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5 Fantastic Day Trips From Zurich

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Zurich, the biggest city in Switzerland, offers a lot to see and do. But to experience the essence of Switzerland, you need to get out of the big city.

Some of Switzerland’s best assets are its natural wonders and charming towns. These fantastic day trips from Zurich will show you Switzerland’s most quintessential landscapes and experiences. 

5 Day Trips From Zurich

Lucerne

Situated in the heart of central Switzerland, Lucerne/Luzern is only a short drive from Zurich and easily accessible by train. It takes 40 minutes to drive or 45 minutes by train from Zurich where you can also connect with the scenic Golden Pass Train.

Located on the banks of Lake Lucerne, Lucerne is a quintessential Swiss town. One of Switzerland’s most beautiful and famous towns for visitors.

The lake provides a beautiful setting for a stroll on the promenade that surrounds it. Similar to the Scandinavian fjords, the lake reflects the breathtaking surrounding landscape including Mount Pilatus and Mount Titlis, both popular day trip destinations from Zurich.

On a clear day from the city centre, you can count 72 other mountain peaks on the horizon. In nice weather, you can take a boat to other neighbouring towns and villages along the lake.

Stroll across the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), Lucerne’s most famous tourist attraction. The old covered footbridge is decorated with beautiful historic paintings the length of the interior ceiling.

Flowers cascading down the sides of the old covered wooden walking bridge in Lucern.

Another famous monument is the Lion Memorial, which commemorates the Swiss guards who lost their lives during the French Revolution. There is also a glacier museum nearby that displays natural remnants from the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago.

Other fascinating museums include The Swiss Transportation Museum and Alpineum Museum, making it a favourite destination for family trips. If you can spare more than a day, two days in Lucerne is highly recommended. 

Zurich to Lucerne Day Trip Tour Recommendations

Day Trip to Lucerne with Optional Yacht Cruise

Visit the charming old town of Lucerne on a full-day tour. Travel over the Albispass, along Lake Lucerne, and the Lake of the Four Cantons. In Lucerne take a small guided tour of the most famous sights with the rest of the day to explore beautiful Lucerne at your leisure. Possibility of optional yacht cruise on Lake Lucerne.

Includes: Transportation by coach, small guided tour, 1-hour yacht cruise with audio guides if the option is selected. See here for full tour details.

Lucerne and Engelberg Full-Day Tour

Enjoy a panoramic drive from Zurich to Lucerne along Lake Lucerne. Visit the beautiful city of Lucerne, and it’s monuments with free time to explore at leisure. Continue to Engelberg to see the impressive Baroque monastery built by Benedictine monks in 1120. Explore the village and visit the Swiss cheese factory to see how the famous cheese is made. Alternatively, go for a hike along the trails around the town to enjoy the magnificent landscape of the Swiss Alps

Includes: Transportation by coach and partly guided tour. See here for full tour details

The Rhine Falls

The world-renowned Rhine falls are a quick 35 minutes by car or 1 hour by train from Zurich.

Fifteen thousand years ago, tectonic shifts and two significant changes in the course of the Rhine river created the spectacular Rhine Falls. Europe’s biggest waterfall, it never fails to impresses visitors with its sheer power. In summer, the water flows at an impressive rate of 600,000 litres per second.

People atop a rock in the middle of the cascading Rhine falls

There are two ways to see the falls in their full might – via a Rhine Falls boat ride or from the viewing platforms. Boats and cruises can take you to castles, the Rhine Falls Basin, and even the mighty rock that has stood the test of time.

Tourist boat heading towards the spray and mist of the rushing Rhine Falls

The viewing platforms on both sides offer a spectacular view of the waterfalls. They are so close, during summer, you will get wet from the powerful flow of the falls. There are two different sides to the falls, and the Northern side platform has free entrance.

Rhine Falls Day Trip Tour Recommendations

Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls From Zurich

Depart Zürich towards northern Switzerland. Travel through a beautiful wine-growing region, charming farming villages and picturesque landscapes en route to Laufen near the Swiss-German border.

See the medieval castle of Schloss Laufen and the mighty Rhine Falls. Get unique views from the panoramic lift and take the Belvedere Trail to a viewing platform right above the falls. For the adventurous, there is the opportunity to take the optional boat ride to experience the falls from below.

