Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and no amount of time would be enough to fully explore it! I’ve lived here for a couple of years now and yet it feels I’ve barely scratched the surface. However, for a short visit, 5 days in Switzerland is just enough time to see the highlights of Central Switzerland and the Bernese Oberland region. This 5 day Switzerland itinerary will ensure you get to see the best of it!
Continue reading for a detailed itinerary, and an alternate option if you plan to visit during the winter. Also included below are all the details you need to plan your trip and the estimated budget for the same.
The itinerary recommended in this post is based on my experience of taking my friends and family around the country – across multiple trips. I’ve tried to include a mix of experiences across the 5 days – lakes, mountains & glaciers and cities. I’ve also included places that have wowed us and our visitors the most!
For this itinerary, quality trumps quantity so I have not included places such as Zermatt or Lugano since it would be too much to fit into 5 days. As it is, the 5-day itinerary I’ve recommended below is not a cakewalk – it is a bit hectic but I want you to be able to see as much as you can!
Here are more ideas for your trip to Switzerland: 25 best places to visit in Switzerland!
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5 day Switzerland itinerary – Overview
Day 1: Lucerne + Mount Rigi
Day 2: Mount Titlis
Day 3: Grindelwald First Cliff Walk + Hike to Bachalpsee
Day 4: Golden pass train to Montreux + Brienz cruise
Day 5: Oeschinensee + Blausee
Lucerne – 2 nights
Interlaken – 2 nights
5 day Switzerland itinerary – Details
Day 1 – Switzerland itinerary – Lucerne & Mount Rigi
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY: Lucerne town and Mount Rigi
OVERNIGHT STAY: Lucerne
Click here to find places to stay in Lucerne
You will be arriving in Switzerland most likely through Zurich airport which is the largest international airport in the country.
Zurich is a beautiful city, one that I’ve lived in for a couple of years and absolutely loved. However, with just 5 days in Switzerland, there isn’t enough time to explore the city as well.
If you can spare a few hours when you land (or before your return flight), spend it in the old town of Zurich.
Click here for the best things to do in Zurich.
Make your way to Lucerne by hopping onto one of the many train connections to the city from Zurich airport. There are trains nearly every 30 minutes starting at 5 am, till 11:45 pm, and take about 1 hr 15 min to reach Lucerne.
Tickets for the train can be bought on the SBB app (install it when you visit, it is super useful!) or at the several kiosks or from the ticket counter if you’d like to speak with someone and get any other information.
At Lucerne, once you’ve freshened up a bit, take a stroll around the old town of Lucerne.
Start with the famous Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), the covered wooden bridge across the River Reuss. This iconic bridge and the water tower next to it are one of Switzerland’s biggest landmarks and one you can see on all postcards & souvenirs!
Walk along the river Reuss and into the old town of Lucerne. Cobbled streets lined with beautiful buildings and colourful shops invite you to spend time exploring the area!
Make your way next to the Lion Monument built to commemorate the Swiss Guards who were killed during the French Revolution. It’s a beautiful structure and one worth visiting.
Walk down to the lake and take a stroll along the spectacular lake promenade. Surrounded by mountains, the lake is pretty as a picture!
Head down to the Ferry dock for the next part of your day – a visit to the Queen of mountains, Mt. Rigi!
Mt. Rigi is our go-to day trip for family and friends visiting us. It offers an all-encompassing experience of all that’s wonderful about Switzerland.
A trip to Mount Rigi from Lucerne includes a cruise on the delightful Lake Lucerne, a ride on a steep funicular, spectacular views from the Rigi cogwheel train, a beautiful mountain top and stunning views across Central Switzerland – and surprisingly few tourists.
There are 13 lakes that you can see from the top! On a clear day, even the sharp peaks of several Jungfrau giants are visible.
Ease your planning with this complete guide to visiting Mount Rigi.
For Mount Rigi, tickets can be bought from the ferry dock opposite the Lucerne train station. To get to the mountain, you first need to take a ferry from Lucerne to Vitznau and a cogwheel train from there to Rigi Kulm.
Day 2 – Switzerland itinerary – Mount Titlis
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY: Mount Titlis
OVERNIGHT STAY: Lucerne
Click here to find places to stay in Lucerne
The second day is dedicated to a day trip to Mount Titlis and the beautiful lake Trubsee.
One of the biggest highlights of Central Switzerland, Mount Titlis is an easily accessible glacier with stunning views of snow-capped mountains and beautiful Alpine landscapes.
