect to hear all these languages and more! Basically learn greetings in all these languages if possible – it’s like every person you talk to will greet you differently.
The most fun (and common) way to say goodbye is “Tschüss“, so at least learn that!
What apps should I download for Switzerland?
One thing I discovered about Switzerland is that since it is such a small country with only 8.5 million residents, they actually have their own apps which makes getting around and planning easier!
Here are the Swiss apps I used and a few others that will help with general traveling:
- MeteoSwiss: This is a Switzerland-specific weather app that is far more useful than the normal weather app on your phone. You can search weather by area, and it will give information as to when precipitation is expected. I know that sounds like every other weather app but trust me, it’s more accurate and very useful for trying to see the elusive Matterhorn!
- SBB Mobile: This is the app for the train and bus service in Switzerland, and will have timetables and platform numbers. This is a good app to have on your phone, though I pretty much just used Google Maps the entire time and it gave me the same, accurate information.
- Google Maps: You will need this. Not only is it helpful for train times and platforms, but it will also help you find places mentioned in the itinerary and give you specific walking directions. It’s also good to have if you need to type in “food” at any point. Walking all day makes you hungry!
- Google Translate: Unless you are fluent in German, you will want to have this downloaded to translate words you don’t know. Though a lot of signage and menus are in English, that’s not always the case. You can even use the camera function to translate in real-time.
The Perfect 5-Day Switzerland Itinerary
I was lucky enough to explore Switzerland this past September before going to Austria to attend the Propel Blogging Conference in Vorarlberg (feel free to check out my Vorarlberg photo guide too!). Since Lia was pregnant, I, Richie Goff, the Editor-in-Chief of Practical Wanderlust, got to travel to Switzerland instead (tough life, I know).
Before leaving for Switzerland I only had about two weeks to plan an itinerary for a country I’ve never been to, and lucky for you, I have done the hard work and can give you tips and tricks to not only get the most out of your trip, but getting around!
By following Lia’s Ultimate Practical Travel Planning Guide I was able to make wise planning decisions, and also get around on a budget (this is a budget blog after all)!
Day 1: Zurich and Lucerne, Switzerland
- Today you’ll be exploring Old Town Zurich before hopping on a train to explore Old Town Lucerne (old towns are a thing in Europe)!
- Travel Time: However long it takes you to fly into Zurich, plus a 40-minute train ride to Lucerne!
Day one in Switzerland! The hills are alive with the sound of music. Well, not yet, you’re not in the hills yet!
Walk around Zurich Old Town
Today you arrive in Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, where commerce and big city living mix with a wonderful Old Town with cobblestone streets and gorgeous churches. This is where you will be exploring on foot!
This 5-day Switzerland itinerary starts bright and early, which is exactly what it was when I stepped off my red-eye flight at 8am. Before you leave the airport, find a bathroom to brush your teeth and use before heading into town. Once you’re done with that, hop on the train to Zurich HB (Head B*tch?), the main train terminal in Zurich.
Once you arrive at Zurich HB, you’re going to take the stairs up to the level before the main terminal where you can rent large lockers to store your luggage, which you will keep there until you leave for Lucerne. The cost is about 15 Swiss Francs.
Now that you are unencumbered by luggage, you can head up to the main terminal where you can go to the currency exchange if needed, or head right outside in the c̶r̶u̶e̶l̶ ̶u̶n̶r̶e̶l̶e̶n̶t̶l̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶s̶u̶n̶ beauty of another gorgeous morning.
The idea here is to head south from the terminal, and stretch your legs as you walk along the Limmat River, where you’ll see cute shops and a little bridge called the Mühlsteg where people hang love locks. You’ll ultimately be meandering towards your first stop: Lindenhof.
Lindenhof is a gorgeous little park, which after a set of stairs, gives you an overview of Old Town and the river. The park is quiet, where you will see people walking their dogs and you’ll be able to see all the spires and architecture dating back as old as 1231 AD. Sit on a bench and contemplate that you’ve made it to Switzerland – and it’s just the beginning!
Once you’ve taken in enough views, head out on the opposite side of the park (still going south), and start walking down the cobblestone streets towards that BIG clocktower in the distance. This is the Church of St. Peter, which actually has the largest clock face in Europe. Talk about a big head!
While you can certainly visit this church, honestly nothing all that exciting is inside, so I recommend you keep walking until you reach the Fraumünster, a dramatic and regal Gothic church that is famous for stained glass windows made by Marc Chagall.
It’s 5 CHF to enter the church, but well worth it to see these five stunning windows which depict different biblical scenes in red, blue, yellow, and green by a true master artist in his indelible modernist style. Also inside, you can explore the remnants underneath the church from when the site used to be an “abbey for aristocratic women”, whatever that means.
Next, head out of the church and cross the Münster Bridge towards the other side of the river, where Old Town continues. At this point, you’re probably getting hungry, okay, starving, so head over to Café & Conditorei 1842.
While this cozy and iconic cafe decked out in Baroque style is known for its beautiful patisseries, you can order traditional Birchermüesli (Swiss oatmeal) or a delectable Egg Benedict on a bagel. Honestly, if you skip the savory stuff and jump for one of their artful patisseries, like their famous lemon tart or their chocolate cake with gold leaf, I won’t blame you.
Once you have some food in your belly, wander around the east side of the river in Old Town, heading north. This side of the river is not as high elevation, and you’ll expect to see more shops than giant old churches, but it is still gorgeous. Your goal is to meander north (or catch the nearest tram) and end up back at Zurich HB to pick up your luggage and catch your train to Lucerne.
Journey to Lucerne, Switzerland
Be sure to check Google Maps to see when the next train to Lucerne is, and pick a direct train so you don’t have to transfer several times which can be confusing (though Google Maps is good about telling you which platforms you need to go to).
Your 2nd class Swiss Travel Pass will work for this journey (and as I mentioned before, all train journeys except one excursion), so no need to go to a ticket booth – they will check your ticket on the train during your journey. Just make sure you get in the train car that has a “2” on the side of it, which is most of the train cars. The ones with a “1” on them are first class, and you may be fined if found in the wrong carriage.
Guess what? Now you get to sit back and watch the stunning Swiss countryside roll by. You’ll see lots of hills, farmland, adorable Lego-like houses, and plenty of cows. Ahhh, c’est la vie!
