Travel fills me with such accomplishment, few other pursuits do. Just the thought of it energises and excites me to the point where ‘I want to travel’ becomes ‘I have to travel’. My reason for roaming the Big Beautiful World is quite simple-it’s the best way to celebrate life!
On top of that – because unnecessary delays at the airports and long queues before luggage screening outweigh the satisfaction of being someplace new, and because freshly baked Portuguese custard tarts are irresistible, and because travel radically modifies our perspective.
When it comes to Switzerland, you can’t go wrong. Just about everything Swiss provide and produce is world-class. Fine chocolate, luxurious shopping, scenic train rides, exceptional timepieces and 96 Michelin-starred restaurants.
As any visit to a new country, ours started in its biggest city, Zürich. Instead of landing at the airport, we arrived on a train from Milano Centrale railway station and headed right into one of the most beautifully preserved Old Towns in Europe (talk about maximum mobility when travelling with a backpack).
The train journey from Italy to the Hauptbahnhof station was just 3h and 45 minutes long, and it was the best introduction to Switzerland we could have asked. We had a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way (and lots more legroom than on a plain!) and fell in love with Swiss trains.
Zürichs Central Station, the Hauptbahnhof, is the largest train station in Switzerland and one of the busiest in the European world with more than 2000 functioning train rides per day to the neighbouring European countries, including Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna, Paris and more.
Every Wednesday farmers and producers set up their stalls in the train station to sell fresh and organic foods, and in the winter it hosts a Christmas market where you can find Christmas Tree decorated with dazzling Swarovski crystals.
After all, Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and its high standards provide the most excellent experiences.
Discovering the best of beautiful Zürich and Lucerne in 48 hours
We loved Zürich! Dominated by the mighty Alps, Zürich showcases a perfect combination of whizzing city life and thrilling outdoor activities. You can spend a morning exploring old town squares with storybook charms and thanks to the proximity of the mountains, go for a hike to the top of the Uetliberg mountain in the afternoon.
What we discovered while roaming around was a beautiful city with brightly coloured façades, delicious food and tasty chocolate (apparently, the Swiss eat an average of 12 pounds of chocolate every year).
Yes, with only 48 hours to spend, we barely touched the surface of what Switzerland had to offer and didn’t get a chance to connect with Zürich on a more personal level, but you could easily spend weeks in this picturesque region and not see everything.
Visiting Switzerland on budget
Some travellers might give Switzerland a hard time for being pricy (which is true, because a one-way journey in a tram will cost you approximately 6 CHF (5 EUR/6 USD), but it’s worth every single Swiss Frank!
And, there are always ways to keep that hard-earned money in your purse for longer by planning in advance, staying in hostels, avoiding alcohol (you’ll feel much better the next day) and cooking yourself.
- Another way to minimise costs is to choose one place or region and hang out there for a while as transportation between cities and towns is costly.
- Buy a Zürich pass(CHF 24). The ZürichCard offers unlimited 2nd class travel by train, bus and cable car, free or reduced admission to museums and more.
- Switzerland is one of the cleanest cities, so it’s no surprise you can drink from one of the 1200 fountains located around the city. Stay away from single-use plastic, bring a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up. This way, you can achieve two things at once-save money and help the environment.
- Enjoy Free Walk Zürich, these 90-minute tours, organised by an independent, non-profit organisation, are entirely free! You can choose from chocolate, downtown Zürich, Zürich West tours and more. For solo travellers, this is a perfect way to meet other travellers. And, you can get your questions answered about famous landmarks as well as see the city through the eyes of the local.
Exploring Zürich’s Old Town
Zürich’s Old Town, with its medieval age architecture, museums(more than 50!), and exciting attractions, is a perfect starting point, even if you aren’t much of a history buff. Pedestrian-only streets are great for wandering around at your peace and although with only 24 hours in Zürich, we managed to see quite a lot.
Zürich is among Europes most walkable cities and a very manageable place to navigate as a visitor with its flat central district and most points of interest located on both sides of the Limmat River.
On the east bank is Zürich’s best-known church, Grossmünster Church, easily recognisable by two towering steeples. There is a guided tour on the second Sunday every month, and 187 stairs lead to a fantastic viewpoint.
The Fraumünster church is a Protestant church, founded in 853 by King Louis the German with stained glass windows created by artists Augusto Giacometti and Marc Chagall.
Going on Golden Round Trip to Lucerne
While in Zürich, we decided to travel to Lucerne, from where we took the ‘Golden Round Trip’ to Mount Pilatus. The journey started with a relaxing 30-minute gondola ride over the beautiful Swiss landscape, followed by the aerial cableway known as the ‘Dragon Ride’, all the way to the mountaintop of 7000ft.
Silently gliding towards Mount Pilatus in a bright red gondola, we had a birds-eye view of its famous lush green valleys and lake Lucerne, shining in deepest blue colour. Halfway up to the summit, the gondola stops in Fräkmüntegg where you can enjoy a ride in Switzerland’s longest summer toboggan run for quite reasonable prices.
Once at the summit, you can enjoy views over five different lakes and 70 peaks. On top of that, there are a good few restaurants around Mount Pilatus, Lucern’s landmark mountain, offering excellent dining and a beautiful alpine panorama.
Those in favour of outdoor activities would appreciate one of many hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous, as well as climbing, paragliding and cycling activities guaranteed to get your heart pounding.
Journey back in the worlds steepest railway(since 1889) to Alpnachstad, accompanied by an hour-long ride in a classic steamboat across Lake Lucerne, was another highlight of the trip. As much as we prefer exploring the countryside on foot, it was great to sit back and take in the views from the upper deck.
How to get to Zürich
Zürich is located right in the middle of Switzerland and Switzerland is situated, very conveniently, right in the centre of Europe. This means Zürich is very well connected to the rest of Europe.
Aer Lingus operates flights from Dublin to Zürich and so does Easy Jet From London Airports.
Zürich’s international airport is situated just 11 kilometres north of the city, and the easiest way to get to the city centre is by train. Journey time takes 10-15 minutes, and a single ticket costs CHF 6.80
Tips, hints, and things to do in Zürich and Lucerne
- Eat cheese fondue, a traditional Swiss dish that originated in the Alps and consists of cheese, wine, and coarse peasant bread. Quite possibly the most delicious Swiss meal.
- Bring a rain jacket or an umbrella. Because of the surrounding mountains, the weather is very changeable. We visited in June and ended up purchasing warm cardigans.
- Did you know that Switzerland is the birthplace of Milk Chocolate? Go crazy and try all the Swiss chocolate you can get your hands on. Best ones are Lindt & Sprüngli, Toblerone, Coop Prix Garantie and more!
- If you are planning on shopping, most of the stores and restaurants are closed on Sundays so plan your visit accordingly.
- Walk the lake promenade and bring some bread to feed swans or go for a swim. Attractions like wooden footbridge across the lake from Hurden to Rapperswil, numerous swimming areas and beautiful Opera House nearby make Lake Zürich a favourite holiday spot.
- Hop on a short boat ride along the River Limmat down to the beginning of Lake Zürich and back. It is a great way to see many beautiful buildings located along the riverbanks. The motorised boats are flat, low-ceiling with glass roofs, designed to fit underneath the bridges.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to Zürich or Lucerne? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Lucerne or Zürichand have travel-related questions!