The Ultimate Switzerland Itinerary by a Local
Visiting Switzerland for the first time is exciting.
You’re frantically putting together a bucket list in your head and you can’t wait to start packing. But planning a Switzerland Itinerary can be overwhelming.
All the places you’re going to see. The people you’re going to meet. The foods you’re going to eat. But every trip also comes with its burning questions that need answering.
How much time should you spend in Switzerland? How do you get around? What are the highlights you can’t miss? And what’s even realistic to see and do in the time available?
7 Days Switzerland Itinerary
If you’re planning a one week trip to Switzerland, let me help you with some of those issues.
The following Switzerland itinerary is doable within seven full days and includes a bit of everything Switzerland has to offer.
The Swiss Alps, lakes, scenic train rides, chocolate, cheese, and charming towns. Just to name a few.
This seven-day itinerary starts and ends in Zurich, the main entry point to Switzerland for visitors arriving by plane.
But with Switzerland being such a small country, you could technically start and end in any other city as well.
Sound good? Let’s dive in.
One Week in Switzerland Highlights
- Day 1 – Zurich, Kapellbrücke in Lucerne, Bern
- Day 2 – Interlaken, Lake Thun, Lake Brienz, Jungfrau
- Day 3 – Interlaken, Golden Pass, Montreux
- Day 4 – Gruyeres, Broc Montreux, Zermatt
- Day 5 – The Matterhorn, Domodossala, Locarno
- Day 6 – Canton of Ticino, Stone Bridge of Lavertezzo, Maggia, Verzasca
- Day 7 – Ride the world’s longest train tunnel, Lake Como, Zurich
Day 1: Zurich – Lucerne – Trubschachen – Bern
- spend half a day in Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city
- walk across the iconic Kapellbrücke in Lucerne
- stuff your face with free Swiss biscuits
- enjoy the pretty night views over Bern, Switzerland’s capital city (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Morning – Zurich
In the morning, explore Zurich on your own or join a free walking tour. Those run daily at 11:00 AM and cover all the hotspots of Switzerland’s largest city.
Alternatively, you can check out the Niederdorf (old town of Zurich), the Lindenhof park (great views over the city and the River Limmat), busy Bahnhofstrasse (Zurich’s main shopping street) and of course Bellevue by the lake, on your own.
Technically, you even have the option to explore the city by bike. A service called “Züri rollt” rents out free bikes, which is extra handy as it lets you cover more ground in less time.
Around midday, or after the walking tour, grab a small takeaway lunch and have it on the train to Lucerne. (You’ll understand why it needs to be small in a minute.)
Since you’ve still got a bit of ground to cover today, you won’t have much time in Lucerne.
But it should suffice for a stroll through the old town, take in the views of Lake Lucerne, and a walk across Kapellbrücke, the iconic wooden footbridge in the centre of Lucerne.
Trubschachen – Kambly factory store
After an hour or two, continue your journey to Trubschachen, an innocent little place that’ll give your sweet tooth the time of its life.
This inconspicuous village is home to a family business that dates back to 1910.
The Kambly family has been making some of the most iconic Swiss biscuits for over a hundred years.
And trust me. They know what they’re doing.
The Kambly factory store, which you’ll find right next to Trubschachen station, is free to visit.
In here, you can spend as much time as your heart desires tasting up to 100 different types of delicious biscuits. (And now you know why you had to keep that lunch to a minimum…)
Unfortunately, you can’t visit the heart of the factory or watch the production of their tasty creations.
However, they do have a cinema at the shop where they give you some more insights into this traditional family business.
After reaching the point of explosion, or maybe two bites before, move on to Bern.
The direct train leaves once an hour and takes around 45 minutes to arrive in Switzerland’s capital city.
There might not be much left of today, but depending on what time you get to Bern, you could still fit in a quick stop by the bear park or a trip up to Rosengarten for its impressive night views.
After all, the best way to digest a Kambly overdose is to walk it off.
For the best views over Zurich, head to the Polyterrasse, the terrace outside the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
- It’s not far from Zurich main station and you can either walk or catch the Polybahn, a funicular taking you right to the terrace.
The train to Trubschachen gets split up along the way and only the front part travels through the picturesque Entlebuch region to your culinary destination.
- When you’re at the platform in Lucerne, please check the display to make sure you catch the right half of the train.
What I always do at the Kambly store is head to the savoury section every now and then. It helps to fit in more of the sweet stuff.
