17 August 2022

Switzerland Travel Guide 2022

Never forget:

 

·      EHIC/GHIC: make sure you get one for free, never pay a scammer

·      Travel Insurance: vital, you’ll thank me one day, don’t forget to declare pre-existing conditions

·      Roaming Bundles: get the cheapest data bundle from your provider – even though Switzerland isn’t in the EU, your phone provider includes it in European deals

·      Covid Apps: update your Travel Covid Pass on the UK “NHS” app, the French “Tous Anti-Covid” app, and the Swiss “Covid Cert” app

·      Credit cards: as Switzerland isn’t in the EU, you need a Worldwide commission-free credit card, eg Nationwide Credit Card

 

Arriving:

 

There are direct trains from Paris Gare de Lyon to Basel, Geneva and Zürich

Set up an account with SNCF and download the SNCF Connect app

TGV Lyria trains have free wifi, free (and compulsory) reservations, and 1st class ticket holders have access to the Grand Voyageurs lounge at Paris Gare de Lyon

See https://www.seat61.com/ for details of Eurostar, how to get across Paris, and TGV Lyria guides

 

Alternatively you can fly Easyjet to Basel or Geneva, BA to Basel, Geneva and Zürich, and several other airlines

 

Getting around:

 

The Swiss Travel Pass is available for 3, 4, 6, 8 or 15 consecutive days, or as a flexible “chosen days within a month”

It is most reliably bought from the Switzerland Travel Centre in the UK, website https://switzerlandtravelcentre.com/en/gbr/ticket/swiss-travel-pass

Again use https://www.seat61.com/ for more advice

 

You can use it on all trains, buses, trams, commuter boats (not cruises) for totally free travel, and usually half-price travel on cog railways, cable cars and other excursions

You don’t need reservations, and you can check on the SBB app how busy a train is before you travel on it. You can book reservations on the app for 5 CHF if you want the assurance of a seat

It gets you free access to all state museums, and is easily added as a pass to your Apple or Android Wallet which you can just flash at all ticket inspectors and reception desks

Whenever you see (MP) in this guide, it means free entry with your Swiss Travel Pass

 

 

 

GENEVA

 

where to sleep:

 

Novotel Geneva Centre, Rue de Zurich 19

https://all.accor.com/hotel/3133/index.en.shtml

5 minutes from the train station, 5 minutes from the lake, so everywhere is just a walk or bus ride away

Air conditioned rooms (rare in Geneva), an excellent breakfast, top floor rooms have balconies

 

For somewhere cheaper, the Ibis has hotels at Centre Gare, Centre Lac and Centre Nations, but anywhere central is going to be pricey

 

where to eat:

 

American Dream Diner, 13 Rue de Neuchatel, one block from Novotel

https://www.americandreamdiner.com/

As well as American diner favourites (and they have a US sweet shop upstairs) they also serve Canadian poutine

 

Chez Ma Cousine, Place du Bourg de Four 6, next to the Cathedral

http://www.chezmacousine.ch/site/en/

One of four locations for this chicken restaurant chain – forget KFC, this is amazing food, with soups, rotisserie, salads and desserts

 

Auberge de Saviese, 20 rue des Pâquis, two blocks from Novotel

https://www.aubergedesaviese.com/

A Swiss restaurant that is light on the tourist nonsense, and just serves up a wide variety of Swiss fare and plenty of drinks, popular with locals as well as visitors

 

McDonalds – a secret one that is very handy but not busy:

https://www.mcdonalds.com/ch/fr-ch/location/gen-ve/gen-ve-malbuisson/rue-du-march-9-11/780078.html

just off Rue du Marché by Ochsner Sport is the Passage Malbuisson, and the restaurant is down on the right, with lots of upstairs seating

 

where to visit:

 

MAH (Musée d'art et d'histoire), Rue Charles-Galland 2 (MP)

http://institutions.ville-geneve.ch/fr/mah/

11am – 6pm, Thu to 9pm, closed Mon

nice courtyard café La Barocco

 

MAMCO modern art, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 10 (MP)

https://www.mamco.ch/

check summer opening times

 

Museum Rath, Place de Neuve (MP)

http://institutions.ville-geneve.ch/fr/mah/preparer-sa-visite/lieux/musee-rath/

special opening times

 

Cathedrale St Pierre, Old Town

https://www.cathedrale-geneve.ch/

You can climb 157 steps up North tower

The archeological site is very interesting (MP)

 

Maison Tavel, Old Town (MP)

http://institutions.ville-geneve.ch/fr/mah/preparer-sa-visite/lieux/maison-tavel/

oldest building in Geneva, recreated with rooms from through its history

 

