I traveled to Switzerland last month with my boyfriend (who became my fiance on the trip!) and we fell head over heels for this beautiful country. Our itinerary was all over the place and we definitely would have done a few things differently had we known better, but now that I do know better I’m basically an expert on what to do and what not to do. We were there for a total of eight days and were able to visit Zermatt, Zurich, Lucerne, and Grindelwald. Something important to note is how insanely expensive Switzerland is. Think of the most expensive place you’ve been to and then times that by ten. We were somewhat prepared for the high costs, but there were definitely a few times where we had to stop and reevaluate our life choices.
After landing in Zurich after a 12 hour flight we made the (not so) wise decision to head straight to the train station for a 3.5 hour ($500 round trip) ride to Zermatt. The train system in Switzerland is super efficient, however we brought a stupid amount of luggage and it turned out to be a pain in the ass so we ended up renting a car for the second half of the trip. Zermatt is a huge tourist destination but totally worth it. Hotels are outrageously priced, but since you’ll never be in your room I’d recommend going with the cheapest option on Bahnhofstrasse, the main road in Zermatt.
Hit the Slopes: We didn’t have enough time to snowboard, but if you have more than a day this is something you MUST do. The Matterhorn serves as the backdrop for every ski slope and the views are incredible.
Hiking: We had perfect weather and started from town and hiked up to and around the mountain range below the Matterhorn. Along the trail we ran into Findlerhof, the coolest restaurant/bar that is a to die for apres ski hot spot and is almost always booked out aka make a reservation way in advance. We stumbled upon this haven that Pinterest wishes it could be before service began, but the waiters were amazing and gave us champagne to toast to our perfect day.
Theodors Stuba: We picked this restaurant for no other reason than we were starving and just happened to walk by, and it turned out to be amazing. We started with fondue and both ordered veal steak for our entrees. 10/10 would recommend.
We were both conflicted as to whether or not we should include Zurich on our itinerary as we both heard mixed reviews, but we ended up going and sort of regretted it. There’s just really not much to do here. Old Town Zurich was fun for the two hours it took to see everything, but overall not worth it considering how much there is to see and do throughout the rest of Switzerland. If for some reason you decide to go, here are a few spots to hit:
Munsterhof – great for lunch while strolling through Old Town. We ran across this place after having visited all of the major sights and had nothing left to do with our day. The sliced veal is crazy good and the restaurant is decorated with original artwork.
Kronenhalle – This place is as iconic as it gets and is an absolute must while in Zurich. Back in the day the likes of Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Picasso, James Joyce, etc could be found posted up at the bar or restaurant. We both ordered wienerschnitzel and rosti, which ended up being one of the best meals of our trip. The only negative part of our experience was the stuffy atmosphere of the restaurant. The dress code is formal and it felt like we were surrounded by a bunch of snobby, jacket wearing, Harvard type yuppies. But if you can get past that and enjoy the meal like we did, make a reservation and go enjoy yourself!
Cafe Sprungli – Pretty much the only reason we went to Zurich. There are several locations, but you want to make sure you go to this one so you can sit down at the cafe to enjoy dessert and a cup of their famous hot chocolate.
I would recommend skipping Zurich altogether and spending that time in Lucerne instead. We had a day and half here and stayed at Ameron Hotel Flora – a cute, decently priced hotel right in the heart of town. The location was perfect as it was within walking distance of all the main sights and restaurants.
Mt. Pilatus – If you don’t do anything else in Lucerne, you HAVE to do this. Mt. Pilatus is worth every penny as the views from the top are unreal. Block out at least half a day for the trip and treat yourself to some dessert at the hotel at the top of the mountain.
Hotel Villa Honegg – Just about thirty minutes outside of Lucerne is what can only be described as Heaven on Earth. Hotel Villa Honegg will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life as not only is it truly one of those once in a lifetime experiences, but the man of my dreams proposed to me during our stay and I could not have imagined a better place for one of the most important moments of our lives. This 5 star hotel is situated at the top of Lake Lucerne and boasts views so breathtaking you almost won’t believe they’re real. We stayed here for two nights and soaked up every single second. The fabulous grounds house just 23 guest rooms, all of which have balconies with views of either the lake or surrounding mountains. The staff is wonderful and you’re treated like royalty throughout your entire stay (little elves run up to your room to turn down your bed and set out your robe and slippers while you’re at dinner). And the pool…the POOL. It is the most luxurious of infinity pools (heated to 80 degrees in the winter) and overlooks Lake Lucerne with beautiful snow capped mountains in the background. After our swims we would snuggle into robes and lounge around the pool under (faux) fur blankets and actually considered canceling the rest of our plans for the trip and extend our stay. I am dying for the day I get to go back and if you ever have the opportunity to visit, take it. You will not regret it.
We originally intended on going to Interlaken, but we learned that it is actually just the hub for the mountain towns above it so we decided to skip that and just stay in one of those towns instead. We stayed in a no frills hotel on the main road (the town is so small almost everything is on this one road). Grindelwald is an adorable little village with an endless amount of outdoor activities to choose from. Here are a few that we enjoyed:
Snowshoeing: We took a four hour snowshoeing tour along the base of the Eiger (one of two major peaks in Switzerland, the other being the Matterhorn). We hit perfect weather again and were able to enjoy amazing 360 degree views of both Grindelwald and the surrounding mountains. After our excursion we refueled/warmed up with some fondue and hot chocolate with Baileys at the cozy Bistro Memory.
Jungfrau: aka the Top of Europe. The trip to the top is unreasonably expensive, but it truly is a must do. The lady at the train station failed to tell us that the last train back to town leaves at 4:30pm (it was 1pm and it takes almost an hour to get to the top), so unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to get the full experience. I would recommend going up first thing in the morning because there is SO much to do and you don’t want to miss anything.
All in all…go to Switzerland. The whole country looks and feels like you’re in a real life fairytale. Eat fondue every day, enjoy every type of veal preparation that exists, and gorge yourself with Lindt chocolate morning, noon, and night. Treat yourself, don’t cheat yourself! And if you choose to only hit the German part like us, I would recommend you organize your itinerary a little more wisely than we did by starting in Lucerne, followed by a few days at Villa Honegg, then head straight to Interlaken/Grindelwald (maybe even Murren), and then finish your trip in Zermatt before heading back to Zurich to fly out.