Switzerland is a nation of rolling green hills, impressive mountain peaks, and even more impressive train ingenuity. The country's triumphs in train travel, and its insistence on punctuality, mean that traveling from one city to another is easily achievable, even if for a day. So if you're only in town for a short time, but want a taste of the country beyond the already romantic city of Zurich, hop on a train and dive deep into the heart of Switzerland. Most undoubtedly, your eyes will pop out like a caricature as you scan the cost of some of the train tickets. But if you plan your trip in advance, you'll find ways to explore the country economically, specifically with the Supersaver ticket from SBB.
The fastest train from Zurich HB (central station) to Switzerland's capital is just over an hour. Once you reach Bern, make your way to the Zytglogge, the stunning astronomical clock that inspired Einstein's theory of relativity. After marveling at the clock tower, slowly make your way down Kramgasse, one of the main streets in Old Town, where shopping is plentiful. Head to Einsteinhaus for a blast from the past, as you make your way through Albert Einstein's former apartment. Entrance is 6 CHF. If you're craving a nosh afterward, Einstein Kaffe on the first floor of the museum offers great snacks and cappuccinos. Once you've perused the central streets in Old Town, walk across the Nydeggbrucke bridge for some great views of the city and its river, Aare. Past the bridge, you'll find the Barengraben, or bear pit, where you can follow several brown bears as they traverse upon the walled hillside. The brown bear is Bern's symbol, so make sure to bring back some bear shaped cookies from the local confisserie for your friends and family back home, before hopping back on your train. A one way ticket between Zurich and Bern is 50 CHF, or 25 CHF when purchasing a supersaver ticket in advance.
The fastest train from Zurich's central station to Lucerne is 45 minutes. Complete with alp views, lakeside ambience and a covered footbridge, Lucerne is a town in a fairytale come to life. As soon as you arrive, walk across the Chapel Bridge for a superb first view of the city, lake, and looming alps. Make your way through Old Town on cobblestone streets such as Kapellgasse, Kornmarkt, and Weggisgasse. As you stroll around, admire the romantic turrets and elaborate frescoes painted on the exterior of the buildings. The city's preserved medieval charm is truly enchanting. Next, check out the famous stone carved Lion monument, commemorating Swiss soldiers who were killed during the French Revolution. Near the monument you'll find Cafe Sowieso, where you can dine al fresco. After lunch, take a long leisurely walk along the lakeside promenade before you make your way back to the train station. Lucerne is one of the most magical places in all of Switzerland, and makes for a most memorable day trip. A one way ticket between Zurich and Luzern is 26 CHF, or 13 CHF when purchasing a supersaver ticket in advance.
A train ride from Zurich HB to Engelberg requires a train switch in Lucerne, so the two destinations could easily be combined into one day trip. The scenic journey from Lucerne to Engelberg is about 45 minutes. Once you arrive there, you will find yourself completely surrounded by alps on all sides. It's as if you're receiving a warm embrace from mother nature. The beauty of this alpine village is so astounding, one could easily spend an entire day sitting and gazing at the rugged peaks. While that may be tempting, there are a number of trails to be explored and trekked upon, ski runs to race down in the winter, and a cheese factory in a monastery to taste test from. Although the village is small, its magnificent setting will leave you with a grand impact. A one way ticket between Zurich and Engelberg is 38 CHF, or 19 CHF when purchasing a supersaver ticket in advance.
The fastest train from Zurich's central station to Interlaken is just shy of two hours, with a quick train switch in Bern. Set between lakes Thun and Brienz, and surrounded by a number of Switzerland's tallest peaks, Interlaken is the epicenter of adventure. From hiking to paragliding, ice climbing to skydiving, you are sure to experience an adrenaline rush or two. After exerting your energy on all the activities Interlaken has to offer, you may find yourself in need of a pick-me-up. Head to Ladelokal for some sweet treats and drinks to indulge on, in an even sweeter spot. After lunch, hop on a boat on Lake Thun to view the Oberhofen Castle, a sight so beautiful, you'd have thought it leaped off the pages of a storybook tale. Another great and affordable option to take advantage of is to grab some Swiss favorites from a supermarket, such as Coop or Migros, and make a little picnic in the Hohematte park, located in front of the upscale Victoria-Junfrau Hotel. Munch on cheese, sliced meats, and rich chocolate as you watch pillowy clouds dance around mountain peaks. A one way ticket between Zurich and Interlaken is 70 CHF, or 35 CHF when purchasing a supersaver ticket in advance.
A train ride from Zurich's central station to Lauterbrunnen requires two train switches, one in Bern and one in Interlaken, so a combination of two or even three destinations could conceivably be combined into one day trip. Lauterbrunnen Valley is home to an astonishing 72 waterfalls, some of which cascade right into the center of town. Snugged between massive rock faces, you have no choice but to look up and spot the dotted chalets in the upper alp towns, like those of Murren and Wengen, easily reached by funicular if you yearn to climb higher. Taking a leisurely walk through Lauterbrunnen is a must. Let the ringing of grazing cows' bells be your soundtrack to your idyllic stroll. If your stomach stirs, head to Airtime Cafe for a relaxed vibe and tasty treats. Your ride back to Zurich will have you dreaming of the simple, pastoral life. The journey between Interlaken Ost and Lauterbrunnen takes 20 minutes and is 7.60 CHF one way.