Swiss Summer Escape: A 2-Week Scenic Train Journey Through Switzerland's Breathtaking Landscapes
Welcome to a journey through Switzerland, a land of awe-inspiring beauty and endless adventures. From breathtaking alpine landscapes to charming towns and cities, Switzerland offers a variety of experiences that will leave you spellbound. Roam the scenic train routes, where every turn reveals a new vista of snow-capped mountains, sparkling lakes and lush valleys. Explore historic castles, wander through picturesque villages and indulge in the world-renowned Swiss cuisine. Whether you seek adrenaline-pumping activities or serene moments of tranquility, Switzerland welcomes you with open arms. Immerse yourself in the magic of this captivating country, where each moment is an invitation to create unforgettable memories.
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Where to stay
La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich
Indulge in refined luxury and breathtaking views at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich, a serene lakeside retreat that combines contemporary style with impeccable service for an unforgettable experience.
Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern
Iconic Belle Epoque home turnt into an elegant hotel mansion with swoon-worthy views over the Alps.
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BERGWELT GRINDELWALD | ALPINE DESIGN RESORT
Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of the Swiss Alps at Bergwelt Grindelwald, an Alpine design resort that harmoniously blends modern sophistication with the charm of the mountainous landscape, offering a truly memorable retreat.
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Day 1: Explore, Chocolate, Indulge
Upon landing in Zurich, you check into La Reserve, your hotel for the duration of your stay. La Reserve is a luxurious hotel known for its excellent service and comfortable accommodations.
After settling in, you head to the Lindt Chocolate Factory, located in Kilchberg, just outside of Zurich. Despite being a touristy destination, the Lindt Chocolate Factory offers a delightful and fun experience. You can take a guided tour to learn about the chocolate-making process, see the machinery in action, and even sample some delicious chocolates along the way. Pro tip: Make sure to save some time after the tour to visit the Lindt cafe, where you can enjoy the best hot chocolate you'll ever have.
Following your visit to the chocolate factory, you return to La Reserve for dinner at La Muna, the hotel's restaurant. La Muna is known for its exquisite cuisine, offering a diverse menu with a focus on Swiss and international flavors. It's the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of travel and indulging in chocolate.
Enjoy your dinner and relax, knowing that you have plenty more exciting experiences ahead during your time in Switzerland.
Day 2: Zurich to Rhine Falls and Stein am Rhein
Today, you embark on a day trip from Zurich to Rhine Falls and Stein am Rhein, two picturesque destinations in the vicinity.
You start your day by traveling to Schaffhausen, where the magnificent Rhine Falls is located. As the largest waterfall in Europe, Rhine Falls is a breathtaking sight to behold. You can take a boat ride to get closer to the falls, feel the mist on your face and witness the raw power of the cascading water. You can also explore the viewing platforms and enjoy panoramic views of the falls and the surrounding landscape. It's an awe-inspiring experience that will leave a lasting impression.
After enjoying the beauty of Rhine Falls, you make your way to the charming town of Stein am Rhein. Known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, Stein am Rhein is like stepping back in time. Take a stroll through the narrow streets lined with half-timbered houses adorned with colorful frescoes. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the Hohenklingen Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the town, offering stunning views of the Rhine River.
In Stein am Rhein, you can also explore the town's museums, such as the Museum Lindwurm, which showcases the history and art of the region. Take your time to wander around, soak in the atmosphere, and perhaps enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the local cafes or restaurants.
After a delightful day trip, you return to Zurich in the evening, where you can relax and reflect on the beauty you've experienced throughout the day.
Day 3: City of Lucerne
Today, you leave Zurich and take a scenic train ride to the charming city of Lucerne. Upon arrival, you check into the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Palace, Luzern, your accommodation for the stay.
Once you have settled in, it's time to explore the picturesque town of Lucerne on foot. Lucerne is known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, beautiful lake and stunning mountain views. Here are some highlights and recommendations for your walking tour:
Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke): Start your exploration by visiting the iconic Chapel Bridge, one of Lucerne's most famous landmarks. This wooden covered bridge dates back to the 14th century and offers fantastic views of the Reuss River and the old town.
Old Town (Altstadt): Take a leisurely stroll through Lucerne's charming Old Town, filled with narrow streets, colorful buildings, and quaint shops. Explore the cobblestone streets and discover hidden gems such as the picturesque Weinmarkt Square and the historic Musegg Wall with its well-preserved medieval towers.
