I can’t believe this was my first time exploring Switzerland and I just scratched the surface by visiting Bex, Montreux, Sion and Villars. The towns are all on the French-speaking west side of the country, and if these beauties are anything to go by, I’ll definitely be back.
This was the first time I have attempted a solo trip with my little adventurer and we made our base in Bex. The town is just an hour-and-a-half by direct train from Geneva Airport. The train journey itself is very scenic, passing Lake Geneva along the way, which is absolutely stunning. (Even though my little adventurer was more interested in pointing at the stone wall we could see through the opposite window of the carriage!)
Bex is a small town, with a population of just over 6,200, but it makes a great base for getting to the surrounding areas, as it has good public transport links, including a tram which goes all the way up into the mountains, ending in the fancy ski resort of Villars.
It also has a number of good resturants, bakeries and supermarkets, if you’re looking to keep food costs down.
What I also loved about Bex is that it’s surrounded by mountains, so in just a short 20 minute walk you are up in the hills walking though picturesque villages, which wouldn’t look out of place on a filmset.
Top tip to save money when exploring Switzerland: Pre-book your train ticket on the Swiss Rail website to buy it at a reduced price. But beware, you MUST then take the exact train you’ve booked.
Any trip to the area isn’t complete without a visit to beautiful Villars. Of course, the main attraction for this area is the ski slopes around it and it’s a great place to people-spot the rich and fabulous as they head up into the mountains.
But even if you’re not skiing, which let’s face it, I definitely wasn’t going to be attempting with a baby(!), it’s a lovely place to wander around, have a coffee and enjoy the gorgeous views. You can get to it directly from Bex via a little tram which runs up and down the mountain every hour.
Top tip to save money when exploring Switzerland: Restaurants in Villars are pricey. But it’s worth popping into a coffee shop or bakery for a coffee or a snack, which isn’t too expensive, as it’s the best way to make the most of the views. If you are eating out, a number of restaurants in Switzerland also serve set menus at lunchtime, which are good value.
Home to the world-famous jazz festival, Montreux is a gorgeous town on the banks of Lake Geneva.
The weather was so warm and sunny on the day we visited and the sunlight was bouncing on the water. It really felt as though it was putting on a show for us.
Along the tree-lined lakeside promenade, a statue of Freddy Mercury draws the crowds and there are lots of lovely restaurants with the best views in town.
Further along the lake is Chillon Castle, another fairytale-esque building, jutting out into the lake, surrounded by mountains.
Top tip to save money when exploring Switzerland: Nature costs nothing and it really is the great outdoors that is the main selling point of Switzerland. Hiking, cycling or just sitting by the lake with a great book all cost nothing and we found most days we spent very little as we took a packed lunch out with us and cooked dinner at our apartment in the evening.
The historic town of Sion, is famous for its two castles which perch on opposite hilltops overlooking the town. Castle Tourbillon (Chateau de Tourbillon) and the Castle of Valeria (also known as Basilique de Valere) look pretty majestic as you wind your way up the cobbled streets to reach them.
A warning to parents though – it is not the most practical visitor attraction for pram users, as there are a LOT of steps to and from them. I ended up just leaving our pushchair at the bottom and carrying the little adventurer up in a sling. But the views from the top are definitely worth it.
The castles themselves are warrens of ancient passageways and the Castle of Valeria has one of the oldest working organs in the world.
Top tip to save money when exploring Switzerland: Like a number of tourist attractions in the country, entry to the castles in Sion is free. So if you take a packed lunch for the day all you need to pay is your train fare.
As I said in my previous post, travelling with a baby definitely means slowing down, so we really only scratched the surface of the area and I’d love to return and explore more. But what my taster visit did was reassure me that you don’t need to spend a fortune when exploring Switzerland and we’ll definitely be back to see more some day!
For more money-saving tips for Switzerland, this is a great article from Lonely Planet.
Have you ever been exploring in Switzerland? What other areas would you recommend visiting?
If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read some more of my European adventures, such as how to see an opera in Italy without breaking the bank or Breaking down boundaries in Berlin.