We absolutely fell in love with Switzerland, and we want to share with you exactly why! In 1 week, you can’t possibly experience everything that Switzerland has to offer, but we’ll help you get the most out of your trip with this adventurous itinerary that includes popular sights, as well as off the beaten track stops in Zurich, Bern, Interlaken, Zermatt and Lucerne.
This itinerary is heavy on outdoor activities, so its perfect for the adventure seeker. However, the Swiss have a knack for ingenious transportation systems that can take you to the highest peaks with ease so even if hiking isn’t your thing, you can still experience the grandiosity of the Swiss Alps. If you are an outdoor lover like us, Switzerland should definitely be next on your bucket list.
1 Week in Switzerland Itinerary Outline
This 1 week itinerary is fast-paced, visiting 5 different towns in Switzerland in just 7 days. Here is an overview of the trip with highlights from each day:
|Day 1||Lucerne||Explore Lucerne (Kapelbrucke, Old Town, Lion Monument)|
|Day 2||Lucerne||Day trip to Mount Pilatus|
|Day 3||Interlaken||Hike Harder Kulm, kayak on Lake Thun|
|Day 4||Interlaken||Paragliding, day trip to Schilthorn|
|Day 5||Zermatt||See the Matterhorn, 5 Lakes Hike|
|Day 6||Bern||Bike the Emmental Cheese Route, explore Bern|
|Day 7||Zurich||Lindt chocolate tasting, explore Zurich|
1 Week Switzerland Itinerary & Travel Times
Although this itinerary covers multiple cities in a week, Switzerland is a relatively small country and the cities are quick and easy to travel between. More so, the Swiss are famous for their timely and efficient transportation. We often joked that it was easier to get around in Switzerland, where every sign is in German, than it is to get around New York City.
Switzerland Itinerary Map
This map outlines the route followed by this ininerary, including travel time by train between each city.
Fly into Zurich
1. Lucerne (1 hour from Zurich)
2. Interlaken (2 hours 20 min from Lucerne)
3. Zermatt (2 hours from Interlaken)
4. Bern (2 hours 15 min from Zermatt)
5. Zurich (1 hour from Bern)
Fly out of Zurich
Time in Lucerne | 2 nights, 2 full days
Lucerne is one of our favorite cities of all time! With its beautiful wooden bridges, intricately painted medieval buildings and old-world feel, it looks like the setting of a fairy tale. Easy access to the surrounding mountains, most notably Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi, make Lucerne the perfect place to spend a few days.
Day One | Lucerne
To kick off an incredible week in Switzerland, fly into Zurich and take the train to Lucerne on day one, giving yourself a few hours in the afternoon to explore the city.
Time frame | any remaining time in the afternoon through evening
We arrived in Lucerne around 2 PM and spent the afternoon exploring this beautiful city. Here are just a few of the top sights in Lucerne you don’t want to miss:
- Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge): Lucerne’s iconic covered wooden footbridge
- Town Hall Clock Tower
- The Lion Monument: huge Lion statue carved into a stone wall
- Lucerne’s Old Town: intricate fresco-covered buildings
- Take a walking tour of the Musegg Wall
If you are short on time on day one, no worries – you can catch anything you missed when you arrive back in Lucerne tomorrow afternoon after Pilatus. For more details on how to spend your time in Lucerne, we’ve put together a list of our 12 favorite things to do without breaking the bank:
Note the mountain you can see in the background in the photo below is Mount Pilatus, where you’ll be headed tomorrow!
Day Two | Lucerne
Most of day two will be spent on a day trip to Mount Pilatus, one of the tallest mountains in the region with incredible views of the Alps. This trip will occupy most of your day, but you should have time left in the late afternoon to finish exploring Lucerne if you get started early.
Day Trip to Mount Pilatus
Timeframe | 4 – 6 hours
Cost | $40 – $115
High above the clouds, the views of the Alps from Mount Pilatus are incredible. The trip entails a variety of unique forms of transportation, including ferry, cogwheel train, gondola, cable car, and bus, but don’t let this dissuade you! Getting around in Switzerland is a breeze, and Pilatus is 100% worth the trip. It is also possible to take an 8km hike from Alpnachstad to Pilatus, a trek that will take roughly 4 hours depending on your fitness level.
