Pristine lakes, medieval castles and Belle Epoque trains whisking you away to tiny mountain villages. The canton of Vaud is choc-a-bloc with adventures that will charm even the most world-weary soul. Everything you need to know to spend 3 days in Switzerland exploring the Vaud region in summer.
We spent a marvelous 3 days in Switzerland during the month of August discovering the French-speaking Vaud Canton in Western Switzerland. To travel as sustainably as possible, we decided to skip renting a car and instead traveled around by boat, train and bus. It was surprisingly easy and goodness me do the Swiss know how to make public transportation fabulous! More on that later.
We were hit with a bout of bad weather during our stay. The good news is that this 3-day Switzerland itinerary is both rain and sun-proof. It contains hiking options when the skies are blue as well as tried & tested plan b activities should you find yourself facing a torrential downpour.
Visiting Switzerland in three days: A brief summary
HOW TO GET AROUND: Swiss Travel Pass. This pass gives you unlimited access to train, bus and boats as well as 500+ museums. Kids under 16 years old travel for free.
WHAT TO PACK – in summer: Hiking boots & a rainjacket for the mountains, a bathing suit for Lake Geneva, a reusable water bottle (tap water is drinkable), a light sweater for the chilly evenings in the mountains and finally one or two outfits that can be worn while exploring the city of Lausanne.
USEFUL READING: Learn about how the country is promoting sustainable travel through their Swisstainable campaign.
Practical details for visiting the Vaud Switzerland region
Where is the Vaud Region?
Switzerland is divided into 26 different regions called cantons. The Vaud region, or Vaud canton, is located in the Western part of Switzerland bordering France.
Colloquially the area is also known as the Lake Geneva region, aptly named after the pristine ice blue lake which stretches from Geneva to Lausanne and further afield.
The capital of the Vaud Region is the vibrant city of Lausanne.
What language is spoken?
Within the Vaud region, the language spoken is French, although most locals are also fluent in English
Best time to visit the Vaud Canton?
The region is a year-round destination, with some of the country’s finest skiing slopes for winter and most picturesque boat rides in summer. It depends on what strikes your fancy, personally, I am not a big fan of winter sports, therefore, I chose to go in summer.
- Average summer temperature in Lausanne: 25°C / 77°F
- Average winter temperature Lausanne: 5°C/ 41°F
How to get to the Vaud Region
For most visitors, the entry point to the Vaud Region will be from its capital Lausanne.
TRAIN: Lausanne is very well connected to surrounding countries and cities via a network of local and international (high-speed trains). We took the TGV Lyria in from Paris which got is there in a matter of hours. Check train schedules and compare prices in advance via Omio.
FLY: While Lausanne has a small airport, it might be easier to fly into the larger Geneva Airport (GVA) and from there hop on a train to Lausanne (direct trains run multiple times an hour and take between 45 min to 1 hour). Check train schedules and compare prices in advance via Omio.
3 Days in Switzerland Itinerary
Vaud Switzerland is jam-packed with many things to do for every season. This itinerary is focused on spring, summer and the beginning of autumn.
DAY ONE: Arrival in Lausanne, Chateax- d’Oex, Belle Epoque train/ Panoramic train, Montreux, Chillon Castle
DAY TWO: Villars, Bex Salt Mines, Solalex
DAY THREE: Lausanne, Lavaux Region, Departure from Lausanne
Before you go: Avoid the hassle and purchase your Swiss Travel Pass in advance to give you access to all public transportation across Switzerland.
Things to do in the canton of Vaud for 3 days
From hiking in nature to exploring medieval castles, there is plenty of things to do in Vaud for both young and old. The below 3-day Vaud itinerary explains where to sleep, what to do and which public transportation to take between the various activities.
You might notice that certain days have an alternative itinerary included. The alternative itinerary contains places to see in Vaud when the weather is bright and sunny.
3 Days in Switzerland: Day One
We arrived in the canton of Vaud Switzerland from Lausanne. Leaving Lausanne behind immediately, we set off to the little village of Château-d’Oex. Due to a bout of bad weather, our initial plans to hike were derailed and we opted instead to head directly out to Montreux (to see the Chillon Castle).
