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COUNTRY QUICK FACTS

Capital City

Bern

Welcome to Switzerland!

Click anywhere on the interactive Page Outline to get started

Official Languages

German

French

Italian

Romansh

Currency

Franc (CHF)

Bordering Nations

Austria

France

Germany

Italy

Liechtenstein

OUR favorite Suggestions

Switzerland offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes in all of Europe!

  1. Conquer the Swiss Alps

  2. Get Lost in Lucerne

  3. Explore Zürich

  4. Window Shop at Bahnhofstrasse

  5. Indulge in Swiss Chocolate

SITEs and Experiences

Lucerne / Lake Lucerne Region

 

Mt. Pilatus: Located just over 3km from the city center, a journey up to the heart of the Swiss Alps from Lucerne is just around the corner! Start your journey by hopping on a panoramic gondola ride up from the ground at Kriens, and finish with an aerial cableway ride to the top of the summit. Not only are there breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps all along the way, there are also opportunities to go sledding, snowshoeing, hiking, and much, much more. With so many different ways to spend your time on the mountain, no two trips to Mt. Pilatus are truly the same. Discover all that Mt. Pilatus has to offer by surfing their website, and be sure to check out the Switzerland Country Exclusive section down below for more basic information.

Mt. Rigi: Another beautiful summit within the Swiss Alps that is accessible from Lucerne is Mt. Rigi. A rather popular experience in Switzerland is to take the cog railway up up from the shores of Lake Lucerne up to an elevation of nearly 1,800 meters on Mt. Rigi; fun fact - this cog railway is the oldest in all of Europe! Many visitors embark on an immensely scenic route by taking a boat from Lucerne to Vitznau, the cogwheel from Vitznau up to Rigi Kulm and back down to Arth-Goldau, and then a train from there back to Lucerne. Prices do vary depending on the time of the year that you are visiting, but you can find the pricing layout on their official website.

Chapel Bridge: Often  marveled as the symbol of this beautiful city, this wooden foot bridge that spans diagonally over the Reuss is difficult to miss while you're exploring Lucerne. This bridge is the oldest wooden covered bridge in all of Europe, and is the longest surviving trust bridge in the entire world. The interior of the bridge houses many unique paintings, some of which date all the way back to the 17th century. 

Lion Monument: Completed in 1821, this rock relief commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution in 1792 when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. It is one of the most popular tourist sites in all of Switzerland, visited by over 1.4 million people annually. Mark Twain once famously referred to this monument as "the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world." 

Country

Exclusive

Journey to the Top of the World

Let Mt. Pilatus be your gateway to the top of the world! With an altitude of over 2,100 meters, an excursion up through the clouds is filled with an abundance of natural Swiss beauty that is almost impossible to replicate. There are three main ways to get to the summit, and plenty of activities and amenities to enjoy throughout your journey. From hiking trails and a ropes course to sledding and zip lining (and not to mention several restaurants), a trip to Mt. Pilatus is sure to create memories that will last you a lifetime.

Panoramic Gondola

How much does it cost?

Roundtrip from Kierns - 72 CHF

Discounts

With Swiss Travel Pass - 36 CHF

With Eurail Pass - 36 CHF

Children (ages 6-16) - 36 CHF

Transit to the gondola from the Lucerne city center is super convenient - just hop on the RBusse 1 heading west and get off at the Kriens stop. From there, the journey up to the summit two-part.

To begin, you'll take a panoramic gondola ride up to the Fräkmüntegg stop, which takes about 30 minutes. This is the "half-way house" for lack of a better term; this isn't as far up as you will go, but this stop is where you'll find the majority of the activities that you can enjoy: sledding, a rope park, the Dragon Glider zip line, and much more. Check out this interactive map to see everything you can enjoy off of the Främüntegg stop (as well as at the summit at Pilatus Kulm).

Once you have finished enjoying your time off of the Främüntegg stop, it's time to make your way to the summit. From here, you'll hop on the aerial cableway known locally as the Dragon Ride, a large cockpit-like cabin ride that is sure to take your breath away. 4 minutes later, and the summit views await!

Cogwheel Railway

How much does it cost?

Roundtrip from Alpnachstad - 72 CHF

Discounts

With Swiss Travel Pass - 36 CHF

With Eurail Pass - 36 CHF

Children (ages 6-16) - 36 CHF

The cogwheel railway that winds up the side of the mountain is most famous for being the steepest cogwheel railway in the world, with some spots as steep as 48% gradient! You board the cogwheel at the Alpnachstad station, and there are a few ways you can there from Lucerne.

