WHAT TO DO IN 5 DAYS IN SWITZERLAND

MOST EPIC 5-DAY SWITZERLAND ITINERARY

Switzerland might be small, but there is definitely a lot to see. So, if you are looking for the best things to do in 5 days in Switzerland or the perfect 5-day Switzerland itinerary, this post is for you.

While Switzerland is not a big country, the truth is that 5 days in Switzerland is the absolute minimum to visit Switzerland! However, I understand that some of you might only have three or four days in Switzerland, so you can adjust this itinerary to 4 days in Switzerland or also 6 days.

If you are heading there for five days, then be prepared to sacrifice those extra hours in bed to see the best of what Switzerland has to offer. But believe me when I say: it will be worth it!

While 5 days in Switzerland isn’t enough, it’s definitely possible to see some of its best places.

In this 5-day Switzerland itinerary post, you will find out:

  • How to get around in 5 days in Switzerland
  • Places to visit in 5 days in Switzerland 
  • Things to do in Switzerland in 5 days

Travel Tips for a 5-Day Switzerland Itinerary

Before telling you about the 5 days Switzerland itinerary, here are some important travel tips for Switzerland. If you want to find out about the 25 very best things to do in Switzerland, read my awesome post here.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my link (at no extra cost to you). More about it here.

Where to Stay in Switzerland for 5 Days

If you stay in Switzerland for five days, I recommend not having a base.

Instead, I suggest changing your hotels/locations a few times. This might be a bit more stressful than just doing a few day trips – from Zurich, e.g. – but this way, you do not spend too much of your precious time traveling back and forth.

How to Get Around Switzerland in 5 Days

I have been to Switzerland numerous times, and I have road-tripped and traveled by train. Both are amazing ways to discover Switzerland in 5 days.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION / SWISS TRAVEL PASS

For this Switzerland itinerary, I strongly recommend that you use the Swiss Travel Pass.

  • There are different passes available regarding flexibility and duration. Flexible passes allow you to use the pass a certain amount of days within one month or the regular, more affordable option, which means you have to use the pass on consecutive days of travel.
  • Yes, the Swiss Travel Pass is quite expensive but it will pay off.
  • You can use buses and trains without any extra costs.
  • Also, most boat cruises and some mountain excursions are included.
  • The Swiss Travel Pass also covers most museums and entrances to castles.
  • The great thing about it is that you never have to worry about finding parking spaces and instead use buses and trains. 

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Okay, I have some bad news to deliver:

  • The Swiss Travel Pass is valid for 3, 4, 8, or 15 days.
  • I still recommend getting one as you will save money.
  • So my tip is to get around the first day by buying single tickets and use the 4-day pass from day two onwards. Click here to find the rates for a Swiss Travel Pass.

ROAD TRIPPING SWITZERLAND FOR 5 DAYS

Switzerland is also great to road trip. I actually love driving there. However, if I only had five days, I would probably leave my car and instead take the train because it is often easier and gives you more time to enjoy the scenery. If you still want to drive, check out my Switzerland road trip itinerary or my post on driving tips for Switzerland.

Visa Regulations

  • Switzerland is not part of the European Union.
  • People from the European Union do not need a visa.
  • If you are coming from elsewhere, please do check visa regulations.

Language

Switzerland is small and has only a bit more than 8,5 million inhabitants. However, it has four official languages! Yep, 4 languages. 

  • Most of the country speak Swiss-German. The places I mention here are mostly located in the German-speaking part of the country (which is the north and east of Switzerland) as well as Central Switzerland. If you learn German at school etc. you will not understand that dialect, though. It is not the German that is spoken in the news, movies or so. But most Swiss people will try to speak High German, if they realize you do not speak the Swiss dialect.
  • Italian is spoken in some parts of South Switzerland – especially in the canton of Ticino.
  • French is another main language that people in the west and south speak. This includes Zermatt (where also German is spoken) but also places around Lake Geneva.
  • Romansh is a minor, yet still official, language spoken by very few (about 37,000 people) in the southeast.
  • English is not an official language but many people – especially in the tourism sector – speak at least some basic language. 

Money

  • The official currency in Switzerland is Swiss France (CHF).
  • Most Swiss shops accept payment in dollars or euros. I still recommend changing money and have some Swiss Francs with you, as it gets more expensive if you pay in euros or even in dollars.
  • Also, you can often pay with your credit card, at least in bigger stores.
  • Switzerland is expensive – so here are a few tips on how to save money during your trip.

Best Switzerland Itinerary – How to Spend 5 Days in Switzerland

So, lets get started with the places to visit in 5 days in Switzerland.

