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Traveling to Europe and wondering about the best sights in Switzerland to see with 48 hours? This guest post will give you some great ideas on where to spend your two days in Switzerland. Scroll down to check it out! Or explore the Ultimate Switzerland Road Trip Itinerary!
This is a guest post by Anna Timbrook.
So you’re headed to Switzerland, but you only have two days. It’s a bittersweet moment – a chance to visit one of the best travel destinations in the world, but not a lot of time to explore. Fortunately, Switzerland is a small country with an extremely efficient transportation system. While 48 hours can feel too short, it’s very easy to hit some of the hottest spots before the timer runs out.
Top 6 Best Sights in Switzerland to Visit in 48 Hours:
Head to the Swiss Alps
If your main goal is to experience the Alps up close and personal, these three destinations will give you all the Alpine bliss you could ask for.
Hit the ground running at Switzerland’s adventure capital. This is the best introduction you can get to the country’s great outdoors. The town sits at the heart of the Bernese Oberland and enjoys all the Alpine musts – nearby Harder Kulm for mountain panoramas, Lakes Thun and Brienz for your iconic crystal-clear lake, a medieval town, and a medieval castle. If you’re already raring to go, try out adventure sports like paragliding, skydiving, or skiing. All of these are best done in an adrenaline town like Interlaken.
I’m not too much of an adrenaline junkie though, so, during my first trip to Interlaken, I took a trip to Harder Kulm, which is a great destination for any first-timer. It’s a mere 10 minutes via funicular, which brings you up 730 meters. At 1,322 meters, this will give you the best view of both lakes below, and Alpine peaks in the distance. The viewing platform juts out into the air and has a glass floor. It’s a jaw-dropping view when you’re so high up, but it’s worth looking down to see the crystal-clear lakes at your feet.
In under an hour, you can reach Grindelwald via train from Interlaken. This idyllic little village in the Jungfrau region is good for day trips. I prefer visiting Grindelwald during the summer when the whole village is bursting with colors from the flowers and bright green meadows.
The easiest spot to visit in Grindelwald is the ski mountain of First, which is a mountain area that has a ton of activities to choose from. The most popular thing to do up here is to brave the First Cliff Walk, a metal walkway that juts out of the cliff over a 45-meter drop. Similar to the viewing platform at Harder Kulm, this is a great way to take all of Grindelwald in, including the iconic Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains.
You can also take the First Flyer, an 800-meter zip line that zooms flyers at 84 kph. Or for those less adventurous, you can grab a so-called “trotti” and zoom down on the gravel roads, all the way to town!
There’s also no lack of hiking trails such as the Eiger Trail that will lead you to the foot of the Eiger North face on the other side of the valley. This walk will show you magnificent views of Lauberhorn, Kleine Scheidegg, and the valley, and is all downhill, so easy for almost anyone to do.
On your second day, take a train or drive down to Zermatt. There are many Alpine towns in Switzerland to choose from, but Zermatt sits right at the foot of the Matterhorn, the most iconic Alpine peak in the world. The town of Zermatt itself is quiet and calm with the bonus feature of being car-less. And if adrenaline is what you are after, all the Alpine adventure you need will be found at the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is the highest viewing platform in Europe. Here you’ll get 360-degree views of over 38 peaks and 14 glaciers in the French, Italian, and Swiss Alps. You can go skiing, hiking, and trekking if you’re the active type. For the not-so-active travelers, there are cinemas, restaurants, and museums to explore in town. However, even if you don’t want to exert yourself, I recommend you get up high to either Gornergrat or the Klein Matterhorn at least once while you are here!
Explore the Swiss Cities
Switzerland’s cities, though not set right in the mountains, still command amazing Alpine views. For culture vultures and history buffs, these three cities will satisfy your endless curiosity.