Continue via Schaffhausen with its famous Munot Fortress and views of the gently rolling vineyards and farming villages en route to Stein am Rhein. Explore the well-preserved old town and its notable medieval buildings such as the church and former monastery of St. George’s Abbey. 

Included: Return transportation, professional guided tour, entrance fees to Schloss Laufen, the Rhine Falls and its panoramic glass lift, the Belvedere Trail, Historama Castle Museum and the viewing platform at Känzeli. Guided walk through the medieval old town of Stein am Rhein. See here for full tour details.

Bern

The ‘official’ Swiss capital, Bern, is a small city built around river Aare. It is 1 hour and 30 minutes by car or an hour by train from Zurich.

The UNESCO heritage old town of Bern is lined with historical buildings, unique and beautiful fountains dating back to medieval times and the Zytglogge (the ancient clock tower), a key tourist attraction of Bern. You can visit the inside of the tower and learn more about the ancient clock mechanism.

Arched stone bridges and terrace houses lining the river in old town, Bern

Visit the house of Albert Einstein who lived in Bern while working in the university. Towards the end of the street, you will find Bear Park, where you can see brown bears, the symbol of Bern. The Natural history museum in Bern is also worth visiting; kids will especially love it.

Overall, Bern is a wonderful day trip from Zurich. 

Lausanne

A bit further from Bern, Lausanne is a hidden gem located on the pristine Swiss Riviera. It takes 2 hours and 20 minutes by car to drive to Lausanne from Zurich and 2 hours by train.

Primarily a student city, Lausanne is the capital of Vaud canton in Switzerland. Settled on the inclined slopes near Lake Geneva, Lausanne offers dramatic panoramas over the lake and the Alps.

Lausanne Cathedral a hidden gem on the Swiss Riviera

Lausanne is the world headquarters of the Olympics committee, so the Olympic Museum is one of its most popular tourist attractions. The medieval cathedral and its tainted windows is also a highlight of the city. The cathedral offers terrific views of the city, lake Geneva, and to the french alps. On a clear day from the tower, you can even spot Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak and most renown hiking destinations.

Another unmissable attraction is Le Flon, the heart of Lausanne. The district of former warehouses has been revitalised into a hip residential area with a multitude of restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, cinemas, bowling alley, and exhibition spaces. In winter, you can enjoy the ice rink, and in summer an artificial sandy beach.

Walking along you will see old ship and rocky banks of the Lausanne Ouchy

On the banks of Lake Geneva, Ouchy is the favourite walking path for Lausanne residents and visitors. You can take ferries from Lausanne-Ouchy to other destinations in the Swiss Riviera such as Geneva, Montreux, and even some parts of France.

Lausanne Tour Recommendations

Once you arrive in Lausanne, there is a multitude of fascinating tours and cruises you can take. Make the most of your day by pre-arranging your visit.

Choose from Riviera cruises, city walking tours, photogenic Lausanne tours, art and culture, there’s even an Instagram worthy Lausanne locations tour. See the full range of Lausanne tours here

Gruyere

Chocolates and cheese are Switzerland’s trademark products recognised all around the world. A day trip from Zurich to Gruyere offers you both.

Gruyere cheese is well known and loved all around the world which does indeed come from the small namesake village, Gruyere. The small town of Gruyere is a 2-hour drive from Zurich or 2 hours and 30 minutes by train.

In Gruyere, as one would expect, there are museums and workshops dedicated to the process of cheese and chocolate making (and tasting of course). However, there is much more to Gruyere than chocolate and cheese.

Not Gruyere cheese but the misty medieval Gruyere Castle

The biggest tourist highlight of Gruyere is the medieval castle at the top of the village. There is also the unique museum that contains the most significant and creepiest collection of artwork from the Swiss artist, HR Giger, who won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects for the movie Alien.

If chocolate is your guilty pleasure, the Cailler chocolate factory is worth a visit. The interactive museum takes you through different steps of chocolate making and ends with an all-you-can-eat chocolate tasting.

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About the Author

Nisha Dalal

Nisha has spent the last eight years is fulfilling her dream to see the world, one step at a time. She works full time as an engineer and uses all possible weekends, short breaks and holidays to explore the world near and far. She is a big advocate for having a balance in professional and personal life and believes you don’t need to leave your job to see the world. How? By efficient planning of your time and money resources. Follow her journey and mantra at And there she goes again.

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