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First time to Switzerland & would like some advice

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Aug 5th, 2014, 03:54 PM
  #1
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First time to Switzerland & would like some advice

Hello,

We are a family of 3 who will be spending 7 nights in Switzerland next June. Originally we planned to go to Spain but hubby had a total change of heart....I am not familiar with Switzerland at all, so I am starting from point zero and would love some advice from all the experts here. We will spend 7 nights in Switzerland prior to getting on a 7 nights river cruise cruising from Basel through Germany, and it ends in Amsterdam. I like to use Lucerne as the base for the first 3 days and the following 3 in Interlaken, staying close to the train station. I am thinking of planning our itinerary like this:

Day 1 -Arrival in Zurich. Take train directly to Lucerne. Get oriented, probably cannot do too much touring after a long flight from SFO
Day 2-Lucerne-Tour in Lucerne
Day 3-Day trip to Bern. Good choice? Seems lovely!
Day4-Train to interlaken. Cruise Lake Brienz or Lake Thun? Other suggestions of activites?
Day 5-Interlaken--Day trip to Jungfraujoch. Hope weather permits.
Day6-Interlaken-Thinking of going to Murren. Any other places you would recommend besides Murren?
Day 7-Train to Basel. Spend day in Basel and will get on river cruise the next day.

My husband and I are in our early 40's and our son is 12 years old who is a great traveler. We are pretty much "slow travelers" and don't like to rush around. We enjoy nature, history, architecture and great food. We like to take lots of walk when we travel but we are not necessarily the best mountain hikers. We hate to have to pack and unpack and hop around everyday so I am only planning on lodging in Lucerne and Interlaken. Basel is a must for the last night since we have to make sure we get on the river cruise the next day.

Any advice is greatly appreciated!
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Aug 5th, 2014, 04:02 PM
  #2
 
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Help me out here. Your husband decided you are going to Switzerland as opposed to Spain. Is HE familiar with the country?

I would not stay in Interlaken. You can be close to the train station in Lauterbrunnen or in Grindelwald.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 04:55 PM
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Originally we were planning to go to Spain and we have been there before, and hubby could speak decent Spanish. However he really wants to try the river cruise and this is why we are now planning this trip. No, he is not familiar with Switzerland and I am always the main travel planner. So what is the reason we should not stay in Interlaken? Is it too touristy?
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Aug 5th, 2014, 04:57 PM
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I love Interlaken but like Dukey says first-timers to appreciate the awesomeness of it all should stay eyeball to eyeball with the glacier girdled peaks arising over lush cow-dotted meadows from your hotel balcony - Interlaken has only a distant view of the ice-bound Jungfrau Massif.

My favorite town is Grindelwald - the best views IME - a whole amphitheatre of ravishing vistas and so many easy excursions to do from there. Others love Wengen too Grindelwald has more kitsch for younger kids to do IME (and Interlaken too).

Grindelwald is just a 20-minute train ride above Interlaken so it is easy to get down to do a boat ride on either of the two sweet lakes bookending Interlaken.

the Jungfraujoch train is quicker from Grindelwaldl

Be sure to do the very easy Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg 'ridge walk' - a fairly flat wide trail that any age can walk the 2 miles or so on with views down to both the Grindelwald Valley on your left and the Luaterbrunne Gorge on your right (west)side.

I also love the Lauterbrunnen-Murren-Schilthorn-Gimmelwald-Lauterbrunnen loop and Lauterbrunnen is just a short train ride away.

For lots of good info on trains in Switzerland and the Jungfrau in particular as well as aerial cable ways, etc I always spotlight these IMO superb sources: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.swisstravelsystem.com.

If traveling about everyday and take trains and boats in this area and the Lucerne area a Swiss Pass may be a good deal for you - kids uner 16 get a free Family Pass so they never pay a cent to ride anything - gondolas, toy-like mountain trains, lake boats (which a Swiss Pass also covers in full as well as giving free entry to 470 Swiss museums and sites), etc A Swiss Saverpass for two adults traveling together on one pass.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 05:26 PM
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You have to leave your itinerary open in order to ascend the Jungfrau. The top s often wreathed in clouds (even if the valley is sunlit) and you will see nothing at the top. We were in Interlaken 3 days before we got a day clear at the top. (Of course we visited a lot of other places: Thun, Gruyere, Brienz, Swiss life museum, boat trips, Bern, etc - but we had a car).

Staying in one of the town slightly up the mountain is also perfectly viable and will make it faster getting to hikes (we don't hike - although we will walk miles in cities.

Just be aware that while Spain is one of the least expensive places in western europe Switz is the most expensive outside of Scandinavia.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 10:27 PM
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Hi quanmama,

Yes, like others here say, you may want to consider staying up in the mountains rather than down in the flats in Interlaken. The number of tourists in June shouldn't be overwhelming, but in my mind, it's just nicer to be IN the mountains rather than looking up at them.

I also prefer a car-free village; to me, that gives such a unique and peaceful environment, and it really enhances the majestic feeling of the mountains. My favorite village is Wengen, which is not as remote as Mürren.

I would suggest that you switch your itinerary and go to the Jungfrau area first. Arrival day is a wash, so chalk it up to travel and keep going until you're in Wengen (or your base town in the Jungfrau region). The next day, you wake up and POW you enjoy the mountains immediately.

