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If you had a week in Switzerland...

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Jul 22nd, 2014, 01:19 PM
  #1
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If you had a week in Switzerland...

I know this is a super vague topic, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on what you'd do if you had a week's vacation to spend in Switzerland.

We have a week, and really NO agenda whatsoever, which makes planning hard. This is all I know:
1. Arrive from Salzburg late at night (into where? Doesn't matter.)
2. Leave from Lausanne to Lyon in AM 7 days later.
3. Will have a Swiss pass, 2 carry-ons, and no car with us.

Priorities of experiences:
1. Eat raclette and fondue.
2. "Typical" Swiss experience - Heidi-like, chalets, cowbells... not to stereotype the Swiss, but this is just the type of thing we like to see!
3. Railways - at least 1 of the tourist Scenic Railways, and then maybe 1 other, or just a regular train ride that has nice views
4. At least 1 mountain experience. We like to hike and don't mind walking a lot.
5. If possible, experience all 3 (or 4) language regions of Switzerland, but if we need to leave 1 out, we think it would the the Italian (sorry!)

If you had a week with these priorities in mind, what would YOU do? OR, if you had a week in Switzerland, how did you spend your time/vacation?

Thanks in advance.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 01:31 PM
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first I would hone in on the fantastic Jungfrau Region around Interlaken - perhaps ensconce yourself in a mountain town like Grindelwald, Wengen, etc and have soaring glacier-girdled peaks in view from your hotel balcony - cows dotting the meadows leading up to the peaks - the quintessential Switzerland of your dreams - glaciers to walk to - a myriad of toy-lie mountain trains and thrilling aerial cable cars - hiking paths for all degrees of fitness, etc.

You can also take boat rides on the two lakes book-ending Interlaken -

The Switzerland of your dreams:
https://www.google.com/search?q=jung...w=1455&bih=977

From Salzburg you'd head via Zurich to Interlaken and then take tiny trains into the hills.

Then move over to the French-speaking part of Switzerland - Lake Geneva area - Montreux and Vevey on the lake are perpetual favorites with Fodorites and there are loads of neat day trips to take - again boat rides on the lake (fully covered by a Swiss Pass) - the nearby lakeside Chateau Chillon, make famous by Lord Byron's sojourn there - the Chocolate Train, one of those special scenic trains on your wish list

The Chocolate train rolls from Montreux to Gruyeres to look over this fine fine wallked town - a visit to a cheese factory is included - then the train rolls over to Broc for a Willy Wonkaesque visit to the Nestle Chocolate Factory before returning to Montreux - wine and cheese are served en route in vintage Belle-Epoque pullman cars.

To get between Interlaken and Montreux you can also take a famous special scenic train - the Golden Pass train with the usual domes observation panoramic cars and special VIP seats!

Fly out of Geneva or Zurich is not too far by train either.

For lots of great stuff on Swiss trains and passes I always highlight: www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 01:39 PM
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If *I* had a week in Switzerland, I'd spend it in Vevey & Montreux. But I doubt that would be most people's answer. I have friends living there and love that region along Lac Leman so that's where I'd go/stay.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 03:31 PM
  #4
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This is perfect and exactly what we are looking for. It does help as hone in on where to even begin. We usually like Rick Steves, but even his guide seems voluminous for a 1-week trip... Although we know we are asking a lot in a little time.

Suze... Thanks for your input! We know friends of friends in Lausanne, so that's why we are choosing to end there. It's helpful to hear how people think and what they'd do.

Anyone else, please let's hear your thoughts!
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 03:45 PM
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If I had a week in Switzerland I would kiss the world goodbye and go to an alpine valley with cows and flowers that Rick Steves never mentions in his books. I walk in meadows and sit by grand lakes. I might traverse a valley trail to look up at the peaks and maybe take a gondola ride, but mostly I would avoid the tourist "must sees".
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 03:50 PM
  #6
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Sandralist... Any specific town come to mind where you'd do this?
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 04:08 PM
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I would return to the chalet we rented outside of Grindelwald where I felt as if I could touch the Eiger.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 04:23 PM
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Things of interest (well things I liked) for your time at Lac Leman...

Chateau de Chillon
http://www.chillon.ch/en/index.cfm

Rochers de Naye tram
http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/r...-montreux.html

and walk up to the Old Town in Montreux.

