Seven days in Swiss Bliss is not enough if you want to get to know Switzerland on a local level. But then again, even ten lifetimes is probably not ample time to fully explore this beautiful landlocked country. However, with limited vacation time (and funds), a week is most definitely sufficient enough to scratch the surface of Switzerland. Here’s your one week in Switzerland Itinerary!
Switzerland travel itinerary: tips, tricks & practical advice
This 7-day guide can be taken by train or by car if you prefer. Both have their merits; taking the train is simple, easy and transport links throughout Switzerland are good (though, like many other aspects of Swiss life, public transport can be pricey).
On the other hand, with a car, you can easily stop off when you see something that catches your eye, or you notice another town or attraction worth visiting! Having a car would especially be useful around Lake Geneva, where fortified castles and small villages are abundant, and not necessarily easy to reach with a limited amount of time.
Switzerland has four official languages; German, French, Italian and Romansh, though you’ll find English is fairly wide spoken. When it comes to booking accommodation, I recommend making a reservation well in advance as hotels/ hotels/ B&Bs are likely to be one of the biggest costs of your trip. Check here for the best accommodation prices.
Stay: 1 Night
Day one: Pretty and by Lac Léman, a body of water often referred to in English as ‘Lake Geneva’, Geneva is easily one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland. Day one in this seven-day itinerary is all about introducing you to Swiss Life, local cuisine and an introduction to the history of this beautiful nation.
Start your day by heading to the St Pierre cathedral for a bird’s eye view of the city. Enjoy fondue in the old town for a spot of people watching and a chance to enjoy some local cheeses in their best form; melted and smothered on bread! After lunch, wander around the city and enjoy iconic Geneva sights such as the Jet d’Eau (a world-famous fountain).
Enter the Palace of Nations to learn all about the work of the UN or take a quick hop over the border and into France to visit Mont Saleve. While the city can be expensive, it is still possible to do Geneva on a budget; wandering around the old town is completely free, as are walks through the city’s many parks and the French pastime of window shopping!
Stay: 1 Night
Day two: An ancient settlement overlooks the Alps in the distance. One night is definitely enough to get to get know to Lausanne, but you can opt to stay an extra night if you want to take a day trip to Evian-les-Bains on the other side of the lake.
If you’ve ever purchased a bottle of water, then no doubt you’ve heard of ‘Evian’. The water comes from springs in a town of the same name, which is well worth a visit if you want to visit a French Alps town and experience some slightly cheaper cuisine than that of Switzerland! After all, a day trip between Evian and Lausanne couldn’t be easier!
While in Lausanne, make sure to visit Chillon Castle, often said to be the most beautiful fortress in the county. The cathedral at Lausanne’s centre is thought to be the best example of Gothic Architecture in the Swiss Confederation, and there’s even a museum dedicated entirely to the Winter Olympics.
Stay: 1 Night
Day three: For all intents and purposes, Bern is the administrative capital of the Swiss Confederation, though you might be interested to know that the country doesn’t have an ‘official’ capital city. However, each canton is represented here in Bern, and many country-wide decisions are taken here.
Head to Bern for history and a glimpse into Swiss Politics. The stunning old town has been named a UNESCO world heritage site and the Gothic Münster at the heart of it all has the highest spire in all of Switzerland. While in Bern, make sure you don’t miss the Zentrum Paul Klee, filled with works by the artist himself, and Bern Kunstmuseum, Switzerland’s oldest public collection of art.
Stay: 1 Night
Day four: The fairytale town of Lucerne, known in German as ‘Luzern’, lies lazily along a shimmering lake and is overshadowed by the mountain peak of Pilatus. Truth be told, of all the places in this Switzerland travel itinerary, Lucerne is probably the most magical locaiton of them all.
If you love mountain views, then take a cable car right up the 2,128-metre mountain in the summer months. Even if you’re just looking to spend three days in Switzerland, then Luzern should definitely be on the agenda!
In Lucerne itself, there’s a magical old town to wander around (which is best seen during the Swissmass winter markets when you can purchase authentic Swiss gifts and consume all the Glühwein), take a boat ride across the lake in the summer months, and see the medieval Chapel Bridge and water tower that the city is so famous for.
Stay: 2 Nights
Day five: Filled with things to do, you’ll want to stay at least two nights in Zurich to make the most of your trip. One day will be taken exploring the city, while the second will finally be your chance to take a trip into the lesser known parts of the country. Good transport links from Zurich mean that the city is well connected and the perfect starting point for any venture into more rural Swiss areas.
Highlights of Zürich itself include wandering around Lake Zürich, admiring the beautiful 12th-century Grossmünster cathedral in the heart of the old town and exploring the more hipster areas of the city. After all, in the past decade or so, parts of Zurich have been transformed into lively bars, outdoor restaurants and quirky street art is abundant. Visit Switzerland in the winter, and you’ll also be able to explore Zurich’s best Christmas markets.
Day six: There are plenty of great day trips to be taken from the city and so dedicate day six to at least a half day visit into the Swiss countryside. One of the best day trips from Zurich is a visit to Schaffhausen, a well-preserved city dating back to the middle ages with nearby waterfalls known as the ‘Rhine Falls’. The trip takes around an hour each way and is perfect if you want to see a different side of Switzerland during your week-long visit.
Another easy day trip from Zurich is a two-hour train ride from the city (or just over an hour’s worth of driving) to Appenzell. The charming city is located in a region of the same name and is off the beaten tourist track as it is lesser known but still worth your time. Head there to see Swiss cows, colourful house façades and enjoy some local Swiss cooking!
Stay: 1 Night
Day seven: Situated on the French and German borders, Basel is a beautiful little city is best known for its art scene, as well as its blend of cultures that you’d expect to find on a border town. Spend your time in Basel checking out museums, little churches, and the regular markets which are held here.
Basel also has a great international airport, meaning that it’s the perfect place to end your Swiss Adventure. For more information on Switzerland’s art city, here’s a complete guide to Basel. If you’re looking to explore more in the surrounding area, then it’s also worth noting that there are plenty of day trips from Basel worth taking.