The are many great itineraries for spending a long weekend in Switzerland, but which one to choose?
There is so much to do and so little time!
Switzerland is a great escape any time of the year and for however long you can spare. But with over 250 3,000-meter summits, hundreds of lakes, and an Old Town to explore in every city, it can be overwhelming to plan if you just have two or three days.
If you’ve never been to Switzerland before, or if you’re just looking for something new to do, here are easy Swiss itineraries to make the most out of your long weekend. So, pack your weekend bag and get ready for a little adventure!
Here we cover three of the best long weekend itineraries for Switzerland.
So let’s jump right in.
Zurich: For a Little Bit of Everything
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, often associated with high-end brands and financial institutions. However, beyond the stereotype, it’s a charming historic city with an incredible way of life. As the finance hub of the country, the residents are very global as well with most people speaking at least two languages. This worldview is evident everywhere – the food, the sights, and even the nightlife.
Where to Stay in Zurich
There’s an excellent list of options for hotels, but the Swissotel is great for a quick trip. It’s located midway from the airport and the Old Town. If you want something more opulent, then nothing can be more iconic than the Dolder Grand. A hotel that looks more like a castle, this iconic institution in the city has an amazing spa and treats guests with the best views of mountains, the lake, and the city. And, it’s only minutes to downtown!
The great thing about Zurich is you can get a taste of all the best things to do in Switzerland all in one city.
Start your trip by immersing yourself in Zurich’s past. Take a walk around Old Town where some of the city’s most iconic sites are found. Visit UNESCO World Heritage Site Lindenhof Hill – a hilltop park with a long history and commanding views of the city and the most famous landmark – Grossmunster. You can also get a glimpse of the whole city from here for a literal overview of where to go.
From there, wander downhill into shopping streets, old buildings, and architectural gems. Many landmarks around the Old Town are must-visits, including the previously mentioned Grossmünster, Fraumünster and many museums and galleries.
The old town is also a great place to eat, with options for any taste and budget. One of the most popular fondue restaurants is located right on Niederdorf in the heart of the Old Town – The Swiss Cuchi restaurant. And you can top that off with one of the best hot chocolates around, just down the street at Conditorei Schober
For a taste of the outdoors, spend the next day hiking or biking around the Uetliberg.
It’s a 20-minute train ride away if you’re travelling with young kids or older adults. For those who can, you can simply hike, bike, or take a run to the Uetliberg all the way from the city. The peak is at 870 meters and once again provides a panoramic view of the surroundings. This will take up all of your morning so, in the afternoon, relax those sore muscles in one of the many river or lake swimming baths around Zurich.
My favourite is the Letten, which is just downstream from the main train station, around a 10-15 minute walk. It is free, and has a fun outdoor bar and takeaway too.
Another worthwhile option is Bade Enge, on the lakeside. If you stay long enough it turns into a bar at sunset and you can have a much-deserved nightcap.
There are many ways to spend your final day in Zurich. Get the ultimate pampering at a wellness spa. Great if you’re staying at the Dolder Grand, but another more affordable option is Zurich Thermal Baths & Spa. Fun fact: this is right next door to Google Zurich, which has a slide down into their cafeteria!
Itching to explore more of the city? Don’t miss is the Bahnhofstrasse, the world-renowned shopping street in Zurich. The stores are a mix of international and local boutiques, towards the lake end of the street they are all high-end with eye-watering prices. But even if you have no plans of doing some shopping, the shop windows are creative and fun to look at and it’s always a great place for people watching. When evening comes, take your pick from the many bars, pubs, and nightclubs around this area and end your trip with a bang.
Another option is to take a day trip from Zurich before bidding goodbye. Since Zurich is very central, there are tons of day trip options to choose from. Take a trip to Rhine Falls, a thundering 21-meter-high waterfall surging over Jurassic limestone. You can also do a day trip to Lucerne, a beautiful medieval town which is also a must-visit city in Switzerland.
Geneva: For a Calm Break
Geneva is similar to Zurich in many ways.
It’s home to important world-renowned organizations such as the Red Cross and the United Nations, it sits at the shores of the gorgeous Lake Geneva, and it has breathtaking views of the Alps in the distance.
