Less than a year later, find me back in one of my favorite countries of all time- Switzerland!
This time was completely different route.. although I returned back to the famous Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken (both different experiences from last time too!)
First on the Itinerary was Zurich- flying in from London at a later hour arriving. Picking up rental car from the airport and 10 minutes from the hotel; stayed at Hilton Zurich Airport-wicked easy.
Something I would actually surprisingly recommend- don’t stay city center in Zurich if you are arriving later pm. Staying by the airport was a lot easier, and saved 3x the money. Hotels city center that were decent pricing starting at: $250 USD a night off season.
After walking around Zurich, you will also all be surprised to hear.. I ended up leaving after 2 hours.
After experiencing such an insanely beautiful road trip last year 2018; From Paris France into eastern part of Switzerland, all the way into Interlaken and stopped in Lausanne only last time 1 1/2 hour dinner, which again, mostly everything was closed (that was around 7-8pm).
This wasn’t the Switzerland I wanted to show my friend I brought, it was way too city for what we wanted. The picture above was just a small part of town that had colorful buildings/most was inner city cooperate like looking buildings.
Note: Look on a map before making any plans/booking because a lot of towns sound the same.
Lausanne is really different, a lot more french (speaking, food inspired even country side feel, more french) being on the western side of Switzerland *just over the border is France. Lucerne is a lot more german feels due to being on the eastern side of Switzerland.
We both were all set with Zurich pretty quickly, only had a quick breakfast and walked around a bit. Even in a major city, nothing is opened early- its Europe style but, this was 8am and still nothing open. Ended up at a *didn’t know how* but Hotel (found out after they only strictly serve guests staying, oops) but did enjoy the breakfast mini buffet.
When finding food around Zurich: Look on maps on what is open instead of trying to guess, it took us almost 30 minutes walking around before we found a place open.
Leaving Zurich, in route to (what I thought was going to be Lucerne) ended up going to Interlaken first. This was a very last minute to take this exit to Interlaken and we are SO happy we did.
Itinerary/recommended if you arrive into Zurich and want to see Interlaken/more outdoors; I would suggest Zurich explore first *not too long, then drive all the way furthest to Lauterbrunnen, 15 minutes into Interlaken around this lake and then Brienz around that lake. This route was the best going furthest first.
This original itinerary, we were going go the next day into Interlaken and try a 1/2 day. Instead, we had one of the best days of this year and did a full day around here.Do not cut yourself short on only a half day or 1 day only in Interlaken.
I’d suggest minimum 3-4 days around (Interlaken/Laut/Brienz area) *go along all lakes too!
It’s too close of a call doing half a day/1 day only in Interlaken and then back to Lucerne or Zurich. Especially if you have to catch a train/go to the Zurich airport later that evening/early next day. You want a lot of time in Interlaken to enjoy the outdoor activities it has to offer. Lauterbrunnen is so close to see the waterfalls/hikes and Brienz is my favorite experience every time- which is on the way back into Lucerne too.
Simply googled “Interlaken hang gliding” quick, called 2 companies and the 2nd company answered, we got pricing and we knew we had to do it- and we did in 1 hour from when we called. The company was Hang Gliding Interlaken- absolutely loved them and would recommend that company.
There is 1 other Hang gliding company (*which by the way, didn’t answer our 3 phone calls we made to them) and I did watch them take off, wasn’t impressed with how they don’t really make it too fun, vs ours had music and we were laughing/ so fun, big time team work.
There are a few packages they offer, no pictures of video just experience/ and with pictures and video. I did the picture/video 2nd option not the top one and came out awesome!! They transfer it all right to your phone after you land too.
One thing to note; its very wind dependent, even running off the mountain to take off. Request if you wanted to go over the lake before taking off, its very wind dependent on this- I got to go over the lake but my friend didn’t.
Next after this crazy hang gliding experience was Lauterbrunnen (again, the magical waterfall!!) YUP, still just as epic and to be back. I also had a really beautiful moving experience while back in this exact place, less than a year later.
