Beautiful, Efficient, & Expensive: these are the words that sum up our perception of Switzerland.
First, they lure you in with cheap flights. For less than $100, we flew to Zurich from London last minute. I (Charity) had been to Switzerland before and knew the trip would be pricey, but apparently the 6 years that since passed gave me amnesia. Our first night there we were starved, desperate, and lacked our best judgement. We thought we found a restaurant that had mid-range prices, but ended up being charged $6 for a bottle of water and $30 for a small pizza. Needless to say, we learned our lesson quick and switched to the $5 street food (pretzels, pretzels, and more pretzels!) for the remainder of our stay, which was actually was quite tasty.
I’m not sure if was because we booked last minute or not, but the cheapest hostel and Airbnb rental was more expensive than the hotels. Luckily, the hotel we stayed at (Hotel St. Georges) had the most delicious free breakfast, allowing us to at least skip lunch every day.
Zurich itself is beautifully quaint with decorated streets and a lively Old Town. We really enjoyed walking around and window shopping during the day, keeping no agenda. We had such nice weather that we sat in the park that overlooked the city for an hour, just watching the day fly by.
Using Zurich as our home base, our only day trip we planned was to Lucerne, an easy hour long train ride. Unfortunately, the day we went the fog decided to roll in and the mountains were practically non-existent, making the hike we made to the top of the city useless. We really enjoyed the city, but I couldn’t help be a little disappointed by the weather. The day cleared up towards the end, but I had always dreamed of showing Amauri the “postcard” beauty and mountains of Switzerland I had always told him about.
With one more day left and determined to see the mountains, we stayed up late into the evening researching another day trip from Zurich. Finally, we decided on Lugano, a predominantly Italian coastal town that Amauri’s father had always claimed was one of his favorite places in Europe.
On the 3 hour train ride, I woke up Amauri when I jumped out of my seat, nearly screaming at the first sight of a snow capped mountain. It only got better and more scenic from there. Finally! It was the train ride through Switzerland that we’ve always dreamed of.
Immediately stepping out of the train station, we knew we made the right choice. The sun was shining, the mountains were visible, and the view of Lake Lugano was breathtaking. The town was quiet and we were one of the only tourists. (Shops are often closed on Sundays in Switzerland due to a Federal Labour Law.)
We walked along the coastline all day (for a total of 8 miles!) and were rewarded by reaching a small neighborhood with one open restaurant, a family owned Italian place overlooking the city. To be honest, it turned out to be quite possibly the most romantic place we’ve ever eaten. Later we watched the sunset and ate gelato by the water, closing out the end of a perfect day of travel.
In the end, while we loved our time in Switzerland, our bank accounts did not. We recommend it to budget travelers only for a short period and if you’re able to book your flight/accommodation early. We took a hit in our budget for our 4 day excursion, but genuinely think it was worth it and don’t regret a thing. (Well, maybe that $6 bottle of water!)