How to plan a trip to Switzerland

Dre Roelandt

written by
Dre Roelandt

updated 21.06.2024

Planning a trip to Switzerland can be overwhelming. This country thrives on its unique Alpine landscapes, historical and modern cities, and world-class wellness facilities and ski resorts. With over 11 million visitors each year, it’s no secret that Switzerland has a lot to offer. But where to start when planning your trip when there’s so much to see? 

Step 1 – When is the best time to go to Switzerland

The very first step to planning a trip to Switzerland is to decide what is the time of year you’d like to visit.

Switzerland is a year-round destination, with each season bringing its own charm. Spring (March to May) is great because of pleasant weather, blooming flowers, and fewer tourists. It's a great time for hiking and exploring cities without the summer crowds. 

Summer (June to August) is perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and swimming in lakes. The weather is warm, and many festivals take place during this time. Fall (September to November) is a good time to come and see beautiful fall foliage, with cooler weather and harvest festivals. This is great for those who enjoy wine tasting and quieter sightseeing. 

Winter (December to February) is best for skiing and snowboarding — and Christmas markets make for a cozy atmosphere.

Rhine Falls and Schloss Laufen, Switzerland © maloff/Shutterstock

Rhine Falls and Schloss Laufen, Switzerland © maloff/Shutterstock

Step 2 - Determine your travel budget

Now that you're set on what time of year you'll be headed to Switzerland, now comes the least fun part of planning a trip: deciding a budget.

How much will it cost?

Costs can really vary depending on where, when, and how you travel, as well as your personal preferences. Typically a trip to Switzerland will cost from $340 - $780 per day. Here are some average costs to help you plan your budget:

  • Lodging costs: Budget options like hostels or budget hotels will run you $50 to $100 per night, while mid-range 3-star hotels cost between $150 and $250 per night. High-end hotels and resorts start at $300 per night.
  • Food expenses: Budget meals at fast food joints or casual cafes cost around $10 to $20. Dining at mid-range restaurants typically costs $30 to $60 per meal, and fine dining experiences range from $70 to $150 per person.
  • Travel costs: Public transport is convenient with a Swiss Travel Pass, offering unlimited travel on trains, buses, and boats, starting at around $250 for three days. Car rentals are about $50 to $100 per day, excluding fuel and parking fees.
  • Attraction costs: You can enjoy free natural sites like hiking trails and public parks, but paid entries for museums, castles, and certain attractions range from $10 to $30. Mountain excursions, such as the Jungfraujoch, can cost over $100.
Abbey Cathedral of Saint Gall in Switzerland © Ruslan Kalnitsky/Shutterstock

Abbey Cathedral of Saint Gall in Switzerland © Ruslan Kalnitsky/Shutterstock

Step 3 - Decide where to go in Switzerland

With the nitty-gritty details sorted, it's time for the exciting part of planning your trip to Switzerland: deciding where to explore in Switzerland

Best cities to visit

Some Swiss cities boast sleek architecture, bustling business districts, and world-class shopping streets. On the other hand, others are more known for an old-world charm— with cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and cozy cafes that make you feel like you've stepped back in time


Nestled among the Swiss Alps and beside Lake Lucerne, this city is a perfect blend of history, culture, and stunning landscapes. Must-sees include the iconic Chapel Bridge, the touching Lion Monument, and a relaxing boat cruise on the lake.


As Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich buzzes with finance, culture, and art. Shopaholics will love Bahnhofstrasse, history buffs can explore the Old Town (Altstadt), and art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Kunsthaus Zurich. At night, Langstrasse comes alive with vibrant nightlife. 


Switzerland's capital city is known for its well-preserved medieval Old Town designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. While here you can wander its charming and narrow streets lined with sandstone buildings, visit the Federal Palace, and catch views from the Rose Garden. 


Geneva is a paradise for foodies, offering international cuisines from Michelin-starred restaurants to charming lakeside cafés serving Swiss delicacies. While here, visit the Jet d'Eau fountain, delve into the Red Cross Museum, and enjoy a leisurely boat cruise. Art lovers, don’t forget the Museum of Art and History for its impressive collection. 

