5-Day Switzerland Itinerary: How to Spend 5 Days in Switzerland

February 2, 2024

Switzerland is a fantastic destination in Western Europe that captures the curiosity of almost every tourist sooner or later. Switzerland is not a large country, with just under 9 million residents, but it is an incredibly diverse destination worth exploring.

Imagine a 5-day road trip through Switzerland – a journey filled with breathtaking landscapes, charming towns, crystal-clear waters, and exciting mountain adventures. Our 5-day Swiss road trip is about discovering the best places in Switzerland, allowing you to explore the country’s most famous cities and the Swiss Alps alike. Despite its small size, Switzerland offers plenty to see, so in just 5 days, you can truly discover numerous breathtaking places.

Our 5-day Swiss itinerary provides tips and useful information not only for the best places in Switzerland but also for excursions to other nearby attractions. With a few extra days, you can easily visit Switzerland’s hidden gems or neighboring countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Liechtenstein, or Austria.

From the initial planning phase to the actual experiences, we guide you through and provide planning and travel tips. We recommend activities for your itinerary, suggest hotels, and share our personal experiences from our travels across the country.

So, let’s start with some basic questions and information you might need for your visit to Switzerland.

Basic questions about a Switzerland trip

How to get to Switzerland

Switzerland, being quite centrally located in Europe, offers various ways to reach it:

  • By car: Whether with your own car or a rented one
  • By plane: Especially if you travel from a greater distance
  • By bus: Group guided bus tours are particularly popular
  • By train: From some cities in the area, the train may also be an option

By car

The most flexible way to travel to Switzerland is by car. This can be with your own car or a rented one.

Keep in mind that even though Switzerland is in the Schengen Zone, recent checks are often conducted at most land borders. Have all your documents, including car-related ones, ready and be prepared for customs questions.

If you travel to Switzerland by car, whether with your own vehicle or a rental car, you will need a Swiss highway vignette. You can purchase this primarily at petrol stations or online. There is only an annual vignette available, but it is not as expensive as the annual vignettes in some other countries.

By air

The most frequently used airport is Zurich Airport, where most international flights land.

That’s why we start our itinerary in Zurich.

If you are looking for flights to Switzerland, check the options on Omio.

By bus

Organized bus trips to Switzerland from nearby European countries are common. In this regard, it is worth checking the offers of travel agencies in your own country. The downside is that it is inflexible, as it is not tailored to your specific preferences.

In addition, you can also check the offerings of FlixBus, as they have routes heading to Switzerland.

By train

By train, you can get to Switzerland mainly from Austria (Graz or Salzburg) or Germany (Munich). In other cases, the bus is the easier choice.

How to get around Switzerland

By car

Our itinerary is primarily designed for car travel, so we strongly recommend using a car in Switzerland. This is the fastest and most flexible way to explore the planned places, especially if there is only a relatively short amount of time available.

If you want to rent a car, compare prices on Rentalcars.com.

In Switzerland, the road quality is excellent, although in the mountains, you can expect winding roads that may not always be easy to drive on. Despite the good road quality, the pace is relatively slow compared to neighboring countries, and speed cameras are common. It’s advisable to pay attention to speed limit signs.

By public transport

As we mentioned, our itinerary is tailored for a road trip, although many destinations can be reached by public transportation. Within the country, trains are a very popular mode of transportation, offering access to numerous locations.

If you choose public transport, think about getting the Swiss Travel Pass. It’s an all-in-one ticket for unlimited travel in Switzerland, and it includes free or discounted entry to other places like museums or mountain trips.

Additionally, you can find bus day trips on GetYourGuide and Viator, which can take you to various attractions.

Best time to visit Switzerland

The best time to visit Switzerland depends on your preferences.

Summer (from June to September) offers pleasant weather, perfect for outdoor activities like hiking.
Winter (from December to March) offers magical snow-covered landscapes and excellent ski resorts.
Spring (from April to June) and autumn (from September to November) provide milder, sometimes cool temperatures with fewer crowds, and lower prices.

If we had to choose, we would pick summer because most activities, cable cars, viewpoints, and restaurants are open, allowing you to see the most of Switzerland during that time.