The quickest way to get to Alpnachstad station is via train from Luzern Bahnhof; this 20 minute train ride costs 8 CHF. The longer (but  wildly scenic!) way to get to Alpnachstad station is to take a ferry from Luzern Bahnhofquai across Lake Lucerne. This ferry cruise can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, and offers stunning views of Lake Lucerne & and surrounding area. A ticket for this ferry journey costs 19 CHF.

Once at Alpnachstad station, it's time to board the cogwheel. The train ride takes you directly to the summit at Pilatus Kulm, and takes between 30 and 40 minutes. Enjoy the ride and soak in the beauty!

Golden Roundtrip

How much does it cost?

Roundtrip; Boat 1st class - 114 CHF

Roundtrip; Boat 2nd class - 100 CHF

Discounts (2nd Class)

With Swiss Travel Pass - 36 CHF

With Eurail Pass - 51.70 CHF

Children (ages 6-16) - 50 CHF

Can't decide whether you'd like to take the panoramic gondola or the cogwheel railway up to the summit? Not to worry! Pilatus offers a special package known as the Golden Roundtrip that gives visitors a chance to get the best of both worlds. 

The Golden Roundtrip journey begins at Luzern Bahnhofquai, where you'll take a ferry ride across Lake Lucerne over to Alpnachstad station. From there, you'll get to take the cogwheel railway up to the summit at Pilatus Kulm. On your way back down, you will get to enjoy the views of the aerial cableways. From Pilatus Kulm, you'll take the famed Dragon Ride down to Främüntegg where you can enjoy the various activities that are available. From there, you'll take a ride on the panoramic gondolas back to Kriens, where you can catch the RBusse 1 heading back to Lucerne.

The Golden Roundtrip option is offered only from May to October each year.

Lucerne S&E
Country Exclusive

Zürich

 

Bahnhofstrasse: The main pedestrianized street in Zürich is known as the Bahnhofstrasse, which stretches over 1,200 meters from the main train station down to the Bürkliplatz plaza at the northern tip of Lake Zürich. This street is lined with a multitude of high-end shops, accompanied by greenery, street art, fountains, and more; a stroll down Bahnhofstrasse showcases much of the luxury charisma that this city has to offer!

Lindenhof: Situated right between Bahnhofstrasse and the west bank of the Limmat river, this sector of Zürich's Old Town was once an old fortification built by the Romans back in the fourth century. Today, the Lindenhofplatz is a popular tree-shaded park where visitors and locals alike come to relax and enjoy sweeping panoramic views across the river and Old Town. Head here to spend some down time soaking in the classic Zürich ambiance.

Lake Zürich: The southern edge of the city meets the northern tip of one of the most famous lakes in all of Europe. The shores are lined with parks and promenades, which give visitors and locals ample opportunity to jog, swim, picnic, and enjoy the atmosphere. Bürkliplatz is a bustling plaza that lies between the end of Bahnhofstrasse and the lake, and is always lively with activity. From May to October, a large flea market is held in the plaza every Saturday that attracts as many as 500 different vendors. Cruises down the lake that leave from Bürkliplatz are a popular way to see Zürich and the surrounding area; check out more information on those cruises here 

Confiserie Sprüngli: This world famous confectionary was founded back in 1836, and it is one of the most prominent delicacy names in all of Switzerland. They are renowned internationally for their signature macaroons commonly known as "Luxemburgeli," named after the Sprüngli confectioner from Luxembourg who first invented the flagship product. Their main store is located right on Bahnhofstrasse, while other smaller outlets are located throughout Zürich.

Zurich S&E

Practical Information

Arriving in Zürich

 

ARRIVING BY PLANE

Zürich Airport (ZRH) is the largest and busiest international airport in Switzerland, and is located 13km north of the city. The substantial majority of all international flights into the country flow through Zürich Airport, so this is where you'll most likely be arriving in Switzerland via plane, no matter your final destination within the country. 

Terminal A - This terminal contains the gates that are prefixed with "A" and is used exclusively for flights inside the Schengen Area, including domestic flights within Switzerland.

