If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you know we just got back from an amazing, long, wonderful 2-week vacation in Switzerland. The country is full of incredible alpine views, livestock roaming everywhere, cheese and chocolate, and a diverse tourist population. Though we like a certain level of spontaneity in our trips, we did try to plan this one a bit. We ended up covering a lot of what we planned out, but also found so many trails and activities along the way that we had no clue existed. Here’s what we did over the two weeks. I’ll do more specific posts over the coming weeks.
First things first, here is a list of our home bases:
Days 1-3: Lucerne
Days 3-8: Lauterbrunnen
Days 8-9: Montreux
Days 9-12: Zermatt
Days 12-13: Chur
Days 13-16: St. Gallen
Day 1: Zurich to Luzern, Explore Luzern
We originally planned to get into to Zurich around 2pm, but our flight was happily switched to a direct flight that got us in by 10am. We hopped on a train to Luzern and checked into our AirBnB around noon. As it turned out, our host was out of town for the weekend, so we picked up our key from the guy running the gelato place downstairs. After falling asleep for about an hour, we set off to explore Luzern.
We checked out the Chapel Bridge and Spreuer Bridge, which were each only a short walk from our AirBnB, walked a bit through the old town, explored Museggmauer, walked to the Lion Monument and walked past Hofkirche St. Leodegar all in a short period of time. Though you could probably spend more time at each place we went, Luzern is small and we felt we saw and explored each as much as we wanted.
After exploring the town, we walked along the River Reuss, got beers and ate dinner. We went to our AirBnB and passed out.
Day 2: The Golden Round Trip, Chateau Gutsch, Gutsch Woods
Golden Round Trip
On our second day, we got up early to do the Golden Round Trip (check out our post on it here!). The Golden Round Trip consists of a boat ride from Luzern’s harbor across Lake Luzern to the Pilatus funicular. The boat ride was spectacular, but the funicular was something else altogether. It’s a long ride up all the way to the top of Mount Pilatus through trees and hillside and even through a tunnel or two. You get incredible views both in front of you and behind you! We really enjoyed the funicular.
We checked out Mount Pilatus for quite some time. It was cloudy when we went, but that made it all the more other worldly. There are a couple of hotels and restaurants at the top, but we chose not to eat. It was also a bit crowded, but you hardly feel it up there. We managed to walk through a large section all by ourselves. From here, you can see so many peaks: Eiger, Titilus, Jungfrau, etc. Despite the clouds blocking our view of the valley below, each of these peaks was on full display. We also saw our first mountain goat!
After we finished taking in the clean air, beautiful vistas and general peace of Pilatus, we took a large gondola, holding a couple dozen people, to a smaller gondola, that held just Neal and me. The gondola took us to Kierns. It’s a short walk through Kierns to the bus stop back to Luzern. Along the way, we enjoyed the city streets and saw our first Swiss graveyard abutting a beautiful church.
Chateau Gutsch and Gutsch Woods
When we got back, we rested. Then we set back out. If you look up from the River Reuss, you can see a huge castle/fantasy-type building on the hill with a large red heart sculpture. We were curious, so we walked until we found how to get up. This is when we took our second funicular of the day! It was much much much shorter and hardly spectacular, but a fun way to get up the hill nonetheless.
First, we tried to see the giant heart on top of the mountain. Unfortunately, it cost 8CHF, which we didn’t think was worth it. We got a shot from the entrance. Right next to this little outdoor art walk was a trail leading into lush woods. We hadn’t set out to walk in the woods that day, but it was so inviting. There were very few people around and we really could have used the shade. We ventured in and got lost in Gutsch Woods for about an hour.
When we came out, we still wanted to checkout Chateau Gutsch. From the hotel, you can see Luzern and the mountainscape in the background. The hotel was fancy! We went inside to get a drink. It was a great way to relax and enjoy the view, but beware, the drinks are expensive!
We took the funicular back down the mountain to find dinner (Chateau Gutsch was out of our price range), ate, enjoyed the River Reuss at sunset once again, and went back to the AirBnB to rest.
Day 3: Luzern to Lauterbrunnen
The next morning, we took in our last views of Luzern and hopped on the train to Lauterbrunnen. This ended up being one of the most beautiful train rides of the vacation. Lake Brienz was the highlight for sure.
But we pulled into Lauterbrunnen with our mouths agape. The Lauterbrunnen valley is a wide beautiful expanse between a million mountains surrounded by waterfalls.
