From beautiful lakes and epic mountains, to adventurous activities and chic hotels, this Switzerland itinerary takes you on a whistle-stop tour of the country’s highlights.
When it comes to magical European adventures, a trip through Switzerland definitely comes high on the list. It’s a compact enough country to fit a lot into one trip, but diverse enough to see and do a lot.
I love that you can start the day in a cosmopolitan city, by the afternoon you can be cycling past a beautiful lake and by the evening you could be skiing in the mountains! How many destinations offer that much variety?
While there are lots of beautiful spots you could visit, I’m going to guide you through a route that offers a bit of everything, and gives you an overview of the best things to do in Switzerland.
It’s a trip I went on December with Preferred Hotels, the world’s largest independent hotel brand, representing 750 hotels, resorts and residences across 85 countries. However, it’d be equally as beautiful (and a lot less snowy) in summer months. Either way, you’ll pass by Lake Geneva, snap photos of the Matterhorn and enjoy all the chocolate and cheese you could dream of! What more could you want on a Swiss road trip?!
Start by watching the video for a flavour of the trip, then find out more about our awesome Switzerland itinerary…
Best time to visit Switzerland
Switzerland is an all-year destination, but you’ll need to decide what kind of holiday you want to go on before deciding when to visit. These are your two main options….
- A snow-filled, winter wonderland trip, with a stay in the mountains and plenty of icy activities.
- A sunshine-filled spring or summer trip, where you spend every moment outside, hiking, cycling and enjoying lush valleys.
In terms of temperatures, you can expect highs in summer of 26 degrees in the cities and lows in winter of -30 (in the mountains). With altitude to deal with, you can expect quite a contrast in temperatures between cities like Geneva and high-alpine villages like Zermatt.
I should mention Switzerland is notoriously expensive. There are ways to keep prices down, but I think it’s somewhere to save for a special holiday – perhaps a honeymoon, birthday or anniversary. Enjoy the plush hotels, gourmet restaurants and create some special memories.
How to get to Switzerland
There are plenty of flights to Geneva and Zurich each day. From London it’s a quick trip (under an hour and a half) and if you book a window seat, you’ll be rewarded by stunning views of the Swiss Alps on your journey.
My return flights from London were around £150 (including baggage), booking just three weeks before travelling. If you plan further in advance, or are able to take the earliest flights of the day, you can find deals for under £50 return. While I’ve mentioned it’s probably not a country to visit on a budget, the flights are incredibly reasonable.
If you’re already based in mainland Europe, there are plenty of trains connecting all the major towns and cities too, including Zurich, Geneva, Bern and Lausanne.
Once you’ve reached Switzerland I’d recommend hiring a car so you can explore the country on your own time. It’s a beautiful country for a road trip, especially once you get into the alps.
If driving doesn’t fill you with joy, then don’t worry – most destinations are accessibly by public transport. You might find it helpful to pick up Swiss Travel Pass which covers transport in the country by rail, road and waterway, and is available for trips between 3 days and 15 days.
How long to spend in Switzerland?
I’d recommend spending five days in Switzerland to really feel like you’ve had a flavour of the country as a whole. However, if you’re limited to a shorter length of time, you could cram a decent overview of the country into three well-planned days.
A 5-Day Switzerland Itinerary
There are plenty of places you could visit, but I’ve focused on three main areas – Lausanne / Lake Geneva, Saas-Fee in the Swiss Alps, and Zermatt close to the Matterhorn.
To see the exact route, plus lots of recommendations, check out my Switzerland itinerary map here.
Explore the city of Lausanne
Lausanne is a very pretty city, with a stunning Gothic cathedral, historic buildings with colourful facades and a buzzy shopping scene. I’d recommend a wander through the city centre, climbing the Escaliers du Marché (wooden stairs that are over 400 years old) to the cathedral, then climbing to the top of the tower for a great panoramic view of the city.
Afterwards, head down to Les Arches, a unique bar set inside the archways of the Grand Pont bridge. The bar looks out over place de l’Europe, so it’s the perfect people watching spot. Throughout the festive period, you’ll find Christmas markets around this area too.
