Countries: Switzerland, Italy
Cities: Lucerne, Lauterbrautten, Wengen, Männlichen, Grindelwald, Bellagio (Lake Como), Varenna (Lake Como), Verona, Milan
Highlights: Mount Pilatus, Mt. Rigi, Villa Melzi, Villa Bablianello, Verona Arena
As a travel blogger, you just know I couldn’t do an easy, laid-back Honeymoon. Our journey had started in London for a friend’s wedding, but as we were with friends the whole time, we didn’t really consider that the beginning of our Honeymoon. Only until we arrived in Switzerland did the real romance and adventure begin! From epic hikes to stunning towns, Switzerland was magical. Followed by the history and food of Italy, this itinerary has something for everyone!
First Things First: Train Passes in Switzerland
Switzerland is renowned for their amazing rail system. There are many options for different train passes and I did a TON of research to try and determine the best one for us. Luckily, I did the work so you don’t have to. 🙂
Tell-Pass vs Swiss Travel Pass: Which One is the Best??
There are A LOT of options for travel passes in Switzerland and if you want to know the answer to which one is the best, well, it depends. For THIS itinerary, since we are based in Lucerne, the Tell-Pass in the CLEAR winner for rail passes. It offers various transportation options throughout the Lucerne and the Central Switzerland region, as well as scenic rides, and we used it plenty. However, if you are going to be moving around Switzerland, consider looking at the Swiss Travel Pass or one of the various other passes offered in Switzerland.
Additionally, check with your hotel for discounts! Our hotel offered a Buy-One-Get-One FREE Tell Pass, so it definitely ended up being cheaper in the long run.
Day 1: Arrival in Lucerne, Switzerland
As we were coming from London, this travel day was shorter than typical for us. We landed in Zurich and purchased a train ticket from Zurich to Lucerne (the Tell Pass does NOT include transportation from Zurich so this was an additional fee). The Swiss transportation system was by far the easiest and most efficient transportation system I’ve ever encountered, so I highly recommend using it!
Upon arrival in Lucerne, we had to go to the Visitors Center to collect our Tell Pass. Again, this was easy to find and your receipt should tell you where to go. We also had heard how expensive drinks were, so we stopped by Drinks of the World in the train station and picked up some supplies for later.
As we exited the station and headed towards our hotel, we were immediately blown away with how clean and beautiful Lucerne is.
Although this blog typically features cheaper accommodations, since it was my honeymoon, we decided to splurge. For this part of our trip, we stayed in Hotel des Balances, which was absolutely gorgeous. Just check out the view from our balcony!
After wandering around the streets of Lucerne for a bit, we found a cozy Italian spot for dinner – Pizzeria Weisses Kreuz. I will be honest, this was one of the BEST meals of the entire trip. It was SO delicious and nestled on a beautiful, quiet street.
The rest of the night was spent sipping some drinks on the balcony and having a relaxing evening.
Day 2: Exploring Lucerne
Just a heads up. EVERYTHING is expensive in Switzerland. Like, very expensive. Yes we were on our honeymoon, but we didn’t want to spend $50/person on every meal. So what did we do? Back to the train station! On the bottom level of the train station is a shopping mall with tons of shops, including an amazing on-the-go grocery store. We picked up delicious croissants, sandwiches, drinks, and a variety of snacks at a fraction of the cost of eating out. We did this almost EVERY DAY and the food was always SO good. So if you’re cheap like us, definitely check out this option!
After grabbing some Ham and Cheese pinwheels from the aforementioned train station, and eating them along the riverbank, we decided to follow this self-guided walking tour. We passed through old town squares, over various covered bridges, and eventually up the Musegg Wall Walk. I will recommend this tour EVERY TIME. We saw pretty much every notable site in Lucerne and were able to do it at our own pace (without the crowds!).
The Musegg Wall Walk was probably the highlight of this tour. The views from the wall were just stunning and there were many towers to climb and explore.
The walking tour will then take you up to the Lowendenkmal, or famous Lion Monument. Mark Twain once wrote, “The Lion of Lucerne (is) the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.” It is a little bit out of the way, but is certainly quite impressive.
From there, the tour brings you back to the main harbor and bridge area. It had started to rain so we too shelter under a covered bridge!
For dinner, we decided to splurge a little bit and went to Schiff. The restaurant was lovely and we were able to eat on the patio. We tried some traditional Swiss food which was great!
After that, we watched the beautiful sunset over Lucerne from the hotel balcony.
Day 3: Mount Pilatus Self-Guided Day Trip AND Mt. Rigi
Today we REALLY get to use the Tell Pass! With the amount of steps in this trip, I was a bit overwhelmed, but using this blog post really helped (Note: we did the backwards of the itinerary listed here). And having everything included with the Tell Pass was just the cherry on top! Be sure to pack a jacket as it gets cold on the top of the mountain!