On the way back to Lucerne, we recommend stopping in Fräkmüntegg to go tobogganing (aka. alpine sliding, as we call it in parts of the United States). If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing a toboggan ride before, this will make you feel like a kid again! You sit in a small cart and zip down the mountain on a narrow track, passing by Swiss cows happily grazing with a perfect view of lake Lucerne below.
For complete details on the day trip to Pilatus, including transportation, check out our post:
Spend the evening catching any sights you may have missed yesterday and take in your last glimpse of this magnificent city.
Time in Interlaken |2 nights, 2 full days
Interlaken, literally meaning “between lakes,” is a small, laid back town located between Lake Thun and Lake Bienz that serves as a hub for outdoor adventure activities. And yes, the water really is that blue! The lakes get their color from the minerals in the glacial runoff from surrounding mountains.
Day Three | Interlaken
Day 3 is jam-packed with adventure! You will get to experience Lake Thun and Lake Brienz from the water and see a bird’s eye view from the mountains above.
Here’s an overview of day 3:
- Arrive in Interlaken
- Kayak on Lake Thun (before lunch)
- Hike Harder Kulm (early afternoon)
- Boat ride on Lake Brienz (late afternoon)
Take the roughly 2 hour 20 minute train ride from Lucerne to Interlaken in the morning. The train leaves every hour at 6 minutes past the hour. We started early and arrived in Interlaken by 9:30am.
Kayaking on Lake Thun
Time frame | 1-2 hours
Cost | $20
After checking into your Airbnb, start your day in Interlaken with kayaking on Lake Thun. You can rent kayaks from Mountain Surf for $20 per hour.
Harder Kulm Hike
Timeframe | 3 – 4 hours
Harder Kulm is a mountain outside Interlaken that provides unmatched views of Lake Thun, Lake Brienz, Jungfrau, and everything in between. You can reach Harder Kulm by taking a cable car or via a 2.8 mile (one-way) hike.
Upon our Airbnb host’s recommendation, we hiked up the backside of Harder Kulm and we highly recommend you do the same! This route is much less trafficked and we got to see paragliders flying right overhead, a close-up glimpse into our adventure for the next day.
For full details on the Harder Kulm hike, see our post:
Boat Ride on Lake Brienz
Timeframe | 1-2 hours
End your day with a relaxing boat ride on Lake Brienz. The cruise gives you a complete tour of the lake, where you’ll experience neon-teal water, see the quaint villages that line the shore, and catch a view of the beautiful Iseltwald castle.
Day Four | Interlaken
Paragliding in Interlaken
Timeframe | 90 minutes
Cost | $180 per person
Day 4 starts off early, but a rush of adrenaline will wake up your senses. Paragliding was an unforgettable experience, and even though its a bit pricey, its totally worth it! Running down the side of a mountain, the wind slowing lifting you off the ground, and gliding through the fresh mountain air with Interlaken stretched out below is truly exhilarating! And to our surprise, easier and safer than you’d think! If you are in the area, definitely check paragliding off your bucket list.
For help deciding whether paragliding is for you, in the post linked below we lay out all the details you need to know about paragliding in Interlaken:
Day Trip to Schilthorn and Surrounding Region
Timeframe | 5 – 6 hours
Cost | $48 – $120
On day four, take a day trip to the stunning mountain region surrounding Interlaken, including a trip up to Schilthorn and stops in the small towns of Mürren, Lauterbrunnen, and Gimmelwald.
The journey ultimately takes you to Schilthorn, one of the highest peaks in Switzerland featuring panoramic views of the Monch, Eiger, and Jungrau. The day trip includes stops at several small Swiss villages along the way up and back down for a complete tour of the mountain region around Interlaken. Here is an overview of the places you’ll stop:
- Lauterbrunnen: a small town nestled in the valley between stunning sharp cliffs, known for its 72 waterfalls
- Mürren: a charming village with classic Swiss chalets that is not accessible by car
- Birg: A quick stop on the journey up to Schilthorn, featuring a Thrill Walk high in the Alps.
