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Help with trip to Switzerland, Austria and Czech Rep

Help with trip to Switzerland, Austria and Czech Rep

Dec 26th, 2007, 08:43 PM
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Help with trip to Switzerland, Austria and Czech Rep

We are in the early stages of planning a trip in August 2008 to Switzerland, Austria and Czech Republic. The trip would be of 16-17 days, would start and end in Zurich, and would use only public transport like train or bus or flights (no rented car). We have varied interests, and would like to mix up the spectacular vistas and sights with architecture,fun train journeys, museums, art, and just plain strolling around in cities and trying local cuisine.
At this stage, we would welcome suggestions on the route of our trip, and how many nights to stay at each "base camp" (with day trips thrown in between). Would like to restrict ourselves to a max of 5 "base camps". A very tentative itinerary is thrown in below:
1. Start with 2 nights at Lake Lucerne
2. Then 3-4 nights at Interlaken, with day trips to nearby places
3. Then 1 night at Zermatt. Should we avoid this ? Would like to board the Glacier Express.
4. 2 nights at Innsbruck or Salzburg.
5. 3-4 nights at Vienna
6. 4 nights at Prague, before returning to Zurich.

Please feel free to tear apart the above itinerary. Look forward to your suggestions.
indiancouple is offline  
Dec 26th, 2007, 10:01 PM
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I have a couple of suggestions.

One is that you spend your 3-4 nights in Lauterbrunnen, not Interlaken,. They are only 20 minutes apart by train, but the difference in scenery is dramatic.

Lauterbrunnen lies in a valley surrounded by high cliffs, with a waterfall dropping in just near the town (think of Yosemite Valley, which is similar). Lauterbrunnen has a number of charming chalet-type hotels to choose from. And you will be closer to Wengen and Mürren, the Schilthorn and the Jungfraubahn.

If you want to visit the lakes or other destinations closer to Interlaken, it is only an extra 20 minutes' travel time.

My second one concerns Zermatt. It is beautiful there, dominated by the Matterhorn. But your chance of seeing that on a one-day visit is not guaranteed. It is a long way to go to catch the Glacier Express, which, though highly promoted, is no more "scenic" than any number of other train routes. The most spectacular part of the route, I believe, is at the eastern end, toward St. Moritz, and it would take you all day to get there from Zermatt. I've stood by the tracks waiting for a train near the halfway point, and the people on the train going by look tired and bored.

So---if you want to see Zermatt in its own right, give it at least 2 nights. Or if you want to ride the Glacier Express, I would suggest riding the eastern part, from Brig to Chur or on to St. Moritz. You can loop back to Luzern and Zürich from Chur.

enzian is offline  
Dec 26th, 2007, 10:40 PM
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Thanks enzian. Your suggestion on Lauterbrunnen is well taken. We were only thinking of Interlaken because we heard it is more convenient as a travel junction. But Lauterbrunnen will do fine, since it is prettier.

If we leave out Zermatt altogether, can you suggest any other scenic train ride that we can take on our itinerary ?
indiancouple is offline  
Dec 26th, 2007, 11:27 PM
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Maybe you'll like the Centovalli railways:

The Lago Maggiore region in Ticino is sometimes overlooked by US tourists, and would add an Italian touch to your travels (while it is still Switzerland, of course).

Can't tell if or how it will fit into your itinerary, though.

Re. Austria: I'd stay in Salzburg instead of Innsbruck.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Dec 27th, 2007, 04:16 AM
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Hi indiancouple,

Yes, I wholly agree with avoiding Interlaken as a base for the BO portion of your trip in favor of the smaller villages. Better still are the car-free villages high in the mountains (Wengen & Mürren), but they will be a little less convenient for you (unless your explorations will take you into the mountains).

I also wholly agree with dropping your trip to Zermatt -- I think it's much better to stay at a place for a longer time. That way you can get a little deeper into the area with explorations and walking. I really favor that over several quick and shallow stops.

And here's the thing about those scenic train rides. For most of us, ALL trains in Switzerland are scenic. These "scenic" trains are only the ones that are marketed to tourists, and meanwhile, every little trundling engine going up every spectacular mountain or across every glorious pasture is just as scenic. So please don't become overly focused on that catch-phrase.

And one of the routes between Luzern and Interlaken is marketed as part of the Golden Pass route, so you can make that one your scenic train ride. Take a look at www.goldenpass.ch.

Have fun!

swandav2000 is online now  
Dec 27th, 2007, 04:44 AM
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Based on suggestions from Cowboy and swandav, it seems to settle the matter in favour of Lauterbrunnen against Interlaken. And the Golden pass rail ride from Lucerne to BO seems to be fine. Also, like the suggestion of dropping Zermatt, thereby limiting our "base camps" to 5 in number : Lake Lucerne, Lauterbrunnen, Salzburg, Vienna and Prague. Any suggestions about number of days budgeted at each place ?
indiancouple is offline  
Dec 27th, 2007, 09:17 AM
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You could add a night to Luzern (the one that you gain by not traveling to Zermatt). That will give you 2 full days there to explore.

