Things to do in Zurich, Bern, and Lucerne
I’m no crazy rich Asian, so knowing I had a trip to Switzerland ahead had me coddling my wallet for a hot minute. But here’s the thing; this country is so much more than its dazzling price tags on sandwiches; so don’t let this stop you.
Last month, 4 lucky sons o’ guns from the TSL crew flew to the land of fondue and visited 3 Swiss cities: Zurich, Bern, and Lucerne. The awesome folks of Klook also hooked us up with the nifty Swiss Travel Pass, meaning easy breezy travelling within the country.
You can purchase the pass at Swiss Railway offices but we'd recommend making an advanced booking online via authorised agents like Klook. Plus, you're likely to get it at the best price than via other online resellers. Depending on your period of travel, you can either get a 3, 4, 8 or 15-day Swiss Travel Pass - you'll be able to enjoy unlimited rides during the course of the trip with this too!
If you’ve yet to see Switzerland for yourself, here are 15 things (some free) to add to your Europe bucket list.
Read till the end for tips on getting around Switzerland with the Swiss Travel Pass.
- ZURICH -
1. Become Alice in Wonderland at the mystical Bruno Weber Park
Giant snake-men. Centaurs riding unicorns. An actual gothic castle in the middle of nowhere. The only way I can describe Bruno Weber Park is this: it’s a pure Tim Burton x Guillermo del Toro fantasy come to life.
The man behind the magic is none other than Swiss artist - you guessed it - Bruno Weber, who created the sculpture park as a ‘gesamtkunstwerk’, which translates to 'universal artwork'. In simpler words, he wanted to share his best works with the world and opened up his personal estate for the public to enjoy.
Not really something outta Disney!
While there’s not much to actually do here, walking around the compound was quite the visual treat. The park is split into 3 main sections, with 32 mythical sculptures to spot.
We couldn’t resist monkeying around the playground, which was the first thing we saw walking in
Bruno Weber Park
Address: Zur Weinrebe 3, 8953 Dietikon, Switzerland
Nearest station: Dietikon (15 min from Zürich HB)
Opening Hours: Wed, Sat-Sun: 11AM - 6PM (31 March - 28 October 2018)
Telephone: +41 44 740 02 71
Admission: Adults: CHF18 (~S$25) | Ages 6-16: CHF10 (~S$14) | Ages 3-5: CHF6 (~S$8)
2. Chill over bratwurst and beer at Frau Gerolds Garten
Just like how Seoul’s got Common Ground and we have Punggol Container Park, Zurich’s got its very own Frau Gerolds Garten. Now, I’m not sure at which point in our millennia did repurposing empty containers become the in thing for eateries, but I’m glad it happened.
Set in an old industrial space, this beer garden is where the young and happening city folk can be found huddled in conversation over drinks and bar bites - they’ve got an in-house grill, so get yourselves some bratwurst (sausages) to go along with some local beer.
We went down in August so we got to see Frau Gerolds in its summer form, with picnic-style seating areas and an open-air terrace overlooking the train tracks right by the restaurant.
Spot the mountain peaks in the distance on a clear day
Come winter and the space takes on a cosier facade; wooden huts, open bonfires, and hearty seasonal menu items like fondue.
Frau Gerolds Garten
Address: Geroldstrasse 23/23a, 8005 Zürich, Switzerland
Nearest station: Zürich Hardbrücke (6 min from Zürich HB)
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 11AM-12AM | Sunday: 12PM-10PM
Telephone: +41 78 971 67 64
3. Explore the quaint Old Town and visit Zurich’s own Orchard Road
Zurich’s a metropolitan hotspot for sure, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be missing out on getting an old-school European experience here. Just a 10-minute walk away from the central station (Zürich HB) is Altstadt, or Old Town. If you’re looking to get a taste of the more cultural side of the city, here’s the place to be.
Just admiring the view from Limmat River. See those two twin towers in the distance? That’s the Grossmünster - probably the most recognised landmark in Zurich.
The Fraumünster church was built on the remains of a former abbey from all the way back in the year 853.
Altstadt’s quaint alleyways are also home to plenty of cafes and restaurants; we say pop by the gift shops along the way to get some souvenirs for your loved ones.
Fun fact: Lots of major cities in Switzerland have water fountains for you to fill up your bottles for free. Singapore, take notes plz.
