Switzerland ~ the name invokes images of green meadows, swiss cows grazing as their bells gently ring in the breeze, pretty wooden chalets, alpine mountains covered with snow  and of perfect cerulean skies. For many Indians, thanks to iconic director ‘Yash Raj’ films, Switzerland was the definitive romantic getaway; many of his films’ romantic songs & sequences have been filmed in this country. So, a prospect of a summer vacation in Europe and that too in Switzerland has to be the ultimate travel dream comes true. However, I was in two minds, since it was summer and peak season for the ‘Indian Tourists’ to descend on Switzerland in package tours hordes, I actually thought it might turn out to be a disappointing experience. The husband had a work tour and convinced me that since we will be based out of non-touristy city Basel and also will be on a self-planned holiday, it will be a nice experience. So, it was with lot of anxiety as well as excitement that we headed for our self-planned Switzerland Summer Vacation.

Jungfrau – Top of Europe, Switzerland

Self-Planned Switzerland Summer Vacation Itinerary

We planned to spend 8 days in Switzerland, taking in 1 day extra each into account, flying in and out. Since the husband also had some work to do in Basel, it became our base for travelling & sightseeing through Switzerland. The biggest amount of effort in a self-planned trip to Switzerland (or Europe for that matter) is Visa application. I will be writing in detail about Visa Application process in detail and how to apply for a Visa (rather successful Visa application process for Schengen Visa in Europe), as otherwise it will become a very long post. Due to a 14 hour Flight delay from Delhi to Munich and then to Basel, our one whole day went waste in the beginning of our trip itself! Anyways, we still had 7 days and our day wise Itinerary for Switzerland was this:

Day 1: Visit and Sightseeing in Bern and Thun

Day 2: Visit/ Sightseeing Luzern and taking the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus.

Day 3: Sightseeing Basel

Day 4: Sightseeing in Fribourg-Gruyers region: Visit to Maison Cailler (Chocolate Factory) and Cheese Factory.

Day 5: Visit to Interlaken and Jungfrau (Top of Europe).

Day 6: Sightseeing in Zurich

Day 7: Sightseeing in Zurich and taking flight back to Delhi

Accommodation: We had to be based out of Basel for 6 days/5 nights and then fly out of Zurich. We opted to stay in an AirBnb apartment in Basel, which turned out to be rather nice arrangement as it was completely furnished one bedroom apartment with a bathroom/WC & kitchen; it gave us a lot of freedom to go in and out whenever we felt like, make our own meals and not have anyone intruding in for service etc. We had booked a budget serviced apartment hotel via booking.com for our one night stay in Zurich, which was also decent.

Transport within Switzerland: We had researched a lot on what transport option to take and how to travel in Switzerland using public transport. We learnt that Switzerland has a fantastic railway system, which not only connects whole of the country but with neighbouring countries of Germany, France and Italy. Therefore, we opted for an 8 day Swiss Rail Pass, which gave us all round access to the rail system in Switzerland (except some scenic routes – in which we were eligible for around 25-30% discount). We booked our Swiss Rail Pass in advance online and carried hard copy of the online ticket, which was easily scanned by the ticket checkers during our train rides. I will write a separate post on the benefits and process of Swiss Rail Pass & Swiss Rail System for Travellers.

Day 1 –  Bern ~ Capital of Switzerland and UNESCO World Heritage City

The city of Bern is the capital of Switzerland, is an UNESCO World Heritage site and has also been ranked amongst World’s top 10 cities for best quality of life. All of these (and UNESCO Heritage site more so) was reason enough for us to visit Bern on first day of our Switzerland trip. Bern is around 1 hour away from Basel city by train. The first thing I noticed as I got off from the train station was the absolutely stunning cerulean sky which looked down upon gorgeous Medieval era buildings. We walked around the city and followed signage (and also package tour guides leading people – best way to confirm if one is going the right way in a touristy place!) into the Old part of the city. The Old city of Bern (or Berne is it’s called in German) has been declared a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site and walking around the town, one can easily understand why so. It is a beautifully conserved medieval city which has over time incorporated all the substance & elements of modern urban planning.  We had a lovely time walking around Bern and enjoying a beautiful summer day.

Day 1 – Thun Town and Lake Thun

After we finished our sightseeing in Bern, it was afternoon and we thought of exploring some more, so we decided to head off to Thun town, which was the next station on the train journey (basically one station away from Bern) and only around 20 minutes ride. So off we went to Thun, which is a much smaller town and is located on the southern side of Lake Thun. We decided to first walk upto the old town, which is around a kilometre from the train station & Lake Thun and has a Castle located at the centre of Old Town. The architecture of the old town was majorly of 18th/19th century, with pretty cobbled streets, beautiful window facades, decorated with flowering planters, lampposts in old style lining the streets. On a beautiful sunny summer day with a gentle breeze blowing through, walk through old town of Thun uphill to the Castle made for an enjoyable activity. The Castle is located on the highest point of Thun city and provides for a beautiful panoramic view of the city & lake.