Explore Lucerne, Switzerland
Once you arrive in Lucerne, you will be heading to the Hotel Alpha, located at Zähringerstrasse 24, 6003 Luzern, Switzerland, about a 10-minute walk from the train station.
Hotel Alpha is a modern, clean, and affordable traveler’s hotel with a pretty fabulous breakfast. While the (quite spacious) room I booked did not have its own bathroom, it did have a sink and the bathroom was across the hall – where I never saw anyone.
Once you get washed up and relax a bit (hey, you’ve been traveling, take it easy on yourself), head down toward the river to explore, you guessed it, Old Town Lucerne.
Lucerne (or as the Swiss spell it, Luzern) became an official city in 1178 and is situated by a huge lake with medieval towers jutting towards the sky. The city also contains some pretty iconic spots, like a wooden bridge from the 14th century depicting scenes of death and a world-famous lion carved into the side of a hill. Let’s just say this entire city is a vibe.
The best place to see all these sites and more is to explore them on foot. You can play it fast and loose and wander around the old town, or you can follow this excellent self-guided walking tour to hit all the sites in one fell swoop. Either way, let me highlight some of the fascinating sites for you!
The Spreuer Bridge is a handsome timber bridge that runs across the River Reuss, where you can listen to the sound of the water rushing and take in the colorful Swiss buildings from a different vantage point. The most striking thing about it though is the paintings by a man named Caspar Meglinge from the 17th century painted above you as you walk.
Each scene depicts the Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) – death, depicted as a pallid corpse or skeleton, lurking by his next victim ready to take their life. As you cross the bridge, you’ll come across 45 of these paintings. Gruesome? Sure. But that’s medieval art for you, where even the cats look ridiculous.
After crossing the bridge, you’ll head to the Musegg Wall, a medieval defensive wall that is about 2600 feet long with nine towers dotting it like crown jewels. The best part about it? You can climb the first tower and walk along the wall, checking out several of the towers and getting the most stunning views of the city.
Beware that not only is it a hike up a hill to get to the first tower, but the towers involve a LOT of steps. Like – how do they keep going? They are steep, wooden, and will leave you (probably) winded as they did me, but they are worth it to reach the top and pretend you are a guard on duty, overlooking the city.
I stayed on top of the first tower, which is open for you to overlook the city for a long time. Was it because I was about to go into cardiac arrest? Maybe. But it was mostly because I simply could not get over the view of the city. The Spreuer Bridge, the turquoise river running through the heart of town, Lake Luzern and the mountains in the distance. This is a place to rest and contemplate – you’re in Switzerland!
After your spiritual enlightenment brought on by sheer overexertion, meander down the rest of the wall and check out the other towers, all of which have long German names and some of which include clocks. Take your time, it’s a gorgeous stroll.
By this time, you’re probably exhausted. It’s been a day, hasn’t it? Hell, I bet you’re worn out just reading this. So if you have some time, wander around the streets a bit more before dinner. Head back over the river by way of the Chapel Bridge, another wooden bridge with paintings, which are less about death and more about Swiss history and Christendom.
You can also stop by the Jesuit Church, Switzerland’s first Baroque sacred building completed in 1677. It’s an iconic building, with its onion domes and baroque and rococo stucco. It’s gilded and ornate inside, and worth taking a peek inside and saying hi to Jesus.
Eat Cheese Fondue for Dinner
Dinner tonight is at Fondue House Du Pont. Make a reservation in advance (I made mine for 7pm), and request that you sit by the windows overlooking the river. You’ll have a stunning view of the water and the Jesuit church, and when the weather is nice, they open the windows!
As you guess by the name, tonight you will be eating fondue. I had never had fondue in Switzerland before, and the staff was super friendly in helping me to order my first b̶̶̶u̶̶̶c̶̶̶k̶̶̶e̶̶̶t̶̶̶ ̶̶̶o̶̶̶f̶̶̶ ̶̶̶c̶̶̶h̶̶̶e̶̶̶e̶̶̶s̶̶̶e̶̶̶ pot of fondue.
I ordered an Aperol Spritz to start, which was my first one ever, and if you haven’t had this delightful orange Prosecco drink you must try it here. For my food, I ordered the Herbal Cheese Fondue, which was salty and garlic-y and came with bread and potatoes. It was incredible, and I couldn’t finish it on my own, definitely something to share (as it’s intended to be)!
As I stuffed myself to the brim with salty cheese as the kind staff cheered me on (seriously, they kept telling me I could do it), and I watched the sunset over Lucerne. Once you’re done with dinner, wander around the town at night and enjoy its charm with twinkling lights and the sound of classical music coming from various buildings as you stroll back to your hotel (I know it sounds strange, and it was).
You’ve done a lot today, go get some rest. See you in the morning!
Day 2: Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
- Today you’ll be getting out on Lake Lucerne and journeying up Mount Rigi before hopping on a train to Lauterbrunnen.
- Travel Time: 2.5 hours by train to Lauterbrunnen.
Today is another busy day, so pack your day bag and get ready to hit the town, er, lake!
Hotel Alpha has a nice breakfast spread, with cheeses, meat, cereal, and hard-boiled eggs which are painted whimsical colors. I asked the woman working there what kind of special eggs they were. And she just said, oh, they’re just hard-boiled.
Painted eggs for breakfast??? That’s some Dr. Seuss sh*t. Put one or two of these magical Swiss eggs in your bag for later to achieve ultimate power. Don’t forget to have the nice person behind the desk hold your suitcase until you come back!
Take a Boat Cruise on Lake Lucerne to Mount Rigi
Lake Lucerne is the glittering gem of Lucerne. Nestled between lush green and snow-capped mountains, it’s about 44 square miles large – 24 miles long and about 2 wide. Charming towns dot the perimeter of the lake, and you’re going to check some of them out!
While you can check the timetable in advance for your trip to Mount Rigi, if you’re like me they don’t make any sense no matter how many times you look at them. I suggest you walk to Pier 1 Luzern (the main boat pier) and there will be a nice person in a uniform answering questions of tourists who don’t know where the f**k they’re going or what the f**k they’re doing (AKA me).
Tell them you’d like to take a boat to Mount Rigi, and they will tell you what time and what dock. Boats run frequently so you shouldn’t have to wait long, and a good rule of thumb is to get there about 10 minutes before the hour. Tourist Information Luzern, which is close to the docks, can also tell you when the boat times are.
