day 1Arise early to battle your way through the chaos of airport security and catch an early morning flight into Zurich (ZRH). The airport is less than 20 minutes from the Old Town, so you can still make the most of the day! Check-in at the hotel, lather on the sunscreen (I don't know if it's the elevation or sunlight reflecting off the lake, but if your not carful you will get fried), grab your camera and hit the streets. My first day in any new city is set aside for exploring - just walk, walk, walk and take it all in. I am not one for making too many plans on vacation. Plans mean structure, and structure means you do not have time to venture off the beaten path because you're sprinting to make your reservation.
day 2Now that we have our bearings in the city, it's time to explore the surrounding countryside. Just north of Zurich you'll find Rhine Falls in Schloss Laufen near Schaffhausen (two towns which are as fun to say as they are to visit). The falls are Europe's biggest, and worth the trip as they are less than 1 hour from Zurich Hauptbahnhof (HB) train station to Schloss Laufen. After visiting the falls, dine at one of the outdoor restaurants near the falls' ticket office. Post lunch, follow the well-marked walking path along the water towards Schaffhausen. The walk takes about 45 minutes and is totally worth the peace and quiet. If you are not up for a 45 minute return journey, catch a local bus back to the falls for a few francs. PS - Be sure to check the return train schedule to Zurich HB, you do not want to miss the last train 'home'.
day 3 - option aFor those looking to maximize their experience in Switzerland - your next stop is Lucerne. There are 3-4 trains per hour from Zurich HB directly into the heart of Lucerne. The train ride is short (45 minutes) and beautiful, as the tracks run parallel to several lake shorelines. Once in Lucerne there are a number of great sites: the Kapellebruecke, a cable-car over Lake Lucern, a climb through the old city walls, museums and lots of spots along the water to grab an afternoon cocktail.
day 3 - option bIf you want to stay closer to Zurich, but explore the lake opt for a first class ticket on the lake's public transport boat, and take it all the way to the last stop: Rapperswill. The first class ticket gets you a top deck seat, complete with unparalleled views! The boat trip takes just over two hours, but they serve food and drinks, so just sit back and relax over a late breakfast.
hotels*Helvetia - great boutique hotel
*Hotel Continental Zurich - 6-8 minute walk to Old Town and Zurich HB, comfy bed, clean rooms (lobby is a bit dated)
*Hotel Rothaus - Central location and close to Zurich HB
*The Dolder Grand - A ritzy option! This is a true 5 star hotel with a swanky spa and lots of amenities. A short car ride from the city center, but the hotel has a great shuttle service other day trip ideas
*Take a train from the Zurich HB down to Lugano (next to the Italian border)
*Take a train from the Zurich HB to Geneva/ Montreau (next to the French border)
*Another alternative is to take the Swiss Glacier Express (heard it has rave reviews) through the Alps from St Moritz to Zermatt. The latter is home to the Matterhorn a.k.a. the inspiration for my husband's favorite Disneyland ride and the Chocolate Mountain on your Toblerone box...which brings me to chocolate. Zurich is home to world renowned chocolatiers such as Lindt and Sprüngli. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to book a tour>