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How to spend 5 days in Switzerland Itinerary: Basel, Zurich and Lucerne

At the end of last month me and my best friend Katie jumped on a plane from London and off on a five day Switzerland adventure exploring some of the countries best cities. I had never been to Switzerland so I was super excited to explore the country, visiting three cities over five days, including Basel, Lucerne and Zurich. All three cities were amazing and had so much to offer, check out my blog posts on 12 places to visit in Zurich, and 48 Hour Guide to Basel. But for now, here’s my guide to 5 days in Switzerland… 

While Switzerland is geographically quite small and people might think they can do a lot in five days in Switzerland. And to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend any less than five days in this magical country, as we felt like we hardly scratched the surface, and next time I visit Switzerland I plan on going to the east of the country to Interlaken and the mountains.

However, if you’ve only got three or five days, then you will need to have some kind of plan ahead of your trip so you can really make the most of your time visiting Switzerland. I’ve laid this Switzerland itinerary as a five-day trip, which is easily adaptable to a long weekend in the country. 

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

So, what are we waiting for, here is my guide to 5 days in Switzerland Itinerary

 

things to do in Basel things to do in Basel

How to spend 5 days in Switzerland Itinerary

Where to stay in Switzerland

If you are staying in Switzerland for five days I would recommend not having a base to travel back to in order to save time. Instead, I would recommend booking your hotel depending on what you want to do and where you want to stay and for of the cities. Below I have recommended some options for the three cities I visited including both luxury and mid-range hotel accommodation options.

Zurich

Luxury – B2 Boutique Hotel + Thermalbad Spa

Located in the former Hürlimann brewery, B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa is a quirky hotel, in the city of Zurich, where beer was once brewed. The trendy city hotel has been boldly designed around the old brewery, retaining its history and architecture. And the hotel is perfectly located in the Enge area, making it a great stay for a weekend in Zurich, and is only a ten minute tram journey away the main streets and Lake Zurich. The hotel is sprawled across three buildings, and four-storeys, with 60 rooms for guests to enjoy. In what was once the mash house is now a sprawling lobby with lush sofas, roaring fire and tables held up by hardcover books. And just behind is The Library where over 33,000 books are placed across three 36-foot tall walls. The style of the hotel is luxury, meets industrial, where small elements of what used to be, within the Hürlimann brewery is set against plush fabrics and clean surfaces – – -> BOOK HERE

Mid-range – 25Hours Hotel Langstrasse

Red high heels and fishnet stockings, ties and tailor-made suits – worlds collide at the junction between the lively Langstrasse and the ultra-modern Europaallee. Business meetings take place during the day, and in the evenings, the neon lights flicker above the bars. Inspired by the contrasts between banking and the red-light district, between art and capitalism, the designer Werner Aisslinger and his team see the 25hours Hotel Zurich Langstrasse created a self-contained microcosm. Regularly changing resident artists ensure a steady flow of creative input. At the heart of the 25hours Hotel Langstrasse is the ground floor, home to the Cinchona Bar and NENI. Here, Zurich natives and urban explorers can meet for an Oriental lunch or dinner – and for a digestif afterwards. The 170 rooms are comfortable sanctuaries with design elements inspired by themes from the red light district, the bourgeoisie, or the world’s penthouses – – -> BOOK HERE

things to do in Basel things to do in Basel

Basel

Luxury – Hotel Basel

For our trip to Basel we decided to stay at the wonderfully traditional and modern Hotel Basel. The urban 4-star Hotel Basel boasts 73 bedrooms, including an array of suites, which were freshly renovated in 2018 and is situated in the heart of Basel’s old town on Spalenberg, one of the most beautiful and popular streets in the city.Surrounded by historical buildings and romantic little streets above Marktplatz and the City Hall, the hotel is just a few steps away from other places of interest, the theatre, museums and a host of shops. Only a few steps away from the town hall and many sights and museums, this hotel offers a quiet location in the centre of the picturesque old town of Basel. The hotel boasts an amazing location making it perfect for business travellers and families alike. The nearby market square (Marktplatz) provides easy access to the city’s public transport network. You can also enjoy the famous Swiss cuisine in the Brasserie, the Boulevard outdoor restaurant (open in summer), or the Sperber Bar – – -> BOOK HERE

Mid-range – Motel One Basel

Motel One Basel is located in Basel, 100 yards from the Architectural Museum. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar and benefit from free WiFi access. Each room at this hotel is air conditioned and is fitted with a flat-screen TV. The hotel also has a great location only 200 yards from Basel Cathedral, while Pfalz Basel is 200 yards away. The EuroAirport Basel-Bulhouse-Freiburg is also incredibly close only 6.2 miles away. The Motel One brand’s first hotel in Switzerland brings cheap and cheerful accommodation to central Basel, with bright, modern interiors, offering travellers a comfortable bed on a budget – without compromising on location or style – – -> BOOK HERE

places to visit in Zurich places to visit in Zurich

Lucerne

Luxury – Bürgenstock Resort

The revamped £440m Bürgenstock Resort dazzles with Belle Époque splendour and contemporary structural prowess high above Lake Lucerne, where it was once home to Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren. It has four hotels for all budgets, a 10,000 metre-square spa and a multitude of restaurants with huge views – – -> BOOK HERE

