Anyone who knows me will vouch that I absolutely adore Switzerland. And other than the fact that it’s a tad expensive, why wouldn’t you?
But it’s not just the highly liveable cities, breathtaking scenery and fantastic food, it’s also a favourite for the sheer fact that’s it’s a perfect country to explore if you’re on a time budget. Here’s why:
1. It’s really easy to get to for a short break
You can fly to Geneva, Zurich and Basel from all over Europe in less than two hours. Bern airport is smaller so there are fewer flights and they tend to be more expensive. When we visited Bern, we flew to Geneva and caught the train (around 1 hour 45 minutes); trains to Zurich and Basel are a bit quicker. You can also get into Switzerland overland from various countries in mainland Europe.
This means that if you catch a morning flight, you can start exploring by early afternoon at the latest.
2. Once you’re there, getting around is quick and efficient
What always amazes me is just how quickly you can get into the cities from the airport. I’ve been to many places where you land, queue in immigration, before having to spend at least 1-2 hours getting into the city.
In Switzerland, it’s all very different. The immigration process is efficient and once you’re on a train, you’re usually in the city centre in less than 10 minutes. You barely have time to find your seat on the train before you arrive.
And if you decide that you want to get out of the cities, train travel tends to be smooth and hassle-free, without delays. Another way that Switzerland allows you to maximise the time you have.
3. You can see a variety of things in a short time (and they’re all pretty amazing!)
Whether you’re into city breaks, hiking in the mountains, riding on scenic railways or visiting spas, Switzerland has it all. There is more than enough to do in the cities in a weekend.
All four of main cities – Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern – have a picturesque old town to explore; in Bern there is the clock tower (Zytglogge) and the small museum where its famous son Albert Einstein once lived (see my post for more on this).
There is also the lovely Rosengarten (Rose Garden) set on the hill and a chance to see the bears which gave the place its name. Basel is small, but again, there are many museums to visit, and the colourful Rathaus.
In Geneva, amongst other things, you can visit the Palais des Nations, the site of the UN, and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. You can also take a leisurely walk around the lake where you can see the Jet d’Eau, a 460 foot high plume of water that spurts up into the air.
In Zurich, (my personal favourite), a walk along the Limmat river is lovely; at the far end you reach the lake where you can catch a boat to the Zurichhorn Park in which you’ll find a small, but wonderfully tranquil Chinese garden.
Near to the central train station you’ll find the Swiss National Museum and in the Enge station area is the Fifa World Football Museum. Here, you’ll also find the Thermalbad and Spa, a lovely spa which is housed in an old brewery, (you literally swim in some of the old wooden vats), and which has an amazing roof top pool from which you can see across the city.
Escaping from the cities, there are plentiful sights, and many of these are within reach, even if you are only staying for a few nights.
You can visit Europe’s largest waterfall, the Rheinfall, a short trip from Schaffhausen which is under an hour from Zurich; you can visit the stunning mountainous Jungfrau region, perhaps also taking a trip up the Jungfraujoch, a glacier in the Bernese Alps and which reaches over 11,000 feet – this is just over an hour’s drive from Bern and 2-3 hours from Geneva and Zurich (trains take longer as you have to make changes along the way).
There is the Bernese Oberland region, a stunning area with lakes, mountains and valleys and the town of Interlaken (2-3 hours by train from Geneva and Zurich and a bit less to drive).
There are lakes galore, and small picturesque towns and villages (e.g. Montreux with its lakeside castle, Lausanne with its Olympic Museum (see my earlier post), Lucerne with its much photographed 14th century wooden Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), and Gruyere where you can try out the cheese).
4. It caters for everyone
There’s something for everyone in Switzerland: city lovers who will be spoilt for choice (if you’re deciding on your first trip, you may have a tough time deciding which one to opt for), hikers who have a range of breathtaking scenic areas to choose from, the sporty amongst us who can ski in the mountains, sail on the lakes or cycle through the countryside, and those who like a bit of relaxation on a spa break.
Railway buffs will also love Switzerland. The jaw dropping views all over Switzerland makes a train trip through it a real treat; however, there’s also some specific train trips you’ll want to take – for example, the Bernina Express (I have done this trip – see my post – and can guarantee amazing and memorable sights), the Glacier Express and the Jungfraujoch which takes you up to Europe’s highest railway station.
5. If you have a bit longer, its location means you can pop over into other countries
Switzerland is bordered by France, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Italy.
From Geneva, it is just over an hour and a half by car to Lyon in France or around 2 hours by bus or train; you can also get to Annecy in France by car in around half an hour or bus in under an hour (going via train is a little more long-winded); it is 3-4 hours by road or rail to Milan in Italy.
From Zurich, you can get to Vaduz, Liechtenstein’s capital in around an hour and half (see my post on a day trip here) and to Innsbruck in Austria in 3-4 hours. From Basel, you can visit France’s Colmar in under an hour and Strasbourg in 1-2 hours.
All in all a pretty perfect place for a short break!
Do you also love Switzerland? If so, what are your favourite places? Let me know and I can add to all the amazing things about this wonderful country!
Featured image: © Janos Gaspar/ Dreamstime.com