The good news is, once again your Swiss Travel Pass comes through! This boat ride is included so no need to buy a special ticket.
Once on your boat, sit back and relax as you sail away from adorable Lucerne into the fjord-like wonder of the lake. If the sun is shining, the sky will be bright and blue and you’ll be able to see for miles. Onboard the boat, they also have a little cafe with coffee and sandwiches and snacks. Attempt to order in German, I dare you! I ordered black coffee in German and they understood me, then asked me a question I didn’t understand. What fun!
Your boat journey will take you to the little lake town of Vitznau, where you will depart and take a short walk to the Rigi Klum cogwheel station, which you can’t miss as everyone from your boat will be walking there.
Once again,your Swiss Travel Pass will cover the cogwheel train up the mountain (see how useful it is – I think at this point it’s literally paid for itself already).
You may have to wait a little bit at the station for the next cogwheel train to depart and make sure you get on a public one and not one that is reserved. There was one reserved for an Italian tour group, which I didn’t realize, and when I tried to board they were literally like YOU’RE NOT WITH US. And I was like, um, okay, wow. So if you don’t want to feel super rejected, go inside the ticket station and ask when the next public train is so you’re not publically ostracized.
Once you get on the right cogwheel train, enjoy the rather steep ride through the scenic mountains on Europe’s oldest mountain railway, which opened in 1871. You’ll pass lush pastures, wildflowers, and get incredible views as you ascend over 4000 feet up the mountain. You’ll stop at several stations where you’ll see mostly hikers, before reaching the highest station: Rigi Kulm.
Take in the Views from Mount Rigi
While there are literally a ton of things you can do atop of Mount Rigi, from hiking to visiting a cheese farm, I suggest just wandering around at the highest station, Rigi Kulm, and taking in the most stunning views of the lake and Lucerne in the distance.
I have only figured out while writing this I did not get off at the highest station, rather at one several stops down. Don’t do this! Ride all the way to the top to Rigi Kulm, where you will be able to take a short hike from the station to the tall telecommunication tower which you can climb up for an even higher look.
From here you can see most of Switzerland, with the stunning snow-covered Alps in the distance. On clear days, you can actually see the French Alps and the Black Forest in Germany! Talk about getting high.
Once you’ve hiked around, taken in the sights and fields of wildflowers, take the cogwheel train back down to the Rigi Kaltbad-First station, the one I stupidly got off of myself on the way up! Here there is a little store to buy some snacks or a fresh pretzel (as I did), and a huge modern plaza where you can sit and take in more gorgeous views.
Rest a while if you like, and when you’re ready to head down, take the super scenic cable car down! That’s right, on the right-hand side of the plaza you will see a sign for the “cable car to Weggis”, which is one of the adorable little cities you passed by on the boat on your way to Vitznau. And yes, your Swiss Travel Pass works for this!
You’ll get spectacular views of the lake and Weggis below as you soar from thousands of feet above. If this sounds scary, you better get used to it, because the rest of this 5-day Switzerland itinerary involves a lot of unavoidable cable cars. If you want to get up in the alps, you gotta take a cable car!
When you reach Weggis below you have about a 15-minute walk down to the boat dock (there are plenty of signs pointing you towards it) through the most picturesque lakeside town. Dahlias and gorgeous gardens are everywhere, with plenty of palms and Mediterranean foliage, especially near the water.
At the dock, check the timetable or ask a boat employee for the next boat, and take a calming cruise back to Lucerne.
Grab Lunch and Explore Lucerne
Once you disembark from your boat, you are going to head to Vesper, a modern and chic “Self service” restaurant, which means you order and pay at the counter and you take your food and go find a seat (these places are generally much cheaper).
This is not hyperbole when I say I had the best sandwich of my life there: it was a curry chicken sandwich on a baguette that was both crispy and soft, with strawberries and other fruit, lettuce and bean sprouts, some kind of mayo, and tender curry chicken. I DREAM about this sandwich.
Grab your incredible sandwich or similar item and sit outside at the cafe tables, watching the business people on lunch stroll around the plaza.
After making love to your sandwich by eating it all, head to the Lion Monument or “Lion of Lucerne”, which is about a 6-minute walk away. This 20′ tall by 33′ wide monument is carved into sandstone among a grotto of trees above a large pond, depicting a dying lion with a spear in its side. The statue was designed to honor the Swiss soldiers who died while serving the French king Louis XVI during the French Revolution.
The statue is free to visit, and it’s just in an open public park. 1.4 million people visit it yearly, but people tend to flow in and out of the area so you should have some quiet time to visit the lion. It’s way more impactful in person and much larger than you can imagine, so really take it in!
Meander back towards your hotel, over the “death” bridge one more time if you’re feeling morbid and take in the old city. Collect your luggage from the hotel – it’s time to head to the train station to head to Lauterbrunnen! Use Google Maps to determine what time the next train departs for the 2.5-hour ride to Lauterbrunnen.
Arrive in Lauterbrunnen
Once you disembark your train, you will follow these instructions that will take you on a bus through the valley town of Lauterbrunnen where glistening 1000′ waterfalls plummet from above, and then on a cable car up 1000′ to the little town of Gimmelwald.
As you exit the cable car station, you will see your home for the next two nights, Mountain Hostel, the most gorgeous hostel overlooking the Swiss Alps, which was originally a farmhouse built in 1563. Get settled in, have a beer or some pizza from the hostel bar, and listen to the sound of rushing water from the alps in the distance.
I also have written a post about things to do in Lauterbrunnen for your next visit, or if you want to do an extended stay!
Day 3: Explore Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
- Today you’ll be hiking up to a waterfall you can walk behind, exploring waterfalls inside a glacial cavern, and eating dinner in Lauterbrunnen.
- Travel Time: None – you’ll be puttering around the alps!
Ahhh, the hills are truly alive with the sound of music in the Swiss Alps.
Seriously, up in the crisp air of the alps in the town of Gimmewald, you’ll only hear birds, the sound of falling water, and the ringing bells around the neck of cows grazing in the pastures. There are no cars in Gimmewald, no new buildings, only the sound of nature and wildflowers everywhere which seem to be in perennial bloom. Even Rick Steves is a huge fan, saying, “If Heaven isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald.”
Grab some complimentary breakfast, which is typical of Switzerland – cheese, meat, milk, fruit, cereal, coffee, and more spread out on the bar. Make sure to eat your fill (and maybe grab a banana or two for the road), because we’re going hiking!
