Passing by the French country side, admiring the snow-covered farms en route to Zürich is a dream come true. The cityscape of Paris turned to a gorgeous farm landscape as we whizzed past on our train. While planning my trip to nearby Paris, I knew I had to include Zurich on the trip. Despite being a beauty in itself, there are a number of places in the nearby Swiss Alps which can be covered as day trips from Zurich. Here I will share my favourite experiences and the best day trips which you can enjoy on your trip to Switzerland, for the train trip of a lifetime.
Memorable Day Trips from Zurich
A day in beautiful Basel
Within an hour ride away from Zurich, Basel is one of the top cities to visit while exploring majestic Switzerland. Located on the French-Swiss border, the city is often overlooked by tourists. Of course, Zurich has the perfect Swiss city charm, but the history of this small town will dazzle the historian in you.
The biggest perk of being a small town is that you can visit almost all the must-see places in Basel in just one day. Spending more than a day here will leave you with a medieval image of Switzerland.
I recommend starting your Basel city tour by Marktplatz, the town square which hosts open-air farmer’s markets on the weekends. While exploring this colourful town square, don’t forget to spot the iconic Town Hall aka Rathaus. Make your way towards the Elizabeth Church dating back to the 18th century. A fine example of New-Gothic architecture, the church is a sheer bliss for architecture lovers.
Like cruises? Head to the Rhine for spending a perfect afternoon on the cruise here. If you’re interested in Art, Basel is the city for you. The town is famous for the same and has more than 30 museums. You can choose to cover at least one or two museums on the Basel city tour.
Basel is one of the must-see off-beaten destinations for day trips from Zurich.
Lucerne offers those gorgeous, dreamy landscapes we see on our Instagram feeds, igniting our wanderlust. This sumptuous city is within 40 minutes from Zürich and is often seen by tourists while on way to Mount Titlis. Some even ignore the captivating town itself & catch a glimpse of the famous lake from the train. I don’t recommend skipping it though as it truly deserves more than a few hours and I strongly urge taking a day out for this charming Swiss city.
The Chapel Bridge is the most famous tourist attraction from Lucerne, and indeed the most Instagrammed as well. The wooden bridge with a history from the 14th century and being demolished partly by fire and rebuilt again, it’s a major tourist attraction. Another plus of point of the bridge is the gorgeous view of the Alps just behind it.
I think, no visit to a European city is complete without a visit to its old town square, and such is the case with Lucerne. The exuberance of the town square will leave you with amazing memories. Sip a coffee at one of the Swiss cafes overlooking the Chapel Bridge. I am sure, this is going to be one of your best memories of Switzerland.
Finally, I am keeping the best for the last – Lake Lucerne – one of the top places to visit in Switzerland. The spectacular lake with turquoise blue waters will revive your belief in old-world charm. Don’t miss, I repeat, don’t miss out on spending the afternoon here, strolling on the lake bed. If you like cruises, I would say get a ticket and head out for a ride on the Lake Lucerne. You can call it a day by savouring dinner at one of the famous restaurants – Taube – known for local Swiss dishes!
Spectacular Mount Titlis
Let’s move on to the most awaited part of your Swiss trip – The Alps. It is just not possible that you visit Switzerland and not take at least a day for viewing the most beautiful country from the top. Mount Titlis is one of my favourite Swiss Alps and I know you’ll love ot too.
The Swiss rail network for Mount Titlis takes you through the jaw-dropping landscapes on the lead up to the Alps. It’s beauty beyond words! The towns turned into terrains soon enough slowly merging with the snow-covered mountains. The train ticket charge, which can seem outrageous, doesn’t seem hefty anymore!
From Zürich, I reached Engelberg via an interchange at Lucerne in approximately 2 hours. If you’re based in Lucerne, Engelberg is only 45-minutes away. Another bus took me from Engelberg to the Gondola base station.
