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Bilby88 Aug 14th, 2014 08:49 PM

1 week Switzerland end of October
My husband and I have booked a 6.5 week to Europe for October/November, arriving in London and leaving from Rome. We will be travelling with our 16 month old.
We plan to spend 1 week in Switzerland during the last week of October. I know the weather will not be great this time of year, but one of our main reasons of going to Switzerland is to break up the trip between Paris and Venice (by train).
So we're looking for somewhere to stay that is scenic and convenient - the areas I was thinking of staying in is either just outside of Vevey/Montreux, or otherwise in the Fribourg region like around Gruyeres or Charmey. Then we would do day trips to places like Gruyere cheese factory/castle, alpine areas, Chillon Castle, Lavaux vineyards, Vevey Markets. We would love to stay in the mountains but since it might be really cold I wonder whether it's best to stay closer to the cities (Vevey/Montreux) where there might be more options for indoor activities..?

So a few more questions -
1. I know the Swiss railway network has a great reputation, but would it be worthwhile catching the train directly to Lausanne and hiring a car from there? That way we wouldn't have to rely on train schedules to get around. If we did stick with public transport, we probably wouldn't go with a Swiss pass as I don't think we would get our money's worth.
2. Is there likely to be snow this time of year in the alpine areas?
3. Any other recommendations of places to visit, particularly in the mountains?

Thanks for any advice.

kja Aug 14th, 2014 09:20 PM

> the areas I was thinking of staying in is either just outside of Vevey/Montreux, or otherwise in the Fribourg region like around Gruyeres or Charmey. Then we would do day trips to places like Gruyere cheese factory/castle, alpine areas, Chillon Castle, Lavaux vineyards, Vevey Markets.

Given these particular (and worthy) interests, staying in Montreux or Vevey would seem like an option well worth pursuing!

>would it be worthwhile catching the train directly to Lausanne and hiring a car from there?

The Swiss public transportation (train and bus) system is excellent. I find it difficult to believe that having a car would be an advantage, particularly as you would then have to find parking and maneuver through narrow streets in places not designed for cars, etc. BUT it depends on where, exactly, you end up going.... (And BTW, I thought Lausanne seriously underrated. If you do stay in the area, you might consider a day trip to see some of it's highlights!)

>Any other recommendations of places to visit, particularly in the mountains?

From Montreux, you can easily take the "scenic" train east into Gstaad (or beyond). Although Gstaad was a bit more upscale than I prefer, it is beautiful and the train trip was memorable.

I trust that the REAL experts on Switzerland will soon chime in. It's a beautiful part of the world -- enjoy!

swandav2000 Aug 14th, 2014 09:34 PM

Hi Bilby88,

I don't think a car would give you any benefits over the train, first of all. The train schedules are very dense in Switzerland with several trains every hour going virtually everywhere. Since it's such a joy to travel by train (people-watching, enjoying the scenery, enjoying a picnic, etc), and since it's convenient, and since it will help preserve the beauty you came to see . . . I would say the train is the best option.

You should know that neither Vevey/Montreux nor Gruyeres are nearby the high Alps; an excursion to see snow in October/November would be a very long trip (Gruyeres to Zermatt is 4h, Montreux to Zermatt is 2h30, then you need to catch the cable car up the mountain, or Montreux to Col du Pillon is 2h, Gruyeres to Col du Pillon is 1h45, then you catch the cable car up to the mountaintop).

I love Gruyeres, but I think it will be very small for a home base for a few days. There really isn't much there -- a main street lined with tourist shops and many, many restaurants offering fondue.

I would suggest Gstaad, Saanen, or Rougemont as alternatives. Each one has a bit more to offer, with Gstaad topping out with best restaurants and best window-shopping, and each one also has stunning views over the beautiful rolling hills of the Saanenland. You can be in Montreux in about 90 minutes to see Chillon and the vineyards. You can ascend the nearby mountains (Eggli, Wispile) for hikes, or you can walk in the valleys from town to town. Or you can get to the Col du Pillon cable car in about 30 minutes.

Have fun as you plan!


swandav2000 Aug 14th, 2014 09:39 PM

Oh, I ought to add --

The Montreux Marche de Noel start on 21 November, if that will affect your decision. The lakeside is totally transformed -- and totally swamped.

This Christmas market is decidedly different from the German Christmas markets -- there will be no sausages stands and instead Foie Gras, pizza, and fondue stands. There are many, many stands offering household and personal products (like kitchen ware out of silicon, accessories for mobile phones, clothes, hats, scarves, etc) rather than the traditional Christmas decorations.

But it can be fun!


Ingo Aug 14th, 2014 11:53 PM

Vevey/Montreux are a very good choice for end of October. Mountain resorts will be very quiet at that time of year (many hotels and restaurants closed, cable cars/gondolas and mountain huts, too. And that applies to Gstaad as well.) Be prepared that the flat lands will be under a sort of cloud, called "high fog", and the mountain tops will (quite often, at least) be sunny. Charmey will also be very quiet, and both Charmey and Gruyeres are not conveniently located for day trips IMO.