On one of them (hopefully a good-weather day), you could combine a lake cruise with a trip up Rigi (the nearby "Queen of Mountains"), accessed by train and/or cablecar. The loop goes Luzern to Vitznau by boat; from there up Rigi (to the tip at Rigi Kulm) by cogwheel train; return on the train (or walk) down to Rigi Kaltbad; take time for a walk there, then ride the cablecar down to the lake at Weggis; return by boat to Luzern. A "Swiss sampler" of various modes of transport, with stunning views over the lake and mountains.

Here is a website with photos to entice you:


The second day you can expore the museums, architecture and sights of Luzern.

Between Luzern and Interlaken, you will, as noted by Swandav, follow one of the designated "scenic" routes, the Golden Pass route. The scenery around Bruni-Hasliberg, Meiringen and Brienz, and along Lake Thun, is indeed spectacular. However, nothing on any of the so-called "scenic" train routes can match what you will see from the villages of Wengen and Mürren, above Lauterbrunnen. Allow time for strolling in the villages and soaking in the scene, full of snow-covered peaks and hanging glaciers.

If you would like to break up that day's journey (which is a short 2.5 hours--but make sure you take the route through Meiringen, not Olten and Bern), you could either get off the train at Meiringen and visit Reichenbach Falls (famous to Sherlock Holmes fans), or, get off the train at Brienz, take a short hop by boat across the lake to Giessbach, and visit a grand old hotel (lunch on the terrace?) and walk up to the beautiful waterfalls above:


In either case, you can store you luggage in lockers at the train station while you sightsee.
enzian is offline  
Dec 27th, 2007, 09:22 AM
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Great suggestions from Enzian.

August 1 is Switzerland's National holiday.

August 15 is a holiday in many parts of Switzerland but shouldn't effect your travelling at all.
kleeblatt is offline  
Dec 27th, 2007, 01:37 PM
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Oh, to again be in Switzerland on Swiss National Day.

Sigh. Maybe 2009.
enzian is offline  
Dec 27th, 2007, 02:56 PM
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I would suggest 2 alterations to your plan:

It's going to take 9 hours by train to get from Lauterbrunnen to Salzburg. How about stopping along the way in Feldkirch?

I'm not sure if you can get back to Zurich from Prague very easily on a low budget airline. How about connecting instead from Dresden to Zurich, or fly open jaw into Zurich and out of Frankfurt?
lovisa is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 07:00 AM
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If you could do an "open-jaw" (fly to Zurich, fly home from Prague, you'd save yourself a travel day.

I'd agree with the recommendation to stay in Salzburg over Innsbruck--the former is a truly beautiful city, built to be "The Rome of the North".
JN is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 02:35 PM
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Hi Indiancouple,
Its been a good few years since my husband and I went to Switzerland. It is just amazing!! We flew to Zurich but went directly by train to Interlaken. It's so easy to find accomodation over there. We had nothing pre-booked. We stayed in Interlaken for 2 nights. The highlight of the trip there was the Jungfro (sorry about spelling). Don't miss it! We took the glacier express to Zermatt. What a trip. Zermatt is fantastic. Such a picturesque place. We stayed in a swiss chalet called 'Romantica'. It was like a dream. It was in July. We only had one night there but it was enough to take in the atmosphere. We still had so much to see. We also went to Lugano, Lucerne, St. Moritz, Appenzell, and Shaffhausen, but the highlights were The Jungfro! and Zermatt. (the Glacier express and the Bernina Express were fantastic)
It was the best holiday we've been on, compared only with Thailand, but completely different!! Enjoy yourselves!!. Martina.
martina is offline  
Dec 31st, 2007, 09:48 AM
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Do an open jaw ticket. Fly ito Zurich and out of Vienna or Prague. If you want just to stroll, don't know if you want to go to zermatt, or Lauterbrunnen. They are best seen by taking time in these areas-hiking or walking around, using the lifts. You won't find many museums in these areas. Innsbruck and Salzburg are different. There are some museums and churches of interest plus you can stroll around town or up into the moutains nearby. Pros and cons: Zermatt-little rain in summer. Can hike. Interlaken-Lauterbrunnen much more rain in summer. If you want more info contact me
marbar is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 07:28 AM
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I can only give advice on Vienna. I spent some time there. If you are flying into Vienna and want a quick way to get to/from the airport, try the CAT train. It takes only 15 min. and the ride is smooth. It is a little pricey but kids ride free with parent. There is a lot of great things to do in Vienna. Make sure to visit the St. Stephen's Cathedral. It has huge a huge spire that (if the renovations are done) you can go up in an elevator or steps and see a great vista of Vienna. Also, tour the "inner cirlce" in the heart of Vienna. You can see some really neat Government buildings. There is also some great shopping in Vienna. Look for Mostly Mozart, a great store for souvenirs, shirts, etc. Hope you enjoy your visit.

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