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Switzerland is a small country, but man, despite its tiny size, it’s still an incredible place for travel. After all, this Central European gem is home to crystal lakes, sweeping Alpine mountainsides, exquisite chocolates, and gorgeous handmade watches.
I wouldn’t think twice if someone (who … I don’t know) demanded I had to pack my bags and immediately move to Switzerland.
I adored my time in Switzerland, and can’t wait to visit this majestic place again.
So, if you’re hoping to spend 8 days in Switzerland, I’m super excited for you, because 8 days is a perfect amount of time. You will enjoy an introduction to the country without feeling super rushed either.
Ultimately, in spite of its high price tag, Switzerland is a place worthy of your time and attention.
Switzerland Itinerary Essentials
Right now you might feel overwhelmed at figuring out all the logistics for visiting Switzerland. And I don’t blame you. This country packs such a punch, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of “wanting to see everything” and hating that such a task would be impossible.
My best piece of advice for travel to Switzerland is that you want to be prepared ahead of time. Writing an itinerary for 8 days in Switzerland is no tiny task.
Do your research. Pick two or three regions and immerse yourself in them. In many ways, Switzerland feels like three different countries at once – depending on the regions you pick for your adventure.
Furthermore, keep in mind that Switzerland is, uh, rather expensive. I don’t say that lightly either. I still think Switzerland is totally worth the high price tag, though.
However, you don’t want to waste any of your money on essentials that you could have purchased at home. Nor do you want to waste any time fumbling around on trains. Both are very valuable here.
Arrival in Switzerland
In this 8 days in Switzerland itinerary, you will arrive at Zurich Airport in nearby Kloten.
Zurich Airport is Switzerland’s largest international hub, so keep that in mind upon landing here. You will have to walk through multiple terminals and then walk even more to the airport’s train station.
Additionally, Swiss border control is professional and no nonsense. Show all required paperwork, as well as the purpose and length of your stay in Switzerland.
Personally, I would mentally set aside an hour for going through customs and stopping at the airport ATMs, where you will find the best exchange rates.
Fortunately for you, plenty of trains leave Zurich Airport, linking it with the rest of the country, including the train to St. Gallen, which is where you will spend your first day.
Getting Around Switzerland
Switzerland has an amazing public transportation system. Seriously, even with 8 days in Switzerland, I don’t recommend renting a car. A car rental would just cause an expensive headache, especially with narrow mountain roads and limited parking in old cities and towns.
Instead I personally recommend buying the 8 Day Swiss Pass. This pass will offer you unlimited access to Switzerland’s trains, buses, mountains, and even some attractions! It’s lovely not having to worry about buying tickets at every single station and every single museum. You save a ton of time.
Last but not least you will mostly travel across the country by train. Swiss trains are clean and efficient, and (most importantly), they are nearly always on time. Don’t bother spending extra money for first class train tickets. Switzerland’s trains are so exquisite that second class feels plenty comfortable.
Switzerland Packing Essentials
In order to help you not forget anything, I also put together a short packing list for your 8 days in Switzerland. These are “essential” items that you will want to bring any time of the year!
However, keep in mind that if you’re visiting Switzerland to ski, then your packing list might look a bit different, especially if you’re spending a lot of time in the mountains!
What to Bring for 8 Days in Switzerland
- Comfortable Day Pack: Carry your day-to-day essentials in a cozy daypack. You’ll want a lightweight one that’s good for long city strolls and mountain walks!
- EU Plug Converter: Keep those devices charged! While some hotels have USB plugs, not all of them do, so it’s important to have an EU plug converter with you on your trip!
- Hiking Boots: You want to be prepared for walking Switzerland’s splendid hiking trails, especially those in the mountains! Bring a pair of sturdy hiking boots, even if they are bulky. Hiking boots are a mandatory investment for a trip to Switzerland.
- Hiking Socks: Protect those feet from nasty blisters!! In addition to boots, pack a few pairs of moisture wicking hiking socks to keep your feet cozy on mountain walks.
