I took a fast-paced 8-day solo Couchsurfing trip through much of Switzerland and Liechtenstein to see the region’s historic cities, mountain views, and top-notch hiking without breaking the bank. Follow my blog in its entirety or click here for a travel guide to Switzerland.
Photo: Lausanne Cathedral
My Final Train Ride
The ride from Zurich to Lausanne was nearly three hours, the longest of my trip (Switzerland is not a large country lol). It was also my final time on the Swiss trains, as I took a rideshare from Lausanne to my final destination of Geneva later that day. The ride through rolling hills, cute towns, vineyards, lakes, and Alp views was a feast for the eyes. I chatted with the woman sitting across from me who was from Germany and spending a vacation in Zurich and Geneva visiting college friends.
Lausanne’s Old City
Upon arrival in Lausanne, I got a locker at the train station that asked for 9 franc but closed after I put in 6 franc – a lovely savings surprise. I then walked up a very steep hill to the Old City, where I stopped at a Chinese restaurant to use wifi and book a hotel for the night near the Geneva Airport I’d be flying out of the next day as well as a ride share with a service called BlaBla Car from Lausanne to Geneva (which was much cheaper than the train and an actual ride share rather than a Lyft or Uber that’s basically a taxi). I had planned to stay with a Couchsurfing host for my last night, but she ghosted me 😡 so I instead got a cheap hotel right by the airport which I was amused to find was just across the French border.
I wandered through quaint alleys and cobblestone streets in the Old City and passed Place de la Palud, a picturesque town square with a clock and fountain dating back to the 800s (wow!). I then proceeded further uphill to Lausanne Cathedral, the city’s most famous church that was built in the 1100s. The exterior architecture was outstanding – with tons of spires, towers, and windows. Upon walking inside, I found white walls with plenty of columns, wooden seats, a huge organ, and lovely stained glass windows. It was my final church of the trip and just a lovely one!
Sauvabelin & Parc de l’Hermitage
From the cathedral, I took some windy residential streets up to Sauvabelin, a large natural area perched above the city with a lake and observation tower. Once there, I took a pleasant path through some dense woods to Lac de Sauvabelin, a small lake with a patio restaurant. I would say that this was the single most disappointing destination of my entire trip – it was a completely average-looking lake that was a bit dirty and didn’t have any views or really anything special at all. So I proceeded onward 😂
In keeping with the theme of disappointment, the nearby Sauvabelin Tower, which provides sweeping panoramic views of Lausanne and Lake Geneva, was closed for construction. Sauvabelin was not kind to me!
I walked a few minutes downhill to Parc de l’Hermitage, where I was finally rewarded for the long uphill walk I’d taken with some great views of the lake. There was an interesting roller rink/performance area with a cafe.
Mexico in Switzerland
I then took a nice half-hour or so downhill walk through some random Lausanne neighborhoods, enjoying all the street signs, shops, and restaurants with French signs (J’aime le français!).
I arrived at my destination: Beaulieu Palace and Park. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it turned out that this historic palace building is now a convention center. There were some lovely large fountains on the grounds and then I wandered in an open door to find a huge, free Mexican art exhibit. Having grown up an hour from the Mexican border, I thought it was so funny to find an ode to Mexico in such a far-away place.
The exhibit consisted of a large group of people spray painting a piece of art on the floor, several gorgeous quilts, and a fun display of decorated chairs sitting next to similarly decorated paintings. It was quite cute and random.
I walked a bit more downhill to Esplanade de Montebenon, a popular park with great views of the lake. There was a large festival going on which seemed to be hippie-themed as there were tons of tents, flowers, and idk other hippie stuff 😁. The park was bustling with people, many of whom were taking advantage of the hot day and sunbathing. There were some lovely lake views and I really liked the historic and quite large Palace of Justice building that was next to the park.
I walked 20 minutes more downhill through some charming neighborhoods to the lowest point in town: Ouchy, a small independent city on the waterfront of Lake Geneva (It’s not pronounced how it looks 😂). It reminded me a lot of Santa Monica, the Jersey Shore, and other popular beach areas – there were food vendors, docks lined with boats, and a nice grassy area on which to relax. There were tons of people there to enjoy refreshment from the hot weather.
I walked back uphill to the train station, grabbed my luggage, and began a struggle of an uphill walk to the meeting point for my BlaBla Car ride share to Geneva ($10 instead of $30 or so for the train). I couldn’t resist stopping at Parc de Mon Repos, a cute park with playgrounds and great botany; the children and parents stared at this strange creature walking through with a suitcase and big backpack ☺ I finally made it to the meeting point and joined three French-speaking folks for the ride to Geneva.
The drive to Geneva was quite quick – less than an hour. We passed beautiful vineyards and nice views of Lake Geneva. It was my first time riding in a car in Switzerland, so I’m glad I got to experience it. My two fellow passengers spoke only French, so I tried to have some simple conversations with them; my driver eagerly attempted to speak English and I often responded in French as best I could just for fun and practice.
The Final Night
My ride share was continuing on to a suburb, so they dropped me off at the airport train station and I took a train into Geneva’s Old City. I had already seen everything on my list for Geneva, so I just wandered through the streets with my luggage savoring the old buildings, cobblestone streets, and snippets of French I could overhear. It sucked having to carry my luggage around, but the lockers at the Geneva rail station were super expensive so I decided I’d rather just bring my stuff for a few hours.
Eventually, I tried to find a cheap place to eat and after some struggle, I finally found Restaurant Mike Wong, a casual “Asian” eatery at which I had some spicy Singaporean noodles. It was about half the price as other restaurants in town and quite a large portion, so I was happy with my final Swiss meal.
I enjoyed my hour of free wifi at the restaurant and then caught a bus to my hotel, which was in the town of Ferney-Voltaire just across the French border only 5 minutes from the Geneva Airport. The bus was super crowded so it was overwhelming to navigate with all my luggage.
My home for the night (Hotel Stars Geneve Aeroport – $50) was the first building as soon as we crossed the French border. The front desk clerk didn’t speak a word of English and I didn’t understand a lot of the hotel-related French things he was saying lol, but I got my key and went into my tiny room (with two beds that were half the size of normal twin beds) for the night.
It was super hot, so I opened the window but was a bit nervous about it since it was so dark and seemed like a potentially sketchy area. It was cool to be able to see the border crossing from my room though. Someone knocked on my door at 11pm speaking French I couldn’t understand and I just said “no” since there wasn’t even a peep hole. Creeped out, I slept with my valuables under my pillow. The next morning, it was a super quick bus ride back across the border to the airport and I headed back to the U.S.
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