Travel Guide to Bern, Switzerland

Travel Guide to Bern, Switzerland

An Ultimate Guide for what to see & do when traveling to Bern, Switzerland

(and what to skip!)

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Experience the effortlessly charming city of Bern, Switzerland. The fifth largest city in the country, and Switzerland’s capital, Bern is a compact but adorably picturesque city. A place that was once home to the physicist Albert Einstein, known for bears, Berenese dogs and the colorful River Aare, Bern is perfect for a city break and is still an off-the-radar gem of Switzerland.

Below you will find a detailed travel guide to Bern, Switzerland including where to stay, why you should visit Bern and the top things to do in the city.

[If you found your way here through my Sustainable Travel page, then you may just be interested in my findings and viewpoints on Barenpark. Click here to scroll to that section.]

Why go to Bern?

 Why should I go to Bern?

        There are so many beautiful places to visit Switzerland and its surrounding countries, yet I would still highly recommend a visit to Bern, and here’s why:

        The city is meticulously preserved, which is most likely why it’s old town (also called the aldstadt) was named a UNESCO World Heritage site all the way back in 1983! Literally every corner you turn there are picture perfect places to soak up. And it doesn’t hurt that life is slower paced than many other major european cities. So, you’ll be exploring a ‘big’ city but enjoying it as if it’s a small town.

 

Fun fact: Bern, Switzerland earned its name from the founder around the early 1900’s after he apparently killed a bear who came too close to the city while it was being built. (More about how this fact led to a not too pretty, in fact very negative, animal rights situation… more on that later. Keep reading to find out!) Since then, the city’s flag and emblem has always shown a bear.

Where is Bern?

Bern, Switzerland is located southwest of the major city of Zurich, and only an hour train ride from the crisp blue lakes bordering Interlaken. The city is hugged by the beautifully bright & clean River Aare

    Where to stay in Bern?

            The city of Bern goes farther beyond the altstadt (old town), so be sure to book your lodging inside of the old town area, as this is where the charming, picturesque part of the city is located.

            We stayed at the Hotel Savoy Bern and loved it! The location was not only within walking distance to the main train station (which will save you money from having to order a taxi or public transportation), but the rooms were very spacious, had great views and the interior was modernly beautiful.

            Be sure to check out other lodgings options – I typically use Booking.com as they list more than just hotels. There are luxury homes, B&Bs and apartments. Lodging options in Bern, Switzerland

      How long should I stay in Bern?

      We stayed in Bern for three nights and felt like we were able to leisurely enjoy our time here. One day would not be enough, so I would suggest at a minimum two full days and depending on your travel style, at most four nights.

        If you’re planning visits to other parts of Switzerland, be sure to explore my other posts about this enchanting country here!

          How to get around Bern:

                  While there is an airport near Bern, it’ll be much easier to arrive by train. Once you arrive via train, it is a five to ten minute walk to get to the old town part of the city. Bern’s old town is shaped like a horseshoe bend with the turquoise River Aare giving it its shape. Once there you will notice that there are trams and buses available. However, we did not once use them as the city is so accessible on foot. In fact, most of the traffic you’ll see will be pedestrian foot traffic.

                  Bern, Switzerland has recently installed bike stations throughout the city, which I would definitely recommend utilizing. You could bike around all of the old town in half a day this way. Check out this map for the location of the docking stations within the old town of Bern.

            Walk around Berns beautifully preserved old town

                      The city of Bern has transformed into a metropolis since it was rebuilt after a terrible fire in the early 1400’s. However the aldstadt has kept its european charm and has remained intact since the 15th century rebuild. Known for its 6 kilometers of ‘covered arcades’ – not actual arcades, but outdoor promenades – locals refer to them as “Lauben” – they are the longest weather sheltered shopping promenade in Europe

                      While you’re walking around, try to find the Kindlifresser statue, aka the Child Eater statue. Yep, you read that correctly. There is a statue with a man eating a sack of babies… no one is quite sure what it depicts, but it should be a great example of the boogeyman tactics for parents to use.

              Fun fact – there are over 100 fountains in this small old town!

                Ogle at the Zytglogge

                          The Zytglogge is a famous astronomical clock. It was Bern’s western city gate back in the 12th century, and is now a major site to see in the old town part of Bern. This 800+ year old clock still functions with all of its mechanical figures, and on the hour you can watch it ‘perform’. There is a museum/walk through tour you can do, but truth be told, I felt this was unnecessary. But I suppose it depends on your love for clockwork.

