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.
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. 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.
How to get from Zurich to Schaffhausen
By train - There are multiple trains per hour from Zurich’s main station to Schaffhausen with the fastest service taking just 38 minutes.
By car - The 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:
- Rhine Falls coach tour from Zurich - click here for prices
- Rhine Waterfalls and Schaffhausen tour from Zurich - click here for prices
How to get from Schaffhausen to Rhine Falls
From Schaffhausen you can reach the Rhine Falls by 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.
How to get from Schaffhausen to Stein am Rhein
By train - Twice-hourly trains run from Schaffhausen to Stein am Rhein on the St. Gallen line. Journey time is just 24 minutes.
By car - It’s just 19 kilometres, and a 20 minute drive, from Schaffhausen to Stein am Rhein.
On an organised day tour - Enjoy 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:
- Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls tour from Zurich - click here to check prices
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 day’s visit. 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.
How to get from Zurich to Appenzell
By train – There are at least two trains per hour running between Zurich and Appenzell. Journey time is 1 hour 51 minutes.
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:
- Swiss Traditions: Full day Appenzeller tour from Zurich - click here to check prices
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 day trip from Zurich to Lucerne and Mt. Pilatus you don’t have to choose between the city and the mountains - you can enjoy both.
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.
How to get from Zurich to Lucerne
By train - Frequent trains connect Zurich and Lucerne in around 50 minutes.
By car - It takes around 40 minutes to drive from Zurich to Lucerne (distance 53 kilomtres).
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:
- Mount Pilatus: the golden round trip from Zurich - Click here for prices
Other mountain excursions from Lucerne include:
- Classic Rigi round trip from Lucerne - click here to check prices
- Mt. Titlis full day tour : Eternal snow and glacier - click here to check prices
Day trip to Jungfraujoch from Zurich
Without doubt, 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.
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:
- Jungfrau Top of Europe full day trip from Zurich - click here to check prices
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.
How to get from Zurich to Interlaken
By train - At least two trains per hour connect Zurich and Interlaken (change of trains required at Bern). Journey time is around 2 hours.
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:
- Grindelwald and Interlaken day tour from Zurich - click here to check prices
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
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.
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:
- Bern: Small group tour from Zurich - Click here for prices
** Bonus day trip suggestion **
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.
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.
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 - Combine the delights of Basel with the lovely French town of Colmar on this full day tour:
- Discover Basel and Colmar Private Tour - click here for prices
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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