4 of the Best Day Trips from Zurich

The ease of getting around Switzerland makes taking a day trip from Zurich a no-brainer. Here are 4 amazing options that you'll want to add to your trip itinerary ASAP! 

Side note: if you rent a car, be careful not to speed. There are radar speed enforcers all over the place. If you don't want to rent a car, you should still have no trouble getting around with the Swiss public transportation systems. Download the SBB Mobile app and input your current location and where you want to go to see your options and how long the trip will take you. Expand each choice to see the type of transportation you would take (train, bus, ship, funicular, and/or tramway) and any connections or changes you'll need to make. 


From Zurich, the train ride to Interlaken takes about 2 hours. If you rent a car it will take about 1.5 hours, and Interlaken has plenty of (paid) parking. 

Near the railway station in the middle of Interlaken is a funicular that goes to the top of Harder Kulm that leaves every 30 minutes. On a clear day, you can check out the two-lakes-bridge for views of both Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. When I was there the weather wasn't so great, and unfortunately, when that's the case, you may not be able to see anything from the lookout. If you're not sure about making the trip up, you can always check the webcam to see whether or not clouds will obscure the view. 

It's best to go up to Harder Kulm at the beginning or end of the day to give yourself plenty of time to go explore one of the lakes. If you're feeling really ambitious, you could try to explore both lakes in the same day, but it wouldn't give you much time to get off the boats and see the towns along the way. The boats on each lake only run a set number of times per day and the schedule changes with the season. Check the official time tables, maps, and fares published online to figure out what time you should be at the dock to catch the boat. 

What I should have done when I was there is get on the Brienz boat early enough in the day that I could get off at Iseltwald, explore that town, maybe rent a kayak for a bit, and then hike over to Giessbach. What I actually did, was get on the second-to-last boat and went directly to Giessbach because I was short on time, missed the last boat back to Interlaken while I was hiking around the Giessbach falls, and then had to get a taxi to Brienz so that I could take a train back to where the car was parked! So, seriously - check those boat time tables for when you'll be there and start your day early enough that you won't be rushed! 

If you purchase a round trip ticket you can get off the boat to explore the towns at as many stops as you like and then just catch the next boat to continue on your way around the lake. Some of the towns also have scenic walking trails between them that you can hike if you want. Both lakes are gorgeous, with unbelievably turquoise waters, but I personally chose to go out on Lake Brienz because I wanted to see the falls at Giessbach. 

To follow that ideal itinerary I mentioned above, take the boat to Iseltwald. If you're visiting during the summer, Iseltwald is supposed to be a great spot for swimming or kayaking. After exploring Iseltwald, find the scenic trail that runs between Iseltwald and Giessbach. Hiking that trail will take about an 1.5 hours, so if you're short on time, you might have to skip this. 

If you go straight to Giessbach on the boat, you'll need to take the funicular up to the area where the falls and the hotel are. However, it you take the scenic hike from Iseltwald, it should take you directly to the falls. 

On either side of the falls there are trails that lead you up, around, and even through the waterfall. The lake is still visible from the falls and creates a beautiful backdrop for the hotel.

Next stop on the lake is Brienz! I was visiting in the fall and noticed that some people had rented hot tub boats at the dock next to the train station. If you want to go out on the lake, but are worried it will be too cold, a hot tub boat could be a good alternative to the water activities offered in Iseltwald. Also, if you got to Interlaken via train and you don't want to travel back across the lake, you can just catch a train back to where you're staying from Brienz instead. 

Lauterbrunnen and Murren

If you're looking for fairytale landscapes with plenty of Swiss charm, Lauterbrunnen and Murren are perfect places to visit. Lauterbrunnen is in the base of a valley, and there are waterfalls all around, coming down from the surrounding mountains. 72 waterfalls to be exact. It's such a unique place that it inspired Rivendell in "The Lord of the Rings". Murren on the other hand is situated up in the mountains. 

It takes just under 2.5 hours to get to Lauterbrunnen from Zurich by train, and by car it will take around 2 hours. As soon as the train drops you off (or you park your car), you'll see the Staubbach Falls. If you walk behind the visitor center, you'll discover a huge Instagram-able "Lauterbrunnen" bench set up in front of the falls. 

From there, follow the path up the hill and behind the waterfall. Then you can go through a tunnel and a staircase to a rocky trail that will give you a view of the whole valley. If you continue on the trail, it will take you to Trummelbachfalle, a series of 10 waterfalls that run through a series of caves. If you'd rather not walk between Staubbach Falls and Trummelbach Falls, you can catch a bus instead. 

Stairs and platforms have been created so that visitors can follow the falls through the caves. It should be noted that there is no other way to get around the falls other than the stairs, so this isn't a wheelchair accessible destination. Also, dogs and children under the age of 4 aren't allowed at the falls for safety reasons.

When you get to Trummelbach Falls, there's an elevator after the first set of stairs that I recommend taking up towards the top of the falls. You'll have to go up a few more sets of stairs to get all the way to the top platform, and then I advise walking all the way back down to see everything there is to see. 

The hike from Staubbach Falls to Trummelbach should take about 45 minutes, and then my friends and I spent over an hour exploring Trummelbach and taking pictures - even though pictures really don't do the falls justice.

There's a cafĂ©, restroom, and small gift shop at the entrance/exit of Trummelbach in case you need to fortify yourself with some food before continuing on to Murren. Murren is car-free, so you'll need to get there either by train or cable car. I took a car over to the Stechelberg LSMS cable car parking lot, but walking from Trummelbach should only take about 30 minutes. 