This place is somewhere people see online and dream of getting to, its not the easiest place to get to (2.5 hours from Zurich without traffic and you can’t speed!) You can stay in Lauterbrunnen and even right below the waterfalls there is 2 homes that are airbnb right below I found out.
There are hotels and other airbnbs around town but be mindful how little of a place this is and it attracts a lot of tourism with the waterfalls. Plan ahead for booking hotel wise if you did want to stay in this area.
To my surprise this time, there was a very long going path. Last time, there was a bit more rush to the Switzerland trip and didn’t even realize this magical Switzerland path!
We walked for maybe 1.5-2 hours total (parking is by the graveyard, below the famous waterfall), we saw a fresh cheese selling cottage, reall Switzerland cows walking along and many more waterfalls than just that one actually. It was perfect weather in middle of May too, just a light jacket needed.
*Bring your camera. iPhone can get decent pictures but there is no denying the quality I got on my camera for these. Take videos and so many pictures. I am very happy I brought my camera on the walk!
Lauterbrunnen is a MUST, it’s worth the hype. I have only been May and June months and the waterfalls was perfect flowing. Need to be very mindful what time of year traveling in Switzerland to see a lot of waterfalls flowing well.
Best time of year to see waterfalls: I will always recommend May/very beginning of June being the best month and so do locals when it comes to seeing the waterfalls. Its perfect snow capped mountains, just a bit warm enough for just a light jacket, the snow is melting at this point and creates hundreds if not- thousands of waterfalls and just right off the highway. End of May/beginning of June you will see more waterfalls.
Check your maps before a big drive in Switzerland: Be extremely mindful driving up through these mountains if you are visiting during snow/snow melting time. Check your gps/maps before to see if there is any road blocks or shut downs. *The first time in Switzerland, there was 2 severe road blocks on the trip- with both, it costed about 4-5 hours lost. Check 2 different set of maps to make sure as well. (November-May i’d check in detail)
The last stop of the evening was a place that if you saw my posts last year, this was the one people said “wow I need to go to Switzerland.” The most bluest lake water iv’e ever seen, most epic waterfall and top most memorable meals (2 yrs in a row) in Brienz.
Brienzzersee Lake is next and a real hidden gem!
From Lauterbrunnen to Lucerne (little over 1 hour drive) and made a perfect half way pit stop in Giessbach. Technically a village and on Lake Brienz, it’s the foot of Brienzer Rothorn mountain (yes huge mountains on this very blue lake) and it’s where Grandhotel Giessbach + Giessbach Waterfall is.
I really mean what I said above, defiantly very hidden and absolute GEM. Grand hotel Giessbach..My top favorite hotels in the world, unfortunately one I was not able to stay at- however I will give recommendations on how to/what to do here.
You can hike around the waterfall on trails, dine inside the hotel at the many restaurants, explore inside the hotel itself during your pit stop, because its incredible the detail and history behind it.
Hotel stay recommendation: It saddens me deeply I couldn’t stay here- but the exact room I wanted.. was sold out in advance. They offer (only few rooms get the full view) waterfall balcony view from your hotel room. It also seems some of the higher level* rooms from the other side gets a crazy view too (facing the lake) . This hotel is worth staying 1-2 nights especially for people who enjoy hikes and finer life living! This is more towards ‘luxury’ hotel. There is also 2 parts to this property- one in the picture above and smaller hotel part behind. (May 2019 pricing: around $250 usd a night)
Tip: Try to plan dining outside for sunset! Witnessed such perfect pink/purples and on the lake, was really worth it- even having to drive back in the dark.
Driving tip: Be careful driving theres sometimes large tourist buses too coming down. You can also take a boat right at the very bottom as well. Giessbach See is the exact ferry port stop and ferry goes along Brienzzersee Lake. If you are traveling by train, you can still easily still come here- just plan to take a boat over!
Finished the evening arriving in Lucerne.. finally!
