Affordable Switzerland: Luxe for Less

Visit Zurich and all the Swiss hotspots and country villas on a low budget.

September 10, 2008, 2:59 PM

Oct. 7, 2008— -- Don't cross Europe off your travel plans just because the dollar is dismal compared to the Euro and the high cost of international airfare. Instead, heading to Switzerland is worth the trip: the Swiss franc gets you more bang for your buck.

The country, where English is a common language, is easy to travel in for Americans, and a world-class train system makes it easy to tour the picturesque country. Right now, all across Switzerland you can find some terrific travel deals, including a long list of things to do for FREE.

To start off your Swiss experience on the right foot, check out the airfare deals on Swiss International Air Lines. SWISS, the country's national airline, offers direct flights from the United States and serves up authentic Swiss meals. Other airlines that offer direct flights are U.S. Airways, Delta and American Airlines.

By far, the easiest and most affordable way to get around Switzerland is by train and if you buy a Swiss Passit can save you hundreds of dollars. For a fraction of the usual price you can buy a Swiss Pass for unlimited train travel in Switzerland for the time frame you need. And your pass also gets you free travel on buses and boats in the country. Another added bonus is that the pass gets you free admission to more than 400 museums. There are even special packages for families and children.

Zurich is one of Switzerland's hippest, most stylish cities and the country's largest.

This financial center is the hub of business activity but you'll also find plenty of culture as well. With your Swiss Pass you can visit more than 50 museums for free and also take in more than 100 different art galleries. For some designer fashion window shopping check out Bahnhofstrasse Street. For a step back in time, stroll over to Old Town, where you can zigzag your way through quaint cobblestoned alleys lined with boutique shops and restaurants. The famed Gossmunster church is open to the public and St. Peter's Church boasts the largest clock face in Europe.

•Top Hotel Splurge: The historic Dolder Grand is something to see after it just reopened following a hefty $400 million renovation.

• Don't Miss: A boat trip on the Limmat River or Lake Zurich.

One of the most picturesque cities in Switzerland, Lucerne is a popular favorite because of its legendary charm and hospitality.

The Chapel Bridge, built in the 14th century, tops the list as the most photographed landmark in the country. It's worth a walk up to one of the the Watch Towers that were built to protect the city of Lucerne against invaders. The view from the top is breathtaking.

While exploring Old Town go into the Jesuit Church, the first Baroque building in Switzerland, and before you leave stop by "The Dying Lion of Lucerne," one of the world's most famous monuments, built to pay tribute to Swiss mercenaries killed defending Louis XVI of France from his own people.

• Top Hotel Splurge: The Palace Luzern is right on Lake Lucerne where you also have a view of the Alps.

• Don't Miss: The new ultra modern Culture and Convention Centre Lucerne with museums and theatres.

If you're looking for an authentic Swiss experience, Weggis is the right place.

Just a 45-minute boat ride from Lucerne the tiny village of Weggis defines quintessential Switzerland. In Weggis, you can walk peacefully along Lake Lucerne and see homes with window boxes overflowing with flowers. You'll rarely see a car driving down the road. Known for its mild and tropical climate, Weggis is popular in the summer months but is also an ideal escape during the colder winter season.

• Top Hotel Splurge: The five-star Park Hotel Weggis is right on the lake and blends historic charm with a chic vibe and innovative new architecture. Its sister property the Post Hotel Weggis, nicknamed POHO is a four star property that just opened in May and offers some great deals.

• Don't Miss: Toasting your trip with a fine Swiss wine at the Sunset Caviar Bar at the Park Hotel Weggis.

Known as the jumping off point for dozens of different Swiss adventures Interlaken is nestled between the two lakes of Brienz and Thun.

Interlaken is an outdoorsman's paradise -- with paragliding, hang gliding, river rafting, canoeing, sailing and wakeboarding, One of the most popular trips to take is to the top of Schilthorn. This stunning peak is almost ten-thousand-feet high and the set of where the James Bond movie, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," was filmed. It takes about a half-hour to reach the summit by cable car and the 360-degree view from the top is phenomenal. On the way up you'll go through the tiny village of Murren where the scenery is right out of a fairy tale.

• Top Hotel Spurge: The Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa is a classic favorite with locals and international travelers.

• Don't Miss: Exploring the many hiking and skiing trails

This hip and happening Swiss city is known for its nightlife but if you want a quiet escape just head ten minutes up the hill into the Lavaux wine country that stretches from Lausanne to Montreaux.

Along the terraced hillside there are spectacular walking trails where you can spend the day weaving in and out of the different vineyards and discovering different old-world villages.

The Domaine du Daley is one of the most famous wineries known for making traditional Swiss Chasselas and Pinot Noir.

• Top Hotel Splurges: The Beau-Rivage Palace down by the lake and the Lausanne Palace & Spa that's in the heart of the city both offer great restaurants and beautiful surroundings.

• Don't Miss: A walk along Lake Geneva and visiting the Olympic Museum

To make sure you make the most of your trip the Swiss Tourism's website,, offers a long list of free resources to help plan your trip, including maps, updated information on hotel, restaurants, tour specials and transportation news.

For more insider information on exploring Switzerland you can go to Karen Schaler's Travel Therapy Web site at

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