Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

Visitors to Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich, will find plenty of sights and attractions to fill their days. With its perfect location in the heart of Europe, Zurich is also a great base from which to explore other parts of the country. In this post I share six of the best, and most popular, day trips from Zurich.


Lucerne and chapel bridgeLucerne is just one of many popular day trips from Zurich. 


This guide includes details on the following Zurich day trips:

  • Jungfraujoch
  • Lucerne and Mt. Pilatus
  • Interlaken and Grindelwald
  • Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls
  • Bern
  • Appenzell
  • Basel and Colmar
  • Glacier Express


No matter how you prefer to travel, there are Zurich excursions to suit.  Below you’ll find details on the best day trips from Zurich by train, car and organised tour.



Day trip from Zurich to Schaffhausen, Rhine Falls and Stein am Rhein

The pretty town of Schaffhausen, on the River Rhine, is one of the best-preserved cities from the Middle Ages and is less than an hour from Zurich, making it one of the most popular Zurich day tours. Many of the Old Town’s buildings are adorned with oriel windows and beautiful frescoes and a wander along the cobbled streets is a feast for the eyes.


Not far from the town centre are the thundering Rhine Falls (Rheinfall in German), Europe’s largest waterfall. The sheer power and volume of the water flowing downstream is astonishing.


The best views of the falls are from Schloss Laufen but you can get close to the falls by taking a boat ride to a viewing platform that has been erected on a large rock beside the falls.


Haus zum Ritter SchaffhausenFrescoes and oriel window are a feature of Schaffhausen's Old Town.


How to get from Zurich to Schaffhausen

By trainThere are multiple trains per hour from Zurich’s main station to Schaffhausen with the fastest service taking just 38 minutes.


By carThe drive to Schaffhausen from Zurich (52 kilometres) takes around 40 minutes.


On an organised day tour - A number of different day tours from Zurich to Schaffhausen and Rhine Falls are available. Popular tours include:


How to get from Schaffhausen to Rhine Falls

From Schaffhausen you can reach the Rhine Falls by taking a train to Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall (5 minute journey). Then it’s just a two minute walk to the Falls.


After visiting Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls, you could also include the pretty town of Stein am Rhein in your day trip.


Much smaller than Schaffhausen, Stein am Rhein also boasts a lovely town centre. Built alongside the Rhine where it flows out of Lake Constance, the intricately painted facades of the medieval houses reflect off the river, giving the town a real fairytale feel.


Stein am Rhein is also home to the Monastery of St. Georgen and the Hohenklingen Castle and there are also plenty of activities available on Lake Constance.


Stein am Rhein SwitzerlandThe pretty medieval town of Stein am Rhein.


How to get from Schaffhausen to Stein am Rhein

By trainTwice-hourly trains run from Schaffhausen to Stein am Rhein on the St. Gallen line.  Journey time is just 24 minutes.


By carIt’s just 19 kilometres, and a 20 minute drive, from Schaffhausen to Stein am Rhein.


On an organised day tourEnjoy a coach tour to both the Rhine Falls and the pretty town of Stein am Rhein from Zurich.  One of the most popular is this one:


Further reading:


Day trip from Zurich to Appenzell

One of the lesser-known regions of Switzerland, Appenzell and its capital of the same name, is an idyllic area worthy of a one-day trip from Zurich. Strong farming traditions are still practiced in the region and it’s here that the delicious Appenzeller cheese originates.


The town of Appenzell is lined with brightly coloured buildings, many adorned with frescoes and wrought iron signs. Surrounding the town are lush green fields and rolling hills - and lots of Swiss Brown cows, with bells, of course!


You can visit the Schaukaserei at Stein (about 10 kilometres from Appenzell) for cheese tastings and sales.

 
AppenzellColourful houses line a street in Appenzell.


How to get from Zurich to Appenzell

By train – To travel from Zurich to Appenzell by train allow a journey time of just under two hours. There are at least two trains per hour on this route.


By car – Appenzell is 93 kilometres from Zurich and can be reached in around 1 hour 10 minutes by car.


On an organised day tour - Visit the picturesque Appenzell region and learn more about the traditions of this beautiful part of Switzerland. Enjoy a visit to a Lindt Chocolate shop, learn how Appenzeller cheese is made and visit a traditional bakery on the:


Further reading: 6 reasons to visit Appenzell


Day trip to Lucerne and Mt. Pilatus from Zurich

As is so often the case when you visit Switzerland, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to excursions. On a Zurich to Lucerne day trip like this one, you don’t have to choose between the city and the mountains - you can enjoy both as this tour includes an excursion to Mt. Pilatus.