This meant we had to store our luggage for the day while exploring. Both Montreux and Château-d’Oex have luggage storage facilities in the station. They require payment in cash (Swiss Francs) so be sure to have some coins handy
Where to spend the night: Château-d’Oex or Montreux (depending on the weather)
Store your luggage: Montreux or Château-d’Oex station
MORNING: EXPLORE CHATEAU d’OEX & SURROUNDINGS
Getting there from Lausanne: Train from Montreux directly to Château-d’Oex (see below)
Our first stop during our 3 days in Switzerland was to the picturesque little village of Château-d’Oex. Dotted with quintessential Swiss wooden chalets and surrounded by verdant rolling hills and a few snowcapped mountains. It has remained wonderfully untouched by over-tourism and is the perfect spot for visitors to catch a glimpse of authentic Vaud hospitality.
What to do in Château-d’Oex
- Hiking: Château d’Oex is a great spot to do some hiking in Vaud. Sadly the weather was not in our favor so a hike was not possible. Fans of hiking might want to check out the various hiking trails on Komoot or head to the tourism office to pick up a brochure.
- Visit a cheese cellar: L’Etivaz cheese cellar is heaven for anyone who has a soft spot for cheese. Learn about the age-old production methods of the L’Etivaz alpine cheese, cultivated high up in the mountains by local farmers. Browse the cellars with hundreds of cheese wheels and try a few of the most famous Etivaz Cheeses. Entrance fee CHF 12 (12 USD). Tickets & opening hours
- Try locally produced specialties: Maison d’Hôtes Ermitage is a restaurant/B&B set in a beautifully renovated chalet and offers delicious farm-to-table meals (vegetarian options available). A typical Swiss fondue can be tried at Le Chalet.
- Hop on the train: Both the Belle Epoque and the Panoramic Train were one of my favorite things to do in Vaud. Scroll down to find all the info you need to book this train trip.
USE THE SWISS RAIL SYSTEM: TAKE A BELLE EPOQUE TRAIN OR PANORAMIC TRAIN TO MONTREUX
Tickets: Included in the Swiss Travel Pass or can be bought online in advance
Travel time: 1h10 minutes
Route: Montreux-Gstaad-Interlaken (and back)
Timetable: Both the Panoramic and Belle Epoque trains run daily and at fixed times. Consult the schedule online
This is what I meant when I said Switzerland by train is absolutely spectacular. To travel between Château-d’Oex and Montreux there are three options for trains. The regular train, the MOB Belle Epoque train (pictured left) or the MOB Panoramic train (pictured right). All three trains are included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
REGULAR TRAIN: The regular train runs multiple times an hour and is essentially nothing special. If you are on a budget and have not invested in the Swiss Travel Pass this is the best option. The views are spectacular! Tickets & timetables can be consulted online. No reservation is needed.
BELLE EPOQUE TRAIN: Step back into the Orient Express. The carriages exude radiant old-world charm and the seats are very plush. Travelers with a Swiss Travel Pass do not need to make a reservation, simply hop on the train. Single fair prices for travelers without the Swiss Travel Pass: 1st class – CHF 35 (35 USD); 2e class CHF 20 (20 USD). Kids under age of 16 ride for free.
PANORAMIC TRAIN: Large glass windows curve around the carriage, providing maximum visibility as the train cuts through the bucolic Swiss landscape. Travelers with a Swiss Travel Pass do not need to make a reservation, simply hop on the train. Single fair prices for travelers without the Swiss Travel Pass: 1st class – CHF 35 (35 USD); 2e class CHF 20 (20 USD). Kids under age of 16 ride for free.
AFTERNOON: VISIT MONTREUX & THE MEDIEVAL CHILLON CASTLE
Getting there from Montreux: Walk or Bus 201 (10 minutes) departing from Montreux station
Opening Hours & Address: Official website
Entrance Fee: Adults – CHF 13.5 (14 USD)
Tickets: Purchase in advance online
We stepped off the Belle Epoque Train, stored our luggage at the station of Montreux (storage boxes are located on platform one, cash only) and headed out to find our knight in shining armor. Or failing that, explore a wonderfully preserved Medieval Castle with views over Lake Geneva on the outskirts of Montreux.
