Switzerland is one of the most idyllic destinations around the world. Not only is the country politically stable and economically progressive, but the landscape is spellbinding. If you are looking for 5 days in Switzerland itinerary, you will love this guide.
The snow-capped mountains and tranquil lakes of the central European country are one of the reasons that Switzerland is such a popular travel destination. Chances are that it has made its way into your heart and onto your bucket list.
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How to spend 5 days in Switzerland Itinerary and guide
What can you do in Switzerland for 5 days?
As a country, Switzerland is not massive. But it surely has a ton of places to explore that may or may not be enough for 5 days or even a week. However, if you plan it really well, and know what interests you, you can definitely check off many places in Switzerland from your bucket list.
In this post, we will share a city only 5 day Switzerland itinerary, which is perfect for all year round (especially off-season and summers), another one that is for winter outdoorsy exploration, plus an itinerary of scenic train rides, tours with a base in Zurich, and a cultural sightseeing expedition.
So there is a lot that you can do in 5 days, just pick one that you like, and get packing!
Switzerland Itinerary 5 days for summer: Cities and small towns (Sample 1)
- Day 1: Arrive and explore Zurich
- Day 2: Visit Bern
- Day 3: Head to Lucerne, and ride up Mount Titlis
- Day 4: Explore Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
- Day 5: Return to Zurich (visit Rhine Falls) or Geneva
Switzerland Itinerary 5 days for winter: Mountains and ski/non-ski activities
- Day 1: Arrive and explore Zurich
- Day 2: Explore Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
- Day 3 – 4: Head to Zermatt, visit Matterhorn. Ski and non-skiing activities
- Day 5: Return to Zurich in the evening
Switzerland Itinerary 5 days: 3 More Samples
- Sample 3: Zurich as a base, taking tours to explore other areas in Switzerland
- Sample 4: Best train routes in 5 days in Switzerland (but can be done as a Switzerland road trip as well)
- Sample 5:Geneva as a base, and exploring the UNESCO/ cultural side of Switzerland
Is 5 days enough in Switzerland?
Wondering how many days are enough in Switzerland? 5 days in Switzerland is enough to explore the highlights that the country has to offer.
Keep a city as your base (like Zurich or Geneva), and then travel via trains/tours or choose a city to stay overnight as you go through the day by day itinerary.
Ideally, we recommend that you book a week for a relaxed Swiss vacation from North America or Asia. Use the weekends to travel overseas, add flight and time differences, and then you have awesome 5 days in hand to explore your favorites in Switzerland.
Preparing for Switzerland 5 day itinerary: Travel Tips
If you are a first time visitor, here are essential tips for preparing for your trip to Switzerland for 5 days (or more).
Switzerland is located on the continent of Europe. Its capital city is Bern, and Zurich is the largest city.
If you are traveling from overseas, especially from Asia, the United States, or Canada, consider arriving in Zurich. Next, the best option is Geneva. Both cities have international airports that connect you to Switzerland.
Switzerland is one of the premier destinations in Europe, it is expensive to visit and explore, but it is still possible to keep sightseeing within budget.
Note that Switzerland is not a part of the European Union, and Euro is not its official currency. Switzerland’s official currency is Swiss Francs (CHF), and it is almost at par with the Euros.
If you require a tourist visa to Europe or the Schengen zone, you can use the same visa to enter Switzerland.
Visitors with US and Canadian passports do not require a visa to enter the country and stay for 90 days; however from 2023, an online authorization – ETIAS – is required prior to travel.
For commuting and travel within Switzerland, we highly recommend buying a Swiss Travel Pass. Pay for a 4 day card, and use it to get unlimited rides on Swiss trains and public transportation.
Here are the top packing items for Switzerland:
- Carry a waterproof warm/light jacket (all season), or winter parka for winters
- Wear comfortable walking shoes, they are perfect for exploring city centres and traveling in public transportation
- Backpack: 45 L backpack which is carry-on friendly, plus a cute anti-theft daypack or convertible purse
- Travel Insurance
- Don’t forget your camera and universal adaptor for charging your electronics
5 day Switzerland Itinerary: Best of cities & culture travel (Sample 1)
The first route begins in Zurich, takes you through the capital city of Bern. You’ll visit the cultural city of Lucerne, move through the valleys of Lauterbrunnen, and past the lakes of Interlaken. Are you ready?