Day 1 of 5 Days in Switzerland

Of course, this itinerary is not set in stone. It depends on whether you arrive in Zurich or begin your trip somewhere else in Switzerland. So, you can change the itinerary depending on where you are starting from.

Rhine Falls and Zurich

I suggest visiting the Rhine Falls and Zurich on your first day in Switzerland. From Zurich, head to the Rhine Falls for half a day.

  • Distance: Zurich – Rhine Falls: 45 minutes by car (45km) and less than one hour by train.

SWITZERLAND DAY 1 – MORNING

The Rhine Falls are the biggest waterfalls in Europe. 

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  • The Rhine Falls are located near the German border in the northern part of Switzerland.
  • The waterfalls are imposing, especially after rainy days, which means that even more water is cascading down.
  • If you prefer, you can stay longer and visit the town center of Schaffhausen as well but if you have only five days, I suggest heading back to Zurich in the afternoon.
  • Click here to read more about the Rhine Falls.

SWITZERLAND DAY 1 – AFTERNOON

Zurich is my favorite city in Switzerland, purely because there is so much to do and see. It has a city feel though it is not huge and won’t overwhelm and, as with any other city in Switzerland, there is a lot of natural beauty even in the city center.

Places to see in Switzerland in 5 days
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  • In Zurich, I definitely recommend taking a stroll from the train station to Lake Zurich. Walking all the way to Lake Zurich, you will pass the Bahnhofstrasse, which is one of the world’s most expensive shopping streets.
  • Explore the old town with the cute, colorful buildings.
  • There are also cafés and restaurants here.
  • Then head to Lake Zurich. Personally, I would recommend sitting in a café with a view of Lake Zurich.
  • You can also make a boat trip on a pedalo or take some time to relax at the lake.
  • The water is so clean that you can even swim in the lake.
  • This is also a great way to end your day. Especially in the summertime, there are many street artists by the lake, often playing beautiful music, so it’s great to sit there and chill.
  • Click here to find a more detailed post on things to do in Zurich.

WHERE TO STAY 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.
  • Arlette am Hauptbahnhof is one of the best-rated mid-range hotels close to the city center.
  • Warning, there are not many budget hotels in Zurich. This is a good-rated hostel in Zurich – I stayed here once and for a hostel it actually was quite good.
  • Check out my guide on the best places to stay in Zurich.

Day 2 of Your 5-Day Switzerland Itinerary

After a busy but great first day, it is time to head to Switzerland’s next beautiful destination: Lucerne and the Alps.

Distance: Zurich – Lucerne: By car, it takes about one hour (52km), by train it also takes about one hour.

Lucerne / Mount Rigi or Mount Pilatus

Lucerne and one mountain excursion are must-do activities in five days in Switzerland. As a mountain excursion, you could choose from several, but my top tips are either Mount Rigi or Mount Pilatus.

SWITZERLAND DAY 2 – MORNING

Mount Rigi is a mountain offering fantastic views of the Swiss Alps and Lake Lucerne. It is quite easily accessible from Lucerne.

Where to go in Switzerland in 5 days
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Mount Rigi
  • With the Swiss Travel Pass, the Mount Rigi excursion is included in 2021. Thus, there is no extra cost for you.
  • If you enjoy hiking (or want to save money because you do not have a Swiss Travel Pass), you can also hike one way or both. You could also just hike some parts and take the funicular for the rest.
  • There is a restaurant at the top of the mountain.

Mount Rigi takes less time than visiting Mount Pilatus and is perfect if you do not want to spend too many hours on the mountain peak.

MOUNT PILATUS

Alternatively, I recommend visiting Mount Pilatus, which offers incredible mountain views, but it does take more time to get up than Mount Rigi.

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Getting up on Mount Pilatus
  • A mountain excursion to Mount Pilatus will probably take up to 8 hours. 
  • With a Swiss Travel Pass, you have a 50% discount on the ride up and can do a Lake Lucerne boat cruise for free.
  • There are many options for outdoor activities at Mount Pilatus, like paragliding or hiking.

So, I highly, highly suggest doing one of the mountain trips. With only 5 days in Switzerland, I would probably pick Mount Rigi because it is free with a Swiss Travel Pass in 2021, and it takes less time to visit. Then you still have a couple of hours for the town center of Lucerne. 

SWITZERLAND DAY 2 – AFTERNOON / EVENING

After your mountain excursion, I recommend exploring the charming town of Lucerne.