- Schilthorn: one of the highest peaks in the region at an altitude of 2,970 m (9,744 feet), with a stunning view of the Monch, Eiger, and Jungfrau.
- Gimmelwald: another peacefull small Swiss town perched above the Lauterbrunnen Valle
For full details on visiting Schilthorn and exploring Interlaken’s mountainside, please check out our post:
For more details on how to make the most of your time in Interlaken, we’ve compiled a compete 2-day intinerary:
Time in Zermatt | 1 night, 1 full day
Zermatt is a small ski village nestled in the Swiss Alps, that lies near the base of Switzerland’s iconic Matterhorn. There are no cars in Zermatt, making it an easy place to enjoy by foot. It is a small town, so you don’t need more than a day to explore. However, the mountains in the surrounding area, especially the Matterhorn, are an outdoor lover’s paradise, so if are looking to hike or ski you could easily spend several days here. We definitely wished we had more time!
Day Five | Zermatt
Start day five by taking the 2 hour train ride from Interlaken to Zermatt.
Zermatt is a bit out of the way from the rest of the cities on this itinerary. When planning our trip we debated whether it was worth the detour. Ultimately, my desire to see the Matterhorn won out and we chose to go for it. It was completely worth it. The Matterhorn is more impressive than you could ever imagine. From almost anywhere in Zermatt, you can spot the Matterhorn – we even had a glimpse of its peak from our hotel room (and it was just a cheap hostel!).
The 5 Lakes Hike
Timeframe | 2 – 4 hours
As the name suggests, this hike passes by five lakes – Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee and Leisee, all with views of the Matterhorn in the background. While this hike doesn’t get you up close to the Matterhorn, the views are incredible. On a clear day, you can capture a perfect image of the Matterhorn reflecting into 2 of the 5 lakes.
For full details on the 5 Lakes Hike, check out our complete guide:
Zermatt Street Festival
After our hike, we planned to grab dinner at a restaurant in town, but we were lucky enough to stumble into one of Zermatt’s summer food festivals! The restaurants set up stations on the main street serving delicious, smaller portions of food to-go, making it easy to try several different dishes.
There were communal tables set up in the streets for people to eat – sitting down with a bunch of strangers was normal and excepted! We ended up sharing a table with a very chatty Austrian man, who raved about his home and ultimately inspired us to plan a trip to Austria. There was music playing, bars serving drinks outside, and streets filled with people. The entire town basically turned into one big party!
We had no idea this festival was happening on the one night we spent in Zermatt, but it ended up being one of our favorite experiences in Switzerland.
Time in Bern | 1 night, 1 full day
Bern is the capital of Switzerland, known for it picturesque Old Town, city park home to a couple bears (yes, real bears) and the iconic clock tower, Zytglogge. Bern is situated within a U-shaped loop carved by the Aare River.
Day Six | Bern
Depart Zermatt in the morning on day six and take a 2 hour 15 minute train ride to Bern. Highlights of day six include:
- E-biking the Emmental Cheese Route
- Explore Bern: Barengraben, Zyglotte, and the Rose Garden
Biking the Emmental Cheese Route
Timeframe | 4 – 6 hours
The majority of day six is spent e-biking the Emmental Cheese Route, a beautiful ride through the rolling hills of the Bernese Emmental Region, close to the city of Bern but off the beaten path from most travel itineraries. This self-guided tour is unique way to see a quieter part of Swizterland, with multiple sights and stops along the way, including a dairy farm in Affoltern.
We did the 35km loop and it took us around 3.5 hours in total, including a 30-minute stop at the dairy farm.
For more details on the Emmental Cheese Route and how to bike it, check out our post:
Timeframe | any remaining time in the afternoon
After dropping off your e-bikes, take the train back to Bern. This evening there are no set plans so you have some flexibility with the timing of your bike ride. Spend the late afternoon and evening exploring Bern. Be sure to see the Zytglogge, a medieval clock tower built in the 13th century. Visit Barengraben (translates to Bear Pit), located just across the Aare River, where you can see Bern’s famous bears.
For an incredible view of the city and Aare River, head up to the Rose Garden, about a 10 minute walk from Barengraben. The Rose Garden is located on a high hill overlooking the city, making for the perfect spot to watch the sunset with a picnic and glass of wine!