- Language Phrasebooks: Three languages are spoken in Switzerland: German, French, and Italian. Depending on the regions you want to visit, you may want to brush up on casual phrases for all three of them!
- Lightweight Rain Jacket: Switzerland’s lush countryside is super green for a reason: rain. You may encounter some rain on your trip, but the wet weather doesn’t have to ruin your day. Bring a lightweight rain jacket for your adventures throughout Switzerland.
- Mirrorless Camera: You will want to capture all of Switzerland’s best scenery, even though photographs don’t do it justice. Invest in a Sony Alpha Mirrorless Camera if you want to take professional photographs on your trip.
- Switzerland Guidebook: Although a small country, Switzerland is jam packed with incredible cities, towns, lakes, mountains, castles, and more! Make the best of your 8 days in Switzerland by bringing a Lonely Planet Switzerland Guidebook. Lonely Planet is my favorite! I have a whole book shelf of their guides.
- Travel Insurance: Switzerland is remarkably safe, but you don’t want to get caught without travel insurance. I always use World Nomads on my trips and have never had any issues. I highly recommend them.
8 Days in Switzerland: An Overview
Due to Switzerland’s lakes and mountains, trains may take surprisingly long in-between cities and towns.
For example, although the Glacier Express sounds awesome in theory, riding the entire route takes approximately 8 hours on the train. Now don’t get me wrong. I understand wanting to ride the Glacier Express since it’s a well-known Swiss experience, but I still prefer to have my “feet on the ground” so to speak.
As a result, these 8 days in Switzerland will have regions that are a reasonable distance from one another to allow ample time to exploration.
Quick Glance: 8 Days in Switzerland
|1||Arrival, St. Gallen|
|4||Bernese Oberland: Jungfrau|
|5||Bernese Oberland: Schilthorn|
|8||Montreux and Chillion Castle|
8 Days in Switzerland: Itinerary in Detail
Now we’re going to break down our 8 days in Switzerland in greater detail. The following itinerary includes ideas for accommodation, food, and attractions, although you’re more than welcome to modify anything to suit your personal interests.
Day 1: St. Gallen
You might be surprised that I recommend St. Gallen as your first stop since it’s not normally mentioned in the same breath as Lucerne, Bern, and Zurich. Believe me, I think St. Gallen is worth visiting if you have 8 days in Switzerland.
In St. Gallen, you don’t want to miss the Abbey of St. Gall, which is an absolutely gorgeous Baroque abbey that dominates St. Gallen’s splendid Old Town. After popping into the church, take a brief walk to see the Abbey Library of St. Gall. This breathtaking medieval monastic library is the oldest in Switzerland and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Afterwards, you will want to take Mühleggbahn, which is a self-service funicular, to the hillside for some lovely views of Lake Constance in nearby Germany.
And don’t forget to enjoy some bratwurst! Due to its proximity to the German border, bratwurst in St. Gallen is quite a scrumptious treat! Delicious!
Accommodation for St. Gallen
- Einstein St. Gallen: This beautiful hotel is located right in the heart of St. Gallen. If you love food, Einstein St. Gallen has one of the best hotel breakfasts that I’ve ever experienced on my travels. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Hotel Walhalla: If you want a highly rated hotel with super quick and easy access to the train station, then you ought to check out Hotel Walhalla on your visit to St. Gallen. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
Day 2: Appenzell Day Trip
Appenzell is the most traditional canton in Switzerland, as well as one of the most beautiful and interesting places in the country. And luckily for you, Appenzell is easily accessible from St. Gallen.
On average, it takes about 40 minutes to go between St. Gallen and the actual town of Appenzell. The train – Appenzeller Bahnen AG – runs consistently and takes you through the bucolic green rolling hills of Appenzell. In many ways, the smooth train ride is an attraction in and of itself.