United Nations Building, Avenue de la Paix 14

https://www.ungeneva.org/en/practical-information/visitors

Take tram 15/13 from Cornavin train station to Place des Nations, aim for before 9.45am, don’t forget your passport

** at the moment, tours are not available **

 

trips:

 

Boat trips are all run by CGN https://www.cgn.ch/en/

The one hour cruise ~20CHF and leaves from both Quai du Mont-Blanc and Quai du Jardin Anglais

Although no commentary, you can download the CGN app and it shows you where you are and the interesting buildings at the shore

There is a two hour paddle steamboat tour ~30CHF Jardin Anglais at 15:35 returning at 17:35

 

where to shop:

 

The largest department store is Manor, Rue de Cornavin 6, with its rooftop restaurant Manora, always excellent value with local dishes

You will also find fashion and design at Globus, Rue du Rhône 48, with all the top brands on the Rue de Rive nearby

 

Brachard, 10 rue de la Corraterie

https://brachard.com/

a stationery shop on four floors, ideal for gifts or just a new notebook

 

 

 

BERN

 

where to sleep:

 

Swissôtel Kursaal, Kornhausstrasse 3

https://www.swissotel.com/hotels/bern/

This is a gorgeous hotel, just across the bridge to the north of the city, and tram 9 goes past every 5 minutes so you can walk or not as you choose

It’s also a casino and conference centre, so is really well-maintained and has good views across to the city

The décor in each room is colourful and well-designed, and we found it a very comfortable stay

 

Also recommended:

 

Hotel Bären am Bundesplatz

https://www.baerenbern.ch/en/

a short walk from the station, with a friendly homely atmosphere

 

Holiday Inn Bern Westside

https://www.ihg.com/holidayinn/hotels/gb/en/bern/apysz/hoteldetail

even though this is out of town, we had a nice week here back in 2010, it’s only 10 minutes on the train into Bern, and you get free access to the waterpark, lots of places to eat in the Liebeskind-designed shopping centre next door

 

where to eat:

 

Tibits, Bahnhofplatz 10

https://www.tibits.ch/de/blog/detail/das-tibits-bern-bahnhof

now the UK restaurants have closed down, this is your chance to enjoy the best vegetarian buffet in Switzerland, pay by weight of plate

 

Café Einstein, Münsterplattform 5 in the park

https://einstein-jardin.ch/

the Münsterplatform is a park next to the Cathedral, overlooking the southern walls of the city and across to Gurten, and the café has a summerhouse with lunch snacks and drinks

 

Gelateria di Berna, 4 locations

https://gelateriadiberna.ch/

amazing flavours, the best location is down the Marzili funicular on the way to the Marzili swimming pool and river

 

Goldener Schlüssel, Rathausgasse 72

https://www.goldener-schluessel-bern.ch/english/food/

this old-school restaurant has a good range of Swiss cuisine

 

Starbucks, Waaghausgasse 18 on Weisenhausplatz

https://www.starbucks.ch/en

may be obvious, but for a morning stroll, it has a nice location by the market

 

where to visit:

 

behind the Bundesplatz is a great viewpoint, with statues and water displays

at the east end of town is the bear park which you can view from the riverside and from the top, also nearby is the Rose Garden

in the old town is the Munster (cathedral) and the Matte-Lift down to the riverside (MP)

the Zeitglockenturm or Zytglogge clock tower has a tour in English: 2.30pm but books out weeks in advance http://www.zeitglockenturm.ch/

the Kunstmuseum (MP) has both modern art and old masters

the Historisches Museum (MP) includes the Einstein Museum, and you can also visit Einstein’s house in the city (Kramgasse 49)

the Botanic Garden is north of the city and covers the whole of the northern hill from the Aare up to Lorrainebrucke

funicular railway to Mount Gurten, from Gurtenbahn (tram 9) or train S3, with sports and cafes

 

trips:

 

no boat trips, but see below for Interlaken and the Berner Oberland

 

where to shop:

 

there are 6 miles of arcades in Old Town from station via Bundesplatz to BearPark

these include department stores like Manor (as usual with its rooftop restaurant Manora), Globus and Loeb

a good gift shop is Heimatwek Bern, at Kramgasse 61

 

Glatz baked bear shop in the Zeughaus, Waisenhausplatz

https://www.mandelbaerli.ch/de/home

6 flavours and 3 sizes of baked bears, ideal for munching on a stroll or taking home for gifts

 

Top 5 chocolate shops: Läderach, Sprüngli, Eichenberger, Tschirren, Läckerli Huus

 

 

 

ZÜRICH

 

where to sleep:

 