Lion Monument (Löwendenkmal): Don't miss the Lion Monument, a famous sculpture carved into a rock face, which commemorates the Swiss Guards who lost their lives during the French Revolution. It's a poignant and powerful work of art.
Lake Lucerne: Enjoy the scenic beauty of Lake Lucerne by taking a leisurely walk along the promenade. Admire the crystal-clear waters, the stunning backdrop of mountains, and perhaps even take a relaxing boat ride to soak in the tranquil ambiance.
After your walking tour, if the weather permits and you're in the mood for a swim, you can head to Seebad Luzern, a lakeside swimming area with a beach and facilities for a refreshing dip in Lake Lucerne. It's a great way to cool off and enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings.
Day 4: Day trip to Mount Pilatus
Today, you embark on a thrilling day trip to Mount Pilatus, one of Switzerland's most famous peaks. To make the most of your visit, you'll experience a combination of transportation modes, including a cable car, cogwheel train and boat ride.
Start your day by taking a scenic boat ride from Lucerne to Alpnachstad on Lake Lucerne. Enjoy the picturesque views of the lake and surrounding mountains during the leisurely cruise.
Once you arrive at Alpnachstad, embark on a thrilling journey aboard the world's steepest cogwheel train, the Pilatus Railway. The train will take you on an exciting ascent up the mountain, offering stunning views of the alpine scenery along the way.
Upon reaching the top of Mount Pilatus, you'll find yourself surrounded by breathtaking panoramic vistas. Take some time to explore the summit and engage in various activities. You can go for a hike on the well-marked trails, visit the Pilatus Dragon Park or simply relax and soak in the awe-inspiring views.
After enjoying your time at the summit, prepare for an exhilarating descent. Board the cable car, which will provide a thrilling ride down the mountain. As you descend, relish the sweeping views of the surrounding landscapes.
Once you reach Kriens, the base of Mount Pilatus, you can catch a bus back to Lucerne or continue your journey with a relaxing boat ride on Lake Lucerne. The boat ride will offer a serene and scenic way to return to the city.
After an eventful day at Mount Pilatus, head back to the Mandarin Oriental Palace to freshen up and relax, this is also where you will be enjoying dinner. Indulge in a delightful culinary experience at Minamo, the hotel's restaurant. Delight your taste buds with a delicious meal, consider the omakase-style dining, while reminiscing about the incredible adventures and breathtaking views from Mount Pilatus.
Remember to check the weather conditions and operational schedules for Mount Pilatus before your visit, as they may affect the availability of certain transportation modes.
Day 5: Lucerne to Grindelwald
Today you'll embark on a train journey from Lucerne to Grindelwald, passing through the picturesque Bernese Oberland region. Here are some highlights and activities you can enjoy in Grindelwald:
Explore Grindelwald Village
Upon arrival in Grindelwald, take some time to explore the charming village. Stroll through its quaint streets, admire the traditional Swiss chalets and soak in the stunning mountain views that surround you.
Hiking in Grindelwald
Grindelwald is a paradise for hikers, offering numerous trails of varying difficulty levels. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on an adventure through the beautiful alpine landscapes. Some popular hiking trails in the area include the Eiger Trail, Bachalpsee Trail and First Cliff Walk.
First Cliff Walk and First Flyer
Take a gondola ride from Grindelwald to the summit of First, where you can experience the thrilling First Cliff Walk. This suspended cliff walkway offers breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.
If you're up for an adrenaline rush, try the First Flyer, a zipline that allows you to soar above the alpine scenery at high speeds. It's an unforgettable experience for adventure enthusiasts.
Grindelwald is renowned for its paragliding opportunities. If you're seeking an adrenaline-pumping adventure, consider going paragliding and soaring through the alps. You'll enjoy spectacular views and an exhilarating experience like no other.
Day 6: Trip to Jungfraujoch (Top of Europe)
On Day 6, you'll embark on an unforgettable day trip to Jungfraujoch, known as the "Top of Europe." Travel from Grindelwald and immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Bernese Oberland. The journey itself is an experience as you ascend through the majestic Swiss Alps, passing by charming villages and breathtaking landscapes.
Arriving at Jungfraujoch, you'll find yourself in a world of wonder. Take your time to explore and soak in the stunning panoramic views that stretch as far as the eye can see. Marvel at the snow-covered peaks, vast glaciers and pristine alpine scenery that surrounds you. It's a sight that will leave you in awe.