Hike Up to Sprutz Waterfall
Hiking up to Sprutz waterfall, is well, a hike. Though it’s about 700′ up and a mile to reach it, it’s worth the effort – you will get the most stunning view of the alps I had on my entire trip on the way there and back. It should only take about 40 minutes up, but plan closer to an hour (about two for the total trip) since it seems everyone in Switzerland is a faster hiker than I am. Bring lots of water and start early!
To get there, you will follow the sign to Mürren outside the hostel which will take you up a path past meadows and up the hill overlooking Gimmewald. Along the way, you’ll go through various gates to keep those pesky cows from trying to escape. Once at the top of the hill, you’ll encounter a forest of pines and a sign for “Sprutz Waterfall” which you will follow up!
Once you’ve climbed deep into the forest, you’ll see another sign for “Sprutz” pointing left, and will follow the sound of water as you hike down to a glorious waterfall that spills over a cliff edge creating a cascade you can actually walk behind.
On a sunny day, the spritz from the falling water is refreshing, and from the waterfall you can look beyond the pine trees, admiring the snow-covered alps while paragliders gently float by in the distance. A lot of people actually come to this area to paraglide, and you totally can… But I sure didn’t!
Head back in the same direction you came, and don’t be tempted to continue forward or else you’ll do a large loop, which will take you back on the main path, and will add quite a bit of time to your journey.
On the way back take big deep breaths of the towering pine trees, and once you leave the forest, you’ll get to enjoy the most stunning view of Gimmelwald below and the alps like titans in the distance. Take a seat at the first bench you find and enjoy the views and have a snack!
Once you get back into Gimmelwald, make sure you stop in the Honesty Shop located next to Mountain Hostel. Inside, they have snacks, souvenirs, and you guessed it, no one working there! No cameras, no supervision, just good old-fashioned honesty. If you decide to buy something, there is a place to deposit your money. What a beautiful concept!
Grab Lunch and Explore Trümmelbach Falls
After your glorious, life-changing hike in the Alps, you’ll be hopping on the cable car by your hostel down to Lauterbrunnen Valley, and hopping on the bus back towards Lauterbrunnen. You’ll hop off on one of the first few stops atTrümmelbach Falls.
Before you reach the falls though, stop in Restaurant Trümmelbach, which is the building right next to the road. This little self-serve cafe has your basics – delicious little sandwiches, fries, and fresh meringue. I got a cucumber and cheese sandwich, a delectable raspberry meringue, and a cup of espresso and sat outside, enjoying the ever-regal presence of the Alps.
After you have your fill, head on the winding path towards the falls.
Trümmelbach Falls are subterranean glacial waterfalls inside a cliff face, where over 5000 gallons of cold glacial runoff per second surges down through the boulders to pools below. The effect is cool, misty, and magical – you can feel the raw force of nature just inches from your fingertips.
It takes at least 30 minutes to experience the falls, from taking the lift up through the mountain to winding your way back down through tunnels, paths, and platforms taking in the rushing water, but you could easily spend much longer here. With each stairway you climb, and tunnel you pass through, you’ll find a new stream of relentless glacial water rushing downwards, stunningly turquoise and as pure and clean as water can get.
The experience is thunderingly loud, since you are literally in caves where water is pummeling down, and pretty wet on the ground, so wear good shoes and a jacket. There is also a small fee to get in, but absolutely worth the unique and fantastic experience.
Hop on the bus heading into the town of Lauterbrunnen, and get off at the train station.
Walk around Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen is the main town that sits in Lauterbrunnen Valley, where 72 waterfalls spill from the thousand-foot cliffs on either side of the valley (including Trümmelbach Falls). “Lauterbrunnen” itself means “many springs”, which isn’t surprising as you wander around the valley listening to the sound of water all around you.
The town was first mentioned in writing in 1304, and maintains its medieval charm today, with its chalet-style buildings with window boxes over-following with flowers and the tall church steeple in the middle of town.
A funny thing about being in a valley surrounded by cliffs, is how dramatically the light changes from one hour to another – the entire town can be covered in shade by mid-afternoon. Life here is dictated by nature, and less by human force. That being said, Lauterbrunnen is a bit “touristy”, so expect to see plenty of souvenir shops, and of course, tourists.
I recommend getting off the bus by the train station and walking back the direction you came through town. Some of the things you’ll see along the way, more or less in order, are:
- Coop Supermarkt Lauterbrunnen – Okay, it may seem a bit silly to include a supermarket as a place to stop, but this Swiss chain is the place to stock up on Swiss chocolate to take home as a souvenir (or eat in your hostel), and beer (to also drink in your hostel). You’ll basically be getting Swiss chocolate prices without paying for “tourist” Swiss chocolate. Coop (pronounced “co-op”) has lots of great Swiss snacks as well, not to mention cheese!
- Boutique Im Bade – Besides bringing home chocolate, you may want to bring home some other souvenirs. A popular thing to get are wooden, painted Swiss cows, which are actually made in Switzerland and have little bells around their necks like real Swiss cows! Besides that, there are the classic Swiss army knives and the woman who owns the store is super sweet and helpful (she helped me find the nearest “Apotheke” or pharmacy to get ibuprofen).
- Kirche Lauterbrunnen – The Lauterbrunnen Church is the iconic center of town, with its tall spire reaching far above the tops of the other buildings. The people of Lauterbrunnen dedicated this small Gothic church to St. Andrew in 1488, and it’s a great place to wander around, listening to the sound of the church bells. You can explore the nearby graveyard as well, where the graves are decked with flowers and are in neat little rows, adding to the quaintness.
- Staubbach Falls – Staubbach Falls cannot be missed, like literally, it’s a huge waterfall cascading from the cliffs 1000′ above down into the valley below. It’s also the largest free-falling waterfall in Europe! In the fall (September onward) the waterfall is at its fullest from glacial runoff – it’s majestic, surreal, and totally worth getting a closer look at. Hike towards the falls and you’ll find a stairway up to a platform where you can take a closer look, and feel the mist (or “dust” which “Staub” means) on your face and body. Consider this your baptism into Switzerland!
Dinner atRestaurant Weidstübli
When you get hungry after wandering around Lauterbrunnen, it’s time to head to Restaurant Weidstübli, a traditional Swiss restaurant that is a part of the hostel Camping Jungfrau, located at the foot of the famous 1000′ tall Staubbach Waterfall.
