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The ultimate Switzerland travel guide: everything you need to know

The ultimate Switzerland travel guide! Including all the necessary traveling to Switzerland tips, such as where to go, when to go, how to get around, what to eat, and how to travel on a budget.

11min

The ultimate Switzerland travel guide: everything you need to know

Switzerland is arguably one of the most stunning countries in Europe. With dramatic alpine scenery, heartwarming local food, historic towns, and world-famous cities, Switzerland has something for everyone.

No matter where you go or what you are willing to do in Switzerland, you are bound to find gorgeous natural beauty, delicious chocolate and cheese, and efficient, easy-to-use public transport.

Switzerland is a welcoming country where the locals are happy and healthy. The country has maintained a neutral position in global affairs throughout history. As a result, peace, prosperity, and innovation thrive all throughout the country.

With this Switzerland travel guide, we will give an overview of the country and highlight some things you may need to know before traveling here.

In this Switzerland travel guide you can find:

  • When to visit Switzerland
  • How long to go?
  • Where to go in Switzerland?
  • Brief summary of Swiss history
  • Budget travel recommendations
  • Where to stay
  • Worldpackers work exchanges in Switzerland
  • What to eat
  • How to get around
  • The best things to do in Switzerland

Now let’s get into all the details about your trip to Switzerland. Read on to learn about general trip planning advice, how to visit the country on a budget, examples of epic Worldpackers work exchanges, and more.

Why visit Switzerland?

Switzerland is a stunning country in Central Europe. It is safe, solo traveler-friendly, and incredibly scenic.

It doesn't matter what kind of travelers you are, you sure can find something that suits you: Adventurous travelers can ski or snowboard in the Alps, or test their limits with adrenaline-pumping activities in Interlaken. Those more interested in art and history can tour the castles, museums, and art galleries in cities like Basel or Geneva.

Public transport is very well-maintained and easy to follow, and many locals speak English as well. So if you ever get lost or have a hard time finding a place you want to go, it's easy to get back on track.


Get ready to explore the natural beauty of Switzerland!

When to go?

There is no bad time to visit Switzerland! It just depends on what you are looking for during your trip.

Many people flock to Switzerland to ski or snowboard in the Alps. If you’re looking for a holiday full of winter sports, then, of course, winter is the best time to go.

Between November and February, the snow season is at its peak. Skiing and snowboarding are incredible, and all of Switzerland looks like a winter wonderland.

If you’re looking for more outdoorsy activities like hiking, camping, waterfall rappelling, skydiving, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, or just some good old-fashioned sightseeing, you may want warmer weather.

Summer in Switzerland is stunning. The sun shines and the temperatures are warm between June and September. However, this is peak holiday season for Europeans, so many attractions are crowded. Flight prices also tend to go up.

The shoulder seasons of spring (March - May) or Autumn (September - November) are safe bets for visiting Switzerland. The prices of transport, tours, and accommodation drop, but the weather will still be pleasant.

So those wondering, “What is the best month to go to Switzerland?”, decide whether you want a ski holiday, a summer holiday, or a more affordable shoulder season holiday.


Switzerland is stunning in winter!

How long to go?

You can never spend enough time exploring Switzerland. As is the case with almost every country in the world, more time is better. The country isn’t that big, but there is so much to see and do, especially if you love adventure activities in nature.

If you only have 3-5 days to spare for your travels, I recommend picking one city to explore, such as Basel, Geneva, or Zurich. Spend a couple of days in the city, with maybe a day trip into nature or a day trip to a smaller local village.

Definitely spend at least one day in the Swiss Alps, which is arguably the most beautiful spot in the country.

Interlaken is a great tourist town to visit for exploring the Alps. From Interlaken, you can ski, snowboard, bike, hike, skydive, and more.

If you have more than a few weeks to spare, you can do a Worldpackers work exchange. This will allow you to work for accommodation, stretch your money out longer, and spend more time enjoying the country. If you have a month or more, you can really get a feel for the landscape and culture of Switzerland!

So to answer the question: “How many days is enough for Switzerland?”, I would say 7 days is ideal to start out with. One week is an amazing time frame for an introduction to Switzerland, as it will give you the chance to explore one or two cities, and see the Alps. 

Where to go?

There are so many amazing places to visit in Switzerland. Here is a quick overview of the best places to visit during your trip.

Basel: A city on the Rhine River in northern Switzerland near France and Germany. Often referred to as the Cultural Capital of the country.

Geneva: A city full of history, diplomacy, and natural beauty. Explore Lake Geneva, one of Europe’s oldest Old Towns, and see the headquarters of the UN.

The Matterhorn: An iconic peak of the Swiss Alps that is popular for hiking and sightseeing.

Bern: The capital city of Switzerland. Full of medieval architecture, fountains, gardens, museums, and unique landmarks.

Zurich: This is Switzerland’s largest city. It’s a popular place to fly into and begin your Switzerland travels. It’s great for shopping, museum-hopping, and taking day trips out into small villages and nature.

