Help me find interesting places to go near Zurich!
August 29, 2005 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Near Zurich, where should I go for weekend tourist trips?

I'm working in Zurich for the next three months. I want to spend my weekends and a few vacation days being a tourist. My partner and I like charming towns with good hotels and restaurants, interesting and quirky local culture, and relatively quiet things. We're not big hikers and we're not big nightlife people. We're looking mostly for places within a few hours train ride from Zurich.

I've travelled some in the region and like Zurich itself, Lugano (beautiful lakeside hotels), Interlaken (train to the Jungfrau, good tourist infrastructure), Strasbourg (great restaurants), Murten (cool walled town), Geneva (good restaurants, urban area). I'm curious about the Jura, Innsbruck, Lausanne, Bern, St. Moritz, Munich. Of course big cities like Vienna, Budapest, Paris, etc also appeal, but those seem to really require a plane ride.
posted by Nelson to Travel & Transportation around Zurich, Switzerland (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In Interlaken, you must visit Trummelbach Falls (this link has a tab on the left with more).
posted by Aknaton at 9:51 AM on August 29, 2005

Bern is quiet but charming. You can tour Einstein's house if that appeals. Innsbruck can be very nice, with great scenery. I liked Innsbruck better, truth be told, but then again I tend to like Austria more than Switzerland. Salzburg is touristy but nice.

Munich can be a lot of fun, and it's got some top-notch art galleries and other good museums. I like Vienna even more, but as you note it's farther (but possibly not much farther. And intra-European plane rides can be cheap.)

You also wouldn't be that far from Burgundy -- check out Dijon or go a little farther south to Beaune, a wonderful walled city (stay within the walls) that's a wine center. Check out the Hotel-Dieu (old hospice) and Musee du Vin.

If you liked Lugano, consider going farther south into Italy, around Lago di Como or Lago Maggiore -- wonderful lake scenery. Or you could head a bit west of there, to Val d'Aosta and Chamonix/Aguille du Midi. (The cable car ride over Mont Blanc looks like fun.)

Lyon is known for its three-star restaurants, and isn't too far away. Alsace might be fun as well -- try Colmar.

Vaduz, in Liechtenstein, is also an attractive smallish city.

Rick Steves' country-by-country information page may be your friend here, given your stated travel style.
posted by Vidiot at 9:59 AM on August 29, 2005

You may want to visit Lake Como in northern Italy. It's about a 4 hour drive from Zurich to Bellagio. There are many things to discover in the area. Consult Rick Steve in the link above.
posted by freq at 10:10 AM on August 29, 2005

We stayed in Lucerne when we were doing the whole Eurail thing in July. I hear Interlaken is too touristy these days, so we didn't head there this trip. Innsbruck, Austria is very similar to Lucerne.. Mountainy little town with tons to do.

Pictures of Lucerne
posted by joshgray at 11:00 AM on August 29, 2005

Lucerne isn't bad, but I'd go to Innsbruck -- way fewer bus tours there.
posted by Vidiot at 11:02 AM on August 29, 2005

Oh i didnt notice the rest of your post! FOR SURE get a eurail pass and weigh your options of how much you want to spend vs what kind of pass to get. First class is totally worth it, as is an unlimited pass!

Browse thru the rest of my pictures at the site above for pictures of Innsbruck and Paris. Paris was too big and dirty for me but I did enjoy experiencing everything French.

My friends really enjoyed Italy if you want to take an overnighter out there.
posted by joshgray at 11:04 AM on August 29, 2005

Find the websites where you can plan out connections for trains and you're good to go. You can save a lot of time and money taking overnight trains. (sorry for the multiple posts :)
posted by joshgray at 11:05 AM on August 29, 2005

Anywhere around lake Constance (Bodensee in German), especially Stein am Rhein, Meersburg, and the Rhein falls near Schaffhausen. Constance (Konstanz in German), Germany, is a short train ride from Zurich, and from there you can take tourist boats anywhere on the lake. Have fun!
posted by tippiedog at 3:35 PM on August 29, 2005

but those seem to really require a plane ride.

No, no, you should still take the train when you decide to go on longer trips. It's wonderful. The train ride to Vienna is especially nice, I loved that. To Paris from Zurich is best on the night train: you get to look outside for a bit and then you take a nap, and when you wake up you're in downtown Paris. I think it took 6 hours.

I have friends in Zurich, and I've been there several times coming from different directions. I've flown from Amsterdam & back, taken the train from Amsterdam & back, and taken the train from Vienna and continued by train to Paris. The last trip was my favourite.
posted by easternblot at 9:02 PM on August 29, 2005

I forgot to mention the BEST train ride we had was a 'panoramic' train from lucerne to innsbruck.. it was amazing! Bunch of pictures on the website above from that ride..
posted by joshgray at 11:12 PM on August 29, 2005

This will be long, my apologies :).

I can wholeheartedly recommend Lausanne (I spent there nearly 6 years at graduate school), it's both a very nice place by itself (beats Geneva in any moment) and a good 'base' if you want to continue elsewhere. It's just around 2 hours by train from Zurich (and now they go like twice per hour).

The best part is around the lake - a beautiful view with Alps in the background. Take metro from the train station, direction down the hill, the last stop is port Ouchy. Then you can have a very nice walk in either direction. Eastwards you will (soon) finish at Olympic museum (not exactly my cup of tea, but there is a nice park around).

About restaurants, there is a quite good one (with excellent view) called "Chateau d'Ouchy" in a place that looks like small castle, just left next to metro stop in Ouchy. Tip - get there 'filets de perche' (local fish from the lake).

Another option is to walk up the hill from the train station and get lost in small streets in old town (for example, try to get to the cathedral, but without a map). Lausanne's topography is fun, it's fully 3D (built on hills which are now not obvious, covered with architecture and bridged in many places).

Now, some extra trips from Lausanne. If you are already in Lausanne port, you can take a boat going to Evian. Evian is a charming little town, known mainly for "Evian" bottled water, gambling and recently also because there was G8 summit. "Cruise" takes just over half an hour, it's fun by itself (and romantic if you are with your SO). Evian "feels" different than Switzerland (French food is way way better than Swiss). Bonus - if you already have a half-fare card (demi-tarif/halb-tax abo), it is valid also on boats. Special tip - in Evian they have excellent cakes, just stroll around the main street and get attracted by shop windows.

Another place you could go to is Montreux (called Swiss Riviera). Jazz festival is already over, but it's nice place anyway. There is no direct connection from Zurich, but it's under 3 hours even with a change in Lausanne. Or again, you could take a boat for more romantic travel.

Near Montreux, there is also Chateu d' Chillon, the one that inspired Byron to write "Prisoner of Chillon".

Bern was boring (for me).

More generic - if you don't want to take plane, TGV fast trains are also quite fun way to travel to France (e.g. Paris), just from Zurich it would be quite long. Maybe you could go instead to Germany (nice trains there are called ICE). For instance Heidelberg is rather close (~3.5 hours from Zurich with a good connection). It's nice historical university town. A very nice place to eat/drink there is Cafe Journal on the main street.

BTW when planning trips in Europe by train, you can check Deutsche Bahn's search. I like it better than all other national ones, it has a pretty clean interface (just it bugs to enter age sometimes) and its database covers everything.

Have a nice stay in Switzerland. I loved it there :).
posted by b. at 10:12 AM on August 30, 2005 [2 favorites]

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