Hotel 25, Langstrasse 150

https://www.25hours-hotels.com/en/hotels/zurich/langstrasse

This is a little bit different to our usual hotel, and won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you want somewhere more traditional or a business hotel, you can easily find one

10 minutes walk from the railway station, and 5 minutes from the design district north of the tracks

It has a busy bar, a great restaurant, a shop, a lobby full of nick-nacks, and every room is super trendy. You can hire a bike, a Mini, borrow a Freitag bag, and pop to the rooftop sauna with views of the railway lines. We loved it, do check out the pictures of the rooms

 

where to eat:

 

China Garden, Blatterwiese Park, Bellerivestrasse

https://www.zuerich.com/en/visit/restaurants/chinagarten-take-away

Set in the wall of an ornamental Chinese Garden, this little kiosk sells dumplings, spring rolls, and main dishes. In the summer you can sit outside, and there is a courtyard inside the garden with its own serving hatch

 

Alpenrose, Fabrikstrasse 12

https://www.restaurantalpenrose.ch/

In the design district, and ranked in the top 2% of Zürich restaurants, yet is really affordable. This friendly but well-dressed venue serves a great variety of Swiss food. Each dish comes with mash, spätzli, or baked potato. We’d recommend the herring or the meatloaf.

 

Restaurant Viadukt, Viaduktstrasse 69/71

https://www.restaurant-viadukt.ch/home/

As great for breafast as it is for dinner, this place is popular with locals, set under the railway viaduct in the design district. The staff are all being trained for the world of work, and service is impeccable

 

Also highly recommended (but we didn’t have time to try them all!):

·      Bakery John Baker in 4 locations

·      Conditorei Schober for Gugelhupf cake or Schoggi Melange

·      Confiserie Sprungli for filled brioche and macaroons

·      Restaurant Markthalle in the Viadukt

·      Restaurant Kronenhalle fine dining with rosti and spatzli

·      Restaurant Burgli with steak frites

·      Restaurant Kiosk by Riesbach harbour

·      Restaurant Obere Fluhgasse for bacon and rosti salad, or chestnut vermicelles dessert

·      Restaurant Sternen Grill for bratwurst

Rooftop terraces: https://www.zuerich.com/en/visit/roof-terraces

 

where to visit:

 

Pavilion Le Corbusier, Blatterwiese Park, Höschgasse 8 (MP)

next to Chinese Garden and China Garden takeaway

https://pavillon-le-corbusier.ch/en/

Designed as an art gallery for Heidi Weber, it’s probably the most accessible and visually striking of Le Corbusier’s designs

 

National Museum/Landesmuseum, Museumstrasse 2 (MP)

https://www.landesmuseum.ch/en

great exhibitions, shop, restaurant

 

Museum für Gestaltung, Ausstellungsstrasse 60 (MP)

https://museum-gestaltung.ch/en/

known as the Swiss Bauhaus, this renovated Neues Bauen building from the 1930s is as interesting as the exhibitions it holds. Sit on a Le Corbusier stool or hug some USM Haller cabinets

 

4 churches: Wasserkirche, Fraumunster (5 CHF) with Chagall windows, Grossmunster with Polke windows, St Peter’s with Europe’s largest clockface

https://www.zuerich.com/en/visit/attractions/fraumuenster

 

trips:

 

boat trip:

round trips are available from ZSG

https://www.zsg.ch/en/timetable-prices/timetable-assistant/round-trips-scheduled-cruises

alternatively you can use your Swiss Travel Pass on the scheduled boats

 

where to shop:

 

Monocle, Dufourstrasse 90

https://monocle.com/about/contacts/monocle-shop-and-cafe-zuerich/

you might not be a hipster, but you can still enjoy fine coffee, great publications, and some rather expensive fashion and homeware, in this outpost of the Monocle publishing empire

 

Freitag flagship store, Geroldstrasse 17

https://www.freitag.ch/en/store/freitag-flagship-store-zuerich

made of containers, this store has every size and design of hip Swiss brand Freitag’s bags

from wallets up to giant rucksacks, all made from reclaimed materials, this is the place to get your Swiss bag

round the corner is a giant Salvation Army (Hells Armee) charity shop, and a trendy restaurant Frau Gerolds Garten

 

 

BONUS DAY TRIPS

 

Lugano

1) get the train from Zürich, 2 hours through the longest rail tunnel in the world, get seat reservations on SBB, we recommend the 0733-0930 departure and return on 1730-1930

2) there is a funicular from the station down to the city centre, walk through to tourist information on Piazza della Riforma

3) the first boat trip leaves at 1045 from the eastern (left hand) red SNL booth on the waterfront, you don’t need to book, just show your Swiss Travel Pass, trip lasts an hour, but…

