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.

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Wine country along Lake Geneva outside Lausanne

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 ๐Ÿ˜ก so I instead got a cheap hotel right by the airport which I was amused to find was just across the French border.

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Place de la Palud

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 ๐Ÿ˜‚

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Walking to Sauvabelin

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 franรงais!).

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.

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A Mexican art exhibit at Beaulieu Palace

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.

Ouchy!

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 ๐Ÿ˜. 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.

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Lake Geneva from Esplanade de Montebenon

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 ๐Ÿ˜‚). 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.

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Walking downhill to Ouchy

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 โ˜บ 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.

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My basic room at Hotel Stars

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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