On a beautiful day, there is plenty of outdoor seating beneath the white and red striped awnings, with red geraniums blooming all around you.
Order their leaf/vegetable salad that comes with carrots, sprouts, red cabbage, and plenty of vegetables to offset all the cheese and chocolate you have consumed (and will continue to consume!). For your entree, you have to try the “Äpler” Macaroni, which is a take on the classic Swiss Käsespätzle.
Basically, this dish is Rigatoni noodles with cubes of potatoes in a creamy cheese sauce with crispy fried onions on top and a side of apple sauce, which as weird as it sounds, is the perfect sweet foil to this savory, decadent dish.
It may not be the most traditional version of Käsespätzle I had on my trip, but it was certainly my favorite. This is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the Alps, and maybe if you’re lucky, meet some friendly English-speaking tourists. I was lucky enough to meet a couple from Texas who love Lauterbrunnen, and spend weeks here every year. How fabulous!
Day 4: Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt, Switzerland
- Today you’ll be exploring the charming town of Mürren before heading to Zermatt, home of the famed Matterhorn.
- Travel Time: A 3.5-hour train ride from Lauterbrunnen to Zermatt.
On your penultimate day in Switzerland, you’ll be taking in a bit more of the Alps before going south, to explore even more of the Alps! If you didn’t spend several days in the Alps, you didn’t do Switzerland, right?
Walk around Mürren
Time is fleeting, and on your last morning of exploring Lauterbrunnen, you’ll be visiting Mürren and hiking the easy (and luckily, downhill) flower trail.
Mürren is one cable car stop going up, so you’ll hop on the cable car by your hostel and will be in Mürren in minutes.
Mürren, like Gimmelwald, has no cars and is your idyllic alpine village, but with more stores and visitors than the tiny Gimmelwald. You’ll see plenty of tourists hiking through the village, and drinking from wooden water fountains where you can fill up your water. The water is potable, in fact, all of Switzerland’s water is drinkable unless otherwise noted. Some pure, glacial refreshment!
While Mürren is a popular ski destination in winter, in the summer and fall hikers come through to visit the local shops and enjoy the slow pace of life. Mürren isn’t so much about “doing”, but “experiencing”, being in the moment and taking in the pure atmosphere of the Alps.
Stop in the local shops and find something you can only get in the Alps – I found a “bloom tea” made with the flowers of the meadow wildflowers to take home to a friend. Also talk to the local cows, their bells ringing across the fields, and stop to look at the dahlias and edelweiss growing in the local gardens. Just be in the Alps.
Hike the Flower Trail
After exploring Mürren for a bit, head toward the Allmendhubel-Bahn, the funicular on the side of the mountain in the middle of town. After a brief 4-minute ride up, you’ll find yourself with an even higher overlook of the Alps.
While there is a restaurant and a big playground here, the main draw is the Flower Trail, which is all downhill back to the town of Mürren. It’s about 1.3 miles, and should only take about an hour, but you will get to see all kinds of wildflowers (up to 150 varieties), and the trail even weaves through the forest a bit.
You’ll see flowers in pinks and blues and yellows, and of course the stunning, white Edelweiss if it is still in season. Fields of flowers surround you, with the bright blue sky and mountains in the distance. This is your cue to sing!
Swiss Family Fun’s guide will tell you everything you need to know about the Flower Trail.
Grab Lunch and Head to Zermatt
Once you reach Mürren, you may be hungry, so pop into one of the local cafes like the ultra-cozy Café LIV. Here you can grab a sandwich, some coffee, and maybe a piece of cake before heading back to Mountain Hostel to grab your stuff and make your way back to Lauterbrunnen, and catch the train to Zermatt.
Bonus: See the Cow Parade on Your Way to the Train Station
“Did you hear? There’s a cow parade!” “Are you going to the cow parade?” The town was abuzz and one phrase was in everyone’s mouth – cow parade. What was this cow parade? Why was this cow parade? Could this cow parade be as cute as I had hoped? Yes, yes it was.
The cow parade happens in Lauterbrunnen from September through early October, the exact dates changing slightly each year. But if you are in the area you will know. People will be lining the streets of Lauterbrunnen and waiting.
The cow parade is quite simple – the farmers move their cows down to the valley for the fall because the mountains are about to get real cold. But the Swiss love their cows, so they send them down in style.
Adorned with flower crowns, and enormous sonorous bells, the cows moo their way through town in a jaunty fashion, with tourists (like myself) oohing and ahhing over these precious mountain dwellers in their finery.
I was lucky enough to just happen to be there while it was happening, so I was able to see this as I took myself and my luggage down to the train station. For more information about the parades and to check the dates, keep the eye on the Newly Swissed Blog.
Arrive in Zermatt, Switzerland
After your gorgeous, 3.5-hour train ride from Lauterbrunnen to Zermatt (which will require a couple transfers) past gorgeous Alps and glistening lakes, you’ll arrive at the Zermatt train station, probably a tad hungry and in need of a pretzel (let’s be real).
Luckily as you exit the train station, you’ll pass Brezelkönig (“pretzel king”) and wonder why we have silly old Burger King when we could have a Pretzel King! Anyway, stop and get yourself a pretzel, ideally covered in melted cheese like I did. You need a snack!
Once you get your fix, you’ll be heading to Hotel Alpenroyal for the next two nights, whose patio has a stunning overview of the Matterhorn! They also have an indoor pool and hot tub, so plan accordingly.
Call the hotel from the train station and they will have someone pick you up in a little battery-powered cart with your luggage (no cars are allowed in Zermatt), taking you up the small hill to the resort. I, unfortunately, did not know this, and I arrived at the front desk huffing and puffing and they were like, “why didn’t you call us?”. Well.
Explore Zermatt & the Matterhorn Museum
After freshening up, it’s time to get out and explore Zermatt a bit.
Zermatt is one of the highest ski resorts in the world, the town nestled snugly at 5,276′. Zermatt is at the very southern edge of Switzerland, and skiers are able to ski freely between Switzerland and Italy at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, the highest cable car station in Europe at 12,739′. This high up, there is snow 365 days as a year, so when I went in September there was no shortage of life and skiers in this booming little town.