We took a kind of lazy day. We couldn’t check into our AirBnB until 4pm, so we got lunch and drank a beer in a cafe for an hour or so. After we checked in, we walked the long path through the Lauterbrunnen Valley. It was stunning. We tried to go to Trummelbach Falls, but it closed at 5. On our way back to find dinner, we walked along the river rather than the open valley. We saw goats along the way and enjoyed the fresh air. After dinner, we made hot chocolate and enhanced it with chocolate sticks our hosts left for us. We sat out on the patio and took it in.
Day 4: Murren, Schilthorn, Gimmelwald
Murren and Schilthorn
Day 4 was a very hot, exhausting, incredible day. It was also our first day finally setting out to hike! And boy did we. The trail to Murren started right behind our AirBnB, so rather than take the gondola up the mountain, we walked. It was tough! A lot of uphill. It took us 3 hours to reach Murren, passing through Winteregg and many cow pastures.
We looked around Murren a bit, but mostly came for the breakfast, the view and the gondola up to Schilthorn. This gondola was quite large, holding 30-40 people. It made a stop in Birg before finally reaching the top of Schilthorn.
Schilthorn is famous for its connection to the James Bond franchise. A scene was shot here and they don’t let you forget it! It’s beautiful and you can see so many peaks, while also posing with some of your favorite Bond characters. We really let this mountaintop seep in before finally getting back into the gondola down.
On the way down, we stopped at Birg to check out the thrill walk. Neal is too afraid of heights to do something like that, but I wanted to see what it was all about. I took one step out on the grate to see the valley below my feet before my knees started wobbling!! It was quite a feeling. We didn’t stay in Birg long before heading back to Murren.
The Northface Trail
When we got back to Murren, we got on a funicular up to Allmendhubel to start the Northface Trail. This ended up being our favorite hike of the trip! Though it was 95 degrees and we’d already walked over 10 miles, we were fired up to walk along the ridge high above the Lauterbrunnen valley. This walk took us through small villages and cow pastures and even woods at various points. When we found a stream, we soaked our feet and legs in an attempt to escape the heat. We took this trail all the way to Gimmelwald.
Gimmelwald is a TINY town on top of the mountain. There is not a lot to explore, BUT, Pension Gimmelwald, near the gondola, is a fantastic place to stop and rest. We got a litre of beer each after our exhausting hike. There’s a beautiful view of Jungfrau, Monsch and the other peaks as well.
We took the gondola down to Stechelberg in order to walk the Lauterbrunnen valley back to our AirBnB. There was a vending machine along the way with cheese and meat, which Neal happily purchased and ate later that night. We had a long day and slept well that night.
Day 5: Grindelwald First, Trummelbach Falls
We were ready for some more adventuring on Day 5, so we headed to Grindelwald, a bigger town in an adjacent valley. There was a gondola up to First, and then we walked to Balchapsee, a beautiful lake about an hour hike away. With our ticket, we also were able to do two activities on the mountain. We did First Flyer, which is a ride in which they strap you in and release you down a zipline. Then we did First Mountain Cart. This was probably our favorite activity of the trip! If it weren’t ungodly hot, we would have done it multiple times. Essentially, you ride an adult tricycle down the mountain. You go really fast and ride with a view of the mountains on one side and wildflowers on the other. Absolutely gorgeous.
When we got back to Lauterbrunnen, we hopped a bus to Trummelbach Falls. It was open this time! It was SO HOT, so going to see a waterfall encased in the rocks was a godsend. A beautiful one at that. We wandered around here for about an hour or so taking pictures and getting wet before heading back out to the heat.
I know we already talked about the hotel/restaurant in Gimmelwald, but we loved it so much we went back! We got the fondue dinner this time with our litre of beer! It was the best fondue we had the whole trip! We walked back through the valley to our AirBnB.
Day 6: St. Beatus Caves, Oberhofen Castle, Thun
The plan for Day 6 was to bike around Lake Thun (pronounced “tune”). When we got to the bike rental shop in Interlaken, the woman told us not to. She said it wasn’t a pleasant bike ride. So we took the bus instead! We stopped in St. Beatus Caves, which I originally did not want to do, but it was great. We then made our way to Oberhofen Castle, beautifully nestled along the lake. Our last stop was the town of Thun. Unfortunately, it was so hot, we couldn’t enjoy the town to its fullest extent, but what we saw, we loved! It’s more like Luzern. People were swimming in the river and the whole vibe was just what I look for in a town.