Mid-range – Art Deco Hotel Montana

Art Deco flair meets 21st-century luxury at the Montana, perched high above mountain-rimmed Lake Lucerne, and just minutes from the historic centre. Come for the arresting views, ever-innovative food and downtime at the Beach Club or in the private spa suites – – -> BOOK HERE

B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa

B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa

Itinerary for 5 days in Switzerland

How to get to Switzerland

easyJet, SWISS & British Airways fly the most frequently from United Kingdom to Switzerland. The most popular route is London to Geneva, and British Airways, American Airlines and LATAM Airlines fly this route the most. The next best route is to Zurich or Basel – we flew from London Luton to Basel and return from Zurich, and the flights were an incredible £60 return. 

How to get around in Switzerland

The best way to get around Switzerland is by public transport. We had toyed with the idea of hiring a car but I am so glad we didn’t in the end. The trains are really quick, and are really accessible and regular. For this Switzerland itinerary, I strongly recommend that you use the Swiss Travel Pass, which gives you access to the various forms of public transport all across the country. There are different passes available including a five-day pass, and the great thing about it is that you never have to worry about finding parking spaces and instead you use buses and trains. We travelled by train from Basel to Lucerne, and then from Lucerne to Zurich. 

When to go to Switzerland

I visited Switzerland in the summer, so experiencing Switzerland in the summer is amazing, as you can enjoy the hot weather and take up traditions such as swimming down The Rhine, watersports on Lake Zurich and river cruises. I’d recommend visiting between Mid May and End of June, or Mid August to End of October. April and May are often wet so best to avoid then if rain bothers you. However a lot of my friends have been in the winter season, especially around Christmas and they said at this time of year, nearly every city in Europe decks itself out in its Christmas and the country is also amazing for skiing. I am off to Switzerland again in January, but this time for a winter break in the country, with a few days in Interlaken, spending time in the mountains and we will even head off for a few days skiing. I cannot wait to experience a different side to Switzerland!

places to visit in Zurich places to visit in Zurich places to visit in Zurich places to visit in Zurich

What to do in Switzerland: 10 things to do in Switzerland in the summer

Itinerary for 5 days in Switzerland

 

1. Go for a swim in The Rhine with your swim bag

One of my favourite experiences from our trip to Basel was swimming in The Rhine. As the weather was around 34 degrees when we visited the city, the river was our paradise, and provided us with a place to relax, unwind and take a little dip. The thing you’ll see the most in the city when the locals go swimming are hundreds upon hundreds of the colourful Wickelfisch – a swim bag in the shape of a fish which was invented in Basel – will keep your clothes dry. And once you’ve done your exercise, after your swim, why not enjoy a drink at one of the outdoor bars on the sunny riverbank in Kleinbasel?

 

2. Basel at Christmas

During the festive season Basel spares no expense as the city is illuminated by fairy lights and its streets lined with over 100 Christmas trees. The famous Freie Strasse becomes one of Europe’s longest displays of decorations creating a truly magical shopping experience. While Basel’s incredibly popular market, spread over two squares in the historic old town, is one of the biggest and best in Switzerland. Christmas is a Basel experience that’s not to be missed.

READ MORE: Wellness Zürich: B2 Boutique Hotel + Thermalbad Spa Review

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3. Paragliding in Lucerne 

If you’re looking for things to do in Lucerne, paragliding should be at the top of your list! I got pressured in to this by my best friend (only joking) but once we had realised how beautiful Switzerland was, we didn’t need much persuading. We booked paragliding because they picked us up from the train station in the center of Lucerne, and as we didnt have a car we needed a way to get out to the mountains. The guys at Paragliding Lucerne picked us up at 12.30pm midday from the train station, after we’d spent the morning exploring Lucerne. The trip lasted around four hours, and they drove us to the mountains and back in that time too. Katie had been skydiving before, but neither of us had ever been paragliding, and I was much more excited about paragliding than skydiving. Soaring through the sky, with the Swiss Alps as the backdrop, was just breathtaking and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done! Some guides will let you bring your own GoPro as long as it’s secure, but they also record the adventure and take photos on their GoPro for an additional $35. I had my own GoPro so I didn’t pay the extra but Katie did. 

