suggest itinerary zurich to Venice

Old Feb 7th, 2006, 11:03 PM
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suggest itinerary zurich to Venice

We are a family of 5 ( 2 teenagers & a 5 year old). We have 4 days to get from Zurich to Venice for a cruise. Any suggestions on how best to spend that time? We've been to Venice before so could stay an extra day there. We have two days there once we board the ship. This is early August.
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Old Feb 7th, 2006, 11:57 PM
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I'd spend as much time in Switzerland as I could if you haven't already.

You can rail from Zurich to Venice in about 7 hours www.cisalpino.com or fly cheap out of Geneva www.flybaboo.com

You might consider visiting Luzern or the area around Spiez/Interlaken for a couple of days.

Am sure others will have even better suggestions.
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Old Feb 8th, 2006, 01:10 AM
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It's a little hard to advise as (i) I don't know if you are interested in city/village experience, a mountain area experience or a lake experience and (ii) I don't know what your interests are like museums or nature, etc and (iii) I don't know if you have been to Switzerland or other parts of Italy before other than Venice.

The first thing I would say is do NOT consider an overnight train, esp with 3 kids in August. Just too much hassle, cars are likely to not be air-conditioned or the air-conditioning will not be working properly, trains will be jammed in August, dining cars will be jammed, luggage room is not really adequate, bathroom facilities are not really clean, etc. I would either break the journey up by day trips or fly (more on both below). I assume you are aware that August is the prime vacation month for Europeans so everything will be quite crowded.

If you have been to Switzerland before, than a very easy way to break this trip up nicely is to get on a train from Zurich airport and take the very pretty train ride down to Lake Como (4 hours) and spend 3-4 days exploring this beautiful area. The kids would like the train ride and would also like getting around the lake by boat. If one of your teenagers is a girl, tell her this is the lake where George Clooney has his house, and boom! she will want to go. . .(I can give her directions later.) There are several towns to consider (I would not stay in Como itself), do some reading. After that, you can take another train on to Venice, (4 hours) which you could do during the day or late afternoon (days are long in August, go to sunrisesunet.com) so as to have maximum time in the Como area. Other nice lakes in Maggiore and Orta (which is a little farther so would be a longer train ride from Zurich.)

If you have not been to Switzerland before, your choices become harder to make. You could of course go to Como and that would be a very good choice. You could also stay in Switzerland. Note that Saturday 12 August 2006 is when the Street Parade is held in Zurich and I would AVOID Zurich during that weekend. This is the annual hip hop parade, much like the Love Parade in Berlin, and about a million 20-somethings descend on the town for a weekend of incredibly loud music and ecstasy-fuelled street raging. This is NO place for children (or adults, I always got out of town that weekend every year.) I would not let a teenager near it. If your trip is any other time then 3-4 days in Zurich is certainly a possibility. There is a very good zoo, you can do ferry rides on the lake, there is a castle and old town down in Rapperswil and a circus museum, you can take hikes in the nearby area, you could do a day trip to the lovely Walensee and walk/hike in that area as well, you could do a day or overnight trip to the Appenzell area and Mainfeld (where the story of Heidi is set). You could rent a boat or sailboat on Lake Zurich for the day. If your 5 year old can sit on a train most of the day, you could do the fantastic Bernina Express train trip up and over the glaciers, its a full day but well worth it, IMO. Take a look at rhb.ch. The town of Zurich has a lovely old town, don't know if that would interest your kids but it would probably interest you. Other than Street Parade weekend, your teenagers could explore the town very easily and quite safely on their own, and there are lake beaches they could go to. From Zurich you could fly to Venice in less than 2 hours.

Another thought is to take a train to the Lake Geneva area (3 hours) which is another beautiful area and one of my favourites. The train ride is quite pretty, especially the last 90m minutes, and is usually on double decker trains which you probably have not seen before (unless you are a Chicago suburb commuter). Towns like Vevey, Lausanne, Montreux, Cully or Morges would be places to consider staying (not Geneva itself.) The lake is huge and has the Alps as a backdrop. There is the wonderful Chillon Castle which I know you and the children would enjoy, there is biking or walking along the lake waterfront, walks in the vineyards above the lake (the adults can do winetastings), you can take a day trip to Gruyere which is a charming little town with another castle and the cheese (there is even a cheese train and a chocolate train) and also take a day trip up to Châteaux D'oux to get into the mountains. From this area, you can take a train to Geneva airport (30-60 minutes depending on what town you are in) and then get a flight to Venice (about 3 hours). Train time from this area to Venice is 7-8 hours.

Another place is the Tocino region of Switzerland, like Lake Lugano, which is similar to the Italian lake region, but more Swiss in flavour (and so a bit more organized and cleaner). Although it is blasphemy to admit on this site (and I even lived in Switzerland so this is really traitorous for me) I think the Como area is prettier and the towns on those lakes are more charming, but the Tocino region has its fans and certainly is very very lovely. That region is about 3 hours by train from Zurich airport, and you can get to Venice from that area in 4-5 hours.

