Are you prepared to feel poor? Like poorer than a college student living on ramen noodles for months on end poor? Then you should go traveling around Switzerland! The cheese and adventures – and mostly cheese – make up for the extortionate expenses but it’s only sustainable (at least for me) for about a weekend.
What to Do – Zurich
- Shop on Bahnhofstrasse. I know this goes against my telling you that you should avoid spending money at all costs as it will directly impact your ability to feed yourself later in your trip, but what’s a trip to Switzerland without going watch shopping? While I didn’t spring for the 138,000 CHF watch, I did find a reasonably priced one. With watches for every price range, it’s a fun souvenir to take home that you’ll actually use over time.
- Walk along the lake. We didn’t get to do this as much as we would have liked given the time crunch of only spending half a weekend here but there are great views all along the lake and it’s the perfect place to watch the sun set.
- Take in the views. Lindenhofplatz has a great view of the city and, unlike the overlooks in places like Lisbon and Florence, the walk up isn’t akin to summiting a mountain.
What to Do – Lucerne:
This small town is only a 45 minute train ride (or 25 mile drive) from Zurich and definitely worth at least a day. And once you’ve had your fun in the town itself, there’s a whole mountain to go explore.
- Walk across the Kapellbrucke. Don’t miss out on walking across the Kapellbrucke with all 3,000 of your new Asian tourist friends. It really is worth it. Just try to go in the morning before the trains start arriving.
- Toboggan on Mount Pilatus. Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up! It’s toboggan time! Live out your Cool Runnings dreams on Mount Pilatus and take a ride on the alpine toboggan. At 8CHF a ride, the price is a bit steep – but then again so is the track.
- Hike down Mount Pilatus. Take the cable car, or your feet, down the mountainside once you’re done on the run. It only takes about 2 hours and the views of the Swiss countryside and the Swiss cheesemakers (aka cows) are definitely worth it.
- Spend time in a park. While killing a bit of time before taking the train back to Zurich, we spent time in Inseli Park along the lakefront. Though not necessarily the best place for spotting French Bulldogs, it’s pretty and free. And in Switzerland, that’s really important.
Where to Eat:
Now, I know that I said food was the most important part of a trip, and I stand by that. But in Switzerland, land of cheese and sky high prices, a bit of fasting can do your waistline and your budget a few favors. Don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend indulging in a little (or a half pound) of melted cheese, but I also suggest finding some cheap eats – or even cooking – to offset the prices. With that being said, I do have some suggestions:
- Cafe Sprugli. Just like stealing from Golem, if you come between me and my hot chocolate, you might lose a finger. While the atmosphere was probably better outside or downstairs than in the cafe upstairs, the hot chocolate, and really most of their chocolate confections, are a Swiss paradise. Definitely a treat for this Swiss Miss.
- Swiss Chuchi. Get yourself some fondue for 2. Or one if you’re incredibly ambitious. Remember how you were saving all your calories and money? Now is the time to spend them. We were rather fond of the fondue at Swiss Chuchi and, though touristy, we left feeling grate. The “side” of potatoes was served by the bushel in a burlap sack so that’s a great way to regain those lost pounds.
- Pastarazzi. While paying 16 CHF for a container of takeaway pasta was a low point, you can eat it in the great outdoors like the traditional Swiss homeless. And really, if you’re homeless but in Switzerland eating pasta, is your life that bad?
- Lidl or Aldi. Seriously. You need to go to a grocery store. Or at least I did to offset my poorness and inject calories back into my body after taking up a Lent-like fast in August.
How to Get Around:
- Train to Lucerne from Zurich – While you could pay for a day tour from Zurich to Lucerne, it’s more economical (something you desperately need in Switzerland) to just purchase tickets yourself here. Tickets cost about 25 CHF each way and the trains leave every half hour. Timetables can be found here.
- Everything closes by about 4PM and most shops (except at the train stations) aren’t open on Sundays.
- McDonald’s sells coffee for 1.90 CHF so if you too are addicted to caffeine and don’t relish the idea of going through withdrawal on vacation, consider this an option when everything is closed and the only alternative is pricey Starbucks.
- Don’t wear ballet flats when hiking down Mt. Pilatus. While it’s possible to do it, your feet will thank you later for making a smarter choice than me.