                    Walk to the top of the Bern Cathedral

                              A dominant landmark in Bern, this cathedral is the tallest religious building in all of Switzerland. Not only is it a great workout walking up the 222 steps, but the view is beautiful. I’m personally not always a fan of views from super high up because you miss out on so much detail, but the view from Bern Cathedral is perfect in terms of height without being too far away. It’s also the highest place to view the city from.

                        Visit the Rosengarten

                                  Bern’s Rosengarten is great for both a relaxing afternoon in a charming park and vistas of the entire city from across the River Aare. It is an uphill climb to reach the park, but you are rewarded with great views of Bern. There is a statue of Einstein sitting on a bench that is perfect for capturing cute pictures with the historical figures.

                                  The Rosengarten would be good to visit even in the fall, and for sunset as the sun dips below the city skyline.

                            Explore the Bundeshaus

                                      The Bundeshaus is the Swiss Federal Assembly building in Bern. I’ve become particularly choosey when it comes to spending my travel time inside of museums and historical sites, so while I typically wouldn’t suggest going inside of a government building, the Swiss do it justice. They offer FREE tours of inside the Bundeshaus, however will be closed to the public if parliament is in session. You can find the dates they are closed here.

                                Shop at the Parliament Square weekly market

                                          In front of Bundeshaus is Parliament Square, which is great for people watching, and where Bern hosts a weekly market. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning you can enjoy local produce and Swiss foods.

                                          Maybe you’ll feel inclined to buy some treats and then enjoy them while sitting on the steps in the back of Bundeshaus. This part of the building sits against the River Aare so will provide a nice relaxing place to enjoy a morning treat.

                                    Channel Albert Einstein’s intelligence

                                              Learn about the famous physicist and his life while he lived in Bern, Switzerland by visiting the house he used to live in. This house museum is where he lived when he developed his famous theory of relativity. Overall, it was a fairly interesting place to visit as Einstein had a unique life and also traveled the world.

                                              (There is a good cafe directly below it as well)

                                        Swim in the Aare

                                                  If you plan on visiting Bern in the summer, than I’d suggest packing a swimsuit as you can swim in the beautifully clean River Aare. I can’t speak personally about this as we visited in the fall, but a local gave us the following information on how to swim in the Aare in Bern : enter at Eicholz recreation area and float down to the Freiban Marzili.

                                            Enjoy the sunset with a view

                                                     Grab a bottle of wine or some beers from a local store and enjoy the sun setting over the rust red rooftops of Bern at the Rosengarten or from the back side of the Bundeshaus (Parliament Building).

                                                Take it slow & people watch

                                                          I loved the pace of the city of Bern. A city that felt effortlessly slow paced. My suggestion, pick up a cup of coffee in the morning and sit in one of the squares to people watch. There was a square close to our hotel that had a life size chess set. We watched a group of older men play while starting their day with espressos, beers and cigars. It’s moments like these where you can begin to feel the heart of a place you travel to.

                                                          Another way to immerse yourself in a new destination is to…

                                                    Take part in a local event or festival

                                                              As Bern is the capital of Switzerland there are quite a few events that you can attend. We stumbled upon a cultural food festival while there and loved it. You can find more of Bern’s events here.

                                                                Translated this means the Bear Park. As an animal lover and protector I am always hesitant about visiting and suggesting others to visit places that house (unfortunately, ‘house’ is a light term used here, when often it’s a prison) animals of any kind. I try my best to research prior to visiting and especially spending any money on places like these.

                                                                Unfortunately, Bern housed a cement bear pit since its inception of officially becoming Bern in the 1500’s. Looking at pictures of what it used to be, which was maintained up until 2009, it makes me feel really sad that that went on for so long. Happily though, the Bern bear pit has been transformed into a bear park. The park is over 65,000 square feet in size, is fitted on a sloping hill with plenty of grass areas for the current bear occupants to enjoy who were transferred from Scandinavia or born in captivity. (Personally, I feel that it’s extremely odd that we ship animals around like property to different zoo’s.)