Chapel Bridge 2016 in Lucerne - Can you spot me and Puppygak on th bridge?
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  • Lucerne itself is quite cute and small, so you can reduce your activities in the town itself.
  • Walk along stunning Lake Lucerne.
  • Cross the famous wooden bridge – the Chapel Bridge. It is very picturesque and contains several paintings on the roof dating back to the 17th century.
  • Choose one of the cafes/restaurants with a view of Lake Lucerne to end your day (there are many to choose from).
  • Read my detailed Lucerne guide with more info on Lucerne and the mountain excursion.
  • If you visit Switzerland and Lucerne in winter, check out my Lucerne in winter travel post.

WHERE TO STAY IN LUCERNE

Day 3 of 5 Days in Switzerland

From Lucerne, I recommend visiting Interlaken. Personally, I think visiting this region is a must for any 5-day Switzerland itinerary.

Interlaken is a small town. It is located in between two stunning lakes – Lake Brienz and Lake Thun which are some of the most stunning lakes in the country. However, the name also encompasses the whole region of Interlaken and for this itinerary, I also included the area of Jungfrau.

Distance: Lucerne to Interlaken about one hour by car (70km) or about 2 hours by train.

Take the scenic Luzern – Interlaken Express train if you use public transportation. This guarantees amazing window views!

Jungfraujoch OR

For the third day in Switzerland, I have a couple of suggestions. Choose the one that suits your taste and budget.

SWITZERLAND DAY 3 – JUNGFRAUJOCH (FULL DAY)

The most popular day trip in Switzerland is a trip to Jungfraujoch. “The top of Europe” has the highest train station in Europe.

View of the Sphinx Observatory on Jungfraujoch, one of the highest observatories in the world located at the Jungfrau railway station, Bernese Overland, Switzerland. @shutterstock
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  • The train journey up Jungfraujoch + discovering the summit will take quite a while.
  • From Interlaken, you will need at least eight or nine hours for the whole trip.  
  • There is so much to do and see up there (snow guaranteed throughout the year).
  • Be warned, it is quite touristy and also quite expensive.
  • You get a 25% discount with the Swiss Travel Pass. Check out prices and tours here (without or with a Swiss Travel Pass).
  • Here is my more detailed post on the Jungfraujoch.

Is it really a must-see in 5 days in Switzerland? To be honest, it is a great place. But is it a must-see with less than one week? I do not think so. The Interlaken region is so rich in breathtaking places that do not cost a fortune, so I have a few more suggestions for you.

Lake Brienz / St. Beatus Caves / Thun

If this doesn’t take your fancy, here is an alternative day three itinerary. Explore Lake Brienz and the Giessbach Waterfalls, then head to Lake Thun, see St. Beatus Caves, and spend your evening in Thun.

SWITZERLAND DAY 3 – MORNING: LAKE BRIENZ & GIESSBACH WATERFALLS

Get to Interlaken Ost boat station, which is within a few minutes from the heart of Interlaken, to start your day 3 in Switzerland.

Take a boat tour on Lake Brienz, get off the boat at Giessbach Waterfalls to see the waterfalls up close.

View from the boat - get to Grandhotel Giessbach by boat
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View from the boat – get to Grandhotel Giessbach by boat

Giessbach waterfall - with a view of Grandhotel Giessbach
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  • Get out at the Giessbach Waterfall boat station and do a 20-minute hike up to walk behind the waterfall. It is worth it!
  • Enjoy the views of and from the waterfalls.
  • There is a beautiful hotel and restaurant open in summer here, too.
  • I really recommend having a drink at the terrace of this gorgeous hotel (it is closed in winter) before heading to your next destination. 

SWITZERLAND DAY 3 – MIDDAY: ST. BEATUS CAVES

After this, you can then catch the boat again to head back to Interlaken. The boats run every 1-2 hours, so plan accordingly. As mentioned previously, 1-2 kilometers south of Interlaken is another fantastic lake: Lake Thun. 

In Interlaken, take a bus and head to the St. Beatus Caves. Alternatively, you can also do a boat cruise on Lake Thun to get to this amazing place.  

St. Beatus Höhle in Interlaken
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  • The St. Beatus Caves are quite impressive – especially on a hot summer day it cools you down and refreshes you (yes, it is quite chilly inside).
  • But to be honest, the best view is from just standing in front and looking at Lake Thun, which is an extremely pretty greenish color. 
  • If you can’t tear yourself away from there right away, you have the option to dine at the panorama restaurant.
  • If you have your Swiss Travel Pass, you could also do a boat tour on Lake Thun – keep in mind that most boat tours in Switzerland are free with the pass. 
  • There is a sunset boat cruise on Lake Thun – it is absolutely stunning and is a great way to end your day.