Day 2: Bern – Interlaken
- visit the adrenaline-packed and popular town of Interlaken
- enjoy a day jumping off planes, cruising across a lake or whatever else your adventurous heart desires
- Hang out at Jungfraujoch – the top of Europe
To squeeze the maximum out of your time in Interlaken, I suggest you leave Bern right in the morning.
The train ride to Interlaken takes just under an hour, which gives you almost a full day to explore the place everybody wants to visit when coming to Switzerland.
As a local, I try to avoid Interlaken as it gets super busy and completely swamped by tourists. But there’s a darn good reason for that.
Interlaken is conveniently located for all sorts of fantastic outdoor adventures and spectacular mountain excursions.
You’ve got more options to choose from today than you can wrap your head around.
It all depends on your budget, but in an adrenaline-packed place like Interlaken, the sky’s the limit.
If you want to spend time in Interlaken there are many activities that will get your adrenaline flowing. And your wallet bleeding.
Lake Thun & Lake Brienz
A more budget-friendly option is to embark on a passenger ship cruise on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz.
Both rides come with incredible views that will make you wish you’d never have to leave.
If you’re looking for a stopover on one of the cruises, get off at either
- Giessbach Hotel (Lake Brienz)
- the Beatus Caves
- or the town of Spiez (Lake Thun).
As if that wasn’t enough, the Jungfrau region around Interlaken is also an excellent playground for hikers.
The amount of trails is endless and whatever your fitness level and ambitions, you’ll find something to your taste.
Jungfraujoch – aka Top of Europe
Of course, the No. 1 destination everybody dies to see out here is the famous Jungfraujoch – aka Top of Europe.
Unfortunately, this spectacular ride is a real budget-strainer. Expect to pay up to 210 CHF (197€ / 220 USD) for a return trip.
In case you’re after a slightly less expensive alternative, look into visiting Mount Schilthorn instead.
The ride up the cable cars and the panoramic views from the top have equal potential to take your breath away.
But there’s more to do in Jungfrau.
Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, two quaint little mountain villages in a stunning setting, are close to Interlaken as well.
And let’s not forget about the Aare Gorge, the place where the River Aare makes its way down from the glacier toward Lake Brienz.
Ok, I better stop listing your options here as this will only make you quit reading and decide to spend all week in Interlaken.
And we wouldn’t want that.
Swiss Travel Passes
- If you travel by a Swiss Travel Pass or an Interrail / Eurail Pass, your train and boat rides are fully covered.
- Rail passes are valid for 3, 4, 8 or 15 days
- Includes Unlimited travel on Swiss Rail, bus, boat and public transport in cities
- Free entrance to more than 500 museums
- 50% off most mountain excursions
- However, you pay extra for the Jungfraujoch train and the gondola ride to Schilthorn.
- The travel passes entitle you to a discount between 25% and 50%, though.
Day 3: Interlaken – Golden Pass Line – Montreux
- ride parts of the famous Golden Pass Line, one of the five big scenic train rides in Switzerland
- visit the popular Château de Chillon
- grab a glass of wine in the Lavaux vineyards (UNESCO)
Time to leave Interlaken already.
But don’t worry. The Golden Pass Line, which is one of the five big scenic train rides in Switzerland, has plenty of mesmerizing views in store for you.
It connects the centre of Switzerland in Lucerne with Montreux by the shores of Lake Geneva.
Today, you’ll be travelling from Interlaken to Montreux, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of the Golden Pass Line.
The first leg takes you past Lake Thun to Spiez and finally into Zweisimmen, where you’ll transfer to a different train.
Train Journey Through Switzerland on Golden Pass Line
That’s where the climb through the Bernese Oberland, my favourite part of the Golden Pass Line, begins.
This region is an absolute dream for mountain-lovers and pretty much sums up what Switzerland is about.
Lakes, mountains, lush meadows with grazing cows, glaciers, tons of hiking trails, wonderful landscapes and cute little villages are abundant in this area.
Too bad you can’t hop off along the way, but you need to keep going if you want to make it to Lake Geneva today.
After leaving the Bernese Oberland and coming down the hills, you’ll arrive in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
The Golden Pass Line terminates in Montreux and depending on what time you arrive, you might still have a few hours to explore the area.
The main spots I recommend are the famous Château de Chillon, an old castle by Lake Geneva, and of course the Lavaux vineyard terraces, which are only a short ride west of Montreux.
