Zurich offers many opportunities to spend your free time. Undoubtedly, one of them is the possibility of taking advantage of full- and half-day trips, both in and outside the city.
There are several local travel agencies in Zurich that offer organized tours. Typically, they take place by coach with a local guide on board. Tourist guides fill our time with stories related not only to the visited places but also provide us with interesting facts related to the culture and history of the country.
We have chosen the offer of the “Best of Switzerland Tours” travel agency – the official partner of “Zurich Tourism” and certified holder of the Q-Quality seal of Swiss Tourism. So, we gave a chance to the specialists, hoping that money invested will turn to us in the form of amazing impressions and unforgettable experiences.
Best of Switzerland Tours – city tours
From a wide range of the offers, you can choose between trips taking place in the city of Zurich (from 2 to 5.5 hours), and day trips outside the city (up to 12 hours). All trips start at the “Bus Terminal Silquai” station, which is 5 min. walking distance from the main train station.
Excursions in the city of Zurich take place thru the whole year. They start between 9.00 a.m. and 3.30 p.m.
The tourist offer includes trips combining travel by bus with travel by ship or by train, with chocolate tasting, and tours with dinner in a restaurant offering an original Swiss cheese fondue. Below are the most interesting ones, for more details, please visit the organizer’s website: Best of Switzerland Tours.
- The Best of Zurich City Tour – classic city tour which is 2.5-hours long. You can see famous shopping avenue Bahnhofstrasse, the Old Town, the university quarter with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), as well as the castle-like National Museum and newly renovated Opera House. Price 34 CHF/ USD.
- Zurich with Cruise & Chocolate – classic city tour with Zurich’s most popular sights, combined with ride uphill by cogwheel train and with 1-hour lake cruise (the whole trip lasts over 5 hours). During lake cruise – short walk to the Lindt Chocolate Shop, where chocolate tasting and shopping souvenirs is possible. Price 58 CHF/ USD.
Meier Tours – Gray Line Zurich
Gray Line Zurich is the other one tourism company visible on the market in Zurich. The Hans Meier Tourist Ltd was founded in 1954 and is part of “Gray Line Worldwide” which is a world-famous tour operator and coach travel organizer.
The company’s offer also includes short city tours, lasting from 2 to 4.5 hours. Tours start from 9.45 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. Below is a short description of selected half-day trips:
- Combo Tour is a trip that combines exclusive city tour by bus, with the Uetlibergbahn and travel on the steepest standard-track railway in Switzerland to the “Top of Zurich”, the Uetliberg hill (871 above sea level). From here you can admire a fantastic view over the city, lake, forests and hills to the white peaks of the Alps. The whole trip lasts 4 hours. Price 42 CHF/USD.
- Circle Tour – a trip combining standard city tour by bus with a 90-minute boat trip on Lake Zurich. The whole trip lasts 3.5 hours, price 44 CHF/USD.
- Cityrama Tour. The most important sight of Zurich in short: The Old Town, business centre and university quarter. Then, there is a scenic road with a great view of the Alps and the lake to Rapperswil, the city of roses. There you can find XIII century castle with a rose garden and deer park. In the castle, there is a seat of the Polish Historical Museum. The museum was founded in 1870 by count Władysław Plater in order to secure Polish historical monuments and propagate Polish interests. In the town, there is a short guided tour and free time. During summer months the way back to Zurich will be on a boat (2 hours cruise). The duration of the whole trip is 4.5h. During winter months, the return trip from Rapperswill is by train, with the route called Goldcoast. The “Golden Coast” is known for its low tax rates and high real estate prices. The sunny south-western slopes of the Pfannenstiel are famous for its grape growing. In winter, the trip lasts for 3.5 hours. Price in both seasons is the same and costs 58 CHF /USD.
Please visit the original website to see more details and to find more offers: Gray Line Zurich.
Zurich – tours outside the city
Both “Gray Line Zurich” and “Best of Switzerland Tours” offers several trips outside the city: both half-day and all-day trips. We participated in two of them, both with the “Best of Switzerland” agency and I will describe them below, but both companies have much more to offer.