Is 5 days enough in Switzerland?

In 5 days in Switzerland, you can see the main attractions with a tight schedule. This itinerary provides a quick glimpse into Switzerland’s best places, allowing you to explore the country’s key attractions, natural wonders, and famous towns. Five days are sufficient to roughly tour Switzerland, not in-depth, but still getting to know the country’s highlights.

How many days are needed to see all the important places in Switzerland?

If you’re considering a complete tour, we think approximately 10–14 days would be necessary. In this timeframe, you could visit most important places, have some time to rest, and the pace would be more comfortable.

Where to stay in Switzerland

Where to stay depends on how you are willing to organize your trip.

You can visit the places we recommend in two ways:

Sleep in a different accommodation every day and travel around the country, going from place to place (this is the version we suggest)
Or stay for several days in one city (such as Zurich or Bern) and take day trips to the attractions

For each location, we recommend some accommodations that are worth considering, regardless of which version you choose.

Costs of a 5-day Switzerland road trip

Switzerland is generally an expensive travel destination, and this is noticeable in almost everything. As a tourist, you’ll find that hotels, restaurants, fuel, public transportation, and even mountain excursions (cable cars, mountain train trips) are expensive. Additionally, car rental, parking, and shopping in stores are at average Western European prices.

During the peak season, it’s challenging to find accommodation for two people under 150 CHF per night, but on average, we would suggest planning around 300 CHF per night for two people. This estimation doesn’t include luxury accommodations, it’s based on average 3- and 4-star hotels.

Meals and activities are also costly, so the average daily travel cost for two people in Switzerland (excluding getting to Switzerland) can range from 400 to 700 CHF, depending on individual preferences.

So, the five-day Swiss tour (excluding getting to Switzerland) is estimated to be roughly between 2000 and 4000 CHF, according to our calculations.

How to prepare for your trip to Switzerland

Additional useful information for your trip to Switzerland:

  • Although you can usually pay by credit card, always carry cash. Euros are accepted in most places, but it is best to carry Swiss francs.
  • The weather in Switzerland is quite changeable and rainy. Always be prepared for rainy weather.
  • If you plan to go hiking, don’t forget your hiking gear. Have at least a good pair of hiking shoes, and trekking poles could be useful too.
  • If you want to save money, bring as much food as possible from home (car travelers preferred), because everything is expensive in Switzerland, including food.
  • Also, if you’re coming by car, check the current fuel prices, as fuel is usually more expensive in Switzerland than in neighboring countries.

After the general information, let’s move on to the 5-day Swiss itinerary, day by day, showcasing the most beautiful places and best things to do in Switzerland.

The perfect 5-day Switzerland itinerary: How to spend 5 days in Switzerland

After addressing the key questions, let’s now delve into the five-day itinerary. You can read in detail about how, in our opinion, it’s best to spend 5 days in the country, discover the top attractions, and learn how to make the most of your available time in Switzerland.

Map for the 5-day Swiss itinerary

Day 1: Zurich

We start our 5-day itinerary in Zurich.

Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, serves as an interesting starting point for a Swiss adventure. Situated on the shores of Lake Zurich, the city combines modernity with a rich cultural heritage.

So, it’s worth spending the first day in Zurich, exploring the city, walking among the sights, going to the shores of Lake Zurich, and perhaps visiting one of the city’s shopping centers (which are less common in rural areas).

Morning: Old Town Zurich

Start exploring the city in the morning in the Old Town, where you can wander through cobblestone streets and discover the historical parts of Zurich. Take a stroll along the Limmat River and its bridges (Rathausbrücke, Münsterbrücke, and Quaibrücke), visit the medieval Grossmünster church, and walk on Bahnhofstrasse, famous for its luxury shops. Climb up to Lindenhof for a wonderful riverside panorama.

Afternoon: Lake Zurich

Lake Zurich provides a scenic setting for peaceful walks or boat rides. Along the lake, you’ll find several parks, such as Arboretum Zurich and Chinagarten Zurich. If you’re in the mood, rent a boat, pedal boat, or join a boat tour around the lake.

