Our last leg of our Europe trip was in Switzerland to visit my family. My dad is Italian but was born and raised in Switzerland, so we have relatives in both Italy and Switzerland. My aunts and cousin live in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, a beautiful town about 2 hours from Zurich. I only get to see them every few years, so was very exciting to visit! We stayed with them the whole time in Neufchâtel and did day trips to nearby villages, as it is very centrally located. We took the train from our last stop in Austria, Innsbruck, which was about 3.5 hours to Zurich and then another 1 hour to Bern. I highly recommend taking the train through the Alps, you will see some incredible views along the way. In this blog I will just highlight the villages we saw and some I have visited in past trips.
This was our first stop on the trip since it was on the way to Neufchâtel, we had my aunt meet us there to pick us up. We spent a few hours exploring the town and walked to see the famous bears! Yes, there are real live bears right in the town in a natural preserve and you can see them up close right off the sidewalk! There was also a fun market going on in town since it was a Saturday. One thing to note in Switzerland is that there are drinking fountains everywhere with cold, fresh spring water!
This is the town where my aunt lives, up on a mountain. My dad grew up in Biel/Bienne which is another town just 20 minutes away. Honestly we could have just stayed in Neufchâtel the whole time since there was so much to do! There are vineyards, a huge lake, a busy town with tons of bars, restaurants, and shops, and mountain activities. During the summer there are lots of bars that pop up right on the lake by the marina!
One day we drove a little over an hour to Thun which was a beautiful village with a river flowing through the middle. There were even people wake surfing right there on the river, which was so fun to watch! We had lunch at a cafe on the river before heading a little further to Lake Thun. Along this lake is Oberhofen Castle, a 13th century castle that makes for incredible scenic photos. We toured the castle grounds and then found a nearby beach along the lake for an afternoon swim.
The same day, we continued our drive just 30 minutes further to reach Lauterbrunnen. Interlaken was also on the way but I have already been and wanted to visit somewhere new. Lauterbrunnen is a village in the Alps known for having over 70 waterfalls. Even just driving through the mountains was so beautiful and relaxing. We stopped to take some photos of the waterfalls and then headed back home for the day. If we had more time we would’ve ventured a little further to another beautiful nearby mountain village, Grindelwald.
Lavaux was probably the most beautiful wine country I’ve ever seen. Even out of Tuscany, France, and Napa, the views here were unmatched with the vineyards along the blue lake with mountains in the background. One thing to note is that most wineries and tasting rooms are only open on the weekends. We went on a Monday afternoon and found a few open. We stopped for lunch with a view at L’Auberge du Vigneron, which had incredible views on their cliffside patio. We wanted to do a tasting next door at Au Clos De La Republique, but unfortunately they were closed since it was a weekday. We decided to pop in to the Tourism Office across the street and they were offering tastings from all the vineyards in the region. They explained to us that Lavaux is known for the Chasselas grape, but has many different varietals due to the different types of soil and the sun reflecting off the lake, hitting each vineyard differently. After tasting a few different wines we went to Domaine Croix Duplex. It had a beautiful flower lined terrace overlooking the whole valley. They served us some tastings and even let us try the grape juice before it was fermented into wine, which was delicious! Le Deck Restaurant was a great happy hour spot we had a quick stop at with a luxurious lounge and infinity pool overlooking the vineyards.
In my past trips to Switzerland I’ve been lucky enough to visit many cities and villages, so if you have time on your trip I would add these to your list: Geneva, Laussane, Blausee, Interlaken, Gruyères, and visit a thermal spa if the weather is colder!