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The Ultimate Guide to Switzerland | How to Plan a Trip to the Swiss Alps

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Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Dreaming of the perfect Swiss alps vacation? Even if you only have 3 days to spend in this beautiful region, we have you covered! 

After spending 3 days with Interlaken as our base, we felt like this was the perfect amount of time to explore this area and soak up all of its beauty! With day trips Lauterbrunnen, Murren, and Grindelwald, 3 days is plenty of time to enjoy it all without feeling rushed.

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Jump To:

How Many Days Do You Need in the Swiss Alps?
What’s the Best Month to Visit the Swiss Alps?
Is It Expensive to Visit the Swiss Alps?
Do You Need a Car in the Swiss Alps?
Where to Stay in the Swiss Alps
More Tips For a 3-Day Switzerland Itinerary
Do They Speak English in the Swiss Alps?
3 Days in Switzerland Itinerary: Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Grindelwald & Interlaken
What We Didn’t Do On Our 3-Day Swiss Alps Trip That We Should Have

How Many Days Do You Need in the Swiss Alps?

We felt three days was the perfect amount of time to see all of the highlights of this region. However, you could always spend more time in this gorgeous area!

Don’t waste precious time moving around too much in Switzerland when you only have 3 days to spend there. To make the most of it and see as many sights as possible, choose one base and then go on day trips from there. Popular bases include Lucerne, Wengen, Interlaken, and Zermatt – depending on which area you’re wanting to see. We chose Interlaken as our base and it was beyond perfect for seeing Lauterbrunnen, Murren and Grindelwald!

View from Murren, Switzerland

What’s the Best Month to Visit the Swiss Alps?

While there is no wrong time to visit Switzerland (it’s gorgeous year round!), when you’ll want to go depends on which activities you’re looking forward to doing. If you’re trying to ski or visit the Christmas markets, obviously winter months will be the best time to go. If you’re looking to enjoy the mountain scenery and hike/walk, the best months to visit Switzerland are June – September as the temperatures are mild and pleasant, and the days are typically dry and sunny so you have clear views across the mountain peaks and countryside.

We visited the Swiss Alps at the very end of May and it was a bit chilly and rainy though there were still plenty of hiking options open and we did have windows of warmth and sunshine each of the days we were there. Just be prepared and bring raincoats, and hats & gloves if it might be cold!

Is It Expensive to Visit the Swiss Alps?

Switzerland is infamous for being one of the most expensive travel destinations and after visiting it, we’d have to say we agree! However, it wasn’t as bad/expensive as we feared and we were able to do it in a way that was relatively budget-friendly without sacrificing comfort or staying in hostels. I’ll be talking about where we stayed in Interlaken below, but as far as other expenses, you’ll need to account for transportation cost and meals out (which tends to be the biggest expense there).

Each day, we spent probably $30-50 on train/public transportation tickets for the two of us to go from Interlaken to Grindelwald and then Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen and Murren. We didn’t buy the Swiss travel pass so that could have potentially made it cheaper, but we felt it wasn’t necessary for our short trip.

Yes, Switzerland is expensive compared to visiting places like Italy or Germany but we felt it was absolutely worth a little extra expense to see some of the most amazing mountain views we’ve ever seen in our lives!

Do You Need a Car in the Swiss Alps?

Switzerland has an excellent public transportation system and downloading the app SBB Mobile made purchasing train, cablecar and bus tickets on the fly super easy and convenient. We used it constantly to get around! You can also buy tickets at each train station.

While you definitely don’t need a car in the Swiss Alps, and there are places you won’t be able to access by car (i.e. getting from Lauterbrunnen to Gimmelwald or Murren), renting one is definitely a solid option. We decided that when we go back some day we’d definitely prefer to rent a car so that we can drive to Interlaken, Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, and to make transporting our luggage a lot easier (we were dragging one with a broken wheel all through Interlaken – not fun!)

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. It was nice taking public transportation and not having to worry about parking, but we did have to wait in lines and get on some pretty crowded trains and buses at times and that made us wish we were in a nice comfy, private vehicle!

Where to Stay in the Swiss Alps

If you’re looking to explore the Swiss Alps in 3 days, we recommend choosing a central city as your base for exploring and then doing a day trip each day. Popular bases include Lucerne, Wengen, Interlaken, and Zermatt – depending on which area you’re wanting to see. We chose to stay in Interlaken because we wanted to see Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and Murren and it was absolutely perfect! It was extremely convenient for our day-time adventures and then having our evenings in Interlaken was wonderful, it’s a really beautiful town in its own right! 

Staying in Interlaken also made it much easier for us to continue the rest of our trip by taking a train to Italy. If we would have stayed in one of the mountain towns like Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald, we would have had to get a much earlier train the morning we left and connected in Interlaken to another train anyway.