Additionally, for enthusiasts of culture and history, an optional program is visiting Zurich’s museums. The city boasts numerous museums, just to name a few: Kunsthaus Zurich, Swiss National Museum, and Museum Rietberg.

There’s also the FIFA Museum for football enthusiasts.

If you want one of the best views, head to the Uetliberg Lookout Tower. It’s an observation point above the city that you can reach by train or car.

The evening is free for your own plans. Try a local restaurant or bar and unwind from the day. You can find almost anything in the city, catering to your taste with a vast selection.

Where to stay in Zurich

There are plenty of accommodation options in Zurich. However, it’s the prices rather than the selection that is the problem, as hotel prices are quite high.

We offer accommodation in different categories, choose according to your needs and budget:

Day 2: Oeschinensee, Lauterbrunnen

On the second day, continue your journey to the countryside. Start early, as our itinerary showcases two of Switzerland’s most breathtaking places, ideal for the second day. These two places are the amazing Oeschinensee in Kandersteg and the famous Lauterbrunnen.

Zurich – Kandersteg: 185 km (115 mi), 2.5 hours (distances and travel times in blue are for car travel)

Pro tip: If you have some spare time in Zurich the day before, consider not staying overnight in Zurich but heading to the vicinity of the 2nd-day destinations. Traveling from Zurich to the countryside on the first evening allows you more time for activities on the 2nd day.

Morning, early afternoon: Oeschinensee

Start the daily program with Oeschinensee. There’s a simple reason for this – the mountain cable car leading to the lake operates only until the afternoon, so it’s advisable to schedule your visit earlier in the day.

Oeschinensee is located near the village of Kandersteg, and we consider it one of Switzerland’s most beautiful lakes. With its stunning vibrant blue color and surrounded by magnificent rocky peaks (which remain snow-capped throughout the year), the lake offers breathtaking panoramas that are sure to captivate you.

To reach Oeschinensee from Kandersteg, take the mountain cable car, which is the fastest way. The cable car doesn’t take you directly to the lake, so a bit of hiking is necessary.

For the best view of the lake, head to the spot marked “Aussichtspunkt Heuberg” on Google Maps. This requires a moderately challenging mountain hike along the hillside, so bring basic hiking gear with you.

Along the lake, you’ll find several restaurants, perfect for enjoying a delicious Swiss lunch.

If you’re looking for additional activities, you can hike around the lake, rent a boat on the lake shore, and find a toboggan run at the mountain cable car’s mountain station.

Oeschinensee is an ideal morning and early afternoon program to discover one of the most beautiful spots in the Swiss Alps and enjoy active recreation in nature.

Pro tip: If you still have time, on the way back from Kandersteg, make a short stop at Blausee, a small picturesque lake not far from the road.

Late afternoon, evening: Lauterbrunnen

Use the late afternoon and evening to explore Lauterbrunnen.

Kandersteg – Lauterbrunnen: 55 km (34 mi), 1 hour

We allocated relatively little time for Lauterbrunnen, as the depth of exploration depends on individual preferences and how much one wants to delve into this famous Swiss village.

Lauterbrunnen is renowned for its waterfalls, with a total of 72 waterfalls in the valley where the village is located. The most famous is the Staubbachfall Waterfall within the village, a nearly 300-meter high cascade plunging from a steep rock face.

In terms of time, if you just want to capture a few good photos, take a leisurely stroll through the picturesque streets of the village, or sit in a restaurant, the second half of the day is a great opportunity for this. However, if you’re looking for more activities, you can either spend the third day here as well or extend your trip by an extra day.

Optional activities around Lauterbrunnen

If you want to explore the surroundings of Lauterbrunnen more thoroughly, we recommend the following:

  • Explore the picturesque village of Wengen, which offers stunning views of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the surrounding mountains.
  • Take a cable car or train ride to Jungfraujoch, the “Top of Europe,” where you can experience amazing alpine scenery and visit the Ice Palace. The Jungfraubahn offers one of the most scenic train rides in Switzerland.
  • Discover Trümmelbach Falls, a series of impressive waterfalls inside a mountain.
  • Explore the charming village of Grindelwald, surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes.