Upon arrival in Appenzell, switch for the train headed to Wasserauen. Here take the spectacular cable car to Ebenalp for some of Appenzell’s most iconic hikes, particularly to Aescher – Gasthaus am Berg, a scenic guesthouse and perfect mountainside spot for a beer.
Once you’re finished your hike, spend a few hours wandering through the town of Appenzell. You’ll discover lots of colorful houses, cute souvenir shops, a splendid church, and a museum all about the history of this traditional corner of Switzerland.
Day 3: Lucerne
Next we will visit the famous and breathtaking medieval city of Lucerne.
Now, if you want to enjoy a scenic train ride, Voralpen-Express connects St. Gallen and Lucerne and offers many lovely green countryside views through the train windows.
Upon arrival in Lucerne, don’t feel rushed or panicked. I promise you’ll find plenty to see and do with just one day in Lucerne even as you explore at a leisurely pace.
First and foremost, take the opportunity to walk along Lake Lucerne and admire the mountain peaks that surround this clear and fresh body of water.
Obviously, due to the lake, Lucerne is home to some famous bridges, and in particular, you will want to cross two notable wooden bridges: the world-famous Chapel Bridge and the Chaff Bridge.
If you want to discover the best views, then don’t miss out on a walk to Mussegg Wall and Nine Towers. You will have a spectacular panorama of the entire lake! And, of course, don’t miss a chance to see the heartbreaking and beautiful Lion Monument dedicated to the Swiss Guard.
Accommodation for Lucerne
- Hotel Beau Sejour Lucerne: This charming small hotel (only 28 rooms) is located in a quiet area on the shores of Lake Lucerne. A lovely place to relax and unwind after exploring the city. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Hotel des Balances: This stunning hotel is located in a former guild hall right in the middle of Lucerne’s Old Town. This is the hotel to go to if you’re seeking a bit of luxury. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
Day 4: Bernese Oberland – Wengen & Jungfrau
In the morning, take the splendid Golden Pass Scenic Train to Interlaken. Leave early in the morning because you have a full day ahead of you. And don’t forget to snag a window seat! The scenery on this train ride is incredible. Put away the phone and iPad, and simply enjoy the wonders of the outdoors.
After arriving in Interlaken, you will board the frequent train to Lauterbrunnen, switch trains one last time, and then finally disembark at the stunningly pretty mountain village Wengen.
Drop your bags off at the hotel. Next you’ll go on an adventure to the highest point in Europe: The Jungfraujoch.
This place will legitimately take your breath way. After all, the Jungfraujoch is the highest point in all of Europe. I’m not even kidding. The summit is an insane 11,362 feet! Take you time exploring the museum and summit. The altitude is no joke. You may even feel a little dizzy.
Take your time soaking in the majestic views at the Jungfraujoch. The scenery is so incredible that the snowy peaks actually brought tears to my eyes.
Afterwards, take the impressive and super fast Eiger Express to the busy tourist town of Grindelwald where you can stroll and shop until your heart is content.
Accommodation for Wengen
- Hotel Edelweiss: This pretty hotel is only a four minute walk from the Wengen train station, and set in the calm and peaceful surroundings of this delightful mountain village. See prices on TripAdvisor.com or Booking.com.
- Hotel Schönegg: This hotel offers romantic views of Wengen and its surrounding mountains. Furthermore, this hotel is home to one of the best restaurants in all of Wengen. See prices on TripAdvisor.com or Booking.com.
Day 5: Bernese Oberland – Murren, Schilthorn, & Gimmelwald
Bernese Oberland is like the gift that keeps on giving. Now it’s time to explore the other side of the valley! Wake up early (again), and take the cable car over to Murren.
As a town, Murren is very similar to Wengen, but feels smaller and more remote. Enjoy the peace and quiet as you stroll to the cable car station that will take you to Schilthorn.
If you’re a James Bond fan, you will fall in love with Schilthorn summit since this mountain is where they filmed the movie Her Majesty’s Secret Service. After seeing the splendid mountain peaks, have fun in the James Bond museum and the revolving restaurants!
