A week transversing through Switzerland with stunning views on train rides and beautiful hikes in West and Central Switzerland
EuropeSwitzerland, France8 days / August - September 2019
Highs & Lows
Every single train ride in Switzerland is stunning
Having to skip Jungfrau due to bad weather
Switzerland is a vast and beautiful city and planning an itinerary to visit it for 7 days is not easy. With gorgeous cities, stunning railways, and majestic Swiss Alps, it’s important to prioritise your focus on your visit so you don’t overstretch yourself. After several headache episodes and being realistic about travel time and what I want to and can feasibly see, I’ve decided on a 8 day itinerary that focuses on hiking in mostly the western part of Switzerland.
Geneva is a city that doesn’t lack for things to do. A city that existed since 4 century BC, it consisted of a fortification in the old part of town until it joined Switzerland in the 19th century. I packed all the sights in one morning:
Geneva Old Town
A must-see is the Geneva Old Town across the river from where the station is. A must-see is the historic Calvin College and the St Pierre Cathedral, where you can get the best panorama of the city from its tower.
The unmissable jet of water that extends up to 140m in the air, Jet d’Eau is a landmark of the city at the point where the River Rhone continues.
Bains des Paquis
Arguably the best swimming spot in town, Bains des Paquis is on the edge of the Geneva Bay built along the gyrone that protects it. It offers a great view of the old town as well as the Jet d’Eau, with pebbles, wooden docks, and boulders for sunbathing and a well-priced restaurant.
Geneva has frequent train to Montreux and the journey takes about an hour. The train goes along Lake Geneva with a beautiful view, and from there, you can take the cog-wheel train up to Rochers de Naye.
Rochers de Naye
The train gets you almost all the way to the top, and even without doing any hiking you get a spectacular view. I hiked around the peak and then to the Alpine Garden for two hours, soaking in the view and taking photos.
On the way down, instead of going all the way down to Montreux, get off at Glion, and take the funicular to Territe then walked 20 minutes to Chillon.
One of the most famous landmarks in the region, the castle stays open late in the summer and I got there with plenty of time to spare. Expect to spend 1-2 hours there, and don’t forget to walk out on the other side for photos! It also happens to where the port is.
Lake Geneva cruise
The CGN ferry departs from a pier 5 minutes walk from the castle. I caught the ferry and originally intended to get off at Montreux and then take the train back to Geneva
I visited the Carouge neighbourhood and the UN Palace before boarding the train to Lucerne.
First, head to Montreux. The best one to take is the Belle Époque train on the Golden Panorama Route from Montreux to Zweisimmen. It takes 5-6 hours with 2 changes, and the sceneries are among the best.
You'll arrive in Lucerne for sunset (in August) and it's absolutely stunning.
Note: you do have to change trains twice, once at Zweisimmen, and then at Interlaken.
Lucerne is a historic city in the center of Switzerland on the River Reuss. It was a city that had captured my heart the moment I set eyes on the Chapel Bridge with the sun setting behind it. There is a certain old-time charm that lingers in its cobblestone streets and intricate painted medieval buildings that summon a sense of wanderlust like no other.
An iconic part of Lucerne, the Chapel Bridge and the Water Tower stretches across the River Reuss, connecting the Lucerne Theater and St Peter’s Chapel. The rickety vibe from the roofed bridge gives the town a timeless feel, spanning 205 m diagonally across the river. The bridge was built in 1333, however, it was almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1993 and was rebuilt within 8 months.
The Musegg Wall and Towers
Part of the fortification that was built to protect the city after the Battle of Sempach in 1400, it is north of the River Reuss stretching across 800m. There are nine towers in total, starting by the riverside and going up along the hill. I followed the sign from a road at the edge of town that goes uphill and found the entrance.
Another architecture jewel by the river, the baroque Jesuit Church is a Catholic Church built in the 17th century. It was built by the city and the Order of Jesuit, who were trying to counter the Reformation at the time in Zurich and Geneva.