Day 1 of Switzerland Itinerary 5 days: Arrive in Zurich
As far as bustling cities go, Zürich is by far one of the most beautiful. Revered around the world as a global hub for banking and finance, it’s easy to forget that there’s a lot more to Zürich than its economic reputation.
Where to Stay
The first establishment that serves as your home base in Switzerland should set a good example. Here are three top suggestions for affordable, modest, and luxury Switzerland accommodation options.
- Romantik Hotel Europe: This is our favorite hotel in Zurich. Great location – you can easily walk down to the city centre, and the interiors are just so charming. Best of all breakfast is free, and there is also a restaurant on-site in case it’s too cold for you to get out!
- Limmatblick– This is a relaxed 3-star hotel, with basic amenities and free breakfast. The location is good, pets are allowed and rooms have nice views (plus terrace access). Nightly prices are low to mid-budget.
- Gasthaus zum Guten Glück : This hotel offers a simple and minimalistic stay on a budget
- Hotel Arlette Beim Hauptbahnhof Located in the heart of Zürich, this is a comfortable family-run hotel
- La Réserve Eden au Lac Zürich is located at a scenic lakeside location and set in a historic building
Arriving in Zürich
If you arrive in Zürich by plane, then you’ll probably land at Zürich Airport, the largest international airport in Switzerland.
Trains run daily from the airport to the main station every 5-10 minutes from 5:00 am to 0:30 am. If you haven’t downloaded your Swiss Travel Pass beforehand, then you can buy one at the airport from any of the Swiss railway offices.
There is also the option of arriving in the city with the airport shuttle, private transfer, or taxi. These options are noticeably more expensive than the train or tram. You can read our 2 days in Zurich Itinerary
Things to Do
Zürich boasts some impressive buildings that have witnessed interesting history over the years. Depending on what time you arrive in the city, a short architectural and historical walking tour will get you acquainted with the city’s narrative.
Did someone say Swiss chocolate? Switzerland has a coveted reputation for producing the best chocolate in the world. A chocolate tasting walking tour is one way to indulge in the sweetness while learning about the traditions behind it.
If you have time, the Glass Biodomes at the Botanical Gardens are a must-see. Although the botanical garden is small, it’s home to around 9,000 species. The domes serve as a home to the natural wonder and demonstrate a fine piece of architecture.
Day 2 of Switzerland Itinerary 5 days: Visit Bern
The capital of Switzerland is built around a crook in the Aare River. Remnants of the city’s fascinating history, which extends back to the 12th century, is still evident in the Altstadt (Old Town).
Where to Stay
If you want to be surrounded by ancient beauty, then we’d suggest staying in the Old City which is home to some of the most impressive architecture.
- Hotel Waldhorn is a boutique-style hotel that has been complimented for its friendly staff and excellent breakfast
- Hotel Bellevue Palace Bern is a luxurious 5-star hotel set in an elegant Art Nouveau building from 1913
Arriving in Bern
Bern is a short 121 kilometers and one-hour-long train ride from Zürich. It’s possible to arrive by bus or rental car, but the train is the most convenient option.
Tickets can be purchased at Zürich Hauptbahnhof, the main train station in the city. Platforms 31-34 are used for the routes to Bern, and the trains run regularly without delay.
Things to Do
The Old City in Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Center, packed to the brim with stunning buildings and rich history. One of the first activities to do in Bern is to explore the Old City and hear stories of its past. While it’s possible to do this on your own, the experience is significantly more rewarding with a guided Bern Old City Walking Tour.
As one of the world’s oldest democracies, Switzerland’s political structure is a marvel. Make sure that you stop by the Swiss Federal Assembly, the Bundeshaus, which is impressive on both interior and exterior.
Did you know that bears are the emblem of Bern? BärenPark is a popular attraction that is also home to three very healthy bears. Visiting BärenPark is a great outdoor activity with a dose of symbolism.