A Word of Warning: Schilthorn and Jungfrau are serviced by two completely different companies, which I thought I was confusing.
Not to mention, even if you have the Swiss pass, you will still have to pay for both mountain adventure passes if you want to see everything. Not going to lie, buying both passes is expensive. However, I still thought the freedom of exploring the valleys very much worth the money.
At the end of your day, take the cable car back down to the tiny village of Gimmelwald. This incredibly small and tight-knit community is an amazing place to visit. Enjoy a craft beer and marvel at the mountain valleys.
Day 6: Interlaken – Fribourg
Early in the morning take the train to Interlaken. This resort town is packed with hotels, shops, and restaurants, but you’re here to see Harder Kulm.
Harder Kulm is at the top of Interlaken and offers stunning views of Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. The cogwheel train is a very enjoyable ride and a chance to admire Swiss engineering.
In the afternoon, you will board the trains again and eventually reach Fribourg, an adorable university city not too far from Bern (and less crowded and expensive than Switzerland’s capital city).
Upon arrival in Fribourg, you will think that you’ve transported back in time to the middle ages. Also, brush up on your French, because you’re in the French-speaking region of Gruyeres now!
Fribourg is a wonderful place to simply explore. Go in with no plans! Have a coffee, stroll along the river, and pop into a museum of your choice. However, don’t miss the ornate interior of St. Nicolas Cathedral at the center of town.
Accommodation for Fribourg
- Hotel aux Remparts: This hotel is flanked by Fribourg’s epic medieval walls, which is awesome. It’s also located near the train station, which makes transportation super easy. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Le Sauvage: This cozy hotel is inside a 16th century building. You’re located on a quiet street, and can see the beautiful views of the city center right outside your window. A very special hotel. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
Day 7: Lake Geneva
Now it’s time to go to one of the most famous lakes in all of Switzerland (and all of Europe, for that matter): Lake Geneva.
Whether you’re visiting Lake Geneva alone or with friends and family, you will have an amazing time in this beautiful region.
My personal advice is to stay in one of the smaller villages near Lake Geneva, such as Cully or Grandvaux. The bigger cities offer a fun and lively atmosphere, for sure, but I personally think that the little towns make you feel as if you’ve been transported to a “different place and time.”
On your first day, I recommend exploring Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces. These vineyards are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Take a winding and lovely walk, and then sample some of the local wines. The craftspeople take deep pride in their local grapes. Relax and enjoy.
Accommodation for Lake Geneva
- Auberge de la Gare: In Grandvaux, you can stay at this gorgeous small hotel that includes a Michelin restaurant. Perfect if you want to pamper yourself. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
- Auberge du Raisin: A romantic and charming hotel located in the cozy lakeside village of Cully. A short walk will take you right to Lake Geneva. See prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com.
Day 8: Chillon Castle & Montreux
Oh no! Today is your final day in glorious Switzerland. Try not to feel sad, though. You’ll see even more incredible scenery to make your last day super memorable.
First, you should board the ferries take go all over Lake Geneva. The ferry ride is an attraction in and of itself, especially on the outside decks. Take the ferry all the way to the most visited castle in all of Switzerland: Chillon Castle.
Chillon Castle was first built in the 12th century and later on, it’s impressive vaults provided poet Lord Bryon with inspiration. Take your time as you wander the castle. It took me about two hours to go through all the rooms.
Afterwards, take a short train ride to the nearby city of Montreux.
Montreux has a delightful and enormous promenade with tons of great public art – including an awesome statue of Freddy Mercury! Take your time exploring the town and eat a leisurely lunch on the lakeside.
If you have time to see even more public art, stop at Vevey on your way back to the hotel.
I hope you all enjoyed reading all about these 8 days in Switzerland. What are your favorite things to see and do in Switzerland? Share all your thoughts in the comments.