What comes to mind when you hear Switzerland? Astonishing scenery, divine chocolates, fine watches, a brilliant train network, filthy tax money or smelly cheese! The Confoederatio Helvetica is also one of only two countries with a square flag; has the longest and deepest rail tunnel; and was where LSD was first synthesised in case you didn’t know! This is an awesome country that is definitely worth a visit; you surely can’t afford to miss heaven on earth.
In the first, an outline of the country and some things to look out for when travelling. The second will review my trip flying into Geneva and the various journeys I took from there and the third will be the same but when flying into Zurich. Enjoy the read and leave your feedback below!
Part 1: Hey Switzerland!
Switzerland is a small European jewel. If you buy a large world map and squint really hard, you will see that Switzerland is actually bordered by five countries. Liechtenstein, Austria, France, Italy and Germany all cosy up to Switzerland and spill their own unique flavours over the border. It’s a buy-one, get-four-free deal. But you’ll be needing as many of these great deals as possible if you want to visit. Switzerland is amongst the most expensive places on earth. It’s $8 a coffee expensive!
This isn’t specifically a budget-travel post but we’re super kind and proactive so here are some wunderbar TravelBuddee tips to keep in mind when you travel:
- Keep an eye out for cheap flights because you sometimes find absolute bargains to Switzerland if you’re flying in from Europe. We recommend Skyscanner who have an excellent feature that shows projected, lowest ticket prices on specific future dates.
- Really know where in Switzerland you want to visit before you book your flights. Seems simple enough but flying into the wrong airport can rack up huge train expenses as you make up for your mistake!
- Hotels are generally expensive but make sure you look for breakfast included deals to maximise value. Trivago and Booking.com are both great.
- Migros is your best friend! Switzerland’s largest supermarket name can be found across the country and is perfect for finding all the essentials when you travel. Their sandwiches also leave your wallet a lot happier when you aren’t in the mood for a fancy meal.
Here’s another key tip which deserves its own paragraph. Switzerland is famous for its trains and trams. In fact, the network’s brilliance makes the whole country feel smaller. You really can see a lot in 5 days. Try a day trip to see Bern’s famous clocktower, the Zytglogge, even if you’re hotel is in Geneva. -Or get a day’s tasting of Italy by visiting Lugano if you’re in Zurich. It is an absolute marvel of a system. To make the best use of the system, get a Swiss Travel Pass. Its seems expensive at first glance but is well worth it if you’re visiting for less than a week and want to see a lot of the country. The pass, available for various durations, grants unlimited access to trains, boats and buses as well as the excellent tram network in several cities. In the country where Einstein did most of his learning, you can too since the pass also gets you free admission to over 500 museums. To make the trip a whole lot more memorable though, splurge on the first-class pass. Quieter cabins and more comfortable seats seem to fit the whole Swiss luxury vibe.
Finally, it’s worth knowing that you can enjoy Switzerland throughout the year which makes it the perfect, small getaway. Walk by the lakes through spring, hike during the clear skies of summer, warm up over some fondue in autumn and ski in the winter. Happy travels!
Geneva! Gorgeous Geneva! Seems like a pretty unassuming place at first but visit once and you’ll realise that Geneva is the shiniest jewel in Switzerland’s magnificent crown. This has to be one of my most favourite cities on the planet and it’s the perfect place to begin your Swiss adventure!
Let’s start with some TravelBuddees tips. Once you pick your luggage at GVA, ask about the FREE bus ticket all visitors are entitled to for travel into the city. Now that’s convenience. For those who intend to bring back more luggage than they came with, Balexert and the shops along Rue du Rhône love your Francs.
A great place to stay is the Crowne Plaza (IHG). Don’t be put-off by the business-hotel description; this hotel has some of the nicest staff I’ve come across. It’s also close to the airport and only a single tram ride takes you into the city’s heart. After you’ve dropped off your bags, have a look at these 5 awesome things to do and see in Geneva:
1. Going old school
If you’re short of time, take the 45-minute tour of Old Geneva on the mini tour trains. Pick up is at Place du Rhône and then you are transported back in time to the characterful, cobbled streets of the Old Town. Highlights include Place de Neuve before you enter Parc des Bastions and see the Reformation Wall. The tour then takes you to the awe-inspiring St Pierre Cathedral. You make your way back past a famous chestnut tree whose first bud, since 1808, has officially heralded the start of spring! Finish up with a coffee on the world’s longest bench in La Promenade de la Treille.
2. A Tale Of Two Rivers
La Jonction is spectacular. At this conflux, the River Arve and Rhône create a natural phenomenon worth seeing. The rivers flow at different speeds and are very different in colour but become one in Geneva before flowing into France.
3. Watch Out!
Patek Phillipe created the first of many famous Swiss wristwatches in 1868. For the horologists out there, the Patek Phillipe Museum houses a world-famous collection of antiques and highlight masterpieces from the brand. Watch lover or not, the museum is testament to quintessential Swiss luxury.
4. Just Hangin’ Out!
Geneva sits on the western tip of Lake Geneva, known locally as Lac Léman. Symbolising this is the Jet d’eau. Originally designed to be pressure release system for a nearby hydraulic pumping station, the 140m fountain is now a landmark. As the sun sets, stroll through the Jardin Anglais, home to the world’s largest Flower Clock! Afterwards, chill at the buzzing Tropical Corner or enjoy a dinner at Pizzeria Ristorante Molino; yummy.
5. Please, Take A Seat
Accentuating the Place des Nations is this 12-meter-tall, 3-legged ‘Broken Chair’ weighing over 5 tonnes! The whole area is referred to as the ‘International District’. Strange? Maybe it’s something to do with that United Nations European HQ building right behind you, – look!
Now, in case you’ve got more than 5 days to visit, you can actually use Geneva as basecamp. After a few days exploring the city, I spent the next 4 of my trip travelling to some of the best spots in the western half of Switzerland. All day-trips, returning back to the same familiar pillow in my Geneva hotel for the night! Sounds ambitious but don’t forget those great trains I mentioned in part 1 (booyah!). Here are some ideas for you; all have their own dedicated articles coming soon:
1. Lake Geneva And Chillon Castle
Lake Geneva is pretty big. Half is in France and the other half is shared by 3 cantons in Switzerland. One of my most enjoyable journeys; take a train from Geneva to Château de Chillon. The track runs the whole length along the lake passing through Lausanne and then Montreux. The Castle itself is a marvel and goes back to the 11th century. No wonder it’s one of the country’s most famous attractions. Lake, forest, sky and snow capped mountains…
This beautiful town lies at the base of the Matterhorn; holy grail for skiers and climbers. There are no cars in Zermatt and that’s why you get to see several horse-drawn carriages and small electric taxis running up and down the Bahnhofstrasse. The 4-cheese fondue served at Theodors Stuba 1896 is so, sooo good!
3. The Jungfrau Region
Interlaken, Kleine Scheidegg, Grindelwald (no, not the Harry Potter character). I think the pictures speak for themselves! Food with a view at Restaurant Eigernordwand.
Switzerland’s capital can be done, albeit at a stretch, as a day trip from Geneva. Walk past the Swiss National Bank (well, I do study economics 😉), the imposing Federal Palace and to the rear of the parliament building to get some great views! The Zytglogge, the city’s 13th century clocktower, attracts even the locals at the strike of each hour to see its ancient mechanism go tick-tock. You can also step inside the tower and go to the top for a view of Bern’s rooftops.
So, you probably thought there isn’t this much to do in Switzerland but there’s still Zurich and the eastern half to go to! Let’s see what there is to see in part three 😊