Spend a perfect week while based in Switzerland
Three languages in 6 days? Welcome to Switzerland!
While I’ve spend loads of time complaining about social media for one reason or another, I have to admit it has brought me back together with grade-school friends with whom I may have never reunited.
Recently, after a lot of banter and enjoying each others posts, I offered up a challenge. I asked them to take a week to come and visit me in Switzerland. I couldn’t believe it when two of my very best besties from primary school agreed to come and visit me this past September, all the way from the States.
We hadn’t seen each other in decades, and I really wanted to make sure that the commitment they made to see me was going to be totally worth their time. So I set off to plan a stellar week—one where they’d be able to get a taste of the diverse flavors of Switzerland.
With a little help from the archives of Swiss Family Travel, we made a killer itinerary which I am happy to share with you because it was a smokin’ success!
If you’ve only got a week, come visit. You won’t be bored.
Day 1: Visit Zürich
Free tour of Zurich: This tour is approximately 1.5 hours long, fairly easy walking although there are some stairs and minor inclines. It really is free, but you can show your appreciation at the end if you like the tour. We loved it, and the three of us donated CHF 20 toward the cause.
Do some fun shopping in Niederdorf where you’ll find a variety of eclectic and unique items.
If you feel a mid-afternoon lull, be sure to stop by Conditerei Schober across from the site of the first post office in Zurich. Enjoy a Schlumli Flumli if you’re brave (a coffee with kirsch and whipped cream) or a traditional Cafe Creme (a cup of black coffee, with cream served alongside). Order wonderful pastries at the counter if you fancy one (and you will).
Dinner plans: If you’re still hungry by the time dinner rolls around, head over to Brasserie Louis where you’ll find traditional French brasserie fare including Moules Frites, Steak Frites, and Bouillabaisse.
Day 2: Pop over the border to France
We love Switzerland, but we especially love how close it is to France.
If you’ve got access to a car, blast your jet lag by leaving town at 6:00 AM and heading to Chagny for a fabulous farmers market (along with other traditional food and craft items). The market runs from 6:00 until 13.00 every Saturday during Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Book a room at Maison Lamelois and be sure to sign up for dinner at their storied three Michelin starred restaurant. This is one splurge which is not to be missed. If you’d prefer to stay at a more low key location, I couldn’t recommend Camping Paquier Fane more highly. For less than 60 Euros per night you can have a two bedroom / one bathroom mobile home in a peaceful campground which is literally 300 meters from the city walls. You can easily reach the restaurants in less than a 20 minute walk.
Day 3: Explore Beaune before heading back to Switzerland
Enjoy a hearty breakfast of croissants, jams, fruits, meats, and cheeses, then head north to Beaune, home of the famous “Hostels” and famed Burgogne wines. Not only can you tour the hostels, where poor and sick people were once rehabilitated, but you can also visit a mustard factory Edmond Fallot (www.fallot.com) and have a mustard tasting. Try to resist buying every flavor they have (it seems like hundreds…).
Have a set menu lunch which changes daily at Les Popiettes (https://www.les-popiettes.com/), a small but lush little restaurant with local wines and seasonal food. You’ll find a creative pasta, salad, or fish with the most unusual but delightful and artistic combinations
Leave plenty of time for a full day in Beaune as there is so much to see and do, and . There is just something about being drenched in French charm that is just so addictive.
Day 4: Glacier Express with an overnight stay in Zermatt
What would a trip to Switzerland be without a trip to Zermatt to see the famed Matterhorn? Do it in style by catching the Glacier Express in Chur. Hop aboard the fastest slow train through the glaciers and be prepared for jaw dropping beauty on all sides.
Stay at Hotel Phoenix for a clean modern room with a very comfortable bed that’s only a few steps outside of the main village. Here you’ll get friendly service, a nice filling breakfast, free internet, and a luggage room where you can store your stuff while exploring Zermatt.
Arrive in Zermatt that afternoon and enjoy views of the Matterhorn while you shop. Here in the quaint village you’ll find unique and one of a kind Swiss made items which can perfectly commemorate your trip to Switzerland.
Relax in the evening at the Swiss Chalet with a fondue (choose from several varieties of cheese, a “Chinoise Fondue” consisting of boiling broth to cook meats and veggies in, or a Fondue Borgogne which is boiling oil) and a cold mug of beer.
Day 5: Visit Gornergrat
It’s time for a close up view of the Matterhorn. Jump on to the Gornergratbahn for a 30 minute ride up the mountain and iconic views of the glorious Matterhorn. Take the train to the top, then walk down to the station below (Rotenboden) for some “peak” viewing, pun intended. It’s here where you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the Matterhorn reflected in the Riffelsee, and snap some pictures to make everyone back home extremely jealous. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, walk down to the station Riffelberg where you can get more prized views and then stop for a delicious Flammkuchen and a beer on the terrace of the Riffelberg Hotel while you continue to gasp at the beauty.
Head down to Zermatt on the Gornergratbahn for a bit more shopping and perhaps one more glass of wine while listening to live jazz on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof before you head back to your hotel in Zurich.
Day 6: Visit Italy in Switzerland
Just as important as mountains are to the Swiss, so are palm trees. The last but not least stop during your fabled week is a trip down to Switzerland’s answer to Italy: Lugano.
Take the train to the main station, then find the funicular that will take you down into town. You can ride for only CHF 1.30 and you’ll save both time and your knees.
First stop: walk to the main square and make a beeline for Le Federale, the cafe that is in the middle of two other cafes, but clearly anything but average. Order the obligatory and beautifully orange Aperol Spritz (which comes with olives, homemade breadsticks, and paprika potato chips) and watch the Swiss people going about their day.
After your apertif, head over to La Tinera, a small nondescript but totally authentic restaurant behind Credit Suisse. Descend the extremely old staircase into a lovely dining room to meet the owners who will take incredible care to ensure you get a meal you’ll rave about. Seasonal specials along with old Ticinese favorites such as polenta and risotto are on offer. Make sure you order a bottle of local wine, drank from the traditional quaint glazed clay bowls.
As much as it will pain you to do so, skip dessert and instead go to -9, a modern Gelateria that makes gelato in the old traditional way. The chocolate gelato is nearly black and a must for the chocolate lover!
Spend the rest of the day touring around the shops, and tuck into the beautiful cathedrals scattered around the city. If you have time head over to the lush green park on the lake for a coffee and people watching. If you happen to go in-season, be sure to check out the enormous hydrangea gardens that would make any gardener cry tears of joy; they are simply that gorgeous.
(Looking for more places to eat in Lugano? Check out our list)
Day 7: Time to head home
Believe it or not, it’s already time to leave. Look back on your photos and marvel at the number of unique cultures in such a small corner of the world. And then make plans to come back again!
If this itinerary looks good to you, then it more than pays to get a tourist card from the SBB (Swiss Train Network) . Visit the link or speak to SBB personnel in person and share this itinerary to determine the travel card that is right for you.
You can book all of your tickets through SBB, as well as purchase the round trip ticket on the Gorgnergratbahn while traveling on the Glacier Express.
Check out the SBB Supersaver Tickets for selected routes.
Our itinerary involved using my car to get to France. If you’re not going to be renting a car, you can always head to the French part of Switzerland by train. Consider Neuchatel or Lausanne for stunning views, and a little bit of that je ne se quoi that comes free with every trip!