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Day trips from Zermatt, Gstaad and Lucerne

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Dec 30th, 2014, 10:06 AM
  #1
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Day trips from Zermatt, Gstaad and Lucerne

I essentially posted this same message in response to a question about my plans given my own question about upgrading from 2nd to 1st class on a Swiss train pass but thought I might get a bit more response by asking this separately. Apologies to anyone who is now reading it twice.

Here's the plan. In late January we fly into Zurich, train to Zermatt for 5 days from whence we plan to repeat day trips we took there 2 years ago--Brig, Sierre, Sion. Happy to hear of any other suggestions for day trips from Zermatt for one more day there.

Then we train from Zermatt to Gstaad (our son is a skier) from whence we plan to take day trips to Montreaux/Vevey, possibly Thun and Oberhofen, and Chateau d'Oex and Gruyeres--again other recs for day trips very welcome as well as places to combine into a single day of tripping.

From Gstaad we'll train to Lucerne for 2 nights before a last train back to Zurich and home from there. Two years ago when we spent 6 days in Lucerne, we did day trips to Bern, Basel, St. Gallen, Einseldeln with a stop at Rapperswill on return to Lucerne. I'm now searching for a possible day trip for one of our two days in Lucerne this year. Looking at Zug, Schwyz, Olten, Aarau, maybe Solothurn--any combination of the above and/or others.

Would really appreciate recommendations and comments on some of the places I'm already considering and especially anything I've overlooked. Thanks for any help on this. We sometimes find that the places we go because they are all that''s "left" to do in an area can be the best places to see. Hoping for some gems on this trip.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 10:40 AM
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I suppose you know that for every trip from Zermatt, except Saas Fee Mittelalallin revolving glacier restaurant, you must first backtrack up to Visp ( 1 hr 10 min). From there you can go to Montreux/Chillon (another 70 min), Lausanne (1 1/2 hrs), Martigny (45 min; roman theatre, gallo-roman museum and exhibition of works from the Swiss painters Anker, Hodler and Vallotton), Stresa/Lake Maggiore (1 hr; not very appealing in winter), Eggishorn (1 3/4 hrs; view over the whole Aletsch Glacier).

Chateau d'Oex is at walking distance from Gstaad. Other possible day trips from Gstaad: Montreux; Gruyeres castle, medieval city, cheese diary and nearby Cailler (Nestle) chocolate factory; Fribourg...
You may visit Thun and surroundings in a day trip or just stop over there on your way to Lucerne (luggage lockers at Thun and Spiez railway stations).
All the small towns you mention (may be except Schwyz) are fine, Solothurn ist the best among them. Basel is of easy reach too (medieval centre with cathedral, tons of good museums).
For short stops, you may consider Sursee, Zofingen and Bremgarten AG too.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 11:17 AM
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It would be helpful to know what you're interested in. Besides, weather could be an issue in January - if heavy snowfall is expected I wouldn't take the train out of Zermatt, you might not get back that day (danger of avalanches, happens a couple of times each winter.)

Anyway, from Zermatt:
- Leukerbad with thermal baths, cable car up to Gemmi and a walk there.
- castle Aigle (http://www.chateauaigle.ch), maybe in combination with Sion or Martigny.
- One of the other, less touristy side valleys in the lower Valais: Val d'Anniviers e.g. with nice villages (St. Luc, Chandolin, Grimentz), maybe have lunch in the historic hotel Bella Tola - could be combined with Sierre.

From Gstaad:
- castle Oberhofen is closed in winter. Castle Thun is open on Sundays only in January.
- I second the idea of going to Fribourg. Cathedral, some other churches, museums - beautiful medieval old town. Will keep you busy for the day.
- What about some activities in the area? Cable car rides to viewpoints, winter walks, seeing churches, walk the "Simmentaler Hausweg", the waterfalls in the valley of Lenk (Simmenfall, Iffigfall)?