Pilatus Mountain – an all-day trip
A trip to Mount Pilatus is an unforgettable adventure. From May to October, the trip is called “The Golden Roundtrip”. Within 9 hours, the tourists cross the route: by coach from Zurich, in a panoramic gondola by super modern aerial cable car “Dragon Ride” to the top of Mount Pilatus, descent on the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to Alpnachstad, sail via the Lake Lucerne back to Lucerne. Price 149 CHF/USD.
Mount Pilatus – a peak covered with clouds
The Pilatus mountain massif is located on the Lake of the Four Forested Settlements and closes the southern panorama visible from Lucerne. The highest elevation in the massif is Pilatus Kulm. It is 2132m high above sea level. The name “Pilatus” is associated with the old legend, according to which Pontius Pilate, a former administrator in Judea, was buried here. Currently, however, it is believed that the name comes from the Latin word “pilateus”, which means “covered with clouds.”
Our tour started at 9.30 in the morning, collecting all passengers at the “Sihlquai” parking lot in Zurich. Onboard the bus, the guide spoke in three languages: English, Spanish and German. On the way to Kriens, the guide managed to familiarize us with the short history of the country, tell us about the Swiss economy, income and export branches. He described exactly the purpose of the trip and familiarized us with the entire program of the trip.
In Kriens, we took a 4-person cable car with a panoramic view and arrived at the Fräkmüntegg station. This part of the trip took us 18 minutes. Many people got off in this place, as in Fräkmüntegg there is the longest (1350-meter) toboggan run in Switzerland. There is also the Pilatus rope park arranged next to it. On that station we took to the aerial cable gondola (for 55 people), called “Dragon Ride”, and our whole group came together to the top of the Pilatus Kulm mountain.
Pilatus – Trail of the Dragon
During nice and sunny weather, from the top of the mountain, you can see countless alpine peaks and a dozen lakes. Unfortunately, no one can guarantee nice weather, so you have to take into account the possibility of lack of visibility. The name of the summit “covered with clouds” is fully justified, because when we reached the top, the amazing view was obscured by a dense cloud with zero visibility. So we have managed to take a few pictures only.
From this place, you can set off on numerous hiking trips or a short walk along the “Trail of the Dragon” (Drachenweg), leading among others thru the gallery carved in the rock.
On the top of Mount Pilatus, you can spot black ravens, which are an attraction itself. Contact with these big birds “eye to eye” made a big impression on me.
On top of the mountain, there is a large cable car station, 2 hotels (Pilatus Kulm and Bellevue), two restaurants and a souvenir shop. In mid-November, a Christmas market is organized here.
More information about the attractions on Mount Pilatus can be found directly on the Pilatus website. You can also see a very well-prepared map showing all possible means of transport available on Mount Pilatus. The Pilatus map is interactive, combined with accurate tourist information. You can find marked vantage points, summer and winter attractions on it, and view the online view from the cameras placed on top.
There is a cogwheel railway running down the hill, which has a 48% gradient. The queue descends almost at the edge of the lake, the journey takes about 40 minutes. Along the way – despite the rain and thick fog outside the window – nice views. At the end of this journey, there was a cruise ship waiting for us.
Lake of the Four Forested Settlements (Lake Lucerne)
A journey through the lake is also a very interesting adventure. Lake Lucerne (literally called: Lake of the Four Forested Settlements) is located in the central part of Switzerland and covers an area of 114 km 2. It is the fourth-largest lake in Switzerland. The lake borders with four cantons: Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Lucerne. It has a strongly developed coastline with numerous creeks. There are steep mountains around the lake, some of them rise at the height of even 1500 meters above the level of the lake’s surface.
Travel by boat takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes. On the lake, there are over 100-year-old side-wing steamers, which are an attraction themselves. We took one of them. On the way to Lucerne, the ship stops at several marinas, so you can take a closer look at the picturesque towns passed by on the way.
As it is written in tourist’s guidebooks – “in Lucerne, you can find almost the whole of Switzerland: monuments, a picturesque lake with crystal clear water and mountains rising almost right on the border of the city”.