Top tip: If you visit in summer, make sure to pack your swimming gear. The River Aare is proud to be Europe’s urban swimming capital. Just make sure that you only dip your toes in areas where there is no strong current.
Day 3 of Switzerland Itinerary 5 days: Explore Lucerne
Also known as Luzern, Lucerne is picture-perfect. The city frames the lake, and the snow-capped mountains frame the city. Steeped in history and natural beauty, Lucerne is the third stop on your Switzerland itinerary.
Where to Stay
It would be a sin to stay in Lucerne and not be in full view of the lake. Begin your search with these two highly-reviewed hotels.
- Hotel Des Alpes is in the pedestrian zone in the heart of Lucerne and offers exquisite views of the river
- Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa offers modern comfort without compromising on Swiss tradition of hospitality
Arriving in Lucerne
Once again, you can use your Swiss Travel Pass to arrive in Lucerne. The train is the most convenient (and beautiful) way to travel from Bern to Lucerne, but there is also the option of catching a bus or renting a car.
The trains depart every hour from Bern’s station and arrive in Luzern after an hour-long journey, having covered a distance of 109 kilometers.
Things to Do
There are so many iconic sights and landmarks to discover in Lucerne. Start by walking through the old town, and crossing the Chapel Bridge. Chapel Bridge or the Kapellbrücke is said to be the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe, dating back to 1333
Mount Titlis is an essential stop on your itinerary. Book an afternoon tour to Mt Titlis from Lucerne and ride the cableway as you absorb marvelous views.
Another major attraction is the Glacier Garden, which is estimated to be millions of years old and contains kettle basins from the most recent Ice Age. This is one of the 500 museums accessible with the Swiss Travel Pass.
Top tip: The Swiss Travel Pass also offers a half-price discount for some of the cableways and mountain railways such as Pilatus Kulm and Rigi Kulm. Rigi Kulm is the highest peak on Mount Rigi.
Day 4 of Switzerland Itinerary 5 days: Interlaken & Lauterbrunnen
Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen are short 20-minute train journeys apart from one another, making them ideal destinations to enjoy on the same day.
Where to Stay
If you have to choose one of the two destinations to spend the night, we’d suggest Lauterbrunnen as the scenery is unparalleled.
- Hotel Silberhorn is a cozy spot with a spectacular view and quick access to the ski slopes
- Hotel Staubbach is one of the first hotels in Lauterbrunnen and features stunning panoramic views
Arriving in Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen
There are direct trains that run from Lucerne to Interlaken Ost Station. The trip is a short two hours but as you’ll be exploring two destinations in one day, we suggest you begin your journey early. The Lucerne Interlaken express is covered by the Swiss Travel Pass (Flex).
When you’ve soaked up the glorious tranquility of the lakes, you can jump onboard one of the 32 daily trains that travel from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen.
Things to Do
Starting off in Interlaken, you’ll have the peaceful lakes to enjoy at your leisure. If you’re an adventure junkie, then there are several fun activities to get your heart racing. From a winter kayak tour on Lake Brienz to a tandem paragliding flight.
If you want something more relaxed, then you can ride a funicular to the top of the popular Harder Kulm and enjoy the sweeping views.
Make sure that you reserve some energy to enjoy Lauterbrunnen in the afternoon. The little village is set in the valley. Take the time to appreciate the natural wonders such as Staubbach Falls and Trummelbach Falls before wandering through the quaint village.
Day 5 of Switzerland Itinerary 5 days: Return to Zurich/Geneva
Considering that you’ve been traveling for nearly five days, the return journey from Lauterbrunnen to Zürich is not as long as you’d imagine. So, take your time soaking up the final charm of Lauterbrunnen before returning to Zürich. Alternatively, you can change things up and return home from Geneva.
Where to Stay
If you’re spending the night, then the previously mentioned spots are great options for places to stay in Zürich. If you’ve shifted your itinerary to leave from Geneva, you can check out the following recommended hotels.
