Chapel Bridge, Lucerne
It is home to the high peaks of the Alps located in Central Europe. The landscape ranges from its numerous lakes, quaint villages and their mountainous peaks. Their many cities contain "Old Town" centers, historic structures such as Bern's Zytglogge clock tower and Lucerne's wooden Chapel Bridge and vast glaciers. Switzerland, is known as an outdoor escape vast skiing and hiking options.
Starting in Zurich Switzerland
From Mount Pilates
For our Switzerland vacation, we arrived in Zurich to pick up our rental car for the next week. During the week we visited the following cities:
Vaduz, Liechtenstein Lucerne, Switzerland Zermatt, Switzerland Montreux, Switzerland Bern, Switzerland Zurich, Switzerland
As with most European cities the roads are small so request a compact car, even though we did we were given a Land Rover for the week. Our first stop would by Vaduz, Liechtenstein for the night, it is an hour and half from the Zurich airport.
City of Vaduz, Lichtenstein
It is the capital city, home to their Prince who governs over the small country. It is located at the bottom of the Alps with picturesque views. During our overnight stay we visited:
Cellars of Prince Liechtenstein - it is home to Domaine Wilfersdorf and the Domaine Vaduz varietals many reds and wine to chose from. Tastings are 18 Francs per person and the tasting is not waived if you purchase any wines to take with you. We sampled several Austrian wines, purchasing a rose and red to take with us for our week long vacation.
Cellars of Prince Liechtenstein
After wine tasting we headed for city center a pedestrian only area to see Cathedral of St. Florin, the town hall and national museum. You can easily see everything within one afternoon. We chose not to go to the Vaduz Castle since you can't go into it only view from the road. Before heading back to the hotel, we had a quick lunch at one of the local cafes.
Park Hotel Sonnenhof, allowed us to relax outside on our terrace with a nice glass of wine and to take in the landscape. It is a great location but there are things you need to be aware of, there isn't any air conditioning in your room, it isn't allowed by the Prince so if it is hot you will be miserable in your room. For the price this isn't okay.
The room was fine but the bed was hard and due to the heat made it very difficult to sleep. If you go in cooler weather you will be fine. Again, for the price we expected more luxurious accommodations.
The staff was great which contributed positively to the stay.
Outside view of our hotel
For dinner our hotel had a Michelin Star well known restaurant which we chose to try, it was Restaurant Maree where we had the 3-course tasting menu each day it changes so check out their website in advance. It is expensive but a very good option if you want to try it.
Next Stop Lucerne, Switzerland
The next day we drove to Lucerne
Lucerne, is situated on the Lake Lucerne, it was an hour and a half drive from Vaduz. This also was a full day in the city which was enough to see all the key attractions. Prior to our arrival at the hotel we stopped just outside the city center at Mount Pilates.
View from the top
It is the mountain that overlooks the city, you can take the cable cars and cog wheel train to the summit which is at an evaluation of 7000 ft. Upon arrival at the summit you have three additional summit options you can climb the stairs to the top. The summits are Tomlishorn, Oberhaupt, and Esel. For two adults it is 142 Swiss francs but if you have the Swiss tourist pass it is included.
For any tourist pass you need to weigh what it includes versus where you want to go. The whole trip up and back was about 3 hours. You could spend more or less time depending what you do: hike some of trails, have a bite to eat or partake in Dragon Glider.
As with most cities we visited in Switzerland, Lucerne is a compact city on the banks of Reuss River and Lake Lucerne. It also has a colorful Old Town for tourists to explore, the famous Chapel bridge built in 1333 that connects you to Old Town from the city center and Musegg Wall.
Another view of Old Town
For dinner we chose Made is Sud a local Italian restaurant, we shared their truffle ravioli which we more than enough for two, a mozzarella salad and of course some local wine. It was roughly 60 Francs for our meal.
We chose the Renaissance Lucerne, a Marriott property. Since we were driving we needed parking which in most European countries is difficult to find onsite as well as air conditioning since we were there in September.
Upon our arrival we found out there wasn't any onsite parking but instead we had to find it on the street and with a Land Rover made it very difficult.
The room was spacious and did have American air conditioning with a terrace overlooking the city. For the price, it is what we expected it isn't luxurious but for one night it was just fine nothing more.
The next morning, we walked to our car for our next drive through the Alps to Zermatt where we spent the next two days. If you do drive in Switzerland make sure your car has enough gas, the stations are few and far between the small cities hence be prepared.
Old Zermatt Structures
Zermatt is a car free zone, so to get to the city you need to take a train which runs every 15 minutes. It cost about 33 Francs round trip for two people. The train leaves from the city of Tasch, they have a large parking lot accommodating overnight parking (15.5 Francs per day).
It was the southern most city we visited in Switzerland, a mountain resort home to the Matterhorn. Mostly known for winter activities, we were there in the summer which allowed us to hike numerous trails, mountain bike and travel to the summit of the Matterhorn. The city center also has boutique shops on its main street Bahnhofstrasse where we purchased a mountain bike cow bell.
The Alps View
For our stay in Zermatt we chose Hotel Bellerive, a boutique hotel that faced the Matterhorn and had an outdoor deck. As we mentioned in Liechtenstein, Switzerland doesn't have air conditioning which again made it hard to sleep in all the cities we visited since it was hot in September. The hotel helped with recommendations for dinner, which trails to hike and what was unique to see during our visit.
More Hotel Information
We stayed here for two days in a balcony room facing the Matterhorn. The hotel is on a busy street which did make it difficult to sleep with the door open at night since there isn't any air conditioning.
