The holiday season is coming up and so is Switzerland tourism! My first time traveling there earlier this year was a dream come true.
I went during the holiday season right after Christmas until after New Year’s 2020. I had planned my trip out, but there were so many spontaneous tourist attractions that popped up along the way!
My tourism experience in Switzerland exceeded ALL of my expectations and Switzerland is now one of my FAVORITE travel destinations I have been to so far.
Use my recommendations and tips to travel to Switzerland like a pro, not a lost tourist!
Here is everything you need to know about Switzerland tourism as a first-timer:
Switzerland’s official languages are German, French, Italian and Romansh. The areas that my family and I visited mostly spoke in German or French.
We stayed in Bern as our mainstay and mostly heard German here as well as at the Zurich Main Station.
We also visited Geneva, which is closer to the border of France, so most of the people and the transportation systems use French.
My fluency in German is equivalent to about two semesters of beginner’s German in university, so here’s a friendly reminder to brush up on some basic German or French before you visit Switzerland!
Wifi for Swiss Tourists
Using roaming data is a huge NO. The last time I accidentally turned on my roaming data in Hong Kong, my phone company notified me that I was being charged about $15 only for a few minutes!
Save that money and get yourself a wifi egg while traveling in Switzerland! You might get lost without wifi while navigating the public transportation systems, trust me.
I rented my wifi egg from travelerswifi.com. This wifi is made for travelers and is available for pickup at several locations, including the Zurich main station, Geneva airport or Zurich airport.
I chose to pick mine up from the Zurich main station on my way to the hotel.
You can get the wifi device delivered to your hotel or any address or pick it up. Additionally, all you need to do to return the device is to drop it in any mailbox, rental location, or post office.
PRO-TIP: Make sure to keep your wifi device fully charged before you go out and about for the day! You wouldn’t want your wifi device to die while you struggle to navigate your way.
Swiss Currency Tips for Tourists
Switzerland is not a part of the European Union so they use their own currency.
Their currency is the Swiss Franc, indicated as CHF. When I visited in January 2020, 1 CHF= 1.0329 USD. The currency exchange rate fluctuates and changes all the time so I definitely recommend checking before your trip.
PRO-TIP: Exchange your money before your trip! A local once advised me not to use the ATM machines on the streets of Switzerland in big cities. They told me that since there are so many tourists, the ATM machine exchange rates include a ridiculous amount of extra fees! (About $40 USD more)
Safety of Switzerland Tourism
During my whole trip here, I noticed that everyone seemed to mind their business. I did not see many people out and about late at night or even on the streets. I never felt endangered or sketchy about any areas, but I believe that’s because we stayed in more of the touristy areas.
Swiss Tourist Transportation
Every country I have visited outside of the U.S. has a seamless and convenient public transportation system. Switzerland is the same!
All throughout my trip, I almost never saw cars driving on the streets as much as we see it in America. Everyone takes the train, bus, or taxi in Switzerland because of how affordable and convenient it is.
High key throwing shade, but America definitely needs to step up its public transportation game.
The best way to easily access public transportation is to get a Swiss Travel Pass. This pass is for tourists and visitors who want a transportation package to Switzerland’s tourism locations.
You can use the Swiss Travel Pass for 3,4,8 or 15 days of consecutive travel. I chose the 4-day pass since I was only there for 5 days.
The only difference between first-class and second-class tickets is that first-class grants access to the in-train restaurant and a bit more legroom. I went with a second class ticket because I wanted to eat at restaurants outside.
What to Pack for Switzerland As a Tourist
My trip to Switzerland lasted 5 days and 4 nights in early January. To say that the weather is “freezing” is simply an understatement.
January is the coldest month in Switzerland, meaning I had to pack the warmest clothes I had.
The weather is even colder with the snow and the powerful winds.
Definitely make sure to pack all the winter essentials!
Where to Stay in Switzerland
I stayed at the Novotel Bern Expo Hotel, located in the old town of Bern, Switzerland. I chose to stay here because I was able to redeem my airline reward points from Delta, but here are several other wonderful places to stay in Switzerland:
*DISCLAIMER* Airbnb did not sponsor me in any way, shape or form. However, I do want to share my Airbnb referral link with you guys so you can get up to $65 off a qualifying booking if you sign up using my code! Here is my Airbnb referral link.
- H+ Hotel Zürich: This upscale, 4-star hotel in Zurich is only minutes away from Switzerland tourist attractions and about 20 minutes from the Zurich airport.
- Locarno Studio Airbnb: This fully furnished studio apartment radiates bright and clean vibes. Only an hour’s drive from the Swiss Alps and a two-hour drive from Milan, this location is perfect for those who want variety.
- 2 Bedroom Chalet Airbnb: This chalet is near the borders of Italy and France, surrounded by breathtaking Swiss mountain views. The minimalist design and clean, wooden aesthetic make for a modern cabin atmosphere.
- Vitznau Apartment Airbnb: This entire apartment is surrounded by pristine nature and has an astonishing view of the lake right from the balcony. You can visit Lucerne or take a hike on Mount Rigi for a true Swiss tourism experience.
Stadt Zürich 3, Apartment Studio Airbnb: This studio apartment located in Zurich provides easy access to some top tourist spots, such as Lindenhof and Fraumünster Church.
- Zurich Studio Apartment Airbnb: “This fully serviced & styled apartments offer you a unique experience & a comfortable feeling “home away from home”!
Bärghüsi Düretli: “Chalet Düretli is located outside of Adelboden, 5 minutes away from the village center. The house is almost 1500 meters above sea level…” This chalet provides a true Swiss cabin experience in a picture-perfect landscape and no wifi, so prepare yourself to ditch your technology and immerse yourself in nature!