Getting from Montreux to Chillon Castle makes for a wonderful 40-minute walk. Heading out of the station, we make our way toward the flower-lined promenade that hugs Lake Geneva. Montreux was once the countryside residence of the rich and the famous as is abundantly clear from the many beautiful, turn of 19th-century villas that line the 3-kilometer-long promenade.
Chillon has a long and rich history, starting off as a Roman outpost to guard the Alpine passes. The oldest part of the castle dates back all the way to the 10th century. The savoy family and the Bernese bailiffs are amongst its most illustrious historical inhabitants.
The history of the castle is remarkably well explained through the audio guide available on site. My favorite parts were the Gothic-vaulted ceilings of the underground prison and clambering up the narrow stairs to the dungeon tower for unimpeded views over Lake Geneva.
Good to know: Chillon Castle is the final stop on the 3-hour River Cruise between Lausanne and Montreux. The dock for the cruise is 400 meters from the entrance to Chillon Castle. The cruise docks at various little villages before heading to Lausanne. Depending on your schedule, this could be a great way to spend the rest of the afternoon.
Where to stay in Montreux: Ermitage is a charming boutique hotel with views over Lake Geneva.
3 Day Switzerland Itinerary: Day Two
We opted to head to Villars-sur-Ollon for the second day of the trip. This mountainous ski resort offers some of the Vaud region’s best hiking. Alas, the weather continued to pour down so we had to shift to plan B. I have however added the hike we initially planned to do below. Hope you get to go and enjoy it!
Where to spend the night: Villars-sur-Ollon (Villars Lodge)
Getting there from Montreux: Train from Montreux to Aigle, Bus 144 Aigle to Villars-sur-Orlons
MORNING: RELAX AT THE BAINS DE VILLARS
Entrance Fee: Adults CHF 25 (25 USD)
Opening Hours & Address: Official website
We started the second day of our 3-day trip to Switzerland by relaxing in Les Bains de Villars. It contains a wellness area with various saunas, a hammam, a panoramic outdoor pool and a cold-water pool. The entrance fee will grant you access to all the facilities as well as the 25-meter-long pool.
Massages and beauty treatments are available, booking in advance is advisable.
AFTERNOON: LEARN ABOUT SALT PRODUCTION IN THE VAUD REGION AT THE BEX SALT MINES
Getting there from Villars-sur-Ollon: 144 Bus to Aigle followed by the 115 bus to Salaz, Vers les Moulins
Entrance Fee: Adults CHF 24 (24 USD)
Length of Visit: 2 hours
Opening hours & online tickets: Official Website
I was a little skeptical at first to learn about salt production in the canton of Vaud. Having visited salt mines in the nearby Jura region in France. It turned out to be a really fun and interactive experience and one I highly recommend for both adults and kids.
The visit started off with an informative video about how Alpine Salt has been mined here for centuries. After the video, we fold ourselves into a little miners’ train which takes us into the heart of the mines. The temperature drops significantly (18°C/64°F), so bringing a jacket is advisable.
Inside the mine, we see how salt crystals are formed, are bedazzled by various gemstones that were found and see old utensils that were used back in the day for salt mining. After about 45 minutes we pile back into the tiny little train and set off for the entrance, where a tasting of various products containing Alpine Salt is offered (included in the ticket).
LATE AFTERNOON. HIKE AROUND SOLALEX
Getting there from Villars-sur-Ollon: Bus 161 direction Solalex
One of the main things to do in Vaud is hiking, and what better place to hike than in and around Solalex. Located between the Miroir d’Argentine and the Diablerets massif at an altitude of 1460 meters (4790 feet) high, the views are unbeatable from the minute you step foot off the bus.
Various hikes are indicated by yellow signs, clearly depicting the time and length. Alternatively, check out AllTrails for routes available in the region. When we arrive the mountains are shrouded in thick blankets of grey rainclouds. We opted to venture out alongside the river for an easy little hike.
After your hike, pop into the Solalex Refuge or Mirroire d’Argentine, locally run by the same patron who adheres to a strict farm-to-table policy for meals served. If you are planning to stay for a meal, make sure to book in advance as this is a favorite dining place of locals and tends to fill up quickly.