From Luzern:
- What about Engelberg? Benedictine monastery, cable car rides, walks, sledding ...
- I second the suggestion of Solothurn, one of my favourite Swiss towns.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 11:21 AM
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Thanks neckervd, yes, I do know about going through Visp to go anywhere from Zermatt. I think we went through it some 8 times when there last. Tends to limit options which is why we'll pretty much be repeating ourselves while there. The view over the Glacier sounds interesting but time may be prohibitive. We'll give that more thought.

And yes, I thought Chateau d'Oex was pretty close to Gstaad, just hadn't realized how close. The option to stop at Thun and Spiez enroute to Lucerne is attractive. Thanks for the info about luggage lockers at those stations. Again, opens up more options. And thanks for the suggestions on short stops. I'll investigate them. that's the kind of stuff guidebooks usually don't provide. Appreciate it.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 11:31 AM
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Why someone would base themselves in a town it takes 1.5 hours to get out of I do not understand.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 11:31 AM
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Thanks also Ingo. We are not too up for long hikes or sledding. Prefer to see cute towns and walk around on city streets. Sorry I hadn't thought to mention that.

Will definitely keep the heavy snowfall/avalanche danger in mind. Even though I'm from MN and know lots about snow, the mountain thing is not something I understand, so thanks for that warning/info.

The things you've mentioned that sound most appealing to me and that I will definitely check out are Castle Aigle, combing Bella Tolla with Sierre, and the cities of Fribourg and Solothurn. I should be able to fill this dance card full. Thanks.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 11:35 AM
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Dukey, the kid is skiing in Zermatt and we love the kid. Actually we also love Zermatt. Found a delightful hotel there with cozy fireplace and ambiance. Sort of enjoy the "do everything slow" thing that comes over you when there's not many places to get to easily and the stop and smell the roses, look at things you'd otherwise breeze right by thing that takes over in a situation like that. We'd never have scheduled a visit to Brig had we not been "stuck" in Zermatt. Now we're scheduling a second visit and looking forward to it. Mighty cute little place with very interesting castle.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 12:00 PM
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I enjoyed day tripping from Zermatt to Saas-Fee - part train then postal bus along a ledge to Saas-Fee, one of Switzeland's primo Alp[ine resorts.

I also took the Simplon Pass postal bus ride from a Zermatt base - leave from Brig to go up and over the pass into Italy - I went to the border and came back.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 12:40 PM
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Thanks PalenQ. It's kind of crazy to me to see two places so close together on a map take 2+ hours to get from one to another. I guess mountains do that. Not sure about taking a postal bus along a "ledge". Sounds scary. We've never ridden a postal bus. That might be a fun thing to do. However, may need to find one that travels on something a little less ledgy.
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Dec 30th, 2014, 11:57 PM
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Hi JulieVikmanis,

Are you guys more interested in travelling to see things (villages, etc), or do you want some winter walking thrown in? Here are my thoughts (about Gstaad) --

I wouldn't really recommend walking between Gstaad and Chateau d'Oex -- it's about a 2h walk. I've done it by bike, and it took about 45 minutes. If there's deep snow, I don't think it would be very enjoyable.

However, both Saanen and Schönried might be good bets for winter walking -- Saanen is about 40 minutes and Schönried about an hour.

I loved going to the top of the Wispile, but the walk I love the best (to Lauenen) isn't listed as one of the winter walks. However, it does list the 2h30 walk to Gsteig (then take a bus to Gstaad), so you could do that. They also list a round-trip panoramic walk at the top (1h30) -- or just sit in the mountaintop restaurant and enjoy the views.

You can also take a bus to Lauenen (the church there is simply amazing) and do a round-trip walk in the countryside or to the lake and back (1h45).

All of these walks are on the winter walking brochure you can pick up from the tourist office.

My favorite town in the area is Rougemont -- which really seems to have been stopped in time. It is just amazingly pretty, though there isn't a whole lot to do and see there (not many shops or restaurants).

I like Chateau d'Oex (but I would take the train there), and there is a cheese demonstration/fondue restaurant just downhill from the train station and across the street from the huge Coop in town.