The room was very large in European terms with updated modern amenities. Breakfast was included in our package as well as the mini bar which is stocked daily. We booked directly through the hotel and previous mentioned benefits were included in the price. They do offer a shuttle to pick you up or take you to the train station.
More things to do
Zermatt, is best known for the Matterhorn which we recommend but we also recommend visiting the Gorner Gorge, it is 30-minute walk from the downtown, the landscape is unique to see. There is minimal entrance fee of 3 Francs each and they only take cash. Something different to do.
You should go see the Gorge
For dinner we chose Brown Cow Pub, they had a typical bar menu which worked, two cheeseburgers, fries and beer met our needs.
If you want to be a typical tourist try the fondue, it was a nice simple meal but surprisingly expensive for bread and vegetables.
After two days of hiking we were headed to Montreux and Bern for the next day. Montreux was our first stop after leaving Zermatt.
Onto Bern & Mountreux Switzerland
Outside of Chateau de Chillon
Chateau de Chillon, a well preserved castle situated overlooking Lake Geneva. The castle is still owned by the Savoy family, it houses original furniture and art with over 40 points of interest as you work your way through the tour. It is open to the public daily, recommend going early to avoid the tour buses and if you have driven, parking could be hard to find on the street but it is free. It was 21 Francs for two adults. You can buy tickets online and they only offer a certain amount of tickets each day.
Chateau de Chillon BridgeLake Geneva, Switzerland
Wine Tasting Lavaux VinoramaWine Tasting Details
We have been through the world tasting wine so we have high expectations, unfortunately we were disappointed with this experience. The site offers wine from all around the region with the selections changing regularly which is good. We prefer bigger bold red wines; few could meet our needs which is fine it is all about learning about this region and seeing if there is anything we like. This was the positive aspect of the stop.
The negative was the inattentive annoyed staff, there were only 4 other people there during our stop so they weren't busy they just didn't really want to help us. It took 10 minutes for them to come over to ask what tasting we wanted. It was disappointing after our 3 tasting we done and left unimpressed and can't recommend stopping here.
It is the capital city of Switzerland, built up around the Aare River which separates Old Town from their newer industry. Unlike other European countries Switzerland didn't have any rebuilding to do from the World Wars. Their key attractions is a mix of architecture Renaissance and medieval dating back to the 12th century.
These were the attractions we visited during our half day stop. Of course Old Town, Parliament, Zytglogge Clock Tower, walked along the Aare River and famous shopping district. Looking back there wasn't enough to do for an overnight stay instead we could have stop on our drive to Zurich.
Hotel Schweizerhof Bern was our hotel. We had also booked their sister property in Zurich. It was very interesting how different they were. If we have to pick which was better, we would choose their Bern location.
The Bern hotel is in a historic building in the heart of the city center, when you arrive you see the grandeur of the main lobby still harking back to its historical architecture. But after you leave the lobby heading to your room things change to any new hotel in the 21 st century they are well appointed, updated and modern.
Our room was on the top floor on the back of the hotel to avoid the street noise. Unfortunately, the only complaint we had was the room never got cool with what Europe considers air conditioning, the window didn't offer any relief either. Be aware most hotels in Europe don't offer air conditioning and those that do are not what you might be used to.
They do offer valet service for your car, which we appreciated given in the center city we didn't want to deal with finding a place to park our car.
Instead of going out for dinner we stayed at the hotel in the bar.
Waterfront in Zurich
Our final stop before heading home was in Zurich, the center for banking. It was another hour and half from Bern. Located on Lake Zurich in northern Switzerland, it too has an Old Town, the Parliament building and water front walkways. The architecture reflects their medieval period.
What we did
In Zurich, like Bern you can walk everywhere which we did. From our hotel went to Grossmunster church crossed the bridge to Old Town and Fraumuster church. Finally making our way back, we walked the water front over to the town hall and finally stopping at their shopping district.
Hotel Schweizerhof Zurich as we previously mentioned we stayed at their sister property. When comparing the two hotels it wasn't that their Zurich hotel was bad just needed some TLC in their rooms (they needed to be updated), they were just worn. The Zurich staff was also wonderful, location was great and air conditioning did help to cool the room but for the same price you could easily see the differences and why we preferred the Bern location.
Unlike Bern, they do not offer free bus tickets, but each night a food trolley stops by to offer some free local chocolates in addition to their turn down service.
It is a 5-minute walk to their shopping district, 15 minutes to old town and river walk. Again, a very central hotel.
Our room was on the 3 rd floor facing the train station hence we assumed it would be noisy it wasn't at all. Which is unheard of with all the potential street noise.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to try their breakfast because our flight was too early but they were nice enough to provide breakfast boxes for our early departure which included 4 sandwiches, water, juice, and candy.
You won't be disappointed to stay here just be aware the rooms need some modernizing and sprucing up.
Last night in Switzerland Dinner
For dinner we chose a french bistro called Brasserie Lipp where we shared a pot of mussels, soups, wine of course and creme brulee. Another good option.
In Summary, Switzerland, is an easy country to see the majority of the key cities in a week. It is cultured country with lush landscape, friendly people, beautiful mountains and numerous options for outdoor activity.
Switzerland Travel Tips
Rent a car and drive while you are there because you will be able to see and do more You will need Swiss Francs Investigate the Swiss Travel Pass since it could save you money Try the local wine, because they have many unique options to chose from Buy your tickets to Chateau de Chillon in advance Go hiking in the summer Get a room in Zermatt with a view of the MatterhornOther Travel Tips