Switzerland National Park: A stunning area of natural beauty in eastern Switzerland, perfect for hiking and cross-country skiing.

Interlaken: A holiday resort town near the Alps, nestled between the two stunning lakes of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. The perfect place to base yourself for adventure activities and skiing/snowboarding in the Alps.

Jungfraujoch: Also known as the “Top of Europe”, this is one of the top places to ski and snowboard in the Alps.

Lucerne: A beautiful, peaceful, historic town on a lake. Lucerne is known for music, art, museums, and its Old Town

There are so many more places to see, but those are some of the most popular places for tourists to see during their visit to Switzerland.


Zurich

A summary of Swiss history

It is always helpful to know a bit about the local history when you visit any country.

The land that is present-day Switzerland has been part of numerous different empires, including the Helvetians/Helvetic Celts, various Germanic tribes, and the Roman Empire.

Between the 1200s and the 1500s, the area was united by its ruling families to form the Swiss Confederation. The area remained stable even during the religious upheaval of the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.

Because Switzerland is sandwiched between so many different cultures, languages, and religions, it quickly maintained a status of neutrality with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

During centuries of conflicts between various religious groups and national groups, Switzerland stayed strong. They created a Federal State in the 1800s, loosely modeled after the US Consitution.

Even through both World Wars in the 1900s, Switzerland remained neutral and relatively unscathed, despite having French, German, and Italian influences within its borders.

The country rapidly developed and industrialized in the 1800s and 1900s, and now it is one of Europe’s most advanced and sophisticated countries. Its citizens have a high quality of life, and the United Nations European Headquarters is even located in Geneva.

The importance of staying neutral in global conflicts and maintaining peace and prosperity is one of the reasons why Switzerland is such an incredible country to visit or to live in.

Budget to travel to Switzerland

Switzerland is a pretty expensive country to visit. But it is possible to travel on a budget if you want.

For those wondering, “How much should I budget for a trip to Switzerland?”, let’s break down some of the average costs. Keep in mind, prices fluctuate based on season and current events. These are just general averages.

Prices will be listed in the local currency, CHF (Swiss Francs). The conversion of CHF to US Dollars is roughly 1 to 1, so you could read these prices in USD and they would be similar.

Average costs of a:

  • Meal in a restaurant: 10-15 CHF for lunch in a cafe or 20-30 CHF for dinner
  • Beer in a bar or restaurant: 7 CHF

  • Day pass for skiing in the Alps: 60-100 CHF
  • Day tour from the city: 70-100 CHF
  • Museum ticket: 20 CHF
  • Train ride between cities: 20-50 CHF

  • Dorm bed in a hostel: 30 CHF per night
  • Room in a budget hotel: 80-100 CHF per night
  • Room in a luxury hotel: 200 CHF per night or more

So taking all that into account, here is what a daily budget might look like depending on your travel style:

  • Daily backpacker budget: 60-90 CHF
  • Daily mid-range traveler budget: 150-180 CHF
  • Daily luxury traveler budget: 250 CHF or more

Of course, everyone is different and you will have to plan your own travel budget based on your financial situation and your travel style.

Now that you have an idea of what things cost, we can get into more of the specifics about Switzerland travel.


It is possible to see Switzerland on a budget. 

Where to stay in Switzerland

Switzerland has accommodation options for every budget.

There are lots of awesome backpacker hostels around the country for those on a budget. Particularly in the big cities of Geneva, Bern, and Zurich, there are some great options. Touristy areas like Interlaken and Lucerne also have lots of hostels.

Hostels are great places to meet other travelers, especially if you’re traveling alone. The hostels in Switzerland are super modern, with great amenities, safe lockers to store your things, and helpful, friendly staff members.

For those with a bit more money to spend, hotels around Switzerland are plentiful. There are also plenty of Airbnbs, Bed and Breakfasts, and Guesthouses for those who want a more cozy, intimate experience.

Those looking to save even more money while traveling in Switzerland can consider a work exchange.

Worldpackers Work Exchanges in Switzerland

Volunteering with Worldpackers is an excellent way to spend your time in Switzerland.

Since you are working in exchange for accommodation, you can save money and get to stay in the country for free! This is huge because Switzerland is not a cheap country to visit.

Not only will you save money on accommodation, but you will also get the opportunity to live and work alongside locals and other travelers. This is an amazing way to meet people, learn new things, and immerse yourself in the culture.

Here are some examples of work exchanges you can do during your stay in Switzerland:


Make friends with a work exchange in the mountains!

What to eat in Switzerland

Food in Switzerland is heavy and delicious. The most famous foods to try in Switzerland are definitely cheese and chocolate!

Swiss chocolate is world-famous, with Lindt and Toblerone being two of the most well-known brands. With a higher milk content than most other chocolates, Swiss Chocolate is incredibly rich and creamy. There are chocolate factories and chocolate shops all over the country, so definitely indulge!