I second the visits to Gruyeres and to Thun. I'm of two minds about a day-trip to Montreux. I adore Montreux, and a few hours there would just be cruel . . . !!

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Dec 31st, 2014, 12:03 AM
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Ok, too late I see your comment to Ingo that you are not into long winter hikes! Oh well, lol!

Well, I've listed more "walks" than "hikes," and they are really scenic (particularly the one between Gstaad and Saanen). So, if the mood grabs you, you might still enjoy one of these!

Sorry for my inattention!

s
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Dec 31st, 2014, 02:03 AM
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"However, both Saanen and Schönried might be good bets for winter walking -- Saanen is about 40 minutes and Schönried about an hour." Agree. The walk from those villages to Gstaad is one of my favorites in the region.

As for daytrips from Lucerne, what do you want to do? I would leave Schwyz out of the mix unless you want to shop at the knife outlet.

I happen to like Aarau, I think its old town is interesting and attractive. Several good bars/cafes. However, the only compelling reason I can think of to go to Aarau is an interest in interior design, esp Swiss/German/Austrian modern design (think Rolf Benz, Team 7, etc. not oldy-worldy cottage style). In that case, I would recommend a visit to the Pfister flagship store (it's huge) in Suhr on the outskirts of Aarau (the store is a 10 minute walk from the Suhr train station). http://www.pfister.ch/de/filialen/suhr

If that's not your thing, Solothurn would be my rec.
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Dec 31st, 2014, 04:20 AM
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swandav, worry not. Sometime someone else going to these places will search and find your excellent info on hikes and it will not go to waste.

Swandav and WeisserTee, Happy to hear of your endorsements of Saanan and Schoenreid, Rougemont,Chateau D'Oex, Gruyeres, and Montreaux. All on my radar and nice to know I'm headed in the right direction(s).

WeisserTee, appreciate the help on my Lucerne dilemma. What I too like are interesting and attractive towns with good bars/cafes. If Aarau has that I'm all over it and a Swiss/German/Austrian modern design store sounds as good or better than a museum to me any day. Aarau is also considerably closer to Lucerne than Solothurn So I definitely think my Lucerne day trip has been selected.

Thanks all for your responses. They have been immensely helpful. Fodors is such a good place to come for help.
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Dec 31st, 2014, 04:46 AM
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The more you plan, the more you plan. Now wondering if the luggage lockers at Thun railway station can accommodate skis? neckervd or others, do you know?
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Dec 31st, 2014, 05:08 AM
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On reflection I find that Solothurn and aarau are about equidistant from Lucerne. Now thinking we might do a day to include both of them with a get off the train moment in Olten. The possibilities are increasing. Thanks again.
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Dec 31st, 2014, 09:50 AM
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Ah I porbably exaggerated about that postal bus on a ledge - it's a wide well-beaten road - let's say near a ledge - not that frightening if I recall correctly.
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Dec 31st, 2014, 10:02 AM
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Many railway stations have not only lockers, but "human powered" left luggage offices where you can deposit your skis.
May be you open the link http://www.sbb.ch/en/station-service...of-finden.html
enter "Thun" in the search field and click on "services". If you find a mention of a left luggage office with opening hours (at Thun for example 6.30 resp 7.30 until 18.00 resp 19.00) you can deposit your skis there for sure.
If the mention "left-luggage office" doesn't appear, there is no possibility to deposit your skis.
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Dec 31st, 2014, 10:21 AM
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neckervd, thanks for the info and for teaching me to fish. Appreciate it.
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Dec 31st, 2014, 01:46 PM
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there are many large ski-accommodating lockers IME in Swiss stations near the Alps - but ockers can always be full so best to have a back up with a manually or womanually - manned or womanned left luggage to be sure.
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Jan 1st, 2015, 04:40 AM
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PalenQ, good advice I'm sure. We will heed it armed with our new knowledge of how to search to find out which stations have wo/man-ned left luggage offices.

Thanks to all who responded to this thread. Your advice and info has been wonderfully helpful.
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