                                                                  Barenpark is free to visit in Bern. And while the space provided for them now is much much better than the cement hole in the ground they inhabited for hundreds of years, it’s still limiting for what a wild animal should have access to. For example, bears enjoy water and currently the bears at Barenpark can see the water rushing by but have no access to it. Talk about dangling a treat in front of someone face, and preventing them from having it for their own ‘safety’.

                                                                  I suggest visiting as you can see for yourself the conditions they’re in, and may it be a reminder, note for the future or nugget of a lesson for you to better understand the rights that animals should have.

                                                          What are your thoughts on this?

                                                             Not to end on what may feel like a negative tone, let me conclude by saying that Bern has much more to offer than their Barenpark. If you choose to visit this charismatic city (which I highly suggest you do!), be sure to enjoy it in its entirety by visiting and doing the items I listed above. Bern is great for taking it slow, and is one of the few places in Europe that still feels off the beaten path in terms of popular cities to visit in Switzerland.

                                                              [Curious about why there are so many people at the same destination as you? Read about Over Tourism here]

                                                                TIPS for visiting Bern, Switzerland:

                                                                • Switzerland is expensive, so be sure to visit a grocery store for lunch or breakfast (and maybe some wine) to save yourself from racking up your expenses too high
                                                                • Swiss German is the language spoken in Bern
                                                                • Stay in the old town part of the city Bern, once there, everything is walkable
                                                                • Visit Bern, Switzerland in the summer to swim in the River Aare, visit in the winter months for the Christmas markets
                                                                • More general facts about the city of Bern

                                                                  Want to see more?

                                                                  Scroll through these pictures of from our trip to Bern, Switzerland

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                                                                    Hi!  I’m Laura, a sustainable travel blogger & photographer, sharing real and honest information about travelling & how to do so sustainably

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                                                                    Hiking Madeira’s Mountains

                                                                    Hiking Madeira’s Mountains

                                                                    An experience I never expected

                                                                            Tossing bits of dried fruit over to a pair of red-legged partridges, it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps I greatly underestimated the vast wildlife we were about to encounter on our eight-hour hike through the mountains of Madeira. The local guide and our new long-limbed friend, David, chuckled with my sudden influx of inquiries concerning the danger of mountain lions and cliff jumping goats. Much to my surprise, the only ‘predators’ to fear on this Portuguese island located off the coast of Morocco were the hungry feral canines and felines that roamed the domesticated neighborhoods. 

                                                                            I jumped at the opportunity for an all-day nature hike in lieu of another day of urban exploration; however, amidst my excitement I neglected to research what to expect from this Portuguese archipelago. As we continued our cliff-hugging journey through the tallest peaks of this island, I was mindfully balancing out the thoughts of ‘how did I not consider the wildlife?’ and ‘do NOT look down!’  Tall, lush grass veiled the hand laid steps that furrowed into the fertile mountainside which appeared hidden from a faraway glance. The only note of caution was to not grip the slim wire that hangs like a mere barrier between the rocky mountain side and the steep descent down the sharp cliffs.  

                                                                            Madeira is a floating garden-like island where what little was brought here has remained. A place where the most popular beverage, Poncha, uses ingredients sourced from the backyards of neighbors growing sugar cane in their own yard. The friendly and modest locals prepare seafood with inherent skill and captivate visitors with conversation in English. I learned that the only wildlife sustained on the island are birds and feral ‘pets’, at least for now. Immersed in the island’s flora and fauna, not only did my experience cultivate a newfound respect for this island that dates to the ice ages, but I didn’t feel like a tourist.

                                                                            It’s moving to be in a place that still feels untouched by human permeation of insatiability. With little to fear from non-existent predators, it is no wonder the partridges teetering on a cliffside with us were welcoming during our midday snack break. This pearl of the Atlantic Ocean maintains much of its original beauty, and is truly a paradise in the purest form. It felt as if we were the first group to hike this trail, and when we left no trace that we had been there- I had the distinct feeling that I experienced something I never expected to.

                                                                    The majoirty of the hike was on hand made trails with this wiring you see here.  Our guide told us to not truly hold onto it as it had sharp pieces… yet the ground was slippery, so we needed to hold on (haha).  However the views (below) were well worth the before-dawn pick up and tricky hiking conditions.

