There is no other country like Switzerland – before starting a long introduction praising the country, I‘ll keep it short: Switzerland is amazing and it takes my breath away every time I visit and this is why I created the very best Switzerland itinerary for a short amount of time.
3 days in Switzerland is surely not enough time to see all of the beautiful places – actually, you can only see a small fraction of the stunning country.
However, with a well-planned 3-day Switzerland itinerary, you will get a good glimpse of the country and you will be infected with the Switzerland fever.
As I regularly visit Switzerland, I have many favorite places. This is why I have created this itinerary in this post – actually, I have created 4 different itineraries for you.
This might sound weird at first but it will, hopefully, help you find where to visit Switzerland in 3 days without traveling too much. You can stay for 2 or 3 nights in one place and do a few day trips this way without spending too much time in the train/car.
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Travel Tips for your 3-Day Switzerland Itinerary
While 3 days in Switzerland isn’t enough, it’s definitely possible to see some of the amazing places.
In this post, you will find out:
- How to get around in 3 days in Switzerland
- Many more travel tips
- Places to visit & things to do in Switzerland in 3 days
Best Time to Visit Switzerland
I have been lucky enough to visit Switzerland many times – at any time of the year. And I love summer as much as winter (and fall and spring are also amazing). You have seriously winter wonderland in the cold month and in the warm months you will see 50 shades of green. There is no bad time to visit (I actually do not like Switzerland much in the rain but other than that, there is no bad time to visit).
This itinerary is perfect for winter and summer – and as I have visited most places also during different seasons, I recommend them at any time. However, my favorite area is Interlaken. And honestly, late spring, summer, and early fall are the best months to visit if you aren’t a big snow fan.
Hiking Appenzell in winter might not be the best time – but Zermatt or Lucerne are perfect destinations in summer or winter.
So, to make it sure: it is up to your and your taste which is the best itinerary for which season. In general, each itinerary works all year round.
Where to Stay
If you are staying in Switzerland for 3 days, I recommend having one base and do just a day trip or two for each of the different itineraries outlined in this post.
Tips for hotel recommendations are listed for each place but I also have a full accommodation guide for Switzerland.
How to Get Around
Whatever means of transport you pick – you can’t go wrong.
Public Transportation: For this Switzerland itinerary, I strongly recommend that you use the Swiss Travel Pass and you get around via public transportation.
There are different passes available including a three-day pass.
You do not have to worry about finding parking spaces and instead you use buses and trains and can enjoy beautiful window views and benefit from many perks of having a 3-day pass (as it not only includes public transportation use but also use boats / cable cars without any extra costs or get a discount on many activities).
By Car: Yes, getting around by car is another great way. You might end up paying more – especially if you do mountain trips and boat tours as they are included mostly in the Swiss Travel Pass. The views are scenic and driving in Switzerland is quite easy (if you are okay with driving in the mountains).
I also have a detailed post about road tripping in Switzerland – which you can check out here.
Uber/Taxis: Even though I have visited Switzerland so many times, I cannot recall to have ever used a taxi. First of all, it is very expensive (Uber is only available in some very few places) and second, punic transportation is pretty great (if you do not drive yourself), Since Switzerland is also pretty safe, I never minded walking – not even at nights if my hotels was not directly at the bus station.
Guided Tours: If you do guided tours, e.g. a tour from Zurich to Mount Pilatus or Jungfraujoch, you can check out guided tours. Transportation is sometimes included.
More Tips for 3 Days in Switzerland
For more general Switzerland travel tips read my post and find out what to know before visiting Switzerland.
Most Swiss shops accept payment in dollars or euros. I would still change money and have some Swizz francs with me as it gets more expensive if you pay in euros. 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.
The best tip to safe money is to bring a water bottle – you can refill it from fountains that you find everywhere in Switzerland or just drink tap water. It is more than fine to do so.
Switzerland is – overall – a very safe country. There are no extra precautions I take. I exercise common sense but in general, I feel pretty safe.
