I present to you, Zurich, Basel, Bern, Thun and Spiez!
It’s too easy to fall in love with Switzerland. I flew into Zurich and was breezed through customs and my bag was there even before I was. I was picked up by my wonderful Singaporean friend who has been working in Switzerland for the past 6 years and we wasted no time in seeing how Zurich was. It was raining when I arrived so we stuck to just eating lake fish by the Zurich lake and her teaching me a few words of Swiss German. Driving around Zurich and Basel is not for the faint hearted because there are many tramways and if you’re a tourist, I suggest you stick to the very efficient Swiss public transport.
I recommend you get the Swiss travel pass that gets you unlimited travel on almost all trains, buses and boats and also, free museum entry. The more days you buy, the cheaper it is. For example, 3 days will cost you CHF 216 and my 15 day pass costs me CHF 458. Museum entry is usually CHF 10-18 per museum and castle. There is also a flexible pass where you can choose when to use it within a month. It’s definitely worth it if you’re intending to travel to different cantons in Switzerland and also planning to do the alps. Pilatus and arugula are included and the round trip will easily coat out CHF 80-90. A trip from interlaken to Zermatt is already CHF160 return. You just have to top up 50% of the cable car price to go up to Matterhorn. Detail at sbb.ch
Summer time in Zurich is fun! Mainly because I went to the Street Parade which was like the love parade in Germany, only that it’s techno! You see the Swiss and tourists dress up, drink up and hit the streets for the largest street parade of the year. Expect it to be large, crowded, colorful, fun, noisy and a bit dirty once it gets to the evening. Yes, people pee in the bushes and empty bottles are everywhere. You also get free snacks if you’re lucky. Because the Swiss are so efficient, the streets get cleaned up once night falls and it will look like nothing ever happened the next day.
The outdoor cinema also runs in Zurich and Basel in summer and it’s really fun to watch a movie with a bunch of people outdoors. This is a classy affair near the lake and it has nice seats and a huge screen. There is also a variety of Swiss and Asian food, free ice cream and if it rains, you get a free poncho like I did.
Zurich old town is definitely worth a stroll and it’s bridges that cross the rivers that eventually go to the lake is beautiful. You have the Gold Coast and the silver Coast and on a sunny day, walking along or taking the ferry on the lake is THE thing to do. If you fancy, you can also take a swim!
Next stop Basel. It has a beautiful old town and cathedral and my friend stays in Basel loves it. It also holds the annual Rhine swim where you get a medal for swimming in the lake. It is much fun swimming with 5000 people in the lake at 6pm and getting your medal, floats, goody bags all for the name of fun and sports. Basel is also where Switzerland meets Germany and France and you can go to the spot where the 3 countries meet and have a beer by the restaurants wondering how they thought about where the line is to be drawn.
An easy side trip from Basel is the capital of Switzerland, Bern. It’s historic town is really cute and it has many museums that you can visit. The whole old town is lined with cute fountains and you can have fun watching the astronomical clock every hour. My favorite is the Bern historical museum which also houses the Einstein exhibit. I loved physics as a student (nerd alert) and it’s interesting to see how his life was like. It’s a beautiful large building across from the old Town and is the second largest museum in Switzerland. Do hike up to the rose garden to get the panorama of Bern and smell all the roses there! You also get to see the Real bears of Bern (the pictorial ones are on their flag) and the wonderful St BERNard dogs littered all over town.
Beautiful Bernese towns also include Thun and Spiez which is very near Interlaken. Thun and Spiez have beautiful castles that you can go to. Thun’s historical center is quite big and I was so lucky when I was there, it was a Saturday and all the vintage cars were out on display at Rathaus (city hall).
You will easily fall in love with these cities because everything is so efficient, neat and beautiful. The people are also very friendly and you will see that it is very safe to travel around alone. If you’re visiting in summer, remember to check out what festivals are on so you can plan your visits accordingly. The tourist information counter also gives amazing tips and maps.
Next stop, I head south to French speaking Lausanne, Vevey, Montreau and Geneva.