Step 1: Lucerne to Kriens via bus
We started the day bright and early as we wanted to beat the crowds. We wanted to be on the first Cable Car from Kriens (check the timetable here) so we hopped on the first bus out of Lucerne from the bus station. It is a short 10-15 minute bus ride. From the bus station in Kriens, it is about a 5-10 minute walk to the Cable Car (signs are well-maintained and obvious).
Step 2: Kriens to Fräkmüntegg via cable car
The next leg of our journey brings us up the mountain via cable car. Note that you must get your ticket for the cable car at the service desk in Kriens, even if using the Tell Pass. If you tell them you are doing the whole loop, you will get your tickets for the entire day. Do not lose them!!
The next stop is Fräkmüntegg, but honestly, once you get on the cable car, there’s not really anywhere else to go. The ride up the mountain is smooth and peaceful, and the cable cars can each fit about 6 people. We met another American couple on our ride up – yay, new friends!
Once in Fräkmüntegg, depending on the time of year, you can take a toboggan ride. We decided against this as we already had a packed day planned. From Fräkmüntegg, we got onto the next leg, the gondola to Pilatus.
Step 3: Fräkmüntegg to Pilatus via gondola
From the small cable car to the giant gondola! These gondolas felt like they could fit 50 people! Since we were there early, we had plenty of room to move around, but they were fast-moving and RIGHT next to the mountain. Definitely a bit scarier than the leg before it, but there were beautiful views on all sides.
Exploring Mt. Pilatus!
We finally made it to the top! At the top of the mountain, there is a gift shop and hotel with cafe and various hiking trails of different intensities and lengths. We looked at a trail map and then just started walking around! The views are in every direction so you really can’t go wrong.
I highly recommend hiking to Tomlishorn. We heard the cowbells ringing the entirety of this hike, and the whole thing felt very quintessential “Switzerland”. We even saw lots of bighorn sheep!
Step 4: Pilatus to Alpnachstad via cogwheel trail
After a quick lunch stop at the top (with lunch from the train staion!), it was time to head back down. The next stop was Alpnachstad via the cogwheel train. Again, directions were very easy and it was a nice ride. We saw many hikers hiking up, so if you’re REALLY into hiking and have plenty of time, consider hiking to the top! Note: this is the steepest cogwheel train in the world!!
Step 5: Alpnachstad to Lucerne via boat
Once you arrive at the bottom of the mountain, it’s a quick walk over to the boat dock. The boat ride back to Lucerne is about an hour and a half, but it’s a beautiful ride and a great time to relax and decompress.
By the time we arrived back in Lucerne, it was only about 12:30pm and we had nothing scheduled for the rest of the day. They said it CAN’T or SHOULDN’T be done, but we did! I wanted to see Mt. Rigi and I was determined to fit it in.
Mt. Rigi via Arth-Goldau (cogwheel)
Again, this is all included in the Tell Pass, so travel was a breeze! Normally it’s recommended to take the boat, but because we were short on time, we took the train to Arth-Goldau. From Arth-Goldau, there is another cogwheel train to Rigi Kulm. This train was a bit older and bumpier than Pilatus, but still very enjoyable.
From Mt. Rigi, our plan was just to keep hiking down the Cliff Walk either all the way to the bottom, or until Viznau (train station).
This was probably one of my FAVORITE hikes of the entire trip. There were a lot fewer people than Pilatus, the views were expansive, and the hike was easy. There were lots of side trails to explore and we had one of the BEST views on one of these side trails (plus, it was all to ourselves!). Check out the map here for viewpoints. Rotstock was my absolute favorite!
Following the trail down to Viznau, we saw SO many cows and heard the bells from all directions. They were so much fun!
Eventually we decided it was time to head back, so we took the train to Viznau, and then the ferry back to Lucerne (again, all included in the Tell Pass). It was a long day, but totally worth it! That night we had a relaxing dinner in Lucerne.
Day 4: Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Männlichen and Grindelwald
Finally, the day had come that I had planned the whole trip around! I had seen pictures of Lauterbrunnen online years ago and knew one day I’d have to go see it in person. Unfortunately the Tell Pass does not cover the entire route from Lucerne to Lauterbrunnen, but it does get you most of the way there! We took the early train from Lucerne to Interlaken OST, and then from there transferred to Lauterbrunnen (with an additional ticket purchase). The train ride was SO scenic, so it went quickly.