So it's day trips to the mountains. The mountain railways around Vevey/Montreux run all year round. Definitely go up to Rochers-de-Naye and Les Pleiades. Both offer excellent views - Rochers-de-Naye is at an elevation of 2042 m which means you *might* see snow there - or not.

Glacier 3000 (above Les Diablerets) will definitely have snow. The cable cars up there run from 25 October on again, after a break for maintenance. Trip via Aigle and Les Diablerets up to the pass Col du Pillon takes between 1:30 h and 2 h.

Why not spending some time in a thermal spa? Lavey-les-Bains is just around the corner (so to speak), Leukerbad is not too far away.

You might also want to check out the viticulture in the area. Not only in the Lavaux, but also in the Valais - Aigle (with castle), Sierre, Salgesch e.g.

See the abbey in ST. Maurice (with treasure chamber/museum), the museums in Martigny.

I think public transportation is the way to go. You won't save money with driving. And the Riviera Card that comes for free with your accommodation allows free travel in Vevey/Montreux and surroundings. Remember that a Swiss Pass or Flexi Pass also covers the museums and castles - Chillon, Gruyeres, Aigle, the museums in Lausanne, Martigny etc.

Bilby88 Aug 15th, 2014 03:18 AM

Thanks for that info. I love the sound of Gstaad/Saanen, however I think it would be a long day of travel between there and Paris, and later on to Venice. So perhaps a village near Vevey or Montreux will be the way to go. From there we will look into doing day trips to Gruyeres, Rochers-de-Naye and Les Pleiades, and possibly Col du Pillon although that might be a bit far with the toddler in tow.

nytraveler Aug 15th, 2014 03:41 AM

You might want to consider Lucerne which has more to see and do IN the town as well as easy access to many other places and to nearby mountains. You would have to check on the dates/times of the cabe cars or trams up Mt Pilatus, Rigi and Titlus - but they are very close to Lucerne. You caneget to Zurich to see some museums in an hour.

And in Lucern itself there are a host hotels and restaurant - as well as the old town walls, the wooden bridge, the Lion monument, a great museums and a nice cathedral.

We too many road trips from there to nearby charming towns but imagine most is also easy via train.

neckervd Aug 15th, 2014 05:28 AM

"I know the weather will not be great this time of year..."
So, you know more than any Swiss people.
The weather in the Alps is always unpredictable (BTW: it snowed down up to 2500 metres/8000ft last night), but October is rather on the dryer side. If October weather is fine (about every second year) temperatures at sunny places in the mountains (like Crans-Montana or Saint-Luc) can easily go beyond 20 degrees centigrade/70 deegrees Fahrenheit at noon and drop down to about 0 resp 30 degrees at night.
But cold and rainy weather during more than a whole week is possible as well.
Montreux is an excellent base for trips into the Alps (Crans-Montana, Saint-Luc, Zermatt, Riederalp/Aletsch etc.) and to most of Swiss towns and castles as well.
And in October, Montreux has usually less fog than the Swiss midlands (Biel/Bienne - Olten - Baden - Zurich - Winterthur).

Dukey1 Aug 15th, 2014 05:52 AM

First of all: the weather. It can be one of the best times to be in Switzerland with wonderful clear days in some areas. Just remember to bring some sort of clothing which can be layered. The first time we went it was at the end of October and we were in the Berner Oberland and those mornings could be chilly enough I had on sweats UNDER nylon trousers; by the afternoon that was too hot to wear.

I agree with much of what has been said above although for a few places like Gruyeres having a car would be a plus IMO and I am a big, BIG fan of the Swiss railway network. But all that supposed "flexibility" simply is, for some, an extension of what they are used to at home: having a car!

I love Lucerne and I love the BO but being along or near Lac Leman is wonderful as well.

Bilby88 Aug 15th, 2014 08:52 PM

Thanks for all your input. If we were to stick with public trainsport instead of hiring a car, I guess we would have to stay somewhere close to a railway station. Could train noise be an issue? And walking to and from the train station in cold/wet weather might not be very nice either!

Also another question I forgot to ask - are there any other farmers markets in the area (Friborg/Vaud/Saanen) apart from the Vevey markets?

Ingo Aug 15th, 2014 09:21 PM

Yes, there are farmers markets in every bigger town in Switzerland. Just do a quick search on the internet! Here's what came up for Lausanne (official internet page of the city):

No need to stay close to the train station. There is a bus that runs frequently (every 10 minutes) along the main street between Vevey and Montreux (-Chillon) which is free with your Riviera Card. You can just hop on the bus.

Train noise can be a problem, yes. Road noise is even worse. I personally am a light sleeper and always thoroughly check if my accommodatin is in a quiet location.

kja Aug 15th, 2014 11:20 PM

> "are there any other farmers markets in the area " -- IME, Frommer's guidebooks are particularly good (if not perfect) at providing information on markets.

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