Enjoy views of Lake Geneva
Regardless of the route you pick for your Switzerland itinerary, it’s likely you’ll pass Lake Geneva, or Lac Lémon as I affectionately heard it referred to in Lausanne.
We didn’t have the best weather during our time in Lausanne, but on a clear day the views from Ouchy (Lausanne’s port area) are absolutely spectacular. Take a stroll along the edge of Lake Geneva and you’ll see boats coming and going, with beautiful views of the snow-topped Swiss Alps in the background. There are plenty of restaurants in this part of the city, many with beautiful lake views.
I took these photos from Montreux, a short drive from Lausanne. Just look at how clear the water is!
Stay at a luxurious hotel in Lausanne
We checked into five-star Royal Savoy Hotel and Spa in Lausanne, one of Preferred Hotel’s collection in Switzerland. I’d liken it to staying at The Ritz in London!
It’s historic, grand and you’ll feel like a princess as you wander from marble-clad lobbies to plush lounge areas. There’s a fine-dining brasserie, winter chalet featuring an indulgent cheese-filled menu, a cocktail bar and cigar lounge.
The brasserie is overseen by Michelin-starred Chef Marc Haeberlin, and features locally-sourced seasonal ingredients.
One of the highlights for me was the spa. It may have been around zero degrees outside, but the steamy jacuzzi area made me feel toasty!
Learn about fragrance in Lausanne
On my first day in Lausanne I visited perfume expert Philippe K’s fragrance shop for a special Art Of Fragrance experience. The concept is unique; over a few hours I’d have a consultation with Philippe, who would analyse my personality and my connection with fragrances, then match my results with a perfume within the store.
It wasn’t a simple analysis though. I’d liken it to a counselling session with a psychologist, who happened to know about perfume! I learned about myself, relieved myself of some burdens I’d been carrying, and left with a fragrance I’d never have selected alone. It was a revelation!
The fun continued with dinner at the Royal Savoy Lausanne’s Brasserie, where the barman created a cocktail which complemented my chosen fragrance!
Stay at a luxurious mountain hotel in Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee is one of the most famous ski resorts in Switzerland, so where better to stay on a special holiday than the most luxurious hotel in the village: The Capra . It’s another in Preferred Hotels collection, and is a boutique hotel, in a wooden-chalet style. With 29 rooms, a personalised style of service and a large, cosy lounge, it’s a real home from home.
The hotel’s décor oozes warmth, with a large fireplace in the lounge, flickery candles, plush cushions and an old-fashioned drinks trolley. We stayed in one of the penthouse suites, which boasted incredible views over the snowy roofs of the village, straight to the Swiss Alps.
While we weren’t skiing on this trip, the hotel has its own ski-in ski-out cabin right by the pistes, with heated boot racks and equipment lockers, meaning you’ll never need to lug your stuff to the slopes. Talk about five-star service!
My favourite place at The Capra? Peak Health Club – the hotel’s very own spa. I didn’t expect a small hotel to have such a large spa. There’s an indoor swimming pool, outdoor jacuzzi, wellness area with sauna, steam rooms and lounge areas, plus a yoga studio and treatment rooms.
The hotel also has a gourmet restaurant (open to non-guests too), serving up sophisticated and tasty dishes. From nourishing poke bowls at lunchtime, to steak and fish dishes for dinner. There’s even a sommelier who is happy to pair dishes with exciting Swiss wines.
Whether you’re skiing, fancy a relaxing break in the Swiss Alps or want to head off on some day trips, The Capra is the perfect base in Saas-Fee.
Catch the cable car to the Ice Pavilion and highest revolving restaurant
On our final morning in Saas-Fee, we well and truly got our Swiss Alps fix! We caught two cable cars and a train to reach Mittelallalin – a 3,500 peak just below Allalinhorn. Once there, we’d planned to go inside the Ice Pavilion, but sadly it was closed for safety reasons (apparently there had been some movement within the glacier). Ordinarily though, you can head inside the glacier and see a world of incredible ice sculptures, plus experience an avalanche simulation.
We did however enjoy mesmerising views from the viewing platform, before heading inside to Allalin Restaurant, the world’s highest revolving restaurant. It was a great spot to warm up with a frothy hot chocolate!