While at Jungfraujoch, don't miss the chance to visit the captivating Ice Palace. Venture into the intricately carved tunnels and marvel at the enchanting ice sculptures on display. It's a unique opportunity to witness the artistry and beauty of ice in a truly magical setting.
For lunch, indulge in a delicious meal at one of the restaurants available at Jungfraujoch. Savor your food while being treated to breathtaking alpine vistas, creating a dining experience unlike any other. And if you're a fan of Swiss chocolate, make sure to visit the Lindt store at Jungfraujoch, where you can indulge in some delectable treats to savor during your journey.
On your way back from Jungfraujoch to Grindelwald, take the time to explore the charming villages that dot the region. Lauterbrunnen, Mürren and Gimmelwald are picturesque havens nestled amidst the mountains. Stroll through their quaint streets, capture memorable photos and immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere of these alpine gems.
Day 7: Journey to Zweisimmen
On this day, start your morning by embarking on a scenic rail journey to Zweisimmen. The train ride itself offers breathtaking views of Switzerland's stunning landscapes, as you pass through picturesque valleys and charming villages along the way. Once you arrive in Zweisimmen, you'll find the renowned MOB Golden Pass Panoramic train waiting to continue your adventure.
Board the Golden Pass Panoramic train and prepare to be mesmerized by the majestic scenery unfolding before your eyes. As the train winds its way through the heart of Switzerland, you'll be treated to panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, rolling hills and pristine lakes. Sit back, relax and let the beauty of the Swiss countryside captivate your senses.
Your destination is Montreux, a charming town nestled on the shores of Lake Geneva. Upon arrival, take a leisurely lakeside stroll and soak up the serene atmosphere. The promenade offers magnificent views of the lake and the surrounding mountains, creating a picturesque backdrop for your explorations.
If you're interested in delving into Switzerland's rich history, consider using your Swiss Pass to visit the stunning Chillon Castle. Located just three minutes away from Montreux by train, this medieval fortress stands proudly on a rocky outcrop by the lake. Explore its well-preserved halls, courtyards, and towers and learn about the castle's intriguing past.
After immersing yourself in Montreux's beauty and history, take some time to relax and enjoy the town's delightful ambiance. Indulge in a delicious meal at one of the lakeside restaurants, savoring the flavors of Swiss cuisine while gazing out over the glistening waters of Lake Geneva.
Day 8: Montreux to Zermatt
Today you'll step aboard a train journey from Montreux to Zermatt, a charming alpine village nestled in the Swiss Alps.
As you board the train in Montreux, bid farewell to the serene shores of Lake Geneva and prepare for a scenic journey into the heart of the Alps. The train winds its way through dramatic valleys, passing by lush meadows, cascading waterfalls and charming Swiss villages along the route. Keep your camera handy, as you'll be treated to breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks and pristine alpine scenery.
Arriving in Zermatt, you'll find yourself in a car-free village renowned for its natural beauty and world-class skiing. Surrounded by towering mountains, including the iconic Matterhorn, Zermatt is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
During your stay in Zermatt, there are numerous activities to enjoy. Even during the summer months, Zermatt offers fantastic hiking and mountain biking trails, allowing you to explore the breathtaking alpine landscapes.
Apart from outdoor pursuits, Zermatt has a charming village center to explore. Stroll along its narrow, car-free streets lined with cozy chalets, boutique shops and inviting restaurants. Indulge in Swiss delicacies such as cheese fondue or raclette and savor the local flavors.
Zermatt also offers a range of wellness and relaxation options, including spas and thermal baths, perfect for unwinding after a day of exploration.
Day 9: Gornergrat Cog Railway in Zermatt
Make use of your Swiss Pass to embark on an unforgettable journey aboard the Gornergrat Cog Railway in Zermatt. This historic railway, dating back to the 19th century, offers a steep ascent of 1,486 meters (4,875 feet) in just 33 minutes, providing you with incredible vistas of the iconic Matterhorn mountain and the surrounding alpine scenery.
As you board the cog railway, settle into your seat and prepare to be mesmerized by the breathtaking views that unfold along the journey. The train chugs its way up the steep slopes, offering panoramic windows that showcase the majestic beauty of the Matterhorn and the surrounding peaks.
Upon reaching the top of Gornergrat, step out onto the station and find yourself in the midst of an Alpine nature reserve. Take a leisurely stroll through the reserve, immersing yourself in the serene beauty of the alpine flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for elusive creatures such as marmots or wild mountain goats, which may make an appearance along your path.