A worthy alternative to the pricey (and super crowded!) Jungfraujoch, Mt. Titlis is always our recommendation to visitors asking for a snow-capped mountain to discover in Switzerland.
At ~3200 m, Titlis is one of the highest mountains in Switzerland and is perpetually covered in snow. The landscapes from the top are absolutely breathtaking – spending a day at Mt. Titlis is a must when in Switzerland!
Make your travel planning easy with this complete guide to visiting Mount Titlis.
To get to Mount Titlis take the train from Lucerne to Engelberg. Once at Engelberg, walk the 5-10 min or take the bus B10 to the Mt. Titlis cable car station (Titlis Talstation).
Once at the cable car station, head to the ticket counter. If you purchased your tickets online, show those at the counter to get the physical tickets which will be required to cross all the turnstiles.
TIP: You’ll need to wear warm clothes, in layers to visit Mount Titlis. Carry a warm cap and gloves since it can get really cold and windy at the summit, even during the summer. You also need closed, sturdy shoes since you will be walking on snow and ice.
Spend the evening of day 2 strolling through the charming streets of Lucerne.
Day 3 – Switzerland itinerary – First Cliff Walk & Bachalpsee
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY: Grindelwald First Cliff Walk and Hike to Bachalpsee
OVERNIGHT STAY: Interlaken
Click here to find places to stay in Interlaken.
You will need to shift bases today and move from Central Switzerland to the Bernese Oberland region, unarguably the prettiest part of Switzerland!
Interlaken is quite centrally located, has extensive train connections and offers a large variety of places to stay at. It is a very touristy town and there isn’t much to do in the town itself, yet it makes for an excellent base to explore the Bernese Oberland region.
You could also base yourself at some of the other towns such as Lauterbrunnen which is insanely pretty, however, has fewer train connections and fewer options to stay at.
Frequent trains run from Lucerne to Interlaken and it is a short 1hr 50min train ride. This journey is part of the Golden Pass Train Line, one of the most famous and the most spectacular train rides in Switzerland.
The entire Golden Pass Train Line is the route from Lucerne in central Switzerland to Montreux in west Switzerland. You will cover the first leg from Lucerne to Interlaken on this day and the remaining leg on Day 4 of this itinerary.
Once at Interlaken, walk or take a bus to your hotel to drop your stuff. The town is very beautiful with traditional Swiss chalets lining the main street, the turquoise river Aare running through it and tall snow-covered peaks surrounding it. Enjoy a bit of it now as you head back to the train station to board the train to Grindelwald.
Grindelwald First Cliff Walk
The Grindelwald First Cliff Walk is a narrow metal walkway clinging to the edge of a steep cliff at a dizzying height of 2000+ meters leading to a sky bridge which rises 45 metres out into the void. Oh, and the sky bridge has a glass floor so you look down into that void (and the metal walkway has a mesh see-through floor)! I’ve made it sound scary, haven’t I?!
But in truth, the First Cliff Walk is anything but scary (except if you have a phobia of heights) – it’s a super fun & thrilling place to visit. On the walk, you get sweeping views of the Alpine valley below and the tall, snow-capped mountains above – a cool breeze and the tinkling of cowbells make for wonderful accompaniments to the whole experience.
Make your travel planning a breeze with this detailed travel guide on the First Cliff Walk.
The Grindelwald First Cliff Walk is located at the summit of First, a mountain in the Jungfrau region. It is accessible through a gondola from the village of Grindelwald (a ~45min train from Interlaken).
Hike to Bachalpsee
There are several hikes you can do from Grindelwald First and one of the best of them is the hike to Bachalpsee.
This hike is one of the most beautiful hikes in Switzerland – stunning snow-capped mountains, lush green meadows & valleys, crystal clear lakes, and wildflowers, all to the soundtrack of ringing cowbells! It is one of the best places to visit in the Jungfrau region and my favourite place in Switzerland.
I would prioritise the Bachalpsee hike over visiting Jungfraujoch because it offers a more varied experience and is much cheaper.
The hike to Bachalpsee is an easy extension to your visit to the First Cliff Walk. It’s a ~3 km walk to the lake and takes about an hour.
Here’s all you need to know about hiking to Bachalpsee.
Spend the evening of day 3 strolling through the charming streets of Interlaken.