The best part is yet to come. The Gondola ride from the base station takes you to the top. This 360 degree rotating Gondola yields mesmerizing views of the Alps. Pick a corner spot in the Gondola to admire the snowy panorama. It fills up pretty fast in the peak season and when I went in March, the rides were full of skiers. If you love snow activities, I’d say, pack your ski gear!
Titlis Cliff Walk – Europe’s highest suspension bridge at 10,000 feet is a showstopper of Mount Titlis. Initially reluctant to go out in those freezing temperatures at the top, I gained courage from my fellow tourists. The Cliff Walk gave me a lifelong memory.
Heard of Bollywood? Indian superstar Shahrukh Khan’s iconic movie – Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge – was also shot here. If you’re lucky, you can get a picture with the poster just like the one below. Sadly, it wasn’t there when I went.
Tip – Buy the tickets for the train & Gondola from the Zurich Main Station to avoid the last-minute hassle. Also, it the tickets are a bit cheaper if booked in advance.
Another 45 minute ride away from Zürich is the Mount Pilatus. Rumoured to be the land of Pontius Pilate’s body, Mt. Pilatus presents delightful views from atop. The landscape of Lucerne lake can be seen from the top making it a perfect trip to invest in.
There are two different ways to reach to the top of the Mount Pilatus. Either take a cable car or the cogwheel railway. The latter doesn’t operate in the winters so if you’re going to see snow, the cable car is your best bet. Look out for the tunnels which lead to the window for a panoramic view of the various alpine peaks visible from here. On the top, there are restaurants & hotels too if you feel like enjoying a meal with a view.
The suspension rope park in Fräkmüntegg is another attraction from Mount Pilatus. This is a thrilling activity and may not be suitable for the light-hearted. The adventure-seeking guys, this is for you! There are other adrenaline rush activities too, so a day at Mount Pilatus will be a day well-spent for you!
When a trip to Switzerland comes to our mind, a tour to the Top of Europe is on everyone’s bucket list. Exploring Jungfraujoch from Zürich in a day trip is one of the best things to do when in Switzerland.
Located at 3400 meters, Jungfraujoch has sumptuous views from the top and also boasts of great history. The famous cogwheel train taking tourists from Interlaken to the top dates back to the 18th century. Europe’s highest train goes through the beautiful Swiss villages and tunnels with multiple stoppages for tourists to admire the views. The USP is that tourists can get down & board the train again without getting a new ticket, which completely justifies the hefty ticket price.
The panoramic views of the mountains when the train reaches above 2000 meters are just mind-blowing. The snow-capped mountains at a stone’s throw away distance and the beauty of the Swiss homes are postcard perfect. I’d suggest stepping down at Eigergletscher station for a quick photo-shoot. After that, the journey will take the route through a tunnel but with the stops for getting down. The journey itself is as mesmerizing as the top of Europe.
Apart from the memorable journey, there are various things to do in Jungfraujoch itself. The Sphinx Observatory which can be reached via an elevator is a must-do for some more panoramic view of the snow mountains. The Europe largest Ice field aka Aletsch Glacier is also visible through this observatory.
The Ice Palace with various ice sculptures to admire is another thing you must do in Jungfraujoch. The snow activities like skiing and snowboarding are also available, although only in summers, and at a cost not included in the ticket. Lastly, the famous Swiss chocolates in the Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven, where you can know the history of Swiss chocolates. Don’t forget to buy some for you too as well. There’s nothing like the delicious chocolates from Lindt.
Basing in Zurich has a lot of advantages including all these day trips you can cover for an enthralling Switzerland trip. So, when planning your iconic Swiss trip, try to squeeze some or all of these destinations.
A full-time techie and part-time traveller/ blogger at The Wandering Core. An avid book lover, a chai fan and coffee addict, Shivani likes to explore her hometown – Delhi, India – when not working & travelling. Traveling solo through Europe ignited her passion for writing and hence she shares her travelogues & best tips through her blog.