Visit Switzerland, Germany, and France (In One Week)

If you want to vacation in Europe but are low on time, we've got a travel shortcut for you: the tri-country corner. Here, you can visit three hot European cities in three different countries in one week. Welcome to Basel, Switzerland; Freiburg, Germany; and Strasbourg, France.
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Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, France (Greg Dale/National Geographic/Getty)
Getting There
From Zurich Airport it's only a 90-minute train ride to Basel, or if you find a better fare to Frankfurt, two hours by train to Strasbourg, which allows you to travel south to visit the Tri-Corner cities. The train rides between the three cities are even shorter at 45 to 70 minutes each.
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"Tri-Country Corner" was a phrase I heard for the first time when a friend suggested I visit the "corner" while in Europe in September. "You'll love it because it's not too touristy, and you get a taste of three countries in one small area," she said. She spoke from experience, too, as a former university student in Freiburg, Germany, one of the three cities that crowd the borderland of Switzerland, Germany, and France. So I went.

What I discovered at the corner were three lively, lovely cities well matched to the notion that travel should be neither too hectic, nor too sedate. Basel (Switzerland), Freiburg (Germany), and Strasbourg (France) are colorful and substantial without being overwhelming. You can easily see them in a week—two days in each city is about right—and then if your schedule and budget allow, you can add a second week in a bigger city like Paris, Berlin, or Prague, all a few hours away by train.

The three cities do reveal a sample of each country—with no passport delays between them—but similarities exist, too. All three are eco-friendly to a fault, from the metal grooves on outdoor stairways for bikes to streetcars that go everywhere. All three have major universities that fill the cafes with the vigor of youth, while museums and medieval cathedrals evoke rich histories. Ah, and then there's the food—pastry, cheese, and chocolate shops that make you wonder why most of the locals are thin (probably because they walk or bike everywhere).

My friend was also right when she said I would see few Americans. I encountered only two, a North Carolina couple visiting Strasbourg's soaring cathedral. That was fine, because with nearly everyone in the corner fluent in English, I felt quite at home.


Published: 10 Jan 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Freiburg

$187
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#1
Victoria
$125
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#2
InterCityHotel Freiburg
$117
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#3
Novotel Freiburg am Konzerthaus
$97
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#4
Mercure Hotel Freiburg Am Muenster

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