4) get off as the boat returns to the Paradiso stop (by the fake Jet), so you can go to art gallery LAC nearby

5) LAC has great art (MP) and a bistro Luini 6 with pizza on the piazza

6) the centre of Lugano has a fancy shopping street Via Nassa, churches with frescos, a cathedral, a statue of William Tell, and a park

7) get some gelato or a filled cannolo at Il Cannolo, there are 3 shops in town

8) other museums include MUSEC Museum of South Seas Cultures (MP), Museo in Erba for children (MP) – children’s museum, MASI Museum of Swiss-Italian Art in Palazzo Reali (MP), and the Cantonal Museum of Natural History (MP)

9) if you have more time, there are two mountain funiculars, one to Monte Bre and Schmid Museum (MP) from Cassarate at east end of north shore, and the other from Paradiso to Monte San Salvatore

 

Basel

Basel is a tri-point, which means it’s where the borders of 3 countries meet – Switzerland, France and Germany. Fortunately you won’t need to show your passport at any of them!

1) get breakfast at La Manufacture, a short walk from Basel station

2) the city has all the usual: a cathedral, an art museum, a city wall, a town hall

3) the real reason we visit is a pilgrimage to the Vitra Design Museum, home of some of the finest furniture in the world. It’s open from 10-6 daily, and a ~19 CHF ticket gets you into the collection and several exhibitions. You can also pay more to go on a 2 hour tour. There are 3 cafés.

4) Because it’s in Weil am Rhein in Germany, you need a “cross-border” ticket. Tram 8 from Claraplatz to Weil am Rhein station is currently 4.40 CHF, from there it’s a 15 minute walk. Or you can take bus 55 from Badischer Bahnhof station direct to bus stop Vitra.

5) Getting back is cheaper because it’s only €3.80, just select “Basel” on the ticket machine

 

Luzern

1) it’s easiest to get to Luzern from either Zürich or Bern, and takes about an hour

2) the city itself has lots of historical buildings including a fine wooden bridge and a tower with 10 historical clocks

3) it’s worth booking a Pilatus excursion to the nearby mountainn which takes you on a steamship, a cog railway, a cable car, and back by bus

• boat trip on Lake Lucerne

• in Alpnachstad you will board the steepest cogwheel railway in the world

• at 2,132 meters above sea level you will be received with the inimitable Pilatus warmth

• glide down to Kriens on the aerial cableway «Dragon Ride» and on the Panorama gondolas

• from the valley station it is a five-minute walk to the stop for Bus no. 1 to Lucerne

this costs around 100 CHF

boat: 09:38 – 10:46 or 10:38 – 12:10

cogwheel: 10:55 – 11:25 or 12:20 – 12:50

the gondola and cable car run all day

 

Lausanne

1) it’s easiest to get to Lausanne from either Geneva or Bern, and takes about an hour

2) it’s the home of the Olympic Museum, on quai d'Ouchy, with medals, torches, mascots and much more

3) other highlights in town are

·      Musee de l’Elysee: photography museum, 18 Avenue de l’Elysee

·      Town Hall, Place de la Palud

·      climb Escaliers du Marché to the Old Town

·      Cathedral

·      Sainte-Marie Castle

·      Platforme 10, Place de la Gare 17: Photo Elysee, MUDAC, Musee Cantonal des Beaux-Arts (all MP)

·      Musee Historique de Lausanne (MP)

·      Musee Romain de Lausanne-Vidy, west on the lakeside (MP)

·      Place de la Palud

·      Escaliers du Marche

·      Rue de Bourg

·      Espace Arlaud (MP)

·      Parc Hermitage and Fondation (MP), north of the city

·      Collection de l’Art Brut (Folk Art) (MP), northwest of the city

4) it’s worth doing an excursion by train to nearby Montreux (pricey even by Swiss standards) and the classic Chateau du Chillon (take a local train to “Veytaux-Chillon”)

 

Gruyeres Region

the quickest way to get there is the IC1 from Bern to Fribourg, then a regional train to Bulle, then another to Gruyere station, total time 80 minutes

right by the station, there is a dairy called La Maison du Gruyere open 0900-1830, with live cheesemaking in the morning

https://www.lamaisondugruyere.ch/homepage-en/

then take bus 263 from outside the station, running twice an hour, to the village of Gruyere, or it’s a nice 20 minute walk

this pedestrianised village has city walls, a castle (MP), a church, lots of cafes and shops

nearby is the Cailleur chocolate factory in Broc (again walk or take bus 256 from Bulle)

if you stay on the 263 bus after the station, it goes all the way up a valley to a beautiful mountain resort called Moléson, which has a funicular and cable car, another dairy, and summer and winter sports

don’t miss the bus back down to Gruyere though!

