Switzerland’s chocolate and cheese get all the attention, but its world-class museums are well worth visiting, especially when they can be reached in the quiet comfort of a first-class cabin on a quintessential train journey. Swiss Federal Railways connects all corners of the country with swift service, delivering passengers from the cobblestone streets of Bern to the stunning towns of Lausanne and Vevey on Lake Geneva. The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel by public transport and the Swiss Museum Pass is an added bonus.
This coming fall, between September 19 and October 31, the 4-day Swiss Travel Pass will be offered at a special discounted price (1st Class for $334 instead of $474 and 2nd Class for $211 instead of $315). This is the perfect time to check out the following top museums.
Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich
Whether someone is on Team Rembrandt or Warhol, Kunsthaus Zürich has something to please every artistic palette. Spend hours contemplating the works of masters throughout the centuries in the vast galleries of this two-building museum. Get a glimpse into Giverny while gazing at Claude Monet’s tremendous The Water Lily Pond with Irises, stare into the troubled eyes of Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe and ponder the atrocities of conflict before Marc Chagall’s La Guerre (War).
Marvel at several mesmerizing, abstract works by Switzerland’s own Paul Klee and admire Pablo Picasso’s transformative forms of expression over the course of 60 years. Recent special exhibits include Yoko Ono: This Room Moves the Same Speed as Clouds and Take Care: Art and Medicine.
- Hours and admission: Open Tuesday, Friday - Sunday from 10 AM - 6 PM; Wednesday and Thursday from 10 AM - 8 PM. Admission is $24; children under 16 free. Swiss Museum Pass is not accepted.
- Getting There: Take the 3 tram or 31 bus from Bahnhofplatz/HB to the Kunsthaus stop.
Swiss Museum of Transport, Lucerne
Planes, trains, and automobiles abound at the Swiss Museum of Transport. Travel through 175 years of rail transport, peering into the first locomotives to the latest bullet train. Vote for your favorite automobile in the Car Theatre, as a robotic parking system showcases the winner in a 360-degree spectacle.
Span the history of aviation starting with the Wright Brothers, then board a Swissair Convair 990 Coronado commercial airplane for a peek into its cockpit. Space lovers can gaze upon a moon rock, Mars rover models, and the impressive European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) satellite.
Feeling adventurous? Strap on the climbing gear for a Virtual Reality experience to ascend the Matterhorn at Red Bull The Edge. For those with the need for speed, pop on a helmet for a lightning round in the Nervtech Motion Simulator Red Bull World of Racing. Whether visiting with or without kids, this museum is the perfect pit stop for all ages.
- Hours and admission: Open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM. Admission is discounted with the Swiss Museum Pass, $42
- Getting There: Take the 6, 8, or 24 bus from Bahnhof Luzern to the Verkehrshaus/Lido stop.
Museum of Communication, Bern
The Museum of Communication takes visitors on a journey of connection, from the Swiss Post to the Internet era. Participate in fun interactive exhibits that include sending an “instant message” through a pneumatic tube, participating in movie karaoke, and putting your face on a valid postage stamp.
Swiss Post, world-famous for its reliability even under the harshest conditions, features prominently in the museum’s collection. Every conceivable form of postal transport, from skis and snowshoes to bicycles and motor vehicles adorn the walls and ceiling. There is even the charred Fiat Fiorino 1.6 getaway van from The Great Swiss Post Heist of 1997 and the mind-boggling tale behind the theft.
An evolutionary lineup of rotary and cellular phones, computers, and video game consoles fill towering glass cases. Whether you bring the whole family or visit on your own, there is something to pique the curiosity of every information seeker. Afterward, walk across the Kirchenfeldbrücke bridge for a scenic view of Bern and the Aare River.
- Hours and admission: The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM - 5 PM (closed Mondays) and is free with the Swiss Museum Pass.
- Getting There: Take the 6, 7, or 8 tram from Hirschengraben (a short walk from Bahnhof Bern) to the Museum of Communication stop.
The Olympic Museum, Lausanne
Sitting on the shores of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), the massive Olympic Museum pays homage to the history and relevance of the Olympic Games, featuring over 1,500 objects, 5,000 photos, and 150 screens. Lausanne’s most visited museum boasts the largest archive of the Olympic Games in the world, with artifacts dating from Greek antiquity to the modern era.
The first part of the visit, the Olympic World, gives an overview of the vision of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the Founder of the International Olympic Committee. Here, visitors have the rare opportunity to set their eyes on all 50 Olympic torches that have transported the flames of the games since 1936.
Moving onto the second floor, the Olympic Games exhibit focuses on the competitions and the champions’ emotional experiences presented in a 180° audiovisual show. The third floor, which was recently renovated, features interactive and immersive exercises to get a window into the Olympism (philosophy of the Olympic Games) these unwavering humans experienced. Take a break at the bright and airy TOM Café, or wander the Olympic Park, featuring a sculpture garden with pieces inspired by the games.
- Hours and admission: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 AM - 6 PM (closed Mondays). Free with the Swiss Museum Pass.
- Getting There: Take the m2 subway from Lausanne-Gare to Jordlis, then walk approximately 8 minutes.
Chaplin's World, Vevey
Toss on a bowler hat, grab a bamboo cane, and traipse in the footsteps of The Tramp. Chaplin’s World is more than a museum – it’s a feel-good jaunt through Charlie’s life in the special place he and his family called home.
There’s a tangible whimsy when reenacting scenes or watching them projected on the wall from his most famous moments in film. Throughout the Chaplin’s World experience, visitors can pose with lifelike wax figures, pretend to be Chaplin in his legendary outfits, and, most importantly, have a jolly good time.
Inside Chaplin’s office where he penned his autobiography, spend some time reflecting and taking in the scenic view of the grounds and the snow-capped Alps in the distance. The comedian's presence is palpable in every room and his endless jest for life will sure to rub off. Before leaving, check out The Kid: The Exhibit, commemorating the 100th anniversary of this seminal work, which includes restored and hand-painted cameras and projectors.
- Hours and admission: $30 for adults, $28 for seniors, and $20 for children. Swiss Museum Pass is not accepted.
- Getting there: Take the 212 bus from Vevey Gare to the Corsier sur Vevey, Chaplin stop.