Amazing aerial view over the village of Murren in the Swiss Alps © 4kclips/Shutterstock

Amazing aerial view over the village of Murren in the Swiss Alps © 4kclips/Shutterstock

Best areas to visit

Each region of Switzerland has its own unique charm and activities.

Interlaken and the Jungfrau region

Nestled between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, Interlaken is a gateway to the Jungfrau region. Adventure seekers can enjoy paragliding, skydiving, and hiking in the surrounding Bernese Oberland mountains.

Zermatt and Valais

Imagine a car-free Alpine village with the Matterhorn as its backdrop – that’s Zermatt. Skiing, hiking, and luxury resorts are the name of the game here. Hop on the Gornergrat Railway for jaw-dropping views of the Matterhorn and its Alpine companions. It’s worth the journey, trust us.

Lugano and Ticino

Ticino’s Italian-speaking gem, Lugano, is where Swiss precision meets Mediterranean flair. Here you’ll find palm-lined promenades, cute cafés by the water, and a buzzing cultural scene. Don’t miss relaxing at Parco Ciani or a boat ride on Lake Lugano – pure bliss.

Gruyeres and Fribourg

Gruyères is straight out of a fairy tale with its medieval castle and cheese factory tours. Wander the cobblestone streets, try local delicacies like fondue, and dive into surreal art at the HR Giger Museum in nearby Fribourg.

Gornergrat and the Swiss Alps

Gornergrat, accessed by the Gornergrat Railway from Zermatt, serves up jaw-dropping panoramas of the Monte Rosa massif and Gorner Glacier. Hike among alpine flowers or geek out at the Gornergrat Observatory – the stars here are seriously bright.

High angle view of Klosters in winter, Davos, Grisons, Switzerland © Altrendo Images/Shutterstock

High angle view of Klosters in winter, Davos, Grisons, Switzerland © Altrendo Images/Shutterstock

Best lakes to visit

Switzerland's lakes are perfect for relaxing or indulging in outdoor activities. Here are five must-visit lakes:

  • Riffelsee: Tucked away in the Swiss Alps near Zermatt, Riffelsee is a photographer’s dream come true. Here you can see the iconic Matterhorn mirrored perfectly in its clear waters. Accessible via the Gornergrat Railway and a short hike, this spot is best enjoyed at sunrise.
  • Lake Constance: Bordering Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, Lake Constance is a sprawling beauty surrounded by charming towns. Sail its shimmering waters, cycle through picturesque landscapes, or delve into history at places like Stein am Rhein and the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen. A leisurely boat cruise is the perfect way to explore its shores.
  • Lake Lucerne: Surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, Lake Lucerne is ideal for boat trips, swimming, and hiking. The nearby town of Lucerne features the famous Chapel Bridge and Water Tower. You can also take a paddle steamer across the lake or ride the world’s steepest cogwheel railway up Mount Pilatus.
  • Lake Thun: Turquoise waters and medieval castles define Lake Thun in the Bernese Oberland. Sail across its tranquil surface, feel the wind while windsurfing, or delve into local history at Oberhofen Castle and Spiez Castle. 
  • Lake Geneva: This is one of the largest lakes in Europe. The lakeside city of Montreux is known for its jazz festival, while Geneva offers cosmopolitan charm and the iconic Jet d'Eau. Explore the medieval Château de Chillon, cruise along the lake’s shores, or unwind on its picturesque promenades.
Oberiberg in Switzerland with views on Grosser Mythen peak in background © Michal Stipek/Shutterstock

Oberiberg in Switzerland with views on Grosser Mythen peak in background © Michal Stipek/Shutterstock

Step 4 - Pre-book accommodation and attractions

The next step is find what activities you'll do during your trip, and where you'd like to stay. It's best to book as much as possible in advance.

Major attractions

Switzerland offers a ton of attractions, here are some of our favorite highlights:

Natural sights

Switerland's nature is reason enough to buy tickets to this country. Here are some of the most iconic sights. 