With two-million visitors a year, Zermatt is the kind of place that has more hotel beds than people actually living there, and it makes Lauterbrunnen look like a sleepy hamlet. While Zermatt is small enough to traverse by foot, there are plenty of shops (some reallllllyyyy expensive), restaurants, and even a Matterhorn Museum to keep you occupied as you explore the home of the Matterhorn (more on that in a bit).
In the middle of town, you will find the Matterhorn Museum – Zermatlantis, housed in a blue glass geometric mountain (A+ for theming). This is the place to hear the legend of the people who lived (and died) trying to climb the Matterhorn (“meadow peak”), including the severed rope during the first ascent in 1865 where seven people died. Eek.
The museum is really immersive, with turn-of-the-century buildings you can explore with artifacts inside (actually most the museum is underground!), to make you really feel like you’re getting ready for your own climb! The museum is only open until 6pm, so make it a priority to stop here first.
Also, be sure to stop by Fuchs Bakery on the main boulevard as you’re wandering around. Here you’ll find fancy chocolate, including chocolates in the shape of the Matterhorn which are creamy and delicious and make great souvenirs!
- Travel Tip: Don’t underestimate the power of a good grocery store in a foreign country. Migros Supermarkt is the place to stock up on (more) chocolate, cheese, and wine if you need it (I did). I even ended up buying a pair of shoes here!
Dinner at Vegistube
Vegistube, as the name sounds, is a vegetarian restaurant along the main street of Zermatt. This was the moment during my trip where I decided I needed to put down the chocolate and cheese pretzels and eat something that had nutritional value.
I had the Sweet potato curry with pomegranate, spinach and rice, which was delightful and delicate, a nice foil to all the c̶r̶a̶p̶ heavy food I had eaten. They also have pizza, and Raclette, a Swiss, melted cheese dish, if you haven’t hit your cheese capacity quite yet.
Sit outside if you can, and watch the tourists stroll by while having a Zermatt Bier. It’s a great place to wind down in the heart of the action.
Check out CERVO Mountain Resort
While Zermatt has lots of bars and nightlife, next-door to Alpenroyal a bit up the hill is CERVO Mountain Resort, an ultra-hip, ultra-expensive 5-star resort. It’s the kind of place that wouldn’t call itself a hotel but a “way of life” or a “concept”. You know the place.
Well as I sat in my room, talking to Lia on the phone (after I had gone swimming in the hotel pool, you should definitely do that too), I heard the thumping of what I would call alluring Swiss techno music. I kept staring out my window at this hotel on a hill strung with twinkling lights, where it seemed like something exciting was happening. So I went to check it out.
I entered by way of the bar deck and the place was packed with people, speaking all kinds of languages and dressed like they owned a million-dollar macrame or kombucha company. I ventured inside, where there were winding hallways, a bar through a bank vault door, and man in a trench coat and pilot hat spinning those funky Swiss beats, dancing with abandon to the sound of his own music.
What rabbit hole had I fallen down?
I soon realized by posters on the wall I had inadvertently crashed a party that was part of a weekend-long art festival. The signs on the wall touted past events like an “Interactive Group Macrame Piece” and an “Exstatice (sic) Dance Ceremony”. God, how I wished I could see those things!
While people danced, I saw bored children watch their rich parents dance while eating the most delicious-smelling fries, which I found out were their signature Cervo Fries, which have 12-month aged parmesan and truffle oil. They smelled so good! Alas, when I went to order them, the kitchen had closed.
So please go to their bar Bazaar (fitting name) and get some fries for me. And yes, I told you this entire story just to tell you to get fancy fries as a late-night snack. You’re welcome.
Day 5: Gornergrat, Switzerland
- Today you’ll take a gorgeous train ride to see the Matterhorn up close and personal, eat traditional Swiss food in the mountains, and take a short hike to an iconic lake.
- Travel Time: None, just gorgeous train rides through the mountains!
- A quick side note about this part of the itinerary: This part of the 5-day Switzerland itinerary partially hinges on you being able to see the Matterhorn. When I arrived the first day, it was rainy and I couldn’t see the peak until later in the day when it cleared up. Feel free to re-arrange this section as needed – taking the Gonergrat train isn’t as fun if you can’t see the Matterhorn!
Today is the day to get closer to the Matterhorn, that 14,692′ peak of myth and one of the most iconic mountains in the world. Today, about 3000 hikers attempt to climb the Matterhorn each year, with an average of 5 people dying each year trying. To this day, over 500 people have died on the Matterhorn. And today, you’ll be climbing it yourself…
So grab breakfast at Alpenroyal (which is included and decadent), and get down to the train station early.
Hike to Riffelsee Lake
Lucky for you, the Matterhorn has its very own cogwheel train system called the Gornergrat Bahn! While the train is not covered under the Swiss Pass, it will give you 50% off on a day pass, making it under $50.
The Gornergrat Bahn station is by the main station where you arrived, and ideally you want to get here early, definitely before the packed 10am train. Your first stop is the place of photographic legend, so the fewer people the better!
The Gonergrat Train is like riding through a living painting. You first wind a bit through Zermatt, then up the sides of pine-tree-covered mountains, until the tree line ends and you see the vast mountain plains as the Matterhorn gets closer and closer. You’ll pass through wooden tunnels, past glittering lakes, and if you’re lucky, see some super cute mountain sheep.
Your first stop is not the highest station Gornergrat, but the second-highest station Rotenboden, which takes about 30 minutes to reach. Once you depart the train, you’ll follow the sign for “Riffelseeweg” which is about a 10-minute hike down (you’ll very quickly be able to see the lake you’re going to).
So why is this lake so special?
Walking up to this lake, you get a beautifully framed image of the Matterhorn, which is reflected perfectly in the small lake below you. On a sunny day, the Matterhorn will be perfectly lit and you’ll get the most stunning view of the mountain possible. You’ve probably seen this image a hundred times and now you know where it is!
Take in the glory of this view (and adapt to the 9,236 feet a bit) before hiking back up to the train station and heading up to the highest station!
Ascend to Gornergrat Station
Gornergrat is the highest station on the railway and the second highest in Europe at 10,135 feet. This is high, and nearly double the altitude of Zermatt. Altitude sickness is real, so listen to your body, drink lots of water, and sit if you need to, especially if you become short of breath. After about 20-minutes of being up there it hit me hard, so listen to your body. It’s also cold, so bring a warm jacket!
Gornergrat Station gives you the most intimate views of the Matterhorn – it’s right there! From the outdoor viewing platform, you can see 29 mountains looming in panoramic glory, as well as the Gorner Glacier below, which is the third-largest glacier in the Alps at over 8-miles long.