Once we arrived in Lauterbrunnen, it was very easy to follow the crowd to the main part of town. Everything was in walking distance, so we explored this beautiful town for about a half hour. It had not rained in some time, so the waterfall was not as magnificent as I’ve seen in pictures, but still, this was a magical place. It’s said that Rivendell from Lord of the Rings was inspired by Lauterbrunnen!
From Lauterbrunnen, we took the cogwheel train up to the next stop, Wengen. You can also hike it if you are feeling adventurous! But it’s an inexpensive and quick ride so we opted for the more relaxing version.
Wengen is another adorable quintessential Swiss village that looks down onto Lauterbrunnen. We spent more time just wandering around with no real destination in mind.
Next, we grabbed the gondola from Weggen to Männlichen (going up, up, up!). Note that none of the trains/gondolas today were booked in advance and there were plenty of tickets available, but we were also there early in the morning. Once we reached Männlichen, we were greeted with expansive views. There was also a café up there, but we had again brought lunch from the train station.
After a quick lunch, we started following the trail down the other side of the mountain towards Kleine Scheidegg. There were again many cows, views of the Jungrau Region, and the Eiger. It was truly stunning and should NOT be missed.
Eventually we hopped on the train at Kleine Scheidegg, which we took to Grindelwald. At that point we were too exhausted to explore Grindelwald anymore, so we hopped on the train back to Lucerne and took in the views from the train.
Upon arrival back in Lucerne, we showered and found a dinner spot for our last night in Switzerland.
Day 5: Lucerne, Switzerland to Bellagio, Italy
Travel Day! After all of the very easy and efficient travel throughout Switzerland, we were not quite as pleased with Italian travel. There are several ways to make the trip from Lucerne to Bellagio, but we opted for a mix of scenery and efficiency.
First we took the train from Lucerne to Como san Giovanni via Goschenen. We booked our tickets in advance on the SBB website. Make sure to book via Goschenen to get the old Gotthard Panoramic train route into the mountains!
Once we arrived in Como san Giovanni, we were supposed to take a bus to Bellagio. However, we waited for about 2 hours and that never came. Eventually, we ended up walking down to the ferry dock (about a ten minute walk from the train station) and hopped on a ferry to Bellagio. This was a bit more expensive, but it was a nice ride at least.
I have to admit, Como San Giovanni did not feel the safest, and there was no one really helping any tourists out. We tried to find someone to ask about the bus, but the ticket people could not answer us. We eventually got the tip about the ferry from a kiosk worker, but even then they could not tell us where exactly to go or how to purchase tickets or what time anything left. (PS – you can purchase tickets for the ferry at the ferry dock. Time tables can be found here). Overall, this travel day was a bit of a mess, but we eventually made it to Bellagio!
We stayed in this Airbnb which was a little bit out of the way, but had absolutely beautiful views. Note there are A LOT of hills in Bellagio, so get ready to work your glutes!
After checking into our Airbnb, it was time for dinner. We had our first dinner at Restaurant La Terrazza, which had a beautiful view, but the food was just alright.
The rest of the night was spent aimlessly wandering Bellagio and getting a sense of how the town was laid out. We stopped in a few cute gift shops and got the first of many gelatos. 🙂
Day 6: Exploring Bellagio and Villa Melzi
As we like to be frugal wherever we go, we decided to run to the grocery store and stock up on groceries. A quick google search brought us to this grocery market, a 10 minute walk away. It was actually a beautiful walk – past villas and olive trees.
After stocking up, we went to the Visitors Center and picked up a free walking tour guide (which can also be found here). We asked if there were any events going on in town, and were actually surprised to find out that a local festival would be happening in a couple of days! (More to come on that later, but definitely recommend asking while you’re here). We then explored the cobblestone alleyways and main historical sites, including San Giacomo church.
Next we made our way towards Villa Melzi, the closest villa to Bellagio with beautiful surrounding botanical gardens. The interior is not open to the public, and there is a small entrance fee to explore the gardens. I think it was worth it, as the gardens were quite expansive.
Next we were on a mission to find the best pizza in Bellagio. La Grotta had great reviews and although there was a bit of a wait, it was amazing!
Next we took the Bellagio Tourist Train to learn a little bit more about what there was to do and see. To be honest, the audio on the train was not great, and it was hard to hear most of what the guide was saying, but it WAS nice to rest our feet for a bit. It was inexpensive and can be used as a hop on/hop off situation. It’s only a half hour ride. Would I do it again? Probably not, but check it out if you’re bored!
After that, we went back to the Airbnb, prepared for dinner and headed back to town. What we did not do, but I recommend that you do, is make reservations. We had to stop at several restaurants before being able to find one that can squeeze us in, and even then, we had to wait a very long time.