But most importantly, if you end in Luzern, you'll be just a quick train ride to Basel -- maybe an hour.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Aug 6th, 2014, 07:30 AM
  #7
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Thank you for all the advice! It certainly helps a lot and I am rethinking about our plan for sure. I know Switzerland is very expensive..I was shocked by the hotel prices! But no matter what it will be a nice trip
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Aug 6th, 2014, 12:25 PM
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. We were in Interlaken 3 days before we got a day clear at the top. (Of course we visited a lot of other places: Thun, Gruyere, Brienz, Swiss life museum, boat trips, Bern, etc - but we had a car).>

This is why the Interlaken/Jungfrau Region makes so much sense over say Zermatt - bedcause if funky weather does set in it is easy to still do somethings that are fun even in poor weather. And having a car is not cecessary because trains and postal buses will take you there easily too.
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Aug 7th, 2014, 08:58 AM
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After reading up more online, I have to agreed that Grindelwald s gorgeous! I am pretty sure we will stay there instead of Interlaken. Does anyone have any recommendations on lodging? I like Hotel Gletschergarten. It seems quite reasonable and fits our needs. Any suggestions is much appreciated. Also are there many restaurant choices in Grindelwald based on your experience?
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Aug 7th, 2014, 09:43 AM
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We stayed in Hotel Belvedere in Grindelwald which was spectacular!

If you do not stay there you should at least give the restaurant a try, especially on the night they have their dinner buffet!
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Aug 7th, 2014, 09:52 AM
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Masterphil: I was looking at the Hotel Belvedere and love it as well, but the price is more hefty than Hotel Gletschergarten. We might splurge and stay there since it is going to be 3 nights only.
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Aug 7th, 2014, 11:49 AM
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Any Swiss hotel that I have been in is adequate - never a dive - anything in a pricey range - well over $150 will be great and a swell unlimited buffet breakfast where you can load up calories for the day and help avoid the high food prices even in supermarkets.
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Aug 8th, 2014, 10:37 AM
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quanmama...if you are like us, you won't be spending much time in the hotel in this incredibly beautiful setting! Get the pass that allows you on all of the gondolas, lifts, etc. and spend the day in the mountains!

Walking from the train station to Hotel Belvedere is a small restaurant on the right (when we were there we were drawn in by the Kase Fondue sign (after a major hike from First)) The owner loved my wife and I and kept asking us to join us in a shot of schnapps! What he didn't know if that my wife doesn't drink schnapps and I had to do 2 shots for every one of his! Thank God it was "staggering distance" to the Belvedere. The Fondue was fantastic!

Still one of my favorite places on this planet!

Enjoy!
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Aug 8th, 2014, 01:22 PM
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Many folks here prefer Wengen over Grindelwald, but I love Grindelwald - for the ambience of groups of hikers, alpinists, etc coming and going, gear in hand and best of all the wide wide WIDE amphitheatre-like views - and once I was camping in Grindelwald and a thunder storm hit - not unusual at all - and the torrents of water cascading off the near sheer cliffs of the Jungfrau Massif were tremendous to see and hear.

Seeing the alpinist on the peaks - at night their lights - and the glowing red of the sheer facade in the setting sun - oh my God - think Pink (from Yosemite but true here too).
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Aug 8th, 2014, 01:55 PM
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Your son (and you and spouse as well) would no doubt enjoy the Transport Museum in Lucerne. Fabulous array! A boatride on the lake is also absolutely lovely. Lucerne is one of the most beautiful places on earth, IMO.

I've stayed in Interlaken a couple of times and have been "up" the mountain(s) on day trips to the smaller villages. They are beautiful indeed. We prefer staying down below, which gives us more freedom to head to Gruyere or take a boat ride, etc., without having to make the trip back down the mountain to do so. I also have (minor) problems with nose bleeds at some heights so prefer to sleep at lower elevations at night. We actually like all of the choices for food and activities in Interlaken. Yes, it can be bustling with tourists/travelers.

You are traveling to my favorite country in Europe! Enjoy!
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Aug 9th, 2014, 10:37 AM
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All the advice are great! I just booked a hotel in Lucerne and am happy with the type of room we got and the price is very reasonable. I am still working on the lodging in Grindelwald and that should finalize soon as well. I always like to secure lodging as soon as possible because I know I am pretty picky when it comes to lodging even though we don't necessarily spend much time in the room. Not that we need to be at any luxurious hotels but it has to be well located, spacious, and clean (and within our budget!)
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Aug 9th, 2014, 10:43 AM
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We just came back from Switzerland - we are a family of 5 and loved it! Our itinerary was a bit of the opposite direction - we arrived in Geneva and spent 3 nights in Zermatt, then 3 nights in Wengen, and then 1 night in Lucerne. Of course, we wanted to spend more time in the mountains, so we didn't do Berne. I am in the midst of working on my trip report and will try to post. We were very active - via ferrata, paragliding, hiking. Kids loved it! (and mom and dad too)
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Aug 9th, 2014, 07:23 PM
  #18
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Surfmom: I would love to see your trip report! I am sure this won't be our only trip to Switzerland and it would be nice to read about others' experience.
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Aug 9th, 2014, 07:58 PM
  #19
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Given your interests, I wonder if you have considered staying in Lauterbrunnen for your time in the Bernese Oberland?
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Aug 10th, 2014, 01:54 PM
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Lauterbrunnen is a nice town but it don't have the mind-boggling views that Grindelwald has - Lauterbrunnen is in a deep valley - some nice views but not the sweeping panorama of views Grindelwald has.
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