Switzerland is simply unforgettable. From the striking Swiss Alps to the pristine lakes of Interlaken, it is a land filled with alpine adventure, stunning natural landscape, and, of course, chocolate. Impeccably clean, safe, and boasting an efficient and unbelievably timely transportation system making it easy to travel between major business hubs (hello Zurich, Basel and Geneva), as well as picturesque medieval towns, Switzerland is any traveler’s dream.
We spent a week in Switzerland hiking, exploring, eating fondue and raclette, taking in the innumerable views of snow-capped mountains, and enjoying the unique Swiss culture. Switzerland is often passed over by budget travelers due to its reputation as one of the most expensive countries in the world. But with some insider tips, shrewd spending, and a willingness to window shop instead of actually shop, Switzerland can definitely be enjoyed on a budget.
One Week Switzerland Itinerary: an action packed 7 days in Switzerland full of adventure across 5 Swiss cities (Bern, Lucerne, Interlaken, Zermatt, and Zurich).
Things to Do in Switzerland
From epic hikes to paragliding, there is no shortage of adventure to be had in Switzerland. Visit the iconic Matterhorn in southern Switzerland, go paragliding in Interlaken, and taste classic Swiss chocolate in Zurich. Even for those less inclined to hike, the top-notch Swiss transportation system will get you to the highest peaks with ease, making the best Alpine views surprisingly accessible.
Cities to Visit in Switzerland
- Bern: the capital of Switzerland, surrounded by rolling hills and situated within a U-shaped loop carved by the Aare River.
- Lucerne: charming city best known for its beautiful wooden footbridge, Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), and a convenient base for day trips to Mount Pilatus or Mount Rigi.
- Interlaken: a hub for outdoor adventure activities, located between two teal alpine lakes: Lake Thun and Lake Brienz
- Zermatt: small car-less ski town at the base of Switzerland’s iconic mountain, the Matterhorn
- Zurich: the largest city in Switzerland located in northern Switzerland, serving as a convenient starting point for exploring Switzerland.
Hikes in Switzerland
- The Matterhorn: 5 Lakes Hike: 6 mile hike featuring the best views of the Matterhorn
- Interlaken: Harder Kulm: 2.3 mile (one way) hike to stunning viewpoint overlooking Interlaken and its two lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz
- Mount Pilatus: 5 mile (one way) hike near Lucerne to unbeatable views of the Swiss Alps high above the clouds
- Lauterbrunnen Valley, Murren & Gimmelwald: hike between these adorable quintessentially Swiss villages located in the alpine region close to Interlaken
Other Things to Do in Switzerland
- Go paragliding in Interlaken
- Chocolate tasting at the Lindt Factory in Zurich
- Take a day trip to Mount Pilatus
- Visit Schilthorn & explore the mountain villages (Murren, Lauterbrunnen, Gimmelwad) of the Interlaken Region
- See the famous Matterhorn in Zermatt
Rosti, Fondue, Raclette
German, Italian, French, Romansh
Franc (1 CHF = 1.13 USD)
Tips for Traveling in Switzerland
One of our favorite things about Switzerland is how easy it is to get around! The transportation systems are clean, organized and timely. If you’ve been other places in Europe, like Italy, you know that getting around by train can be downright chaotic. In Switzerland, that is not the case. Traveling by train is easy and hassle-free.
The Swiss have developed a comprehensive and efficient transportation system, that will get you to even some of its highest peaks with ease. You can expect to encounter the following types of transportation in Switzerland:
- Cable Car: an enclosed ski lift
- Gondola: a large cable car that holds 25-50 people
- Cogwheel Train: a self-powered train that is equipped for traversing steep ground
- Funicular: a train that is built on an angle, and moves via a system of pulleys. Typically they cover less ground and follow a straight track
The Swiss Pass
Adult (Age 27+)
3 days: 232 CHF ($263)
4 days: 281 CHF ($318)
8 days: 418 CHF ($473)
15 days: 513 CHF ($581)
Youth (Age < 27)
3 days: 198 CHF ($224)
4 days: 240 CHF ($272)
8 days: 357 CHF ($404)
15 days: 439 CHF ($497)
If you are planning to be in Switzerland for at least 4 days, we highly recommend getting a Swiss Travel Pass. If you are under age 26, you can purchase a discounted “youth” pass. For this trip we bought the 8 day youth pass for $404. It may seem expensive, but paying for transportation individually will add up more than you realize.
