Creating my Switzerland itinerary was one of the most time-consuming travel planning I had ever done. Having limited time and money, meant that we had to be precise about the best places to visit and know all the tricks on how to travel to Switzerland on a budget. I went through dozens of articles and blogs on Switzerland itinerary before our trip and this blogpost is round-up of everything I learned from what I read and experienced.
Traveling to Switzerland has long been a dream of mine ever since I watched Heidi as a little girl. Heidi was all I knew about the Swiss meadows and the Alp countryside until I finally got to visit the real thing this past summer. And boy, it was everything I thought it would be.
Prior to traveling to Switzerland, we had spent the previous summer in the Bavarian Alps. Now the Bavarian Alps are what I think of Switzerland on a budget. The lakes, meadows, and the greenery of German Bavaria really hold up to what I saw in Switzerland. But for most of us, the perfect Switzerland itinerary is really a trip to the Jungfrau region and that’s unlike anywhere else!
When’s the best time to visit Switzerland?
I can’t imagine Switzerland not being incredibly mindblowing at any time of the year, but if you’re not looking for a ski trip to Switzerland, then summer is when you get that luscious green Swiss landscape. If you’re looking to beat the summer crowds, it’s better to visit sometime between April-June or September-October. The latter can be a bit riskier in terms of weather as Switzerland gets cold pretty quickly. But we visited in late September and Switzerland greeted us with gorgeous sunshine and there were hardly any crowds to bother.
How to get around in Switzerland?
Switzerland is small and well connected through public transport. Trains are the most popular way to travel and the Swiss Travel Pass gives you unlimited access to almost all trains, buses, cables cars, and boat rides. Cogwheel trains to Mt. Pilatus, Jungfraujoch, and Matterhorn are not part of the deal but you do get discounts if you’re holding the pass. You also get free access to over 500 museums and galleries in the country which is pretty great but not always the best option budget-wise.
The Swiss Travel Pass is convenient and worth the value if you’re really going to use it to the fullest, if not, it’s just too damn expensive. The cheapest way to get around Switzerland is actually by car, whether it’s rented or not. This gives you lots of freedom to move around and cuts massively on expenses especially if you’re with a few other people. The only thing you need to purchase is a 40 CHF Switzerland motorway vignette which works for 1 year! It’s basically a sticker you can buy at the border or online and it needs to be stuck on the inside of the windshield of your car. Rental cars in Switzerland already come with a vignette.
Where to stay in Switzerland?
Staying in Switzerland is extremely expensive! Especially if you want to go anywhere near Interlaken or the Lauterbrunnen valley. You can hardly find a hostel that gives you a bed for less than 35€ and a decent central hotel costs way more than that. Airbnb’s that are easily accessible get booked pretty quickly and are not cheap. This is where having a car really saved us. We could easily book an apartment in a remote area without having to break the bank. Traveling in low season also helped with getting cheaper deals.
The national currency of Switzerland is the Swiss Franc, but Euros are accepted everywhere at the exchange rate of 1€=1CHF
Another way to cut down on accommodation costs on your Switzerland itinerary is by renting a campervan. I know this has worked for many people, so if you’re the adventurous type, consider this as an option.
We stayed at two different places during our 4 day trip to Switzerland. One was on the French side of Lake Geneva in a village called Thollon-les-Mémises and the second was in Adelboden.
In Thollon we stayed at this apartment which was super affordable. It’s about 1:15 from Geneva. It’s a small cozy apartment with great views of the mountains and if you’re ok with the extra drive, then it’s a great deal. It was a little hard to find it with the address given by the owner but we managed.
Our second accommodation was this huge spacious chalet in Adelboden with the most remarkable views. It was very convenient, the owner was nice and Adelboden is definitely one of the most picturesque places in Switzerland. There are so many great lakes and waterfalls nearby and the drive up to the accommodation was definitely a highlight.
How much does it cost to travel to Switzerland?
