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 famous landscapes and experiences.
Best Day Trips From Zurich
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. Like the Scandinavian fjords, the lake reflects the breathtaking 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.
Another famous monument is the Lion Memorial, commemorating the Swiss guards who lost their lives during the French Revolution. A glacier museum is 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. Two days in Lucerne are highly recommended if you can spare more than a day.
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 its 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.
Stein am Rhein
One of Switzerland’s prettiest and best-preserved medieval towns, Stein am Rhein is only around an hour by train from Zurich.
Situated in northeast Switzerland on the Rhine along the German border, this quaint riverside town is about as pretty as it gets.
The beautifully maintained half-timbered medieval buildings around Rathausplatz in the old town add glorious splashes of colour to the city with framed bay windows, flower boxes and colourful frescos. It’s not difficult to transport your mind back to medieval times in Stein am Rhein.
Learn about the towns long history dating back to the 3rd century in Roman times at the Hohenklingen Castle. Built in 1225, Hohenklingen Castle sits on a hilltop with sweeping views down the river and over the small city.
Head to the riverbank, where you can visit the well preserved Medieval Benedictine Monastery of St. Georgen.
Explore local artisan shops, museums and galleries in a Rathausplatz and soak up the medieval charm of Stein am Rhein.
Stein am Rhein is less than an hour from Zurich by car and a little over an hour by train. If you want to do a day tour from Zurich to Stein am Rhein, we recommend the combined Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls tour outlined below.
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.
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.
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 a 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.
The ‘official’ Swiss capital, Bern, is a small city built around the 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.
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.
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 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 the french alps. On a clear day from the tower, you can even spot Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak and most renowned hiking destination.
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.
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.
Often overlooked in favour of Switzerland’s other cities, the city of Basel is a great day trip from Zurich. In less than an hour by train, it is possible to visit three countries in one visit from Basel.
Situated on the Rhine River in the northwestern part of Switzerland, Basel is close to the borders of France and Germany – the municipality has suburbs in Germany and France. You can take the number 8 tram to the German city of Weil am Rhein or combine a city tour of Basel with a boat cruise to the neighbouring French town of Colmar.
Basel has much to see and enjoy, from the Medieval Old Town and ancient city walls to the riverfront area. The city is also renowned as a cultural city with many museums, galleries and cultural events.
There are regular trains from Zurich to Basel, or if you want to make a multi-country tour of Basel, you may want to consider a private day tour.
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.
The biggest tourist highlight of Gruyere is the medieval castle at the top of the village. There is also a 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.
Over 3,000 feet above sea level, Mount Titlis offers some of Switzerland’s most spectacular alpine views and glacier activities.
Ninety minutes by car or a little under two hours by train via Lucerne, Mount Titlis is an exhilarating day trip from Zurich.
The ascent to the summit sets the scene with a ride in the TITLIS Rotair cable car that rotates a full 360° as you climb, revealing the magnificent landscape in every direction.
At the top, there are loads of activities in any season – skiing and snowboarding in winter and hiking and biking in summer. But there are also some very noteworthy attractions, including Europe’s highest suspension bridge. The Titlis Cliff Walk is a 100m suspension bridge connecting the two summits.
Fly over the glacier for a thrilling and very different perspective on the Ice Flyer Chairlift, or take a stroll through the Glacier Cave – a 150m ice cave bathed in serene blue glacial light. The natural cave 10m below the glacier surface is estimated to be over 5,000 years old. It also features some very cool art installations created in the ice.
You can take the train to Lucerne and connect with the Engelberg line to catch the No 1 bus, a free shuttle to Titlis Valley Station.
Mount Titlis Day Trip from Zurich Tour Recommendation
If you don’t want to self-guide, you can take an all-inclusive round trip tour from Zurich to Mount Titlis. The full-day tour is approximately 9 hours and includes a city tour of Lucerne.
The tour includes:
- Transfers from Zurich with a professional guide.
- City tour of Lucerne with free time.
- Aerial cableway to Mt Titlis’ summit with Rotair Gondola
- Snow tubing at Glacier Park (May to October, in winter at Trübsee. Subject to snow conditions)
- Ice Flyer chair lift (weather permitting)
- Titlis Cliff Walk & Glacier Cave (weather permitting)
See here for full tour details and cost.
Discover More of Switzerland
2 Days in Switzerland Itinerary: Only got 2 days in Switzerland, this itinerary gives you the best of Zurich and Lucerne.
Viking Cruises Paris to Swiss Alps Christmas Market River Cruise: Why not add a Rhine cruise tour to your Swiss itinerary.