Switzerland is not part of the European Union though people from the European Union do not need a visa. It is part of the Schengen area. If you are coming from elsewhere please do check visa regulations.
Idea 1: Zurich & Surroundings
Okay, this first Switzerland 3-day itinerary is great if you want to stay in and near Zurich.
Zurich is a beautiful city, especially in the summer months or in December during the festive season. If you are in Switzerland for 3 days, you can spend one day in Zurich before exploring the areas nearby.
Take a stroll from the train station and walk the Bahnhofstrasse, which is one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. It does not really look spectacular, but it will lead you to one of the best places in the city.
Explore the old town with its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and many shops and restaurants. Then, head to Lake Zurich, which is close by and spend a day in, on, or around the lake.
Check out my detailed Zurich itinerary for more information for your day in Zurich.
Stein am Rhine (or Schaffhausen) and Rhine Falls
From Zurich, you can take the train and visit the Rhine Falls and then get to either Stein am Rhine or Schaffhausen.
The Rhine Falls is the biggest – in terms of power – waterfall in Europe. Yes, that is right.
You can visit the Rhine Falls from two sides – one is free to visit (but you would have to pay for parking) and the other one, where you go to the platform, has an entrance fee of about 5€ (but free parking).
My tip is to visit both sides so that you have a great view of the waterfall from both angles. Check out my Rhine Falls travel guide. Afterwards, you can either head to Schaffhausen or Stein am Rhine. Both are very cute and charming towns near the Rhine Falls.
Stein am Rhine is probably one of my favorite towns in the country – it has some of the most unique architecture. And while it is small, it is charming and perfect in combination with a trip to the Rhine Falls.
Or you can visit Schaffhausen – both towns are very close to the Rhine Falls.
Schaffhausen is a colorful and charming town, and a bit bigger than Stein am Rhine. There are surely more things to do here – so, whether you visit Stein am Rhine or Schaffhausen, both are great.
Flims or Appenzellerland/Aescher
Then, you have one more day to spend and here is another fun suggestion to visit from Zurich.. I love both places and could not name which one I liked more, so I leave the decision to you.
Flims is located in the Graubünden canton and can be easily reached from Zurich by train or car.
It is perfect if you enjoy easy hikes while seeing some of the most beautiful places in Switzerland – 3 attractions at once with an easy amount of physical exercise.
Lake Cresta, Lake Cauma, and the Rhine Gorge are the three main attractions. My tip is to start from the mountain top (where you can get to by car) and then hike down.
It is a very easy hike with incredible scenery. Once you reach Lake Cresta, you can then hike up again or take a bus to get back to your car. This is perfect if you are looking for something more off-the-beaten-path in Switzerland.
Then, we have Appenzell/Aescher, which is probably way more popular because of the famous Aescher Mountain Guesthouse.
You can combine a trip to the Aescher with visiting the small, yet very cute and colorful, village of Appenzell.
The good thing about a trip to the Aescher is that you can either hike up and down (or just hike one way) or take the cable car and then just do some minor hiking. So, it is perfect for the active as well as the less-active people.
And after a drink at this amazing guesthouse, you can head to the small village of Appenzell with some of the most unique buildings in Switzerland.
Where to Stay in Zurich:
Luxury Hotels in Zurich: Zurich has some great luxury hotels – Baur au Lac is some 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 This one is a good-rated hostel in Zurich that I tried out during my last trip to Zurich. It is a decent hostel with perfect location right in the center of Zurich.
Idea 2: How to Spend 3 Days in Switzerland
The second Switzerland 3-day itinerary I have for you focuses in and around Lucerne.
Idea 2: Lucerne & Surroundings
Lucerne is about an hour’s drive from Zurich and you can easily get there by train or car (if you take the train, make sure to take the Express train – those don’t mean they are fast, and often take longer, but are the most scenic rides).
Lucerne is often called the prettiest city in Switzerland – I am not sure whether I agree or not. BUT what I know for sure is that the area is one of the most beautiful places in the country.