- Hotel de Geneve is an endearing and affordable hotel that is conveniently located
- Hotel d’Angleterre is the perfect spot to end your Switzerland vacation in luxury
Arriving in Zürich/Geneva
The train back to Zürich from Lauterbrunnen goes via Bern and Interlaken Ost, offering an opportunity to reflect on your newly-made memories while you enjoy the beautiful views. The train leaves hourly and takes just over 2,5 hours.
If you’re traveling to Geneva, you can expect a longer trip of approximately four hours. The route also goes via Interlaken Ost and Bern before arriving in Geneva’s only station.
Things to Do
If you’ve returned to Zürich, then you can treat yourself to Swiss cuisine before jetting off home. A top recommendation is Raclette Stube which is known for its delicious fondue.
If you choose to spend your final moments in Geneva, and you have the time, then the Old Town is a must-visit. Strolling through the streets is an affordable and memorable activity. Another great option is to indulge in a meal on the waters – Oakfire comes highly recommended!
Best of Mountains: Switzerland Winter Itinerary 5 days (Sample 2)
While the first itinerary offers a fool-proof plan, it’s always handy to have a backup. This second option promises to be equally as memorable.
Day One – Zürich
You can mimic the above-mentioned itinerary for starting out in Zürich. Once you arrive, you can get settled and begin exploring the stunning city. Find things to do in Zurich in winter
Day Two – Jungfrau
The Jungfrau region has been described as “all of Switzerland in one spot”. The area is known as being home to one of the most famous European peaks and also has the highest railway station in Europe.
Where to Stay
Jungfrau is home to Interlaken, Grindelwald, and Lauterbrunnen, which means that a hotel in any of these villages will give you a welcoming stay in Switzerland. But to get the ball rolling, you can have a look at these spots…
- Sunstar Hotel & SPA Grindelwald offers the perfect balance between tranquility and central convenience
- Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa is nestled in the heart of Interlaken and offers complete luxury
Arriving in Jungfrau
The first step is to decide where you want to stay in Jungfrau – Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, or Grindelwald. This will determine the ticket that you reserve from Zürich – all of which are covered with the Swiss Travel Pass.
The train from Zürich to the Jungfrau region passes through Bern and takes approximately two and a half hours – so the earlier that you leave, the better. To reach the mountain (Jungfraujoch) it’s an additional hour and a half trip and is only accessible by train.
Things to Do
As you can imagine, visiting the “Top of Europe” involves a lot of mountain-centric activity. The views are to die for, and the experience is nothing short of surreal.
The Sphinx Observation Deck and Aletsch Glacier is a great place to start as it sheds some light on the history of the area and offers a visual introduction to the region. From there, you can visit the Ice Palace and take a photograph at Glacier Plateau.
If you have time in the afternoon or are traveling with family, then the Snow Fun Park is also a fantastic stop!
Day Three – Jungfrau
The Jungfrau region is so much more than just the summit – although the experience is very impressive. The villages and lower-lying natural wonders are equally as mesmerizing and deserve a bit of your time.
Take your time to enjoy the tranquil lakes of Interlaken, the valley of Lauterbrunnen, and the lush green pastures of Grindelwald. If you visit in the summer months, then you can plan for a wonderful hike along one of the many Alps hiking trails.
Grindelwald First Cliff Walk is a must-do here. This is a loop walk or hike that takes about 30 minutes to complete (15 minutes one way), and it welcomes you to some of the most stunning views in the Swiss Alps.
The First Cliff Walk is located just a few minutes’ walk from the First cable car station, making it easily accessible for all levels of hikers.
Day Four – Zermatt and Matterhorn
The mountain resorts of Zermatt and Matterhorn Mountain are a short 13 kilometers away from one another. The journey is best experienced with the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car. But we’ll get there in a bit…
Where to Stay
The southern Swiss mountain resort Zermatt is a beautiful area that is both picturesque and filled with history. With such a rife culture, you’re in for a treat regardless of where you stay.