Day 2 – Luzern and Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus

On Day 2, we took the train to Luzern (also called Lucerne in English), which is around 1.5 hours away from Basel. In Luzern, we decided to first take the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus and then sightsee the city of Luzern & Lake Luzern. The Golden Round Trip is combination of Boat +Cog Wheel Train + Cable Car + Bus Ride to and from Mount Pilatus and takes at least 2-3 hours.. I shall write a detailed post on the Golden Round Trip to Mount Pilatus. The views of the swiss meadows on the Golden Round Trip to and from Mount Pilatus are very pretty and one gets to view all the staples of Swiss landscape – Swiss Cows, Chalets, snow-capped mountains in the distance, charming meadows and hillocks with people hiking.

Post our Golden Round Trip, it was around lunchtime and we strolled around Luzern to view the most famous Dying Lion Statue, Lake Luzern and the famous Chapel Bridge, before settling in for a late lunch at the restaurant by side of River Reuss overlooking Chapel Bridge. It was one of the most charming lunches we have had in a long time as a couple.

Day 3  – Basel City

I was all on my own on Day 3 in Basel and decided to go around the city of Basel. I started my sightseeing from the Old Town, with its pretty cobbled streets, fountains and churches. I walked along River Rhine, took a beautiful ride across the river in the smallest houseboat I have ever come across (it was the house of the boat man) and got off at the other Bank at one of the gates leading Basel Minzter. I walked around the Basel Minzter, which is an impressive building, for a bit and went upto KunstMuseum Basel, which is one of the oldest Art museums in Basel (and also has the biggest collection of Holbein collection in the world). It was a revelation walking around the KunstMuseum and I was overwhelmed at instances looking at the sheer legacy, beauty & even ugliness of the art around.  I also visited Tinguley Fountain, Old Jewish Town Neighbourhood, ElisabethenKirche, before ending the day by River Rhine, watching locals enjoy swimming by, as it was the annual Rhine Swim Day (and I though myself to be lucky enough to be there on that day!) – read here for more about culture of swimming in Rhine by locals in Basel and Rhine Swim Day 2017.

Day 4 – Visit to Fribourg- Gruèyes region ~ Maison Cailler Factory and Cheese Factory

The canton of Fribourg is part of the French speaking regions in Switzerland and one can notice the difference riding in the trains, as the locals as well as the announcements on the trains are majorly in French (in the German speaking regions announcements are first made Germans and then other languages).

The train journey from Basel to Fribourg takes one through some of the most charming landscapes in Switzerland – beautiful skies with ever changing cloudscape, pretty little towns and villages, endless grass pastures with cows’ lazily grazing and cute churches.

Our first destination in Fribourg was Broc Fabrique – the little village which has the Maison Cailler or Chocolate Factory Museum by Cailler – Nestle. It was one of the most delicious, sinful Museums visits I have ever experienced and I was on a sugar high for around 2 hours after the visit.

Next we visited the Cheese Factory in Gruèyes and Gruèyes Castle. While the walk to Gruèyes Castle and visit was pretty interesting, the Cheese Factory visit was a bit disappointing, mostly due to the fact that it’s not a well curated museum and most visitors get bored after couple of minutes of watching the churning of milk and whey. However, one can pick up authentic world famous Gruèye cheese, which was been named after this region of Gruèyes.

Day 5 – Interlaken and Jungfrau

Interlaken and Jungfrau are the topmost favourites of all travellers to Switzerland. I actually would have preferred to visit Montreaux region but as the husband wanted to visit Jungfrau, I came along. My thoughts on Jungfrau are that it’s definitely a charming ‘top of europe’ mountain but too crowded and there’s no thrill of reaching here. The train rides from Interlaken to Jungfrau though offer some of the best ‘picture postcard’ views of the Swiss landscape.

Day 6 and 7 – Zurich

Zurich is the financial capital of Switzerland and is a melting pot of the old, trendy and emerging future. It has  proudly held on to its past, evolving as per the present beautifully at the same time. Our one and half day in Zurich was a bit dampened by rains as we were not able to sightsee as much as we wanted to, but we enjoyed our relaxed time here walking in the Old Town, visiting Lake Zurich (almost and that’s another interesting story) and immersing ourselves in the vibe of Zurich.

Switzerland definitely left me charmed and wanting for more (chocolates!) and I would recommend a self-planned holiday here, rather than a package tour to fully appreciate and experience the beauty, culture and ‘swiss identity’ which the people of Switzerland are so proud of!!

My detailed posts on Day wise Travel to Switzerland coming up soon…so stay tuned for more 🙂

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