If you have three days in the country, you could spend all 3 days here. Assuming, that you arrive from Zurich airport, you probably don’t have a full day on the first day, so we don’t cram it with too many activities.
Visit the old town and head to the Lion´s Monument, and then stroll Lake Lucerne and walk the famous Chapel bridge – one of the most famous attractions (or probably the main attraction in the city). The town itself is quite cute, though if you are short on time, you can reduce your activities in the town itself and instead walk along Lake Lucerne and past its wooden bridge, Chapel Bridge.
This is the most famous bridge in Switzerland. As well as being very picturesque, it contains a number of paintings on the roof that date back to the 17th century. End your day at Lake Lucerne – or one of the restaurants with a view of Lake Lucerne.
Mount Rigi & Lake Lucerne Boat Ride
The next must-do for your three-day Switzerland itinerary should be spending half a day (at least) to head to Mount Rigi and do a Mount Rigi boat tour. If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you don’t have to spend any money on these activities, because they are included.
Take one of the Lake Lucerne boats and get to Vitznau – the lake is huge, so getting to Vitznau takes a bit but views are great, so all you need to do is to sit back and relax (you can get there by bus or car alternatively).
Mount Rigi is the perfect place to spend a few hours. To get up Mount Rigi get the funicular or just hike up (you can also hike up just some parts and then hop on the funicular).
Getting up takes about 30 minutes and the ride there is already scenic. Up there, you can do (further) hiking or just enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Lucerne. In winter, it is also a perfect places for winters sports. It is also one of the best spots to watch the sunset on a clear day – takes less time and is perfect if you do not want to spend too many hours on the mountain peak.
Mount Pilatus or Titlis
For the third day, you can decide whether you want to enjoy a fun day at Mount Pilatus or at Engelsberg. It is perfect for those who like to hike or those who like to do full-day mountain trips without too much physical exercise, as you can also get up via funicular and cable car.
Mount Pilatus is one of the most stunning mountain peaks and offers incredible views.
Up there, you can either eat your weight in Swiss food (not my favorite thing though) or just soak in the views and do activities like hiking or paragliding.
For this activity, you should plan in at least 6 hours.
Titlis is in Engelberg, a bit further but also very easy to visit from Lucerne. It is not included in your Swiss Travel Pas, but you can take the train without extra costs and then get a discount for your Titlis mountain excursion.
It is a very popular destination also given the that it is one of the highest mountain peaks that you can easily visit (3,000+ meters). This is in particular interesting as there is always winter up there – even in the summer. This makes it more unique – especially if you like snow and visit in the summer months (as there is no snow on the other two mountain peaks, Mount Rigi and Mount Pilatus, in summer).
Like on Mount Pilatus, the activities on top are numerous, so it takes at least 6-8 hours.
TIP: If I had to name my favorite 3-day Switzerland winter activity, this would probably bring the cake home.
Where to Stay in Lucerne
Luxury Hotels in Lucerne: Schweizerhof Luzern is a beautiful and fun 5* hotel located at the shores of Lake Lucerne and a few hundred meters from the old town and main tourist attractions (if you can, book a room with lake view).
Mid-Range Hotels in Lucerne: If you are on a budget you can check out prices close to Lucerne but on my last trip I stayed at Hotel des Alps which came with amazing room views. It is located close to the Chapel Bridge. Check out prices here.
Budget Hotels in Lucerne: This bed-and-breakfast offers single and double rooms (with an occupancy of 4 people maximum). Some rooms have a shared bathroom, and some have a private one. Click here to find the best rates for your stay at B&B
If you are still not sure where to stay in Lucerne you can check out my full accommodation guide on the best places to stay in Lucerne here.
Idea 3: Interlaken Region
Here we come to another option on how to spend 3 days in Switzerland (probably one of my favorite itinerary for 3 days).