Allow time to wander around Lucerne’s historic old town with its many attractive buildings, cross the famous Chapel bridge, visit the Jesuit Church and pause in front of the moving Dying Lion statue.


Then head up to Mt. Pilatus for spectacular panoramic views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding Alps. The summit can be reached by either cable car (from Kriens) or on the steepest cog railway in the world, with connections by train and boat from Lucerne.


View over lake Lucerne from Pilatus bahnThe views over lake Lucerne from the Mount Pilatus cable car are spectacular. Photo: swiss-image.ch/Urs Wyss


How to get from Zurich to Lucerne

By train - Frequent trains connect Zurich and Lucerne in around 50 minutes.


By car
If you prefer to travel by car on your Lucerne day trip from Zurich, allow around 40 minutes to drive between the two cities (distance 53 kilometres).


How to get from Lucerne to Mt. Pilatus

By train/bus/cable car – Seamless connections allow you to reach Pilatus Kulm in just over 1 hour via a combination of train, bus and cable cars.


By car
- Pilatus is just 26 kilometres from Lucerne and can be reached by car in just 50 minutes.


On an organised day tour -
One of the most popular excursions from Zurich to Mount Pilatus is this one:


Other mountain excursions from Zurich include:


Further reading: Lucerne: Things to See and Do


Day trip to Jungfraujoch from Zurich

Without doubt, one of the most popular day trips from Zurich to the alps, and in fact, one of Switzerland’s most popular day trips, is the railway excursion to the Jungfraujoch, home to Europe’s highest railway station and spectacular views.


The two-hour journey from Interlaken is as enjoyable as the destination itself, with the train passing lush alpine meadows, snow capped peaks and then tunnelling through the mountain before emerging at 3,454 metres above sea level.


At the summit there are an enormous range of activities to enjoy all year round, but the highlight for me is always the view.


JungfraubahnThe train excursion to the Jungfraujoch is one of the most popular daytrips from Zurich. Photo: swiss-image.ch


How to get from Zurich to Jungfraujoch

By train - The train trip from Zurich to Jungfraujoch takes just over 4 hours with a change of trains required at Bern, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen and Kleine Scheidegg. 


By car
–  If you prefer to travel by car, allow around 1 hour 40 minutes s to drive to Interlaken (or 1h50 to Lauterbrunnen) from Zurich, where you can connect with the train to Jungfraujoch (as above).


On an organised day tour
- The Jungfraujoch is one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist attractions and the following tour will get you there with ease:


Note that this is one of the available day trips from Zurich in winter.
 


Further reading: The Ultimate Guide to the Jungfrau Travel Pass


Day trip from Zurich to Interlaken and Grindelwald

If you’d love to visit the beautiful Jungfrau region but don’t fancy an excursion to the Jungfraujoch, Interlaken and Grindelwald both make great alternatives for a day trip.


Interlaken is situated at the foot of the Bernese Alps between two lakes - Brienz and Thun - and is renowned as the adventure capital of Switzerland.  Activities on offer range from gentle pursuits like lake cruises and shopping to the more adventurous - think paragliding, canyoning, river rafting and bungee jumping!


Grindelwald, too, has its share of fun things to do.  A luge track, zip line, and mountain cart and scooter rides are just some of the ways you can spend your time in Grindelwald, but do allow time to wander the streets of this pretty Swiss alpine village.


Two Lakes Bridge InterlakenTwo Lakes Bridge above Interlaken is just one of the many attractions in the town.


How to get from Zurich to Interlaken

By train - There are at least two Zurich to Interlaken trains per hour (change of trains required at Bern).  Journey time is around 2 hours when travelling by train from Zurich to Interlaken.


By car - The 123-kilometre drive from Zurich to Interlaken takes around 1 hour 35 minutes.


On an organised day tour - See the best of both Interlaken and Grindelwald on a full day tour like this one:


How to get from Interlaken to Grindelwald

By train - Trains depart half-hourly for the 33-minute journey from Interlaken to Grindelwald.


By car - Grindelwald is located 21 kilometres from Interlaken. It takes around 25 minutes to reach by car.


On an organised day tour - as above


Further reading:


Day trip from Zurich to Bern

It might be Switzerland’s capital but with a population of less than 500,000, Bern feels more like a big, friendly town and is an excellent choice for a day trip from Zurich. The heart of the city, the Old Town, is built on a bend of the River Aare and features cobbled streets, colourful fountains, pretty arcades and red-roofed buildings.


