Welcome to Switzerland Travel Blog & Planning Guide
Planning a trip to Switzerland? OMG yay, we are so excited for you!
Switzerland is one of our favorite countries in Europe. From mighty mountains, charming old towns, fancy cities, to scenic train rides, Swiss landscapes will melt your heart (like their cheese – YUM!)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Switzerland Travel Blog: City guides, itineraries & tips
Discover the best of Switzerland through our itineraries, detailed travel guides, and tips!
Quick Facts Switzerland Travel
✔️ Officially Known as – Swiss Confederation
✔️ Capital City – Bern
✔️ No of Cantons or States – 26
✔️ Population – 8.545 million (2019)
✔️ Switzerland Tourist Visa – Schengen
✔️ EU Member – No
✔️ Currency – Swiss Francs (CHF)
✔️ Language – French, German, Italian, Romansh (English is spoken)
Getting ready for Switzerland – Travel Visa
Switzerland is located in central Europe. It is a landlocked country, and is surrounded by Italy, Austria, Germany, France, and Liechtenstein. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, unlike its immediate neighbours.
However, it belongs to the Schengen zone of countries and follows the Schengen Agreement.
🗸 If you require a Schengen visa for most countries in Europe, then you will need it for Switzerland as well (multiple entry visa).
🗸 EU Nationals (European Union) countries do not need a visa for stay upto 90 days.
🗸 For citizens of the United States and Canada, no visa is required. US and Canadian passport holders can enter and stay in Switzerland for up to 90 days for tourism purposes without a visa.
Flight Tips for Switzerland
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, and it is easily connected to many other European cities, with direct flights leaving from many airports in North America, and India.
There are 7 international airports in the country, but Zurich, Geneva, and Basel will be your best bet to book a flight to, if traveling from overseas.
Zürich Airport is the largest of them all, and is also the principal hub of Swiss International Airlines. From Zurich, you can easily connect to other cities, and small towns in Switzerland.
Swiss International Air is the national carrier of the country. They are also a Star Alliance Member, with partners like United Airlines, Lufthansa and Air Canada, so you can easily find flight connections.
Zürich Airport is one of the finest in Europe. They have a cool observation deck, where you can watch pilots in the cockpit, or see planes take-off and land (which is our favorite thing to do in an airport).
The airport is located about 11 km (6.8 miles) from the city centre. You can reach the centre using trains, or private transfer (car). The trip by car usually takes around 15 minutes from Zurich airport.
Best time to travel to Switzerland
Switzerland experiences 4 distinct seasons – spring, summer, autumn/fall and winter. Although official dates overlap and crossover into other months, for simplicity sake, here are the seasons in Switzerland
- Spring: March to mid-June
- Summer: mid-June to September
- Autumn/Fall: September to November
- Winter: December to March
There are variations in temperatures, as you move from the cities to high altitudes. Some of the ski resorts might have some snow at most times of the year, and in the cities, snowfall is at a bare minimum, even in the winters.
🗸 Summer Months – Summer months are the most popular time to visit Switzerland. The days are longer, the weather is warm (and also rainy in the cities), swimming and hiking trails are open, and all of the scenic funiculars and cable cars are operational.
Late June, July and August is also an expensive time to go to Switzerland. Accommodation rates are 30%+ higher than normal, and major sightseeing attractions are all crowded.
We recommend making reservations early for hotels, tours and for any festivals that you might have on your Swiss bucket list.
🗸 Winter Months – Although the weather tends to move towards chilly cold months in late November, the actual ski season doesn’t start until January. January and February are busy tourist months for those heading to the slopes.
January is the coldest month in Switzerland, and also the cheapest month to fly to, and book a stay in the country. Read about the best places to visit in Switzerland in winter.
Winter months are generally low touristy months except for the ski season, and the Christmas – New Years week, when it gets busy again. Switzerland has beautiful Christmas markets too that are worth exploring in late November and December.
🗸 Off season – Spring or fall months are the perfect time to visit Switzerland. During this time the weather is pleasant, and with fewer crowds you can easily score a nice accommodation deal. Plus it will be comfortable getting a seat in public transportation, and walking through old towns.
Our favorite month to visit Switzerland is September. April through June is not bad either (spring-summer crossover months).