  • The Matterhorn: Near Zermatt, this iconic mountain peak is a must-see. Whether you’re hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter, the views are unforgettable. Ride the Gornergrat Railway for stunning views or challenge yourself with a hike to the Hörnli Hut.
  • Mt. Rigi: Known as the “Queen of the Mountains,” Mt. Rigi offers stunning panoramic views and is accessible by cogwheel train from Vitznau or Arth-Goldau. Enjoy a hike or a leisurely walk and relax in the Rigi Kaltbad mineral baths.
  • Creux de Van: This natural rock amphitheater is a geological marvel located in the Jura mountains. Perfect for hiking and wildlife spotting, it's a scenic spot with a 4-kilometer-wide and 160-meter-deep limestone cirque.
  • Rhine Falls: Europe's largest waterfall, located near Schaffhausen. Enjoy boat trips that take you close to the falls or visit the nearby medieval Laufen Castle for panoramic views.
Guarda, Lower Engadin, Grisons, Switzerland © Altrendo Images/Shutterstock

Guarda, Lower Engadin, Grisons, Switzerland © Altrendo Images/Shutterstock

Cultural and historical sites

This country is known for its medieval towns, exciting festivals and extensive museums — far more than what we can list here, but here are some of our favorites.

  • Stein am Rhein: A charming medieval town known for its well-preserved half-timbered houses and frescoed facades. Stroll through its narrow streets and visit the Hohenklingen Castle for panoramic views.
  • Chateau de Chillon: A historic island castle on Lake Geneva near Montreux, offering tours that delve into its fascinating history. Explore its dungeons, towers, and grand halls.
  • Abbey Library of Saint Gall: A UNESCO World Heritage site with a stunning Baroque library and rich history. The library houses a collection of medieval texts and beautifully decorated manuscripts.
  • Montreux: Famous for its annual jazz festival, Montreux also features beautiful lakeside promenades and the nearby Rochers-de-Naye, where you can enjoy stunning views and visit a marmot zoo.

Unique experiences

Here are some things you truly can only see and do in Switzerland.

  • Jungfraujoch Top of Europe: The highest railway station in Europe, offering incredible glacier views and activities like the Ice Palace and the Sphinx Observatory. Accessible via the Jungfrau Railway from Interlaken.
  • Lindt Home of Chocolate: Located in Zurich, this attraction is a delight for chocolate lovers, featuring interactive exhibits and tastings. You can watch chocolate being made and enjoy delicious samples.
  • St. Moritz: A luxurious resort town known for its winter sports, upscale shopping, and vibrant nightlife. It’s also famous for its annual polo and cricket matches on the frozen lake.
Madonna del Sasso Church over Lago Maggiore lake and swiss Alps mountains, Locarno, Switzerland © Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock

Madonna del Sasso Church over Lago Maggiore lake and swiss Alps mountains, Locarno, Switzerland © Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock


Switzerland is known for it's unique accommodations, and where you stay can really add something to your trip. Here are a few of our favorite places to stay.

  • Rustic farmhouses: If you're craving a taste of traditional Swiss living, head to the mountains for cozy stays like Eiger Mürren Swiss Quality Hotel with its stunning Eiger views, or Hotel Silberhorn in Lauterbrunnen, known for its charm and proximity to cascading waterfalls.
  • Wellness hotels: For a relaxing retreat, check out places like Beatus Wellness & Spa Hotel on Lake Thun, where you can indulge in luxurious spa treatments with serene lake views. In Zurich, The Dolder Grand is a standout with its world-class spa and impressive art collection.
  • Family stays: Traveling with kids? Reka-Feriendorf Wildhaus offers spacious apartments and plenty of activities. For a stay in St. Moritz, Randolins Familienresort provides family-friendly rooms and easy access to outdoor fun.