ALTERNATIVE ITINERARY – FULL DAY HIKING IN VAUD REGION
Getting there from Villars-sur-Ollon: Direct train direction Col-de-Bretaye
Length of hike: 15.5 km / 9.6mi)
Route of hike: Bretaye – Taveyanne – L’Etable – Gryon
Hike Map: Online
Hiking in Vaud at its best! This gentle 15.5 kilometer hike takes you to some of the best viewpoints in the region. Stop off at restaurant L’Etable for lunch. Aside from sweeping vistas, the restaurant is known for making homemade dishes with fresh local ingredients and is home to two very friendly donkeys.
After getting back to Gryon I highly recommend catching the bus to Solalex to continue your day of hiking and to grab dinner in either Mirroir d’Argentine or Solalex refuge. Should you be tired after the hike, take the train back to Villars-sur-Ollon where you can grab a drink in the village.
3- Day Switzerland Itinerary: Day Three
Day three of our Switzerland trip was dedicated to the capital, Lausanne and the beautiful tumbling vineyards of the surrounding Lavaux region. Half a day in Lausanne does not do justice to what the city has to offer, however it gives you a rough idea of what the city has to offer.
Lavaux is easily accessible from Lausanne (see below exactly how), therefore I would recommend spending the night in Lausanne to ensure you maximize your time to explore the city.
Where to spend the night: Lausanne (Château d’Ouchy)
MORNING: EXPLORE LAUSANNE
The capital of the canton of Vaud, Lausanne is located on the northern shore of Lake Geneva. This vibrant university city tumbles down from the imposing hilltop Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral down to the bewitching Lake Geneva. Bring a pair of sturdy walking shoes, because exploring Lausanne will entail a fair amount of plodding up and down.
What to do in Lausanne
It is safe to say, there are plenty of things to do and places to see in Lausanne. As we had only 3 days in Switzerland, we opted to spend only half a day in Lausanne. If you have a bit more time on your hands, I strongly recommend spending at least 1 to 2 days exploring the city.
- Walk around the city: Either with a local guide or without (we chose the former as it allowed us to cover more ground and learn about the history of the city).
- Learn about the Olympic Games: If Olympic games are up your alley, pop into the Olympic Museum
- Stroll around Ouchy: This is the area of the city located right by the lake. On Sunday a lively market is held here selling odd bits & bobs.
- Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral: A non-negotiable, the cathedral has such a fascinating history skipping it (and the stories surrounding the cathedral) would be a real shame
- Marvel at the Palais de Rumine: An Italian-style palace that now houses a variety of different museums (including the coin museum)
Vegetarian-friendly places to eat in Lausanne
Where to stay in Lausanne
AFTERNOON: DO A WINE TASTING IN LAVAUX
The Vaud region is the second largest wine-producing region of Switzerland. Within the Vaud wine-making region there are four different areas of production, Lavaux has some of the oldest vineyards dating back to the Middle Ages when local Cistercian monks started producing wine in the area.
The rolling vineyards of Lavaux Region are nestled on the banks of Lake Geneva. These 800 hectares of the tumbling terraced vineyards are in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recognized for their long history of viticulture and cultural importance.
What to do in Lavaux
Taste the wine: It would be an absolute shame to visit Lavaux and not go for a delicious wine tasting. We opted to go to Domaine Croix-Duplex just down the road from the GrandVaux station. These guys certainly have the best views, which can be enjoyed starting from €/$6 a glass. Booking in advance is required!
Hike between the vineyards: With over 800 hectares spanning 30 kilometers, it is safe to say the hiking options are endless. Little paved paths weave their way between the various vineyards and crisscross up and down the gently undulating hills. Discover various routes on the official website.
Hike the vineyards with a local: If you feel like a little splurge, consider taking a 3h30 walking tour through the vineyards of the western Lavaux region with a local. Discover the stories of the region and stop off at a few smaller wine producers for a pretty unique wine-tasting experience.
How to get to Lavaux from Lausanne
TRAIN: Direct train from Lausanne station, get off at Grandvaux (20 min train ride). The train station is at the top of the hill upon which the vineyards are perched. The views from the train ride between Lausanne and Grandvaux are spectacular.
