Switzerland! Zermatt and Luzern July 2019
Well I just fell in love- with Switzerland. Completely and ridiculously in love with this country. I loved it all, and the trip Joe and I did was pretty damn near perfect. I loved the contrast of pace of going from a small, quaint ski town like Zermatt, to a big beautiful grand city like Luzern. We spent what felt like a good amount of time in both spots, and got to see a ton. But now I already have the itch to go back and explore more of Switzerland. With so many places to see what is a girl to do? Get my ass back to Switzerland asap I guess!
Day 1 Zurich to Zermatt: The night before our first official day we flew direct from our trip to Santorini, Greece straight to Zurich. Our first night was uneventful, we didn't get in until around 11pm, so we just went straight to the Hilton Zurich airport and went to sleep. They have a shuttle that is about a 5 min ride from the airport so that couldn't have worked out better. Zurich looked like a big city, and I'm sure had alot to offer, but we were on our way to the mountains so after breakfast at the hotel, we took the shuttle back to the airport to catch a train from Zurich to Zermatt. The train system in Switzerland is amazing. Everything is on time, so no worries about missing connections that are usually pretty tight, the trains themselves are not very crowded either and you can buy tickets up to the minute before. Our first train ride we bought through the info desk at the station, but after that we just downloaded the SBB app and booked online (it's a little cheaper this way too). Most tickets are open ended for the day as well so as long as you get off at your destination you can be flexible if you want to stop anywhere along the way. The ride from Zurich to Zermatt was about 3.5 hours and most of the way was very scenic so not bad! One downside- they do not have WiFi on the trains so plan your entertainment downloads accordingly. Once we arrived in Zermatt (we had emailed the hotel ahead of time) we were picked up by the Matterhorn focus hotel and driven to the hotel- only about a 15min walk/5min ride away from the train station. Zermatt is pretty cool for the fact it does not have cars- the only vehicles it does have are these electric fancy tuk-tuk like vehicles that are mostly just hotel shuttles, taxis and police. Anyways, we checked into our hotel which I absolutely loved. The Matterhorn focus hotel obviously had a great view of the Matterhorn, next door to the gondola to take you up to the Matterhorn and other hills, and was right by a few hiking trails including one that took us to the Gorge (basically consisted of some walkways built into the side of the mountains overlooking some powerful waterfalls, the gorge itself, etc. This cost us $5 but worth it for a quick first hike. Also the hotel's proximity to the little town was great, about a 20min walk to get to most restaurants and shops. After our introductory gorge hike we hit the amazing hotel pool (so warm, and you could swim inside to outside which I loved) and then went to dinner at Molino - an italian restaurant in the town (it was ok- basic Italian, nothing stellar about it but reasonably priced). Oh side note- everything in Switzerland is pretty expensive (think NYC prices)- so not crazy crazy expensive but coming straight from Greece we definitely felt the price increases!
Day 2 Zermatt: Major hiking day! The free breakfast buffet at the hotel was key to starting us off on our Alps adventure. I had read about the 5 Lakes hike online and wanted to tackle that, however was a little intimidated on how much we would have to go through to even get to the trailhead. It ended up not being bad at all- just a little pricey. Since Zermatt is primarily known for skiing, most hikes require you taking either a funicular or a gondola to them, including this 5 lakes hike. So we took the funicular at Sunnegga (10min walk from the hotel- bought ticket there) to the trailhead which started at Leisee. The hike was about 6 miles, I'd call it moderate, and we had lunch at the buffet at Viewpoint Sunnegga when we were finished before taking the funicular back down to the town. I loved this hike- highly recommend- great for views of the Matterhorn as well as other Alps- well marked and the lakes themselves served as great markers. After this hike, we did another where we took the cable car by us called Matterhorn express up to the Schwarzee stop, then hiked down to the Furi cable car and took that back down since it looked like the weather was about to turn. That took another 1.5hrs- and even though you may think it was all downhill so that made it easy- you would be wrong. After all that hiking I needed some relaxation- so we hit the hotel pool again and checked out the sauna in the hotel spa. From there it was dinnertime- so back to Zermatt town where we ate at Walliserkannne which was pretty good. This had a ton of options- more Swiss feeling that our previous dinner for sure.