- Best time to visit: September – mid October, April – June
- Peak Season: July – August
- Off-Season: October – November, and some regions in the winter, february, March
Average Temperatures in Zurich & Zermatt
- Winters: 2 C/35.6 F (both)
- Spring: 15 C/59 F (Zurich) 6 C/42.8 F (Zermatt)
- Summer: 25 C/77 F (Zurich) 21 C/69.8 F (Zermatt)
- Autumn: 15 C/59 F (Zurich) 12 C/53.6 F (Zermatt)
- Int’l Hot Air Balloon Festival: January (Château-d’Oex)
- Basel Fasnacht: February (Basel)
- Montreux Jazz Festival: July (Montreux)
- National Day: August 1 (all over)
- Sichlete Farmers Harvest: September (Bern)
- Autumn Festival: October (Lugano)
- Zibelemärit – Onion Market: November (Bern)
- World Snow Festival: December (Grindelwald)
- Christmas Markets: Nov – Dec
Swiss Festivals: Switzerland celebrates traditional festivals, national day as well as various music, ski and food/wine fests. In the table above, you can find the popular festivals taking place each month.
Swiss National Day is celebrated every year on August 1, and there are festivities all across the country. Cities like Basel, Bern, and Geneva/Montreux have their unique music, food and carnivals at various times of the year.
The International Hot Air Balloon Festival held in Château-d’Oex in January is a very popular fest that you must add to your bucket list. Winters also welcome ski tournaments and snow festivals in the resort towns.
Don’t forget the Christmas Markets in November and December, so when you do plan to visit Switzerland, you can check off some of these festivals.
For a detailed guide on when to visit Switzerland read here
What to pack for Switzerland? Switzerland Packing List
Switzerland experiences all 4 seasons, and depending on the month you are visiting, and activities you will be undertaking your packing list will vary.
Summers are warm so carry flowy dresses, tops, stylish jeans, or pants. Comfortable walking shoes are a must plus a waterproof light jacket.
Don’t forget your swimsuit (swimming is allowed in the lakes), or hiking gear for those hitting the trails.
Autumn kicks in with moderate temperatures, and we recommend bringing in something warm (a scarf, cardigan, booties, etc) along with the summer clothes.
Carry a warm jacket or a parka, and snow boots for winter activities. In Swiss cities like Zurich in winter or Geneva, Basel etc, you can get by with a nice wool coat, as heavy snowfall is rare. But it is cold, and the weather slightly damp, so pair your outerwear with bright scarves, or cap.
In the spring months, temperatures slowly get warmer, and it is perfect for outdoor activities.
Here is your packing list for Switzerland
- Top: Long sleeve tops, shirts
- Bottoms: Dark washed jeans, pants, leggings
- Nice sweater dress for dinners out (her, winter)
- Shoes: Comfortable walking shoes, hiking boots (summer), winter boots (winter)
- Outerwear: Winter Parka, wool coat (winter). Light waterproof jacket (summer)
- Winter Accessories
- Sunglasses: My favorite RayBan Erikas
- Toiletries: Moisturizer, sunscreen, toothpaste & toothbrush, shampoo, body cream, light make-up
- Your cellphone.
- Sim card or pocket wifi
- Charger: Like this multi charging cable to power up multiple devices
- Universal travel adaptor: Europe uses a plug with two round pins (type C), unlike the flat ones in North America. Don’t forget to carry your universal adaptor
- Camera: Don’t forget your camera. We carry our Sony Mirrorless Camera and Sony A7iii.
- SD Card: To back up all the photos you will be capturing in Switzerland. Get yours here
- Laptop: Optional
- Travel Documents
- Passport: Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the date of arrival in Switzerland. The passport must be in good condition and not torn or tempered.
- Visa: If you require a Schengen Visa for Europe/Switzerland, do apply for it prior to your trip.
- Currency and Credit Cards: Don’t forget your credit cards, and currency (Euro or Francs. Francs is the official currency, but you can exchange Euros in Switzerland).
- Travel insurance (medical, trip cancellations, etc): You can get a quote in minutes from Worlds Nomad Insurance
- Transportation: Carry Swiss Travel Pass, City Pass, flight tickets, or any tour confirmation
- Hotels: Confirm hotel reservations, and save your emails or a screenshot of the booking email.
Budget for Switzerland Travel Tips
Prices in Switzerland can be outrageous for budget-minded travelers, but it is possible to enjoy Switzerland in an affordable way. In our experience, we were able to find hotels and nice restaurants (similar to what we do back home in Canada) in a mid-budget range.
- Luxury: $400
- Mid-Budget: $160
- Hostel: $35 (dorm), $50 (private room)
- Restaurant: $60
- Fast Food: $18-28
- Day pass: $5.50
- 6-7 Day: $27+
- Swiss Travel Pass:$250 (3 days+)
- Taxi:$6+ ($6.20 is base and then per KM/mile is $4)
- Car rental: $60/ day
For us, we set aside a budget of 150- 200 CHF /day (or $160 – $215 per adult) which included the hotel (twin share), day tour/pass, and food. In cities like Munich, and Paris, we were able to get by with $100-$150 per day (per adult), and even less in Sarajevo or Lisbon.