- Backstage Boutique SPA Hotel offers traditional Swiss hospitality in the heart of Zermatt
- Grand Hotel Zermatterhof is a historic spot that beautifully encapsulates a local atmosphere blended with luxury
Arriving in Zermatt
As with many of the other routes on this itinerary, Zermatt is easily accessible by train and the Swiss Travel Pass. The best route is to leave from Interlaken and travel via Kandersteg. From here, it’s recommended that you travel on the Regio-Express Lötschberger train. This offers a special experience as you travel over the 100-year-old mountain route.
Things to Do
In addition to the many opportunities to ski, climb and hike in the Zermatt mountain region, there is also the essential activity ascending the Matterhorn peak which sits at an elevation of 1,600 meters. This is done by purchasing a Matterhorn glacier paradise ticket.
Day Five – Zürich
After an incredible few days in Switzerland, it’s time to return to your departure point.
The best way to get to Zürich from Zermatt is, once again, by train. The train ride is approximately three and a half hours, and there are around 25 trains running per day. These trains typically stop in Visp along the way – so make sure that you keep an eye out for this change.
The Swiss Travel Pass covers 50% of the costs of mountain transportation in Zermatt, once again demonstrating the usefulness of the pass.
Explore with day tours: 5 days in Switzerland itinerary (Sample 3)
It is possible to explore Switzerland in 5 days, by combining multiple day tours. We have done something like this in Seville, and Zurich is a perfect base city for that.
We personally use GetYourGuide for our day tours, and love their customer service. They are available by phone, or email for support when you need them. Best of all you can cancel up to 24 hours before your activity starts for a full refund.
- Day 1: Arrive in Zurich, and explore. Opt for a free walking tour of the city, or get exploring with a local 2 to 6 hour sightseeing
- Day 2: Explore Rhine falls in a 4 hour tour, and then spend the rest of the day in Zurich
- Day 3: Day tour to Lucerne.
- Option 1 is Lucerne and Endelberg day tour. This includes exploring a cute Swiss village, a quick hike in the Alps, and tons of beautiful scenery in Lucerne
- Option 2 is Mount Titlis and Lucerne day tour. Explore Lake Lucerne and embark on a city tour, Engelberg with a cable car ride to Mount Titlis. Visit an ice grotto.
- Day 4: Day Trip to Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe. This tour includes travel through Interlaken, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and of course Top of Europe! Book this day tour to Jungfrau, one of the bucket list items!
- Day 5: Day tour to the capital city of Switzerland, Bern. Learn about the city’s history and capture cultural nuances. View this tour here
If you are feeling fancy, take a day trip to Liechtenstein and stop at Heidiland and Rapperswil (Switzerland). Liechtenstein is a micro-state aka a small nation in Europe, and it can be easily explored from Zurich. Check out this day tour
For a full packaged tour, opt for G-Adventures. We are known for conducting ethical small group tours. What I liked about them is that they are a Canadian company, and they focus on cultural travel. You can view their current Switzerland tour offers here
Scenic Train Routes: Switzerland Travel Itinerary 5 days (Sample 4)
Here is a 5 day itinerary for Switzerland starting in Zurich and exploring Zermatt by train, embarking on the Glacier Express to St. Moritz, and returning to Zurich on day 5.
- Day 1 Explore Zurich: Explore the city in the morning. Set aside 2-4 hours in the Old Town. Grab some lunch and then hop on a train to Zermatt from the Zurich Main Station.
- The train ride from Zurich to Zermatt: Zurich to Zermatt train time is about 3 hours+ covering the 100 miles (161 km) long route. The train passes through Bern and Thun, before arriving in Zermatt. The ride from Visp to Zermatt is super scenic so make sure to stay awake 🙂
- Day 2: Wake up in Zermatt. Spend time exploring this beautiful mountain town. There are a ton of hikes and walks of all difficulty levels to enjoy here. If you prefer to sit back and just drool at the mountains without a hike, then head up to Gornergrat. This steep train ride will take you to an altitude of 3.089 metres (10.135 feet) above sea level and you can soak in the views of the Gorner Glacier and the Matterhorn.
- Day 3: Next day ride the scenic Glacier Express. This train leaves Zermatt twice a day and takes you to St Moritz in about 8 hours. The train takes you across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels, three cantons, and two language regions. Stay in Piz St. Moritz Lodge, a no frills 2-star hotel.
