11 days in Switzerland. A country surrounded by Germany, France, Italy, and Austria. Many languages spoken as a result and fortunately for me, English is one of them. The Swiss Franc is the currency and be prepared to spend a lot of it since this country is one of the most expensive. You have to plan a strategy to accomplish all that you want to do within your time and cost constraints. It took me a month to figure out hotels, transportation, activities, restaurants, and maps. I hope these next few posts can serve as an aid for the readers’ potential trip to Switzerland. Either way, it’s a detailed summary of my travels so that I never forget.
If you’re interested in seeing photos and information of the French side (Geneva, Lausanne, Montreux, etc), Eastern Switzerland, or Italian side (Lugano, etc), then you won’t find it here. My goal was to cover the Lucerne, Zermatt, and Interlaken areas; right down the center of the country into the heart of the Alps.
I decided to travel during the first 2 weeks of July. The summer is the rainy season so pack your rain jackets and umbrellas. The weather can greatly affect your day especially if you are in the mountains so try to set up a flexible and dynamic itinerary. The summer temperature has quite a range; high 80s Fahrenheit for most cities and towns to 30s Fahrenheit for some mountain peaks. Enjoy packing for all seasons. The power outlets are unique to Switzerland but you can purchase them in the country if you don’t have one. And then there is the transportation. Trains, buses, boats, gondolas, cable cars, funiculars, cog railways, and of course hiking. I suggest that you have an idea of the time schedule of the trains and the cable car routes ahead of time to avoid confusion.
The summer is tourist season so be prepared to wake up early to beat the crowds of tourists mostly from Asia by the busloads. Most areas accept credit card but you should have some cash handy just in case. If you are from the USA, then I highly recommend that you purchase a Swiss Travel pass (https://www.swiss-pass.ch/) prior to your trip. The pass will cover almost all transportation costs, discounts on almost all attractions, and you will save a lot of money if you are traveling each day.
In my opinion, Swiss cuisine is kinda meh, so I ended up eating mostly anywhere else like Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Lebanese, etc. But if you’re into cheese fondue, chocolate, bratwurst, rosti, stroganoff, etc, then go for it. And I’ve never been charged for tap water before, so be prepared for that occasionally. Ok, enough talk, let’s go.
Day 0: Nachster Halt – Lucerne
It all started with an 8 hour non stop flight from NYC to Zürich. It is about a one hour train ride from the airport to Lucerne. Transportation is straightforward and on-time here. I think the best way to adjust to a 6 hour jet lag is to just stay awake, explore, and stay on your feet until sunset. It’s a big change from the dirty NYC Hudson river to the Reuss river of Lucerne.
After a quick check in at Hotel Restaurant Anker, we headed to the Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge) which is the main tourist attraction and perhaps the most photographed water tower in the world.
And for some reason, the river is swan paradise.
There are plenty of chocolate shops (Laderach, Confiserie Bachmann, Max Chocolatier) to try out if that is your thing. There are also many restaurants to choose along the river. It’s quite the scenic little city. Mount Pilatus is 6982 ft /2128 meters above sea level and dominates the sky on a clear day as it looks down upon the city (stay tuned for the Day 3 post for Mt Pilatus).
Typically, I like to get the bird’s-eye view when first visiting a new city. The Nine Towers / Musegg Wall (built in the 15th century) is a great way to accomplish this.
Starting with the west most tower, there is a path that takes you from tower to tower while having some great views of the city, lake, and surrounding mountains. I believe it’s the second tower called Mannliturn (Little Man Tower) which you can ascend to the top via a narrow staircase for a great view.
Between the combination of being awake > 20 hours and walking up/down tower staircases, there was no energy left. It was time for dinner at the hotel and sleep.