Can you even go to Switzerland without setting foot in Zurich? The country’s financial capital has tons to offer, which sadly most people miss. This metropolitan city isn’t short of nature either – it has both the Limmat River and Lake Zurich within its borders. As Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich is known for swanky bars and shops and a generally high-end lifestyle. However, it also has over 50 museums, 100 galleries, and a thriving nightlife scene to round off Swiss culture.
Zurich is great to visit in the summer where you can swim in the many lake or river baths all over the city. I recommend the Letten swimming area on the Limmat River, right in downtown. It’s free, has a bar, and if you get ther early, lots of space to sit.
What I love exploring in Zurich, however, is the Old Town. It’s a mix of old and new – there’s the Swiss Heritage Site of Lindenhof Hill, the medieval headquarters of Brunnenturm, and the shopping-zone-come-bar-street at Niederdorf. All of this in one place!
The Swiss National Museum is also a must on your visit as it gives a crash course on the history of arts, culture, and life in Switzerland. And as a bonus, it is right across from the main train station (and the Letten is a short walk from there!)
On a somewhat calmer side of the metropolitan life is Geneva. It is considered the center of diplomacy with many of the world’s most important international organizations calling it home.
There are many monumental sculptures to spot in Geneva, including the Jet d’Eau, the Reformation Wall, and the Broken Chair sculpture. All of which are far from one another, but do-able in one day. Especially if you grab one of the free bicycles on offer there!
It also has its own version of Old Town, characterized by small streets and beautiful masonry facades. What I recommend for you to visit, however, are two of the most iconic centers of humanity – the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum and CERN. The first shows you the evolution of humanitarian effort in the world, both the good and the grim. The latter shows you a glimpse of the future from the best scientific minds in the world.
The other must see in my opinion is the lakeside promenade, which includes a small city bathing area right in the lake, and the Jet d’eau at the far side. Both are worth checking out while you are here.
As the capital of Switzerland, Bern holds historical and cultural gems. It’s built on a ridge wrapped around by the Aare River. At the core, its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that remains mainly intact from the 15th and 16th centuries. Across the river are the newer parts of the city with equal amounts of charm.
Bern has an exceptional Museum of Fine Art (Kuntsmuseum) with over 50,000 works of art. It was built in 1879 and is the oldest museum in the country. You can also check out the History Museum, combined with the Einstein Museum, together forming the second largest museum in Switzerland. Bern was the home of Einstein for 10 years, whose life is exemplified in the museum. There are several monuments and historical buildings that serve as important landmarks in the city so there’s a lot to see.
However, I love visiting the many markets that happen in the plazas. You’ll find everything from flowers and vegetables to trinkets and rare finds. Bern’s biggest flea market happens every third Saturday during warm months and can be found on the Mühleplatz in the Matte. It’s also worth just roaming the streets and exploring the shops here. Many of which are in sub-basements reached directly from the road, a unique feature of Bern.
Things to Know Before you Go to Switzerland
Every city and town in Switzerland has its own claim to fame, so there’s no one-size-fits-all itinerary when it comes to visiting the country. Some are closer to the Alps, others are great for city life. To make it easier for you, I listed my favorite places in Switzerland which are always a home run for first-time visitors.
Season is also a big consideration for your trip. While many high-altitude cities experience snow all year long, visiting Switzerland during the winter will be worlds apart from visiting it in the summer, even if you’re talking about the same city. I personally love Switzerland in the spring or early summer. It’s a season where flowers are in bloom, meadows are green, the temperatures are cool, and you still have your snow-capped peaks in the distance. However, Switzerland in the winter is nothing short of magical either.
Lastly, do your research on train passes. If you’re planning to hit as many cities as you can, it might be prudent to get a Swiss Travel Pass. It also comes with discounts and free entrances for different establishments and museums around the country. If you’re traveling with kids, the Swiss Travel Pass also has options for free travel for children.
About the Author
Anna was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on Expert World Travel. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
What about you? Have you visited Switzerland? I can’t wait to go back to Europe to explore Switzerland and other beautiful countries! Where else should we spend 48 hours exploring?
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Annick, The Common Traveler