In Lucerne, we had a shortstop, but we managed to see two important tourist attractions:
- covered chapel bridge 204 m long, dating from 1332, the oldest wooden bridge in Europe. Originally, the bridge served defensive purposes, but already in the seventeenth century, numerous paintings were created under the roof. They praise the story of Lucerne and the courage of its inhabitants in the struggle for Switzerland’s independence; they also illustrate the lives of saints. At its southern end, there is a tiled, octagonal water tower (Wasserturm), which together with the bridge itself was part of the medieval fortifications. In its time, this tower served as a prison, torture chamber, archive or treasury. The bridge has survived in almost perfect condition for over 650 years, unfortunately, in 1993 a tragic fire almost destroyed this building. A year later, the bridge was rebuilt and made available for visitors, as it remained the most important symbol of the city.
- a statue of Swiss guardsmen also called the monument to the dying lion (Löwedenkmal). It is a monument depicting a dying lion, dedicated to the guards who died in defence of the French King Louis XVI during the attack of the French revolutionists on the Tuileries Palace in Paris, in August 1792 and to their commander Major von Bachmann. The title of the monument is the words in Latin meaning “loyalty and bravery of the Helvetians”, placed above the cave with an animal.
Mount Pilatus – a summary
As a summary of the whole trip, I can only say that it has exceeded our boldest expectations. It was organized in a fully professional manner, with a perfectly filled time. A trip was full of attractions and visual impressions. Beautiful views, close contact with nature, a guide with enormous knowledge and interesting stories – they will remain in my memory for a long time. I honestly recommend both: this specific tour to the Mt. Pilatus and its organizer.
Rhine Falls – waterfall on the Rhine river
A half-day trip.
A trip to the waterfall took place on the day of our departure from Zurich. We got into the bus with a suitcase, because the organizer offered a stop at the airport on the way back from the trip. We liked this variant very much and it allowed to save on the return ticket for the train from the city centre to the airport (almost 18 CHF / USD).
A trip to the waterfall also ensures an unforgettable experience. Rheinfall is the largest waterfall in Europe in terms of water flow. It is located at the turn of the Rhine in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, in the canton of Schaffhausen in Switzerland. The waterfall is quite low, 23 meters high, but its strength and the amount of water flowing through it, arouse amazing respect. The average water flow through the waterfall is 425 thousand of litres per second. On the day we visited the waterfall, the water flow was 0.5 million litres of water per second.
Rhine Falls -experience
Our trip departed from Zurich at 9.00 a.m. The bus took us to the northern part of Switzerland, famous for its viticulture, small villages and picturesque landscapes.
On the way to the waterfall, we passed the defence fortress – Munot Fortress, dating from the sixteenth century. The fortress is surrounded today by vineyards and is a symbol of the city of Schaffhausen. The building is a tourist attraction of the region and during the whole year, many tourist attractions take place here.
Along the way, we also passed the charming town of Marthalem, known for its intact cityscape and very attractive red and white houses, made of half-timbered bricks.
Rhine Falls – Europe’s biggest waterfall
After reaching the waterfall, the guide gave us an hour of free time. At that time, we could take the lift to the marina, from which motorboats sailed with tourists to the waterfall itself. We could also go on foot to the observation deck, where you can view the entire panorama of the waterfall, including its beginning on the Rhine river. You could also spend time in many souvenir shops or visit a nearby castle.
We took the opportunity to take a boat to the waterfall itself. We wanted to experience its power from close up and take a closer look at it. The boat trip takes about 20 minutes, but adding the time of the descent with the lift, descent to the marina, waiting for the boat + the cruise itself, it all took us most of the free time (about 45 min).
A motorboat ride in front of the waterfall is amazing adrenaline. The roar of falling water was so deafening that it caused shivers on our skin. Our boat swam in front of the waterfall three times, each time we felt with what force the waterfall draws us into the whirl of falling water and with what effort the engine of our boat escaped us from the depths of frothed water. We were all splashed with water – both us and our photographic equipment. Fortunately, the photo equipment was properly secured by us, but the lenses remained wet all the time.
After the boat ride, we still had time to get to the viewing platform and see the waterfall from above.
Above the waterfall, the Laufen castle dominates, in the area where there is a restaurant serving seasonal dishes and the highest quality regional products.
On the way back, part of the route took place via Germany (the tour operator recommends taking passports with you). When we were crossing the border – the barriers stood wide open.
As planned, we ended the trip at the airport without the need to return to the city centre.
The trip took us 3.5 hours, price 52 CHF/USD per person.