Day 3 Zermatt to Luzern:
Before our trip to Luzern we were able to squeeze in one last hike in the morning where we hiked up the mountain from the hotel to the Furi cable car, back down, and one last loop around the town. Checked out of the Focus, and caught the train to Lake Lucerne. This ride took us another 3.5 hours, and next thing you know we were walking out of the train station and were right on Lake Lucerne! What a difference from Zermatt- Luzern is a much bigger city- lots of hotels, high end shops, restaurants, the lake itself is huge so lots of boats, and the old town section to the left of the train station contained a few beautiful bridges and grand old buildings. Our hotel was about a 15min walk from the train station, and up on the hill a bit away from the Lake so it actually had a funicular that took you up to the check in- great for those who are not a fan of steps! We checked in and immediately went to chill at the Seebad dock bar right on the Lake. We stayed at the Montana hotel- and they do not have a pool, so they give you free passes to this Seebad lake bar, which I loved. We swam in the Lake (so cold- but apparently we were told it was not cold if you were Swiss), and had a quick lunch at the Seebad dock bar while we laid out trying to warm up from our freezing swim (once you were in it was not bad, just takes a minute to adjust- but just do it if you are like me and cannot resist a swim). From Seebad we did a quick walk along the promenade of the Lake towards Lido- which is a more built up Lake beach with rafts, chairs, food/drinks, etc. Looked like fun, but we did not have a chance to check it out. For dinner, we walked into the old town and explored (20 min walk from the hotel), and settled on La Terrazza for dinner which was right on the water. However, since we did not have reservations, we did not get a water view and were seated inside. The service here sucked, it's obvious they get all their business from their location- skip this place it took forever, but at least the food was ok. We grabbed gelato after at a storefront on the water, and then had a nightcap at the Beach bar in the Montana hotel (great views, very pricey, but great for one drink). The Montana hotel overall I would not pay for again. It was very expensive (most everything is in this area but still, about $400/night for not much in terms of amenities). Cons: they didn't have a pool, gym, or shuttle to the train station. Pros: it was a beautiful hotel, a few restaurants and bars inside the hotel, the location was great, the funicular up the hill to get to the hotel helped, and free passes to Seebad dock bar since they didn't offer a pool/free passes to a gym since they didn't have a gym. In hindsight it wasn't really worth the price, I would shop around that area for other hotels if you are going to do Lake Lucerne.
Day 4 Luzern: Breakfast at the Bachmann stand on the promenade- just a few pastries. Through the hotel we booked cable car and boat tickets to check out Mt Rigi for yet another hike. Similar to their train system- the boat system on the Lake was just as awesome. We took a ferry to Vitznau and a funicular to the Rigi Kaltbad stop. From Kaltbad we hiked straight up for about an hour to Rigi Klum, the highest point around the region. Hiked back down to Kaltbad on a different path, and took the gondola down there to Weggis- and from there the ferry back to Luzern. There were so many adorable town stops on the way to Vitznau and back from Weggis- if you go you should check out some of these towns they looked beautiful. Time for happy hour- we chose the Suite rooftop for cocktails and then Opus back on the water in Old Town for dinner. Exact opposite of the night before- the service was super fast- although still with no reservation we had to sit inside (so if you want that view book ahead!). Another spot with a ton of options- go here if you want a good dinner in Old Town on the water. On the walk back to the hotel we had another gelato stop at the Movenpick Seecafe.
Day 5 Luzern: Breakfast at Dr Oetker Cafe Gugelhupf close to the train station in a residential area of Luzern. This was the best breakfast yet- when we went in they said they were booked, however they had seats outside which didn't require a reservation so we got in after all! They had lots of American options (eggs!) so hands down my fave breakfast of the trip. After we explored the neighborhood a bit, and then headed to the train station (2nd floor) to rent E-bikes. We were suppose to ride around the Lake, but it was not marked very well, the map did not help, the people working at the bike place were no help, and we ended up getting off track so I have no idea where we ended up actually riding- but we made it back to the station 2 hours later. I love e-bikes, from now on anytime I go somewhere hilly that is bike friendly I am going to rent these- there is no going back once you've done them. From the train station we did some shopping in old town, but a crazy storm popped up so we ended up getting trapped for about an hour in the top of a department store called Manora- which luckily was like a really nice cafeteria so we ended up grabbing some coffee and croissants and waiting out the storm. From there we grabbed happy hour drinks at Pacifico and went to Tapas Cabanas for dinner. I ate so much at this dinner it was so good. We totally overordered since it was tapas, and you never know what the portion sizes will be, but worth it it was fantastic. And we finally got our outdoor table (even though it wasn't on the water, but whatever worth it). I found room for more Movenpick gelato though of course. And that concluded our last night in Luzern. The next day we did a quick run on the promenade, followed by our hour train ride back to Zurich and flew home.
Again I absolutely loved Switzerland! The hiking, the swimming, the snowcapped mountains, the weather was for the most part amazing (not too hot but not cold), the prices although a little high were totally worth it, the mass transit was super easy to navigate- I cannot wait to go back and explore more of Switzerland!