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First Foray into Switzerland/Vienna trip for 2011 - a few questions

First Foray into Switzerland/Vienna trip for 2011 - a few questions

Sep 1st, 2010, 10:20 AM
  #1  
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First Foray into Switzerland/Vienna trip for 2011 - a few questions

Just starting to plan for next year's trip - two weeks, maybe 8-9 days in Switzerland, and then 3 or days in Vienna. Some questions.

1) Is that a good split for time? There are good day trips from Vienna, I think.
And I assume we'd fly from somewhere in Switzerland to Vienna.
2) Driving vs public transportation - we almost always rent a car so we can go wherever we like. Is that practical in Switzerland? I assume we would not want a car in Vienna.
3) When? We like to travel either late spring or early summer. I don't want to go too early though, if higher altitude areas are closed. Is late May/early June a good time?
4) We want a lot of scenery, and short hikes. Some cities, but not an all city trip. So which cities in Switzerland are the best to visit if we're only going to hit a few?
5) Should I consider adding Salzburg? I might be able to talk my husband into a few extra days, but should I save that for another trip?

Thanks as always for your excellent advice,
Alice
Alice9 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 10:33 AM
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2) Personal choice, but the train system in Switzerland is excellent.
3) The weather will be nicer early summer, especially up in altitude.
4) I have used Geneva as my arrival city, and spend time in the towns along Lac Leman, Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux (french-speaking part of the country).
5) No I would not add Salzburg, if that means subtracting time from Switzerland. If you can add the extra days, then maybe, if you're particularly interested.
suze is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 10:57 AM
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We always drive in Switzerland. I know a lot of people take the train - but we prefer more freedom of movement. We have done a trip including Switzerland and Vienna twice - both as part of road trips.

Once stopped in Innsbruck and the other time in Salzburg. The countryside in between is gorgeous (amd both cities are worth a visit, Salzburg over Innsbruck) and I would highly reco this versus flying. Train would be my second option.

Once you get to Vienna just drop the car
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 11:07 AM
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1. Yes, although if you surrender you car (if you end up renting one) in Switzerland and take the train as far as Salzburg, reserve two nights to see the town and some of the region, you won’t be sorry! That would mean rearranging the days-per-place-per-country of your current plan (or adding some as per your point 5).

2. Depends where in Switzerland you want to be and go. It really does. You can get to almost anywhere by public transport - not just the excellent train system (www.sbb.ch), but the system of postal buses that is not nearly as well known to foreigners as it should be: www.postauto.ch. There are some locations where cars are not allowed. You really need to scope out locations and transportation before making the car decision, having one can be a boon and a hindrance. (If you do get a car, make sure it has the Vignette, a road-tax sticker, affixed to the windscreen - mandatory on major roads. Austria also requires a Vignette - its own, not the Swiss one.)

3. June (some mountain passes don’t open before, and even in June you need to check before heading out to the more elevated one).

4. Too many to list, excursions and hikes can be done from anywhere, the Swiss have an excellent hiking trail system nationwide called Wanderwege - ask locally and they sell you detailed maps. Unfortunately their website is not in English (even though the URL is in English - I have given them hell over it but they won’t listen...), but look just the same, www.swisshiking.ch.

5) Yes, Salzburg - see my comments under 1) above.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 04:39 PM
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Well, I'm glad to hear that early summer (June) is a good time for this trip. And I've seen a lot of people are fervent about using trains and an equal number are fervent about driving. I had not considered driving to Vienna, I thought it was too far - but maybe not, I'll have to do some homework there.

If I were to choose 3 or 4 bases in Switzerland to do day trips from - what would they be?

Alice
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Sep 1st, 2010, 05:48 PM
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Three of the classics are:

Interlaken: with lots of handy restaurants and shops and accommodation, sits between two lakes, both with big public boats affording great views and relaxing trips (www.bls.ch/schiff), with train access to Lucerne for a daytrip if you don't want to stay there (2 hrs each way via the scenic Brünig-Hasliberg route), to Thun and Bern, across the lake Thun to the fabulous lookout peaks www.niederhorn.ch and www.niesen.ch, and of course into the mountains to all the favorites of the www.berneroberland.ch.

Luzern: Pretty location on the lake, good info at www.lakelucerne.ch - check out the favorite lookout peaks of www.rigi.ch and www.pilatus.ch. Lucerne is one hour from Zürich by train.

Montreux: Pretty location on the Lake Geneva (if you look it up, the French local name is Lac Léman), with nearby attractions of the Chillon Castle (www.chillon.ch/en), the wildflower paradise of Rochers de Naye high above Montreux (www.fusions.ch/naye/), and - along the cute trainline that goes up there - the two fabulously located villages of Glion and Caux, with million-dollar views of Mont Blanc, lake, etc.

There is a national network of excellent hiking and rambling trails crisscrossing all of Switzerland, well signed, well mapped, called Wanderwege. Unfortunately the website is not in English, check it out nevertheless at www.swisshiking.ch (I know I know, sounds English...).

