How I love Switzerland! Everything is beautiful, picturesque and stunning whether in the cities (Zürich or Montreux) or in the Alps (Kandersteg). There’s a feeling of welcoming here as well. I am consistently impressed with how pristine things are in the villages and cities. Here’s how to visit these beautiful areas and still be budget-conscious.
Day 1: Take the 2-hour train from Zürich Airport (“Flughafen”) to Kandersteg.
Things to do in Kandersteg
The sweet Alpine village of Kandersteg doesn’t seem to have changed in hundreds of years. There’s only one main quaint road (“innere dorfstrasse” meaning “inner village street”) with flowers blooming on each dark wooded chalet. All is quiet and calm in the village – it feels as though all the townsfolk must be out picking flowers, tending to the sheep or wading in the babbling brooks. It is a location set for outdoor adventures in the summer or shoulder seasons with hiking trails, biking and climbing throughout the spectacular mountains and lakes.
Everything, including hotels, are walkable in Kandersteg. Drop off the luggage at your hotel and be on your merry way hiking up to the gondola. Just pick up a hiking map at every hotel’s front desk. The paved sidewalk with a gondola sign is right in the middle of the town and hard to miss. Either take this Oeschinensee gondola lift (~$20 each way) up to the top or hike your way up. It’s mostly paved and very steep. At the upper gondola mountain station there is Restaurant Bergstubli and several little booth options for ice cream, etc. Hike your way to the shimmering and teal Lake Oeschinen (mostly a wide paved path) about 20 minutes away. This gorgeous lake is fed by the glacial Hotels.comstreams. There are options to rent a kayak here. To continue hiking – choose a hike from your map and continue on.
Day 1 continued: I stayed in the quaint Hotel Alpina from Hotels.com which was Swiss through and through with a warm welcoming and warm atmosphere to the old-fashioned keys of the small but clean and functional room. A traditional Swiss breakfast was included.
In Kandersteg the lunch at Hotel Alpenblick was a wonderful traditional Swiss dish – rösti. To me it seemed like very delicious potato hash browns (which I always struggle to make well). I also enjoyed their local beer – Feldschlösschen.
Dinner in Kandersteg was on patio of Chalet Hotel Adler- delicious pizza and great service! There was a good variety in their menu from pizza to steak to fish to pasta.
Day 2: Hop on a train and head to Montreux. How to easily take the train everywhere in Switzerland.
Things to do in Montreux, Switzerland
Montreux is a clean, safe and small city that sits on the eastern shore of glistening Lake Geneva. Although it is in Switzerland, I found most everything from the language to the food to be French. As it happens, Lake Geneva is 1/2 Swiss and 1/2 French with the country borders being only a 25 minute drive away.
French Swiss village of Montreux. Take a walk on the beautiful flower-lined promenade along the sparkling waterfront. Note that the weather changes constantly so be prepared for light rain to cool overcast to sun! All in 30 minutes! (My trip was in September.) Visit Queen: The Studio Experience (free) located in the casino. My trip here was for the annual Freddie Mercury Celebration Days, a weekend long celebration of Freddie and Queen, which included outdoor concerts, parties, dances, etc. with fans from all over the world. Don’t forget to visit the Freddie Mercury statue on the Riverfront. (Freddie loved the serenity of Montreux and stayed there often. Queen also owned a small recording studio there which is now free to visit inside the casino.)
Eating in Montreux:
Breakfast in Montreux was perfect at Zurcher with French pastries, quiche and fancy sandwiches on crusty French bread and, of course, coffee (café Americano) with an option to sit outdoors. Lunch at Lucky Chinese with very big portions and fresh vegetables with an option sit outside on the patio with overhead coverings.
Day 3: The CGN Riviera cruise is a beautiful, leisurely trip on the peaceful Lake Geneva between the forested mountains that surround this gentle lake. The cruise leaves right from the Montreux lakeside promenade. One side of Lake Geneva is Switzerland and the other is France. There are many options – the cruise that I took had the option to disembark at either Vevey or Lausanne. Vevey is a smaller, more quaint village while Lausanne had more action and is more of a city. Check out the lakeside walk, Olympic Museum or Lausanne Cathedral. Hopping on the train to return to Montreux – I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful vineyards on terraced farms right out of the train window during this trip!
Day 4: Hop on a train and head to Zürich. How to easily take the train everywhere in Switzerland
Things to do in Zürich, Switzerland:
Discover downtown Zurich!
(Travel Tip: Take the train to the Zürich Airport [Flughafen] and take the airport shuttle to your hotel to drop off your bags. I always stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Ruemlang on Hotels.com. It’s a short walk to the Ruemlang train station – simply take the train to Zürich HB.) I
It’s a lovely and safe walk in the historic district, Altstadt, as you head toward the Limmat riverfront. If fondue at a restaurant on the cobblestone streets of Zürich is on your bucket list (as was mine) then walk 8 minutes to Swiss Chuchi restaurant for a delightful, delicious and reasonably priced fondue. This area boasts many high end boutiques (bring your large Francs), quaint shops, hotels and loads of restaurants with outdoor and indoor seating. Don’t forget to go down the cobblestone alleyways for more shops and restaurants.
How to easily travel throughout Switzerland on the train
It’s so easy to get around the entire country of Switzerland on their super efficient train system. Here’s step by step instructions:
- Upload the SBB app
- Add info as a guest or make an account (to stow credit card number)
- In Timetable, type in origination and destination
- Tap on the option to purchase ticket (no need to buy it at the kiosk)
- A conductor will come through, while on the train, to check the ticket while the train travels
- To change trains en route, consult the app for the platform to disembark and the one where the next train will depart. Note the change time – it’s often 5-10 minutes. It’s usually via a tunnel underground.
- Note that the conductors usually stand outside the train doors, so signal them if you’re running to catch that train at departure time, if needed.
I don’t get the Swiss pass as I’m usually on a quick trip – 4 days or so. (Note that the train station at the Zürich Airport – “Zürich Flughafen” – is right across the street from the terminal and is easily walkable with great signage and also has an indoor mall with food options before you head down to the tracks.)