Itinerary Help - 14 days in Switzerland

Old Dec 18th, 2020, 05:35 AM
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Itinerary Help - 14 days in Switzerland

I wish to bring my parents (above 60) and children (5-10 yo) to this beautiful country in Dec (definitely not this year, unfortunately). I am not planning to include much adventurous activities - hiking/skiing, but mostly enjoying scenic attractions as this trip could be the last for my parents, so I hope to have a lasting and worthwhile trip for them, mostly.

I only have 14 days, and I really need your thoughts on my draft below - which to remove, and to add for a vacation to remember. Thank you very much in advance!

Day 1 - Arrival at Zurich. Explore Old Town and spend the evening at Zurich river. Can I do Rhine Falls on the same day, if I arrive Zurich in the morning?
Day 2 - Go to Lucern, and explore Old Town, church, lion monument, Glacier Garden and Bourbaki Panaroma.
Day 3 - Lauterbrunnen. Just walk around the village, before heading to Stechelberg Gondola Station which is located at the base of Mount Schilthorn, to go to Piz Gloria revolving restaurant.
Day 4 - What else in Lauterbrunner?/ Mount Pilatus? Titlis? Or head to Bern? If yes, head to Bern after lunch?
Day 5 - What else in Bern?
Day 6 - Thun. Visit Oberhofen castle, Aare of Aar, Swiss Gastronomy Museum and Mühleplatz state park.
Day 7 - Start the day at St Beatus Cave, then Lake Thun, before sleeping at Kandersteg.
Day 8 - Blausee. Always wanted to go there. After that, to Lake Oeschinen. Sleep at Interlaken?
Day 9 - Lake Brienz, then go for a mountain excursion at Brienzer Rothorn.
Day 10 - Travel to Zermatt - free and easy.
Day 11 - Zermatt.
Day 12 - Travel to Montreux to see Chillon Castle. Possible to include Lausanne Cathedral; Palais de Rumine; The Olympic Museum;Place de Palud; Chateau Saint-Maire; Sauvabelim Tower?
Day 13 - Geneva
Day 14 - Geneva

I read previously that we cannot drive to Zermatt, so is there any other areas that do not allow cars? Is it feasible to only rely on trains since there will be luggage and children to care for as well?

Last edited by LYC; Dec 18th, 2020 at 06:08 AM.
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Old Dec 18th, 2020, 07:12 AM
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I certainly hope its not the last trip for your parents (who are my age!)

We visit Switzerland often and for me, your itinerary is entirely too busy and frankly, it's all over the place. While I understand that it's difficult to pare down the many options, that's what you need to do.

First off, how many nights do you have - not days, but nights?

Secondly, what do you most want to see? You just don't have time for everything on your list. While paring down, take a good look at the costs involved - Switzerland is not cheap.

Do I understand correctly that you plan to drive? If so, please know that Switzerland is public transport heaven, you really don't need a car, and you may not want one once you take a look at rental costs, vignettes, parking issues, etc. Yes, it is completely feasible to rely strictly on public transport, even when traveling with kids....and IMO it takes a lot of stress out of the trip. You just need to pack lightly, don't weigh yourself down with unnecessary luggage, or look into the luggage transport options offered by SBB.

https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

Yes, Zermatt is car free (cars can be parked in Tasch - https://www.zermatt.ch/en/arrival/Arrival-by-car).

Many of the prettiest alpine villages in Switzerland are only accessible by train/funicular/cable car/gondola (Wengen and Murren are car free, Lauterbrunnen is not). Trust me, you want to take full advantage of these forms of transport.

You'll want to look into travel passes too, which can make a person crazy, but you need to do the research to see what best works for you.

With so little time, I'd suggest you choose one or two mountain excursions and slow your pace. For example, most first time visitors want to see the Berner Oberland. I suggest you plan to spend three nights in the Berner Oberland, choosing either Lauterbrunnen, Wengen or Murren as your base. Many people also like Grindelwald, but its a bit too busy for my tastes, as is Interlaken, but you'll get many opinions on which is 'better' here.
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Old Dec 18th, 2020, 09:03 AM
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I agree with Melnq8. Too much moving around and too many one-nighters for my tastes, esp. for a group of 6 people with a range of energy levels and interests. Unless your travel to Switzerland is straight-forward and fairly short, your Day 1 doesn't allow for jet lag or just plain fatigue.

If you haven't identified things you want to do/see in Bern, then skip it. I like the town more than most people here, but you shouldn't just go there to check it off a list, esp. when you so obviously have a lot you'd like to see.