Terminal B - This terminal contains the gates that are prefixed with either "B" or "D" and is used for both Schengen and non-Schengen flights. Each gate has both a "B" number and a "D" number, which allows for the flow separation of Schengen and non-Schengen Area passengers. Keep this in mind upon arrival and departure as it isn't overly intuitive to think the "D" gates are also in Terminal B.

Terminal E - This terminal contains the gates that are prefixed with "E" and is entirely served by non-Schengen international flights. This terminal is a standalone terminal and is connected to the main Airside Center by the Skyemetro tram system.

Logo_Star_Alliance_cropped.png

Star Alliance member Swiss Air Lines is the flag carrier of Switzerland and houses its hub at Zürich Airport; if you are a member of any Star Alliance member's rewards program and are flying Swiss Air Lines into Zürich, you will be able to earn miles towards your Star Alliance status.

Getting to the City from Zürich Airport

Train - There are multiple train services that serve Zürich Main Station from the airport; these include the S-Bahn, InterCity, and InterRegio services. No matter which train you take, the price of a one-way ticket is 6.80 CHF, so you can hop on the first train that departs for Zürich HB after you buy your ticket. These train lines will get you to the Main Station in 10 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines in Arrival 1 & 2, SBB ticket counters, the Service Center, or online. Signs within the airport will help direct you towards the train station, which is located on the underground level across the street from the arrivals terminal. 

Streetcar - Line 10 on Zürich's public tram system takes visitors from the airport to Zürich HB in about 35 minutes. This option is longer, but offers a great way to see the city while riding into the station. A one-way ticket for this ride will also cost 6.80 CHF. Trams leave every 15 minutes (from 9:00 - 21:00), and the tram station is located right outside the arrivals terminal.

Taxi - For most taxis, you pay a basic fare of 6 CHF and then an additional 3.40 CHF for every kilometer driven. Depending on your specific destination within the city, this can add up to around 50-70 CHF in total. You can catch a taxi outside Arrivals 1 and 2, and the journey takes about 15 minutes. 

Rental Car - The rental car companies that can be found at Zürich Airport include Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National, Sixt, and Thrifty. The car hire center is located in the Airport Center on Level 1. More information can be found here

ARRIVING BY TRAIN

Train Station - the main station in Zürich is Zürich Hauptbahnhof, or Zürich HB for short. As is the case with Zürich Airport, Zürich HB is the main gateway to the rest of Switzerland via train. With that being said, there are multiple international train services that serve Zürich HB daily from Switzerland's bordering countries:

From France (via SNCF)

TGV Lyria is the brand name of the TGV lines that connect France and Switzerland. The journey from Paris to Zürich lasts just over 4 hours on the high-speed railway. Booking typically opens 120 days in advance, and fares start at €49 (53 CHF) if booked well in advance; the fares do rise as the departure date gets closer.

From Germany (via Deutsche Bahn DB)

Munich - there are 6 daily EuroCity Express trains that arrive in Zürich in just over 4 hours. Fares begin from €25.90.

Frankfurt & Cologne - daily InterCity trains run from both of these two cities with fares beginning from €27.90. Some of these trains are direct, and some connect through Basel in northern Switzerland.

Berlin - daily InterCity trains link Berlin to Zürich in 8h 30, and fares begin from €103. There is also a nightly Nightjet sleeper train operated by ÖBB (see below) that departs nightly at 20:54 and arrives in Zürich at 9:05 the next morning. Fares on this train begin from €59.99.

From Austria (via ÖBB)

Vienna - 6 daily Railjet (RJX) trains depart every two hours from Vienna and arrive in Zürich in 7h 50m. Fares begin from €39.90. There is also a nightly Nightjet train that departs at 21:27 and arrives in Zürich at 8:20 the next morning. Fares on that train begin from €29.90.

Salzburg - Railjet (RJX) trains depart every two hours from Salzburg and arrive in Zürich in 5h 24m. Fares begin from €39.90.

From Italy (via Trenitalia)

ETR610 EuroCity trains connect Milan directly to Zürich HB in about 3h 15m. Fares on this direct train begin from €38. If you are heading to Zürich from other major Italian cities (such as Florence or Rome) you will have to book a Frecciarosa high-speed train to Milan and then take the EuroCity from there to Zürich.

Arriving in Zurich
Arriving in Lucerne

Arriving in Lucerne

 

ARRIVING BY PLANE

There is no airport in Lucerne; the closest major airport to Lucerne is Zürich Airport (ZRH).

