EPIC AND BEST DAY TRIPS FROM ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

PLANNING SOME AMAZING ZURICH DAY TRIPS

Are you wondering about the best day trips from Zurich? Then this post is for you as I am sharing my favorite Zurich day tours with you.

If you’re heading on a Switzerland vacation anytime soon, the financial capital is the ideal place to base yourself. The city may have a reputation for being luxurious and rich. But there is much more. The surrounding areas offer picturesque scenery and incredible adventures – which is why day trips from Zurich are so popular.

Many places near Zurich are within a quite short distance. And here I am – listing my favorite Zurich day tours for you. Here are amazing places close to Zurich you should not miss out on. 

Before you book or plan your day trips, here are a few things to know.

Where to Stay in Zurich For Easy Day Trips

Zurich is not a cheap destination, but it is a great base to explore the north of Switzerland.

  • Read my Zurich accommodation guide and find the perfect place to stay while you explore the surroundings.
  • I highly recommend staying close to the main train station if you use public transportation. Most train connections for the day tours will start from Zurich train station in the city center.
  • Luxury Hotels in Zurich: Zurich has some great luxury hotels which are amazing to get spoiled and enjoy life. Baur au Lac is one of the best-rated luxury hotels close to the city center.
  • Mid-Range Hotels in Zurich: Arlette am Hauptbahnhof is one of the best-rated mid-range hotels close to the city center.
  • Budget Hotels in Zurich: Warning, there are not many budget hotels in Zurich. This one is a good-rated hostel in Zurich. I stayed there on one of my recent trips without my dog, and I think it offers good value for money. 

How to Get Around For Zurich Day Tours 

  • It is easy to do your day trips by train and bus. Public transportation in Switzerland, in general, is just superb. It is reliable, safe, on time, and let’s not forget the window views you will often have.
  • Check out the Swiss Travel Pass if you plan to use public transportation. You can use buses and trains without any extra costs. It also includes almost all boat cruises in the country, and you will get a discount on cable cars/funiculars for mountain excursions.
  • Otherwise, rent a car and drive to the places mentioned below because driving in Switzerland is also fun. The places mentioned here can easily be traveled to by car. It gives you more flexibility. But parking can be tricky in some places if they are very popular. Also, you should be fine with driving in the mountains. Streets can be narrow, and there will be a lot of uphill and downhill driving.
  • Driving in Zurich can be more stressful than driving outside the city center – if you get around by car, choose a hotel outside the city center.
  • If you are more than 2 people traveling, it might be more budget-friendly to get around by car. But if the budget is not important or you travel solo, use public transportation.
  • There are also guided tours available for some of the Zurich day trips. This might be a good alternative for some of you.

P.s. In case you plan a road trip to Switzerland, check out my road trip itinerary.

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Best Zurich Day Trips

Ready to hear about my favorite day tours? Then here they are.

Rhine Falls and Schaffhausen / Stein am Rhein

  • By car: ± 30 – 40 minutes
  • By train: ±1 hour

RHINE FALLS

The Rhine Falls near the German border makes a great trip from Zurich. So far, I have visited these spectacular falls three or four times. And with every visit, I have enjoyed it more.

Best day trips from Zurich
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Rhine Falls seen from the platform (Schloss Laufen)

After all, the falls are impressive – it is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Surprised to hear that? Yes, many people expect the biggest waterfalls to be in Iceland.

  • The Rhine Falls are not very high, with a height of 23 meters, but over a width of 150 meters, up to 700’000 liters of water fall over the rocks every second!
  • They are great to visit on both sunny and rainy days (the falls were crazy once when I visited a day after some really, really heavy rain). 

There are two main ways to see the waterfalls: From the Southern bank (Schloss Laufen) or from the Northern bank (Schlossli Wörth).

  • To visit the platform, you need to get to Schloss Laufen. There is no parking fee, but you’ll pay about five euros to get on the visitor’s platform and see the waterfalls from above.
  • To do a boat tour and maybe even get to the rock in front of the waterfalls, you need to get to it via Schlössli Wörth. There are different prices for different tours – starting at about five euros. 
  • My tips to see the Rhine Falls from both sides. If you travel by public transportation, it does not really matter with which one you start. If you travel by car, start at Schloss Laufen. You can park your car for free and get to the platform. Then walk to the other side to Schossli Wörth and enjoy the boat trip. The walk is about 30-45 minutes, but it is a beautiful walk. There you can relax, have a snack or drink at the restaurant.

There are some restaurants and cafes on both sides, so if you visit, plan in at least 2-4 hours for the Rhine Falls, so you are not stressed. 