View from the panorama restaurant in St Beatus Caves
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SWITZERLAND DAY 3 – EVENING: THUN

Alternatively (to a sunset boat cruise on Lake Thun) you can also finish your day by going to another town close by – the pretty town of Thun.

Surfing in Thun Arzo Travels
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  • Thun is a perfect little town where you will have plenty of options to dine.
  • Not only this, but Thun also has a charming town center – perfect for nice strolls.
  • And there are a couple of castles to visit in Thun.
  • Check out my Thun travel guide for more info.
  • Either way, a Lake Thun sunset boat cruise as well as a dinner in Thun would be a great way to finish day three in Switzerland. 

Find my 50 recommendations for Interlaken activities here.

WHERE TO STAY IN INTERLAKEN:

For day 3 and 4 of your itinerary, I suggest staying in Interlaken.

  • The most luxurious hotel in Interlaken is Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa. I have not stayed there myself, so I can only repeat what I heard: This hotel is amazing. If you are looking for a fancy place, this is probably the best pick.
  • For your stay in Interlaken, I recommend this hotel which is centrally located and is quite nice. Check out rates for Hotel du Nord here.
  • If you are on a budget, I recommend staying in Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof next to the Höhenmatte. It is not the cheapest hostel but definitely worth the money and one of my all-time favorite hostels. Check out prices here.

There are more gorgeous places to visit in the area. I admit I am in love with Interlaken and Jungfraujoch. I could stay for months without getting bored. 

Day 4 of 5 Days in Switzerland

Let’s continue your 5-day Switzerland itinerary.

So, there are several options: Extend your stay in Interlaken and choose one of these day trips from Interlaken. A day trip to Lauterbrunnen, Lake Oeschinen (what a stunner!), or Lake Gelmersee (another stunner!) are great options. You then stay in the region of Interlaken for the rest of your trip.

If you are still eager to visit another gorgeous area of Switzerland – leaving the region of Interlaken – then I suggest visiting pretty Montreux on the 4th day of this Switzerland itinerary.

Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken

Distance: Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen about 20-minutes by car (15km) or about 20 minutes by public transportation.

SWITZERLAND DAY 4 – FULL-DAY TRIP: LAUTERBRUNNEN

Lauterbrunnen is indeed a stunning place and out of the world, and getting to this little village is an experience in itself.

While Lauterbrunnen is renowned for crazy outdoor sports like base-jumping, it is also an incredible place to visit for non-crazy outdoor enthusiasts like me (and probably you).

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  • You have one of the most beautiful mountain ranges here. Looking at the famous Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains is mind-blowing (on a clear day). They are also known as the Swiss Skyline.
  • There is water. Water in terms of waterfalls. Many, many waterfalls. 
  • Lauterbrunnen is the valley of 72 waterfalls.
  • And then you have gorgeous, gorgeous waterfalls like the Staubbachwaterfall.
  • You can also visit the Trümmelbachfälle for an entrance fee (when visiting the waterfalls within the mountain, pack some waterproof clothes – especially after a rainy day).
  • And if you are into James Bond, you might want to get up the “James Bond Mountain” – Schilthorn.
  • You can either hike up or take several cable cars to get up from Lauterbrunnen/Stechelberg. Both ways are fun. Even if you are not an experienced hiker you can do the hikes, because it is not a challenging. I promise it is worth it.
  • If you visit Lauterbrunnen, plan a full day and check out hiking options in and around Lauterbrunnen.

SWITZERLAND DAY 4 – EVENING: INTERLAKEN

For the evening, head back to Interlaken. Interlaken is a small town with absolutely amazing scenery.

Interlaken Where to go, Höhenmmatte
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Höhenmatte Park with a view of the Swiss Skyline

It just takes a few minutes to get here from Lauterbrunnen, and if you make Interlaken your base, you can explore it in the evenings rather than reserving a full day for it.

  • Buy some snacks from the supermarket at Höheweg street or a take-away meal from one of the numerous restaurants and then head to Höhenmatte park.
  • There are benches and a beautiful meadow – the perfect setting for a dinner picnic.
  • Do not be surprised to see many, many paragliders on a sunny day. This is what Interlaken is known for: Outdoors sports like para- and hang-gliding in the most impressive setting.

Montreux

Montreux is a great alternative to Lauterbrunnen, but it will include quite some of travel time.

Distance: Interlaken to Montreux is about 2 hours by car (150 km) or 2 or 3 hours by train.

SWITZERLAND DAY 4 – FULL DAY TRIP

I recommend taking the Golden Pass Line, which is the most scenic way to arrive in Montreux from Interlaken. It passes along Lake Geneva’s shores and many beautiful vineyards. This train ride takes longer but is worth it.