A little..city technically, surrounded by it’s lake into the river within the town. Honestly, Iv’e mentioned this many times before- Switzerland is defiantly one of those counties you should put on your bucket list & Lucerne was utterly magical.
After a very long day.. to our (not) surprise everything was CLOSED, even the one gas station we saw closed at 7pm.. great.
Big Tip: A huge thing to be prepared for is the time things close down in Switzerland. REALLY plan Switzerland days/destinations out right because most things don’t open until maybe 10am-11am and close before 4pm. If it’s a major city in Switzerland *Zurich, may get lucky with 6pm-7pm closing time. Always have snacks on you, medications and all that because it’s really different traveling here (this ain’t NYC!).
Waking up in Lucerne was a DREAM, now THIS was one of my ultimate favorite days of this year. I had no exact plans (for once) I only knew I had to get a good massage with now 2 1/2 weeks into traveling (I did at my hotel later). After breakfast, I dropped Heather off at the train station, very easy drop off but need to arrive 45 minutes-1 hour early to ensure you make your train.
From the train station, I simply zoomed out of google maps and was on my way of enjoying this very magical day.
I drove along the town until the river turned into this beautiful lake. I stopped at a park with such an epic view, worth the stop these little parks- super cute to hang out. I kept driving, stopped again 10 minutes down another beautiful lake side part (I put above, the more you drive down, the mountain range changes!).
Then another 15 minutes (total 25 minutes from city center Lucerne) I found myself at the single most beautiful place, that I never would have expected…
(This is to ALL my SOLO FEMALE TRAVELERS, aren’t these days the best!?!)
Schloss Meggenhorn Castle was utterly incredible because not only was there a vineyard on the lake, perfect snow capped mountains, gorgeous Alice in Wonderland like gardens of flowers, but this castle.. had a lot of hiking paths and I then began my journey.
I hiked for 1.5 hours and I could have kept going too, I would love to remind you all- no idea about this place, this isn’t recommended on the guides either, its such a gem I think a lot of locals know about and hike around.
There is 2 paths, one below and that has defiantly more shade and the one that follows behind the castle/actually parking lot path. Clearly don’t do the below one for your first time, the views are everything and MORE! I would recommend planning (2-3 hours) to enjoy the hikes and the castle is a must to see in detail!
Later that day around 4pm I made my way to my hotel, which was 30 minutes from the Castle/only 15 minutes from city center Lucerne. Tip: Always arrive to your hotel a few hours before sunset to really enjoy it, especially if it’s only for 1 night & for the nicer hotel stays *like this one.
I stayed in the incredible Seehotel Kastanienbaum. Yes, I would one thousand percent stay back here and in fact recommend well 4+ days going around just Lucerne itself. I was amazed, it instantly became my personal favorite part of Switzerland because there is SO much.
This part of my trip currently-I was solo on this part. This hotel made me feel beyond comfortable, had epic balcony views, massage/spa and food was exceptional.
As I mentioned, this part of Switzerland is very german feels including the food. I was really pleasantly surprised on the food and I think about those meals everyday I had in Lucerne *they were all really unique! This hotels restaurant was fantastic for dinner as well. There was a lot of sausages on menus but made so darn good, the dishes themselves were really so balanced- perfect sweet and salty. It inspired me want to spend time in Germany after this actually (which I did!)
And the next day was sadly the end of my trip. As you can see you can cover a lot in Switzerland with good time management!
Best tip: Know what you defiantly want to see, research before (the first time I went, I realized after-I didn’t book hanggliding, and then I went back a year later to do it….) So, don’t cut yourself short on time, these kind of places you want to really soak in the moment.
Again, please note I had nothing against Zurich but, I would highly recommend not spending more than a day here- honestly. It’s very expensive to stay/eat and there isn’t much to actually do then walk around the city. It’s surprisingly to me how popular Zurich is considering Lucerne is only 1 hour from Zurich and Brienz if you were running short of time unable to see Interlaken is worth seeing as well!!