After soaking in the natural wonders, you can indulge in a delicious lunch at the restaurant located at the summit. Savor the flavors of traditional Swiss cuisine while surrounded by the awe-inspiring mountain scenery. The restaurant offers a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, allowing you to relax and relish the experience.
Once you've explored the summit and enjoyed a satisfying meal, it's time to descend back to the car-free village of Zermatt. Hop back on the cog railway for a scenic journey down, marveling at the landscapes you admired on the way up.
In the evening, Zermatt offers a plethora of dining options where you can treat yourself to some local delights. Consider trying the famous Swiss fondue or raclette, accompanied by a glass of fine Swiss wine. The village is home to a variety of bars and restaurants, each exuding its own charm and offering a cozy ambiance for a delightful dining experience.
After dinner, take a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of Zermatt, appreciating the alpine architecture, boutique shops, and inviting cafes. Absorb the tranquil atmosphere of this car-free village and perhaps end your evening with a hot chocolate or a Swiss schnapps at one of the local establishments.
Day 10: A full day in Zermatt
Take a well-deserved rest day in Zermatt and make the most of the excellent facilities provided by your hotel. After days filled with exploration and adventure, it's the perfect opportunity to relax and rejuvenate.
Start your day with a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, savoring a delicious spread of local specialties and international delights. Take your time, sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea as you plan your day ahead.
If your hotel has a spa or wellness center, indulge in some pampering and self-care. Treat yourself to a soothing massage, unwind in a steam room or sauna or take a refreshing dip in the swimming pool. Let the tranquil ambiance and professional services melt away any lingering tension in your muscles and leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized.
After your spa session, you may want to spend some time enjoying the hotel's other amenities. If there's a fitness center, get in a workout session to keep yourself active. Alternatively, you can relax in the lounge area, read a book or simply soak up the serene atmosphere.
Take advantage of the hotel's concierge services to inquire about any local activities or attractions that might interest you. They can provide recommendations on nearby hiking trails, scenic spots or cultural experiences to further enrich your stay in Zermatt.
In the afternoon, you can venture out for a leisurely stroll through the village. Explore the charming streets, browse through boutique shops and perhaps find a cozy cafe to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or a sweet treat. Take in the idyllic surroundings and soak up the alpine ambiance at your own pace.
In the evening, return to your hotel and indulge in a delightful dinner at its restaurant. Immerse yourself in the culinary delights offered by the talented chefs, savoring gourmet dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Pair your meal with a fine Swiss wine or a specialty cocktail, enjoying a memorable dining experience within the comfort and elegance of your hotel.
Day 11: Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz
Travel on a spectacular train journey aboard the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz. The Glacier Express is renowned for being one of the most scenic train rides in the world, offering breathtaking views of Switzerland's alpine landscapes.
As you board the train, find your comfortable seat and settle in for a day of awe-inspiring scenery. The Glacier Express features panoramic windows that provide unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and charming Swiss villages along the way.
As the train departs from Zermatt, you'll soon find yourself immersed in a world of majestic mountains, pristine glaciers and picturesque valleys. The train winds its way through narrow gorges, crosses impressive viaducts, and passes by quaint alpine towns, offering a glimpse into the captivating beauty of the Swiss Alps.
Throughout the journey, you'll have ample opportunities to capture stunning photographs, so keep your camera ready. Marvel at the towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, and lush meadows that paint the landscape in vibrant colors, creating a visual feast for the eyes.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the comforts of the train as it traverses through the heart of Switzerland. The Glacier Express is known for its exceptional onboard service, so you can expect a pleasant and comfortable journey. Take advantage of the dining car to savor a delicious meal while gazing out at the incredible vistas passing by.
As the train continues its journey, it will make several stops at notable destinations along the route. These stops provide opportunities for short breaks, allowing you to stretch your legs, breathe in the fresh alpine air and capture even more stunning views.
After several hours of enchanting train travel, the Glacier Express will arrive in St. Moritz. This glamorous mountain resort town is renowned for its luxury, elegance and world-class skiing opportunities. Take some time to explore the town, stroll along the chic streets and perhaps indulge in a spot of shopping or a leisurely coffee break.
In the evening, find a cozy restaurant in St. Moritz and treat yourself to a delightful dinner. Sample Swiss specialties or international cuisine while reflecting on the extraordinary journey you've just experienced aboard the world famous Glacier Express.