Inside the summit station, there is a restaurant, astronomical observatory, a gift shop, and Europe’s highest-altitude hotel. There are also restrooms, water fountains, and places to sit if you need them. But the real star is the outdoors, staring into the face of the Matterhorn and walking along some of the adjoining trails.
The air doesn’t get much cleaner (or thinner) than this, so bask in the glory of nature in the wild until you’re ready to head down (or start to feel woozy). Lunch is next!
Eat Lunch at Alphitta
Hope back on the train down three stations to the Riffelalp Station, which is about 3000 feet lower than you just were (hopefully should help any altitude sickness). Once you exit the station, you’ll follow a path through a pine forest to the little resort town of Riffelalp, where restaurant Alphitta has starring views of, you guessed it, the Matterhorn.
On a sunny day (and hopefully, it’s sunny if you are visiting), you can order the Swiss dish Rösti, which is like a potato pancake with cheese and a sunny side egg on top (how could that be bad?). It is slightly crispy, cheesy, and a nice filling meal when you are traversing the high mountainous altitude.
Eating this little slice of Switzerland while viewing the most iconic image of Switzerland may literally turn you part Swiss, which is totally welcome in my book. After all the trekking you’ve done, this is the perfect place to just fill up and rest, and not worry about rushing. Look at that mountain! It has nowhere to be.
Check out the Gorner Gorge
Once you’re back down in Zermatt, head to the Gorner Gorge, which is about 1.2 miles from the train along the Matter Vispa, the blue river through the outskirts of Zermatt.
Since the ice age, the waters of Gorner Gorge carved a chasm in the greenish serpentinite rock, which can be explored by wooden bridges attached to the sides of the rock. Winding through the sometimes narrow sections of these wooden bridges, you’ll be able to see aquamarine waters below flowing from a small, gurgling waterfall.
I walked through it around 5pm (they close around 5:45pm), and I was pretty much alone, and got to take in the serene water below and the various moss and ferns on the rock around me. The entire excursion only takes about 20 minutes, and once you reach the top of a large set of stairs you’ve reached the end, and you’ll have to turn around and walk back through.
Keep in mind there is a small fee to enter (5CF) and it is cash only, and there is a little bit of a hike to get to the initial entrance.
Zermatt, with all its hotels, high-end shops, and fancy dining options does have an older, more quaint side.
Hinterdorf (“rear village”) is the old part of Zermatt, with more than 30 barns, stores, stables and old houses built between the 16th and 18th centuries along the stretch of Hinterdorfstrasse off the main thoroughfare Bahnhofstrasse.
These raised houses are dark in color, due to the resinous larch timber used to support the snow and is resistant to pests. One of the most prominent features are the circular stone slabs under the supports of the storehouses to keep mice out.
Walking down this street is like stepping back in time; it’s very quaint, with plenty of flowers spilling out of window boxes. Eating a pretzel as you stroll will make you feel extra in character (maybe) and it’s a great place to feel the old-world Swiss ambiance.
Dinner at Grampi’s
It’s your last night in Switzerland! You’ve eaten Swiss delicacies like käsespätzle and fondue, but what about pizza and pasta? What? Those aren’t Swiss? Well, hear me out…
Zermatt is in the very south of Switzerland and borders, you guessed it, Italy, so Zermatt is the perfect place to take a break from all the rich Swiss food and try some, er, rich Italian food instead!
Grampi’s has the typical Tuscan Italian feel, decked out in cozy oranges and yellows with the ceiling covered in different photographs and random memorabilia. You can easily spend the entire time waiting for your food craning your neck looking at all the photographs firmly attached to the ceiling.
The food here is the quintessential Italian fare, but authentic and done to perfection. If you’re basic (no judgment!) the Margherita pizza with fresh basil, mozzarella, and zesty tomato sauce is a complete star, but you can definitely dive into dishes like Spaghetti “GramPi’s” with prawns, cherry tomatoes, and garlic.
Honestly, whatever you choose here is going to be a deliciously rich way to end your day in the Swiss Alps, and the service is super friendly and helpful! Buon appetito!
Grab a Drink at Hexen Bar
It’s been a day. Really, it’s been one heck of a trip, hasn’t it? Well, if you’re up for one more stop before you catch some shuteye, check out Hexen Bar.
Hexen in German means “witches”, and this bar delivers on this ambiance. In this wooden paneled bar with green accents hang witches riding broomsticks from the ceiling, with colorful lanterns and a mystical vibe. The menu here is called the “book of spells” and contains witchy spins on classic drinks.
Their signature is the Hexen Sour, with Amaretto, vodka, lemon juice and a “secret shot”, if I am not totally making up that German translation! They also have plenty of other Hexen twists on drinks like martinis and Piña Colada, and plenty of non-witchy drinks for muggles as well.
The bar is small but super cozy, and you will find a good mix of locals and tourists, just make sure you are not disparaging to any witches or you may find out that it’s not all Hocus Pocus!
Say Goodbye to the Matterhorn and Fly Home
Whether you’re hopping on your 3.5-hour train ride back to Zurich to fly home this evening or tomorrow morning, make sure you say goodbye to the Matterhorn before you go. She is especially stunning in the morning, the rays of light hitting her face while the rest of Zermatt remains in shadow.
There really is no place like Switzerland, no mountain like the Matterhorn, and no cheese like Swiss cheese.
What to Pack for Switzerland
- Quick Drying Shorts (His & Hers): We’re obsessed with the Zion line from prAna, which is what our favorite hiking pants are made from. These shorts are made from the same stretchy, high-tech, quick-drying fabric! Jeremy’s shorts double as both the shorts he wears every day and a swimsuit. They’re a 2-for-1 (which means less space in your carry-on) and they look great, too! They dry quickly, making them perfect for hopping in and out of waterfalls, rivers, and the ocean and then resuming your normal travel activities.
- Hiking & Adventure Travel Pants (His & Hers): You’re going to need a pair of pants that serve multiple purposes and are up for adventure anywhere: beach, jungle, river, mountains, and city. Luckily, these awesome prAna hiking pants were designed with travel and hiking in mind and were up to every challenge we threw at them. They’re also quick-dry, so I even wore them while white-water rafting and waterfall rappelling in San Gil.