Right around the corner is Bahnhofstrasse, which is kinda like Zurich’s very own Orchard Road. This is one of the most extensive - and expensive - shopping streets in the world, so you can bet we did some hardcore window shopping here.
Nearest station: Zürich HB
4. Get a bird’s eye view of the city via the Felsenegg Cable Car
Image credit: ZVV
If you didn’t get a top-notch city view during your trip, did you really go to Zurich? Go ahead and add a square to your IG feed by riding the Aldliswil-Felsenegg Cable Car. The ride takes just 5 minutes and will bring you right up to Felsenegg Lookout, which stands over 2,624ft above sea level.
What about the view, you ask? Oh, nothing much. Just the entire city, Lake Zurich, and...the Alps. No biggie. (Spoiler alert: Absolute biggie.)
Image credit: @auey_manunpat
There are several hiking trails you can pick from once at the peak. PSA astro-nerds: There’s a ‘Planet Path’, where every metre you take corresponds to 1 million kilometres in the solar system. Most of these hikes take around 2 hours, so grab a bite at Panorama-Restaurant Felsenegg and enjoy the scenery to cool down afterwards.
For timetable and ticket details, click here.
Aldliswil-Felsenegg Cable Car
Address: Luftseilbahn Adliswil-Felsenegg LAF AG, Zelgstrasse 80, 8134 Adliswil, Switzerland
Nearest station: Adliswil (15 min from Zürich HB)
Telephone: +41 (0)44 710 73 30
5. Eat at the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world
Image credit: Hiltl
Ask me to eat vegetarian food on a normal day and I *will* groan. But add a Guinness world record to the mix and I just might give it a chance.
I’m talking about Haus Hiltl; founded in 1898, it stands as the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world. Aside from its extensive buffet that's got over 100 vegetarian and vegan dishes that'll make even the carnivores drool a lil, the restaurant also has an à la carte menu with Indian, Italian, Thai, and Swiss options.
Hiltl’s signature buffet bar serves up hot and cold vegetarian and vegan dishes from all over the world.
Image credit: Hiltl
Ain’t no meal complete without dessert, and Hiltl’s gotten the memo. Dig into plant-based crowd faves like brownies, cakes, and ice creams to end your meal on a sweet note.
Note: Buffet meals are calculated by weight, so take note of what you’re piling onto your plate.
Address:Sihlstrasse 28, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Nearest station: Zürich HB (8 min walk)
Opening Hours:Mon-Thur: 6AM-11PM | Fri-Sat: 6AM-12PM | Sunday: 8AM-10PM
Telephone:+41 44 227 70 00
- BERN -
1. Snap a one-of-a-kind sunset view at Rosengarten
Beautiful Bern - which, by the way, is the capital of Switzerland (Yep, it ain’t Zurich)
I'll say it right now: If we had one good reason to go back to Bern, Rosengarten would be it. Sure, we'd seen photos of it on Google prior to our trip, but the view IRL floored us completely.
One of Bern’s many parks, Rosengarten is best known for its spotless views of Old Town and the Aare River which meanders through the city. As its name suggests, the park houses over 200 species of roses and other flowers - kinda like the Red Queen’s garden...without the whole off with your head bit.
Fun fact: Rosengarten used to be a cemetery. No need to be pantang though; the scariest thing we saw was probably a giant wasp.
Drop by an hour or so before sunset and grab a spot at the park’s ledge. Watching the city slowly come to a rest was hands down one of the best experiences during our trip.
Once you’re done taking a gazillion snaps of Bern in all its glory, dig into some quality nosh at Restaurant Rosengarten. We got ourselves the Roast Beef with Tartar Sauce (CHF33.50, ~S$47) and Grilled Pork Chop (CHF33.50, ~S$47) - these dishes are on the pricier side for sure, but considering the view and top-notch service, it made for a worth-it dinner.
Address: Alter Aargauerstalden 31B, 3006 Bern, Switzerland
Nearest station: Rosengarten (8 min via Bus 10 from Bern Bahnhof)
Opening Hours: 9AM-11.30PM, Daily
Telephone: +41 31 331 32 06
2. Have authentic Swiss rösti at Le Mazot restaurant
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Marché classic we all hold close to our hearts - rösti:
You. In my tummy. Now. | Rösti Fermier (CHF20.50, ~S$28.50)
Image credit: @michinswiss
Ain’t no better place to have rösti than in its birthplace, Bern. And if that picture has successfully made your tummy grumble, pen Le Mazot Restaurant into your itinerary to get the real deal.