Day 12: The Bernina Express
Get ready for another remarkable train adventure as you travel on the Bernina Express for a day trip to Tirano. The Bernina Express is a scenic train route that takes you through the stunning landscapes of the Swiss and Italian Alps.
As you board the Bernina Express, find a comfortable seat and get ready to be captivated by the breathtaking scenery that unfolds before you. The train features large panoramic windows that offer unobstructed views of the majestic mountains, charming alpine villages and scenic valleys.
As the train departs from St. Moritz, you'll be treated to a visual feast of snow-capped peaks, pristine lakes and picturesque valleys. The route takes you across the iconic Landwasser Viaduct, an impressive stone bridge that spans a deep gorge, adding a touch of drama to the journey.
As the train climbs higher into the mountains, you'll witness the changing landscapes, from lush green meadows to snow-dusted peaks. Pass through tunnels, cross high mountain passes and marvel at the engineering marvels that allow the train to navigate this challenging terrain.
The Bernina Express will make a stop at Alp Grüm, a scenic viewpoint that offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and the sparkling Lago Palü. Step off the train and take a moment to soak in the natural beauty that surrounds you. Capture photos of the breathtaking landscapes, breathe in the crisp mountain air and appreciate the tranquility of the alpine environment.
Continuing on the journey, the train descends into the picturesque town of Tirano, located in the neighboring Italian region of Lombardy. Tirano is known for its charming streets, historic buildings and delicious Italian cuisine. Take some time to explore the town, visit the iconic Basilica di Tirano or indulge in a traditional Italian lunch at one of the local trattorias.
After immersing yourself in the charm of Tirano, it's time to board the Bernina Express for the return journey. As the train winds its way back towards St. Moritz, relish the opportunity to admire the stunning vistas once again, as the train descends through valleys, passes by glimmering lakes and navigates through charming alpine villages.
Day 13: Train to Chur
Today you will travel by train to Chur, where you will spend the night and have a full day to explore this charming city. Chur, the oldest town in Switzerland, is nestled in a picturesque valley surrounded by mountains, offering a delightful blend of history, culture and natural beauty.
Upon your arrival in Chur, take some time to settle into your accommodation at the beautiful Tschuggen Grand Hotel and get acquainted with the city. Chur's Old Town, with its narrow cobblestone streets and well-preserved medieval buildings, is a delight to explore. Wander through the alleys, admire the beautifully painted facades and soak in the unique atmosphere of this historic area.
While in Chur, you can visit the impressive Chur Cathedral, an architectural masterpiece that dates back to the 12th century. Step inside and marvel at the intricate details and stunning stained glass windows. From the cathedral, take a leisurely stroll to the nearby Bishop's Palace, which houses the Graubünden Art Museum. The museum showcases a remarkable collection of regional art, providing insights into the culture and heritage of the Graubünden region.
Chur is also known for its vibrant cultural scene. If you're interested in the arts, consider visiting the Bundner Kunstmuseum, another art museum that displays contemporary works by local and international artists. Alternatively, check the program of the Theater Chur, which hosts a variety of performances ranging from theater plays to music concerts.
For a taste of the local cuisine, explore Chur's culinary offerings. Sample traditional Swiss dishes at cozy restaurants or indulge in a selection of delicious Swiss chocolates at the local chocolatiers. Don't forget to try the famous Bündner Nusstorte, a delectable nut-filled tart that is a specialty of the region.
If you're up for some outdoor adventure, Chur offers several opportunities for hiking and nature walks in its surrounding areas. Take a scenic hike along the nearby Pizokel Trail or explore the nearby Rhine Gorge, known as the "Swiss Grand Canyon," with its dramatic cliffs and breathtaking views.
Day 14: Bidding farewell to Switzerland
Board a train at Chur station and settle in for a comfortable ride to Zurich airport. As the train glides through the Swiss countryside, you can take in the rolling hills, charming villages and stunning alpine vistas. It's a perfect opportunity to reflect on the memories you've made during your trip and savor the natural beauty of Switzerland one last time.
Zurich airport is known for its efficiency and modern facilities, ensuring a smooth departure process. If you have some spare time before your flight, you can explore the amenities and services available at the airport.
Before bidding farewell to Switzerland, take a moment to reflect on the incredible experiences and unforgettable moments you've had throughout your journey. Whether it was marveling at majestic mountains, indulging in Swiss chocolate or immersing yourself in the rich culture and history of the country, Switzerland has surely left a lasting impression on you. Your Swiss adventure may be coming to an end, but the memories and experiences will stay with you forever.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Switzerland.