If you’re skiing in Saas-Fee you’ll probably be familiar with this area, as lots of people start their day on the pistes outside, but if you’re sightseeing like us, it’s somewhere I’d definitely recommend!
Hike around Saas-Fee
We spent one morning hiking around the local area with expert guide Alex from Ski Zenit. We’d planned to go on a snowshoe hike, but with no fresh snow, we decided to tackle the route in hiking boots.
Even in winter, there are some lovely hiking tracks, taking you around the outside of the village, through pretty alpine forests, around a glacial lake, across the base of the ski slopes and up to Gletschergrotte, a small bar and restaurant by the piste.
It was packed with skiers, stopping for their mid-morning pints, gluhweins and rostis, and a lovely place to appreciate the beautiful snowy mountains in the sunshine.
Stay in a luxurious hotel with views of the Matterhorn
This was my second trip to Zermatt in winter. I was prepared for the spectacular views of the Matterhorn and the picture postcard town of wooden chalets and fairy lights. However, this time was extra special as we stayed at the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof – one of the most famous hotels in Switzerland, and another in Preferred Hotels’ collection.
Anyone who has been to Zermatt will know this hotel. The magical building sits in a great position in the centre of the town, with a huge outdoor bar area and grand entrance. As Zermatt is car-free, the hotel has a very special mode of transport to collect guests from the train station – an old-fashioned horse and carriage, pulled by two beautiful white horses. Yep, you’re guaranteed to feel like royalty when you arrive at a five-star hotel like this!
The hotel itself is grand and chateau-like, with plush furnishings, glamorous chandeliers and a beautiful spa.
Foodies will adore this hotel, as it’s home to three restaurants – Brasserie Lusi, fondue haven SayCheese! And Michelin starred Prato Borni.
We stayed in a lovely suite on the third floor, with huge windows looking out towards the Matterhorn. It was cosy yet elegant – the perfect base for a few days of adventures in the area.
Train from Zermatt to Gornergrat
The train from Zermatt to Gornergrat is one of the best things to do in Switzerland, and along with the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz, this ride is known as one of the most scenic train rides in the world.
The journey from Zermatt takes around thirty minutes, stopping at a few places in the mountains along the way. We timed our trip for first light, and enjoyed some incredible window views of the Matterhorn illuminated by the sun.
The vistas are incredible, and while in the mornings you might be jostling with skiers (who use the train to reach the top pistes), you’re likely to have it almost all to yourself on the descent. For the entire journey up, I was mesmerised by the view of the Matterhorn, barely taking my eyes off it! As you climb up the mountain you have the opportunity to see it from different angles, admiring its impressively sharp angles.
The final stop is Gornergrat train station at a height of 3,100m. There you can take in the panoramic views, visit the hotel, or warm up with a hot chocolate in the café. This is definitely a trip I’d recommend if you’re visiting Zermatt during your trip.
If you’re looking for other things to do, be sure to read my comprehensive guide to visiting Zermatt in winter.
Enjoy a traditional Swiss fondue in Zermatt
During our trip to Zermatt, the snow same down pretty heavily, so I was happy to not only warm up in the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof’s luxurious spa, but also enjoy dinner at SayCheese! Restaurant. Unsurprisingly, the entire menu revolves around one of my favourite Swiss ingredients – CHEESE!
We were ready for our fondue fix, but for an even more indulgent option, we ordered one with added truffle. It was absolutely heavenly. I loved the cosy atmosphere, friendly service and was 99% cheese by the time I rolled out of the restaurant!
I hope you’ve found this Switzerland itinerary helpful for planning your dream trip. While this route will take you to three of the most beautiful spots in the country, you could extend the trip with additional stops or day trips to Lake Lucerne (with its spectacular Chapel Bridge), Interlaken, the Lauterbrunnen Valley, Grindelwald, Zurich and Geneva.
A big thanks to Preferred Hotels for hosting me in Switzerland and collaborating with me on this content. As always, all opinions are my own. Preferred Hotels are the world’s largest independent hotel brand representing more than 750 hotels, resorts, and residences across 85 countries. Find out more here.
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