The cable car will stop at Gimmelwald, and you can stop and walk around or just continue straight on up to Murren. As you walk around, you'll be surrounded by the music of the Swiss Alps; cow bells ringing as the cows graze the hillsides. It provides a perfect soundtrack to the stunning scenery. 

There's a Biergarten (~40 minute walk), fresh springs you can drink from, and several cute "honesty shops" along the way. The honesty shops are little gift shops that aren't staffed, so you just leave cash for whatever souvenirs you take - all on the honors system. Make sure to bring some cash so you can shop them! 

You'll get great views from the cable car both up to Gimmelwald and Murren because the walls are clear to give 360° views on your way up the mountain. Murren should be high enough on the mountain to give you amazing views on the mountain, but low enough that you should still be underneath any foul weather. But if you're there on a clear day, take advantage of it and continue on up the cable car all the way to Schilthorn, a mountain-top viewing platform complete with a revolving panoramic restaurant. The Schilthorn webcam is broadcast in the Murren cable car station if you want to confirm what the visibility is like before continuing up. 

Because Murren is car-free, it's perfect for hiking around, and is known for being a great winter sport town in the winter. Once you've worked up an appetite by hiking around or skiing/snowboarding depending on the time of year, find dinner at a restaurant where you can continue soaking in those views. If possible, order fondue as part of your dinner spread! After all, what's more Swiss than enjoying fondue in the Alps? 


Another beautiful mountain town is Grindelwald. It's pretty close to Lauterbrunnen, so it's also about 2.5 hours by train and about 2 hours away by car from Zurich. Every minute of that journey is worth it to be able to go up to the First Cliff Walk. 

You can buy your ticket to the Cliff Walk at the cable car station, and the ride up will take about 25 minutes. Unlike the other lookouts, I went up regardless of the weather being poor. Were we in a cloud? 100%, yes. Were there almost no crowds to contend with, and did we get some cool pictures out of it? Also 100%, yes!

On a cloudy day, without a bunch of people there, it only took about 30 minutes to go all the way along the Cliff Walk. 

When you head to the Cliff Walk, you will probably see signs pointing towards Bachalpsee. It's a beginner level hike, because of the fairly flat, even path that you'll take, that will lead to a picture-perfect mountain lake. However, you do need about a half-day to make the journey because it's a 1.5 hour walk to get to Bachalpsee and then another 1.5 hours to get back. Walking around the lake itself will take about an hour as well. But to make it worth the time, it's a good idea to take a picnic lunch! You can bring food up from the city of Grindelwald, or grab some food from the First visitor center. 

If you choose not to do the Bachalpsee hike, you could combine your day trip to Grindelwald with a visit to Lauterbrunnen or Interlaken (see above)!

Rhine Falls and Stein Am Rhine

The Rhine Falls are the most powerful falls in Europe. So, while they are in a very different setting than the other 3 daytrip options discussed here, they are still awesome to behold. 

From Zurich, go to Schaffhausen (only a 40-ish minute trip by car or train), and then you can take a bus or the Rhyfall Express tourist train to get to the north bank of the falls. 

If you follow the bank down to the Schlossli Worth (little castle) you'll be able to buy a ticket for a boat that goes out onto the river and takes you nearer to the falls. There are three different color boats - pink, blue, and yellow. The pink one is a longer tour that goes up the river and includes an audio guide, the blue one is a quick 15 minute tour that goes right up to the falls, and the yellow one takes you to a rock that is actually in the middle of the Rhine Falls. I couldn't resist going out on the yellow boat! If you're on the fence about which one to choose, you can watch them from the bank for a little while and see which option speaks to you. 

The boats do sell out on busy days, so if you want to book a certain time in advance you certainly can. Or you can just book the first available ticket and explore the shops and restaurants along the bank while you wait for your scheduled departure time. 

There are also viewing platforms and the Laufen Castle (which houses a museum) on the south shore. To get to those, you can either take a boat across the river, or walk along the river and around to the other side. You'll see bridges before and after the falls that can both be used by pedestrians. By the time you've gone on a boat tour, walked around the falls to all the viewing platforms, explored the museum, and maybe grabbed some lunch, you'll have easily spent 2 or 3 hours at the Rhine Falls. 

Another 20 or so minutes on the train will take you down the Rhine River to the beautiful town of Stein Am Rhein. When you get off the train, make your way across the river to find the old town. Near the old town entrance, you can find the Stein Am Rhine visitor center, where you can pick up a pamphlet that gives a suggested walking tour itinerary and lets you know what is special about the buildings you're looking at. 

Something to note if you want to visit Stein Am Rhein, is that almost the entire town is closed on Mondays. I didn't realize that was the case and tried to visit on, you guessed it.... a Monday! 

What drew me to the city is that it's surrounded by wineries, and I love tasting wines from around the world. However, I also didn't realize that even on days when the town is open, you need to schedule an appointment at the wineries to do a tasting. There are walking trails that you can take through the wineries and most of them are only a 15 or 20 minute walk from the old town, so if you do visit on not-a-Monday and make a tasting appointment it should be fairly easy to get there on foot.  

Walking around the vineyards also gives a great view of the entire town! And if you've walked that far, you're already almost halfway up to Hohenklingen Castle. But the 25-ish minute hike from the vineyards to the castle is pretty steep so plan on it feeling like longer than 25 minutes if you're not in great uphill-hiking-shape. If you don't want to walk, you can take a taxi up, or if you have a car, there is some parking available. Also, don't make the trek up to the castle on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday! It's closed on those days, and because of the forest around the castle, you can't really see much of the town without going inside. The castle also includes a restaurant that is really well regarded. 


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