Underground Restaurants in Bern
One of the most unique things about Bern is the many restaurants and shops located up and down the main street that are built underground. Entranceways to the cellars are double doors that swing open to staircases leading underneath the buildings. They were built this way to remain cool in the summer and warm in winter.
With temperatures in the upper 90’s and no air-conditioner in sight, the coolness of the underground restaurants was much needed. Stop in and have a beer in one of these unique bars, like Café-Bar Marta, with its cozy, relaxed atmosphere and a selection of local beer.
Time in Zurich | 1 night, 1 full day
End the week in Zurich, the largest and least touristy city in Switzerland, situated in north central Switzerland on the banks Lake Zurich and the Limmat River.
Day 7 | Zurich
Leave Bern in the morning and take a quick 1 hour train ride to Zurich. Enjoy your last day in Switzerland exploring the city. Highlights of the day include:
- Wander through Zurich’s Old Town, known as Altstadt, where you will find shops, cafes and restaurants on both sides of the Limmat River. Walk up to Lindenhof park for a great view of the city.
- Take a Limmat Boat ride on Lake Zurich. A Limmat boat is a long, flat boat built to glide underneath Zurich’s bridges that makes for a great way to see the city by water.
- Have a picnic at Zurich Horn, a large park on the shore of Lake Zurich. Take a Limmat boat ride to get there, pack a picnic and a cold drink and enjoy lunch by the river.
- Do a chocolate tasting at the Lindt Factory. For $30 per person, you’ll spend one hour learning all about how chocolate is made while you taste to you hearts desire.
- Visit the Grossmünster church, a Romanesque Style church constructured from 1100 to 1220 with twin towers that was built to honor the patron saints of Zurich, Felix and Regula.
- Explore Zurich West, the trendy up an coming neighborhood where you will find a welcome reprieve from the tourist crowds of Old Town.
Planning your 1 week in Switzerland
Best time to visit Switzerland
For this itinerary, we recommend visiting Switzerland during the summer, from June through August. This is the best time for hiking and outdoor activities, when the snow has melted and the weather is warm.
September and May could also be good options, but you do run the risk of there being snow on the ground and some hiking trails being closed.
Getting around in Switzerland
The easiest way to get around in Switzerland is by train – they are clean, timely and efficient. If you will be in Switzerland for more than 3 days, it is most likely worthwhile to purchase a Swiss Pass, which covers trains between cities and most transportation within cities. For more about the Swiss Pass and getting around in Switzerland, visit our Switzerland Travel Guide.
For this itinerary, what does the Swiss Pass cover?
Here we will walk through every means of transportation needed for this itinerary, and whether it is covered by the Swiss Pass.
- Trains between Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken, Zermatt and Bern: fully covered
- Public transportion (buses) within the cities: fully covered
- Boat from Lucerne to Alpnachstad (first leg of Mount Pilatus Day Trip): fully covered
- Funicular up and Gondola down from Mount Pilatus (Alpnachstad to Krienz): fully covered
- Bus from Kriens to Lucerne (final leg of Mount Pilatus Day Trip): fully covered
- Bus to Lake Thun: fully covered
- Harder Kulm funicular: 50% off
- Boat cruise on Lake Brienz: fully covered
- Train to/from Lauterbrunnen: fully covered
- Gondola + train from Lauterbrunnen to Murren: fully covered
- Round trip Gondola from Murren to Schilthorn: 50% off
- Gondola from Murren to Stechelberg: fully covered
- Funicular from Sunnega station to Blauherd (for 5 Lakes Hike): 50% off
- Train to Burgdorf for biking: fully covered
- Bus ride to Kirchberg for Lindt Chocolate Tasting: fully covered
- Limmat Boat ride: fully covered
Switzerland is our favorite place in the world. We loved the stunning Alpine scenery, cleanliness and efficiency of the transportation system and casual vibe of people dressed overwhelmingly in hiking gear. If you love to hike and be outdoors, Switzerland should definitely be next on your bucket list!
For all things Switzerland: Switzerland Travel Guide
Questions about how to spend 1 week in Switzerland? We’re happy to help! Comment below.