For starters, they've got an entire menu dedicated to their röstis. For a quintessential experience, opt for the Rösti Fermier that’s served with a grilled bratwurst, fried egg, and generously topped with savoury onion sauce. Another hit is the Rösti Alpenland (CHF19.50, ~S$27), and there’s no wondering why. This bad boy comes with a side of bacon and mac n’ cheese.
I repeat: B a c o n.
Cheese Fondue with Fresh Mushrooms (CHF25.50, ~S$35.49)
Image credit: @laviedenatalienne
Aside from rösti, the restaurant also offers a selection of dishes like soups, steaks, and cheese fondue - perfect for sharing, especially during the colder months.
Located within Bern’s city centre, Le Mazot is a great spot for anyone looking to have a typical Swiss meal during their trip. The dinner crowd can be quite hapz here, so come by earlier in the day to secure an al fresco table.
Foodies, if just rösti and fondue won’t do, discover the gastronomical side of the city with a Biscuits and Cheese Tasting trip to Bern with Klook here.
Address: Bärenplatz 5, 3011 Bern, Switzerland
Nearest station: Bern Bahnhof (4 min walk)
Opening Hours: 8AM-11.30PM, Daily
Telephone: +41 31 311 70 88
3. Swim and play water sports around the city via the Aare river
Image credit: @running.chris
If there’s one thing the Swiss love, it’s the great outdoors. And when the sun’s out to play, so are the people.
During the summer months of June to August, the Aare river is the hotspot for locals to cool down. Its glacial waters that come straight from the Alps are at a usual temperature of around 15° to 21°, even on the hottest of days.
Freibad Marzili’s free pool that overlooks the view of the Parliament Building
Image credit: Bern.com
There are several routes you can take to enter and exit the river, depending on where you might be during your stay in Bern:
- Freibad Marzili: Popular among the locals and comes with a large green lawn that’s great for chillaxing and a free pool to take a dip in. We’d recommend this!
- Schwellenmätteli: A good starting point for the ‘Old Town route’, which takes you to the city centre and bear park
- Altenberg: If ‘chill’ doesn’t really float your boat, head on here for some bungee surfing or river rafting
Address: Marzilistrasse 29, 3005 Bern, Switzerland
Nearest station: Bern Bahnhof (10 min walk)
Opening Hours: Weekdays: 7AM-8PM |Weekends: 8.30AM-8PM
Telephone: +41 31 311 00 46
4. Watch the astronomical Zytglogge clock tower work its magic on the hour
Standing tall amidst the city’s cream-coloured buildings is the Zytglogge, which beckoned us to trudge along the cobbled streets for a visit.
The clock’s Eastern face. We spotted dancing bears and a bell-wielding jester residing in what looks like a giant cuckoo clock contraption
This medieval clock dates back to the 15th century and puts on quite the show to mark every hour. Our favourite feature was definitely the astronomical dial, complete with moon phases and cutouts to represent the zodiac.
Explore the streets after dark to get some sick hyperlapse shots as we did
If you'd like to take a peek into what goes on behind the scenes, sign up for a guided tour where you'll be able to watch the clock's internal movements step by step, plus catch a great view of the city's rooftops.
For more tour details, click here.
Address: Bahnhofplatz 10a, 3011 Bern, Switzerland
Nearest station: Bern Bahnhof (10 min walk)
Telephone: +41 31 328 12 12
Tour Admission: Adults: CHF15 (~S$21) | Ages 6-16: CHF7.50 (~S$10.50)
5. Pick up knick-knacks at the weekly Bundesplatz market
A quick stroll from Zytglogge had us stumble across a farmer’s market that had been set up in Bundesplatz. The area also had food trucks set up, selling everything from Thai food to gelato. It was a little odd seeing the city so alive considering it was smack in the middle of a weekday, but it sure felt nice.
Bundesplatz’s market is held every Tuesday and Saturday morning, and passers-by can pick up fresh groceries, baked goodies, and knick-knacks like bags and accessories too.
Address: Bundesplatz, 3011 Bern, Switzerland (1 min walk from Bern Bahnhof)
We chanced across a game of giant chess while walking around the market square
And if Switzerland is known for one thing, it’s chocolate. So while you’re walking around Bundesplatz, make sure to find Läderach - seriously, you’ll smell it before you see it.
