On our 3 Week European Tour, we decided to travel from France to Italy via Switzerland, and take a train through the Swiss Alps. We took a high speed train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Zurich Switzerland, and arrived late in the afternoon.
Upon arriving in Switzerland, we realized that some countries in Europe have an agreement to allow free travel between countries without individuals having to go through passport control. This meant that we only got our passport stamped in the country of entry (France) and the country of exit (Greece). It also allowed for much easier and faster travel between the different countries we visited. We also realized when we went to buy a sandwich and drinks at the train station convenience store that Switzerland does not use the Euro, they use the Swiss Franc- Switzerland has not joined the European Union. In my trip planning I had completely missed that small little detail, and we had no local currency. This turned out to not be a problem for us since we had debit and credit cards, and since we arrived on a Sunday nearly all the businesses were closed- (fortunately for my wallet as a bottle of water was about $4 USD).
I had booked all our hotels close to train and metro stations to make travelling easy, since we only took public transportation on our trip. We stayed at the Townhouse Boutique Hotel, just a block away from the main train station in Zurich. The hotel itself is a bit hard to find, wedged next to a small café. Luckily a café worker buzzed us in, and we entered to find an entry way with a staircase. We trudged up 5 flights of stairs, to find the check-in desk in a small room at the end of a hallway. The receptionist was very friendly, and informed us that our room was several flights below, and there was an elevator down the hall. Apparently we had walked right by it as it was small enough to be mistaken for a dumbwaiter. We made our way to our room, and threw off our backpacks before going out to explore the city of Zurich.
Zurich is a wonderful city, with the Limmat River flowing right through it, and numerous bridges. Shops selling cuckoo clocks, Swiss chocolate and Swiss army knives seemed to be on every corner. Although we arrived on a Sunday and most businesses were closed, there were plenty of people out strolling the streets, and several excellent street musicians performing on the squares. A violinist gave a concert as we listened from across the street, and if I had had 20 Swiss Francs instead of 20 Euros I would have happily purchased his CD. Another musician down the street had somehow managed to move an upright piano onto a bridge and was performing for the public. We visited the Lindenhof Square for a beautiful panoramic view of Zurich and the Grossmünster Cathedral before heading back to the hotel for the evening.
The next morning we left Zurich and headed to Chur to catch The Bernina Express. The Bernina Express is one of the most scenic trains in Europe, beginning in the Swiss town of Chur and ending several beautiful hours later in the Italian town of Tirano. The panoramic windows in the cars allow for sweeping views of the mountains, valleys, and glaciers as you travel the highest railway in the Alps. One of the highlights on our recent 3 week Europe Tour, the Bernina Express train is one of the best ways to experience the magnificence of the Swiss Alps. I would recommend packing a picnic lunch and bottle of wine to dine onboard, and either book a seat in the open air cars or take advantage of the small window near the luggage compartment in the train car for reflection-free photographs! If you’re traveling by train through Europe, this is the one to take!