Pick up a city map from the Tourist Office when you arrive as there’s plenty to see in Bern. The Zytglogge, with its astronomical clock dating back to 1530, is one of the city’s landmarks. Every hour, mechanical figures perform before the clock strikes the hour.


You can also visit the house in which Albert Einstein lived when he developed the theory of relativity, watch the city’s symbol, the Brown Bear, in a specially-built riverside enclosure, or indulge in some retail therapy.


Bern street with clock towerBern's astronomical clock dates back to the 16th century. Photo © pulpitis17 / Adobe Stock Photo


How to get from Zurich to Bern

By train - Multiple trains per hour connect Zurich with the capital, Bern.  Journey time is just over 1 hour.


By car
– You can reach Bern from Zurich via the A1 motorway in around 1 hour 20 minutes (distance 123 kilometres).


On an organised day tour
- See the best of the Swiss capital on a small group tour like this one:


Further reading: Best things to do in Bern, Switzerland


** Bonus day trip from Zurich suggestions **


Still not sure which Zurich day trip to take? Here are some more options to consider.


Day trip from Zurich to Basel and Colmar

For a day trip with a French flavour, why not visit Basel and Colmar? The city of Basel dates back to Roman times and has been part of both France and Germany in the past. Now proudly Swiss, it is home to some worthy sites including the Gothic gate, Spalentor, the medieval cathedral (Münster), the Historiches Museum, which traces the city’s history, and the elaborately painted Town Hall.


BaselThe city of Basel straddles the River Rhine. Photo: Switzerland Tourism


How to get from Zurich to Basel

By train - The journey by train from Zurich to Basel takes around 55 minutes and there are multiple services per hour.


By car
- it takes just 1 hour to reach Basel from Zurich by car.


Less than an hour from Basel is the pretty French town of Colmar, which makes it easy to include in your day trip. Colmar is widely regarded as one of the prettiest cities in France and a stroll through the Old Town, past its shuttered and half-timbered buildings, will leave you with no doubt why.


Enjoy a drink or a bite to eat at one of the restaurants and cafes along Rue de la Poissonerie and the Tanneurs Quartiers. Or hop aboard a gondola for a gentle cruise along the canal to admire the beautiful architecture from another angle.

 
Colmar streetBrightly painted, half-timbered houses are just one of the many things that draws visitors to Colmar.


How to get from Basel to Colmar (France)

By train - At least two trains per hour connect Basel with Colmar with the travel time around 50 minutes.


By car
- Colmar is just 64 kilometres from Basel and it takes around 40 minutes to reach by car.


On an organised day tour
-  
Sample the delights of both France and Switzerland on this Zurich to Colmar day trip which also includes a visit to Basel:


Further reading: A short guide to Colmar


Glacier Express day trip from Zurich

Like to experience a ride on one of Switzerland’s most famous trains, the Glacier Express?  It is possible to enjoy this incredible train ride on a day trip from Zurich.


The full journey on the Glacier Express - from Chur to Zermatt - takes 8.5 hours and the train is nicknamed ‘the slowest express train in the world’, however just experiencing part of the route will still leave you with lasting memories.


Passing through a variety of landscapes, you’ll have wonderful views from the train’s panoramic windows.


We recommend the following route from Zurich:

  • Zurich to Chur by intercity train at least two services per hour
  • Chur to Brig on the Glacier Express - one departure daily at 11.25am approx.  (Journey time: 4.25 hours)
  • Brig to Zurich by intercity train - at least two services per hour


You can either book the tickets for sector separately or join a guided tour which includes transfers from your hotel, all train tickets, a 3-course lunch served on board the Glacier Express and the services of a tour guide.  Click here for details.


Which of these Zurich day trips will you choose?

With such a vast array of Zurich tours available there are plenty of beautiful destinations to visit. Whether you prefer to visit other cities near Zurich, a charming town like Appenzell, enjoy an excursion to a mountain peak or hop over the border into France, the options listed in this guide should help you to plan the perfect Zurich day tour based on your interests.


Where to stay in Zurich

Zurich offers a wide range of accommodation styles to suit all budgets. I have stayed at numerous hotels in the city (you can read my reviews here) and loved my recent stay at Sorrell Hotel Zurichberg (Click here to check current prices).


This article is written in conjunction with Switzerland Tourism but all words and opinions are my own.

 

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