Escape the Bubble: Switzerland by Train

Switzerland is only a two hour flight from Edinburgh. Once you get there, you can traverse the entirety of the country easily and cheaply. Switzerland has one of the best rail networks in the world, allowing you to see the splendors of the natural landscapes and the cityscapes as well. From snowcapped mountains and shimmering lakes to quaint little towns and cosmopolitan cities, here is my recommended route to see it all:

Start in Zurich

21678155668_a8277c8ab3_kIt is the largest city in Switzerland, yet the charm of the past is totally preserved in the medieval churches and clock towers of its small colorful Old Town. It is a metropolitan centre, just as important as London, but instead of skyscrapers, Zurich is nestled in between high mountains and interwoven with rivers and lakes. It has great shopping in boutiques, design and department stores along Bahnhofstrasse and bars and nightlife in the Western district. The National Museum, Kunsthaus Zurich, and the Zurich Opera House offer true cultural immersion. Alternatively, you can dip in the waters of Lake Zurich or the River Limmat, or trek to the top of the surrounding hills in the same day.

The Alps are not too far away

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Board the train to see Interlaken and the town of Grindelwald. A postcard-perfect view every time you turn your head, this Swiss ski resort offers easy and off-piste slopes, as well as sledding or snowshoeing. Take the cable car up to the Jungfrau, ‘the top of Europe’, and enjoy the Lindt chocolate factory and arctic caves. If you dare, ascend the Eiger North Face, the most challenging and dangerous expedition. For warmer days, there are countless hikes or casual scenic walks. Ramble between gorgeous teal green lakes and discover unmarked trails among the wild goats and cows. And if you are interested in extreme sports, go paragliding through the mountains’ peaks. After all that activity, cozy up in the charismatic town – indulge in fondue, while looking up at the awe-inspiring heights of one of the most famous mountains in the world.

Head to Bern9379071258_ab61313154_o

Enroute, stop in Lauterbrunnen to see the Trummelbach waterfall’s caves, and the cozy villages neighboring Lake Thun. Plentiful opportunities for water sports. The rest of the train ride to Bern is also picturesque but Bern itself is one of my favorite cities. The streets are full of old squares, markets and beautiful governmental buildings. There are flowers sprinkled throughout the city, whether on balconies, street side or in the many gardens. You can tour the whole city via the stunning River Aare, letting the currents carry you through to different sites. Stop at the many museums along the river, and venture to the Zentrum Paul Klee, which houses an enormous collection of the Swiss artist’s work. In the evening, I would suggest taking a picnic up to the elevated Rose Garden above the city to enjoy dinner at sunset.

Lucerne and Basel

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Take the train to Lucerne and then Basel. Lucerne is unique – a well-preserved medieval Town, embedded in rocky mountains and inundated with rivers. It looks like Venice in the mountains. The town has flower-covered bridges, waterfront promenades, 15th century buildings, painted facades, a distinctive water tower and breathtaking panoramic views. Anywhere you point your camera would be a perfect photograph. But the town is more than merely photogenic – check out the Museum Sammlung Rosengart to see a remarkable collection of Picasso, Renoir, Matisse, Monet, and many more. The city is very social – you will always find a festival, fair, or carnival to attend; go to the symphony, the orchestra, the theatre, one of the many parks, or simply eat en plein air, relax and linger with wine.

Back to the Bubble

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And on your way back to Scotland, make a quick stopover in Geneva, a city of wonder with shores and snowcaps, a hub of French culture. Or visit Lugano, a Mediterranean oasis, to experience Italian culture. Three countries in one is a yet another reason to visit Switzerland.

 

Images courtesy of Mariusz Kluzniak, Gordon Cheung, blackyuuki, Michael Dawes, gato-gato-gato.

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