I spent an entire week in Switzerland back in May and put a whole lotta effort into creating the perfect itinerary. But, the perfect itinerary also includes time for spontaneity – which is why I’m not surprised that my list of favorite Swiss experiences includes both planned and unplanned things.
Truthfully, the title of this post is a bit misleading, simply because I’m really just glad I went to Switzerland. But these are the highlights of my trip. Three standout experiences from each of the places I visited during my whirlwind adventure. Yes, I’m calling one week a whirlwind because it is simply not enough time to truly soak in the beauty of this alpine country.
Chapel Bridge – If you visit Lucerne, you will see this footbridge. It’s just across the road from the train station. Built in 1333, the bridge (traditionally known as Kapellbrücke) is like something out of a fairy tale. As an iconic focal point of Lucerne, it’s also heavily trafficked – so best visited in the early a.m. for a less touristy (aka. less strangers in your photos) experience.
Mt. Pilatus – Towering above neighboring Lucerne, Pilatus stands at an impressive 6,982 feet. So tall, in fact, that its peak pierces through the clouds. Worry not if the day you visit is overcast. You’ll still have a 360-degree view of the Alps from the top! And getting there is easy. In Lucerne, I hopped on a bus to Kriens and got off at the Zentrum Pilatus stop. From there, it’s a short (5-10 minute) walk to the gondola station. Just follow all the Mt. Pilatus signs.
Lake Lucerne Boat Ride – I hadn’t planned to cruise the lake while in Lucerne, but after watching all the boats ferry passengers to and from adjacent lakeshore towns, I was sold. Walking past the docks, I spontaneously checked the schedule and had just enough time to hop on the next boat to Weggis. It was 45 minutes one way, then another 45 back to Lucerne. I spent that full 90 minutes ogling the Alps that border the lake. It was one of the best spontaneous decisions I think I’ve ever made!
Explore the town – I honestly didn’t plan to spend much time exploring the town of Interlaken. I’d scheduled bungee jumping for the first afternoon and evening and planned to hike an hour outside of town on day two. But my Airbnb hosts let me check in early, so I had a few extra hours to kill before my bungee excursion – so into town I went. Though Interlaken is surrounded by lakes and mountains, I honestly did not expect to be quite so charmed simply perusing the main strip and watching all the paragliders slowly float down to an adjacent field.
Bungee jumping – Seriously, guys. If extreme adventure travel is your thing, go bungee jumping in the Alps. And book it through Outdoor Interlaken. You’re welcome. You can also read all about my bungee experience here, but lemme just say that jumping out of a gondola, over a lake, surrounded by mountains was THE highlight of my trip!
Interlaken is also pretty popular with the paragliding crowd. I didn’t try it (for lack of time and frugal reasons) but it seems a decent alternative if gliding toward the earth is more your speed.
Harder Kulm – While bungee jumping, I learned that the trail I’d planned to hike on day two was closed due to snow. Bummer! But a fellow jumper suggested hiking Harder Kulm, aka. “The Top of Interlaken.” When she added that it was challenging, with an amazing view, I was sold. And she was right. The challenge isn’t so much the path or the length. It’s the incline. It had me huffing and puffing for sure, but the views more than made up for that – especially the view from the top! To save time, I took the funicular train back down, but I didn’t regret hiking up.
Staying here – I almost didn’t book a night in Lauterbrunnen. But my friend Jason (@jasonmillerphotography) and more than a few IG photos convinced me otherwise. Imagine the most picturesque Swiss town and that is Lauterbrunnen – nestled in a valley with a real-life waterfall backdrop and oodles of chalet charm.
Hike to Murren – Yesss. Hike it. Don’t take the tram or the train. Take that trail less traveled. The 2,275 ft vertical ascent took me about an hour and 45 minutes, including a few photo op stops (which also served as rest breaks, not gonna lie). Then, I fast-pace walked another 30 minutes of level terrain to Murren. The incline muscle fatigue was real, but so were the views!
Schilthorn / aka. Piz Gloria / aka. Bond World – From Murren, I took the gondola up, up, up to Schilthorn. For all you fellow James Bond fans out there, it’s also the site of Piz Gloria from the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And now, it’s Bond World. What 007 fangirl could pass that up? Sure, I was disappointed that the view from the top was completely engulfed in clouds. But Bond. James Bond. James Bond WORLD. I didn’t eat in the revolving restaurant (because no view), but absolutely explored the movie memorabilia exhibit, took a selfie with a larger-than-life George Lazenby cutout, and made a few purchases in the gift shop. Oh, and oddly enough, one of my favorite parts of Bond World was the bathroom.
Freitag Tower – A store built with stacked shipping containers that sells products made from recycled truck tarp? Yup. Had to see that. The 360-degree view from the rooftop did not disappoint, and I couldn’t leave without buying something. That truck tarp stuff is pretty darn enticing.
Love locks bridge – Call me a romantic, but I love a good love locks bridge. I didn’t even know Zurich had one, but once I spotted all the locks on Mühlesteg footbridge I couldn’t walk away. Literally. I spent a full hour on that bridge gushing over (almost) every single one. I even took selfies with them. (Is that weird?) Clearly, I felt it was a good use of my time.
Lake Zurich – The path along the lake is a popular spot, but still felt peaceful. Distant mountains. Sailboats. City views. Street performers. Not a bad way to spend my last night in Switzerland. I didn’t stay for sunset, but I’m glad I took that stroll.
BUY A SWISS PASS
Ok, so technically I did this before my trip, but I’m SO thankful I did. One ticket for all those train rides I took. Plus, it covered buses, that boat ride in Lucerne, and some gondolas (ie. my ride up to Schilthorn was included, but the gondola to Mt. Pilatus was only 50% off). Overall, the ability to hop on and off whenever and wherever I wanted was INVALUABLE. And I absolutely would have spent more time and money purchasing individual tickets.
Honestly, I enjoyed everything I experienced in Switzerland. So, while these are my top recommendations, #1 on the list is actually JUST GO. Switzerland is a magical place – like a fairy tale or Disney movie, not kidding – regardless of where you go or what you do.
The Alps are calling. Don’t make ‘em wait.