What advantages does the Swiss Pass give you?
- Travel by train, bus, and boat between cities
- Public transportation within most towns
- 50% off many excursions
- Free admission to most museums
You can purchase tickets at various travel hubs. We purchased ours at the Zurich Airport upon arrival, but you can also buy tickets online ahead of time here:
There is also an app called SBB Mobile that you can download for easy access to train and bus routes and timetables. We found it very helpful to find train stations and bus stops and check for departure times during our trip.
Traveling by Train
For most trains, you don’t need to reserve seats ahead of time if you have a Swiss Pass. But be sure to always carry your pass with you – they will often check for tickets.
Traveling by Gondola
The gondolas typically do not have reserved seats and are often crowded and mostly standing room only. If you are claustrophobic, you may be better off to avoid gondolas (although in some cases, it is the only option).
Traveling on a Budget
Switzerland is notorious for being one of the most expensive countries to travel. While it is true that things tend to cost more than in other parts of Europe, it is possible to travel in Switzerland without breaking the bank!
Here are a few tips for a budget-friendly trip to Switzerland:
- Go grocery shopping. Switzerland has two main grocery store chains, Migros and Coop, that are easy enough to shop at even if you don’t know German. You can save a ton of money by buying groceries for:
- Packing lunches: buy bread and deli meat and make sandwiches to skip eating out at a restaurant. We typically packed lunch and ate dinner out.
- Snacks: convenient and cheaper than buying snacks individually at convenience stores
- Coffee: Emmi Cafe Lattes (prepackaged cold coffees) make for a delicious, quick and easy way to get your morning started
- Beer and wine: to enjoy at your hotel/AirBnb
- Stay in hostels. We typically prefer to stay in a place that has a private bathroom, but in Switzerland this can be very expensive. The great thing about Switzerland is that even budget lodging is clean! We stayed in a few hostels with a private room, but shared bathrooms, and we were pleasantly surprised. Particularly when you are spending such little time in your hotel, its worth sacrificing a little comfort and privacy to save on lodging and splurge on other adventures (like paragliding in Interlaken!)
- Skip the plastic water bottles. One thing I hate spending money on is plastic water bottles. Sometimes its unavoidable, but in Switzerland you should never need to buy water bottles. There are fountains providing clean, potable water all over the cities in Switzerland – unless explicitly stated otherwise, you can fill up your reusable bottle from these fountains.
- Buy a Swiss Pass. It may seem expensive up front, but we promise its almost certainly worth it. The cost of purchasing individual tickets for all the forms of transportation required in Switzerland really starts to add up.
- Avoid mountaintop restaurants. While the idea of enjoying a fresh meal on the top of a mountain (like Pilatus, Schiltorn or Harder Kulm) may sound especially appealing, beware that these restaurants are typically very expensive. Just think about what it costs to get food and supplies up the mountain. You’re better off to pack lunch and save your money for a good dinner back in town.
- Hike. Most of the mountaintops you can travel to are also accessible by hiking trails. Although it may not always make sense logistically, if you have the time (and energy), hiking can be a much cheaper alternative to public transportation to some of Switzerland’s best viewpoints.
When to Visit Switzerland
The best time to visit Switzerland depends on what you are interested in. For hiking, the best time to visit is June through September, when the snow has melted and the weather is warm.
The best time to visit Switzerland depends on what types of adventures you are looking for:
- For hiking, kayaking, paragliding and water sports, the best time to visit in the summer: June through August
- For skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and other winter activities, the best time to visit is December through February.
If you are willing to risk unpredictable weather for fewer crowds, May or September could also be good options.