There is also the Bernese Oberland which is very beautiful. (this is the Interlaken region mentioned by Intrepid above.) I almost hesitate to mention it because getting to and from it and then to Venice is problematic, you really have to come back to Zurich and fly out OR take the dreaded night train OR take a 7-8 hour day train which your kids may not like. If you have 4 full days, this might be workable. Without a car, it is about 3 hours by train to this area, then of course 3 hours back to Zurich to get a flight out. Take a look at rail.ch for schedules (use Lauterbrunnen for an arrival town) and see if you can coordinate train trips out and back to work with Venice flight schedules from Zurich. Even with a car, this is hard, the car only saves about an hour over the train (assuming no traffic which in August could be an issue esp on a weekend), and then you have the drop off of the car, etc. so this may not save you much time. You can of course take a day train, but the trip is about 8 -10 hours, and that may be too long for a 5 year old to sit on a train.

If you are willing to consider taking trains out and back from Zurich and then flying to Venice from Zurich, then I would also highly recommend the Engadine, esp the little town of Guarda or the Pontresina area. Both have excellent walking and beautiful Alp vistas. The Pontresina/Celerina/Sils-Maria area has more lakes and is closer to St Mortiz and the train ride there is IMO the most beautiful in Switzerland. Guarda is the most charming village in Switzerland IMO, so it's a toss up. Guarda is about 2.5 hours by train from Zurich airport (a pretty ride too), the Pontresina area is 3.5-4 hours (The ride to Pontresina/Celerina/Sils/St Moritz is actually also covered on the Bernina Express ride so if you do that day trip you will get that ride in.) By train to Venice from this area is about 8-10 hours.

While a bit of a logistical work out, you could also go to Zermatt for 3-4 days. This of course ahs the Matter horn, but also has some excellent walks/hikes in the lower elevation slopes, cable car rides, and is a nice town. It is about a 5 hour train ride from Zurich. If you can work out the logistics, you could then train to Geneva airport (4 hours) and take a flight to Venice (2 hours). Admittedly a longish day.

August 1 is National Day in Switzerland which is major pubic holiday. All banks and government offices are closed, most shops are closed, some restaurants in smaller towns may be closed. it is a fun holiday, people build bonfires on the hills and there are fireworks. if you are in Zurich there are fireworks n town and all down the lake by the different towns, quite pretty to see; this would be much the same in the Lake Geneva region.

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Old Feb 8th, 2006, 01:35 AM
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Two things I should add to my post:

If you are interested in the Lake Geneva area, it would save you a 3 hour train ride from Zurich if you could fly into Geneva rather than Zurich. (Well, it would save about 2 hours, because you have to train down from Geneva airport to one of those towns, but I think you get my point).

Also, if you go to the Pontresina/Celerina/Sils-Maria or St Moritz area of the Engadine for the 3-4 days, you can do the Bernina Express train by taking it from Pontresina. This would be a shorter trip than taking it from Zurich, and so might work better for the 5 year old, as it would only be 4 hours on the train, and broken up by 2 hours for lunch in Toriono (the lunch break also takes place on the longer day trip from Zurich which is about 10 hours on the train).

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Old Feb 8th, 2006, 03:33 PM
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Thanks for the info. Since we have traveled around Switzerland before The lakes sound great.Which is preferable? Any hotel/B&B suggestions?
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Old Feb 8th, 2006, 05:47 PM
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Which lake is best is such a personal choice, you might want to do some reading on what each has to offer and decide what might work best for your family in terms of sights and activities. All are pretty, each has a little different flavour. All will be a bit crowded in August, all make a good mid-point stop over for getting to Venice. They are nice hotels in all of them, so really I don't think you could go wrong.

For hotels, I would suggest you look at the Karen Brown guides first, either at karenbrown.com or by buying one of her guides. I always think she has very interesting and unusual inns and hotels on her list, she also has suggested itineries. Also, click on Hotels above and you can see what Fodors has listed and how Fodor's readers have rated them. Other good places to look are:

frommers.com
tripadivsor.com (this has ratings by people who have stayed and is very useful)
relaischateaux.com
romantikhotels.ch
www.swisshotels.ch
alpineclassics.ch

The last three are for Swiss hotels, but you may find links to Italian hotels. Also you might post a new question here for reccos.

If you don't mind paying the price, IMO, there is nothing better than a lake view room at Villa d'Este on Como, take a look at www.villadeste.it. They have a pool that floats in the lake, wonderful food, a great spa, fitness centre, walking paths, tennis courts and it's quite close to George Clooney's house. . . .There are of couse many other options on all the lakes.

As you are travelling in August it is worth considering first class train tickets. These cars are larger, generally less crowded, have more room for baggage, and you can reserve seats together. In August and with a family IMO they are worth the extra price. You might price out the difference.

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