Trip to Gruyeres and the castle there.
http://www.chateau-gruyeres.ch/e/

Tues & Fri farmers street market in Vevey. Sat in Montreux.

Walking the 'quai' (lakeside promenade) in Vevey and Montreux.

Have your friends take you to 'Ouchy', the lakeside neighborhood of Lausanne for drinks or a meal.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 04:24 PM
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I don't think a week's enough time to spend time in areas with all 4 of the languages. Personally I'd leave out the Germans -haha.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 04:40 PM
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itspat,

Giving you a precise answer would require my buying a Rick Steves guide to Swizerland and eliminating the places he mentions, but here is one place I might start (but maybe Steves knows about it!)

http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/axalp.html

In reality, I think Switzerland is filled with beautiful meadows, lakes and valleys. I really love off the beaten path travel, and I have found that the internet can be a great resource for this, simply by doing a google search for "off the beaten path switzerland" and going from there.

The first time I went to Switzerland, I was dumbstruck by the peaks, but what I personally remembered and treasured most was that I could walk from valley to valley, or meadow to meadow, or town to town. I just loved walking in Switzerland -- more than I loved taking trips with other tourist to see peaks or other sights.

I also loved being by the lakes in Switzerland, which are surrounded by majestic and mysterious mountains. Were I planning a trip to Switzerland, one of the Google searches I would pursue is "beautiful mysterious lake views Switzerland" and see where that leads me.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 05:35 PM
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When I read your posts, the first thing that jumped to mind was the Berner Oberland, which is exactly what PalenQ also recommended. It fits your description of Heidi-like mountain scenery and cowbells, and is loaded with beautiful hikes to take. It was our favorite place in Switzerland. We stayed in Wengen and absolutely loved it, but there are other good choices in the area too. The area around Lake Geneva is also lovely, so perhaps 4 nights in the BO and 3 somewhere around Lausanne or Monteaux would make a nice week. Enjoy!
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 06:25 PM
  #12
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From what you've said, I also think it makes sense for you to consider the Bernese Oberland and Lucerne. Get a few good guidebooks or look through some at your local library -- and do NOT limit yourselves to Rick Steves's book! See what most interests you and plot those things out on a calendar. Then, if you have extra time, see what other areas in Switzerland snag your interest or come back with some questions about other options.

Hope that helps!
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 06:47 PM
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I like Lausanne, personally, because it has one of the best lakeside hotels anywhere but with only a week I would FORGET about going there other than to leave.

That said, I agree with somewhere along the lake and probably Montreux with a possible visit to Chillon. Yeah, the place is iconic, Lord Byron and all that, but inside there isn't a lot to see.

The train up to Rochers de Naye: absolutely

The Berner Oberland and the Jungfrau, most definitely and for at least two full days if possible.

Luzern, also and with a 1/2 day trip either to Mt. Titlis or Mt. Pilatus
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 10:50 PM
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Hi itspat,

You never say when this trip will be, and that could be important for your plans.

But basically, I agree with the itinerary to include the Jungfrau area and then the Lake Geneva area -- it gives you plenty of contrasts, from pointy mountains in the German section to lush lakeside experiences in the French section.

Yes, travel between the two by the Golden Pass routing, which goes by Gstaad and Zweisimmen; it's quite stunning to enjoy the scenery as it moves from the high Alps to the low, green, rolling hills, and finally ending at the sparkling blue waters of Lake Geneva. If you want, you can break up the trip with a stop in Gstaad for lunch and a stroll through the hills, or even in Gruyeres and Broc-Fabrique to see the cheese demonstration and the chocolate factory.

If you did the Chocolate Train from Montreux, it would be repeating the scenery/trip on the Golden Pass route, and it would eat up one of your very few days in Montreux, so I recommend that you see those things enroute if you want to.

Since you have so few days in Montreux, I don't recommend a trip to the Rochers-de-Naye, particularly since you'll be coming from the high Alps. Hopefully you will have gotten quite a lot of gorgeous mountaintop experiences and views while in the Jungfrau retion. Again, since you have so little time in Montreux, I would spend that time seeing the things that are unique to that area.

