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Mr & Mrs Annhig need your help planning bucket list trip to Switzerland


Jun 2nd, 2017, 02:05 PM
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Mr & Mrs Annhig need your help planning bucket list trip to Switzerland

Lots of you know that my DH has some health challenges at the moment, but this thread isn't about that, it's about how I can plan the best possible trip for us to Switzerland, which is where he most wants to go on holiday this year.

Our parameters? 10-12 days, flying into and out of Geneva, [best for flights from Bristol, our "local" airport] easy rail transfers, nice hotels with lifts and bars [no humping our own luggage up long flights of stairs] and plenty of fun and easy excursions from the places we stay in. My knowledge of Switzerland is limited to a skiing trip to Wengen many years ago where we stayed in the swiss equivalent of Fawlty Towers - hopefully things have improved since then.

Seeking ideas, I paid a visit to our friendly neighbourhood independent travel agent today, and together we came up with what we old fashioned folks call a 2-centre holiday - splitting our time equally between Interlaken and Lucerne. Interlaken we know a little because of a skiing holiday in Wengen too many years ago, but Lucerne we don't know at all - is there enough to do there for 3-4 days?

Then I got home and DH says that he wants to stay in Wengen - but is there enough to do there for 5 nights, or should we split our time in the Berner Oberland between Interlaken and Wengen? DH really wants to stay in the mountains for a while, not just near them, but I'm not sure that there's much to do in Wengen in the evenings in the summer [we're looking at August].

So now we have this [Lucerne is at the end of the trip as there's a non-stop train from there to Geneva airport which will make our return journey as stress-free as possible] :

Day 1 - late flight to Geneva. overnight in airport hotel.
Day 2 - am train to Interlaken [3 hours] . stay 4 nights.
Day 6 - mid morning train to Wengen. [30 mins] Stay 3 nights.
Day 9 - train to Lucerne [2 + hours] stay 4 nights
Day 13 - am train to Geneva, [3 hours] fly home.

I know that there may be more spectacular areas of Switzerland [the Ticino for example where we've never been] but we don't really want to spend 5+ hours in a train, and Lucerne looks like a good base.

Any help in planning this will be extremely welcome.

Thanks in advance.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 02:12 PM
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I think you are misinformed about Wengen. It is a perfect place to be for 5 nights. It is beautiful in itself, has plenty of options for eatng or shopping for food, easy walks or a path to more energetic activity, and easy day trips if one is bored.

If I were not feeling tip-top but still wanted to travel, I would want the simplest, least fussy agenda -- and if, once there, I wanted to "add on" activities, the fine.

But Switzerland is the perfect place to clear the slate and not load on "must do's." You can get up in the mormng and gawp at the majesty of the mountains all day, and feel grateful.

Have a nice time in Wengen. Enjoy every rosti.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 02:37 PM
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We really enjoyed Wengen but found Interlaken quite disappointing. It wasn't even particularly pretty, especially for Switzerland. You can do day trips from Interlaken but I'm not sure that's what this trip calls for. Have you considered building the trip around some of the fabulous scenic Swiss train trips?
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 02:44 PM
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I've been to Lucerne twice, in July 2010, and in June 2015. On this most recent visit, we spent 5 nights there, and took two day trips. One was to Basel to see an art show, and the other was to Brienz, on the lake of the same name, where we rode a little steam train up the mountain. Brienz is a pretty little town, with lots of traditional crafts being made and sold.

There's plenty to see in Lucerne, and they have a nice civic museum. On our first trip, we happened on a nice free choral concert, and there were several such things going on the second time.

We found dining in Lucerne to be very expensive.

On our way back to Italy this time, we took the lake boat as part of the William Tell route. It was unfortunately a misty day, but we did stop at some pretty villages.

I was amazed at the increase in the number of visitors to Lucerne between 2010 and 2015, especially given that the second trip was in early June, when most school holidays haven't begun and the first was in what I would expect to be full high season.

We were only in Basel for a day, but that's a city that would entice me back, probably more so than Lucerne, although I definitely liked Lucerne enough to return there!
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 02:48 PM
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Ann, I have recently booked 8 nights in Wengen (in September) and I am having to cull my wishlist...

I chose Wengen because it looks perfect and a great base for excursions. The transport system is such that you can easily combine short walks and dramatic scenery, with lovely stops at those berghaus restaurants. With access to mountains, lakes, Bern and waterfalls, you could just have a list and make up your mind day by day according to mood and weather.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 02:49 PM
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Ann, we loved the Ticino region and stayed 4 nights in Lugano. we took short train rides to all the neighboring towns. I just thought the entire area was beautiful.
We are going to do a day trip to Lucerne this September while staying in Zurich to see the Rolling Stones
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 02:50 PM
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Thank you all for your replies - plenty to think about.

bvl - if we go with the travel agent option, they offer half board - not something that we'd normally do but it would keep down the food costs. also a free half-price swiss pass which would be very useful. thanks for the info re Basle - looks as if it might be good for a day trip anyway.

