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Train travel in Switzerland is as easy as 1-2-3 and just as fast. After all, the country is only 135 miles bottom to top and 220 miles long. A Swiss Travel Pass covers travel on most trains, buses and even boats—and, yes, they run in punctual Swiss style! To get a good sense of the diversity of this tiny country, hop aboard a train in Zurich and head to any, or all, of these charming Swiss destinations.

RELATED: 8 great boozy train tours

Spiez on Lake Thun (1 hr, 30 mins)

Spiez is a small city located in the Bernese Alps on the shores of Lake Thun. The Hotel Eden Spiez with its central location and massive buffet breakfast is the perfect choice for an overnight stay. Get settled in, then strike out via foot to explore. Like all Swiss towns, Spiez is filled with history. Just down the street, visit a 1,000-year-old church and tour the furnished living quarters of the Spiez Castle, dating from the 13th–18th centuries.

View of Spiez Castle on Lake Thun

View of Spiez Castle on Lake Thun | Photo courtesy of Kate Robertson

At the pier, hop aboard the ferry (covered by your Swiss Travel Pass), for a 12-minute ride to Faulensee. From here, stroll back to Spiez on the Lake Promenade Trail. Make sure your phone has lots of available storage for photos—the views of the Alps across the shimmering, blue lake are stunning.

For a unique experience, head to the nearby St. Beautus caves, an extraordinary geological site where you will enter the mountain to see million-year-old stalactites and stalagmites in tunnels, caves and enormous underground halls. Rumor has it a monk called St. Beautus lived here in 100 AD—after slaying the dragon who already lived there, of course.

Back at the Hotel Eden Spiez, enjoy a spa experience, complete with an outdoor saltwater bath (the only one in Switzerland), salt cave, saunas and steam baths, before calling it a night.

 

Lausanne on Lake Geneva (2 hrs, 8 mins)

Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, this beautiful old French-Swiss city was settled early on by the Romans. Visit the 12-century gothic Lausanne Cathedral (there’s still a night watchman who climbs the tower to shout out the hour from 10pm to 2am—how cool is that?), then continue to wander street after street of old red-roofed buildings and fine manor houses, to easily see why the city has long-attracted tourists and artists. But there’s an exciting new side to Lausanne as well, as you will see when you visit the innovative art galleries, cafes and nightclubs in the revitalized industrial district, Quartier du Flon.

Lausanne Cathedral

Lausanne Cathedral | Photo courtesy of Kate Robertson

To experience the ultimate sunset, book a dinner cruise on one of Compagnie Generale de Navigation’s refurbished steam boats. On-board, sip a cold glass of delicate Chasselas white wine, a specialty of the region, as you tour along the shoreline past cute villages, farmhouses and the endless vineyards of Lavaux (yes, the place that Prince sang about).

Chaplin's World

Chaplin’s World | Photo courtesy of Kate Robertson

Even if you’re not particularly an old-film buff, Chaplin’s World, just a few minutes away by train in Vevey, is worth a visit. Here you can explore the screen star’s family home and visit the museum that features his life’s works, including Hollywood-style studio sets.

When it’s time to relax, check-in to the historic Hotel de la Paix, located in the heart of downtown Lausanne. Ask for a lake view room for the best glimpses of famous Lake Geneva, the Alps and France, across the lake.

 

Brig in the Canton of Valais (2 hrs)

This small Alpine town is located close to the Italian border. Brig is filled with winding cobblestone streets, historical towers that were status symbols for wealthy families and cute, brightly-painted shuttered windows and flower boxes.

Brig town square

Brig town square | Photo courtesy of Kate Robertson

Make Hotel de Londres, a cute little boutique hotel in a historic building, your home base. To set the mood for the day, take your Valais-style breakfast—muesli, yogurt, cheeses, nuts, fruit, cold cuts and eggs cooked to order—to the hotel patio overlooking the town square.

Then pull on your hiking boots and catch the train to nearby Morel, where a series of cable cars will take you up to the Aletsch Glacier, the longest in the Alps. An easy hike back along the Panorama Ridge Trail will take you past lush grassy slopes dotted with wildflowers, grazing cows (listen for the tinkling of the bells they wear around their necks) and plenty of benches to take a break and admire snow-covered peaks in the distance.

With all that exercise, you’ll be ready for more hearty traditional food, so back in town, pop into the Restaurant Walliserstuba and order some schnitzel or raclette (melted cheese and potatoes).

 

Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland Alps (3 hrs)

It’s a long ride, but well worth it. Gstaad is a famous ski-resort town, but with 200 farms, 80 working Alpine pastures and 7,000 cows, it is also known for its cheese.

Alpine cheese wheels stored at the Cheese Grotta Gstaad

Alpine cheese wheels stored at the Cheese Grotta Gstaad | Photo courtesy of Kate Robertson

To learn more about Swiss cheese-making, book a cheese dairy tour, a stable tour, or a tour of the cheese grotto Molkerei Gstaad, which takes you 82 feet underground into an old renovated well  to see (and sample) where more than 3,000 wheels of cheese are aged.

Now’s the time for a cheese fondue, so pick up a fondue backpack with all the fixings from the visitors’ center and take a hike to one of the five specially-designed huts that look like a giant fondue pot, where you can enjoy the melted goodness while enjoying prime Alpine views.

Sounds like too much work? Just hit the Posthotel Rossli in Gstaad, a traditional pub and restaurant built in 1823, and a server clad in traditional dirndl-style attire will serve you a bubbling cheese fondue with thick chunks of heavy Swiss bread and potatoes for dipping.

You’ll sleep like a baby when you check-in to the Alpina Gstaad, a 5-star hotel that will wow you with its hand-built fireplaces, genuine period furniture and ceilings decorated with traditional wood carvings. Be sure to save time for a dip in the pool where you can gaze out over the bright green pastures and Swiss-style chalets below. You’ll have to pinch yourself to know you’re not just dreaming.

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Tagged: Europe, Switzerland

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Kate Robertson

Kate Robertson

Kate Robertson

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