The yellow maps and guidebooks are widely sold - see at a major bookshop when you get there.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 05:55 PM
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The drive from Lucerne to Vienna is about 8 hours - so could be done in one long day if you like. But I definitely reco stopping for a couple of nights in Innsbruck of Salzburg. On the way you cold see Melk Abbey - which is incredible - as well as some absolutely beautiful scenery.
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 09:27 PM
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Hi Alice9,

I'm one of those who are fervent about using the train system. Really, it does go everywhere most travellers want to go; in fact, as DalaiLlama notes, there are some places that are car-free. Trains generally run two to four times an hour, so you are very, very free to see whatever you like.

If you *are* forced to wait for 10 or 15 minutes at a station somewhere, I've found that's prime time for people-watching. Just grab some coffee or an ice cream, sit on a bench, and see what the folks are doing all around.

You'll also do more people-watching ON the train. You can bring a picnic of lovely fresh bread and ham and cheeses, see what your neighbors are having, and open up a conversation. You get to interact with folks who aren't in the tourist trade at all when you aren't all closed up and isolated inside your vehicle.

There is now an ugly grey smear of smog above Lake Geneva in the summertime, due in some part to cars. When public transport is SO good, so convenient, and so fun, it just seems like the wrong choice.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Sep 1st, 2010, 09:27 PM
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er .. . "driving" just seems like the wrong choice!

lol

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 05:45 AM
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As far as driving vs public transport - I think I'll come up with our itinerary first, and then see what will work best, of course seeking guidance from the experts!

When I plan trips, I do the itinerary first, and then start on airfare, so I can be flexible about dates. Then accommodations. THEN transport. (And then the fun part, which is figuring out what we'll want to DO when we're there).

Alice
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Sep 2nd, 2010, 08:45 AM
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Alice, when you plan your mode of transportation, remember that it is not an either/or trains-or-car proposition:

Switzerland has an extensive network of coaches, originally run by the postal system and these days often farmed out to local companies, but overall still called Postauto.

They are (or were) the famous butter-yellow coaches that go where trains can't (and carry mail, hence "post"), with the traditional three-tone horn announcing the arrival (ask any little kid in Switzerland what a Postauto sounds like and they'll sing it for you).

Their website is in English - http://www.postauto.ch/en/pag-starts...d-freizeit.htm

If you click the link "A postbus near you" on the right side of the opening pge, you get a map of Switzerland, and a list of regions. Narrow it down, and be amazed at the choices!

Timetables are also on the site, and anything else you might need to know.

Schedules are coordinated with those of the trains (www.sbb.ch) where the Postauto serves as a continuation of a trip - they wait outside of the stations and take you where trains can't go.

In Berne for example, the Postautos have their own terminal above the train station, and they fan out into the region in many directions.

Now if you combine those options with the nationwide system of hiking and rambling trails called Wanderwege (www.swisshiking.ch - unfortunately not in English), you can cobble together delightful hiking excursions where the Postauto takes you to a hiking departure point and either a Postauto or a train brings you back from where you choose to end your walk.

Wanderwege are well signed and posted and mapped - any decent bookshop will sell you the specialized Wanderwege maps and booklets.

Happy travels (including on foot - still the best way to experience Switzerland!).
DalaiLlama is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 09:20 AM
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Yes it depends on where you go in Switzerland to judge efficacy of driving. For most of the country a motor trip is fine but if you go to spots where the overwhelming number of foreign tourists go - the awesome Alpine regions then a car is rather useless once you get there and indeed to reach dreamy bases like Wengen or Murren say you cannot even reach them by car but only by public transports.

Even in Zermatt you much park in Tasch (sp?) a few miles out of town and take the shuttle train in. You can drive to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen but must pay rather steep parking fees to garage your car once there as cars are not allowed in those towns or the regions above them generally.

But if just doing Lucerne, Bern, Zurich, Lake Geneva, etc then driving is fine - and if you want a thrill then tackle sinuous famous Alpine passes such as the Grimsel, Susten, Gotthard or Simplon pass roads, going up and over the Alps.
The legendary Swiss postal buses talked about above also ply those passes so you can have that thrill even if not driving.

A Swiss Pass may well be cheaper than driving all told and covers virtually everything that moves in Switzerland, including the iconic Swiss postal buses DalaiLama lovingly writes about, and lake boats, city transports and even gives free entry to over 400 Swiss Museums. For lots of great info on Swiss transports and passes (and alternatives like the Swiss Card, Swiss Transfer Ticket and Half-Fare Card) i always spotlight these info-packed sites - www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com. when i checked a few days back Swiss Passes were significantly cheaper if bought in the U.S. than for the exact same pass in Europe - but this can change and does so check both sources to see if it is worthwhile buying before Switzerland, as has been the case much of the past several years but may not be in the future.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 7th, 2010, 08:21 AM
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Thanks very much for all this good information and site references. I will definitely study this as I put together an itinerary.

My husband LOVES driving in challenging conditions, so he's definitely pro-driving. But if it's significantly less expensive to use public transport (of all sorts) that could tip the balance. (Also, I've explained to him that he MISSES all the gorgeous scenery while he's busy trying not to drive off a cliff...)