Getting to Mount Rigi from Lucerne is an experience in itself. It was built in 1871 and is the first mountain railway in Switzerland. Switzerland’s travel system is unrivaled for its stunning scenery.
Start with a scenic boat ride from Lucerne to Vitznau on Lake Lucerne. The boat stays close to the shore, giving you a splendid view of the towns as on one side and Mount Pilatus in the distance.
The ferry is timed to connect with the cogwheel train that goes up every hour at 15 minutes past. It takes 32 minutes to get to Rigi Klum, and then you can hike the panoramic route down to Rigi Kaltbald.
You can then get the cable car down to Weggis, walk to the lakeshore and get the ferry back to Lucerne!
Take the train from Lucerne to Interlaken in the morning
From Interlaken station, Harder Kulm is only 5 minutes walk away. Take the funicular up and spent about an hour plus there. You can do hikes around the area, otherwise, there’s only the panoramic viewpoint and the restaurant.
I booked an afternoon slot for paragliding and was picked up promptly at the station. They drove us to the office which is very nearby before heading out the mountains. It was one of the best things I did – hands down, and I got back – more like landed back – in Interlaken back in an hour.
After settling in, I took a walk to the Staubbach Waterfall and walked around a bit.
I had planned to visit Jungfraujoch in the morning, but after a check on the livecam it was clear that the visibility was next to zero. So instead, I visited Schilthorn.
Definitely make a stop at Murren, which is a beautiful town. For those who don't know, Schilthorn is famous for being a 007 movie shoot location.
You can also stop by Birg and take the thrill walk, which is made of glass bottom!
Since I had some more time, I went up to Wengen from Lauterbrunnen. Wengen is as far as the Swiss Travel Pass holders can go for free. It’s another beautiful town with several nice hikes that gives a sweeping view o f the Lauterbrunnen valley. So I took a quick hike to Leiterhorn.
It takes just under 3 hours to get from Lauterbrunnen to Zermatt. My hotel picked me up (Cervo Zermatt) and I settled in for a nice lunch and then checked into my room.
In the afternoon, I did the 5 Lake Hike
It's about 2.5 hours but I'd take it nice and slow and spend time taking photos and enjoying the walk. It starts at Blauherd end at Sunnegga, looping to Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grunsee, Mosjessee, and Leisee.
Note: the last train from Sunnegga leaves at 6pm, so be sure to leave for the hike early enough
The Matterhorn-Gornergrat rail is a great choice for all ages and hiking ability since it has numerous stops, interlinked trails, and a great view of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. The ride takes 29 minutes from the center of town to the 3,089 m peak, stopping not quite at the top. There is a panoramic route that takes you up to the viewing platform on the peak with a view of the surrounding mountains. In particular, you can see the Klein Matterhorn and Monte Rosa (the glacier).
Riffelsee is a must see on the way. I hiked up from Riffelalp which took basically the whole day. But if you're short on top, go to the top, hike down to Riffelsee, then leave at the station there.
Q & A
What would you have changed?I would love more time in the Jungfrau region, and time to take a day trip to Bern!
Anything go wrong during the trip?It's hard to predict the weather so unfortunately, I didn't go up to Jungfrau but went up to Schilthorn instead.
Restaurant recommendations?Co-op - the supermarket - is your best friend in Switzerland to keep your trip under budget! Eating out in Switzerland is expensive.
Tips you would give a friend?Download the Swiss Train app to check the train time, you can also set reminders for getting off and changing lines. I also planned my trip meticulously to make sure that I don't miss out on anything.
Packing tips?Definitely pack for warm and hot weather even in the summer. It was 0 degree celcius when I went up to Schilthorn!
Transportation Tips?Get a Swiss Travel Train Pass - this saves you so much money and many attractions become free or 50% off.
Any surprises?Schilthorn was a nice surprise - it wasn't on my radar but I was happy to visit it since Jungfrau wasn't an option (it's also cheaper).
Booking details?Even the end of summer is a busy time in Switzerland, so definitely book your accommodations in advance.