Zurich + Lucerne in 48 Hours
Updated: Jul 18, 2021
Yes, not one, but two Swiss cities in 48 hours. Needless to say, it was quite the action-packed weekend but, still, amazing.
Please note that I got my phone stolen in Europe before this trip so the photos aren't my best as they were all taken quickly on friend's phones, but the content is relevant just the same!
A few of my friends and I were studying in Verona, which meant we were on a bit of a budget, but nevertheless, we decided we had to do whatever it took to get to Switzerland. I wouldn't wish that 10+ hour bus ride on anyone, but, alas, it was the only way we could afford the trip. The four-hour, overnight, bus layover in Milan didn't make things easier, but this trip was so eye-opening. It was probably somewhere in the middle of my bus stop bench nap next to a homeless person that I realized how truly fortunate I was, and that, while this was just my way of getting to Switzerland, this was his home. That experience drove me to think about my actions a little more.
Now, I know you probably only came here to read about how to do Zurich + Lucerne in 48 hours, but I think it's also important to reflect on why we travel in the first place and how traveling can affect our lives.
OK, enough of my 3 a.m. epiphany. Here's the Switzerland travel guide.
Sausage and beer. Cheese and chocolate.
Zeughauskeller (Zurich)—Located in a 15th century building about a five-minute walk from Lindenhof Hill, Zeughauskeller offers authentic Swiss cuisine. Switzerland is known for being fairly pricey, but we were pleased with the reasonably priced dishes.
Cafe Schober (Zurich)—Over a century old, Cafe Schober has a beautiful baroque-style garden patio area in the back, which is where we enjoyed our hot chocolates. This was a nice, relaxing, afternoon stop, especially since we had been running around all day. Plus, you have to make a stop for chocolate in Switzerland.
Sprungli (Zurich)—Another chocolate-shop must, Sprungli is a popular Swiss chocolate chain that makes for a great place to stop and get souvenirs.
In Lucerne: you can't go wrong with wandering. Many of the places we stopped at, I can't remember the name of, but they were all cute, small, local spots along the Lucerne Lake.
Note: many Swiss restaurants close before or at 9 p.m., so try to make your travel plans accordingly. We made the mistake of getting in late and had few options for dinner.
Lindenhof Hill (Zurich)—This historic square makes for a great place to enjoy the swiss culture. There was a sausage festival happening in the square during our trip, so you'll never know what you'll find!
Chapel bridge (Lucerne)—The Chapel bridge (Kapellbrücke) is a covered wooden bridge than spans diagonally over Lake Reuss. You can't miss a stroll on this iconic monument.
Lion monument (Lucerne)—The Lion monument (or Lion of Lucerne) is a rock relief carved in the early 1800s to commemorate the Swiss Guards who died during the French Revolution. The monument is settled behind little pond, with several beautiful little cafes and shops surrounding.
River Reuss (Lucerne)—This is the main river in Lucerne. It runs through the town, and there are so many restaurants, cafes and bars lined along it. On the south side of the river, not too far west from the Chapel bridge, you'll find a set of staircase leading to the river, which many people use to sit and enjoy the view on a hot, summer day (just watch out for the geese).
If you've come to Switzerland to hike, Mt. Pilatus is the place.
How do I get from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus?
Great question! There a three ways you can get to Mt. Pilatus from Lucern:
Take a bus to Kriens, and then take a gondola/cable car to the top (this is probably the cheapest option, but least exciting)
Take a train to Alpnachstad, and then take a cogwheel train to the top.
Take a boat to Alpnachstad, and then take a cogwheel train to the top.
I made the mistake of not taking the boat to Alpnachstad and the cogwheel train to the top, and I wish I had! It's the steepest cogwheel train in the world, which I've heard makes for a crazy fun ride.
Can I hike Mt. Pilatus?
Yes! There are several trails, and they all have clear paths, but the incline is fairly steep. We made the mistake of starting the hike from Kriens, which is where most people end their hike, so if you're interested in hiking as much as possible, I would recommend the Aplnachstad entrance.
What if I get tired part-way through my hike?
Not a problem! The mountain has cable cars at several stopping points throughout the mountain that run every 15 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., but you can check the run times here. The ticket prices range from $10-$70 depending on where you stop and start. Fort instance, you could hike a portion of the mountain, take a cable car up the rest of the way, and then take a cable car all the way down.
Are there any other ways to get around Mt. Pilatus?
Actually, yes, there's one more mode of transportation: the toboggan slide. You can slide down from Frakiguadi at a very reasonable price, and experience a type a "ride" most others have not. More details here.
Can I go swimming anywhere in Lake Zurich?
Yes! You're expected to watch out for boats, but you can, theoretically, swim in the lake from any starting point.
Where are the best places to swim in Zurch?
While the lake is home to several river baths and swimming pools, my favorite is Seebad Enge. It is comprised of two separate swimming pools within the lake, Seebad Enge offers a pool for both men and women and one for just women. I thought this was such a great idea, as it's custom for Swiss women to not wear a bathing suit top. You could tell that the women in the women-only bath felt so much more comfortable. The area also has a diving board and stairs into the lake itself (see pictures above), and they offer several other amenities—all for reasonable prices.
God created such a beautiful world, it would be a shame not to explore, preserve + appreciate it.
Explore: the hiking trails. Mt. Pilatus, alone, has so many ways to hike, ride and slide around the mountain—explore them!
Preserve: the water. The fact that the lakes are clean enough to swim in really says something about the priority the Swiss community has put on the environment. Treat their water, and all water, like the Swiss would treat it!
Appreciate: the cheese + chocolate. Man on man, do I love cheese... and chocolate, and the Swiss sure do know how to make both. A lot of their technique comes from years and years in the craft, so it should be appreciated. Bring Lactaid if you must, you're meant to go a little overboard on diary here.