But everything else – the nature, the beautiful cities, the food (aka cheese)…We loved (and ate) it all.We had our Switzerland itinerary written out, which was made up of the typical tourist places: Interlaken, Bern, Zurich, St Gallen, and Lucerne.
We booked a private room in Basel on AirBnb (which is pretty much the cheapest place in Switzerland that we could find for accommodation) and hit it off with our hosts. They showered us in chocolate and beer our first night there, and even invited us to go dancing with them!
They asked what we had planned, and I proudly announced our chosen destinations. Our hosts looked at each other, shook their heads, and were like nahhh we have MUCH BETTER IDEAS FOR YOU.
So, here are the best places to go in Switzerland in winter according to 2 Swiss locals!
BASEL MAKES FOR A GOOD BASEWe stayed in Basel – mainly because it was the cheapest area we could find. Keep in mind that Basel is a little far from the Alps etc. – it’s very very far north, like stupid close to both France and Germany. BUT you can totally still visit the Alps during the day, and do some awesome day trips! Other than being a really pretty (and safe) city, Basel has a pretty cool hook up: you get access to FREE transportation within Basel during your stay!
Apparently all the AirBnbs/hotels offer this perk which is pretty cool. And no, that doesn’t mean you get a free train to the alps, but it means that all the trams/buses you take within Basel are all free! And this includes to and from the Basel airport, which is pretty lit if you ask me – usually getting to and from the airport is ridiculously expensive.Our first day we mainly wandered around and got lost in the Old Town and amongst the canals. We also stumbled upon some botanical gardens (I’m a sucker for plants and greenhouses) and those were pretty (and free), too. We didn’t really have anything on our agenda, just kinda wandered, which I am a lot more apt to doing these days. My friend and I aren’t really big museum people (although I love me a good natural history museum) but there are tons in Basel if you’re interested!
But to be honest, wandering was really nice.
All the following day trips take place from the Basel SBB railway station, the central station in Basel.
THE BEST WINTER DAY TRIPS FROM BASEL, SWITZERLAND
COLMAR, FRANCE IS THE PRETTIEST LITTLE FRENCH TOWNOur second day we were supposed to go to Colmar (which yes, is in France, but only about a 45 min train ride from Basel!) but we missed our train. Basically, we could NOT get it to change the language to English, and were trying to guess everything in French. We had no idea what we were doing, and our train just left. There’s also only ONE ticket booth that we could find in the French section (you have to purchase tickets to France in the French section of the station).
I would suggest you bypass the annoying machine and just purchase your tickets inside the Basel train station from people that can help you in the information section. Don’t even bother with the machines. That’s what we did on our second attempt and it was so much easier.Then, you have leave the Swiss part of the station and go to the French part to get your train. To get to the French part, you have to go outside of the SBB station and turn left. Just ask for directions from the person at the ticket booth.
But, once we made it to Colmar we forgot all of our train station woes. It was stunning!
It’s usually a very touristy place, but it wasn’t that crowded since we went on a weekday in February. That is my advice to you if you want to avoid all the people.And again, we didn’t really have an itinerary – just wandered around, which in my opinion, is all you really need to do in Colmar. Map yourself to “La Petit Venise” – that’ll take you right to the center where the famous canal shot is, and then you can just go from there. We found lots of little cafes and bakeries to duck into when it got too chilly out. There are also lots of shops, but most weren’t open – I’m assuming lots of places only open in the spring/summer. But to be honest, just walking around and looking at all the pretty buildings was more than enough for us!
LUCERNE IS MORE THAN JUST A BRAND OF DAIRY PRODUCTSOkay, so we pretty much only stopped in Lucerne for 45 minutes on our way to Rigi, and you can totally kill 2 birds with one stone by doing this.
You can also get up earlier so you can enjoy more time in Lucerne before taking the ferry to Rigi (I believe ferries leave every hour or 2). Or you can just come back to Lucerne on your own because it’s so freaking pretty??? Especially dusted in snow??I would definitely recommend a boat ride on the lake as it’s gorgeous (which you’ll get to do if you take the ferry) because boat rides are just nice. Walking around the town and on the lake is so pretty and relaxing.
RIGI IS THE COOLEST MOUNTAINSo once you get off the ferry, you have to take a cable car up the mountain. It stops a bunch of times, but we kind of just kept riding it to the last stop (save for when we got off at the first stop, mistakenly thinking we were at the top), and that was the one! It was quite an adventure. Oh, and get the Swiss Alpine Pasta at the top! It has cheese and potatoes and applesauce in it. Like what could be better?!
I’d highly recommend this or Pilatus (the other mountain similar to Rigi, although I believe Pilatus is a little higher), as it’s really really cool to be above the clouds!
Especially during a cloudy winter – great way to get some sunshine. Although remember to bring your sunglasses and sunscreen, PLEASE – and a hat if you’re feeling crazy. The sun is really strong up there, especially since it’s reflecting off the snow.Lots of people go skiing etc. up there, but we didn’t – we just came to see the mountain. I’d imagine doing some sort of snow sport up there would be mega rad but I haven’t done any of that since I was 12, so I wasn’t about to start now – I saw 4 year olds that could ski better than me!
Oh and try and tell me that seeing toddlers in snowsuits isn’t the CUTEST THING EVER. Ok actually, toddlers in snowsuits riding in old wooden sleds was the cutest thing ever. One kid was totally passed out in the sled with his limbs just flopping around, which was absolutely adorable.