During our trips to Switzerland, we only picked up breakfast from a grocery store, and our lunch and dinner were in restaurants, as we were out and about. We also drank a lot of coffee (and candy, sometimes!).
Shared accommodation in most popular Swiss destinations start at $35 USD, and depending on the duration of your trip and activities you can budget for travel passes. It is not necessary to buy Swiss Travel Pass for a short city trip; a day pass might be a better solution in that case.
If you are planning to treat yourself, and want to splurge, there is no place better than Switzerland – from lakeside or mountain view rooms, fine dining, to horse carriage rides and scenic trains – you can check off your bucket list one by one, with the blink of an eye!
What to see in Switzerland? Things to do in Swiss Destinations
By area, Switzerland is compact, but it packs a punch with so many variations in landscape, temperatures, altitudes and of course (four) languages. Geographically, it is divided as Swiss Plateau, the Alps, and the Jura.
Regionally, it is the Swiss-French, German, Romansh (Grisons Canton), or Italian region. The largest cities are Zürich, Geneva, and Basel, and they are the best destinations to arrive in when traveling internationally.
Cities in Switzerland are very clean, and old towns are pedestrian-friendly (so don’t forget your comfortable walking shoes). There are historical buildings, churches, fancy shopping streets, and amazing restaurants and cafes that will catch your attention.
From the cities, as you move to the countryside and explore small towns and villages, they abound in mesmerizing lakes and mountain-scapes. Riding one of the panoramic train rides like the Glacier Express, Bernina Express, and Golden Pass to explore, is highly recommended.
Apart from these popular rides, there are also shorter cable cars and funicular rides to the mountains that are equally popular – like those to Mount Titlis, and Mount Rigi.
Here is what you must explore in Switzerland
🗸 Zurich – Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland. It is known for its medieval Old Town or Altstadt and the lovely Limmat River that flows through it. You can explore the highlights of Altstadt in a day, and then venture out to visit more of the Canton.
Do make time to visit the iconic Grossmünster and the Fraumünster Church, located only minutes away from each other in Old Town. You can go shopping at the Bahnhofstrasse, or hang out by the promenade or the Lindenhof Hill. Zurich is a great base to explore more of Switzerland by embarking on day trips/tours. Find how to spend 2 days in Zurich itinerary
🗸 Geneva – Geneva is another popular city to arrive into Switzerland. It is home to United Nations Headquarters, and many other important offices. Geneva’s charm is defined by the mountains surrounding it, including the views of Mont Blanc (hint: Book a hotel room with mountain views here!)
In Geneva, you must check off a sightseeing cruise on Lake Geneva and the Jet d’Eau. The flower-clock, located at the Jardin Anglais park is another popular attraction. This special clock is made of a whopping 6500 flowers, and they change each season!
French influence is evident in the architecture, and culinary scene of Geneva.
🗸 Bern – Bern is the capital city of Switzerland. With a beautiful medieval Altstadt (Old Town), and the iconic Französische Kirche (French Church) and Zytglogge tower in it, walking this neighborhood should be a part of your itinerary.
Do visit the site of the Swiss Parliament, which is housed inside the Federal Palace building aka Bundeshaus.
You can also visit Bern on a day trip from Zurich too.
🗸 Basel – Located close to Germany and France, Basel is well known for its art and architecture, especially the works of Erasmus. The old town is dominated by the Town Hall, and the central square of Marktplatz.
In Basel, you can soak in views of the River Rhine. And if you prefer medieval city views, then head to the observation tower of the 12th century Gothic cathedral.
🗸 Lucerne – Home to the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe – Kapellbrücke, with a colorful Old Town, and views of stunning mountains on Lake Lucerne, this city is one of the prettiest in the country.
You have everything you need for an epic Swiss vacation from old town vibes, lakes to mountain views.
In order to explore (or take a cable car ride to) Mount Pilatus, Titlis, or Rigi, it is a good idea to stay in Lucerne. Plus there are a variety of shops, nice restaurants and accommodation options in this compact city too.
🗸 Interlaken – Interlaken is a popular resort town in Switzerland. Located in between two lakes – Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, Interlaken is known as the ‘Adrenalin Capital’ of the country.
This town is home to stunning alpine scenery, thrilling funicular rides to adventurous activities like paragliding, and tons of hiking and biking trails. For those who love to play it safe, they can enjoy boat rides on the lake, sightseeing tours in the Bernese Oberland, and cable car rides.