                                                                    We took this hike with a tour group — Up Mountain Madeira

                                                                    I would highly recommend them.  They were easy to book with, communication was always timely and the guides went above what I would have expected.  We also loved that the size of groups were limited.

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                                                                    Visiting Mount Pilatus, Switzerland

                                                                    Visiting Mount Pilatus, Switzerland

                                                                    Switzerland’s mysterious mountain

                                                                       According to Middle Age legend, Mount Pilatus was first inhabited by one or more dragons with healing powers.  As visitors creep upward in the steepest cogwheel train, these mythical dragons seem to loom closer as you slowly cross through cloud cover.  With the slow approach to the top, you will pass through barely fenced farms with cattle and goats roaming, traditional wooden cottages home to large cowbells hanging up and the occasional crow skimming the clouds.

                                                                     Once at the top, walk about the hotel, gift shop area, and most importantly the outdoor deck space.  This place clings to the peaks surface and on a clear day allows for trail walking and panoramic views of valleys in between Alp summits.      

                                                                    If you’re already in Lucerne for the day, you can purchase tickets at the Pilatus Lucerne store in the Aldstadt (Old Town) area of Lucerne.  They did a wonderful job describing how to get to Mount Pilatus.  Essentially you take a train from the Lucerne station to Alpnachstad.

                                                                    We chose the visit option that was 83 CHF.  It included the cost of train tickets, the cogwheel ride up, cable car down and the bus back to Lucerne.  In total it took us 3.5 hours to visit, however it was very cloudy and snowing at the top so we didn’t spend tons of time up there.  There are short trails you can walk up there- dress accordingly for it by wearing hike worthy shoes.

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                                                                    Best Things to do in Lucerne, Switzerland

                                                                    Best Things to do in Lucerne, Switzerland

                                                                    The Top sights to see & chocolates to eat!

                                                                    Most well-known for its wooden bridge over the Reuss River, turreted buildings and a colorful Aldstadt (old town), Lucerne is like a childhood storybook come to life.  If you are visiting Northern Switzerland, or basing your trip in Zurich, then Lucerne is a must see.  With just a quick train ride from Zurich, you can hop off to explore this popular take off to the Swiss Alps. 

                                                                            Upon exiting the train station, historic Lucerne is a quick five-minute walk away.  In fact, the town is visible from the train station and is a perfect example of preserved history meeting updated 21st century livelihood, all settled gently on the shores of Lake Lucerne.  This contrast will have you scurrying toward the famed Kapellbrücke to immerse yourself in the old-world charm.

                                                                    [We walked around Lucerne in half a day, had lunch then proceeded up to the top of Mt. Pilatus.]

                                                                    Here are the best things to do in

                                                                    Lucerne, Switzerland:

                                                                    Kapellbrücke (Wooden Bridge)

                                                                         The Kapellbrücke is famous not only for its picturesque setting but also for its archway paintings dating back to the 17th century.  Uniquely Kapellbrücke has maintained its damaged areas from a 1993 fire, which destroyed many of the paintings.  The charred wooden sections have their own history to them giving visitors an opportunity to cherish what has been able to be preserved.  Known as the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, Kapellbrücke is what lures visitors to Lucerne.

                                                                    Jesuit Church Lucerne

                                                                         If you’ve visited elaborately decorated Italian churches than many of the churches in Switzerland will appear lackluster in comparison.  However, this Jesuit church is quite beautiful.  A light interior glittered with blush pink and gold accents, this was the first baroque* style church built north of the Alps in Switzerland.

                                                                    Musegg Wall & Towers

                                                                         A quick walk towards the back of town and you’ll find the Musegg wall.  Built in the late 14th century, this rampant wall is still very well maintained with three easily accessible towers to climb up.  Enjoy the bright blue views of Lake Lucerne, and don’t miss the city clock that chimes one minute before the rest of the towns clocks.

                                                                    Walk around Aldstadt

                                                                         Like Zurich’s Aldstadt area, Lucerne’s’ old town will have you wandering through winding streets and hidden shops.

                                                                    Lunch on the Ruess River

                                                                         There are a handful of restaurants on the Reuss river, and while I believe that places to eat in high tourist areas can be traps and/or have bleh food, many of these places had better reviews than places further in the town.  We ate at Rathaus Brauerei, which is a small brewery.  If you go there be sure to try whatever their seasonal brew is.  In the words of Donna from Parks & Rec, ‘treat yo’ self’ to a traditional Swiss lunch while enjoying the Kapellbrücke views.