The region of Interlaken (or Bernese Overland to be more precise) is one of the best places to visit in the WORLD. Interlaken is a small town. However, the name also encompasses the whole region of Interlaken and Jungfrau.
Getting there by train from Zurich takes about two hours (take the scenic Luzern – Interlaken Express train). In three days, you can find out what the fuss is about, though you can easily spend weeks and weeks in the country.
Head to the Jungfraujoch (‘the Top of Europe’) which has the highest train station in Europe on it.
The train journey up and discovering the summit once you are there will take quite a while. So, from Interlaken, you will need at least eight or nine hours, but it is one of the most popular things to do.
There is so much to do and see up there (snow is guaranteed throughout the year) – but be warned, it is quite touristy and it is not cheap. There is a 25% discount with the Swiss Travel Pass – click here to get the price if you have a Swiss Travel Pass – check out prices and tours here (without a Swiss Travel Pass).
Though the Jungfraujoch is the most popular mountain excursions I have to say, my favorite was another….Brienzer Rothorn is my top tip – the views on Lake Brienz are the best you can get and getting up in a steam loc is one of the most unique means of transport.
Lake Brienz & Lake Thun & Thun
If this doesn’t tickle your fancy, here is an alternative day.
Getting up early and taking a boat tour on Lake Brienz is a great start to a day full of sightseeing.
If you get off the boat at Giessbach Waterfalls, you can just take a short, ten-minute hike to see the waterfalls up close and then another ten-minute hike will take you to the top. There is also the beautiful Grand Giessbach Hotel with its terrace and incredible views (unfortunately, it‘s closed in the winter months).
Aand for one of the best sunsets in the country, the boat tour is the perfect choice (plus, you can buy a day ticket for both lakes and do unlimited boat rides on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz).
The St. Beatus Caves are quite impressive and are an especially cool place for the hot summer days as it cools you down and refreshes you. But to be honest, the most impressive view can be found just standing in front and looking at Lake Thun, which is an extremely pretty greenish color.
If you find you can’t tear yourself away, you have the option to dine there as well.
If you have your Swiss Travel Pass and you want to take full advantage of it, you can get up with a funicular to Schynige Platte – great views included. If you prefer, you can also finish your day by going to another town close by, for example, Thun, where you will have plenty of options to dine. I definitely like Thun better than the town of Interlaken.
Schloss Schadau in Thun is one highlight, but Thun also has an extremely beautiful town center. Either way, both of these places would be a great way to finish day number three.
For the third day – and this is especially great if you don’t have a full day – head to Lauterbrunnen.
Known best among adrenaline junkies, it is also one of the best places to visit for any nature lover – especially if you love chasing waterfalls or prefer some easier hikes that offer fantastic views.
There are many reasons to visit Lauterbrunnen and it is a great place to see in 3 days in Switzerland if you focus on the region of Interlaken. And then you have the gorgeous waterfalls, like the Staubbach Waterfall that is Instagram famous.
Since it is a lot about waterfalls in Lauterbrunnen, you can also visit the Trümmelbachfälle for an entrance fee (when visiting the glacier falls within the mountain, pack some waterproof clothes).
Or if you are a James Bond fan and want to get to Schilthorn (007 filming location).
You can either hike up or take several cable cars to get up from Lauterbrunnen/Stechelberg (both are fun and you can do some hiking, which is perfect if you are not an experienced hiker – I promise, it is worth it).
Getting to Lauterbrunnen is easy from Interlaken and you have one of the most beautiful mountain ranges here. Looking – on a clear day – at the famous Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau is mind-blowing.
Where to Stay in Interlaken:
Luxury: The most luxurious hotel in Interlaken is Victoria Jungfrau and since I have not started there myself I can just repeat what I heard: This hotel is supposed to be amazing, so if you are looking for a fancy place this is probably the best pick.
Mid-Range: I recently stayed at Hotel du Nord and I actually was very positively surprised (the reviews were not great but since all rooms were renovated lately, it is a great place to stay). Click here to get the best deals.