- Day 4: Explore St. Moritz for a day. There are a ton of outdoorsy things to do in St Moritz from hiking, stand up paddling, swimming, windsurfing, to skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing in winters in Switzerland. You can also explore soft adventure/light activities like strolling the town centre, eating your heart out or taking the train from Ospizio Bernina (highest spot of the Bernina Express Line) to nearby areas.
- Day 5: Return to Zurich. Train from St Moritz to Zurich is only 3 hours long, so you can explore in the morning or stop at Walenstadt (Lake Walensee). This lake is the perfect stopover between the two cities, offering mesmerizing views.
There are other scenic train routes available including the Golden Pass Train Line that goes from Lucerne to Montreux via Interlaken and Zweisimmen.
Culture Exploration: Switzerland 5 Day Itinerary (Sample 5)
This Switzerland 5 day itinerary starts in Geneva and goes across the country exploring the UNESCO/cultural gems along the way.
- Day 1: Arrive and explore Geneva. Stroll the downtown/city centre area and stop by the UN buildings aka Palais des Nations. Be sure to book a guided tour to learn more about the UN formation (League of Nations) and its functioning today. The water jet – Jet d’Eau – is a must see attraction in the city. It receives water from Lake Geneva. In the evening, leave for Bern. Stay in Bern for the night.
- Day 2: Explore Bern. Bern is a UNESCO listed city, and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. choose from. Take a stroll through the old town, stop by the bear park, or visit the Bundeshaus (House of Parliament). Nature is still at your doorstep here, so take time to head to Rosengarten for the views. Or visit the botanical garden, and later go for a swim either in the River Aare.
- Day 3: From Bern, start for La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Canton of Neuchâtel. The city is known for Le Corbusier, one of the most influential architects of the 20th century who was born here. You will also find watches/watch factories here. Take your time here, relax and then when ready return to Bern. In the evening, catch the train to St. Gallen (two hour train ride)
- Day 4: Start your day in St. Gallen. Explore the old town of St. Gallen, and wander through the UNESCO listed Abbey District. The Cathedral and the impressive Abbey Library will take your breath away. From the city you can venture into the mountains – the nearby Alpstein range. Lake Constance is also easily accessible from St. Gallen. In the evening head back to Bern.
- Day 5: Bern to Morat & Neuchâtel. In the morning, take the train to the quaint little town of Morat from Bern. Train ride is about 30 minutes, and will engulf you into a town steeped in prettiness. Stroll the historic town centre, or hang out at the Lake Morat in Salavaux. From here, travel to Neuchâtel. Head to Chaumont, a mountain in Neuchâtel. You can take the funicular from Le Coudre to the top and then you can hike down to Cressier via Trois Cheminées. From Cressier, board the bus back to Neuchâtel (and take the train to Geneva in the evening. Trains take 1.25 hour).
Using Swiss Travel Pass for Getting Around
As a highly-functional country, Switzerland’s transportation system runs like a well-oiled machine. There are car rentals, bus stops, and even lake cruises available as options to get from A to B. But perhaps the most efficient way to travel around Switzerland is by train.
The train is used as a popular mode of transport for both intercity and intracity movements. But there are also several scenic train rides in Switzerland that can be enjoyed as an activity in their own right.
The Swiss Travel Pass is a savings card that gives you access to train rides throughout Switzerland. These passes help you to save money in the long run, while traveling in comfort and style.
The pass gives unlimited access to trains, boats, and buses across the country for your choice of 3, 4, 8, or 15 consecutive days. In addition, it offers entry into select museums and includes select mountain excursions.
Why Not Extend Your Switzerland Trip?
Before you know it, your surreal time in Switzerland will be over and you’ll be begging for more. If these itineraries only served to whet your appetite, and you can afford to extend your stay, then we’d highly recommend that you do!
To help you get started on further planning, you can browse our 7-day Switzerland itinerary. The beautiful country is warm and welcoming – even in winter. So pack your snow boots or your sun hat and enjoy the trip!