 

Emmental Region

1) our top tip in Emmental is the dairy at Affoltern im Emmental, where you can see cheese being made, and have a meal

2) from Bern take the S4 train to Hasle-Rüegsau (47m) and then bus 471 (20m) to “Affoltern im Emmental, Dorf” bus stop (Dorf means village)

Schaukäsereistrasse 6, Affoltern im Emmental 0900-1700

https://emmentaler-schaukaeserei.ch/en/

3) as well as the dairy, there is a playpark, a bakery making the freshest doughnuts you have ever seen, and the village has a nice church and amazing views

4) the bus back to Hasle-Rüegsau leaves at 37 minutes past the hour from the bus stop on the far side of the road

5) since you are in the area, you should also visit the Kambly biscuit factory, on the main line between Bern and Luzern. Get off at Trubschachen (changing at Langnau) and the factory is right by the station

https://kambly.com/en/kambly-experience/

Mühlestrasse 8, Trubschachen 0900-1700

6) you can try every sort of biscuit (don’t eat too much before you come!) and buy as many 500g bags of biscuits (or smaller gift packs) as your suitcase will hold

7) note the train back to Bern leaves from a track with no platform beside it, stay at the entrance to the east-bound platform and cross the track once the train has stopped

 

Interlaken

there are trains from Bern to Interlaken every 30 minutes, journey time 1 hour

Interlaken has 2 stations, East (Ost) and West, about 10 minutes walk apart, each has different connections

The town is very historical, and has parks, a nice shopping street, and walks into the countryside

Unterseen is only a few minutes walk from Interlaken West but has a village feel. It has a nice church, a Museum of Swiss Tourism (apparently Goethe put Switzerland on the tourist map) and a

delightful Italian restaurant Citta Vecchia at Untere Gasse 5

 

There are 5 good trips out of Interlaken:

1) Harder Kulm - Top of Interlaken

The Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant towers high above Interlaken. The observation deck offers visitors a unique view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains as well as the lakes of Thun and Brienz.

Interlaken Harderbahn to Harder Kulm – every 30 minutes, journey time 10 minutes, €20 with Swiss Travel Pass

2) Schynige Platte from Wilderswil

A mountain full of tradition and diversity for over 125 years: picturesque views, attractive hiking trails, daily alphorn concerts, a mountain hotel from the Belle Epoque and the unique botanical Alpine garden.

train Interlaken Ost to Wilderswil, or bus 105 from stand F at Interlaken West – both run every 30 minutes

Wilderswil to Schynige Platte – every 40 minutes, journey time 1 hour, €32 with Swiss Travel Pass, buy tickets at Wilderswil station

3) Jungfraujoch from Grindelwald

Take the new Eiger Express tricable gondola from Grindelwald Terminal to the Eiger Glacier and from there continue to Europe's highest railway station on the Jungfrau Railway.

Interlaken Ost to Grindelwald Terminal – every 30 minutes, journey time 30 minutes

Grindelwald Terminal to Jungfraujoch – every 30 minutes, journey time 1 hour, €170 with Swiss Travel Pass

4) Reichenbach Falls from Meiringen

Take the train from Interlaken to Brienz, then on to Meiringen Alpbach

Walk to Willigen which has a funicular to the Reichenbach Falls, where Moriarty met his doom

Meiringen village has a museum and church dedicated to Sherlock Holmes

Alternatively bus 164 hourly from Meiringen to Zwirgi which is just above the falls

Near Meiringen is the the Aareschlucht Gorge, also worth a visit

5) Schilthorn from Lauterbrunnen

Take the train from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen, from where a postbus takes you to the valley station of the Schilthorn aerial cableway in Stechelberg. The aerial cableway to Schilthorn via Mürren departs every 30 minutes.

Piz Gloria restaurant at the top of Schilthorn was the location for a Bond film, and boy, they won’t let you forget it. We thoroughly recommend it, as it was one of our honeymoon trips and we met the Filipino equivalent of Cliff Richard in the restaurant.

 

Bonus trip: Ovomaltine Outlet, Neuenegg

https://www.wander.ch/en/wander-ag-switzerland/shopping

S2 train from Bern, --20 or --50, 27 minutes

walk to Wander Outlet at Fabrikstrasse 10

walk from the platform to the level crossing, turn left, then left again at the Co-op, you will see the factory on your left and a Swiss house straight ahead, the outlet shop is on your right in the modern building

open Mon-Fri 1000-1230 and 1315-1700

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