                                                                    Lion Shrine

                                                                         One of the world’s most famous monuments, the Lion Shrine is dedicated to the Swiss mercenaries who were massacred during the French Revolution.  Mark Twain is quoted having said that this shrine is “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world”.  Let that sink in.  I’m always in awe of sculptures and the Lion Shrine of Lucerne captures agony and pain admirably.

                                                                         So, why was this French Revolution monument built in Lucerne, Switzerland?  One of the Swiss mercenary guards was on leave in Lucerne during the time of the revolution and raised funds to construct a monument memorializing his fellow guards.

                                                                    *Please keep in mind this is a monument and a place to be respected.  I wouldn’t recommend taking group photos or posing with a selfie stick here.

                                                                    Mount Pilatus

                                                                         If a clear day with blue skies, visit Mount Pilatus where its legendary curative dragon once dwelled is an exciting way to crawl up into the Swiss mountains.  Details on visiting Mount Pilatus are here!

                                                                    Max Chocolatier

                                                                         Chocolate lovers rejoice!  Stopping here prior to heading back to Zurich means enjoying seasonal hand-crafted chocolate pieces on your journey.  Tag this place on your map (opens in the afternoon) and tell me what flavors you enjoyed most!  With over excitement for these I cannot recall which flavor was best… let’s be real, they were all amazing.

                                                                    Boat tours

                                                                         We chose not to take a boat tour as we had done so in Zurich, however these seemed popular while we were there.  Walk up to the offices located near the train station to find more details.

                                                                     Lucerne radiates traditional mixed with modern and is a great gateway to central Switzerland for excursions.  Panoramic views of the Alps, peaceful Lake Lucerne and three stunning mountains to explore nearby are begging to be discovered here.

                                                                    Top TIPS for visiting Lucerne, Switzerland

                                                                    • Baroque: following the Renaissance era, Baroque was a European style that thrived in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Best known for grandeur, contrast, detailed movement and was meant to stir awe. (I should mention I took an art history class in college that focused on the baroque style.  Probably the most impressive era for art).
                                                                    • See how to best navigate Mount Pilatus here

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                                                                    Towns to visit Outside of Zurich, Switzerland

                                                                    Towns to visit Outside of Zurich, Switzerland

                                                                    The cutest towns to visit in one day when visiting Zurich, Switzerland

                                                                    While most major cities are hubs for travelers there is quite a bit to experience and enjoy in the towns that are outside of the comforts of an international city cushion.  Food, people, transportation, the entirety of a destinations culture are most ingrained in small towns.

                                                                    Below are three small destinations outside of Zurich that can be visited in one day.  Yes, you read that correctly. Three places in one day. Waking up early to catch a morning train is my personal travel style and what makes it possible to explore as this post suggests.  Basically, aim to experience as much as the daylight will allow. You can stay in the major hub for a reasonable price and be able to see more places than most.

                                                                    Stein am Rhein

                                                                    Stein am Rhein is a quaint and colorful town cozied next to the Rhine River.  The train station leads to a short bridge where you can see the town nestled in its original roots and waking up for the day.  Cobblestoned streets wind into the Old Town main square where every half-timbered building has a painted façade.

                                                                    Pop into the nearest café to enjoy a cappuccino or espresso and a flaky sweet pastry, then wander outside to enjoy the serene calm before tourist groups clatter through. Make sure to take advantage of restaurants and benches that line the river for an exceptionally calm view.  And if you have the time, explore the Hohenklingen Castle.

                                                                    Exceptional preservation of architectural heritage makes Stein am Rhein a place worthy of your time.  An hour or two to walk around is all you need to enjoy it.

                                                                    Rhine Falls

                                                                    Rhine Falls is Europe’s largest waterfall!  Its immensity comes from its width rather than its height.  With three different areas at Rhine Falls, my suggestion is to choose one and enjoy it from there;

                                                                    1. View point from the Worth castle; cross the bridge up top to get to it
                                                                    2. View point in the middle; this is where my pictures are from
                                                                    3. Open area at the bottom of it; where the boat rides are available (see below for details on this)

                                                                            Tectonic shifts during the Ice Age forced the Rhine River to the path it takes today and created Rhine Falls.  In the middle of the falls is a small but mighty rock that has withstood the test of time for over a thousand years!  Small boats ferry passengers over to climb the stairs and platforms hovering over the falls allowing brave people to feel the strength of the water.

