interlaken vs. lucerne

Old Oct 25th, 2010, 06:50 PM
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interlaken vs. lucerne

My boyfriend and I are backpacking through Europe 11/18 - 11/29. We fly into Zurich and plan to spend the first night there but want to go to either Interlaken or Lucerne the next day for the night. This will be our first time in Switzerland and we're both pretty adventurous... can anyone suggest one city over the other and also, can you suggest must sees or dos while there? Any help is greatly appreciated!
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Old Oct 25th, 2010, 07:28 PM
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For just one night? Where would you be going after the one night?
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Old Oct 25th, 2010, 07:42 PM
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Backpacking for 10 days in late November beginning in Zurich? A few questions:

- Are you mad!? Just kidding
- Where are you flying out of?
- Where else do you plan to go?
- If possible, I would skip both and make a b-line to Paris and spend my entire time there. It will likely be cloudy in late Nov and you may miss seeing the high mountains.
- If you need to stay in Switzerland, I would head probably head to Murren or Grindlewald for a couple nights - it will be quiet I think, but very nice as it always is in Switzerland. I'm sure you will get more advice
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Old Oct 25th, 2010, 09:33 PM
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Hi shimsham,

Luzern is a city with a nice historical core, and it's surrounded by some peaks. It also sits at the base of a system of lakes.

Interlaken is a touristy town (has a Hooter's restaurant . . .), but it is nearby some high Alpine peaks where lots of first-timers like to go -- The scenery is more dramatic in the Interlaken area because the peaks are higher and there are more of them.

Though I usually avoid Interlaken at all costs because of the abundance of souvenir shops, tour busses, and that Hooter's . . . in your case it may work ok. Because it's November, there won't be that many tour busses, and there are one or two hostels there where you can meet other young travellers. However, Interlaken will be about 60-90 minutes from the mountain villages or the peaks. So if you really want to be IN the mountains, you may want to go to Wengen, Mürren, or Gimmelwald -- all car-free towns and therefore more pleasant and more picturesque.

You may also want to do a search at google's images engine so you can get a look at these places.

Have fun!

s
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Old Oct 25th, 2010, 10:00 PM
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Question: Why leave Zürich in such a hurry? It is Switzerland's largest city, has lots to offer for a first-time visitor, it sits by a lake, you can walk off the jetlag by the lakefront promenade and in town, like in the old-town section (Altstadt) with a cathedral (Grossmünster), another cathedral with Marc Chagall windows (Fraumünster), then there is an art museum of reknown (Kunsthaus), and more. Zürich has two mini-mountains with good views (google Zürichberg and Uetliberg), accessible by public transport.

As backpackers you need to know about the excellent youth hostels in Switzerland, they are quite swank, they save you money, and they provide the greatest opportunity to meet other travellers with many good stories and tips to share.
Check them out at www.youthhostel.ch/en/hostels - scroll down for the one in Zürich.

Lucerne can provide your first experience with "real" mountains, google the Rigi and the Pilatus, and make sure you read the fine print about openings or closures this late in the season. I seem to remember that there are maintenance projects being done on the Pilatus - see if it says you can go up by one of the two access routes - I'm not sure, it may be too late.

You have to realize that you picked a time when many mountain cograils and funiculars and such don't run until next spring, when mountain passes can be closed so daytrips with the popular coaches of the postal system (www.postbus.ch) are not running.

Days are short, it gets dark soon after 5PM (no more daylight saving), and you either spend a bunch of money hanging around in pubs and other places where you have to spend money, or you sit around in your room - no fun. So plan on attending concerts and other events that may not cost as much as the "big" ones - be creative in your planning and ask around.

If you take the train from Lucerne to Interlaken, make sure you buy a ticket and board a train that goes via Brünig-Hasliberg, it is the scenic route. slower than the regular route..

Trains are at www.rail.ch
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Old Oct 25th, 2010, 11:01 PM
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It's so hard to say where to stay. We've got snow on the ground almost to the valleys so it's cold. When it's cloudy, you won't see much in the mountains. With these things in mind, I'd go to Lucerne because imho it's quainter than Zürich. Zürich isn't bad (spent a day there last week again) but it's not representative of Switzerland's beauty, just its money.
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 07:45 PM
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We have quite an aggresive trip planned travelling from Switzerland to France to Italy, back to Switzerland and finally ending in Paris. So the first night we are definitely staying in Zurich with the second night still up in the air being either Lucerne or Interlaken. From their we are travelling to Geneva for either 1 or 2 nights where we will then travel to Nice by plane. We are staying in Nice for 2 days then heading by train over to Cinque Terre for a night and then off to Lake Como via Milan. As I said, this is a jammed packed trip but we're young and don't plan on sleeping much!