If you have more time in the area, consider exploring the following more distant attractions:

  • Brienzer Rothorn: Ascend to the Brienzer Rothorn for breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Brienz. Take a scenic journey on a steam-powered panoramic train for an increasingly popular activity in Switzerland, and for good reason – the views from there are truly amazing.
  • Interlaken: Visit the resort town of Interlaken, situated between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. Explore the town’s shops, cafes, and take a boat cruise on one of the lakes.
  • Aareschlucht: Explore the wonders of nature by visiting Aareschlucht, a fascinating gorge along the Aare River. Walk between stone walls on wooden bridges and paths. Aareschlucht is known for its unique rock formations and is a perfect spot for nature lovers and hikers.

The list itself shows how much there is to discover in the Lauterbrunnen area. So, if you feel like it, don’t hesitate to spend more time exploring the surroundings.

Where to stay near Lauterbrunnen

In Lauterbrunnen, you will find only a few hotels, and in the surrounding villages, it’s worth considering whether you can access the accommodation by car (if you are traveling by car).

As we have planned a road trip for you, we recommend hotels in the area that you can easily reach by car.

Recommended accommodations in Lauterbrunnen and nearby:

Day 3: Lake Geneva

Day 3 of our 5-day itinerary focuses on Switzerland’s other gem, the famous Lake Geneva.

In fact, we can recommend two cities on the shores of Lake Geneva, one being Geneva itself, and the other Lausanne.

If you have enough time, it’s worth visiting the main attractions of both cities. Since neither city has too many attractions, you can quickly explore the best places in both on foot.

If you would skip Lake Geneva and prefer staying in the mountains, whether in Lauterbrunnen or later at our planned destination, Zermatt, we recommend using a car transport train service from Kandersteg. This service eliminates the need for a long car journey, taking you through the mountains where regular car access is not possible. The starting station is in Kandersteg, and the train transports you to Goppenstein while you can stay comfortably in your car.

If you only have time or energy for one, the choice is yours. Geneva is more famous, while Lausanne, in our opinion, is more spectacular.

So, our itinerary for the third day is as follows:

Geneva

Lauterbrunnen – Geneva: 225 km (140 mi), 2.5 hours

Geneva is Switzerland’s third-largest city, situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, and it serves as the European headquarters of the United Nations.

The main attractions in Geneva are conveniently located close to each other, either along the lakefront or nearby, making them easily accessible on foot.

Some of the key sights include:

  • Jardin Anglais (English Garden): One of Geneva’s central parks, featuring interesting landmarks. The Flower Clock is a notable attraction, which is a clock within a flower bed. Additionally, you can enjoy fantastic views of the lake from this park.
  • The Geneva Water Fountain: A mesmerizing fountain, one of the city’s most iconic symbols. It shoots up 140 meters from Lake Geneva, creating a spectacular sight.
  • Saint Peter’s Cathedral: Geneva’s most famous cathedral holds significant historical importance. It played a prominent role during the Protestant Reformation, with the leader John Calvin delivering many sermons here. You can climb to the top of the tower to enjoy breathtaking views of Geneva and the lake.

While strolling, especially along the shores of Lake Geneva, you can discover numerous statues, parks, and captivating viewpoints offering stunning vistas of the lake and the city.

Once you’ve explored the most intriguing attractions in Geneva, consider traveling to Lausanne, another picturesque city on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Geneva – Lausanne: 65 km (40 mi), 50 min

Lausanne

Lausanne, slightly smaller than Geneva and perhaps not as widely renowned, but we find it to be equally captivating for tourists.

The city boasts a compact yet visually captivating old town that is definitely worth a short visit. At the heart of the old town, the Lausanne Cathedral stands prominently, providing a stunning panorama of the surroundings.

During our stay in Lausanne, we chose to leave our car in a parking garage near Riponne Square and explored the old town on foot. This allowed us to wander past the impressive Palais de Rumine and ascend to the cathedral via interesting staircases. For a fantastic city view, head to the square in front of the cathedral, you can locate the “Vue des toits de Lausanne” photo spot on Google Maps.

Additionally, take a leisurely walk to the Pont Bessières (bridge) and the Place de la Palud (square). If you have extra time, consider a visit to the Sauvabelin Tower, an observation tower offering panoramic views of the city and the lake.