LAUTERBRUNNEN HAS SOME EPIC VIEWSYou have to stop here to get to Mürren, so might as well explore if you have time (…and didn’t sleep in too long like we did…). It’s such a pretty (but very small) town and I wish we’d had time to walk around a bit!
MÜRREN IS THE PERFECT SWISS ALPS SKI TOWNMürren is one of those classic Swiss Alps towns. They suggested this instead of Grindelwald and Interlaken as it’s much less touristy! I think 90% of the people we encountered there were locals. I will warn you that it is a MISSION to get there from Basel – I think it took about 3 hours each way via public transportation – but I love riding trains so I really didn’t mind. Plus it is WORTH IT.
You have to switch trains at Interlaken (so you still get to see it if it’s really on your list), then take a cable car/gondola thing up the mountain, then another train. But it’s soooo freaking beautiful and worth it, I promise! Even if you’re a non-skier, it’s fun to just walk around! OR they have ski lessons and sleds you can rent.Make sure you eat a Rösti while you’re there! It’s this dish that’s all about cheese and potato and more cheese. Do you see a theme from these classic Swiss dishes?! We also really wanted to do the Glacier Express (which is a LONG ASS ride round trip from Basel – like 14 hours – but it’s doable), and apparently you don’t have to buy the actual pass (although our host was telling us the panoramic windows make it worth it), but if you’re on a budget you can just buy the train ticket to Zermatt and see the same scenery that way! They also suggested we go to Rheinfelden Solbed Spa if we were feeling it. Apparently it has a big saltwater pool, is super relaxing, and is only about €30 for 2 hours. Not bad, right? We didn’t end up going, but it would have been sooo nice for our tired traveler’s bodies.
And we opted not to go to many big cities simply because we’re not city people, and really wanted to see nature! But if you’re a city person, by all means check out Zurich and Bern! You can also check out the southern parts of Switzerland like Geneva or Lugano. We just didn’t feel like riding on a train ALL DAY to get there and then head back.
HOW TO GET AROUND
We mostly took trains to explore Switzerland! In Basel, you can use the trams and buses (for free!) and we just used Google Maps to plan everything out. We used the SBB website (the Swiss train site) to look up tickets, but you can also use their app which is a little more handy.
Having AirBnb hosts was also really great as they helped us out with purchasing our tickets, too! And again – Google Maps is your BFF.
Keep in mind that Swiss train tickets can be pretty pricey, so book early if you can!Overall I think this was a pretty good introduction to Switzerland! We got to see pretty cities, towns, nature, mountains, and eat all the cheese – all quintessential things for a Switzerland trip in my opinion 🙂
LOVE IT? PIN IT!
Josy A says
Oooh so I like the look of the buildings in Basel, but wooooow for the views at Rigi and the others areas up in the mountains. Wowza!
p.s. I think you might need some microspikes to strap over your shoes/allow you to walk on snow and ice! 😉
Yeah the views at Rigi were unlike any other! I’ve never been above the clouds like that before (besides being on a plane lol.)
And haha, yes I definitely should invest in some microspikes! They look handy. And then I wouldn’t have to worry about suffering any potential broken bones…
Merrie Rodriguez says
We took a day trip to Lucerne from Basel! Was a wonderful day!!! I just loved Switzerland so much! Already dying to go back again one day.
Ah yes I loved Lucerne! Such a pretty place. And same – I’d love to explore more mountain towns next time (and perhaps stay closer to them lol)!
Loved reading about your trip to Basel. We were there in the summer not the winter. Think a winter trip would be fun too!
I’d also love to see Switzerland in the summer for hiking! I’m sure the Alps are just gorgeous with flowers blooming, too.
Kathryn Dickson says
Those epic views indeed! I’m in love with the Alps, safe to say I’ll be back, so bookmarking this for later.
Yes, I also have a fascination (obsession?) with the Alps haha. There’s just something about them!
Colmar and Murren would be my first two picks but all of these day trips from Basel look amazing. I need to go explore more of that area sometime soon!
Yeah there are so many cool places to see! They were my favorites, too, haha. Lauterbrunnen was also gorgeous but I just didn’t get any great photos.
Andrea Peacock says
It looks like you had such a good time! Your photos are beautiful!! That is so cool the buses and trams are free within Basel! This has really made me want to visit Switzerland in the winter!
Glad you enjoyed the photos, and yes, Switzerland is so pretty! And the free transportation in Basel was clutch haha
Ana @ JauntingTrips.com says
I actually visited Colmar this summer. It’s indeed a pretty amazing place. I only had a long weekend and so I did Colmar and Strasbourg, but I am kicking myself for not booking a day in Basel. It looks pretty awesome and I am totally in love with that type of architecture.
Oh I wanted to go to Strasbourg!! And yes, I loved Basel, but I (personally) thought Colmar was prettier so I think you def lucked out there 🙂
OMG this looks beautiful! Definitely adding it to the bucket list 🙂
I’m glad you think so, Amy! Yes, Switzerland is such a beautiful place and I’d love to go back. 🙂
Very happy to come across your blog as I am considering relocating to Basel from near Zurich. I laughed out loud at the “Lucerne is more than a dairy brand” comment. I literally had the same first thought when I went there! Not many cows though haha.
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Jacqueline! I was hoping people would find that comment funny, so nice to know it’s worked 🙂 Best of luck relocating. I genuinely loved Basel – it’s such a pretty city.