How to get tickets: Tickets included in the Swiss Travel Pass or to be bought directly at the station.
BOAT (Recommended): Take one of the Belle Epoque Paddle Steamers that run twice daily between Cully and Lausanne-Ouchy. The boat leaves from various little villages on the shores of Lake Geneva. We opted to depart from Cully. Cully is a scenic 40-minute walk from the GrandVaux train station.
How to get tickets: Tickets are included in the Swiss Travel Pass or to be bought at the departure stations. Not all steamboats are Belle Epoque, check the schedule and type of boat on the official website.
Tip: If you have the extra time, try taking a 3-hour cruise that runs from Lausanne Ouchy all the way to Chillon Castle with spectacular views along the way. First Class tickets include the option to have a meal and plenty of wine onboard. Pre-booking for a meal is required.
Typical food of the canton of Vaud that is vegetarian-friendly
- Wine: Chasselas white wine
- Cheese: L’Etivaz, Le Maréchal
- Cheese Fondue. Typically eaten with bread & potatoes that are dipped in melted cheese over a little gas burner.
- Raclette: Melted cheese scraped off a little metal pan and spread over potatoes
- Bouchon Vaudois: A sweet made from almonds, chocolate, egg white and a drop of Diablerets Bitter
As a vegetarian, I had a very easy time finding delicious dishes to eat on my trip through the Vaud region. Plenty of fresh salads were available, though it is noteworthy the vast majority of them had some type of cheese in them.
How to get around Switzerland in three days?
We traveled around Switzerland by train, boat and bus. Public transportation is very safe, clean, and wonderfully punctual. We made use of the Swiss Travel Pass which gave us access to all trains, busses, and boats. In addition, it also includes the entry fee to 500+ museums and a host of discounts.
Cost of the Swiss Travel Pass
The Swiss Travel Pass is sold for 3, 4, 8 and 15 days. If you purchase the regular pass, this pass is valid for fixed, consecutive days. The flexible Swiss Travel Pass allows you to travel on non-consecutive days.
Below prices are per person for 3 days.
- 1ST CLASS (REGULAR): CHF 369 (237 USD)
- 2E CLASS (REGULAR): CHF 232 (378 USD)
1st or 2e class for the Swiss Travel Pass?
Taking public transportation in Switzerland is a very pleasant experience, especially compared to my home in Brussels. It is meticulous in both punctuality and cleanliness and fellow passengers are usually very tranquil and respectful.
There is one exception. If you are thinking of taking the Belle Epoque train or the Panoramic Train it is worth investing in the first class tickets. The windows are larger, the seats more comfortable and there is a lot fewer people in the carriages.
GOOD TO KNOW: You can purchase a 2e class Swiss Travel Pass for 3 days but upgrade for one specific train route. This will require a visit to any station where the train you are planning on taking stops.
Before you go: Purchase your Swiss Travel Pass online in advance. After purchase, you receive a QR code in your inbox. Simply show this QR onboard any train, bus or boat.
Map of places to visit during your three-day trip to Switzerland
Have a look at the interactive Google Map to get an idea of where the various location to visit in the Canton of Vaud are located? Red are the places covered on day one of this three-day Switzerland itinerary, yellow is day two and finally purple is for day three.
Is 3 days in Switzerland and the Vaud region enough?
The short answer to that question is a resounding no! Despite the relatively small size of the country, land-locked Switzerland contains multitudes within its boundaries. You will be hard-pressed to visit all of Switzerland in 3 days, there is simply too much to see, do and taste (delicious Alpine meal anyone).
You can however get a glimpse into what marvels the country has to offer. My recommendation would be to spend at least 3 days in the Vaud region. Truth be told, there are plenty of places to visit in Vaud to keep the avid traveler busy for a full week during just about every season of the year.
Between the castles, beautiful hikes and quintessential Swiss mountain villages dotted with wooden chalets, it is virtually impossible to feel even an inkling of boredom.
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING EUROPE
Belgium: 12 castles you can spend the night in
Germany: Sustainable guide to Karlsruhe
Slovenia: Day trips from Ljubljana
Croatia: 7 day road trip through Croatia
Italy: Natural Landmarks in Italy
Italy (Sicily): A local’s guide to visiting Palermo