If you want to stay in Interlaken, we loved staying at the Zentrum Artos Interlaken. It was a beautiful hotel and had an amazing espresso/coffee machine if you need a morning cup of caffeine! We chose the Grandlit room that had a balcony and it was amazing sitting out there in the morning and evening, we even had a mountain view we weren’t expecting! The area this hotel was in was super quiet and serene, and an easy walk to everything in Interlaken. 

It was also one of the nicest, most budget-friendly options with it costing only $750 for the 3 nights we stayed. This was definitely a little pricy compared to the other stops on our trip (not in Switzerland) but as far as being in the Swiss Alps goes, it seemed like a pretty good deal for how clean, comfortable, & nice this hotel was!

Our only complaint was the hotel claims to have air conditioning, but it didn’t appear to be working in our room (or have any vents for that matter). But all in all, we really enjoyed it, loved the balcony and location and would definitely stay there again!

Interlaken, Switzerland

More Tips For a 3-Day Switzerland Itinerary

Switzerland is a beautiful country but it’s not without a few items to note if you’ve never been there before! Here are a few more quick tips so you’re prepared for your trip:

1. The currency is the Swiss Francs (CHF) and the conversion rate to the dollar isn’t great, so it will definitely feel expensive here!

2. Most Swiss shops and restaurants accept payment by credit card. We didn’t have trouble anywhere we went and never ended up needing to go to an ATM to get Swiss Francs. If you’re not going to have any local currency on hand, it’s always a good idea to ask before you order at a restaurant to verify they accept card, just to be sure!

3.  You can save money by bringing your own water bottle on your trip as you can refill it from fountains that you find everywhere in Switzerland – we even found fountains on our 5 mile hike in the middle of nowhere!

4. The country feels very safe and crime is low, especially in the Swiss Alps region. However, you should exercise normal precautions and be mindful of pickpockets in crowded spaces.

5. You may need a visa to visit Switzerland if you’re not from the United States or a country in the European Union. Always check visa regulations before planning your trip.

6. Download and use the SBB Mobile app to easily buy train, bus & other public transportation tickets.

Do They Speak English in the Swiss Alps?

If you’re like me and speak exactly zero German, you may be wondering if they speak English in the Swiss Alps and the answer is YES! Everywhere we went in Interlaken, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Murren, we had no trouble speaking English thankfully. If all else fails, use Google translate on your phone or just point to what you want on the menu!

3 Days in Switzerland Itinerary: Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Grindelwald & Interlaken

Höhematte Interlaken (central park in town)

First of all, this is one of my favorite trips that I’ve EVER taken. This region is insanely gorgeous and I highly recommend it! You can absolutely see it in 3 days (that’s what we did) but there is so much to do, see, and enjoy, you could definitely spend more time there. I’ll be detailing our 3-day itinerary below but I’ll also include a few extra things we wished we did/had time to do that you might want to include in your trip!

For this itinerary, Interlaken was our base and the perfect spot to see all of the mountain towns on our list, as well as enjoy beautiful Lake Brienz and Lake Thune. Read our 3 perfect days in the Swiss Alps itinerary here!

What We Didn’t Do On Our 3-Day Swiss Alps Trip That We Should Have

Jungfraujoch

As one of the most popular day trips in Switzerland, this is definitely an addition you could make to your itinerary – especially if you plan on spending extra time in the region. The Jungfraujoch is a saddle connecting to major 4000ers of the Bernese Alps, the Jungfrau and the Mönch. It is famously called the “Top of Europe,” sitting at 3,454 meters high – the highest accessible point in Europe. You can take the train up to it, but expect it to be quite busy and touristy! 

At the top you can enjoy the mountain views and views of the Aletsch Glacier from Sphynix Observatory, explore the ice tunnels, learn the history of Jungfraujoch at the Alpine Sensation Exhibition, and enjoy a virtual show of the Alps at the cinema. 

This is a very popular tourist destination, but we felt we could see other beautiful views without spending a whole day getting to and from this spot. 

Cruise on Lake Brienz

While we walked to Lake Brienz and were absolutely blown away but how turquoise, clear and stunning this lake was, we didn’t have the chance to take a cruise on this lake and enjoy it and the mountain views from it. If we go back, this is definitely something we’ll want to include as it looks amazing!

Harder Kulm

Also known as the “Top of Interlaken,” Harder Kulm is a funicular station, situated high above the city of Interlaken. It offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, as well as the town of Interlaken, Lake Brienz, and Lake Thune below. We planned on making the short trek up to this viewpoint, but the line for the funicular was easily 200 people deep the evening we walked over there so we decided to just keep walking and ended up sitting by Lake Brienz and enjoying that instead. It ended up being one of our favorite moments in the trip – it was so beautiful!