12 Day Switzerland Itinerary
by Michelle Ong
Hi, I chanced upon your website and liked it so much as you have provided lots of valuable info. I am a Singaporean and will be going to Switzerland from 29 Nov to 12 Dec 2013. There'll be just 3 of us (the hubby, the 8 year old princess and myself).
I have a brief idea of where to go, but will need your expert travel advice.
- 30/11: Arrival 6am in Zurich, plan to stay 2-3 nights in Zurich, with day trips to Basel & Schaffhausen (by train)
- 3/12: Proceed to Lausanne as base for 3-5 nights, with day trips to Berne, Geneva, Montreux, Mont Blanc
- 7/12: Proceed to Zermatt for 2 nights as base, with visit to Fox Town factory outlet
- 9/12: Proceed to Lucerne for 3 nights as base, with day trip to Interlaken
- 12/12: Check out from Lucerne and take a train back to Zurich to catch our 11pm flight back to Singapore
I am just wondering what are the must-see places to go and must do stuff while in Switzerland. Can you also advise which train pass will be more suitable for me? We'll like to see all the picturesque sight and do some skiing, basically enjoying the nature. Shopping can be kept to a minimum and we prefer bargain hunting (thus the factory outlet).
Looking forward to your suggestions :)
12 Day Switzerland Itinerary
You've chosen a chilly time to visit Switzerland. Although the weather is hard to predict anytime of the year, beginning of December can be a bit messy. Snow comes and gos as it pleases and leaves a mess in city streets. Fog is another factor that can prevent you from scenic views. Some of the alpine highlights still could be closed. Most ski regions are in hibernation from end of October until a week before Christmas.
But then again, you could be lucky and experience good weather. One never knows. Fortunately, it's the time of Christmas Markets.
The tourist offices in your chosen cities are directly located in the train stations (except for Geneva and Vevey). Visit them and get city maps for walking tours, along with the latest news
ZürichLargest Indoor Christmas Market
: Main Station Zürich; Singing Christmas Tree
(Wertmühleplatz); Zoo Zürich
: one of the best; Uetliberg
for a panoramic view; Shopping
: Kreis 4 - on and around Langstrasse - way more funky and fun and less expensive than on the famous Bahnhofstrasse.
Schaffhausen and Rhine Falls
To visit the Rhine falls
(Europe's largest waterfall), take the train from Zürich via Winterthur to "Schloss Laufen am Rheinfal" and return from there via Schaffhausen back to Zürich.
The inner city is easily explored on foot; Switzerland's best Christmas Market
for "Basler Läckerli", a specialty cookie, and a hot beverage at Gerbergasse 57 (near the historical museum); sample "Mandelfleisch"
- a fish shaped pastry filled with almond marzipan at the Gilgen Confiserie at the bottom of Spalenberg (Spalenberg 6); Johann Wanner's Christmas House
(Spalenberg 14); Tinguely Museum
on "Paul Sacher-Anlage 2" (Tram #2 and 15 (Wettsteinplatz) or bus #31 and 36 (Museum Tinguely).
On your way from Zürich to Lausanne stop for a few hours of sightseeing in the medieval city of Bern
. It's a UNESCO Heritage site, and rightly so. Meander down the old city to Bern's Bear pit
, although they might be already in hibernation at this time of year, they still can be seen occasionally all through winter.
Great views to the Alps from the terrace behind the Federal Parliament
or, if you don't mind to climb a few stairs, from the "Berner Münster"
, Switzerland's tallest cathedral.
Try “Zibelechueche” (onion tart) at the Migros takeaway (Marktgasse 46); watch the mechanical figures of the "Glockenspiel" at the Zytglogge Tower
(at the end of Marktgasse) in motion 4 minutes before each full hour.