Afterward, it’s time to visit either Schaffhausen or Stein am Rhine. Both are charming towns close by. You can take the train to get to either town. Stein am Rhein takes less than 1 hour by train, and Schaffhausen takes less than 15 minutes.

SCHAFFHAUSEN

Schaffhausen is an extremely colorful town in very close proximity to the Rhine Falls. 

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Schaffhausen
  • I recommend visiting Munot, a hilltop fortress in Schaffhausen
  • Explore the colorful old town and the buildings with their very interesting facades.
  • Stroll the Rhine River and have dinner here at one of the restaurants or in the old town before heading back to Zurich.
  • Click here for tips on what to do in Schaffhausen.

STEIN AM RHEIN

Stein am Rhein impresses with the most stunning facades that I have probably ever seen. 

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Stein am Rhein – day trip from Zurich
  • Despite its small size, it is stuffed with gorgeous houses which have unbelievable architecture.
  • The facades are fascinating, and you do not have to search for long to find them.
  • However, even if you do take your time, the town will not take more than a few hours.
  • After strolling in the town center, you could spend some time walking along the Rhine River or even do a boat tour.
  • Or you can check out Hohenklingen Castle.
  • You can also visit one of the many vineyards in the area and try wine-tasting.
  • After dinner in the old town, you can head back to Zurich.

Bern

  • By car: ± 2 hours
  • By Train: ±1 hour

Switzerland’s capital, Bern (Zurich might be the financial capital, but it is not the official one), is a beautiful city southwest of Zurich.

Bern on a sunny day with an amazing view
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Bern from the Rosengarten

I once read that Bern is one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. I definitely agree that it is a gorgeous place to visit and it should be on every Switzerland itinerary.

  • The Old Town of Bern – all declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is quite big, so visit all the interesting buildings there.
  • For the best views in Bern, visit the Rosengarten.
  • Oh, and do not forget to say hi to the bears. Bears? Yes, a small bear family of three live in Bern next to the Aare river. Do not worry; the area is fenced off, so you stay at a safe distance.
  • And stroll along the Aare River – which is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful rivers here in Europe.
  • Click here to read more about my tips for Bern.

Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfraujoch

  • By car: ± 3 hours
  • By train: ± 4.5 hours

Getting up Jungfraujoch is probably the most recommended tour in Switzerland. What makes a trip to Jungfraujoch so special? The Jungfraujoch is a saddle connecting two major 4000ers of the Bernese Alps: the Jungfrau and the Mönch. It lies at an elevation of 3,463 meters above sea level and is directly overlooked by the rocky prominence of the Sphinx. Here you will also find the highest train station in Europe

top of europe Jungfraujoch - things to know.
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A day trip to the one and only Jungfraujoch, the place where snow is guaranteed throughout the year, is one of the best trips from Zurich.

I did the trip while I stayed in the region of Interlaken for a couple of days, but it is not much more expensive if you do it as a day trip from Zurich.

It will definitely take a full day, and you’ll be sitting a lot on the train/trams. But, believe me, train riding in Switzerland is a highlight, and so you’ll have amazing views.

There are a few more things to see up Jungfraujoch.

  • These include an Alpine museum, an Ice Palace, and you can even do a few more winter sporty activities once up there. 
  • There are also tons of different restaurants to suit every taste (even Indian food is available)!
  • Also, the train stops several times along the way. Often the five-minute break gives you enough time to hop off and have a quick look around.
  • You might like to stay longer at the Kleine Scheidegg. It is a mountain pass at an elevation of 2,061 m, situated below and between the Eiger and Lauberhorn peaks. It is a popular stop for a break as it is really beautiful. Actually, many actually hike up here and then take the train up to Jungfraujoch. If you do a day trip from Zurich, then hiking here might take too much of your time. After a stop here, take the train up to Jungfraujoch.

Jungfraujoch Tour Packages: Here are different tour packages – click on the links to find out more about the prices.

Mount Pilatus and Lucerne

  • By car: ± 40 minutes (to Lucerne)
  • By train: ± 5 hours (to the mountain)

Though Lucerne is beautiful, please do not skip the mountains close by and visit at least one of them, e.g., Mount Pilatus.

MOUNT PILATUS

I was determined to write a bad review about my trip to Mount Pilatus, but now I recommend that you go and visit this gorgeous place.

Why did I want to write something negative? I visited, and at the ticket shop I found out that the waiting line was two hours (!) and there was no free Wi-Fi anywhere. So, that was quite boring and a disappointment.  

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BUT I am happy that I still went up because my trip to Mount Pilatus was one of the highlights. I am sure that you will enjoy it as much as I did. I went on a very busy day, and I do not think the lines are always that long.

I would like to emphasize the beautiful surroundings and the option to have a snack in one of the several restaurants or just the option to chill at Lake Lucerne while waiting for the cogwheel.

