The Ultimate Guide for a Week in Switzerland

March 16, 2016

ISEP student Jessica Forlizzi is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is a junior from East Carolina University, and is currently studying abroad at Universität Bern in Switzerland.

Recently my friend from the United States came to visit for a week in Switzerland. As I was trying to plan our schedule for the week, a thought occurred to me: If I were studying abroad in Europe and had just one week to spend in Switzerland, what would my itinerary look like on a college student budget? Here’s what I came up with, what we accomplished, and some feedback to go along with it.

Arrive on a Sunday morning in Bern:

Almost everything is closed on a Sunday in Switzerland besides the shops and food stores in the main station. Upon arrival, this would be the perfect time to stop and grab food for the day before checking into your hotel or hostel. The ideal place to stay would be a hostel in the Canton Bern, because it’s in the middle of the country and allows easy access to any destination you plan to travel. After checking in, put on your hiking shoes and take the one-hour hike up Gurten, Bern’s local mountain. Here you will be welcomed with breathtaking views of the city and the alps. There are grill stations if you want to have a picnic and hang out for a bit. If you don’t want to make the hike back down there is a train that will bring you back down into the city.

Monday in Bern:

The city now buzzes with people going about their weekly routine, and all the stores are now open for business. Spend Monday wandering around the extraordinary capital of Switzerland. Visit the famous clock tower, taste test in the chocolate stores, go inside the capital building, stroll by the lake and get a big warm pot of fondue. The city has so much to offer.

Tuesday in Gruyère:

Being in a country famous for its cheese, you should definitely visit a cheese factory to learn and view how it’s made. The beautiful medieval town of Gruyère, where the delicious Gruyère cheese factory is, is just a short train ride away. There is also a castle in the town, where you can purchase your tickets for the cheese factory and the castle together with a student discount included. Other options in the town include an alien museum and a Buddhism museum.

Gruyere, Switzerland castle
Gruyere, Switzerland castle

Wednesday in Thun:

Just 19 minutes by train, you’ll arrive at the most stunning place I’ve been to yet. The town of Thun has great mountain and lake views. Also, another castle resides here on top of a hill. Enjoy a cheese crust at one of the many Swiss restaurants outside overlooking the lake and mountains, eating a gelato down by the lake, or go on one of the cruise tours of the lake. Remember to bring your camera!

Thun, Switzerland
Thun, Switzerland

Agent 007 Thursday:

Thursday will entail a little bit longer of a trip, but one that will be well worth it. A great way to see the extraordinarily majestic Swiss Alps is from the James Bond Experience. Make sure to get an early start because the last cable car down the mountain is at 5 p.m. From Bern, the trip to the top of the Schilithorn Mountain requires a train ride to Interlaken Ost. A connection train takes you to Lauterbrunnen and then a free bus ride to the cable cars in Stechelberg. You then need to take four cable cars up the mountains. Go all the way up first to the James Bond experience, the rotating restaurant and the views of over two hundred mountain peaks. On the way down you can see the other cable car stops and explore the tiny mountain towns that also offer awesome views.

Looking out at the Swiss mountains
Looking out at the Swiss mountains

Friday Options:

Friday offers two different options:

  • You can stay around Bern and find some good hiking trails during the day, then go out at night. The night scene offers many different sorts of options:

    • Propeller: free entrance
    • Cuba Bar: if you want to dance the night away to Latino music
    • Graffiti Place: inside bar, outside fires, grunge scene
    • Subway-Die Bar: sit down and share a vase with friends.
  • Book a hostel in Lausanne, another big city with views of Lake Geneva. Spend the day exploring the city, and at night take on their club scene. Here they have big clubs with cover charges. A famous one, MAD club, has house music, and across the street is another, XOXO, which plays hip hop. Make the best of Saturday:

Depending on what you choose to do Friday night, you can take the almost two hour train ride from Bern to Geneva, or half hour train from Lausanne to Geneva. Geneva normally hosts many different festivals and conventions, so check out the week you are going on the Geneva website. This past weekend there was a chocolate festival with free entrance and a car show for only USD $16. If nothing is going on, Geneva is a French- Swiss City with many sightseeing options. You can get a monthly half-fare card at Bern’s main train station. This is highly recommended and pays for itself just from the Thursday trip, and also gives you half off the cable cars.

Festichoc chocolate festival in Geneva, Switzerland
Festichoc chocolate festival in Geneva, Switzerland

I hope all of you traveling abroad, or soon to be traveling in Europe, make your way to Switzerland. This country’s beauty amazes me more and more every single day.

Are you ready for your own adventure? See all of your study abroad options on the ISEP website.

Want to see more from our ISEP bloggers? Learn more about our ISEP Voices Spring 2016 group.

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