The best tours

Switzerland offers diverse tours that cater to various interests:

  • Train tours: Explore the scenic landscapes on famous routes like the Glacier Express, which travels from Zermatt to St. Moritz, and the Bernina Express, which crosses the Alps from Chur to Tirano in Italy.
  • Culinary tours: Delve into Swiss delights with visits to La Gruyère for cheese and chocolate. Tour the Maison Cailler chocolate factory and the Gruyères cheese dairy, and savor a traditional fondue meal – a must for foodies!
  • Swiss Alp tours: Experience the majestic Swiss Alps through guided hiking or skiing tours.  Discover famous peaks like Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, or hit the slopes in top resorts like Verbier and Zermatt – perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.
Brunnen town, Lake of Lucerne and Rigi mountain range, Canton of Schwyz, Switzerland © Andy Faessler/Shutterstock

Brunnen town, Canton of Schwyz, Switzerland © Andy Faessler/Shutterstock

The best activities

Switzerland is a playground for adventure seekers and culture enthusiasts alike. Here are some top-notch activities to add to your Swiss itinerary

  • Cable car on Mt. Pilatus: Soar to new heights on the cable car to Mt. Pilatus and soak in panoramic views of the Swiss Alps. Once at the top, dive into thrilling toboggan runs, scenic hikes, or ride the world's steepest cogwheel railway for even more stunning vistas.
  • FIFA World Football Museum: Located in Zurich, this museum is a must-visit for soccer fans, featuring exhibits on the history of the sport, interactive displays, and memorabilia.
  • Lake Geneva cruises: Hop aboard a scenic boat cruise and let Lake Geneva's charm sweep you away. Cruises run year-round and offer different themed trips.
  • Jungfrau Glacier Palace: Venture to Jungfraujoch and discover the mesmerizing world of the Jungfrau Glacier Palace. Explore ice tunnels adorned with stunning sculptures and marvel at this chilly wonderland carved into the heart of the Alps.
  • First cliff walk: Experience the thrill of walking along a suspended walkway with breathtaking views of the mountains in Grindelwald. The cliff walk includes a metal bridge and a glass platform.
Swisstainable policies for tourism in Switzerland © Swiss Tourism

Switzerland © Swiss Tourism

Step 5 - Plan your Switzerland itinerary

With your budget decided, and with lots of inspiration of what you want to see and do, the next step is to pull together the final details. 

How many days do you need in Switzerland?

The ideal duration for your Swiss escapade depends on what catches your eye and how much time you have to spare. For a more in depth look, see our guide on how many days you should spend in Switzerland.

  • Short trip (5-7 days): Focus on major cities like Zurich, Lucerne, and Bern, with day trips to nearby attractions such as Mount Pilatus or the Rhine Falls.
  • Medium trip (7-10 days): Explore cities along with iconic regions like Interlaken, Zermatt, or Lugano. This allows time for outdoor activities, cultural experiences, and scenic train rides.
  • Extended trip (10 days or more): Dive deeper into Switzerland's diverse regions, including lesser-known towns like Montreux, Lausanne, or the Engadine Valley. This duration allows for a more relaxed pace and additional excursions.
Richetlipass in the Glarnerland, Switzerland © Ganz Twins/Shutterstock

Richetlipass in the Glarnerland, Switzerland © Ganz Twins/Shutterstock

How to spend 5 days in Switzerland

On this five day itinerary, you’ll begin in Lake Como. Visit highlights like Villa del Balbianello, the Duomo of Como, Basilica of Sant’Abbondio, Museum Moto Guzzi, and the Botanic Gardens.

On day two, drive to Zermatt (about 4 hours) to check into your hotel, and take a cable car up to the stunning Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at 3,883 meters. Spend the afternoon exploring Zermatt, shopping and eating local cuisine. On the third day, choose between a scenic walk or a mountain bike tour around the five lakes near Zermatt. 

Day four takes you to Lucerne, where you’ll visit Mt. Pilatus, enjoy its attractions and hiking trails, and treat yourself to an exclusive chocolate tasting. Spend some leisure time exploring Lucerne before concluding your journey on day five with a transfer from Lucerne to Zurich. Book this trip.