- Anzere, Swiss Alps Airbnb: “This large, bright, south-facing studio in the heart of the Swiss Alps, sits on a sunny terrace at 1500m. It has sweeping views across the Rhone Valley.” This secluded village studio provides the perfect getaway from bustling cities!
Switzerland’s tourism isn’t cheap, but there are many cost-effective Airbnb’s out there depending on what you plan to do in Switzerland. Make sure to use my Airbnb referral link to save yourself some money!
Where to Eat in Switzerland
Once I arrived in Switzerland, I had no idea how expensive food would be.
Actually, Switzerland’s cost of living and tourism is one of the highest in the world. IN THE WORLD.
A Chick-Fil-A meal in the U.S. might cost around $7 USD, but the same food might cost about 17 CHF in Switzerland. (These numbers aren’t accurate, but they highlight the vast cost difference).
If you’re more focused on Swiss tourism rather than the food, I recommend buying groceries from the supermarket and saving your money for the experiences.
Some of the most popular grocery stores I visited while in Switzerland were Aldi, Lidl, Coop and Migros. Although groceries are not exactly cheap here either, it’s still more affordable than going out to eat for every meal.
PRO-TIP: Check the store hours for every grocery store around you! In some cities, most restaurants and stores close early around 7:00 PM. One day I didn’t know how early the store closed and I almost starved for dinner.
Swiss Tourist Attractions
Visit the Top of Europe (Jungfraujoch)
My #1 favorite Swiss tourist attraction is Jungfraujoch, ‘the Top of Europe’. Sitting at around 11,000 feet above sea level, you won’t regret this unforgettable experience.
The breathtaking views on the journey to Jungfraujoch feel like a magical, winter wonderland dream.
The crisp snow and panoramic views of mountains, nature and the endless sky are simply UNFORGETTABLE and legendary.
Jungfraujoch is a MUST-SEE place that you need to include in your Switzerland itinerary. Just a warning though: it is not cheap.
However, the price is worth it. The experience and views are bucket-list worthy and I would do it again.
Celebrate the holiday season at Parc De Bastions
Switzerland tourism is on another level if you visit during the holiday season around Christmastime like I did.
Parc De Bastions is one of the most famous public parks in Geneva, Switzerland, and it transforms into a holiday marketplace for Christmas. It’s the perfect place to grab some hot cocoa, hot wine, and fresh hot food off the fire.
There are even bonfires around the park to keep visitors warm under the dazzling lights and holiday decorations!
Visiting this park made me feel like we were celebrating our holiday trip the right way in the right place. I would love to visit this Parc De Bastions during the holidays again just for their heartwarming drinks!
Embrace your inner tourist and indulge in Swiss chocolate
You cannot leave Switzerland without trying their world-famous chocolate!
Geneva is a global hub for diplomacy and banking as the headquarters of Europe’s United Nations and the Red Cross, but they also have one of the most glamorous shopping streets. After exploring the streets of Geneva, it’s hard not to want to do some shopping.
Unless you’re down to drop some serious cash on luxury brands like Rolex, I say it’s okay to invest in some authentic Swiss chocolate instead.
You can find chocolate shops up and down the streets, but the most famous ones are:
Even if you buy some chocolate from a random tourist shop, you won’t regret it!
Visit historic Swiss cathedrals, buildings, and world-renowned art museums
The Lion of Lucerne: This monument commemorates the death of hundreds of Swiss soldiers that were killed during the French Revolution of 1792.
Jesuit Church, Lucerne: This historical building is the first large Baroque church built in Switzerland. The architecture looks like something straight out of an art history textbook; it’s a spectacular sight to see.
Luzern-Chapel Bridge: On your way to the Lucerne Jesuit Church, you’ll need to walk over the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne that also depicts several biblical stories along the way. This architectural masterpiece dates back to the year 1332 and is the world’s oldest wooden covered bridge.
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire: The art and history museum in Geneva boasts beautiful artwork pieces as one of the three largest museums in Switzerland. Entrance is free to this museum, but you can pay 5 CHF for a guided audio tour.
Zytglogge Clock Tower in Kramgasse, Bern: The streets of Bern is lined with small restaurants and shops that have many stories to tell. The Zytglogge Clock Tower is one of Bern’s best-known landmarks and the city’s official timekeeper. You can even explore the interior of the clock tower in a guided tour! Visit the Zytglogge Clock Tower’s website to book a public tour.
Visit Lindenhofplatz: This is the highest point in Zurich, overlooking the whole city. This was the first place that I went to explore after landing in Switzerland and it did not disappoint! The eccentric buildings and old streets really remind you that you’re not in America anymore. The culture and beauty of these streets were immaculate.
My time in Switzerland was a dream come true for my inner tourist and there are so many other activities I wish I could do next time I visit there! Even if you skip all of my recommendations, there are still PLENTY of things to do in Switzerland, like skiing, snowboarding, visiting hot baths in the Swiss Alps, and traveling to other countries.
I actually had a layover in Amsterdam for a day on my way back to the U.S. from Switzerland, which was a bonus. Traveling from Switzerland to other countries in Europe is much cheaper and easily accessible, so try and coordinate accordingly!
Learn more about what I did during my one-day layover in Amsterdam if you need ideas on how to make the most of your time there.
Whatever you do in Switzerland, I hope your tours and travels exceed all your expectations. Use my recommendations to plan out a trip of a lifetime and to experience something new!
Stay shining and safe travels. ✨