Thanks for the input thus far. I had no idea it was dark by 5pm and that we may not have the greatest view of the mountains given the time of year.
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 08:20 PM
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Thanks for the clarification.

Based on that, I suggest scheduling another day or two for Lucerne or Interlaken to give yourselves better odds of having a nice day or half-day when you can actually see something. Geneva doesn't compare to what you could see (or miss if you get in and out too quickly) in a mountain-access location like Lucerne or Interlaken. Geneva is just a big city with a lakefront and lots of international organizations that give it a bit of an international flair.

If you do want to stay on the lake Geneva (called Lac Léman in the local French), then make it Montreux or Clarens or Vevey, and if it at all looks like you'll have open visibility, get up on the little mountain train to Rochers de Naye (www.fusions.ch/naye/) - now there's a mountain experience, with great views across the lake to the Mont Blanc!
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 08:23 PM
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Are you aware that the train ride from Nice to the CT involves multiple connections and takes at least 6 hours?

And the next day, you'll be on another series of trains for 5-6 hours?

You'll only have a couple of hours of daylight in Nice, the CT and Lake Como after all those hours on trains. Daylight perhaps, but not necessarily sunny and dry. November is the rainiest month of the year in Nice, the CT and Lake Como.

Why wouldn't you train or fly from Milan to Paris?
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Old Oct 26th, 2010, 09:25 PM
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Jean is right, skip the CT - in Nov. it's practically closed and not hospitable, not much to see and even less to do; when it rains the trails (all up and down) are closed and there is nothing to do.

With only one night, coming from Nice, you get in (too) late and you leave (too) early - even if it were a nice day, you won't be there during the day to see it, so skip it.

Southern France and Northwestern Italy are not well connected with public transport, so prepare for an arduous journey when compared to other routes in Europe, or take Jean's advice and look for a flight into Milan (three airports: Malpensa or Linate or Bergamo Orio Al Serio) or into Pisa.
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 01:28 AM
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Can you tell me a little bit about what you want to do/see in Switzerland? With that short a trip, you are spending all of it in the cities, which are not what Switzerland is about. You need to get into the countryside.

That being said, I agree that November can be problematic in the mountains in Switzerland. It will be a matter of luck. Some things may be closed (including hotels and restaurants which close early Oct to mid-December). And you can have fog. But it sounds like so far it is cold, so at least there is snow and low temps which means less chance of fog.

Based on the fact that you want to go to France next on the itin, I would suggest you skip Lucerne and Interlaken entirely and head west from Zurich to Château d'oex. This is in the direction of Geneva and France, so you won’t be backtracking. The mountain area here is stunningly lovely, Château d'oex is a charming small village, and best of all you will be up in the mountains rather than just looking at them from Lucerne or Interlaken. In Château d'oex , you won’t need to depend so much on whether cable cars and trams are running, as you will already be up in the mountains. You can do winter walking, cross country skiing, horse drawn sleigh rides, sledding. Spend 1-2 nights there. From there it’s an easy train ride to Geneva or elsewhere along the lake (see below).

I would actually recco not staying in Geneva, but in one of the prettier towns down the lake like Vevey, Morges or Nyon. Even Lausanne or Montreux, while larger, would work. These are all about an hour from Château d'oex by train. The hillside vineyards will be brown, but you will still get the beautiful lake and Alp views and can still do walks in the vineyards and wine tastings. There is the Chillon Castle which is definitely worth a visit.

Of course another thing to do is go from Zurich to the French Alps and just skip the Swiss ones. From there you could go on to France. This will require a combo of train and bus, but is quite doable. Courmayeur and Chamonix are two nice little towns with lots of good hotels. Mt Blanc is really spectacular.

There are also Alps in Italy, and would work easily if your Italian itin includes Venice. (Although Venice in November has its own issues too, like flooding.) Places like places like Bolzano in the Dolomites are 6 hours from Zurich ad about 3 hours from Venice. Getting to/from Florence would also be possible.