To fully experience the gorgeous views of this UNESCO World Heritage site, get off in Cully or Epesses and follow the signposted footpath through the vineyards.
Cheers to a relaxing night after a long day on the train.
- The Golden Pass Line is fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass as well as the Eurail and Interrail Passes.
- You can complete the Golden Pass Line without making a reservation. However, their customer service recommend booking a seat for the segment between Zweisimmen and Montreux, as it can get fairly busy during high season. Costs vary between 5 and 8 CHF per person.
Day 4: Montreux – Gruyères – Broc – Montreux – Zermatt
- eat lots of Swiss cheese and chocolate
- hang out in the quaint little village of Gruyères
What’s a trip to Switzerland without visiting a cheese or chocolate factory?
So today, you have the option to do both. After breakfast, store your bags either at the train station in Montreux or ask if you can leave them at your accommodation for the day.
Then catch the train to the slightly touristy yet wonderful village of Gruyères.
You might recognise parts of the journey from yesterday. The ride between Montreux and Montbovon is served by regular regional trains as well as the Golden Pass Line.
Since Gruyères is highly popular with tourists, it can get a bit crowded. But like with every busy place, there’s a reason. And in this case, the reason is a medieval castle.
And cheese. Lots of cheese.
Gruyères Medieval Castle
The main attraction in Gruyères is the medieval castle, which is open for public and costs 12 CHF to enter.
But the hidden cobblestone alleys and the countless souvenir shops also tend to have people stick around longer than they expected.
Gruyère Cheese Factory
The Gruyère cheese factory is right behind the train station and for a small entrance fee, you can watch how the iconic Gruyère cheese is being made.
Samples and tasting opportunities are included.
Once you’re done snacking, either catch the bus uphill or follow the path until you reach the centre of Gruyères.
This walk should take you around 20 minutes.
After exploring Gruyères and maybe grabbing a souvenir or two, you have the option to head to Broc and visit La Maison Cailler.
La Maison Cailler
Their visitor centre teaches you everything you need to know about Switzerland’s oldest chocolate brand and at the end of the tour, you’ll get to taste a looot of free samples.
Probably more than you thought you could handle. Definitely more than I could handle the last time I went…
On your train ride back to Montreux, try to digest your cheese and chocolate overdose and get ready to move on to Zermatt for the night.
This final ride takes around two and a half hours and if you leave Montreux in the early evening, you’ll make it to Zermatt just in time for dinner.
Provided you find any room for it…
- The part between Visp and Zermatt is served by the Glacier Express trains. Those leave three times daily and are only for people with a reservation.
- However, there are regular trains commuting between Brig and Zermatt that don’t require a reservation.
- The best part? The views are exactly the same as with the Glacier Express. Minus the large panoramic windows.
Day 5: Zermatt – Domodossola – Locarno
- explore the popular mountain town of Zermatt with Switzerland’s most iconic mountain: the Matterhorn – aka Mount Toblerone
- spend half a day enjoying the mountain setting in and around Zermatt
- take a short trip to Italy before embarking on another scenic train ride back into Switzerland
Zermatt is all about mountains and the outdoors. If you’ve come to Switzerland for our spectacular views, you’re going to love it here.
Several hikes and walks of all difficulty levels take you places you didn’t even know existed.
Like for instance the popular Zermatt lakes trail, which takes 2.5 hours to complete. It leads past five crystal clear mountain lakes and offers breathtaking views of the Matterhorn.
Another impressive, yet head spinning adventure is walking across the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge in Randa. It stretches 494 metres (1.620 feet) across the valley.
The circular track starts and finishes in Randa, 15 minutes by train from Zermatt.
In case you’d rather skip the hiking altogether and see those mountains the easy way, I recommend heading to Gornergrat.
After a ridiculously steep train ride, you’ll find yourself at an altitude of 3.089 metres (10.135 feet) above sea level. Right in front of the Gorner Glacier and the Matterhorn.
Don’t be surprised if climbing those steps to the viewpoint leaves you completely breathless. It’s not you, it’s the thin air.
Journey to Locarno
Try leaving Zermatt at the latest around 2 or 3 in the afternoon because your journey to Locarno takes more than four hours.
After your transfer in Brig, the onward train continues to Domodossola in Italy.
This particular ride isn’t too pretty as you’ll be spending most of it in a tunnel. But that shouldn’t bother you too much as the next leg of the journey is beyond stunning from start to finish.