Driving in Switzerland
Warning: You need to read this fully to understand the importance of driving in Switzerland. You will absolutely regret not reading and following in depth. You will be warned as well when you get your rental car likely.
NUMBER ONE RULE : The traffic cameras are no joke and the speed limits are absolutely no joke. You will be severely fined and mailed/charged on your rental car tickets received. DO NOT mess with the speed limits. You will be told this when you pick up your rental car as well.
You can not go even 1/2 a kl over the speed limit. There is not a single cop iv’e seen in Switzerland after seeing almost 3/4 of this country now.. Because guess what? These traffic cameras watch you everywhere and measure speed when you enter in the tunnel and coming out, if you speed up- it can literally tell and you will get a ticket.
*The tunnels, the small town roads, highways; legally there has to be a sign before a lot of traffic cameras usually when you get close to the tunnels you will notice especially. If you see a camera flash, it’s likely a ticket- thats how you know. *at least at night anyways.
Driving in general here; it’s easy, its just extremely agitating for people who want to drive fast (like all of us). But these speeds are not normal, I mean i’m talking less than 45 miles an hour on the highway, it’s so difficult- my lord. You need patience and let people pass you, that is on them to speed.
I have asked so many times to people “Why is everyone speeding past me?” They all answer pretty much; “don’t mess with going past the speed limit here, do not period. Its likely approved cars because you HAVE to follow the speed to a crisp here.” The fines are astronomical because when you ask the price of ticket.. (brace yourself) the ticket cost is priced to how much you make and % wise, i’m not kidding. This is for people that live there/Europe I know that (so crazy, I know)
*Always take pictures of the car when you pick it up, every single part (I do min of 10 pictures)
PS. Parking in Zurich, not bad I must say. All others no problem either accept staying in the city center of Lucerne. Hotel parking wise;double check how parking would be or find nearby garages. Take everything out of your car always if you leave car overnight, you never know especially traveling internationally.
Trains: is a HUGE good option but- if you like freedom, honestly it’s best to do a Switzerland trip with a car. It really is. I would have never found more than half these hidden parts if I did train last year/this year. I’d recommend looking at the train schedules/exact stops before getting to excited booking hotels because there is not really taxis.. you have to walk from the train station stops.
How long do I recommend?
Well, how much is in your budget an exact parts you want to see. Major cities (Zurich/Geneva/Lugano/Lausanne) will cost more hotel room a night vs smaller towns. This is one of the most expensive countries of Europe so brace yourself to break some bank.
My Itinerary + honest feedback:
Arrive into Zurich because that airport is the cheapest normally coming in internationally. Unless you wanted to start on the western side fly into Geneva. If you want to see Interlaken its pretty much in the middle so you can do either of those airport options.
I would suggest Zurich (its the cheapest) explore first *not too long, then drive all the way furthest to Lauterbrunnen, 15 minutes into Interlaken around this lake and then Brienz around that lake. This route was the best going furthest first. Then to Lucerne lastly.
Lucerne was seriously so amazing, i’d recommend this itinerary/soaking everything in go for 1 week to a week and a half. (1 day Zurich, 2 days Interlaken, 1 day Lauterbrunnen, 3 days Lucerne,) Thats going fast if you did a week, adding on a few days is recommended.
Plan ahead on hotels: Hotels, you need to book in advance on the amazing ones. Switzerland is now becoming more and more popular for tourism. If you see the ‘Insta famous’ hotels, book 6+ months in advance on off season (May), higher season defiantly 8+ months. Zurich is easy to book last minute, Lucerne & Interlaken, i’d recommend booking 2-3 months ahead *you will loose out on being last minute.
**Also, realize that Switzerland has these small towns and there isn’t a ton of hotel # options- have to really plan ahead.
How to book a spa/infinity pool session: If you wanted to book and get pictures in the epic infinity pools in the Swiss alps. You can book a pool session or sometimes they require a real spa session depending on where. Pricing wise varies but can get into detail some top popular infinity pools of Switzerland..
