What’s blue and green and featured in every Bollywood movie? Switzerland.
Indians love Switzerland, and it’s no wonder why. Its natural beauty – lush green valleys, snow capped mountains, and dollhouse-like chalets – are breathtaking.
One of my favorite cousins, Anita, lives there, and I’d been meaning to visit her for a while. My monthlong Eurotrip was the perfect chance. Best of all, my mom flew in from SF just so she could travel with me for a few days.
My cousin lives in Geneva, so we made that our home base. Switzerland is small and the transportation system is excellent, so it was easy to get around.
Looking for a relaxing Swiss holiday? Read on for a few tips.
Visit SBB.ch before you land in Switzerland and buy a train pass. Try to print it out and bring it with you; they charge you $5 Swiss francs to do it at the station. The passes seem expensive at first, but they’re good for almost all trains, boats, and local buses in Switzerland. You also get discounts on mountain tram and cable car rides and free entry into several museums. Be sure to show it anytime you’re buying tickets. Download the SBB app to look up the latest train schedules.
Getting a SIM card
It’s helpful to have data on go, especially to look up train schedules and details for nearby tourist attractions. Switzerland is crazy expensive, but mobile data is surprisingly cheap. At Salt (a local carrier), I got a SIM card and unlimited data for 10 days for just 10 Swiss francs. What a steal!
Tips for vegetarian diners
Switzerland has limited food choices for vegetarian foodies, but you can still get by. Most restaurants are Swiss, German, Italian, or French, depending on which side of the country you’re on. Among traditional Swiss dishes, here are a few things worth trying:
Rosti- a crispy potato pancake served with various toppings
Cheese fondue- typically made with 50% Gruyere and 50% Vacherin cheese and served with potatoes, bread, and pickles. My cousin made a delicious Indian style one at home with curry leaves, tomato, onion, garlic, black pepper, and more.
Raclette- melted raclette cheese poured over vegetables and bread
Chocolate- Chocolate as we know it today was invented in Switzerland. Lindt, Cailler, Nestle…you can’t go wrong.
Ice cream- Switzerland is known for all its dairy products. Try the local favorite, Movenpick.
Beer- Switzerkand is full of locally brewed craft beers. ask your server or bartender for a recommendation.
Things to see
Zurich feels like any big city, so if you’re short on time, I’d skip it. If you do go, check out Alstadt (old town), the Kunsthaus Art Museum and Banhoffstrasse, the main street filled with lots of fancy shopping and people watching. Any luxury brand you can think of can be found here. If you’re keen on nightlife, check out a traditional bierhaus in old town or venture to Langstrasse, where the young locals go.
Lucerne has old world European vibes and lots of natural beauty. Even in one day, I was able to get a good feel for the place.
I did a 90 minute boat ride around Lake Lucerne, followed by a tram ride up Mt. Pilatus and a cable car ride down. The views were incredible. I highly recommend this itinerary for the varied scenery and transportation. It gives you a little taste of everything. Back in Lucerne, I walked around old town, the wood bridge and lighthouse, and the lake. Very charming.
Shopping is good in Lucerne too but shops close early. Instead, spend the evening hours having dinner or a drink at one of the lakeside cafes.
Interlaken and Jungfrau joch
Jungfrau joch mountain is called the “top of Europe” because of its extreme height. It’s a a well done attraction and worth pushing through the tourist crowds. When you take the tram to the top, you’ll arrive at a snowy little mountain village with vista points, hotels, restaurants, and more. The highlights were a snow-filled plateau where you can walk around and take lots of pictures and an ice cave with beautiful ice sculptures. Make sure you bring your snow pants, boots, jacket, gloves, and hat.
Note that you need to buy an additional ticket for the tram ride from Wengen to Jungfrau. We only had time for a day trip, but if you can, I’d recommend staying in Interlaken or Grindelwald for a day or two. That way, you can buy a multi day pass to Jungfrau and take advantage of the skiing snowboarding, ziplining, and other snow activities.
If you want a little break from the mountain sightseeing, consider the tiny town of Gruyeres and nearby Broc. We had a lovely day there. The best part is that all the tours and tastings mentioned below were included with our train passes:
The main town of Gruyeres is charming and takes under an hour to see, including the two museums. At the top, you’ll see a castle: Chateau Gruyere. It’s a great vista point for taking photos but the castle itself is quite nice and takes another 30- 40 min to see.
Maison Gruyere cheese factory
Gruyeres is the birthplace of Gruyere cheese. In this 30 minute factory tour, we got an in depth overview of the production process and got to watch the workers in action. At the end of the tour, you go home with a little sampler of 6, 8, and 10-month aged cheese. If you want to see the live demo, go between 9 and 11 or 12:30 and 2:30.
Maison Cailler chocolate factory
Cailler is the first chocolate producer in the world and is owned by Nestle today. The one hour tour was extremely informative and engaged all the senses. First, we learned about the history of chocolate through a Disney-quality show with lights, colors, and elaborate sets. Next, we learned how the company sources ingredients today. We even got to touch, smell, and taste raw inputs like almonds and hazelnuts. Finally, we got a glimpse of the production lines to see how bars are assembled and packaged. The tour ended in an all-you-can-eat tasting room with over 15 types of chocolate. My favorite was a rum-marzipan truffle covered with dark chocolate.
- Bring a bottle of water to cleanse your palate between chocolates and something to lower your blood sugar after the tasting.
- Book the chocolate making class on the Cailler website before your visit. Classes are offered twice a day a limited to ~20 participants. I wish I had known about this. It looked so fun!
If you have time, there are also outdoor thermal baths where you can soak while staring at the beautiful mountains.
Day trips to Italy, Germany, or France
Switzerland’s small size and central location mean it’s easy to make day trips across the border, depending on which side of the country you’re on. For example, my cousin Anita took us to the lovely French town Annecy.
If you’re on a budget, prefer cities to nature, or are a major foodie, Switzerland may not be for you.
But if you like beautiful scenery and outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and swimming, you’ll fall in love with it.