As you travel through the impressive Centovalli region – which stands for one hundred valleys – you’ll pass several charming villages with old stone houses, ride across tall viaducts and even catch a glimpse of a waterfall or two.
You’re probably going to laugh now because your final station today is called Locarno FART.
An unfortunate name, I know. It’s short for Ferrovie Autolinee Regionali Ticinesi and translates to “Regional Railway of Ticino.”
Any questions? 🙂
- The Swiss Travel Pass and the Interrail / Eurail Passes are valid on the rides through Italy as well.
- Upon check-in at your accommodation in Locarno, you’ll receive a Ticino Ticket.
- This beauty lets you use public transport in the whole Canton of Ticino for free for the duration of your stay and gives you several additional discounts.
Day 6: Free day in the Canton of Ticino
- spend a day exploring the Canton of Ticino, Switzerland’s warm and sunny south
- swim in crystal clear and freezing mountain rivers or one of the two big lakes
- have some of the finest pizza and ice cream – Italian style
Get ready to explore the Italian part of your Switzerland itinerary in all its glory.
With the abundance of activities to choose from, you won’t get bored today.
First up, I recommend you head to one of the two river valleys: Maggia or Verzasca.
Both are fantastic for hiking, spending some time by the river or going for a refreshing swim.
Also, don’t forget to bring your picnic on this journey. You’ll find countless opportunities to take a break in both valleys.
Suggested Things to do
My favourite place is right below the famous stone bridge in Lavertezzo.
If you prefer calmer waters over cold mountain streams, head to Lago Maggiore or Lago di Lugano.
Both lakes provide you with more photo and swimming opportunities than you can imagine.
In case you’re one of those adrenaline junkies, there’s always the 007 bungy at the end of the Verzasca valley.
You might have seen this 220-metre (720 feet) dive in the James Bond movie Golden Eye.
If you decide to throw yourself off that wall, please send me a picture. I’d love to see that…
Other popular destinations in Ticino, apart from Locarno, are Lugano and the inspiring little artsy town of Ascona right next to Locarno.
Ascona is definitely worth a visit and if you’re after some delicious pizza and ice cream, it’s the perfect place for a romantic lunch or dinner.
You can taste the proximity to Italy in any restaurant here.
I’m aware that one day isn’t anywhere near enough to cover all of these activities. That’s why you’ve got another day here until you return to Zurich tomorrow.
- The Canton of Ticino is a highly popular holiday destination for the Swiss. If you travel during school holidays, please make sure you book your accommodation in advance.
- The peace and quiet in the Verzasca and Maggia valleys can be deceiving. As soon as it starts raining further up in the mountains, those streams become a dangerous force of nature.
- Please check the weather forecast before you head out.
- In case it does rain further up, keep a safe distance from the water and don’t take a nap on one of the cosy boulders inside the river.
- People have been surprised by the enormous mass of water and died. I’d hate for you to be one of them.
Day 7: Locarno – Zurich
- ride through Gotthard Basistunnel, the world’s longest train tunnel
- spend another day in the Canton of Ticino
- take a short trip to Como in Italy
Spend this final day ticking off whatever’s still on your list from yesterday.
Alternatively, leave Switzerland again and hop across the border to Italy.
Not far from Lugano lies the idyllic Como region, the place where George Clooney and other celebrities got married.
If you’re curious to find out what Mr. Nespresso saw in this part of the world, today’s your chance.
The two main spots I recommend visiting in the area are the city of Como or the village of Menaggio.
Both are situated by the shores of Lake Como and will instantly enchant you with their laid-back atmospheres.
For the most accurate information on how to get to Menaggio, I suggest you consult with the tourist information in Locarno, Lugano or Como.
Toward the end of the day, make your way back to Locarno and onward to Zurich.
Thanks to the 57 kilometres (35 miles) long Gotthard Basistunnel, which is currently the longest train tunnel in the world, you’ll be in Zurich within two and a half hours.
And this concludes our little one-week itinerary through Switzerland. I hope this has given you some inspiration and helped you answer a bunch of your initial questions.
Train Travel in Switzerland
By the way, you probably noticed I didn’t talk about rental cars in this post.
With the fantastic network of public transport that Switzerland is blessed with, there’s really no need for a car. Almost every village, no matter how small and remote, is accessible by train or bus.
This is why I recommend buying yourself one of the two travel passes (Swiss Travel Pass, Interrail for Europeans, Eurail for non-Europeans) for the time of your stay to enjoy your flexibility.
Read Next – How to Travel Switzerland on a Budget