Swiss town Chur , vineyards and Alps mountains © Avatar_023/Shutterstock

Swiss town Chur, vineyards and Alps mountains © Avatar_023/Shutterstock

How to spend 7 days in Switzerland

This week-long itinerary begins in Zurich, where you'll check in and have some leisure time. The next day, take a day trip to Lucerne for the Mt. Pilatus Golden Round Trip, featuring a cogwheel train, cable car, and panorama gondolas. 

On day two, head from Zurich to Grindelwald via Interlaken, and visit Jungfraujoch, the 'Top of Europe', accessed by cogwheel train with stops at the Glacier Palace, Sphinx, and lookout platforms. 

Take a scenic hike on day three to Bachalpsee and thrilling experiences on the First Cliff Walk, First Flyer, and First Glider. On the fourth day, transfer to Zermatt from Grindelwald, check in, and take a cable car to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise or Sunnegga. Then, transfer to Montreux for a tour of Chillon Castle. Spend day five wine tasting at Vinorama in Lavaux. 

On day six, move on to La Gruyere, visiting the Cailler chocolate factory, cheese production in Pringy, Gruyeres medieval town, and the HR Giger Museum. Return to Lausanne for a Swiss fondue dinner. Conclude on day seven with a transfer to Geneva. Book this trip.

Colorful traditional houses in the Old town of Ascona on Lago Maggiore lake, Locarno, Switzerland © Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock

Old town of Ascona on Lago Maggiore lake, Locarno, Switzerland © Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock

How to spend 10 days in Switzerland

With ten days to spend in Switzerland, you have the chance to see even more of Switzerland.  This itinerary starts on day one with a scenic train to Zurich where you will explore Bahnhofstrasse, Lake Zurich, St. Peter’s Church, and the Zurichberg district. 

Day two includes a trip to Rhine Falls, Stein am Rhein, and the Abbey Library in St. Gallen. On the third day, you’ll travel by train to Interlaken for some leisure time. Day four features an excursion to Jungfraujoch, with a cogwheel train and Eiger Express ride, visiting the Sphinx Observatory and Aletsch Glacier. 

En route to Lausanne on day five, explore Bern’s UNESCO Old Town, followed by leisure time in Lausanne. On day six, visit Chillon Castle in Montreux before a scenic train journey to Zermatt for more leisure. 

Day seven takes you up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise by cable car. On day eight, experience the iconic Glacier Express journey to St. Moritz, optionally in Excellence Class. 

On day nine, transfer to Lucerne, including visits to Chapel Bridge, the Water Tower, Musegg Wall, Jesuit Church, Lion Monument, and KKL Culture and Convention Center. Book this trip.

Stunning view of the peak Saentis (Santis) on the hiking path in summer, Canton of Appenzell, Switzerland © Peter Stein/Shutterstock

Saentis (Santis) on the hiking path in summer, Canton of Appenzell, Switzerland © Peter Stein/Shutterstock

How to spend 14 days in Switzerland

With two weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to explore not just Switzerland but northern Italy as well. 

This itinerary starts in Zurich with a visit to the Lindt Home of Chocolate upon arrival. On day two, take a scenic tour to Rhine Falls and Stein am Rhein. Head south on day three to Interlaken for a summer kayak tour on Lake Brienz. 

Day four features a thrilling visit to Schilthorn and Piz Gloria’s renowned Thrill Walk. Continue to Mürren on day five for a guided Panoramic Via Ferrata and paragliding in Grindelwald. 

Transition to Lucerne on day six for a Night Watchman Walk, and visit Mount Rigi on day seven, with a cogwheel train descent and boat cruise on Lake of the Four Cantons. Day eight brings a train journey to Lugano, where you'll visit a local wine and honey producer. 

Day nine includes a guided walking tour of Gandria, a boat cruise on Lake Lugano, and an excursion to Monte Brè. Travel to Lake Como on day ten for a private tour, followed by exploration of Lago Maggiore and the Borromean Islands on day eleven. 

Journey to Milan on day twelve for a Last Supper City Tour and Duomo exploration. Day thirteen offers a gelato and pizza making class, with free time to discover Milan on day fourteenBook this trip.

