But everything else – the nature, the beautiful cities, the food (aka cheese)…We loved (and ate) it all.We had our original itinerary written out, and then our AirBnb hosts were like, nahhh we have MUCH BETTER IDEAS FOR YOU. So, here’s what they suggested we do (keep in mind this is a winter, like beginning of February itinerary – not sure if it would be different if we visited in summer!).
And if you’re wondering – our original itinerary included Interlaken, Bern, Zurich, St Gallen, and Lucerne.
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.
COLMAR 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! Just a heads up, there’s a difference in the French section of the main station vs the Swiss part. To get to the French part, you have to go outside and purchase tickets in the booth in that area. GET THERE EARLY if you’re going to do this – we had a lot of issues with the machine (which was why we missed our train)! We ended up just getting help at the information area because we did not wanna deal with that ish again! So, we ended up going on our third day and it was sooo pretty. It’s usually a very touristy place, but it wasn’t that bad since we went in the middle of winter and on a weekday. That is my advice to you! 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, 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?? So since I was really only here for a short amount of time, I don’t really have suggestions. I would definitely recommend a boat ride on the lake, though (which you’ll get to do if you take the ferry) because boat rides are just nice.
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 🙂