ARRIVING BY TRAIN

Train Station - the main train station in Lucerne is Lucerne railway station, known simply as Luzern. Centrally located within the country of Switzerland, Lucerne station has become one of the main hubs of the SBB rail network.

 

Most major domestic destinations that connect directly with Lucerne by rail via the SBB, including Zürich (25 CHF), Basel (34 CHF) and Lausanne (65 CHF). All other destinations, whether within Switzerland or from international destinations, would connect via one of these larger cities in Switzerland. See below (Train Transportation Within Switzerland section) for more information on the SBB network and how to book your train tickets. 

Train Transportation Within Switzerland

 

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) - famed for being one of the most punctual and efficient train networks in the world, the SBB makes train travel within Switzerland very enjoyable and easy to navigate. You can book your SBB tickets online directly from their website at www.sbb.ch or at other third party ticket providers such as trainline.eu with no booking fee required.

  • Tickets on the SBB network do not need to be pre-booked; regular full-fare tickets are available at an unlimited number, so you can arrive at the train station on the day of your departure and purchase your ticket without having to worry about availability or price hikes. All standard routes between any two Swiss stations on the SBB network have one fixed price.

  • Full-fare tickets are valid for any train serving that route on the day the ticket was purchased for; once your ticket is purchased, you can simply hop on any train (provided it's on the same day) that is headed to your destination. 

  • Be aware that the first price that is shown online is typically half of the true price - the website usually assumes that you have a Swiss Half Fare card (see below), which most Swiss citizens do. When finalizing your booking, be sure to check the "No Discount" box, and the true full price of the ticket will then appear on your screen.

Swiss Passes and Half-Fare Card

Swiss Travel Pass

A very popular investment for visitors to Switzerland is that of a Swiss Travel Pass, which offers travelers unlimited travel by train, boat, and bus within the borders of Switzerland for a specified period of days. There a few special modes of transport that are not covered by the Swiss Travel Pass (such as the mountain railways in Jungfrau), but the Pass does give holders 50% off of these routes. You can download a detailed map of the network here; the solid lines are the routes that are covered by the Pass, and the dotted lines are the routes where the 50% discount is applied upon purchase. More info on the Swiss Travel Pass can be found here.

There are two versions of the Swiss Pass that are available for purchase: the Swiss Travel Pass where your days have to be used consecutively, or the Swiss Travel Pass Flex where the days can be used sporadically over the course of one month. The pricing differences between the two options are outlined below:
 

Swiss Travel Pass

Choose between 3, 4, 8, or 15 consecutive days of travel

Adults (aged 26 and older)

Length

2nd Class Ticket

1st Class Ticket

3 Days

4 Days

8 Days

15 Days

232 CHF

281 CHF

418 CHF

513 CHF

369 CHF

447 CHF

663 CHF

810 CHF

Youth (aged 25 and younger)

Length

2nd Class Ticket

1st Class Ticket

3 Days

4 Days

8 Days

15 Days

198 CHF

240 CHF

357 CHF

439 CHF

315 CHF

381 CHF

566 CHF

692 CHF

Swiss Travel Pass Flex

3, 4, 8, or 15 days of travel that can be used freely within one month

Adults (aged 26 and older)

Length

2nd Class Ticket

1st Class Ticket

3 Days

4 Days

8 Days

15 Days

267 CHF

323 CHF

467 CHF

563 CHF

424 CHF

514 CHF

742 CHF

890 CHF

Youth (aged 25 and younger)

Length

2nd Class Ticket

1st Class Ticket

3 Days

4 Days

8 Days

15 Days

228 CHF

276 CHF

399 CHF

481 CHF

362 CHF

438 CHF

633 CHF

760 CHF

Saver Day Pass

Similar to the Swiss Travel Pass, the Saver Day Pass allows the holder unlimited travel by train, boat, and bus within Switzerland, albeit only for one singular day as opposed to multiple days. The same network map (found here) is referenced as the one that is referenced above with the Swiss Travel Pass; all of the routes denoted by solid black, red, and yellow lines are covered by the Saver Day Pass. The special routes denoted by the dotted lines, however, do not include the 50% discount that the Swiss Travel Pass does.