Onward to Lausanne
Enjoy the panoramic view from the Sauvabelin Tower
(bus 16) then head to the city for sightseeing Chocolate connoisseurs meet at Durig's
for delicious, high quality, handmade chocolate (avenue d'Ouchy 15, closed Sunday and Monday); Collection L'Art Brut
for some unusual art; hang out at Ouchy
; a cruise on Lake Geneva
Visit pretty lakeside villages: Nyon and Morges to the west and Lutry, Vevey, Clarens, Montreux with its beautiful Chillon castle
to the East.
For grand vistas: Les Paccots
above Vevey; Mont-Pèlerin
by funicular from Vevey train station; Glion
by funicular from the boat landing at Territet (approximately one km south of Montreux).
Day trips to: Les Diablerets and the Glacier3000
arena; Les Rochers-de-Naye
; and of course Gruyère
, a enchanting and postcard-pretty medieval village about an hour and half away from Montreux. It sits on top of a small hill and is reached from Gruyère train station either on foot or by bus. The bizarre Giger Museum
(not everything is "child-proof" there) and his bar right next to the museum are quite a contrast to the postcard-prettiness of Gruyère (Giger is the "Alien creator"). Gruyère is Switzerland's "fondue town". But leave some space for the decadent and calorie-rich desert - meringues, clotted cream sprinkled with "bricelets" (crumbled cookies).
While you are in "Cheese town", you might want to visit the Cheese Museum. La Maison du Gruyère
is located at the bottom of the hill. During winter open daily 9am to 6pm.
Want to try your hand at making your own Chocolate? Visit the Cailler Chocolate Factory
in Broc. The train takes you from Gruyère train station to Broc-Fabrique in just under half an hour. Open daily between 10am and 5pm.
You can do this trip on your own or take the Chocolate Train
from Montreux (reservation mandatory and fee applies).Aquaparc in Le Bouveret
just around the corner from Montreux is a fun indoor experience for all people young at heart, especially if the sun does not cooperate.
Switzerland has many hot mineral springs
, and it would be a pity not to try at least one of them. For example, Lavey-les-Bains
or in a more alpine setting the Val d'Illiez Theremes Parc
A side trip to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc
: If you plan some winter activities up there, I'd recommend staying overnight. Or visit from Martigy. It's still about two hours by public transportation from there. But Martigny has another attraction that I am almost sure the Princess will love - the St Bernard dogs
, of course, is fabulous for skiing. However, I wouldn't really recommend it for beginners. If you are not experienced skiers, you might take a look at Grächen
, just outside of Zermatt. You could do both: first visit Zermatt for a few hours of sightseeing (the village is small) and then travel to Grächen to overnight and a day of skiing before you proceed to Lucerne. But do make hotel reservations early because there's just a small contingent of hotel rooms for only one night. Most rooms have to be rented for a longer period of time.
I'd suggest you travel to Lucerne via Visp - Spiez - Interlaken and along the shores of Lake Brienz via Brünig-Hasliberg
. The stretch between Spiez and Lucerne is absolutely breathtaking. You could travel by Golden Pass Line, but the normal train takes you on the exact same route to Lucerne without having to pay an extra fee.Day trips
: Mount Titlis
; Snow & Fun Fräkmüntegg Pilatus; Einsiedeln with its famous abbey; a scenic cruise on Lake Lucerne is a must in good weather.
I am sure the Princess will be enchanted by a visit to the "Gletschergarten"
with its mirror maze. It's approximately 15 minutes on foot from the train station or take bus 1,19, 22 and 23 to Löwenplatz.
Fox Town Factory
You mention that you want to visit the Fox Town Factory
on your way to Zermatt. That is a bit complicated and very time consuming. The Fox Town Factory is located in Mendriso, in the canton Ticino and it would be a side trip of about two days (going there, shopping, stay overnight and then return the next day).
Instead, you might want to check out the Outlet Park Murgenthal
between Basel and Lucerne (a little closer to Lucerne than Zürich).
Probably I've given you way too many options. But do check them out, and then go back to the drawing board to figure out which rail pass is best for you. For that, refer to my help page
and check all pass options
Have fun planning your trip, and safe travels!FidaPS:
Please do share a few photos
of your Swiss experience. I'd be delighted to hear from you.