Swiss cheese is a special type of alpine cheese that has lower acidity and lower salt content than other cheeses. Famous types of Swiss cheese include Emmenthal and Gruyère. You can buy them in any food store in Switzerland. Cheese is served in many forms in Switzerland, the most popular being fondue. Cheese fondue is something you have to try when you travel to Switzerland!

This big pot of melted cheese is served with bread and veggies that you can dip into the cheese. There are amazing restaurants all over the country where you can try traditional cheese fondue.


You have to try cheese fondue!

Besides cheese and chocolate, other must-try dishes in Switzerland include:

  • Papet Vaudois: a warm dish of stewed leeks and potatoes with sausage on top
  • Zopf bread: braided bread often served with jam and fruits
  • Tartiflette: a baked dish of thinly sliced potatoes, bacon, onions, and chees
  • Leckerli: sweet, sticky biscuits with hazelnuts
  • Älpermagronen: A dish similar to macaroni and cheese with onions and potatoes

How to get around in Switzerland?

If you’re wondering how to travel in Switzerland, there are many ways to get around!

Public transport is plentiful here, and all the big cities and many smaller towns are well connected by train and bus.

Flights into Switzerland are easy and cheap from elsewhere in Europe. Zurich and Geneva are travel hubs, as are Bern and Basel. You can easily get a flight here when arriving in Switzerland.

You can take domestic flights within the country, though they are expensive.

Switzerland isn’t that big, so the best way to travel to different cities within the country is by train or bus. For example, a train from Geneva in the west of the country to Zurich in the north is only about 3 hours.

Trains are the fastest and most efficient way to travel between cities. Buses are a bit slower and cheaper. Buses are preferred for shorter journeys between smaller towns.

Renting a car is another option. The roads are easy to drive and well-maintained, though renting a car is still more expensive than public transport.

So for getting around Switzerland, you should be all taken care of by train or bus!


Switzerland has some of the most beautiful train journeys. 

Best things to do in Switzerland

Here are some of the top activities to add to your Switzerland itinerary!

Ski or snowboard in the Alps

If you love to ski or snowboard, you’ll be in heaven in the Swiss Alps! Jungfraujoch is one of the top places to hit the slopes. Head to the town of Grindelwald and then take the train up from there.

Explore Geneva

Geneva is one of Switzerland’s most spectacular cities. Explore the interesting museums, walk through the Old Town, and enjoy the views on the shores of Lake Geneva. Book a boat tour of Lake Geneva for more incredible sightseeing.

Visit Chillon Castle

This gorgeous castle on the shores of Lake Geneva is one of the best castles to see in Switzerland. Tour the massive castle grounds and admire the lakeside views.

Kayak on Lake Brienz

Just next to Interlaken is Lake Brienz, one of the two alpine mountain lakes that give Interlaken its name (“Between The Lakes”). This turquoise-blue lake is perfect for kayaking!

See Oberhofen Castle

Located on the shores of Lake Thun next to Interlaken, the amazing medieval Oberhofen Castle is one of the most photographed sights in Switzerland.

Enjoy the views in Lucerne

This lakeside city is one of the most scenic places in the country. Enjoy the art, museums, architecture, and lakefront promenades. If you can, try to attend the Lucerne Festival, one of the world’s top international classical music festivals.


Lucerne

Go wine tasting

Switzerland has some amazing wineries scattered around the country where you can tour vineyards and taste local wine. Geneva, Vaud, The Three Lakes Wine, Valais, and Ticino are some of the country’s best wine regions.

See Rhine Falls

This is probably Switzerland’s most famous waterfall. Head to the nearby town of Schaffhausen and walk to the falls from there, or book a boat tour and get up close.

Hike Mount Pilatus

Near Lucerne is Mount Pilatus, a beautiful mountain where you can hit the trails and hike up to incredible viewpoints over the Alps. You can also take the cable car up if you’re not up for hiking.

Go on a scenic train ride

Europe has an extensive train network, and you can see some of the best scenery by train. Switzerland has some amazing train journeys where you can see the best of the landscape and countryside. The Bernina Express is one of the most popular train journeys, as is the train ride up to Jungfrau Railway.

Hike up to the Matterhorn

The massive, jagged peak of the Matterhorn is one of the most epic hikes you can do in Europe. You can also take the cable car up.

Try adventure sports in Interlaken

Interlaken is the Adventure Capital of the country, and there are so many fun ways to get the adrenaline pumping here. Go bungee jumping, sky diving, canyoning, waterfall rappelling, whitewater rafting, paragliding, and more.


Interlaken

Thanks for reading this Switzerland travel guide!

Hopefully, we’ve answered some of your top questions and helped you figure out how to travel and what to do in Switzerland.

Whether you’re on a backpacker budget or willing to fully indulge, there is so much beauty, culture, and history to be discovered in Switzerland!

Want to learn more about planning your trip? By subscribing to the WP pack plan you have unlimited access to +120 courses at Worldpackers Academy, the travel school made by travelers! 



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