Budget: If you are on a budget I recommend staying outside of Interlaken, some cute towns close by that offer good value for money or you book a bed in one of the numerous hostels in Interlaken like Balmers Backpackers Hostel.
Tip: Check out my post with more day trip ideas from Interlaken.
Idea 4: Lake Geneva (3 Days)
This is another itinerary for 3 days in Switzerland – if you want to visit some of the French-speaking parts of the country, then visit Montreux, Geneva and Lake Geneva.
Getting there from Zurich is time-consuming (but amazing if you choose the scenic train rides), but you could also go to Montreux from Geneva.
If you go to Montreux from Geneva, I suggest spending the first day in Geneva where you can get a first impression of Lake Geneva.
Switzerland is full of beautiful lakes, but Lake Geneva still holds a special place in my heart and might also win you over in a short time (it is one of the biggest lakes in Europe and yet the color is pretty amazing).
On the second day, head via boat or train to Montreux and spend a full day in there.
Although Montreux itself is quite small, it has the most beautiful promenade in all of Switzerland and is perfect to visit at any time of the year.
You can walk along this promenade from the town center to the Château de Chillon (free entry with the Swiss Travel Pass).
If you visit in the summer months, also visit the vineyards in the Chexbres region afterwards – and go wine tasting and discover some of Switzerland´s best vineyards. If you love to be in the water, you can also take the time to swim in Monterey – the lakes in Switzerland are so clean and clear that even I sometimes swim in them (and I am not much into swimming).
For the third day, you can do a day trip to Yvoire (which is actually in France, on the other side of Lake Geneva, and can be reached via boat) or Vevey.
Tip: Lake Geneva is enormous, so plan in enough time for the boat trips as it is quite time-consuming.
Idea 5: Zermatt & Glacier Express
Another perfect way to spend 3 days in Switzerland could be by heading to Zermatt and spending a full day on a train (yes, voluntarily and yes, you will enjoy it).
This itinerary will take you to one of the most popular towns of the country. Zermatt is a car-free town that is located in the canton of Valais and has become popular as a winter sport destination of the rich and “beautiful” (well, apparently everyone’s taste are different) but it is also a perfect place to visit at any time of the year. Even if you are not rich or beautiful :).
Getting there from any other main city in Switzerland (Zurich or Geneva e.g.) is time consuming but worth it.
On the way to Zermatt you will already see the almighty Matterhorn mountain.
Zermatt itself is quite small so for the town center itself you will not need much time to explore but there are fantastic hiking trails (and in the winter it offers amazing winter sports possibilities). I visited in winter and summer and both times it was absolutely charming. Check out my Zermatt guide for more info on what to do and see.
The Glacier Express is actually not an express train. It is indeed very slow. But why is it then one the most famous (and best) train rides? It connects the two highly popular mountain destinations of St.Moritz and Zermatt.
While I am not a fan of St. Moritz itself, the scenery in the area is just breathtaking. And getting there from Zermatt is an experience by itself (or the other way around).
The train takes you across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels, three cantons and two language regions, so you can imagine what the window views will be like.
Since the whole journey (one way will take more than 8 hours, I do not necessarily recommend to get all the way to St. Moritz but do just a part of the trip). The window views will be fantastic (even with the shorter ride).
Reservation is needed (and you can use your Swiss Travel Pass for the train ride, reservation does cost a bit extra though).
Tip: If you do not want to make a reservation (or travel with a dog as I did) you can use the Rhaetische Bahn which is actually the same route. They do not require any reservation (but do not have panorama windows) and you can open most windows for great pictures.
Where to Stay in Zermatt
CONCLUSION: A PERFECT 3 DAYS IN SWITZERLAND ITINERARY
As you can see, you could spend weeks in the country and it still would not be enough, but given that many of us only have a few days, or 3 days in Switzerland in this case, these are some of the best itinerary that allows you to see some of the quite a lot in a short time.
Just choose any of the 3-day Switzerland itineraries and enjoy!