Day 4 – Switzerland itinerary – Golden Pass Train & Brienz
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY: Golden pass trail line to Montreux + A cruise on Lake Brienz
OVERNIGHT STAY: Interlaken
Click here to find places to stay in Interlaken.
An easy itinerary for the day today after 3 days of whirlwind activity! Today’s the day you can sit back and let nature come to you – on the train first and then on the ferry ride!
Golden Pass Train Line
Switzerland is known for its stunningly scenic train rides – the perfect combination of superbly efficient & clean trains and incredible natural beauty! The Golden Pass train line is one of the best of these routes – covering 3 mountain passes, 8 lakes, 6 cantons and 2 language regions!
The line from Lucerne to Montreux via Interlaken and Zweisimmen is known as the Golden Pass route. It winds its way through several lakes, the stunning Swiss Alps and the beautiful Swiss countryside.
You would already have done the first section of the train ride when you travelled from Lucerne to Interlaken on day 3. Today you can head all the way into Montreux on the most beautiful section of the Golden Pass Line.
Sit back and enjoy the natural beauty through the gigantic panoramic windows of the train.
Here all the details to travel on the Golden Pass Train Line.
Once in Montreux, head down to the lake promenade (5 min walk down from the train station) and take a stroll. Lined with flowers, beautiful (and sometimes odd!) sculptures, restaurant and cafes, the promenade is a great place to spend an hour or so.
Once back in Interlaken from Montreux, take the time to explore one of the lakes bordering the town – Lake Brienz.
Lake Brienz is one of the prettiest, yet one of the most underrated lakes in Switzerland! The uniquely turquoise blue colours of the lake, the charming Swiss villages around it and the beautiful landscapes of the Swiss Alps make Lake Brienz one of the best places to visit in Switzerland and one of my absolute favourite Swiss Lakes!
Lake Brienz boat tour is one of the best ways to take in this awe-inspiring lake up close. Ferries operate between Interlaken & Brienz, with stopovers at Bonigen, Iseltwald, and Giessbach with multiple connections between April & October so you can take your time exploring each place.
Bonigen & Iseltwald are small traditionally Swiss villages, beautiful for a stroll through. Giessbach is famous for its waterfall which you can reach by taking a funicular (or hiking up) from the ferry station.
Read my guide to Lake Brienz here.
Day 5 – Switzerland itinerary – Oeschinensee & Blausee
KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY: Oeschinensee & Blausee
For your last day in Switzerland, I have a couple more of my favourite lakes to offer, with the option for long hikes on one of them.
Oeschinensee is a bright blue Swiss mountain lake in the Bernese Oberland region. Whether you are looking to relax amidst the tranquil surroundings of the beautiful Oeschinen lake or indulge in a bit more adventure hiking or riding the ‘Mountain Coaster’ (the Oeschinen lake toboggan run), Oeschinensee is the place to be!
If you feel more adventurous, there are multiple hiking trails available in the region.
The lake is accessible from Kandersteg through an aerial cable car followed by a short hike (~30 min) or an electric bus.
From Interlaken, it would take 1 – 1.5 hr to reach Kandersteg. From Kandersteg train station, the cable car station is a 15-minute walk away.
Here’s my guide on visiting Oeschinensee.
Blausee is the bluest lake you’ll ever see – its name literally means Blue Lake!
This small lake with crystal clear waters is located in a beautiful nature park. There is a trail that goes around the lake taking you through pine trees and moss-covered boulders. You are guaranteed to feel transported to an enchanted forest here!
Since it’s a very small lake/ nature park you do not need a lot of time to visit the place. Due to its close proximity to Oeschinensee, it makes for the perfect place for a short visit together with Oeschinensee.
To visit Blausee, take the bus from Kandersteg to the Blausee Nature Park.
Alternative 5-day Switzerland itinerary – Winter
If you’re visiting in the winter, the hiking options would not be possible. Instead, you could ski! If you’re keen on skiing, you could set up base at one of the several amazing ski resorts – Zermatt, Grindelwald, St. Moritz offer fantastic skiing/ snowboarding and other winter sports.
For the non-skiers, there is plenty to do in Switzerland during the winter! The panoramic views are just as beautiful covered in snow during the winter as they are during the summer.
Here’s what a slightly modified itinerary in the winter would look like,
Day 1: Zurich + Rhine Falls
Spend your first day taking in the spectacular Rhine Falls and the beautiful city of Zurich
Europe’s most powerful waterfall, the Rhine Falls are our go-to day trip for any visitors. We’ve already been there about 5 times already and every outing continues to amaze us! These falls are super easy to reach and are among the cheapest attractions in Switzerland.