- Travel Jeans: Unlike regular jeans, travel jeans are designed specifically to solve travel-related woes. One of my personal woes is the lack of pockets on women’s jeans. My favorite travel jeans have 6 POCKETS. 6!! And 2 of them are zipped and hidden inside other pockets, for extra pickpocket protection – crucial in any European country. Jeremy and I each have a pair of Aviator USA black jeans. They’re super stretchy and buttery soft, dry quickly in the rain or when wet, and keep our legs warm when it’s cold out. They’re cozy enough to wear on a plane, stretchy enough to accommodate that 5 extra pounds of holiday weight I always seem to bring back home with me, and they’re super cute! We’re both obsessed. Read more in our guides to travel pants for women and men.
- Wool Clothing: Yes, seriously. Merino wool is a miracle travel fabric. It keeps you cool when it’s hot AND keeps you warm when it’s cold. When it gets wet, you’ll stay comfortable while your clothing dries. It naturally resists the growth of fungus and bacteria, so it never stinks – a must-have for travel! It’s even flame retardant. What more could you ask for? Today’s performance wool isn’t like the itchy wool of the past – it’s thin, stretchy, and super soft to the touch, like cotton. We highly recommend wool clothing for travel. Here’s what I bring T-shirt | Sports Bra | Travel Bra | Half Zip Womans | Underwear and Here’s what Jeremy brings: Crew-neck shirt | V-neck Shirt | Underwear | Socks
- Hemp Clothing: Much like merino wool, hemp is a fantastic travel textile. It’s also temperature regulating, meaning it’s cool to the touch and keeps you cool when it’s hot (but also insulates you when it’s cold out). It’s also naturally anti-bacterial, so you won’t get that stinky “I’ve been sweating in this for a week straight” smell. And as a huge bonus, hemp is more sustainable than most other textiles, requiring little water and almost no pesticides to thrive and grow. Hemp is even able to clean up polluted soil, making it a tool for actually fighting against climate change. Hell yeah! Because it’s not a super popular textile (yet), it’s a little hard to find. One of our favorite eco-friendly clothing brands, prAna, makes a fantastic hemp line – browse women’s and men’s. (Lia loves this comfy t-shirt!)
- Day Bag: I carry this cute day bag with me every single day packed with anything I need for the day – a water bottle, an endless supply of snacks, whatever.
Note: We didn’t list out everything here, so make sure you pack plenty of basics!
About the Author: Richie Goff is a Louisville, Kentucky native with a great love of the outdoors. When he is not growing flowers for fun, he is the Editor-in-Chief of Practical Wanderlust and Let’s Go Louisville. He has been a friend of Lia’s since high school, and they have taken plenty of their own disaster-prone adventures together!
Are you packing your bags and singing “The Sound of Music” at the top of your lungs yet? Which destination on this Switzerland 5-day itinerary are you DYING to do? Drop your comments and questions about visiting Switzerland in the comments below!
Pssst: Planning a trip to Europe? We have tons more content to help you plan your trip! Check it out:
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Our Top Travel Tips & Resources
- Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Google Flights or Kayak. Money-saving tips: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on only on a budget airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
- Accommodations: We usually stay in budget-friendly vacation rentals, boutique hotels or private rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to book hotels (we love their flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld to book hostels (low deposit, easy change/cancellation, and excellent reviews). For vacation rentals, we prefer to book using VRBO because they've got lower fees and better support than Airbnb, and we're not fans of Airbnb's unethical track record. You can also book vacation rentals on Expedia and Hotels.com. We also use TrustedHousesitters as both hosts (for our home and our fur-child) and travelers!
- Travel Insurance: We always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY suggest it - visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance. SafetyWing is one of the few policies that covers Covid-19, and they have excellent monthly policies that are perfect for Digital Nomads and long term travelers!
- Travel Credit Card: We book all of our trips on our favorite travel credit card. Not only do we earn cash back that we can spend on more travel, but the card offers fantastic travel perks like travel insurance, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost baggage reimbursement, and rental car coverage, which helps protect us on our travels. Learn more here.
- Vaccines & Meds: We use the travel guides on the CDC website to research recommended medications and vaccines for international trips. We always recommend getting every vaccine recommended by the CDC! You can get them at your primary care doctor's office or a walk-in pharmacy.
- Tours: We love booking guided tours, especially food tours and walking tours, to get a local's perspective and a history lesson while sight-seeing! We book our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
- Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to figure out how to get from place to place, and book local transportation online using Bookaway wherever we can. When we book a rental car, we use DiscoverCars to compare rental companies and find the best deal.
- Luggage Storage: Whenever we're checking out early or taking advantage of a long layover, we use LuggageHero to safely store our luggage while we're running around. Use the code PRACTICALW for 2 hours of free luggage storage on us.
- VPN Service: A VPN keeps your digital information (like website login details, bank info, etc) safe, even when you're connected to an unsecured network while traveling. Plus, it lets you use Netflix & other streaming sites abroad! We use NordVPN. Use the code WANDERLUSTPROMO when you sign up!
- What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!
Gemma Madarang says
Wow! Thank you so much for your post which I read from top to bottom! This is really helpful as I am currently doing my itinerary for our trip this summer. Is Zermatt preferable than Lauterbrunnen as homebase for a couple of days?
Richie Goff says
Hey Gemma! Honestly, Lauterbrunnen was my favorite place I visited in Switzerland – it felt more natural and less touristy than Zermatt, and there was much more to do there I didn’t even get to, like visiting Schilthorn & Jungfraujoch, and other little towns like Grindelwald. I would take a few extra days in Lauterbrunnen – yes it’s quiet, but it’s the most majestic place I have ever been, and you could do plenty of hiking if you like that too. I should be publishing a post about things to do in Lauterbrunnen in a few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for that too. Zermatt is definitely magical too, I just enjoyed Lauterbrunnen the most, but of course it comes down to personal preference too. I was convinced when I planned this trip that Lauterbrunnen would be kind of boring, now all I want to do is go back and stay for a month! Good luck and let me know what you end up doing!
Gemma Madarang says
I will! Thank you! 🙂
Great guide. Will be using it this summer. Reading this, I’m a bit confuse about what to do with our small luggages, after the first night in Alpha hotel.
Richie Goff says
Hey Reza! I am so glad you liked it. The Alpha Hotel has a luggage storage room, so just ask the front desk clerk and they will store it for you until you leave!