Appenzell, Appenzellerland, Switzerland © Sina Ettmer Photography/Shutterstock

Appenzell, Appenzellerland, Switzerland © Sina Ettmer Photography/Shutterstock

Step 4 – Get ready for departure

With your itinerary penciled in, all you need to do is pack and arrive.

Look for airport transfers

Zurich Airport has direct train connections to Zurich city center (Zurich Hauptbahnhof) via the Zurich Airport Railway Station (Zurich Flughafen). Trains are frequent and run approximately every 10-15 minutes. Geneva Airport is also well-connected by train with regular services to Geneva city center (Gare Cornavin).

For a door-to-door option, many airports in Switzerland offer shuttle services operated by private companies or hotels. These shuttles can take you directly to your accommodation or designated drop-off points in major cities. 

What to pack

Switzerland’s weather can vary, so it’s wise to pack smartly with versatile clothing suitable for the ever fluctuating conditions. Layering is key to adapting to temperature changes throughout the day and between different regions. 

Don’t forget to bring comfortable walking shoes, ideal for exploring cities on foot or venturing out on scenic hikes amidst Switzerland’s breathtaking landscapes.

Even if it's cool, the sun in the Alps can be intense. Don't forget to pack sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen to protect yourself from UV rays.

Typical sales of huge chocolate bars at the store in Lugano. Famous Swiss chocolate on sale © KelaVi/Shutterstock

Typical sales of huge chocolate bars at the store in Lugano. Famous Swiss chocolate on sale © KelaVi/Shutterstock

Step 6 - Leave time to seize the day

Arguably, above all else, this is our most important tip.

Don't over plan

 Resist the urge to over plan your Swiss trip. While it’s tempting to schedule every minute, leave space for spontaneity and delightful surprises. There are some things in this country that can only be found in leisurely strolls through charming towns or along  lakeshores. 

Take time to try a Swiss pastry at a cozy café or join a spur-of-the-moment guided tour that catches your eye. Some of your best memories might come from these unplanned, organic experiences.

Plan some free days

The best itineraries are one that build in some free days. This allows you to be more flexible if for example, the weather doesn’t cooperate. But more than that, it allows you time to relax, find hidden gems, or revisit your favorite places.

Abbey Cathedral of Saint Gall in Switzerland © Ruslan Kalnitsky/Shutterstock

Abbey Cathedral of Saint Gall in Switzerland © Ruslan Kalnitsky/Shutterstock

Planning your Switzerland trip? Let our local experts help

When it comes to exploring Switzerland, why not let local travel experts tailor your journey for an authentic experience? Here's why choosing a tailor-made trip makes all the difference:

  • Personalized itineraries: Picture each day of your trip designed around your interests—whether you're into scenic hikes, Swiss cuisine, or discovering historical gems, we’ve got you covered. Expect a journey that's uniquely yours.
  • Insider knowledge: Local experts know the hidden spots and authentic experiences that often escape typical tourists. From charming mountain villages to the best spots for indulging in local delicacies, they'll take you beyond the obvious.
  • Efficient planning: Navigating a foreign country can be daunting, but with local experts handling everything from transportation to accommodations, you can relax and enjoy Switzerland's beauty and culture without the stress.
  • Cultural immersion: Dive deep into Swiss culture with insider tips on local traditions, seasonal festivals, and community events. It's the best way to truly understand and appreciate Switzerland's rich heritage.
  • Support and safety: Traveling with local experts means having someone to turn to for advice and assistance, ensuring your journey is smooth and safe from start to finish, with support 24/7.

In short, a trip curated by local travel experts turns your Swiss vacation into a memorable, hassle-free adventure filled with authentic experiences. Ready to explore Switzerland like a local? See our existing Swiss trips for inspiration.

Dre Roelandt

written by
Dre Roelandt

updated 21.06.2024

Dre Roelandt is originally from the United States but lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Dre is a freelance writer and artist with a passion for travelling. They are an in-house Content Editor at Rough Guides.

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