Day 7: Kandersteg, Oeschinensee, Chocolate Tour
Kandersteg and Oeschinensee
Kandersteg is quite a trek from Lauterbrunnen (1hr45 by train), so we got up really early in order to get there before the crowds/sun. We immediately made our way to the gondola up to the walk to Oeschinensee. Oeschinensee is a large lake surrounded by mountains. It is GORGEOUS. There are even a few waterfalls. We walked around it for hours, see the light grow over the lake as the sun came up. After a coffee in Kandersteg, we hopped the train to Interlaken. We planned to stop in Spiez (a cute town on Lake Thun) along the way, but we were so hot and tired we decided not to.
Interlaken Chocolate Tour
After traveling around Lake Thun, we did an impromptu chocolate tour in Interlaken. We stopped at Laderach, Funky Chocolate Club, Chocolate Schuh and the Swiss Chocolate Chalet. These are all along the same street, but it was so hot I felt like we were going to melt along with the chocolate as we went to each place. The chocolate is FANTASTIC though, and obviously a well-known Swiss achievement.
Day 8: Montreux
We next took the train to Montreux, which was having a Jazz Festival. Montreux is a beautiful lake-side town. We indulged in a lot of street/festival food and checked out the Chillon Castle. Unfortunately it was closed when we got there, but thankfully it’s nice to look at too! We walked up into the town for dinner before heading to our hotel room. The room was nice and chill with a balcony and spent some time enjoying the sunset. We needed this rest day.
Day 9: Zermatt, 5 Lakes Trail
With only one night in Montreux, we didn’t have time to see a lot. We got on the train and headed to Zermatt early because we heard rain was coming and just had to make sure we got a clear glimpse of the Matterhorn. The train from Visp to Zermatt is REALLY pretty and part of the Glacier Express route. When we got to Zermatt, we checked into our AirBnB and immediately set off to hike the 5 Lakes Trail. It was extremely hot, but the trail was awesome. We loved seeing the different lakes and how they looked abutting the Matterhorn.
Day 10: Europahutte Trail, Suspension Bridge, Explore Zermatt
We got up early on Day 10 to take the train to Randa. We thought it might rain, so we were looking for a woodsy trail. The Europahutte Trail from Randa to the Charles Kuoenen Suspension Bridge was just one such trail. It ended up being 3hrs of uphill walking. It was tough! But the Suspension Bridge is said to be the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. It was fun walking over it, but unfortunately the trail on the other side was closed, so we had to go back the way we came.
When we got back, we explored Zermatt and tried a bit of the local food and beer. Zermatt is a cute little ski town.
Day 11: Kulturweg, Gornerschlucht, Winkelmatten, Mountaineers’ Cemetery
So far, the rain had only come at night. The weather report was completely wrong! It was cloudy, though. So we set off on Zermatt’s Kulturweg, which is a trail that starts in Zermatt itself and goes up along the mountainside to Zmutt, identifying several cultural landmarks along the way. This trail was gorgeous. I really enjoyed it. Zmutt was a tiny “town.” So cute!
We finished the trail in Furi, where there is a gondola up the mountain that gets you closer to the Matterhorn. It was cloudy, so we couldn’t get a good view. We decided to head down the mountain instead. When we got back to Zermatt, we rested for a minute and looked up an attraction we saw on our hike: Gornerschlucht. Gornerschlucht is a walk through the gorge. We were looking to do just that, so it sounded perfect! The walk was nice, but incredibly short. It cost something like 10CHF each, which was definitely not worth it.
Alas, it got us to the other side of the river, where we could explore Winkelmatten. Winkelmatten is a suburb of sorts of Zermatt. It’s a nice little town. The houses look expensive! As we ventured out of Winkelmatten back to Zermatt, we stopped at the Mountaineers’ Cemetery. This was a harrowing reminder of the lives the Matterhorn has taken. Many young climbers have died attempting to scale the Matterhorn, and older experienced climbers, too. I felt moved by the cemetery. Exhausted, we relaxed the rest of the evening.