Here’s all you need to know to visit Rhine Falls.
Zurich is a vibrant cosmopolitan city steeped in culture and history dating back 5000 years. Winter, around Christmas, is one of the best times to visit Zurich – it transforms the already beautiful city into nothing short of spectacular! Twinkling lights, huge Christmas trees (including a live singing one!), bustling markets, and scores of events, all add to the magic of Zurich.
Find the best things to do in Zurich here.
Day 2: Lucerne + Mount Rigi
Day 2 of the Switzerland Winter itinerary will be the same as Day 1 of the Switzerland Summer itinerary detailed above.
Mount Rigi is open for visits all year round and the views from the summit are stunning during the winter.
Day 3: Mount Titlis
Day 3 of the Switzerland Winter itinerary will also be the same as Day 2 of the Switzerland Summer itinerary detailed above.
Mount Titlis is open for visits all year round – make sure to bundle up since it will be very cold at the summit!
Day 4: Golden Pass Train + Brienz
Part of Day 4 of the Switzerland Winter itinerary will be the same as Day 4 of the Switzerland Summer itinerary detailed above. However, a cruise on Lake Brienz would not be possible during winter.
Instead, you can take the time to explore the village of Brienz – its beautiful lake promenade and fascinating wood carvings make it a fantastic place to visit.
See more on Brienz here.
Day 5: Schilthorn
Another change from the Summer itinerary for your last day in Switzerland. Oeschinensee freezes over in the winter so unless you are into snow hiking or skiing, you can skip this lake and instead head to the mountain of Schilthorn. Visiting at least one mountain in the Bernese Oberland region is an absolute must when in Switzerland!
Schilthorn offers 360-degree panoramic views of the Swiss skyline including the giants of the Bernese Oberland region – Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.
At a height of 2970 m, Schilthorn is one of the highest peaks in the region located across the Lauterbrunnen valley from the famous Jungfraujoch. From the multiple viewing platforms, you get spectacular views of 200+ mountain peaks!
To get to Schilthorn, head to Stechelberg, near Lauterbrunnen and take the cable cars up to Schilthorn.
Information for planning your 5-day Switzerland itinerary
When to visit Switzerland
Spring and Summer are the best times to visit to enjoy activities such as hiking, biking or just basking in the sunshine! If skiing is what you are looking for, winter is the time for you, with the added bonus of beautiful Christmas markets and festivities.
Avoid the peak tourist months of July & August – crowds are at the highest, as are the costs for hotels & mountain transportation. The shoulder months of May/ June or September/ October are better to enjoy most summer activities.
How to get to Switzerland
Zurich and Geneva are the major international airports in Switzerland. Flying in and out of Zurich would be more convenient since it is located close to most places you’d visit.
If you’re already in Europe, you can take a train to Switzerland as well. Zurich is only 4-5 hours from Paris/ Lyon, 3-4 hours from Milan, 7 hours from Munich.
How to get around Switzerland
Travelling around Switzerland by train
Switzerland has an excellent public transportation system – from trains and buses to mountain railways and cable cars. Everything is amazingly well maintained, super clean and extremely efficient.
I would recommend making use of the public transportation system using the Swiss Travel Pass instead of renting a car
The Swiss Travel Pass gives you unlimited travel on trains, buses and boats, free entry to numerous museums and free or discounted mountain excursions.
For your 5 day visit to Switzerland, buy the 4-day Swiss Travel Pass – there’s no option for a 5 day pass, unfortunately. You can pay for point to point tickets on the first/ last day of your trip.
You can buy the Swiss Travel Pass online. Just book and print. Or you can head to the ticket counters on the train station to buy them once you get here too.
TIP: Install the SBB app when you visit – it will help you will all train/ bus/ ferry connections.
Travelling around Switzerland by car
If there is a group of you it might turn out to be more economical to rent a car if you are going to be driving long distances. If you are making more mountain trips (as suggested in the itinerary above), public transportation might be a better idea.
Several of your days in Switzerland would involve heading up to the mountains – to hike or just to take in the views. For these excursions, you will need to take a cable car of a funicular. With the Swiss Travel Pass, several of these are free while there are discounts on the others.
Where to stay in Switzerland
Switzerland is very expensive – so everything from accommodation to meals are going to cost a lot.