I suggest you investigate travel times between points to give you an idea of how much time you actually have after you arrive everywhere. (For example, traveling from Zermatt to Montreux by train takes about 3 hours, which in December (sunset @ 4:30) would probably not leave enough daylight hours to do everything on your list for Day 12.) Whether you drive or use public transport is up to you, but Melnq8 is correct that there's probably no better place to explore without a car.
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Old Dec 18th, 2020, 09:46 AM
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Another comment regarding winter travel - we often visit Switzerland in winter. Just keep in mind that days are very short, more reason to stay in one place for several days. Also, the mountain tops can often be shrouded in clouds, so it pays to be flexible. And traveling in winter could well present more issues with a car.

You'll also want to check winter operating schedules. For example, the cable car to Oeschinensee doesn't begin operating until around the 19th of December. We went up one year when the cable car was closed, but we had to hike up and then hike back down, so it's doable (weather permitting), but you mentioned you don't plan to hike, so probably not an option for you.

Day 4 - What else in Lauterbrunner?/ Mount Pilatus? Titlis? Or head to Bern? If yes, head to Bern after lunch?

Mount Pilatus is accessed from Lucerne; Titlis is accessed from Engelberg.

Last edited by Melnq8; Dec 18th, 2020 at 10:04 AM.
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Old Dec 21st, 2020, 06:56 AM
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Suggestion

Just some suggestions. I really loved Lucerne! There's a walkway around a lake (in a circle). Salzberg was really nice, cobblestone streets, the sound of music tour which takes you to all the points from the sound of music. They had a puppet show that I saw that was good. The strudel was so good! Zurich I believe had the train that went to the yungfrauyock (highest mountain).

I thought Lucerne was the nicest! Really liked Salzberg as well.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Dec 21st, 2020, 08:08 AM
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I liked Salzberg, too, but it's in Austria... 5.5 hours by train from Zurich.
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Old Dec 21st, 2020, 10:19 AM
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Melnq8 is right: a lot of things on your list are closed in December and even if they aren't, it's not a pleasure to visit frozen shadowy places at temperatures well below 0 degrees centigrade (may be 0-30 degrees Fahrenheit).
Schilthorn gondola: closed from November 1st until the beginning of the ski season (usually mid December)
Oberhofen castle: closed
Beatus Cave: clossed
Lake Thun: only 1 daily boat ride (around noon), the boat is heated
Blausee and Oeschinensee: closed; frozen and under a deep snow layer
Brienzer Rothorn railway: closed from mid automn until late spring
Lak Brienz: no boat traffic in December
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Old Dec 21st, 2020, 11:00 AM
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True

Your right, it is in Austri! Went there too. It was a long time ago.I was impressed with Lucerne though! Enjoy your trip!
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Old Dec 21st, 2020, 01:38 PM
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My trip to Switzerland was in June, so a little bit different experience, but, if you are planning to spend some significant time in the Berner Oberland, then, yes, Bern is a good day trip when weather precludes doing things in the mountains. Particularly if you have an unlimited travel pass.

When I did my trip in 2016, I basically planned the trip around using the 15 day Swiss Travel Pass. Trains are not just a means of getting around in Switzerland--they are one of the attractions. I wouldn't say that I would never rent a car in Switzerland, but to go to Switzerland and never ride the trains would be a shame. I can understand that, with kids in tow, a rental car often seems attractive, but there are tons of places in Switzerland where a car is somewhat of a nuisance (and this is coming from someone who lives in the western half of Texas and never uses public transportation at home). You need to spend the time, and do the research, to figure out your ground transportation options and not simply default to a rental car based on experience elsewhere.

Luggage should not be a drawback to using the trains--if it is, then you are probably packing too heavy. For a two week trip, you're probably going to need to count on doing laundry somewhere along the way so that you can pack light enough. If you have hard time schlepping your luggage around on a train, there's a good chance that it would be a very tight fit in most rental cars.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2020, 12:08 AM
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I don't think that the children will enjoy themselves on this trip. I would love to see the travel report written by someone other than the OP.
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Old Dec 24th, 2020, 03:33 AM
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Originally Posted by twk View Post
My trip to Switzerland was in June, so a little bit different experience, but, if you are planning to spend some significant time in the Berner Oberland, then, yes, Bern is a good day trip when weather precludes doing things in the mountains. Particularly if you have an unlimited travel pass.

When I did my trip in 2016, I basically planned the trip around using the 15 day Swiss Travel Pass. Trains are not just a means of getting around in Switzerland--they are one of the attractions. I wouldn't say that I would never rent a car in Switzerland, but to go to Switzerland and never ride the trains would be a shame. I can understand that, with kids in tow, a rental car often seems attractive, but there are tons of places in Switzerland where a car is somewhat of a nuisance (and this is coming from someone who lives in the western half of Texas and never uses public transportation at home). You need to spend the time, and do the research, to figure out your ground transportation options and not simply default to a rental car based on experience elsewhere.