Matija/frencharmoire - that's very helpful. I was reading some TA threads on their Wengen forum which suggested that it might not be hopping in the evenings but then we probably won't want hopping anyway.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 02:54 PM
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We loved Wengen, stayed there for 6 nights and we could've stayed longer. Well connected via trains and cable cars, good restaurants, quiet, I think it's a great location.

I haven't been here a lot lately, so I'm not sure what your DH's health challenges are (sorry to hear about it, hope all gets fixed soon). But if mobility issues, try getting a hotel closer to the train station. And if memory serves me, I think there's some sort of a local shuttle in town...

Have a great trip, Switzerland is wonderful!
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 02:55 PM
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Can you and your husband do a lot of hiking?

Because not sure what else you would do in Berner Oberland in the summer.

I've not spent any time in Interlaken myself, other than transiting through it on the way to Wengen or Grindelwald. I guess it would be convenient if you want to take trips up to the mountains (Jungfrau) or easy day trips to Bern or Lucerne.

Not sure what Interlaken itself offered, though there are lakes nearby.

I really like Lucerne for the Mt. Pilatus day trip that I took. Enjoyed it even more than Jungfrau because when I visited in early February one year, there was already a green zone from lake level up to a few hundred feet so you had these views of snow capped peaks looming over the lake, with green pastures at the bottom. Looked fantastic on a sunny day.

I researched going to Engadin in the summer. A lot of the hotels in that region offered local train and cable car passes if you stayed 2 or 3 nights in them.

Maybe they have something similar around Wengen.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 03:26 PM
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Here's a list of books you or your husband might enjoy. If you scroll down the list, you'll get past the guidebooks and such, and to mysteries and fiction that might be quite enjoyable in the evenings.


It used to be the habit of many great authors to vacation in Switzerland. Joyce. Mann & Nabakov pop to mind. And the Shelleys. Not all of these writers had a perch in Wengen, but still, a Swiss vacation might be an excuse to read them


lay in some hot chocolate
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 03:28 PM
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I'd change 3 days in Wengen into 4 and 4 in Lucerne into 3-lots to do from each base but there are non-Alpine things galore to do in the Jungfrau Region -like taking boats on the two lakes bookending Interlaken- especially Lake Brienz. Then there is the Jungfraujoch train (has to be done though very expensive even with a pass)- The Schilthorn - the famous easy Ridge Walk The Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg or v.v. - just above Wengen via cable car is The Mannlichen.

Lucerne too has sweet boat trips to take - to reach Mt Rigi and Mt Pilatus you can take boats to docks right by the mountain train stations.

Some kind of Swiss Pass would be maybe a good deal since you are taking several trains with longer distances.www.sbb.ch for info - and read up on the area at www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com (both have ideas for the Lucerne and Interlaken (Jungfrau) Region.

Maybe they have something similar around Wengen>

I do not think so - has been discussed in other threads. One reason Swiss Pass is so nice - covers trains to Wengen via Lauterbrunnen 100% (to Grindelwald too).

Interlaken has a casino in which to replenish dwindling trip funds!
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 03:32 PM
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Oh I missed the Interlaken 4 nights and Wengen 3 - I would base in one spot maybe for 5 nights - then use the other two nights perhaps at Montreux area on Lake Geneva - can take the special scenic Golden Pass train there from Interlaken (and to Interlaken from Lucerne -up and over the Brunig Pass).

4 nights in Interlaken is too much anyway - nice enough town but not that much there- great utilitarian base however for day trips.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 03:37 PM
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By the way, something I enjoyed very much when I was in that area was taking a boat ride from Spiez around the lake. Spiez itself is a pleasant castle town, only about 30 minutes from Wengen. Much more pleasant for me than Interlaken, which I found to have a kind of "bus depot" feel. But the charm of the boat ride was Swiss grandparents shepherding toddlers to this town or that, or just enjoying a bit of breeze on the lake, watching the passing scenery and the people who hang glide. It's very low key, and wonderful that way.

I'm a bit surprised people want to go to Switzerland and "do" anything. The jaw-dropping scenery is right in your face, even if you don't take expensive train rides or cable cars to "highest" peaks. It's fabulous just to walk around the valley floors, sharing paths with cows, and stare at these overwhelming mountains. The Swiss ignore tourists and it's kind of refreshing! It's very restorative to be in stolid Switzerland if you are used to a noisy, anxious culture. Just bring sachets of spices if you normally eat complex food. I enjoy the extreme simplicity of Swiss mountain eating, but there is no denying it rarely strays beyond mild cheese, carbs + sausage. Berries are a summer treat!
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 04:17 PM
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I've only visited in the winter but I remember the old Rick Steves episode where he rented a bike at one of the higher villages and coasted down for 30 minutes or something like that.