I'm still not sure about getting to Salzburg/Vienna though. Even if we drive in Switzerland, should we travel by train to Austria? That drive sounds pretty long.

Alice
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Sep 7th, 2010, 10:29 AM
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Even if we drive in Switzerland, should we travel by train to Austria? That drive sounds pretty long.

au contraire IMO - you could probably drive nearly as fast as taking the train - even the railjet trains don't really obtain high-speed in the European sense and you have autoroutes the whole way.

A couple of Swiss Saverpasses could be cheaper than motoring after factoring in fuel costs, freeway decal charge (if rental car does not have one), steep parking fees in places like Alpine resorts where cars are useless - and having a pass means you automatically get 50% off zillions of aerial gondolas, mountain trains, funiculars, etc that you would pay 100% for otherwise (unless you buy a Half-Fare Card for about $100 then pay 50% after buying it.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 10:00 AM
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Okay, I'm back. I've done a lot of reading, and had some unwelcome distraction, but I have to get my act together here. How about this as an itinerary? Remember, 2 weeks.
1. Fly into Zurich, pick up a car and drive to either: Lucerne, or Bern. I was set on Lucerne, but have thought about Bern as an alternative, comments welcome. Stay there 3 nights.
2. Drive to Lauterbrunnen as a base, stay there for 4-5 nights. I looked at a lot of alternatives for a base for the Berner Oberland, and this seemed like a good choice, again, comments welcome.
3. Drive or train to Salzburg, stay there 2-3 nights.
4. Drive or train to Vienna, ditch the car, stay 3-4 nights.
5. Fly home from Vienna.

How does that sound? Latter half of June, I think. One alternative is to do it in reverse, that is, start with Vienna, so that it gets a chance to warm up a little for the mountains.

Appreciate any and all advice, as always. You guys are the experts.

Alice
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Dec 9th, 2010, 10:32 AM
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I like it, but I would forget the car for this trip, and I usually drive. June is good, either direction. I would prefer Luzern, an easy train ride direct from the airport.
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Dec 14th, 2010, 12:13 PM
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Warning: Drive from Switzerland to Salzburg is LOOOOOOOONG. And quite boring. Because of the alps standing in the way, the most efficient route is driving all the way to Munich and then driving back to Salzburg. I did not enjoy the drive at all. Why not get a train instead? I dont know about Salzburg, but there is an overnighter from Zurich to Vienna and you'll have the day time to really enjoy your holiday. I have a write up about my trip in my blog http://sujaa.wordpress.com/2009/09/2...rian-vacation/ maybe it will give you a couple of ideas.

If you are flying into Zurich, surely you'll want to spend a day to see it? Its a beautiful city and has much to offer. Lucerne is not far from Zurich, if I remember only an hour by train so you can get there on a day trip quite easily.

Lauterbrunnen is a great place to stay and you'll find plenty of day hikes from nearby. Good choice. I have some nice pictures of hike we took from Lauterbrunnen in my blog, have a look. http://sujaa.wordpress.com/2008/05/1...lls-are-alive/. That was in end May and you can see how much snow was there even at lower altitude walks.

You come all the way to Switzerland and do not visit the Lavaux region? !! I think the Lac Léman region is the most beautiful area in Switzerland (I am not at all biased, I just happen to live there so I can't understand why you would skip that !
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Dec 14th, 2010, 12:46 PM
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3+ days in Vienna won't give you much time for excursions outside the immediate area of the city.
Michael is offline  
Dec 15th, 2010, 08:04 AM
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Yes, the two week limit is... limiting. I COULD stay in Switzerland the whole two weeks, but I do want to see Salzburg and Vienna while I'm 'in the neighborhood'. Too many places to see, not enough time (or money!) to travel as much as I'd like.

I'm glad to hear Lauterbrunnen is a good choice, thanks for the links, Suga. Will I need a car in and around Salzburg? Maybe we ditch the car when we leave Lauterbrunnen and switch to train at that point.

And would we be better of with 2 nights in Salzburg and 4 in Vienna? I didn't include Zurich because, well, with 2 weeks you have to try VERY hard not to include too many destinations. I try to find central locations I can day trip from and not move too often. Always a dilemma.

Thanks, Alice
Alice9 is offline  
Dec 15th, 2010, 10:20 AM
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3+ days in Vienna won't give you much time for excursions outside the immediate area of the city.>

Ah yes - to me a boat ride thru the Wachau Valley, about an hour west of Vienna by train (to Melk) rivals anything Vienna has to offer (and not to lessen the astounding things that city offers!)

But you take the train to Melk, see the Uber famous Melk Abbey there, hop on the hourly or so boats that float thru the vineyard-carpeted Wachau Valley on the Danube - probably the prettiest part of the whole Danube between Germany and the Black Sea - stopping off at such riverside wine town gems like Durnstein (where Richard-the-Lion-Hearted was imprisoned once after being kidnapped returning or going from or to some Crusade) - the ruined castle still hovers over the cute Baroque hued town below. Then hop trains back to Vienna, stopping in Krems (can also take boat all the way there) - a larger wine town but also cute. A fab day and one of the most enjoyable I have ever had in Europe.
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