Solo traveling is typically defined by jam-packed itineraries in some of Europe’s busiest cities. But let’s be honest: sometimes, a tourist just needs a little rest and relaxation while they wander.
As I rolled into Zürich after a hectic ten days in the Netherlands, I was looking forward to nestling into the quaint, quiet lifestyle that so many Swiss towns offer.
I was soon far removed from the constant hustle-and-bustle that consumed my thoughts days prior, and I couldn’t be more relieved.
And I found the perfect balance of recuperation and exploration only about an hour train ride away from Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city.
Here’s what I discovered during my three-day itinerary in Zug, Einsiedeln, and Rapperswil:
A little guide to Zug 🍒
My first stop is Zug, a town with a vibrant ex-pat community and the perfect spot for any lakeside activity that your heart could desire. Lake Zug is deep enough for sailing and long enough to run an entire marathon.
The town also claims to share the status of having “Switzerland’s best sunset” with Rapperswil, which is pretty diplomatic.
Unfortunately, the unpredictable Dutch weather seemed to follow me to Switzerland. The moment I make my way to the lakeshore, I am being rained on. Despite the gloomy skies, I indulge in a lemon gelato under an umbrella, determined to catch the essence of a sunny lake day.
Next is a stroll around the narrow streets of the Zug old town. The highlight of my walking tour is climbing up the 52-meter-high clock tower, called the Zytturm. On its front is an astronomical clock. The four hands indicate the month, day, and year, as well as the phase of the moon.
Inside the clock tower, I enjoy a beautiful view of the town through the bayview windows:
If you have better weather than I did, maybe take a short climb up to the Guggi Vantage Point for an expansive view over Lake Zug and the Bernese Alps. Or enjoy a cocktail on the 18th floor of the Uptown building at the Skylounge bar.
The town’s oldest cafe, Confiserie Speck, dates back to 1945. Here, I try the region’s traditional Zuger Kirschtorte, a cherry rum-soaked sponge cake with layers of nutty meringue and buttercream.
Zuger Kirschtorte is said to be favored by the Hollywood stars of the yesteryears, like Audrey Hepburn and Charlie Chaplin.
The upstairs section of Café Speck in Zug transports you to another time, with its warm-toned, oak wood decor and daily newspaper selection posted on the walls. Shielded from the weather, I let myself swoon to my doo-wop playlist. And I wrote this guide to Zug.
Highlights of Einsiedeln ⛪
The following day, I am ready for a change of scenery. A one-hour train ride from Zug is Einsiedeln, a historic town located on my route to Lake Zurich.
As a solo traveler, I like to put myself in situations where I can learn new things. A guided tour of a milk dairy and a monastery visit will tick that box for me. And I have a feeling that “A Day of Milk & Monks” might sum up my day’s program best…
About the Milchmanufaktur Milk Dairy
Here in the land of cheese and chocolate, milk plays a pivotal role. For an insight scoop on how milk is turned into the beloved “gold of the mountains” (a.k.a. cheese), I am invited into the Milchmanufaktur in Einsiedeln.
There is hardly a better place to learn about dairy production than at this co-op. Milchmanufaktur was started in 2012 by a group of 60 local farmer families. The founders banded together to create a more stable income for milk sales.
Now, the milk factory buys dairy from farms in the region at a fair price to make cheese, yogurt, and other goods. Some products can even be found in big grocery stores like Migros and Coop.
My tour begins with a fresh whey drink sweetened with elderflower. My guide explains that whey, commonly found in protein powder and other supplements, is a major byproduct of cheese production.
A vast assortment of hand-mixed yogurt flavors is waiting to be sampled by me. I gravitate towards hazelnut - no regrets!
Then, it is time for an outfit change. I mean, when visiting a dairy factory, I obviously have to dress the part. Sporting an ultra-chic, all-plastic look, here’s my souvenir photograph with two apprentice cheesemakers:
At the Milchmanufaktur, cheese ages anywhere from two weeks to one year, depending on the type. But essentially, the more whey that’s removed and the more time a loaf sits, the harder and sharper it gets.
As part of a workshop, tour groups and schools frequently try their hand at cheese making. A few weeks later, they can return to pick up their very own cheese.
After sampling three different types of cheese, I return back to the visitor center for a quick lunch. Not surprisingly, there are lots of delicious cheesy options such as Älplermagronen and fondue. I opt for a quiche.
Inside the Benedictine Monastery of Einsiedeln
Following my lactose-filled afternoon, I make my way to the Benedictine monastery in the heart of Einsiedeln. This 1000-year-old monastery is a major pilgrimage site, and is home to 50 monks today.
Every afternoon at 4:30 PM, you can hear the monks’ Gregorian chants. This tradition dates back to the 15th century.
Inside the Benedictine monastery is the Black Madonna of Pilgrims, deemed a site of major importance for pilgrims since the Middle Ages. She changes outfits every two weeks, and has an impressive collection of 40 dresses.
My tour guide Antonella describes the church’s interior design as a “divine celebration,” as the fresco on the ceiling elaborately depicts biblical stories. In July and August, the church also hosts concerts every Tuesday evening.
On site is also a school, a horse barn, hiking trails, and a foothill perfect for families wanting to ski together in the winter.
Rapperswil is the City of Roses 🌹
The final destination on my solo traveler getaway is Rapperswil, the City of Roses. Situated on the upper portion of Lake Zurich, the town blooms with more than 20’000 roses.
My tour guide, Mr. Wisy, describes the lake’s summertime temperature as perfect for a “Caribbean fish” like himself. There’s a free public swimming pool and bathhouse right below the Rapperswil castle. And thanks to the many public parks, Rapperswil offers just as many spaces for lakeside hangouts.
The medieval old town of Rapperswil is well-preserved and easily walkable. I suggest cruising down the Holzbrücke Rapperswil-Hurden, a wooden bridge that connects Rapperswil to the village of Hurden.
Though recently reconstructed, this bridge was initially built in the 19th century as part of a pilgrimage trek, the Way of St. James.
The youth hostel in Rapperswil-Jona
After my daytime adventures, I nestle into a private room at a youth hostel in Jona, the Jugendgerberge Rapperswil-Jona Busskirch. It’s a bit of a trek for those wanting to explore Rapperswil, as it takes a bus ride and a several-hundred-meter walk to get there. But it remains a viable option for those packing lightly and seeking an affordable place to stay.
For a lovely meal and even more fantastic wine, I recommend stopping by the summer pop-up of the popular vineyard Höcklistein. Together with Mr. Wisy, I sip on a 2021 Riesling, the wine most famous in this region, as we chose from a delectable menu. It’s vegetarian tartar for me and homemade pasta for him.
The Höcklistein pop-up has been around for three years and is open from May to September.