However, life in Geneva moves at a gentler pace. It’s an underrated city that word travellers tend to skip, but a trip to Geneva is perfect for a peaceful long weekend.
Where To Stay
If you have the cash to flash, then there’s no better area than going lakeside in Geneva.
There are plenty of options, but the celebrated Hotel Beau-Rivage is at the top. It’s a favourite among European aristocrats and A-list stars.
For a more modest temporary home, the City Hostel and the Geneva Hostel are conveniently located and provide very comfortable and stylish stays. Both aren’t too far from both the central station and the lake, making the hostels a good base to go exploring.
If you’re staying near the lake, saunter towards it and start your hunt for the many monuments around the city.
Geneva’s Jet d’Eau is an iconic landmark at the centre of the harbour. It’s hard to miss as it shoots out 500 litres of water 140 meters high in the air. You can see it from anywhere on the shore of the lake.
Another important monument is the Reformation Wall.
It was built to commemorate the Protestant Reformation, which shook up the whole of Switzerland in the 1500s. It can be found behind the old town in Parc des Bastions and features 15-foot statues of the four Geneva luminaries: John Knox, Theodore Beza, William Farel, and John Calvin.
Lastly, a unique and unusual landmark of Geneva is the Broken Chair sculpture at the Palais des Nations (United Nations headquarters).
The 12-meter sculpture of a broken chair was built by Handicap International in 1997 as an appeal to sign the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines. Not only was it for a good cause, but it is a unique piece of art you can stand under.
For a learning experience, there are two institutions not to be missed when you’re in Geneva.
First up is the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, an exhibit of the humanitarian efforts of this famous organization. The displays and stories focus on defending human dignity around the world, but it also does not shy away from the gruesome consequences of both natural and manmade disasters.
The second is CERN – one of the world’s most important centres for science, discovery, and innovation. If you still have lots of time, other museums and galleries to visit are the Patek Philippe Museum to see the works of master watchmakers, and the Bodmer Foundation’s important manuscripts and special editions.
Before leaving, don’t forget to stroll around Geneva’s Old Town. It’s full of character and a living testament to the city’s rich history. Aside from the many shops and restaurants, you’ll also find the centuries-old St. Peter’s Cathedral and the medieval Maison Travel museum.
The Alps: For An Adrenaline Rush
There’s nothing more Swiss than adventures at the Alps, so head to Interlaken for a thrilling weekend. It’s called the adrenaline capital of Switzerland thanks to the myriad of activities you can do. For such a small city, it sure is packed with action. As it also sits in between Lakes Brienz and Thun, views around Interlaken are nothing less than stunning.
Where to Stay in Interlaken
There are many areas to stay in Interlaken, but first-timers will have the easiest time at Interlaken Ost. This is where the main railway station is located, making it easier to travel around and outside the city. It’s also near many landmarks and restaurants.
If you prefer a more luxurious experience, then pick a spot by the lakes for the best views. The 19th- century Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel is an institution and is very near Schloss Interlaken.
A Long Weekend in Interlaken
There are many ways to enjoy your trip to Interlaken depending on how much adventure you’re willing to take.
The first thing to do is to take the funicular to Harder Kulm, Interlaken’s local mountain. It rises to 1,322 meters with the best views of the Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger peaks. There are several hikes to take or restaurants to relax in, but the main draw is the Two-Lakes footbridge, a viewing platform, and an amazing vantage point.
If weather permits, a trip to Jungfraujoch is a must.
Take the train as early as possible to maximize a full day, and also give you time to explore other villages along the way. On the way up, make pit stops at Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg for beautiful walks on the mountainside.
When you reach the top at Jungfraujoch, there’s a lot to do – snow sports, exhibits, shopping, and dining. When you go back to Interlaken, take the Wengernalp train and make a side trip to Grindelwald for a change of scenery, then take a train back to Interlaken to end the day.
If you still have time, take a paragliding or skydiving trip in Interlaken. The whole experience takes around four hours, from travel and orientation to the actual activity.
If that’s too extreme (or expensive), hike towards the lakes for a more iconic moment. You can go kayaking for a relaxed time. The water is always crystal clear and so clean you can drink directly from it. If you’re all adventured out, take a walk around the charming city or do a pub crawl in the many bars that make up the exciting Interlaken nightlife.