What better way to travel the ice-capped mountains, lush valleys, and historic cities of Switzerland than from the comfort of your own Switzerland rental car? But how do you decide what attractions to see in a country that has so much to offer? Our Switzerland Tour by Car gives travelers a general idea of what to see and where to go, including historic sites, resort destinations, and natural wonders. So buckle up and enjoy the ride. This historically and culturally complex country is sure to give you the time of your life.
Read on to Drive to Discover the adventures that await you in Switzerland
Like many of our itineraries, the route we've provided has tolls, so make sure you have plenty of cash on hand. To reach Bern, Switzerland, our itinerary's starting point, you can fly into Zurich or Geneva where you can pick up your rental car at the Geneva International Airport. Allow for the extra drive time from where you land to Bern. We always suggest that travelers have all necessary travel information with them before leaving for their trip. Be sure to pack extra supplies, such as warm clothes, water, and food, in case of emergency. Even in the summer, certain points in Switzerland can be frigid, so dress appropriately for the weather.
With your car rental in Bern, you can follow the A12 south to Gruyeres and enjoy the beautiful countryside along the way. From Gruyeres, you will travel east to Lauterbrunnen via the Jaunpass, which connects with the A8. An alternate route is also available for drivers that are uncomfortable driving on narrow mountain roads, though it will add time to the journey: just back-track to Bern and follow Route 10 to Lauterbrunnen by passing Lucerne on the way. If you do not take the alternate route, you can go from Lauterbrunnen to Lucerne via the A8, and from there, take the A2 to Altdorf on the east side of Lake Lucerne. After Altdorf, you will be on the last leg of your journey. Follow the A4 to Route 8 and the A3/A13 to Landquart, where you can rest for the night or stop for dinner. Route 28 will take you to Val Mustair. Make sure to plan for the extra drive time from Val Mustair to your airport of choice.
As one of the major cities of Switzerland, Bern is a thriving nexus of culture, history, and entertainment and offers plenty for visitors to do. In Old Town, history fanatics will love visiting the several 16th-century fountains, as well as the spectacularly conceived cathedral that overshadows the district. A medieval clock known in the native tongue as the Zytglogge is located in the city center. The ingenuity of this landmark is remarkable, and if you visit it, you will not be able to look away from the mechanical puppets that come out at various times to play. The Zytglogge, a 13th-century construction, has functioned variously as a guard tower, prison, and city clock of the 8 centuries that it has stood. Another cathedral of national importance is the Bern Minster, located in the city center, as well. Built in 1421 in the Gothic style, the Bern Minster gives travelers a glimpse into the country's storied past. It's the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, welcoming thousands of travelers through its doors every year.
Leaving Bern in the morning, you can travel south to Gruyeres on the A12. This medieval town has kept much of its historical character over the past 800 years, so you will have plenty to keep you busy while you visit. Built from 1270 to 1282, Gruyeres Castle continues to function at the center of the town's life, serving as an event center and concert hall for visitors to the town. The work of H.R. Giger, a surrealist painter is housed in the H.R. Giger museum in the historic Chateau St. Germain, which sits next to another local museum that holds artifacts from ancient Tibet. Perhaps the name of the town even sounds familiar to you; that's because you've probably eaten some of the cheese that is made in the region: Gruyere cheese. Not only will you get to sample some of the region's cheese, but you may also come across some authentic Swiss chocolate at one of the many chocolatiers in the area.
As Gruyeres recedes in your rearview mirror, take the road that leads through the Jaunpass mountain pass to get to the town of Lauterbrunnen. As the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's City of Rivendell, you can probably imagine the magic that is contained in this town. Once you see it, you will understand why Tolkien wanted to house his wisest creatures in a town like Lauterbrunnen. While you are in the area, you can also check out the resort town of Wengen, which is just a short train ride away. Only a few cars are allowed to drive in Wengen - commercial and public transport vehicles - to create a peaceful and quiet atmosphere for guests of the town. Sitting in the shadows of the Monsch, Eiger, and Jungfrau mountains, this idyllic little resort is a great place to stop and relax.
Should you choose to, you can take an extra day and visit the Aletsch Glacier in southern Switzerland. From Lauterbrunnen, you can take the 6 highway to connect to the 19, which will bring you to Fiesch, where a cable car will take you up into the mountains to see the glacier. The largest glacier in the Alps, the Aletsch is a stunningly beautiful sight. Lodge for the night in one of the many hotels near Fiesch, or continue your journey to Lucerne.
From Lauterbrunnen, follow the A8 north to the city of Lucerne. This historic city today serves as the center of government of Central Switzerland. You will be treated to sights of historical buildings, spectacular views of the Lake below the mountain, and many other attractions. Perhaps the most well-known visitor attraction is the Kappelbrücke (Chapel Bridge) which spans the River Reuss. This footbridge houses several paintings from the 17th century that serve to show the daily life of the people of that time. The Kappelbrücke is the oldest covered footbridge in Europe, dating back to 1333 when its construction was started.
As you say goodbye to Lucerne, make your way to Altdorf along the A8 to connect to the A2. Altdorf is where the story of William Tell originated, and as the tale suggests, it is a town with an interesting history. The towering mountains that shoot up around the town are truly magnificent and intimidating. Just north of Altdorf is the town of Schwyz (which is speculated to be the namesake of Switzerland). Here you can visit the Forum of Swiss History and learn all about William Tell and Swiss history, including the history of the Swiss Army knife, the factory of which is located in town.
As you leave Altdorf behind you, take the A3/A13 via the A4 and Route 8 to reach Landquart. This small municipality may not seem like much, but for a short stopover, it has plenty to offer travelers. Built along the banks of the Rhine River, Landquart has a few great places to eat and a few historical attractions, as well. The Marschlins Castle, located in the old part of town called Igis, dates to the 13th century. From the top of its tower, you can take in a view of the quaint town and watch the Rhine River flow slowly by as you prepare for your final day's journey to Val Mustair.
The final day of your trip takes you from Lanquart to Val Mustair on Route 28. The primary tourist attraction of the area is the Benedictine Convent of St. John, which was established over 1000 years ago by the bishop of Chur in the year 780. If this building could talk, the stories it would tell would be astounding. Supposedly, Charlemagne ordered it to be built when he tried to spread Christianity to Switzerland. A tower was added to the church in the 10th century, and in the 12th century, the residents that occupied the grounds changed from monks to nuns. The Swabian War also occurred near the site, in the surrounding mountain passes. At the beginning of the 16th century, the church was restructured in the late Gothic style.
The cultures and languages of Val Mustair differ from that of the rest of Switzerland, primarily because it is only accessible by a single road through the Swiss National park. It is situated in the easternmost reaches of Switzerland, bordering Italy, and German and Italian are spoken there. Romasch, a Romance language only spoken in this region, is also one of the major languages in use in the area. Val Mustair is isolated from much of the modern world and offers travelers a relaxing place to find themselves in at the end of a vacation.
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