  • Up on Mount Pilatus, the views from there of Lake Lucerne and the Alps were beyond amazing.
  • On a sunny day, you can spend all day there doing all kinds of things – including some great activities like paragliding, hiking, people watching, eating, and so on.

LUCERNE

Lucerne is a beautiful city and considered to be one of the most gorgeous places in Switzerland. Depending on how much time you spend on Mount Pilatus, you could do a short trip to Lucerne. It takes less than 30 minutes by train or (much longer by boat) to get from the valley station of Mount Pilatus to Lucerne.

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Chapel Bridge in Lucerne
  • Pass the famous wooden Chapel Bridge with amazing views of the area.
  • Stroll along Lake Lucerne (Lake Zurich is pretty, but Lake Lucerne is even more stunning).
  • Explore the old town of Lucerne and see all the beautiful, beautiful buildings.
  • You´ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants to dine in before you end your day trip and head back to Zurich! 

You can either get to Lucerne and book the Mount Pilatus ticket individually or buy packages from Zurich.

Lucerne and Mount Rigi

  • By car: ± 1 hour (to Lucerne)
  • By Train: ± 1 hour (to Lucerne)

Mount Pilatus is great, but alternatively, you can visit Mount Rigi and Lucerne as a day trip from Zurich. If you opt for these two places, I suggest starting in Lucerne. Why? You will find out later.

LUCERNE

As mentioned above, Lucerne is a stunning town. It is easily accessible from Zurich, and I cannot name another town nestled in more stunning scenery than Lucerne. 

Best things to do in Lucerne - Chapel Bridge in Lucerne
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Picture taken from Chapel Bridge in Lucerne
  • See the famous wooden Chapel Bridge and enjoy the amazing views of the area.
  • Stroll along Lake Lucerne (if you think Lake Zurich is charming, you will love Lake Lucerne is even more).
  • Visit the old town and see the beautiful buildings before you visit the Lion Monument.
  • More on all the attractions are in my Lucerne travel guide.
  • Have lunch at one of the cafes and restaurants lined up at Lake Lucerne before you continue your trip.
  • Hop on a boat and cruise Lake Lucerne. The Swiss Travel Pass covers your boat cruise. Get off at Vitznau boat station and get up Mount Rigi. If you do not enjoy boat cruises, take a train to Vitznau station.

MOUNT RIGI

At Vitznau station, you can get up via the cogwheel train to enjoy majestic views from Mount Rigi. The ride takes about 30 minutes, and it could take even longer if you ask me. These window views are top-notch.

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View from Mount Rigi

Mount Rigi is one of the best places to see near Zurich.

  • The view is great, the ride up is great, and it feels like everything is great.
  • There is not as much to do up Mount Rigi as on Mount Pilatus, but you can do a few longer or shorter hikes around the area.
  • There is also a restaurant and a spa area.
  • I hope you bring some snacks with you because I suggest having dinner here at Mount Rigi. One of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in Switzerland was from Mount Rigi.
  • It takes less time getting up compared to Mount Pilatus and given its beauty, it is an amazing day trip!
  • Good news: It is free to visit with a Swiss Travel Pass in 2021.
  • Click here to find out about prices for a 4-day Swiss Travel Pass.
  • Click here to find out about prices for an 8-day Swiss Travel Pass.

Interlaken

  • By car: ± 1.5 hours 
  • By Train: ± 2 hours 

While I am writing this, my heart is shattering into a thousand pieces. I recommend visiting Interlaken for days, weeks, and months. I am obsessed! And now, all I do is a recommendation for a day trip from Zurich. 

Views from St Beatus Caves
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Views from St Beatus Caves, 5-minute walk away

The region of Interlaken, located in the Bernese Oberland, is magnificent. I might even say that the Interlaken region is the most beautiful region in the world. Yes, it is if you take my personal opinion as fact. 

However, if your base is in Zurich and you cannot spend weeks here, you have to do at least a day trip to Interlaken. Doing a day trip to Jungfraujoch is one option (which takes a full day), but another option would be to visit many places within one day in Interlaken.

What to do in Interlaken? Here are some of my ideas:

  • Visit St. Beatus Caves and the Sirgriswil panorama bridge and do a Lake Thun boat cruise.
  • Do a mountain excursion to Brienzer Rothorn and do a boat cruise on Lake Brienz.
  • Get on Schynigge Platte – another phenomenal excursion.
  • Visit Lauterbrunnen and do something adventurous (Interlaken is the most popular place for adrenaline junkies).
  • Or explore the cute town of Thun with its gorgeous castles.
  • There are so many activities to do in and around Interlaken. In one day, you cannot see that much, but better a little bit of Interlaken than nothing, right? Check out all my tips for Interlaken.