Luggage should not be a drawback to using the trains--if it is, then you are probably packing too heavy. For a two week trip, you're probably going to need to count on doing laundry somewhere along the way so that you can pack light enough. If you have hard time schlepping your luggage around on a train, there's a good chance that it would be a very tight fit in most rental cars.
Thank goodness you reminded me about the luggage in the rental car! I guess we will have to rely on the trains to go around.
You are such a kind soul from the way you wrote! Bless you for the reminder, really!
I will have to re-look at the transport for a new itinerary.
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Old Dec 24th, 2020, 03:48 AM
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[QUOTE=Melnq8;17192371]I certainly hope its not the last trip for your parents (who are my age!)

We visit Switzerland often and for me, your itinerary is entirely too busy and frankly, it's all over the place. While I understand that it's difficult to pare down the many options, that's what you need to do.

First off, how many nights do you have - not days, but nights?

Secondly, what do you most want to see? You just don't have time for everything on your list. While paring down, take a good look at the costs involved - Switzerland is not cheap.

Do I understand correctly that you plan to drive? If so, please know that Switzerland is public transport heaven, you really don't need a car, and you may not want one once you take a look at rental costs, vignettes, parking issues, etc. Yes, it is completely feasible to rely strictly on public transport, even when traveling with kids....and IMO it takes a lot of stress out of the trip. You just need to pack lightly, don't weigh yourself down with unnecessary luggage, or look into the luggage transport options offered by SBB.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thank you so much for your insights, and confirming my worries that it is indeed a busy itinerary.
I could stretch the trip to 15 nights, but I will have to re-work on the new itinerary for expert feedback here.
I am also worried if my kids might find Wengen or Murren too quiet for them, that was why I wanted to go to Lauterbrunnen.


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Old Dec 24th, 2020, 03:50 AM
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Originally Posted by neckervd View Post
Melnq8 is right: a lot of things on your list are closed in December and even if they aren't, it's not a pleasure to visit frozen shadowy places at temperatures well below 0 degrees centigrade (may be 0-30 degrees Fahrenheit).
Schilthorn gondola: closed from November 1st until the beginning of the ski season (usually mid December)
Oberhofen castle: closed
Beatus Cave: clossed
Lake Thun: only 1 daily boat ride (around noon), the boat is heated
Blausee and Oeschinensee: closed; frozen and under a deep snow layer
Brienzer Rothorn railway: closed from mid automn until late spring
Lak Brienz: no boat traffic in December
Oh noooo...... Most of what I wanted to see are closed.
Looks like no lakes at all even though first week of Dec?
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Old Dec 24th, 2020, 03:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Melnq8 View Post
Another comment regarding winter travel - we often visit Switzerland in winter. Just keep in mind that days are very short, more reason to stay in one place for several days. Also, the mountain tops can often be shrouded in clouds, so it pays to be flexible. And traveling in winter could well present more issues with a car.

You'll also want to check winter operating schedules. For example, the cable car to Oeschinensee doesn't begin operating until around the 19th of December. We went up one year when the cable car was closed, but we had to hike up and then hike back down, so it's doable (weather permitting), but you mentioned you don't plan to hike, so probably not an option for you.

Day 4 - What else in Lauterbrunner?/ Mount Pilatus? Titlis? Or head to Bern? If yes, head to Bern after lunch?

Mount Pilatus is accessed from Lucerne; Titlis is accessed from Engelberg.
THANK YOU SO MUCH for the reminder about driving in winter.
I will have to scrap that as I do not have much experience driving in winter.
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Old Dec 24th, 2020, 04:59 AM
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Originally Posted by twk View Post
My trip to Switzerland was in June, so a little bit different experience, but, if you are planning to spend some significant time in the Berner Oberland, then, yes, Bern is a good day trip when weather precludes doing things in the mountains. Particularly if you have an unlimited travel pass.

When I did my trip in 2016, I basically planned the trip around using the 15 day Swiss Travel Pass. Trains are not just a means of getting around in Switzerland--they are one of the attractions. I wouldn't say that I would never rent a car in Switzerland, but to go to Switzerland and never ride the trains would be a shame. I can understand that, with kids in tow, a rental car often seems attractive, but there are tons of places in Switzerland where a car is somewhat of a nuisance (and this is coming from someone who lives in the western half of Texas and never uses public transportation at home). You need to spend the time, and do the research, to figure out your ground transportation options and not simply default to a rental car based on experience elsewhere.