That night, we drank our own cocktails on the deck of the Airbnb and just took in the beauty of Italy.
Day 7: Villa Boat Tour and Varenna
Why else do people come to Lake Como other than to look at the beautiful villas? A boat tour is a great way to do just that. There are several options for boat tours, but we decided on the one hour tour. It was a great way to determine what else to explore. The tour was short and sweet. We learned about the famous villas and who lived there, and how to get back if we wanted to explore more.
Once back in Bellagio, we decided we wanted to explore Villa Balbianello a little more. This villa is famous for being featured in several films, including Star Wars. We took the ferry to Lenno, and from there it was a 20 minute walk up to the entrance. Unfortunately, because we booked so late, we could not get a guided tour, but we were able to walk the grounds by ourselves. So book in advance if this is a must for you!
From there, you can hire a water taxi back to the Lenno ferry dock, which we did. We got the boat to ourselves and felt like royalty for a quick minute!
From Lenno, we were able to go to Varenna via Bellagio using the ferry. Varenna certainly had a different feel to it than Bellagio, but we loved it as well! It was charming, but QUITE crowded.
We walked around and explored Varenna for a bit, grabbed some lunch at a local café and then headed on the ferry back to Bellagio.
Once back in Bellagio, we decided to find the local festival that the local guide at the visitor’s center had told us about a few days before. It was a little bit confusing to find, but we eventually found it. I am not exaggerating when I saw this was LOCAL. No one spoke English at all and we had no idea what was happening. We somehow managed to order food and pay by following what other people were doing, and sat down at a random table.
Initially, it was AWKWARD. We wanted to leave, but also wanted to experience it. We didn’t know what to do. So we walked around for a bit before finding another young couple that looked just as out of place as us. Turns out, they knew English and Italian! What happened after was one of the best experiences of the entire trip. We ended up doing local dances with the Italians, singing native songs (as best we could), and just in general feeling like a real local. The people welcomed us, even though we didn’t speak the same language, and it was just a magical night.
Day 8: Bellagio to Milan
Unfortunately, it was time to leave Bellagio. There is no direct route from Bellagio to Milan, so we had to catch a ferry to Varenna and then get the train from there. NOTE that your ticket must be stamped in Varenna to validate it. We did not do this and had to pay for ANOTHER ticket on the train (this seems very scammy to me, but I wasn’t going to fight the conductor).
We took the train to Lanza Metro station in Milan, as it was closer to our lodging for the rest of the trip. Brera looked very charming and walkable, so we decided to base ourselves there. The rest of the day was spent exploring Milan. We walked to the Duomo di Milano, through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and to the Sforzesco Castle. There are several tour options to take here – we didn’t take any as I had already been to Milan and done them, but I highly recommend going to the top of the Duomo! More ideas for what to see in one day can be found here.
For dinner, we found a charming pizzeria in Brera (with free welcome drinks!). There are plenty of options to choose from, so just walk around, check out some menus, and go with your gut!
Day 9: Day Trip to Verona
As it was my husband’s first time in Italy, I wanted him to see some real Roman ruins. Milan has some, but not a ton, and Rome was too far for a day trip. So we decided to check out Verona!
It was an easy train ride from Milan to Verona. Once in Verona, we were able to just walk everywhere. The first stop was the Verona Arena, which looks like a smaller version of the Roman Coliseum. There was a long line, but while waiting in line, we actually purchased our tickets online and were able to stroll right in.
While not as big as the Roman Coliseum, this arena is still VERY impressive (and they host concerts/events there)! We explored on our own and loved every minute of it.
Next, we decided to take a Hop On-Hop Off bus, because what would a city tour be without one of these? We learned a lot of interesting history about Verona, including seeing a bridge built in 100 B.C!
The bus even took us to the top of Verona for a bird’s eye view. I definitely recommend this tour!
After the tour, we decided to see the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Juliet’s house is apparently in Verona, and you can go see the balcony for free (or pay for an inside tour). While fun to see, this was SO crowded you could barely move. It was a little underwhelming for me, but if you’re a big Shakespeare fan, go check it out! There’s also a Juliet statue in the courtyard, and you can rub her breast for good luck!
After that, we wandered the streets some more and came across some old Roman ruins literally under the street. I thought this was so cool!
Eventually, we took the train back to Milan and grabbed our last dinner in Italy. Of course it had to be yet ANOTHER pizza.
Day 10: Fly Home
After all of the adventure, it was time to make our way back to the United States. We decided on an Uber to the airport (trains with luggage = not a good time) and said “Ciao” to Italia. Overall, our honeymoon was a mixture of sightseeing, hiking, relaxation, and eating, so 100% a great time! Now onto the next adventure!