 

4. Spend the afternoon on a food tour (FoodTour ICONIC) 

On our second day in Basel we booked in to join the self-guided FoodTour ICONIC. The tour lasts around three hours, and it takes you away from the usual tourist attractions and give you the opportunity to get to know “iconic Basel” at a slow pace. This food tour was right up my street, being able to enjoy the famous Swiss cuisine at our own pace, stopping and starting as we needed. During the tour you will visit five establishments in total and each one does something different. We ended up visiting an ice cream parlour, a chocolate shop, a food market, a sustainable DIY supermarket and coffee shop. Tip: Starting before 11am means you will arrive on time for lunch at the KLARA food court, where you can look forward to delicious lunchtime snacks (until 2 pm). The starting point is at Bäckerei KULT in St. Johann, Elsässerstrasse 43, 4056 Basel and the end point is Xocolatl, Marktgasse 6, 4051 Basel.

 

5. Experience three countries in five minutes

Dreiländereck (also spelt Dreilaendereck) is a tripoint just outside of Basel where Germany, France and Switzerland’s borders all meet. This tripoint is one of the only ones within a major city (Basel) and an iron pylon monument shaped like a rocket. The Dreiländereck is a monument in Basel, Switzerland. It marks the tripoint where the borders of France, Germany and Switzerland meet. This is stated to be a Symbol Of Friendship between three neighbours (Germany, France and Switzerland) and they chose River Rhine in Basel for their symbol of friendship. 

 

6. Spend time at Lake Zurich

I couldn’t put it anywhere in the list, expect first. Because for our trip in the summer, it was our saving grace, offering us fresh, cold water, and places to strip off and sunbathe when the sun was at its hottest.There are many ways to make the most of the lake, including taking a dip, sunbathing, grabbing friends for a BBQ, and enjoying the many watersports on offer. For ease from the city, the best section to go, is the scenic promenade along the east shore in the Seefeld quarter. Here you can pitch up your towel, grab an ice cream and then look across the lake at the many watersports taking place, yachts and behind you can look over to Uetliberg.  The promenade starts at Bellevue and extends for three kilometres down to Tiefenbrunnen, so there’s lots of space to sit back and relax, and take a dip when you need to cool down. We spent a lot of time here, and one evening we came down to the lake, with some beers and some food, got chatting to some locals and stayed there late in to the night, finding out about the real Zurich. 

 

READ MORE: Switzerland Itinerary: 15 places to visit in Zurich

things to do in Basel things to do in Basel things to do in Basel things to do in Basel

7. Visit one of Basel’s many museums, especially the Kunstmuseum

Across the city there are over 40 museums to choose from including the world’s largest collection of stuffed teddy bears, an all together unusual walk through the history of pharmacies and a top-notch natural history museum, just in case you didn’t get your fix at the zoo. They represent a broad spectrum of collections with a marked concentration in the fine arts and house numerous holdings of international significance. With at least three dozen institutions, not including the local history collections in the surrounding communities, the region offers an extraordinarily high density of museums. One of the most famous is the Kunstmuseum, which houses the largest and most significant public art collection in Switzerland, and is listed as a heritage site of national significance.

 

8. Go up to the top of Uetliberg

As mentioned before, Uetliberg can be seen from the lake, and possibly from all over Zurich. It has been possible to get a train up to the summit Uetliberg, from the city, since 1875, in only 25 minutes. All you need to do is take the S10 on the SZU from Hauptbahnhof, and once you’ve arrived at the station you’ll have a short walk to the peak and the observation tower. From the top of Uetliberg there are some amazing views, that are out of this world. You can look over the lake, from Zurich city to the yachts gliding up and down the water, and you can also see the rivers and snow-capped Alps in the background. There is also a hotel and restaurant at the top, if you want to make the most of your trip up the mountain and grab some food, or stay a night. You can also hike the route up to the peak, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it in winter or when the weather is too hot in the summer.

 

9. Explore Basel with a tour guide to find out more about the history and culture

One afternoon in Basel, we joined a lovely lady called Caroline, who took us on a culture tour of the city. She took us around the city for three hours, through some of the old town, up to some viewpoints, showed us where Roger Federer got married, and showed us the iconic Town Hall. The curiously red Rathaus (town hall) with its elaborately decorated inner courtyard will leave you puzzled, while the Basel Cathedral will leave you in awe, particularly when you gaze out across the city from the Pfalz, a terrace overlooking the Rhine river.

 

10. Indulge in Fondue

If you love food as much as me, you’ll understand what is so great about fondue. HOWEVER, because it was 34 degrees when we visited Zurich in June, the last thing we wanted to eat was hot, sticky cheese, above a roaring fire. However, if it hadn’t been so hot, we would have indulged. Fondue was invented as a way to use stale bread and aged cheese in the cold winter Swiss months when fresh produce was unavailable. It is now one of the most recognized Swiss dishes and the most delicious!

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Log cabins with hot tubs in the UK

Review: Nomads Noosa Backpackers Australia

 

Thank you for reading and as always happy adventuring! 

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it for me with all your friends and family!

Sophie X

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