Chateau de Chillion_ What to do in Montreux
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Chateau de Chillion
  • Although Montreux itself is quite small, it has the most beautiful promenade in all of Switzerland.
  • You can walk along this promenade from the town center to the Château de Chillon (free entry with the Swiss Travel Pass).
  • Visit the Charlie Chaplin Museum.
  • See the Freddie Mercury Statue and learn about his life in Montreux.
  • Visit the famous vineyards, do some easy hikes there and go wine tasting.
  • Check out my Montreux travel tips for more information.

Montreux Switzerland - where to go in 5 days Switzerland
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WHERE TO STAY IN MONTREUX:

Okay, this is how you could spend 4 days in Switzerland, and you will surely be amazed. Do you have 5 days in Switzerland? Then it is time for one more train ride/drive to another great town.

Day 5 in Switzerland

If you stay 5 days in Switzerland, I have several suggestions. You could prepare for your departure and spend the rest of the day in Montreux or Interlaken and get ready to leave to the final destination. Or, if you have another full day (leaving late at night or on day 6), you could head to Zermatt

Zermatt

Distances: Montreux to Zermatt by car is about 2 hours plus 15 minutes by train. Zermatt is car-free, so you cannot get up to Zermatt with your car, and you will need public transportation for some parts. If you use only public transportation it takes about 2,5 hours by train.

Distances: Interlaken to Zermatt by car is about 2 hours plus 15 minutes by train. Zermatt is car-free, so you cannot get up to Zermatt with your car, and you will need public transportation for the rest of the journey. It takes about 2,5 hours if you travel by train.

SWITZERLAND DAY 5 – ALL DAY

Zermatt is a little town famous as a ski destination in winter, but it is also a great place to visit in summer. 

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  • You probably know that Zermatt is home to the Matterhorn mountain – the most famous mountain in Switzerland.
  • If you want to, you could get up (via cable cars, etc.) to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at Klein Matterhorn, which is about 4000 meters high. But you should be aware that altitude sickness is a real problem, especially if you get up really quickly.
  • With 5 days in Switzerland, getting up Klein Matterhorn is not really a must-do activity. I actually recommend admiring the Matterhorn from below rather than hopping onto a cable car.
  • You can have a really wonderful time simply exploring the cute little town.
  • Take trillions of pictures of the amazing Matterhorn and do some hikes in this beautiful part of the world.
  • Here are more Zermatt tips.

SWITZERLAND DAY 5 – EVENING

It is time to plan your departure – I hope you had an amazing 5 days in Switzerland.

So, where do you need to go from there?

If you head back to Zurich, plan in 4 hours to get from Zermatt to Zurich. From Montreux to Zurich it takes about 2,5 hours and from Interlaken to Zurich it takes about 2 hours.

While trains in Switzerland are pretty amazing and reliable, leave early. Even in Switzerland, the trains might be late one day (though it most likely will not happen). And if you drive, it might always happen that there is traffic.

If you stay 5 nights in Switzerland, you might want to stay overnight in Zermatt.

WHERE TO STAY IN ZERMATT

  • Luxury hotels in Zermatt: Grand Hotel Zermatterhof & Hotel Mont Cervin Palace – these places define luxury. If you are looking for 5-star hotels, these might be perfect for you.
  • Mid-range hotels in Zermatt : Sunstar Style Hotel. I enjoyed my stay at the hotel. The prices were very reasonable (summer prices are normally better than the prices in winter), and the location was great. I even had a great room view of Matterhorn. If you have the budget, I definitely recommend booking a hotel room with a view of Matterhorn as it is with some extra $.
  • Click here to find my accommodation guide for Zermatt.

CONCLUSION: 5-DAY SWITZERLAND ITINERARY

I admit that it is a jam-packed and ambitious Switzerland 5-day itinerary. Still, it is definitely doable, and if you visit Switzerland, you do not want to spend much time sleeping anyway as there is so much to see and do.

If you want to have it a bit more relaxed, I would skip either Montreux or Zermatt. Or skip both and spend one more day in Zurich, Interlaken, or Lucerne instead. My tip: Spend the last 3 days in Interlaken and visit Lake Oeschinensee.

I am one of the biggest Switzerland fans out there, and this is for many reasons. I am always overwhelmed by its beauty and think that 5 days is a minimum to spend in the country.

I hope this 5-day Switzerland itinerary is helpful, and that you know now how to spend 5 days in Switzerland. If you want to stay longer and are looking for more tips, check my other Switzerland posts, which you can find here.

Safe Travels, Arzo
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