Switzerland is literally the most expensive place you could travel to. If you’re thinking of going up every mountain, eating out in restaurants, sitting down for coffee every now and then, then you’d better save up. But Switzerland is still doable if you compromise. We could have never gone to Switzerland if we didn’t plan ahead or think twice about certain purchases. We literally cooked so much of our food at our renter Airbnb, we packed sandwiches for hiking and always had a hot water flask to provide us with hot tea when sat down for a break. We did so much of our supermarket shopping with the French border because it was cheaper and decided to avoid the super expensive cablecars and train rides in Jungfrau.
We were also traveling as a group of 5 which meant everything was split between us, not just the costs but also the chores of preparing everything during the trip.
Now if you do have the funds, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take it easier or go wild. This is just to say that Switzerland can be done even if you’re on a tight budget.
4-day Switzerland Itinerary
Day 1-2: Geneva – Lac Leman – Montreax – Laussane
We entered Switzerland via France so Geneva was a practical destination to add to our Switzerland itinerary. To be honest, I wasn’t even that impressed by Geneva. It was nice, peaceful and super clean but I would have easily replaced it with an extra day in Adelboden, Interlaken or even Zurich.
Top places to visit Geneva:
- Old Town
- St Pierre Cathedral
- Flower Clock (seriously not that big of a deal but hey!)
- UN Building
- Brunswick Monument
- Mont-blanc Bridge
We did however very much enjoyed our road trip around Lac Leman which gave us a chance to visit the Chillon Castle in Montreux, the vineyards of Lavaux Vinorama and the small town of Yvoire.
Day 3: Bern – Adelboden
On our 3rd day, we headed to Bern while aiming to reach Adelboden by sunset. Bern was such a treat. It’s literally one of the cutest towns I’ve ever visited. If I had done the whole trip over again, I would have definitely started it from Bern and skipped Geneva altogether.
Bern is easily visited in a day. It’s quite small and most of the top attractions are located closeby. Make sure you climb the 222 steps of the church tower for the most magnificent view of the city and if you’re there during summer, get yourself a drybag, get inside the Aare river and let it give you a tour of the city.
Top places to visit in Bern:
- Rose garden viewpoint
- Bern Cathedral tower
- Clock tower
- Guston peak
- Einstein’s apartment
We arrived in Adelboden before sunset and were just blown away by the sublime landscape. Adelboden is where you’ll see that luscious green countryside dotted by quaint villages by the dozen. It’s the perfect mixture of crystal blue lakes, gushing waterfalls, green pastures, and flower-lined promenades.
We spent the afternoon hiking in Adelboden to reach Eigstligen falls. It was a good 2-hour hike but every single step came with a postcard view. I would definitely give Adelboden a good 2 complete days to discover more of its natural beauty.
Top places to visit near Adelboden:
- Blausee Lake
- Eigstligen falls
- Oeschinen Lake
- Cable car to Tschentenalp
Day 4: Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen Valley
The world-famous Jungfrau region is the very first reason most people travel to Switzerland. Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, and Grindelwald are the top 3 destinations and the whole region is the most beautiful place you’ll find in the country. I had been swooning over those perfect Instagram pictures of Lauterbrunnen for years, and let me say that it really was worth the wait.
This area is also the most expensive part of your trip, but if you have the budget, spend as long as you can in the Jungfrau region. You won’t find anything like it!
If you happen to spend more than 3 days here, getting a Jungfrau pass can save you some money. I also really enjoyed watching Iz Harri’s video on their week trip to the Jungfrau region. It’s a great guide and gives you a great perspective of everything.
The Perfect Switzerland Itinerary
Now as you can see, we were not able to visit everything we wanted in Switzerland. I tried to give you an idea of how things were and suggest on how differently you could do things if you had more time, budget or even a different taste. Here is a roundup of things I believe you should consider when planning that perfect Swiss itinerary:
- Give at least 2-3 days to the Jungfrau region.
- If you have limited time, skip Geneva and the lake altogether. The lakes you will see in Swiss Alps are way better and the Chillon castle is not really that impressive. If castles are your thing, Bavarian alps offer way better stuff than Switzerland.
- Plan early ahead as accommodation prices go really high and you miss all the good options.
- Don’t miss Adelboden! It’s just too good.