  • There is no fixed price for the Saver Day Pass; tickets start from 52 CHF, but are made available in different price bands with different advance booking periods. In other words, the earlier you buy, the cheaper the ticket would be. These passes can be bought in both 1st and 2nd class, with 1st class passes intuitively being more expensive than 2nd class.

  • The Saver Day Pass can be purchased from 60 days prior to departure up to the day before departure; you cannot purchase the pass on the same day that you plan on using it. 

  • In theory, the Saver Day Pass can be cheaper than buying one standard ticket on the SBB network. For example, a 2nd class train ticket from Geneva to Zürich costs a standard 88 CHF; if you plan on taking this train journey on one of your days in Switzerland, you could buy a Saver Day Pass for 52 CHF and use it to take that train journey instead. You save 36 CHF (41%) just by doing so!

Half-Fare Card

When browsing online and booking your SBB tickets, you will frequently see mention made of the Half-Fare Card. For a one-time price of 185 CHF (and an annual renewal fee of 165 CHF) the Half-Fare Card offers the holder 50% off on every train ticket that is purchased on the SBB network for one full year. 

As this card is only offered in an annual increment, it is more geared towards Swiss citizens or those who will be living in Switzerland for an extended period of time as opposed to those simply visiting the country for a few days. However, we wanted to make sure we made mention of it on this page as you will likely come across this term when looking for SBB tickets; if you happen to be someone who would be in the market for a Half-Fare Card, you can find more information on it here

Transport in Switzerland
Swiss Travel Pass

Public Transportation in Zürich

Zürich Transport Network (ZVV)

The ZVV is the public transportation network that serves the city of Zürich and its neighboring regions. The Zürich region is divided into various "zones" which are laid out on this zone map; the city center of Zürich itself is encompassed by Zone 110. Within the ZVV network, there a couple of primary types of tickets that are available for purchase:

  • A single ticket is good for 1 ride and holds one hour of validity; a single ticket valid for 1-2 zones costs 4.40 CHF.

  • A 24-hour ticket is good for unlimited rides and holds 24 hours of validity; a 24-hour ticket for 1-2 zones costs 8.80 CHF.

Prices on both of these tickets increase as you increase the number of zones that you wish to travel in. You can find a detailed layout of the pricing charts here. At the various stops throughout the ZVV network, you can always find ticketing machines (you can't purchase these tickets online), timetable information, and a zone map. 

If you foresee using public transportation a good amount while in Zürich, an investment in a Zürich Card may be worth exploring. A Zürich Card gives visitors unlimited second-class travel on all busses, trains, boats, trams, and cableways in Zürich and its surrounding region for a period of either 24 or 72 hours, along with a variety of the benefits.  More information can be found here

  • An adult (ages 16+) card will cost 27 CHF (24 hours) or 53 CHF (72 hours).

  • Children (ages 6-15) card will cost 19 CHF (24 hours) or 37 CHF (72 hours); children under 6 always travel free.

Note! - if you plan on purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass, there is no need to also purchase a Zürich Card as all of the public transportation within Zürich is already covered by the Swiss Travel Pass.

Public Transportation in Lucerne

Visitor Card Lucerne

Public transportation within Lucerne is extensive, easy to navigate, and (if you stay overnight) free! The city of Lucerne offers guests who are staying overnight in the Lucerne/Lake Lucerne region what they call their Visitor Card Lucerne. This Visitor Card gives overnight guests free use of all trains and busses within Zone 10 of the city network, which covers the entirety of the city albeit a handful of stops on the outskirts. Upon booking your accommodation in Lucerne, you have the ability to download your Visitor Pass online (and either print it or download to your smartphone) with the information provided to you by your place of accommodation. Alternatively, you can obtain it when checking in at your accommodation in-person. More information on the card can be found here.

If you do not obtain the Visitor Card or are not staying in Lucerne overnight, tickets can be purchased at the ticket stations that are located at most every stop in the city. You can also download the free smartphone app Fairtiq (available for Android and iOS) to pay for your public transportation; instead of paying for tickets, you enter in your credit card information and simply check-in/check-out every time you take a trip on public transportation. The app will then automatically charge your credit card the appropriate tariff for your journey. A one-day pass within Zone 10 costs 8.20 CHF, and a single ticket valid for 1 hour costs 4.10 CHF; as is the norm within Switzerland, children under 6 are free, and ages 6-16 pay half-fare.

 

This page was last updated on February 20, 2021.

Zurich Public Transport
Lucerne Public Transport
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