From Interlaken, you can also visit Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe (part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch). The closest town to Jungfraujoch is Grindelwald, and from there you have to hop on a train to get to the observation deck. (Interlaken to Grindelwald is 35 minutes by train, plus additional travel time from the train station to the Top Of Europe. Depending on the route it takes anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.)
🗸 St Moritz – We found St Moritz to be more expensive than Zurich. Truly it is a luxurious alpine town, home to ski and snowboarding areas, and even mineral springs/spa and amazing pools with views.
St. Moritz was the host of the Winter Olympics twice. You can check out the oldest bobsled track – Olympia Bob Run St. Moritz-Celerina, which is made of natural ice. And lace up at the outdoor Olympic ice rink .
🗸 Zermatt – With the towering views of the Matterhorn, the image of Zermatt paints a beautiful picture of what a Swiss vacation would look like. This charming town has all the ingredients that make an epic alpine mountain trip.
There are amenities for outdoorsy activities from hiking, skiing to climbing. Zermatt’s central street, Bahnhofstrasse is a wonderful place to shop or window shop in the fancy stores, hang out at a restaurant with mountain views, and more.
🗸 Panoramic Trains
- Glacier Express: The Glacier Express is one of the popular scenic train routes that start in Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn to St Moritz (Engadin skiing area). The route takes about 7.50 hours – one way and is nicknamed ‘Europe’s slowest express, covering a distance of over 290 km (180 miles). Its average speed is around 24 mph.
- Golden Pass: The Golden Pass connects Lucerne to Montreux, in 5.50 hours.
- Bernina Pass: Bernina Pass is one of the stunning routes in Switzerland, passing through the Bernina Pass, and connecting to Italy. The route starts in Chur/St Moritz and ends in the town of Tirano in Italy. The route typically takes about 4+ hours. You are not required to complete the entire stretch, and depending on the season and distance traveled, the ticket prices vary.
- Add more scenic train rides to your Switzerland trip
The routes mentioned above are covered under Swiss Travel Pass, and many other savings cards, but seat reservation is required for them.
Movies in Switzerland
With such picturesque locations, no wonder Switzerland pulls in cinematographers and moviemakers to the country. Some of the popular ones include
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Bourne Identity, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Point Break
- ‘James Bond Switzerland‘: Many scenes for the 1969 James Bond 007 film – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – were shot in Piz Gloria. It is located on top of Schilthorn, a 2,970 metre high summit in the Bernese Oberland.
- Bollywood romance immortalized in Switzerland: Switzerland is also a popular outdoor shooting location for many Bollywood movies like Chandni, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Don 2, Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge, and Yes Boss. They were mostly shot in and around Gstaad and the Jungfrau area (like Montreux, Lucerne, and Jungfraujoch).
Did you know there is a bronze statue of Indian filmmaker Yash Chopra in Interlaken?
We take pride in planning and crafting the perfect itinerary to make the most of our trips, and Switzerland is no different.
With an efficient transportation system, and a plethora of day tours, you can easily explore Switzerland by keeping one city as base, and then venturing on day trips from there. Our recommendation is to keep Zurich, Geneva or Interlaken as your base cities.
Our detailed Switzerland itineraries include multiple sightseeing samples. Take a look,
How many do you need in Switzerland?
We recommend at least one week in Switzerland to visit a couple of cities, go on scenic train/funicular rides and check off a day trip (or two) to the Swiss Alps or lakes.
Switzerland Package Tours
Guided tours are a popular way to explore Switzerland if you do not wish to do all the research and planning/booking. Our favorite booking website is Intrepid Travel. They are a small group tour company that organizes tours to Europe, including Switzerland.
You can choose from a range of departure dates, activities, areas and make the most of your travel time. You do have to book flights separately, but hotels are included (plus a few meals and of course guided sightseeing and free time). We like that they organize accommodation in a mid budget range/standard hotels.
Tourradar is another site, where you can look for guided tours. We took a Cosmos tour a few years ago, which was a large size group tour. We were happy with the amenities that came with the package and utilized the free time by exploring on our own. Being a larger site, you will find a variety of tours here.
🗸 Explore Switzerland – Here is a 10-day tour of Switzerland that checks off multiple cities, and popular destinations in the country. Click to view this tour here
🗸 Best of Switzerland in 7 days – This is a 7-day tour of Switzerland with Zurich, Lucerne, Zermatt, and Matterhorn. View the tour here
🗸 There are also day tours that you can use to make the most of your trip!