Hotel Villa Honegg in Ennetbuergen: The big instagram one, starting at $1,500+ USD a night. If its off season (winter/fall) you can find starting at $800 USD a night.
However, to your luck- this is the direct link to book a pool session to get the perfect picture (am and pm sunset slots available) Price ranges: $100-$130USD. They accept reservations up to 3 months in advance, book as soon as you can- they were sold out 2 months before on my part *off season too.
Cambrian Hotel in Edelboden: A freaking fairytale. 1-1.5 hours southwest of Interlaken. I’d add this right to your bucket list on hotel stays, especially if you are planning to be around Interlaken. Worth getting off the beaten path, incredible and best part is (rooms starting at: $400-$450usd peak season, $300usd off season)
Villa Sassa Hotel, Residence & Spa in Lugano: Reminder this is very south of Switzerland/on the border of Italy. If you wanted to do an easy hop to Italy, see Lake Como- its less than 30 minutes from here! This is also one of the best priced hotels with view/infinity pools of Switzerland. A bit cheaper than Cambrian Hotel.
Book over 7-8 months in advance most defiantly, especially peak season. I tried 4 months before and no luck on off season, they have AM and PM time slots. It’s getting insanely popular. There was 1 hotel that they only allow 5 people in the pool a day thats very famous now in Lucerne and hotel guest (over 2k a room..so nope. lol)
Another way how to save on hotels: You can do Switzerland camper style because there are amazing campgrounds including right below Lauterbrunnen waterfalls. I didn’t realize this until this trip around, I would consider this if you want freedom and hey, the speed limit is so low anyways would be easier in RV to drive so slow.
What would make it a truly unique Switzerland trip? Castles.
To name a few; of corse Schloss Meggenhorn Castle as listed in detail above.
Schloss Schauensee: In actual Lucerne and worth seeing if you are here for a few days! Its up above the town, worth the views likely from up there defiantly.
Oberhofen Castle: Between this, along with Hunegg Castle and Spiez is all able to get to by ferry *on the lake.
Hunegg Castle: Right next to Oberhofen, defiantly take a tour/go inside of this castle between them all. There is a lot of detailed decor and perfect view of the lake and mountains.
Spiez Castle: Down by Interlaken, its right in the center of the lake in Spiez. Note: It may be under construction at the moment.
Schloss Thun: The furthest away on the western part of the lake but the town it’s in- Thun, is super darling!
Chocolate. The most important topic.
I found my 2 all time favorite chocolates on this trip; good news is BOTH is found in Zurich airport!
Laderach Chocolatier: Wow.. I mean.. wow. I have no regrets spending $40usd on chocolate *on just this part. I got 5 pieces, you can tell them how large/small you want and its very customized- loved that!
In order on my favorite to least favorite of my bunch:
Raspberry-Blackberry, Florentine Milk, Fudge Caramel, Orange-Almond, Cranberry. They have cornflakes too and confetti now which look awesome too! The Raspberry-Blackberry proved me wrong not liking white chocolate- I absolutely loved that one the most and suggest a large piece. The 2nd was really unique and can get milk or dark. 3rd, can’t ever go wrong with Caramel. 4th being Orange, I absolutely LOVE orange in chocolate now but..
And the REAL Switzerland Chocolate; My favorite chocolate I got was FREY in the Orange Chocolate. I got 2 large bars… I ate them in the 2 weeks of being back. I also got Cadbury Diary Milk bars too are always a must! In Oreo and 2 of the pop rocks ones! *note all of these are very large and duty free though- worth it!
See you again next year Switzerland and for a different part I haven’t visited yet along with returning back to Lucerne.. & Brienz of corse!
Please feel free to contact me directly if you had any questions on both parts of Switzerland and Switzerland II. This country is truly so unique and there isn’t a country like it, I hope these recommendations help!
COMING NEXT YEAR Blogg post: Switzerland III -@thefaceofdestinations