PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Switzerland

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  • Mountainous country that hosts a beautiful portion of the Alps
  • Renowned for its exquisite chocolate, cheese, and watches
  • Uses the Swiss franc as currency

Population: 8.5 million (#97 in the world)

Area: 15,942 sq. miles (#136 in the world)

Largest city: Zurich (1.1 million metro population)

Switzerland is a magical land of jaw-dropping mountain peaks, incredibly well-preserved historic cities, and a friendly, laid-back way of life. There are no huge urban centers, but plenty of small and medium cities with a variety of fascinating sights to see. Due to its small size and excellent rail network, it’s quick and easy to get from one end of the country to the other. For a true Swiss experience, be sure to visit some quaint small towns and head into the Alps for a hike that will probably be one of the best you’ve ever taken.

Get Switzerland travel planning tips on my Switzerland blog.

Photo: Murren, Swiss Alps

Where To Go in Switzerland

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Geneva

Geneva: This French-speaking international city is the 2nd largest in Switzerland and hosts an impressive Old City and one of the tallest fountains in the world. Read more.

Lausanne: This hilly historic city that is known as the “San Francisco of Switzerland” lies on the east end of Lake Geneva. Read more.

Bern: Switzerland’s capital city is one of the only cities in the world to maintain its central street plan since medieval times and is surrounded on three sides by the River Aare. Read more.

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Bern’s Old City

Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region: A resort town sandwiched between two large lakes and just below a gorgeous portion of the Swiss Alps, Interlaken is perfectly positioned to allow exploration of quaint towns and stunning mountain peaks. Read more.

Lucerne: This mid-sized city has incredibly well-preserved history, including a 700-year-old wall with several towers, covered bridges with centuries-old murals, and a small but charming Old City. Read more.

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Lucerne City Wall

Zurich: Switzerland’s largest city is known as the world’s most expensive, but has tons of free and quite remarkable historical and contemporary landmarks to explore. Read more.

Liechtenstein: The world’s 6th smallest country that shares much of Swiss culture is ruled by a prince and has some of the most stunning hiking in Europe. Read more.

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Augstenberg hike in Malbun, Liechtenstein

Getting Around Switzerland

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Murren in the Swiss Alps

Switzerland’s rail network offers single ride passes, a half-price travel card, and accepts the Euro rail pass. The trains are very efficient, timely, and widespread – but pricey. There is no need to buy tickets ahead of time – the price is the same and trains rarely fill up. Click here to plan your rail routes.

There is a ride share service called BlaBlaCar that is very popular in Europe and allows you to catch a ride with someone heading the same direction as you for a much lower fee than a train.

Within cities, there are day transport passes valid on buses and rail available that can save you a lot of money – be sure to ask upon arrival.

What To Eat in Switzerland

You’ll find Switzerland’s food to be exorbitantly expensive ($30+ for a meal that would be $10 in the U.S.), but it is possible to nourish yourself without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips for dining in Switzerland:

  • Eat meals at department store food courts, like Coop, Migros, and Manor. They usually have a good variety and prices are lower than restaurants.
  • Eat some meals at ethnic restaurants, such as Lebanese, Indian, Ethiopian, and Chinese. Their prices tend to be lower than Swiss cuisine eateries.
  • Bring snacks from home so you can forego eating out for breakfast and lunch every day
  • If staying at a hostel or hotel with a kitchen, cook your own food for some meals. Maybe you can even try making a Swiss dish!
  • Research cheap restaurants to eat at in each city you’re visiting before you go

Here are a few of the country’s most popular and delicious dishes:

Rosti: Fritter style potatoes with seasoning and butter, often served as a side to a main dish

Raclette: A giant glob of savory melted cheese with sides of potatoes, onions, and pickles

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Raclette at Le Mazot in Bern

Fondue: You’ve probably had fondue before, but you may not know that it originated in Switzerland. Swiss fondue is to die for, but it is difficult to find at a very low price.

 

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