Transportation Options in Switzerland
There are various ways to explore Switzerland, and depending on the season, number of travelers in a group and trip duration one mode of travel might work better for you, than the other.
We have already listed the guided multi-day tours – these tours cover transport, accommodation, and 1-2 meals.
Day tours are a great option too. We book all of our tours in Europe via GetYourGuide (they also have an amazing cancellation policy, so you are in safe hands when you book through them). Day tours start at $65 USD+ which includes a return trip and may include an entry fee to an attraction and a meal.
Public transportation is a popular way to explore Switzerland. This also includes panoramic train rides, cable cars and funicular trips as well. Each city has their own city pass (full day pass, weekly or monthly pass) for trains, and includes discounted or free attractions.
Swiss Travel Pass is a popular travel savings card. It gives you unlimited rides including scenic trains (seat reservation is additional and required), and access to various touristy sites. You can also enjoy free travel on cable cars like Mount Rigi. It is available for purchase at a minimum of 3 days and prices start at $250+ USD
Swiss Half Fare Card gives you tickets at half the regular fare. It is valid for one month after being activated. This is great for frequent travelers, and for those staying long term. Prices start at $130 USD (for one month)
Renting a car is always an option in Switzerland. If you have a valid international driver’s license or national ones (like the USA, Canada) you can rent a car, and drive in Switzerland. Swiss roads are well maintained and safe.
Swiss drivers drive on the right-hand side of the road, just like the USA and Canada.
On average a rental car will cost about $60 per day. Keep in mind that many hotels may not have free parking, and old towns may be car-free, so we recommend using tours and trains for exploring major destinations, and use a car for remote locations.
Where to stay in Switzerland?
Major cities in Switzerland are the best places to stay in the country in terms of accessing transportation, finding a variety of tours, restaurants and accommodation options.
We recommend staying in Zurich, Geneva, or Interlaken for a short trip, that way you can save money on hotel rates (multiple stay discounts), and also make it easy to base and store your luggage instead of lugging them around.
In Switzerland, you will find standard hotels (Swiss Quality Hotels, iBis Styles, etc), as well as luxurious resorts in all the major cities, and popular tourist towns.
Hostels offer shared as well as private rooms (many with amazing views like the Zermatt Youth Hostel).
Whichever accommodation you book, you are required to pay a tourist tax at the hotel reception (at check in or check out). It starts at 2.50 CHF+ per person, per night, and the price varies by property and town/city you are in.
Read our complete guide to where to stay in Switzerland – we have included our top picks for accommodation properties from popular destinations. If you are a first-time visitor, you will find the post useful.
We use Booking.com, and Airbnb to browse accommodation deals.
What to eat in Switzerland?
There is no dearth of culinary delights in Switzerland. You will easily find vegan and vegetarian restaurants, fast food chains, grocery stores and of course fine dining options (with views, fancy interiors, etc you name it!)
Here are some of the food items you must try in Switzerland
🗸 Swiss fondue – Fondue in Switzerland consists of a large pot of melted cheese, and garlic, which you can enjoy with bread, or by dipping pickles using long-stemmed forks.
🗸 Swiss cheese – Different regions in Switzerland have their take on the fondue, and cheese itself. Raclette is a fondue of cheese, pieces of potato and curried vegetables. This is popular in the French region of Switzerland.
🗸 Zürich style sliced meat – This is a delicious meal of veal, brown sauce, onion, cream and white wine, served with a bed of rice.
🗸 Rosti – This is a flat, hot cake (like a hashbrown) made of potatoes and fried in hot butter.
🗸 Birchermüesli – You can eat toast, cereal and milk in Switzerland for breakfast, or go with Birchermüesli, which is a breakfast bowl of oat flakes, lemon juice, fruits, nuts and condensed milk.
🗸 For drinks, Swiss wines, craft beers and cider are popular
🗸 Oh oh…. don’t forget Swiss chocolates – We literally tried chocolates from grocery stores to popular brands like Toblerone to see if they taste any different. But they are the same – DELICIOUSLY GOOD!
Safety in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the safest countries in the world. It is safe for solo travel, for couples and families to venture out, explore and use public transportation at any time of day.
Violent crimes are rare.
Although safe, petty theft including pick-pocketing in major tourist attractions is common, which is true for most European destinations.
You do have to be mindful of weather warnings though (like when you go skiing, or driving in the winter), and while embarking on adventurous activities like paragliding, diving, etc.
One of the things we noticed about Switzerland is that their cities are very very clean. Plus their tap water is also safe for drinking!
We hope you found our Switzerland travel tips useful in planning your getaway. Have questions? Ask us!