I experienced a little bit of an out-of-body sensation walking into the store, ‘cuz man, it had everything. Chocolate slabs of every flavour. Truffles. Pralines. Biscuits. Chocolate-shaped dogs… Willy Wonka’s got some serious competition. (Okay, maybe not. Dude had a chocolate river.)
What we got: FrischSchoggi Small Bag (CHF18.75, ~S$26.19) and Milk Rocher (CHF10.90, ~S$15.22)
Läderach's been in the biz since 1962 and is one of Switzerland's top chocolatiers, so we knew this place was legit - chocolate river or not. You can also customise your own chocolate bars here, so there's a gift idea for someone special back home!
Note: The store can be found in almost every Swiss city, so don’t worry if you miss a chance while in Bern.
Address: Spitalgasse 2, 3011 Bern, Switzerland
Nearest station: Bern Bahnhof (5 min walk)
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed, Friday: 9AM-7PM | Thursday: 9AM-9PM | Saturday: 9AM-5PM (Closed on Sundays)
- LUCERNE -
1. Go paragliding over Lake Lucerne
Here's the thing: I'm afraid of flying. But when life gives you the opportunity to paraglide, you just gotta take it.
We booked our paragliding adventure with SkyGlide Paragliding, and our pilots picked us up from Lucerne Station on a clear Sunday evening - perfect weather for flying. Phew!
My pilot Dani and I right before take-off
Paragliding isn't as terrifying as I thought it would be either. Sure, we literally ran off the face of a mountain - but being securely strapped to the harnesses, having a sturdy pilot flying tandem, AND having a breathtaking view to look at, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. The con being fear, of course.
The entire flight lasts around 15-20 minutes, and you’ll get to have a go at handling the glider, plus try some awesome ‘roller coaster’ tricks in the air if you’re up for it!
Book your paragliding session with SkyGlide Paragliding here.
Meeting point: Bahnhof Luzern main entrance
Read more about paragliding in Lucerne and other fun outdoor activities you can do in Switzerland here!
2. Feast your eyes on the most beautiful baroque church in Switzerland
Known to many as the most beautiful baroque church in Switzerland is Jesuitenkirche, which sits unassumingly along the banks of Reuss river. We weren’t blown away by its exterior, but trust and believe that all 4 of us let out a ‘whoaaa’ as we walked through its doors.
Me seeing this: *wigs, snatched.*
The church was built in 1667 when Lucerne was the only major city in Switzerland to have deeply rooted Catholic beliefs. Jesuitenkirche is also the first large baroque church built in the country, and the entire construction was fully completed only in 1893.
The main organ perched right at the top
Today, the church serves as a concert hall and is open to members of the public - we took the chance to bask in some peace and quiet while here.
Address: Bahnhofstrasse 11A, 6003 Lucerne, Switzerland
Nearest station: Bahnhof Luzern (5 min walk)
3. Explore the ancient grounds of Musegg Wall
Image credit: @eltigre_ch
To get the best views of Lucerne, make your way to Musegg Wall. This historic fortress was built way back when in the 13th century and still stands strong today, giving the place a little of that GOT flair.
4 of the wall’s 9 towers are open to the public, so go ahead and explore the ancient grounds - though maybe not so much like Indiana Jones.
The view from one of Musegg Wall’s towers
Image credit: @khunstar09
Here are 2 towers you should be looking out for:
- Zytturm: Located towards the western end of the walls, this clock tower dates back to the late Middle Ages. What’s so special about it? It’s the only ticker that’s allowed to chime a minute before any other public clock in the city.
- Männliturm: Look out for the tower that’s got a little iron man holding a flag standing atop it and you’ve found yourself Männliturm (literally ‘Little Man Tower’) - your best bet for a snapshot of Lucerne and its surrounding lake and mountains.
Address: Schwanenplatz 4, 6004 Lucerne, Switzerland
Nearest station: Schwanenplatz (via Bus 7/8 from Bahnhof Luzern) | Kasernenplatz (via Bus 12 from Bahnhof Luzern)
Opening Hours: 1st Apr-1st Nov: 8AM-7PM | (Closed from 2nd Nov-30th Mar)
4. Take a scenic stroll along the oldest wooden bridge in Europe
Situated right by Jesuitenkirche is the Chapel Bridge, or as you can say in German: Kapellbrücke. This isn’t just any old pretty looking bridge either - it’s the oldest wooden bridge in the whole of Europe. And yes, if you haven’t sussed it out already, Lucerne is one city that’ll get history buffs’ tails wagging.