                                                                            We couldn’t resist shffling onto a small speed boat to battle against the current of the falls and climb those stairs.  Most people were polite about cautious walkers and those wanting to take solo pictures, which made for a pleasant excursion.  Once back on dry land, hop onto the Rhyfall Express, a motorized ‘train’ that transfers guests to and from Schaffhausen, our next stop.

                                                                    In total, Rhine Falls took about 2 hours to visit including the boat trip.

                                                                    *See my tips below for how to successfully get to Rhine Falls (and not waste time getting onto the incorrect train like we did)

                                                                    Schaffhausen

                                                                            Schaffhausen is a MUST-see town.  It was my favorite stop of the day!  Settled between the Black Forest and wineries with its own fortress lies this whimsical town.  Schaffhausen is known as being one of the most delightful towns in Switzerland because of its lavish facades (similar to Stein am Rhein), oriel windows, colorful buildings, great shopping and a wonderful open square.  Being that we visited at the end of the day on a Sunday by the time we arrived most places were closed for the day (as is typical of Europe), however just walking around was enough to pacify us. It is also what led us to our first of many Swiss chocolate shops

                                                                    Finishing the day at Schaffhausen was the perfect ending to exploring northern Switzerland.  It also helped because there were no train transfers from Schaffhausen back to Zurich. That meant a simple train ride back into Zurich’s city center.

                                                                    TIPS for towns to visit outside of Zurich, Switzerland

                                                                    • Getting there; Zurich to Stein am Rhein– check the Swiss train website for transfer details as you’ll need to transfer trains at Schaffhausen.  I found it best to follow what the website said as opposed to interpreting the many signs at the train station and it never led me amiss
                                                                    • At Stein am Rhein there is a castle atop of the nearest hilltop, called Hohenklingen Castle.  You can hike up or drive (I’ve read there is a car park up there)
                                                                    • Lindwurm Musuem in Stein am Rhein is a stop for those interested in exploring medieval middle class living.  Entrance cost is 5 CHF.
                                                                    • Getting to Rhine Falls from Stein am Rhine: I like to think myself an avid traveler who is able to get herself around easily with some research… figuring out the trains from Stein am Rhein to Rhine Falls was confusing.  This is your warning and some tips to get there quicker than we did—take the train back to Schaffhausen. Then take a train to Neuhausen. From the Neuhausen stop you can walk to Rhine Falls. There are signs to follow that are easy to find.  You can also walk along the river at the Schaffhausen stop to reach Rhine Falls. That should take you about 45 minutes.
                                                                    • Leaving Rhine Falls via the Rhyfall Express: Ask the driver what direction the tram is going/if they’re going to Schaffhausen.  For as cheap as it was, I would suggest doing it. It drives you through the town leading into Schaffhausen.

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                                                                    48 Hours in Zurich

                                                                    48 Hours in Zurich

                                                                    How to spend two days in Zurich, Switzerland, with the top sights to see

                                                                    Zurich, the city known as the financial epicenter of Europe… maybe the world?  By far one of the most efficient cities I’ve been to that has up to date convenience mixed with extravagance (which you’ll notice on your wallet) and an old-world charm.  Upon exiting the train station you’ll see that this European city has the best of both worlds; winding cobblestone streets mixed with flourishing businesses and modern design.  Even if you only have 48 hours to spend in Zurich, you should visit this beautiful city. Whether you decide to take the efficient train from the airport and walk to your lodging or hire a car to do so, you’ll witness the city transform from a hustling business center to the easily accessible, albeit booty working, walkable European town.

                                                                    With so much to explore, here are the

                                                                    Top 10 things you need to see & do in 48 hours in Zurich, Switzerland

                                                                    Wander the Aldstadt (Old Town)

                                                                    Old Town is the most charming neighborhood of Zurich.  It has that wonderful historical European charm that is expected from a Western European destination with many quaint and unique shops and restaurants (and bars!). 

                                                                    Grossmunster Church 

                                                                    One of four major churches in Zurich, Grossmunster Church stands out with its neo-Gothic towers.  This church is free to enter, and has a simplistic interior.  You can pay to climb the tower which I’ve read has good views of the city.