I would recommend at least half a day in the vineyards of the Lavaux (between Vevey and Lausanne), and that can be nicely combined with half a day getting lost in the old town of Vevey, which is right next to the lake.

I would also recommend about a day just in Montreux -- walk along the lake to Chillon (45 minutes), see Chillon (2h), then continue the walk to the town of Villeneuve (45 minutes). You can take bus #201 back to Montreux. Explore the hills and lanes in the old town above the lake, and have lunch in one of the restaurants that the tourists never get to. Spend a few hours sitting on a bench by the lake and watch the human parade: Swiss matrons in Chanel walking with their punked-out nephews and nieces, rock-star has-beens rolling stoned down the promenade, tourist families from Australia and Japan and the U.S. mingling and giggling and soaking up the views across the lake, fashionable families from Paris out for a quick weekend, students from the many international schools and hotel schools on a break from their studies, etc.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Jul 23rd, 2014, 11:09 AM
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you can break up the trip with a stop in Gstaad for lunch and a stroll through the hills, or even in Gruyeres and Broc-Fabrique to see the cheese demonstration and the chocolate factory.>

To clarify - Gstaad is right on the Golden Pass route - but to get to Gruyeres and Broc reuires detouring off the GP line and probably a couple of changes of train. You would change off the GP line at Montbovon - it's about an hour straight thru via Gruyeres from Montbovon Broc Fabrique station, for the chocolate factory tour - another hour to come back plus see Gruyeres and do the chocolate tour - well maybe do one of those things on what is already a long train trip from the Interlaken area to Montreux.

I'd suggest a more leisure tour either on your own using local trains or the official Chocolate Train which has the trappings of a guided tour.

http://www.swisstravelsystem.com/en/...ate-train.html
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Jul 23rd, 2014, 11:15 AM
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There's not "a lot" to see inside Chateau de Chillon??? Really?? That's news to me. It's FABULOUS. Don't miss the toilets and the dungeon.

Actually I prefer the castle at Gruyeres because it's not as old and is fully furnished to the period.
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Jul 23rd, 2014, 01:06 PM
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One thing not to miss in Monreux/Vevey area is to take a boat ride on Lake Le Man - you can go over to France - to wank Evian-les-Bains, a spiffy spa town and get a taste of France and the famous water named after the source of it in town. Swiss Passes are fully valid on boats even though they go to France.
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Jul 23rd, 2014, 01:27 PM
  #18
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Thank you, Fodorites! This is perfect and exactly the type of posts/advice I'd hoped for. Thanks much.

Couple more vague questions:

1. We are quite satisfied with splitting up time between Jungfrau region and Lake Geneva area. In your personal opinion, are we missing anything by eliminating Lucern and not getting Mt. Pilatus/Titlis experience, or the Matterhorn experience further south? I want to say we don't need to tick off tourist requirements, and I'm sure they are glorious, but do you personally feel the scenery in Jungfrau area is just as spectacular? How is it different?

2. In general, we respect Rick Steves' advice and have used his guides on many trips. We just find that, wherever we go, everyone has his book and is clamoring to do the same thing! In Jungfrau, any suggestions of where you'd go to still be convenient to the sites (and raclette/fondue!) and a train station and still be off the beaten path a bit?

3. How does Switzerland preserve the cowbells and Heidi-like atmosphere when there are so many tourists all over the place? Is it real, or is some of it staged for tourists?

Thanks again... your advice made a difference!
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Jul 23rd, 2014, 01:28 PM
  #19
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PS - trip is in early September... does that change things a bit?
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Jul 23rd, 2014, 02:17 PM
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the Jungfraujoch is just as spectacular as the Matterhorn. I liked doing both, but I had 2 weeks not just 1. The Matterhorn is iconic, of course, but you'll be okay missing it.

Sure, you're missing something by not doing Lucerne, but if you try to shoe horn it into your week, you'd be missing something else. 2 locations in 1 week is good. You'll enjoy it. I did Rigi and it was great, but really the area around the Berner Oberland is better.

here's a photo from the Jungfraujoch:
https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink

See? pretty spectacular, eh?

I liked the Baeren Hotel in Wengen. We had lovely views from our window, and just walking from there you could see chalets and cowbells and scenery like this:
https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink
that should fulfill your "Heidi-like" image. it did for me
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