At a length of 672ft, the bridge runs right across Reuss river; we stopped by just as the sun was setting, making it the perfect time for a slow walk and some IG snaps as everything was bathed in a warm orange glow.
Spot these triangular paintings depicting the French Revolution on the ceiling of the roof - some were destroyed during a fire in 1993, and you can still see them today, charred and all.
Address: Kapellbrücke, 6002 Lucerne, Switzerland
Nearest station: Bahnhof Luzern (5 min walk)
5. Visit the Lion of Lucerne that’s carved into a cliff face
The Lion Monument, aka the Lion of Lucerne, is quite a remarkable sculpture, and its central location means you can add this to your route easily while wandering around. The monument is actually a memorial dedicated to the Swiss mercenaries who had served in the French Revolution and stands as a symbol of their bravery today.
The sculpture is carved into the cliff face of an old sandstone quarry
Pro-tip: Lucerne can be easily covered in a day, so book a day trip to the city with Klook here.
Address: Denkmalstrasse 4, 6002 Lucerne, Switzerland
Nearest station: Löwenplatz (3 min via Bus 23 from Bahnhof Luzern)
Easy multi-city travelling with the Swiss Travel Pass through Klook
Having a truckload of things to do during our trip meant jumping from place to place across the country. The solution? Getting a Swiss Travel Pass from Klook, making multi-city travelling a breeze.
Booking it is really simple too. All you need to do is head on to Klook's website or app, select your Swiss Travel Pass validity period (3, 4, 8, or 15 days), and have the e-tickets sent to your email immediately. Those who prefer having physical tickets* can opt to get them mailed over as well.
As one of Singapore's leading travel activities and booking platforms, Klook makes sure it's giving you a good deal too. Not only do they have a best price guarantee, but each purchase will also earn you Klook credits to put towards your next booking. For a limited time only, earn 5% back of your e-ticket purchase in Klook credits!
Klook is also having an exclusive promo for TSL readers who are first-time Klook users. Head on to their website and use the code <TSL5> for $5 off any activity!
Note: Promo ends 31 October 2019
*Visitors opting for physical tickets can choose to buy the Flexible Swiss Travel Pass, where you’ll be able to get unlimited train rides for 3,4, 8, or 15 non-consecutive days. We preferred having the consecutive travel dates and went for the e-tickets instead.
Note that the trains have 1st and 2nd class cabins, so make sure you’re in seated in the right compartment before your journey
One of us even described it as being the Swiss Army knife of travel passes. I'll tell ya why:
- No need to fumble around buying multiple train tickets at each station
- Kids aged 6-15 can travel for free when accompanied by a parent with a Swiss Travel Pass
- Enjoy unlimited travel on trains, buses, trams, and even boats in more than 90 Swiss towns and cities
- Ticket officers only need to scan the QR code on your tickets, so you wouldn't need to carry a physical ticket around. (We'd recommend having a printout handy just in case your phone runs out of juice!)
- Get discounts and free admission to over 500 attractions in Switzerland, like museums, mountain excursions, and cable car rides
Those going on day trips can also enjoy free rides on premium panorama trains, like the Glacier Express and Bernina Express. Just remember to have your passports with you while travelling for verification purposes!
Pro-tip: Keep track of train timetables on SBB’s official website here, which is super handy for finding out more about connections and platform info.
Swiss trains have ample space for baggage, which is great for those going between multiple cities during a trip. The seats are plush and comfy, so go ahead and clock in some ZZZs on longer train rides.
For more ideas on what you can do with your Swiss Travel Pass, check out Klook’s guide here.
Other handy travel essentials we got from Klook for our Swiss getaway:
Check out our other Europe guides here:
- 6 Outdoor Activities In Switzerland To Crush Your Fear Of Heights Once And For All
- 8 Budget Europe Hacks For Singaporeans Planning Their First Visit
- 10 Hiking Trails In Europe Of All Difficulty Levels To Bookmark For Your Eurotrip
- Trans Siberian Railway Guide - Singapore To London By Train In 17 Days
- 5 Student Perks In Europe For Young Singaporeans Who Still Have Their Matric Cards
This post was brought to you by Klook. Photography by Gabriel Seow.