Flims

  • By car: ± 1.5 hours 
  • By Train: ± 2 hours

When I visited Flims for the first time, I was astonished… Flims is often overlooked, even though it makes a great day trip from Zurich.

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Lake Cauma in Flims

I had heard about several of the lakes in Flims and their beauty! So, when I visited I I fell head over heels in love with the area.

However, it seems they are not that famous, and so I did not see many foreigners, and I mostly stumbled upon Swiss people who were enjoying this beautiful place. 

  • The best thing about Flims is that there are three gorgeous sights that you can visit with only one easy hike. Yes, it’s true! So, for lazy people who like efficiency, this is a pretty important aspect and comes in quite handy. If you start from the mountain top, you will see Lake Cauma, then the Rhine Gorge, and then Lake Cresta. This hike takes about an hour or so. Plan some time for breaks and time on the lakes.
  • There is an entry fee to spend time at Lake Cauma and Lake Cresta (read more about it here). But it’s worth it if you like to spend time directly at the lakes or even swim in them.
Rhine Gorge from Above with a Train in the Background
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Rhine Gorge
How to get to Crestasee
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Lake Cauma with my dog, Puppygak

Appenzellerland (The Aescher Mountain Hut and Appenzell) 

  • By car: ± 1.5 hours 
  • By train: ± 2 hours (± 3 hours to Wasserauen Station)

EBENALP MOUNTAIN AND THE AESCHER

Appenzellerland is a beautiful canton in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and is, in my opinion, often overlooked even though the Aescher has become world-famous. From Zurich, get to Wasserauen train station (there is also free parking) and from there, explore the mountain with its guest house.

unique things to do in Switzerland Aescher Guest House
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The Aescher on Ebenalp Mountain

Stars like Ashton Kutscher (and bloggers like me, haha) have promoted this guest house on the Ebenalp mountain, and so the Aescher has made it on the bucket list of many

  • I recommend getting a single ticket for the cable car (about 15 euros one way) to get to the summit of Ebenalp Mountain.
  • Standing at the summit, you will also have great views of the beautiful Lake Seealpsee.
  • Then hike down and stop at the mountain restaurant Aescher. You can have a drink or lunch there and continue to hike down towards Seealpsee. It is a shortish hike (around one hour plus another hour to get back to the Wasserauen Station).
  • Stop by the beautiful Seealpsee and rest by the lake.
  • If you are sportier, you can hike up and down, which would make it a full-day trip and probably won’t leave much time for a short visit to Appenzell.
Best Things to Visit_Hike Down Seealpsee from the Aescher
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Seealpsee in Appenzellerland

APPENZELL TOWN CENTER

Afterward, head to Appenzell to end your day. From Wasserauen Station, take a train to Appenzell train station, which takes about 45 minutes.

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Appenzell town center

I definitely recommend a short stop at Appenzell, in the canton of Appenzellerland, and discover one of the cutest towns in Switzerland.

  • The town itself is really tiny (seriously, it is small), but there are nice colorful buildings.
  • Appenzell is a nice place for a short stroll and dinner before heading back to Zurich.

Basel

  • By car: ± 2 hours
  • By train: ± 1,5 -2 hours

Basel is located further north near the German/French border, and while it cannot amaze you with stunning mountain views (sorry), it is world-famous for many other reasons.

While the above-mentioned day trips are often, though not solely, a lot about spending time outdoors and be awestruck by nature, visiting Basel is more about culture, spending time indoors, and explore another side of the country.

Basel where to in Basel, Switzerland
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Foundation Beyeler in Basel
  • Basel has a beautiful old town, a stunning town hall, and great views are guaranteed from the Cathedral tower.
  • However, it is extremely famous for being the art and museum capital in the country. There are so many museums that you will have to choose which ones to visit in one day.
  • The Foundation Beyeler is actually the most visited art museum in all of Switzerland. It is known to be one of the best in the world.
  • As an art enthusiast, you might be well aware of that, but there are so many more museums like the Kunstmuseum or the Papiermühle.
  • If you come here for the museums, check the opening hours as some museums might not be open every day. Check out my detailed Basel guide for more tips.

Final Thoughts On The Best Day Trips From Zurich

As you can now see, there are many things to do outside Zurich, including admiring incredible mountain-top scenery and exploring quaint villages and towns. 

You can reach many places from Zurich within an hour or so, but even if the car/train rides take longer, it is normally worth it as the journey itself often is the reward in pretty Switzerland.

I hope this post has helped you find out about the best day trips from Zurich and you are inspired to explore the country and see what is beyond Zurich!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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