I don't know if you can do one-way bike rentals like that or he had to take the bike back up via cable car.

This was in Berner Oberland.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 07:16 PM
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Hi Annhig, My two cents here. If someone is not in tip top health, I would think they might like to spend a bit more time in one spot. The cites are lots of walking, etc. I love the small villages like Murren, just to sit and look at the beauty, waterfalls, good meals, read, relax. Murren and Wengen, and Grindelwald are all near each other and accessible. I've choose these spots over the cities. Sue
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 09:05 PM
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Wengen is near Trummelbach falls which is something I believe you would both enjoy very much. It is a glacier fed waterfall that is inside a mountain - I believe only one of two in the world, but I might be wrong in that. There is a lift that will take you halfway up the inside of the mountain. If your DH is up to it, you can continue the walk up, or just walk down from there which would be less strenuous and you would still see quite a bit. At each level one sees a different aspect of the falls and they are IMO spectacular. You are very close and the power is almost visually overwhelming. I have never seen anything like it.

I agree with Marija's impression of Interlaken.

We enjoyed Lucerne, but it does not meet the criteria of being in the mountains. Yet it is lovely as cities go and yes, it can be costly. Try for a hotel directly on the lake with a lake view room.

Whatever you decide, have a wonderful time.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 09:22 PM
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I don't think I'd stay in both Interlaken and Wengen - I'd choose one or the other depending on what you want to do there. There are heaps of possible day trips from Lucerne, which makes it a great base. An alternative might be to visit the area around Bodensee (e.g. Konstanz, Schaffhausen, Rheinfalls, Stein am Rhein, Meersburg, etc) although that may be too far. It seems that if using Geneva as your gateway that you could take the opportunity spent some time around Lake Geneva or Lake Neuchatel. I've read good things about Murten (but not visited there yet). Thun is also attractive.

Maybe you could stay in Thun (with possible day trips to Bern and/or Murten if feel like it). Then Wengen then Lucerne. Or reverse it so you're close to Geneva for your departure home. You don't say how active you would like to be but transport amid beautiful scenery is excellent throughout Switzerland.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 10:41 PM
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Hi annhig,
for me Interlaken and Wengen is the "same" area, no need to split time: Interlaken is only a transportation hub to go up to the Jungfrau region. It's not a pretty location itself. I don't recommend to stay any night in Interlaken when you can have other beautiful mountainous location.

For example, you can stay in Lauterbrunnen - the "Valley of the 72 waterfalls". From there you can easily go up to Wengen or Murren by 5-mins gondola. Or you can easily go down to Interlaken by 10-mins tram. The valley is gorgeous itself, one of the most beautiful things I've seen on earth (excuse me for the hyperbole, but it's true). Your eyeview'll be filled with lush green mountain with silky waterfalls on all sides, and terrific snow peaks just next to it.
I had a trip report under my name about Lauberbrunnen (the "Weekend Hopping" thread).

I'd stay there for the whole 5 days. The valley is pleasant enough that even doing nothing there and just taking the same photo every 5 mins is satisfying. Whether you stay in Lauterbrunnen or Wengen, you'll have unlimited possibility of hiking/roaming. A wood chalet with near view of Staubbach Falls is the best location. Trummelbach Falls is worth a visit too.
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Jun 2nd, 2017, 11:22 PM
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I feel that Interlaken and the area around it must have changed a lot since I was last there. When we visited a couple of times in the 1980s we both thought it was beautiful (although not as beautiful as Lauterbrunnen) but now I read mostly disparaging remarks about it and how is has become the 'adventure capital', 'is a transport hub', 'full of rowdy backpackers hostels', etc. I would be curious to return to see it again after such a long time. I can't believe it's changed so much - or are people only drawing comparisons with relatively sleepy alpine villages? I love the alpine villages and they are very quiet, especially in the evening - or at least that's been my experience based on a handful of visits (most recently 2015).

ps. If steps are an issue, I'd check this out before visiting Trummelbach Falls. The walk from Lauterbrunnen to the falls is flat (and very picturesque) and there is a bus that plies the route if you want to catch it back.
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Jun 3rd, 2017, 12:00 AM
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I'll keep an eye on this page as I am planning to stay a few days in that region after a business event in Bern later this month.

When searching for stuff to see and do, I found the following items quite interesting.
Bear in mind that I have NOT visited those myself yet, so don't take them as first-hand recommendations!

Gelmerbahn funicular
Just seeing the pictures freaked me out. But I may have to try it ;-)

"Powerful" tours
In case your husband or you have seen enough cows.

Aare gorge
Probably not a secret.

Switzerland Open Air Museum
The homepage is a bit overloaded with stuff. It features 100 or so buildings from all parts of Switzerland.

Grand Hotel Giessbach - above Lake Brienz, just a "bit" over my limit. But maybe I will pop in there for a drink or lunch.
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