Day 12: Zermatt to Chur on the Glacier Express, Explore Chur
The next day, we opted to get first class tickets on the Glacier Express from Zermatt to Chur. The ride was about 6.5hrs long through the Swiss countryside. We got a meal aboard the train as well. To us, this ride (and meal) was absolutely not worth the money. There are so many trains, and at this point we’d taken many, with amazing views that we didn’t pay for, that it was like, why are we paying for this one? The views were mediocre in comparison. But that’s okay, now we know.
When we got to Chur, we checked into our hotel and started exploring the Old Town. Chur is the oldest town in Switzerland! We liked the vibe there as well. There are a few churches, which we explored, and we even found a jail that looked like a beautiful place to live…oh the Swiss. We ate a fancy meal in our hotel restaurant and called it quits for the night.
Day 13: Chur to St. Gallen, the Abbey Library, Schutzengarten
We hopped on the train to St. Gallen the next morning. We had some grand plans, but we were very tired at this point. We decided to head into Old Town St. Gallen and check out the Abbey of St. Gall, its library, its cellar and its archives. The library was spectacular. Incredible ancient history. We spent a few hours exploring.
St. Gallen boasts about having the oldest brewer in Switzerland: Schutzengarten. We set off to find it. Before we got there, we wanted to see the University of St. Gallen campus. It was nothing special. We thought we might get a nice view of the city from there, but no, not really. St. Gallen is supposedly the “City of Stairs” and we found out why trying to get to the campus.
We headed back down the hill to Schutzengarten. When we got there, we were a bit put off. For some reason, we were picturing a small old brewery. Oh no, it’s huge! Well, not *huge* but it is definitely several warehouses. We felt a bit uncomfortable, so we decided to try to find some craft brews. We stumbled upon Bruw. The owner was running the bar and we talked all about his business and his two beers on tap and how Schutzengarten rules the town. We loved Bruw so much more than Schutzengarten! To say the least. After two beers, we sought out to get some dinner and head in for the night.
Day 14: A bike ride around Lake Constance through Rorschach, Bregenz, Lindau
Day 14 was my birthday!! I really wanted to do a bike ride to celebrate turning 34. So we took the train to Rorschach, which is right on the shores of Lake Constance (Bodensee), and rented a couple bikes. We rode through several towns and farms to Bregenz, Austria. It was so cool to ride just a couple hours and end up in a different country. We got lunch here, quite exhausted. From Bregenz, it was another hour ride to Lindau, Germany. Yup, another country! It was so cool. Lindau is ancient! Very cool walled old town. We explored it for a couple hours. Faced with biking back 4+ hours, we decided to take the boat across Lake Constance back to Rorschach. It was a nice easy boat ride. We came into the harbor and went back to our hotel room. For dinner, we ate a place Neal picked and rang in 34 right.
Day 15: Appenzell, Santis, Maestrani Chocolate Factory
For our last real day in Switzerland, we decided to go up one more peak and take a chocolate factory tour. We started in Appenzell, but honestly were too pooped to explore it (it looked like it would be cute though!). We headed straight to Santis. Santis is a peak from which you can see 6 countries on a clear day! Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, and France. It wasn’t the clearest day when we went up, but we still got to see quite a lot. It was SO COLD though. After 2 weeks of 90+ weather, we were not prepared for how cold it was up there. We’d all but forgotten it gets that cold! Unfortunately, this meant we didn’t stay long. We also saw the rain rolling in.
After Santis, we took the train to Flawil, which is home to Switzerland’s Maestrani Chocolate Factory. Maestrani makes all of their chocolate in this one factory. The tour was great, with a lot of free chocolate along the way. We also got to make some of our own!
It was pouring when we left Maestrani. We figured our day was done. Alas, when we got to St. Gallen, just 20 minutes or so on the train, the rain had stopped! We went and walked around the old town that we hadn’t yet explored and found a fondue place for our last meal in Switzerland. The fondue was great (though not as good as Gimmelwald!) and the waitstaff was super engaging. He told us the best place in St. Gallen to see fireworks. If we weren’t exhausted, we would have done it. Instead, we went back to our hotel room and started to pack.
Day 16: St. Gallen to Zurich
We left our hotel and got to the train station with heavy hearts. We loved Switzerland! It was hard to leave. We got to Zurich airport a bit early and bought a ton of souvenirs. There was one last surprise for us to come out of Switzerland: We got upgraded to first class on our plane! It was a nice way to end our 2-week trip in Switzerland.
So, there you have it. Two full weeks in Switzerland. Amazingly, there is so much we didn’t get a chance to do.
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