For the evening, we recommend traveling to the countryside again because for the fourth day of our itinerary, another special Swiss destination is planned: the world-renowned Matterhorn, situated near the town of Zermatt.

Lausanne – Zermatt (Täsch): 165 km (103 mi), 2 hours

Where to stay near Zermatt

If you’re traveling by car, it’s important to know that you cannot drive into Zermatt with your car, specifically, it’s not allowed for tourists. The last town where you can leave your car is Täsch, near Zermatt.

So, you have two options:

  • either book accommodation farther from Zermatt and travel into Zermatt on the morning of the fourth day,
  • or leave your car in one of the parking lots in Täsch and stay overnight in Zermatt, away from your car.

We recommend hotels for both scenarios in various price ranges.

In Zermatt:

  • Hotel ZERMAMA Zermatt: A four-star hotel located in the center of Zermatt, offering stunning views of the Matterhorn (some of the more expensive rooms even have a jacuzzi)
  • Resort La Ginabelle: A modern four-star hotel, offering views from the more expensive rooms
  • Zermatt Budget Rooms: A three-star hotel offering more affordable rates

In Täsch:

  • Matterhorn Inn: A three-star hotel located in Täsch, near Zermatt, offering one of the most affordable options

A bit further from Zermatt:

  • Baxter Hotel: A three-star hotel in Visp, relatively affordable, close to the train station and shopping opportunities

Day 4: Zermatt

The day four of our itinerary focuses on one of the most famous places in Switzerland, the Matterhorn and its surroundings, Zermatt.

How to reach Zermatt?

If you are arriving by car, as mentioned earlier, you cannot drive into Zermatt.

You need to leave your car in the nearby town of Täsch in one of the parking garages next to the train station. From the Täsch train station, you can then take a train (Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn) to get to Zermatt.

If you prefer an alternative to the train, you can also find taxi services, since taxis are allowed to enter Zermatt.

Since only one day fits into our itinerary in this area, a shorter hike is suitable for the fourth day.

There are numerous hiking opportunities around Zermatt, with many cable cars, trains, and other access options to the surrounding mountains.

If one has to be chosen, we would recommend the 5 Lakes Walk as a hiking destination.

The 5 lakes around the famous hiking trail are: Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee, and Leisee. The hike begins with a funicular and cable car ride, followed by an approximately 10 km trek around the five lakes. Finally, you can descend back to the town using a funicular.

Each lake offers a different and unique scenery, collectively making this hike around Zermatt unforgettable.

During this hike, you can see the Matterhorn from various locations, and you’ll find breathtaking photo spots, especially along the shores of the lakes.

Fun fact: Toblerone chocolate’s triangle-shaped packaging with a peak resembling the Matterhorn mountain is a long-standing iconic symbol in the Swiss sweets industry, highlighting the close connection between chocolate and the Swiss landscape.

If you prefer a more comfortable exploration of the surroundings, get a ticket for the Gornergrat Railway, which takes you through several stops around the surrounding mountains all the way to the Gornergrat Observation Platform. Along the way, you will enjoy fantastic views.

While on the way, don’t forget to stop by a mountain hut or restaurant to try local dishes.

Also, take a stroll in the town of Zermatt if you still have energy. The city itself offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

Perhaps the best photo spots are from the Kirchbrücke (bridge) and the “Zermatt Matterhorn Viewpoint” in the northeast part of the town.

Spend the night near Zermatt, in one of the places recommended previously.

Day 5: Lucerne

On the fifth and final day of our 5-day Swiss itinerary, we head back to Zurich.

On the way, there is another important stop, the city of Lucerne.

Täsch – Lucerne: 225 km (140 mi), approx. 4 hours (variable)

Lucerne is an 80,000-population city located on the shores of Lake Lucerne (aka Vierwaldstättersee in its original name), and it conveniently falls on your route back to Zurich or can be reached with a short detour.

The city itself offers relatively few attractions that can be explored in a few hours.

Noteworthy sites in Lucerne include the city’s famous bridges:

  • the Kapellbrücke
  • and the Spreuerbrücke.