                                                                    Fraumunster Church 

                                                                    With its iconic teal-blue spire and clock tower, Fraumunster Church is by far the most stand out church in Zurich.  Mostly known for its Chagall stained glass windows, this site was originally home to an abbess (get it ladies!  …Is that inappropriate to say?)  Go in the early morning to witness the morning light shine through the windows.  However, keep in mind that there is a small fee of to enter. (*there was a wedding the day of our visit so we weren’t able to get inside) *Image directly above is of a different church 

                                                                    Lindenhoff 

                                                                    If you’re a fan of stunning vistas than trek up to Lindenhoff.  A great viewpoint for Zurich with a bit of a climb, but worth it for the views of Aldstadt Zurich.  Be sure to head there early in the day as this attracts many visitors; we could see Lindenhoff from our Airbnb and there were large crowds even at the end of the day.

                                                                    Bahnofstrasse 

                                                                    When you walk down Bahnofstrasse you’re walking down one of the world’s most exclusive & expensive shopping streets.  Best of luck not spending a paycheck’s worth on goodies here… if that’s not in your budget you can act like I and long after an item or two while you window shop.

                                                                    Have lunch at Hiltl 

                                                                    Let me do my celebratory dance for Hiltl because it is a veggie lovers dream come true!  I’m quickly learning that Europe is transitioning to please a vegetarian palate and my fellow veggies could not be happier!  Amazing for vegetarians… it’s amazing even if you do eat meat.  Hiltl is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world!  It did not disappoint.  Going there for lunch instead of dinner will make your visit a bit cheaper.  We chose to eat from the buffet.  But, be warned that the buffet price is based on the weight of your plate.  Regardless, there were so many options and everything was delicious.  The atmosphere was great as well as the staff.  What a wonderful opportunity to try a variety of foods you may have never heard of.

                                                                    Fondue at La Dezalay

                                                                     La Dezalay is a Swiss restaurant known for their fondue… trust me, it’s worth it.  Located in the Aldstadt neighborhood of Zurich and you can see the Grossmunster church from outside. Fun fact: fondue is considered to be part of your meal, however we chose to eat it as our meal.  Sometimes living your best life means devouring a bowlful of carbs dunked in warm cheese. (I would have placed a picture of our fondue here… but to be honest I was trying to live THE moment of cheese heaven and forgot to take one.  Oh well, worth it!) 

                                                                    Lake Zurich

                                                                    Take a boat tour around Lake Zurich.  There are multiple options for length of time, where the boats dock, etc.  We chose to do the medium length trip which took about 4 hours; choose based on your time available.  It’s a stunning excursion that can make a hectic day of walking around end with a serene afternoon.  *My suggestion- buy drinks/snacks at a grocery or liquor store (Migros stores do NOT sell alcohol) to bring on the boat.  Drinks on the boat are expensive… as is most everything in Switzerland.

                                                                     Enjoy a night out on Langstrasse 

                                                                    The nightclubs and more popular bars are on or around this street.  We went to Fat Tony’s based on a friend of a friend’s recommendation (with the assumption it would be a dive bar based on its name) and really enjoyed it.  Hip place with good music.  If you walk along this street you’ll be sure to find many places for a great night out.

                                                                    As a great hub location for Switzerland, you can embrace all that Zurich has to offer within a short time period of time without feeling rushed.  This city is one where a slow pace as a visitor will provide an exceptional day (or two!).  Because short and sweet can leave you feeling ready to explore other places this stunning (and efficient) country have to offer! If you visit Zurich and use this list of places let me know!  And comment with any additions you feel were just as great.  More importantly if you found that eating fondue multiple times made you happier than the free range cattle in Switzerland let me know so we can be best friends.

                                                                     TIPS for visiting Zurich, Switzerland

                                                                    • As like most other European cities, not much will be open on Sunday, so plan accordingly
                                                                    • Switzerland is an expensive country, if you are on budget I would pack your own snacks/protein bars so you don’t need to stop at a restaurant for every meal (or hit up a grocery store)
                                                                    • Swiss people speak many different languages (german, italian, english), depending on the location and the person so you won’t insult anyone if you say ‘hello’ in german, and ‘thank you’ in italian

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