Luggage should not be a drawback to using the trains--if it is, then you are probably packing too heavy. For a two week trip, you're probably going to need to count on doing laundry somewhere along the way so that you can pack light enough. If you have hard time schlepping your luggage around on a train, there's a good chance that it would be a very tight fit in most rental cars.
Do you still have the itinerary for your trip in June? Please do share?
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Old Dec 24th, 2020, 07:17 AM
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Thanks to some of the feedback above, I realised that many of what we wanted to see initially was not feasible in Winter.
Would this new 14-night itinerary work in Spring, June - Aug, and mid-Autumn?

Day 1 - Morning arrival at Zurich. Explore Old Town and spend the evening at Limmat river.
Day 2 - Stein am Rhein (around 45 mins car drive) and then Rhine Falls.
Day 3 - Head to Lucern to be based there for 3 nights. Explore Old Town, church, lion monument, Glacier Garden and Bourbaki Panaroma.
Day 4 - Lauterbrunnen. Just walk around the village, before heading to Stechelberg Gondola Station which is located at the base of Mount Schilthorn, to go to Piz Gloria revolving restaurant.
Day 5 - Mount Titlis.
Day 6 - Travel 3 hours to Wengen by train in the morning. Stay for 3 nights.
Day 7 - Day trip to Lake Brienz and Giessbach Falls
Day 8 - Day trip to Spiez Castle and Lake Thun/Oberhofen Castle.
Day 9 - 3.5 hour train ride to Zermatt the iconic matterhorn view, and stay 1 night.
Day 10 - Stroll along the village at Zermatt.
Day 11 - Get a train ride (Rail Europe?) in the morning to Montreux for 3 nights. Go to Chillon Castle and stroll along the Montreux Lakeside.
Day 12 - The Lavaux Vineyard Terrace and Vevey Promenade.
Day 13 - Lausanne Cathedral; Palais de Rumine; The Olympic Museum; Place de Palud; Chateau Saint-Maire; Sauvabelim Tower.
Day 14 - Move to Geneva for two nights before departure. Free & Easy with some nearby attractions.

Lastly, I am also curious if this itinerary can ever work in December, if I am based at Wengen on Day 6-8, but Day 7 is changed to a day trip to Grinderwald and Day 8 changed to boarding the Aerial cableway Wengen-Mannlichen, or day trip to Kandersteg?

Thank you so much in advance for your time and advice!
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Old Dec 24th, 2020, 12:09 PM
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I don't understand why you'd make a day trip from Lucerne to visit Lauterbrunnen and the Schilthorn, then return to Lucerne for two nights, just to return the same area (Wengen) for three nights.

This involves too much back and forth - just visit Lauterbrunnen when you're in Wengen or vice versa. Maybe add a night to your Wengen stay if you feel you need extra time to visit the Schilthorn.

I suspect you're not understanding the geography - to reach Wengen, you go right through Lauterbrunnen. Same with Murren.

Lastly, I am also curious if this itinerary can ever work in December, if I am based at Wengen on Day 6-8, but Day 7 is changed to a day trip to Grinderwald and Day 8 changed to boarding the Aerial cableway Wengen-Mannlichen, or day trip to Kandersteg?

Yes it can work in December. We visit in December all the time. Just take a look at the operating schedules for the Mannlichen and make sure you're there when it's open (December 5 this year). You can also get from Mannlichen to Grindelwald via the gondola, also from December 5 this year.

https://www.maennlichen.ch/en/winter...timetable.html

You're pushing your luck with Kandersteg though, not much to do there in the winter and as mentioned upthread, the cable car to Oeschinensee may not be operating.

https://www.kandersteg.ch/en/s/timetable-oeschinensee
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Old Dec 25th, 2020, 02:43 AM
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Timetable Maennlichen gondolas:
https://www.maennlichen.ch/en/winter...timetable.html
In 2021, they may try to run all the year round, except the period from Ocrtober 25th until November 26th, The reopening end November may be postponed if there isn't enough snow.
For the actual weather at Maennlichen, have a look at https://www.bergfex.ch/jungfrau-grin.../webcams/c297/
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Old Dec 25th, 2020, 03:08 AM
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After a overnight flight, I wouldn't drive to Schaffhausen/Rheinfall and Stein am Rhein.
Trains from Zurich airport railway station to these places run at least every 30 minutes (45-60 minutes journey).
Rhine Falls will not have much water in December. The boats don't run in winter and the Schloss Laufen restaurant will be closed.
https://rhyfall-maendli.ch/en/home/
In Spring, however, the Rhine Falls will have a lot of water and the small Rhinefall boats as well as the (bigger) Rhine river boats from Schaffhausen/Rhine Falls to Stein am Rhein will run.
https://www.urh.ch/en/fahrplan-spring-2021

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Old Dec 25th, 2020, 03:16 AM
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