Both bridges span the Reuss River and date back to the 14th and 15th centuries, featuring interesting stone towers. They are close to each other, allowing you to easily visit both on foot. Along the way, you can also see the Jesuit Church, built in the 17th century.

Optional places if you have more time:

  • Museggmauer: Museggmauer is a well-preserved medieval city wall in Lucerne. The Musegg Wall consists of nine towers and is open to the public, offering panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscapes.
  • Lion Monument: A famous sculpture carved into a cliff face. It depicts a dying lion pierced by a spear and serves as a memorial to Swiss Guards massacred during the French Revolution.

Additionally, for mountain enthusiasts visiting Lake Lucerne, we recommend either visiting Mount Pilatus or Fronalpstock.

Fronalpstock is a bit farther from Lucerne and more time-consuming, so we suggest considering it only if you have sufficient time (possibly an extra day) in the area.

The ascent to Mount Pilatus, on the other hand, might fit more comfortably into the fifth day. Mount Pilatus is a spectacular mountain near Lucerne, offering breathtaking views of the city, the lake, and the surrounding mountains from a well-developed platform. You can reach the summit with the Pilatus Bahn, the steepest cogwheel railway in the world, with a travel time of approximately 30 minutes one way.

Once at the top, you’ll have fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Don’t miss out on this exciting experience if you have the opportunity.

If you plan to visit both Mount Pilatus and Lucerne, we recommend prioritizing the mountain trip as the first activity and exploring the city as a late afternoon or evening program.

On the evening of day five, our itinerary comes to an end, which means we return to our starting point in Zurich.

Lucerne – Zurich: 50 km (31 mi), 40 min

Where to stay in Lucerne

If you still want to spend your fifth night in Lucerne, we can recommend:

  • Hotel Central Luzern: A three-star hotel located in the heart of Lucerne, close to the main attractions

Extra destinations to consider for an extended trip

Appenzell Alps: Seealpsee, Saxer Lücke, Äscher

If you want more scenic landscapes, consider exploring the Appenzell Alps. Key attractions include Seealpsee, a mesmerizing mountain lake, Saxer Lücke, one of Switzerland’s most photogenic geological formations, and Äscher, a renowned guesthouse nestled into a cliff. Each location provides a unique glimpse into the beauty of the Swiss Alps, offering fantastic opportunities for hiking and photography.

Bern: Capital of Switzerland

For additional cultural landmarks in Switzerland, enhance your Swiss journey with a visit to Bern, the capital city. Immerse yourself in the charming Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where medieval architecture and vibrant street life converge. Don’t miss the iconic Zytglogge clock tower and the Cathedral of Bern. Bern’s rich history and cultural offerings make it a captivating destination for a half or full-day trip.

Annecy: Day trip to France

For a delightful escape, consider a day trip to Annecy in France. Known as the “Venice of the Alps,” Annecy boasts charming canals, medieval architecture, and the stunning Lake Annecy. Stroll through the Old Town’s picturesque streets, visit the Palais de l’Isle, and enjoy the lakeside promenade. The blend of French elegance and Alpine beauty makes Annecy a perfect day-trip destination.

Ticino: Italian old villages

Explore Italian charm in Switzerland’s Ticino region, known for its captivating old villages. Villages like Sonogno and Foroglio are worth a day trip if you seek Switzerland’s best hidden gems. Wander among alpine stone houses, witness enchanting waterfalls in the vicinity, and savor the delights of Italian cuisine. Ticino offers a charming blend of Swiss and Italian cultures, providing a memorable and culturally rich experience during an extended journey.

So, this was our itinerary for a 5-day tour around Switzerland. We provided detailed insights into what you can see in Switzerland in 5 days, offered additional tips for those seeking extra activities, and highlighted Switzerland’s best views, hiking spots, and unique experiences.

In our 5-day itinerary, the goal was to showcase the most beautiful attractions Switzerland has to offer. Each day of the itinerary promises spectacular experiences, from the iconic Swiss cities to the crystal-clear Alpine lakes and up to the stunning rocky peaks, allowing you to discover the best places to visit in Switzerland.

Switzerland, overall, stands out among the top destinations, providing a diverse and enchanting journey for everyone.

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