I don’t recco Lake Como in November. There are no ferries running, so unless you have a car, you will be taking long train rides to get from Point A to Point B. It is also going to be very cold and there are no gardens in bloom at that time, one of the prime reasons to go to Como, IMO. I think you will find a lot of closures there too. Yes you can see the Alps, but you will already have seen them in Switzerland.

I ditto CT but at least it won’t be quite as cold as Como.

Another thought is to re-jigger your itin entirely and spend some time in Germany or Austria at the Christmas markets. Might as well take advantage of what Europe can offer in the early winter season. Or go to a place like Colmar which is close to Zurich and has a very good Christmas market.
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 04:40 AM
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Sorry to say that but your itinerary is complete nonsense.

It consists of summer destinations only. In late November, you will see nothing and many attractions AND means of transportation will be closed. In Switzerland, you won't see any mountains because they will most probably be in clouds. Instead, you may experience heavy rain.

Cinque Terre is a hiking destination, practically everything will be closed. Lake Como is a summer destination - what do you want to do there? "Villa Carlotta will be closed the 14th November 2010".

The only destination that makes half-sense is Nice, although it will be cool, rainy and overcast too. But at least, you will find enough museums there to keep you occupied.

As others, I would strongly suggest to change your plans thoroughly. This time of year, you should stay in the large cities in order to explore the museums.
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 07:03 AM
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I disagree that the itinerary "consists of summer destinations only"..tell that nonsense to all the people who go to Switzerland to SKI.

I think you will find Luzern much more picturesque than Interlaken..that is, the town itself but don't let anyone tell you that Luzern doesn't have it's "not so quaint" side, too, because it does but I doubt you'll see that in a short visit.

And IMO towns like Luzern are just as much a part of Switzerland as are the alps and the cowbells and no, you do NOT need to either justify or explain your itinerary.

if you want to do a short (half day) trip UP to some "alpine" scenery from Luzern you can easily do the trip to Engleberg and Mt. Pilatus if that interests you; may not be much of a view from the top depending on the weather.

As to Zurich..there is a lot to see and do in that city and i have yet to understand why so many people want to act as if it doesn't exist, isn't really a "part of Switzerland" etc., etc.

Enjoy your trip and cram in as much as possible..THAT really drives some of the slower folks here crazy..with ENVY!
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 08:00 AM
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Why are you going to Interlaken?

If you are going to use Interlaken as a base for exploring the Bernese Oberland, I could see staying in this city. But, I would never in a million years visit Interlaken just to see it. It is a very touristy town that doesn't represent the REAL Switzerland.

There are some very nice hotels and restaurants in Interlaken and the city itself is very clean and pleasant. But, it is nothing to "see."

I would only stay in Interlaken if I was going to explore the Jungfraujoch, Schynige Platte, Schilthorn, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, etc.

I would definitely stay in Luzern for one night rather than Interlaken.

Another place that you might look at is Lungern. It is between Interlaken and Luzern.

Lizzie
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Old Oct 27th, 2010, 11:00 AM
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I was in Nice last year at the exact same time you are going and it was sunny and in the 60s each of the four days I was there. Rain was forecast for the day I left. So while there is a higher likelihood of poor weather in Nov than say July, you could still have some nice days.

I think what the others are saying is that to schedule yourself for all places that are mostly outdoor/weather dependent at a time of year that is not know for great weather means you are more likely to be disappointed. Most people would pick at least some locations that have some inside options - and that means more cities.

You only have 11 days total. Last year I had exactly that amount of time at exactly that time of year. I did four days Nice with daytrips to Eze, Antibes, Monaco, etc and the rest of the time in Paris. I thought it was a nice mix. I would re think your itinerary slightly - probably drop at least Lake Como and add the time to Paris. Is your flight from Geneva to Nice already booked? If so then I would probably rethink your Italy portion all together and just add someplace else in the south of France and Paris.
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Old Oct 29th, 2010, 07:15 AM
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We loved Luzern - very pretty with a wonderful old town. The most interesting thing in Interlaken was watching the paragliders float down from the mountains and land in Hohneggge (spelling?)park. Otherwise, we didn't find it a very scenic or interesting place. We stayed in Lauterbrunnen, which we loved, and also thought Murren was a delight, though more time consuming to get to. The mountains are often under clouds. We went to Zermatt expressly to see the Matterhorn but it was hidden. Still loved the town, though! Whatever you see will be something new, and you will love it!
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