Zürich is a great town, but there may come a time when you'd like to get away for a day's change of scenery. Switzerland's incredible transportation system makes it an obvious choice for such one-day out and back sojourns. Of course, if you have a Swiss Pass—or a Eurail Pass that includes Switzerland—you just hop aboard the next train departing from Zürich's busy main rail station, grab a seat, and away you go—reservations are almost never needed in Switzerland and the frequency of service is amazing. Here are four suggested one-day destinations.
Michelin calls this town, built beneath Munot Fortress on terraces along the Rhine, and mostly ignored by North American visitors, one of the most attractive in Switzerland.
What to See:
- Altstadt. Dozens of intricately designed oriel windows, extensive rococo façades and eye-filling Renaissance frescoes.
- The Rheinfall. Europe's largest waterfall (500 feet across, 70 feet high), is reached in seven minutes from Schaffhausen via Bus 1, direction Neuhausen. Take the boat to the base of the falls (CHF 6.50 adults, CHF 3.50 children).
- Stein am Rhein. This nearby village features a gorgeous, fairy-tale town square with painted façades on 15th-century buildings along three sides facing the 16th-century Rathaus. Trains to Stein am Rhein leave Schaffhausen every half-hour. The trip takes 25 minutes and another five minutes on foot to the old town.
Lunch: Hotel Rheinfels, Stein am Rhein, Rhygasse 8, tel. 0527/424 242
Getting There: One-way rail fare, CHF 18 - 29; one-way travel time, 56 minutes; frequency, about every 30 minutes.
Though not a preserved museum of the Rothenburg/Gruyères genre, St. Gallen's Altstadt has considerable charm with many fine 16C and 18C houses with painted façades. The main attractions here, however, are the Abbey's Library and Cathedral, which dates to 720.
For hundreds of years the city's main business has been textiles and many of France's leading couture houses come to St. Gallen for their fabrics. If it wished, St. Gallen could lay claim to being the brassiere capital of Europe as 65% of the total Swiss production of embroidery is in ladies' lingerie.
What to See:
- Textile Museum. The exhibition of hand-embroidered lace on the museum's upper floor is not to be missed.
- Stiftsbibliothek. The Abbey's rococo library rates three stars —"worth a journey." Its treasures have remained essentially intact over the centuries.
- Cathedral. Similar in style to — and matching the grandeur of — the great Baroque churches of southern Germany.
Lunch: Netts Schützengarten, St. Jacobstrasse 35, tel. 426 677, or Neubad, Bankgasse 6, tel. 228 683
Getting There: One-way fare, CHF 27 - 45; one-way travel time, 65 minutes; frequency, about every 30 minutes.
Perhaps the most beautiful city in Switzerland, and the most popular with tourists. A favorite of Queen Victoria's and the part-time home of composers Richard Wagner and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
What to See:
- The Old Town. A network of old houses, squares, and churches including the Collegiate Church, an important Renaissance building, and the Baroque Jesuit Church, make for a pleasant stroll.
- Kapellbrücke. Medieval-style, covered, pedestrian bridge over the Reuss River, the oldest wooden bridge in Europe, built in 1333. Destroyed by fire in 1993 but meticulously restored.
- Museum of Swiss Transportation. The complex of modern buildings includes a Rail Transport section featuring old trains of all descriptions — electric, steam gas and diesel — and a number of cable lifts, old and new; an Aeronautics section, and Navigation section. Aeronautics has several outdoor exhibits including the first Swissair Lockheed six-passenger airliner, a faithful Douglas DC-3, and a few jetliners. Navigation has an amazing collection of ship models: sailing ships, container ships, ocean liners, and some full-sized lifeboats. (Lidostrasse 5, reached in 10 minutes by #2 bus from the train station).
- Museum of Art Lucerne (Kunstmuseum) designed by Jean Nouvel. Features mainly Swiss art from the Renaissance to the present day. The museum is probably best known as part of an architecturally-celebrated lakeside complex that includes a concert hall and congress center.
- Richard Wagner House. The composer lived here in his "Haus Tribschen" from 1866 to 1872 with Cosima von Bülow, daughter of Franz Liszt, and where he composed Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. (Wagnerweg 27, open Mar. 15-Nov. 30, 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm)
Lunch: Hotel Wilden Mann, Bahnhofstrasse 30, tel. 412 101 666; Hotel Rebstock, St Leodegarstr. 3, tel. 414 103 581
Getting There: One-way fare, CHF 22 - 37; one-way travel time, 50 minutes; frequency, about every 30 minutes.
A pilgrimage town chiefly interesting for its magnificent and gigantic Klosterkirche, a Benedictine monastery built early in the 18th century. Michelin says it's "worth a detour." The rest of the town is unremarkable but deserves a 30-45 minute stroll.
What to See:
- Klosterkirche (Abbey Church). The breathtaking interior is mostly the work of the Asam brothers, the same duo who designed Munich's Asam Church. See the tiny, but stunning, chapel of the "Black Madonna," and the Grosser Saal, the Abbey's Great Hall, on the second floor of the monastery. Follow the signs around to the right.
Lunch: Linde, Schmiedenstrasse 28, tel. 0554 184 848, or the terrace of Hotel Drei Könige, with it's view of the Klosterplatz backdropped by the imposing monastery and church.
Getting There: One-way fare, CHF 16 - 27; one-way travel time, 49 minutes; frequency, about every 30 minutes.