So apartment stays might prove to be more cost-effective than hotels, especially if you are travelling in a group. These would also often have a kitchen so you can prepare meals to cut down on expenses too.
Since you will be travelling by train, it would be better to look for hotels close to train stations.
Click here to find places to stay in Lucerne.
Click here to find places to stay in Interlaken.
Managing luggage in Switzerland
As with any place else, it’s best to travel light in Switzerland. However, if you do have luggage, it’s quite easy to manage it.
Most trains in Switzerland have an overhead rack (meant for small bags), a luggage area at the end of the coach or spaces between rows of seats to slide your bags into.
Train stations would have an elevator, escalator or at the very least a ramp to easily roll your luggage in and out of the platforms.
Most train stations (except really small ones) also have luggage storage lockers where you can stow your bags for a few hours. We’ve used these in several cities and found them to be very convenient. You can choose the size of the locker based on the size of your luggage and pay accordingly.
Essentials for your trip to Switzerland
Visa for Switzerland
Switzerland is part of the Schengen area and a Schengen visa (short-stay tourist visa) is required for a visit. EU citizens and citizens from several countries such as the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are exempt from requiring a visa. Check your country’s visa requirements here.
If you are travelling to multiple European destinations within the Schengen area, you can apply to the first country of travel for your Schengen visa. This visa will be valid in Switzerland too.
Currency in Switzerland
Swiss Franc (CHF) is the currency used in Switzerland. While the Euro is widely accepted, you may not get the best exchange rate. A better idea may be to withdraw some CHF from an ATM or get some exchanged at the airport or the train station.
You can pay using your card at nearly every location in Switzerland, but keep some cash handy for odd purchases (or for using the restrooms at some public locations!).
Language(s) in Switzerland
German (a dialect called Swiss German is in practice in Switzerland), French, Italian and Romansh are the languages of Switzerland. The most common of these is Swiss German.
You can manage with English at most large locations. Keep the Google Translate app handy 🙂
What are the best souvenirs to buy in Switzerland
Some of the best things to buy when in Switzerland are: Swiss knives, Swiss watches (can be super expensive!), Swiss chocolates (Läderach, Sprüngli make some of the best chocolates!) and trinkets such as cowbells
5 day Switzerland itinerary – Estimated budget
Ah, the big question! How much will this dream trip cost? Short answer: It’ll be expensive. Switzerland is an expensive place, but so worth it!
Here’s a breakdown of the estimated cost,
~600 CHF per person depending on the city of travel from Asia/ North America. Of course, from within Europe, you may be able to find some bargain flights. Or if you have airline/ credit card points, you may be able to bring this cost down too.
~100 CHF per person depending on the country of residence
30 – 60 CHF per person
A typical hotel will cost ~150 CHF per day per couple. You may be able to find cheaper options a little further away from the city. If you are travelling in a group, an apartment may also turn out to be cheaper than hotel rooms.
For a 5 day, 4-night stay, the accommodation expense would typically be ~600 CHF for a couple.
If you buy the 4 day Swiss Travel Pass, it will cost CHF 281 per person. See the latest prices here.
In addition, for 1 day, you will need to buy point to point tickets. A day pass costs ~150 CHF, so for this budget estimation, we’ll consider this.
For a 5-day trip, the total transportation expense per person would be ~430 CHF.
Food will cost ~60 CHF per person (staying on a budget!) per day
- Budget meals (salads, pasta, sandwiches and even hot meals during lunch/ dinner hours) are available at supermarkets such as Migros or Coop
- A meal in a good restaurant would cost ~50 CHF per person while a quick pizza would cost on an average 18-20 CHF
For a 5 day stay, the food expense per person would typically be ~300 CHF.
So, for a couple travelling to Switzerland, the expense per person for this 5-day trip would typically be:
600 (Flight) + 100 (Visa) + 50 (Travel insurance) + 300 (Accomodation) + 430 (Transportation) + 300 (Food) = 1780 CHF
Without considering flights, the estimated cost per person for 5 days in Switzerland would be ~1180 CHF.
So that’s your itinerary for a trip to Switzerland! If you have any questions let me know in the comments below. Did I miss any amazing place? Let me know!
If you found this useful, please share and spread the love!
More information for your trip to Switzerland:
BUCKET LIST DESTINATIONS: 25 best places to visit in Switzerland
HIDDEN GEMS: 10 hidden gems in Switzerland
TRAIN RIDES: The Golden Pass train line
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