Switzerland

Nov 28th, 2014, 04:26 PM
  #1  
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Switzerland

My husband and my three adult daughters will be spending two weeks in Switzerland this summer. Other than the cities, can anyone recommend which mountain areas to visit or which scenic trains to take? Thank you.
elyse is offline  
Nov 28th, 2014, 04:32 PM
  #2  
 
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IMHO the Berner Oberland is the best mountain area for a first visit. You will want to see not only the mountains but a number of hte charming villages and small towns. Not sure what cities you are planning on. Zurich IMHO is a business city with a limited vacation potential and while Geneva has some more attractions it is really a center for UN operations (another company town).

We like Lucerne for a vacation town away from the highest peaks - but you can still visit Mts Pilatus and Titlus from there easily and the steamers on the lke are a wonderful trip.)
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 28th, 2014, 09:04 PM
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Hi Elyse,

I recommend that you don't think too much/worry too much about getting on a scenic train. Just about every train you take in the mountains will be scenic, so there's no sense in going out of your way for one. In addition, I find it much more scenic to be outside in the open air on a mountain with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair than to be sitting sedately on a train while some scenery flashes by your window. Sort of like the difference between watching football on tv and playing football.

Once you've decided on your bases, then you can see if a scenic train links them, and if it does, then it would make sense. For instance, if you are planning to visit the Jungfrau area (Berner Oberland) and Montreux, then taking the Golden Pass would make sense. Or if you are already planning to visit Zermatt and the Engadin Valley, then the Glacier Express makes sense. Otherwise, just plan on getting to the mountains -- take a cable car to the top and stroll around and/or sit in a mountaintop restaurant. Far more fulfilling and memorable than sitting on a train.

What are your plans already? Which "cities" are on your itinerary?

Have fun as you plan!

s
swandav2000 is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 01:50 AM
  #4  
kja
 
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LOL, swandav, one of the few things I can imagine that would be worse that watching football on TV (or any other venue) would be playing it. Not for me!

During my wonderful month in Switzerland, I was fortunate to take several scenic train rides and also hike some (easy) trails that offered stunning views (with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair) and (also) visit some towns and cities that had memorable overlooks and lots of other things that I thought worth seeing.

It sounds to me like you might benefit from some time with good guidebooks. Of the half-dozen or so that I used in planning my time in Switzerland, I found the Rough Guide best overall, the Michelin Green Guide the other best for planning and prioritizing, and any of those with high quality photos (e.g., the National Geographic Traveler, Insight Guide, or Eyewitness) good for inspiration.

Enjoy!
kja is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 05:04 AM
  #5  
 
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Michelin Green Guide, while dense, is really a great tool - since it not only rates sites and give details of them it provides maps for major ones and also tells you how long to expect to see it.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 07:00 AM
  #6  
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Thank you all for responding. I should have given more details. I agree with you about the guide books as I am someone who relies on them heavily and keeps them for years. I am recouping from surgery and am bed bound for a month, and am waiting for someone in my family to do a Barnes and Noble run for me. We are doing a house exchange, and will be staying in a great location, Yverdon-les-bains, in which Geneva, Bern, Lausanne, Neufchatel and Interlake are a drive between 20 min- two hours, so we can make a lot of day trips. I would like to spend another week traveling, and am having trouble deciding between seeing the Italian section (Lugano, Ticino) and/or the area around St Moritz, neither of which I have been, or going to Zermatt( I have been there both summer and winter twenty years ago and our daughters have never been).
I am not in great condition to hike, sadly enough, so I thought one of the train rides would be beautiful but not sure about which one. Also, should we skip Zurich? Thanks so much for your input.
elyse is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 11:40 AM
  #7  
kja
 
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You have some difficult choices ahead of you! I really enjoyed the Ticino and both the Upper and Lower Engadine (but haven't made it to Zermatt yet). These are very different areas and I'm not sure I can articulate the differences well, but FWIW:

I found the Ticino quite beautiful in a "softer" way than the Engadine -- more rounded and more green. There are some wonderful churches with Romanesque elements, a few small art collections, a wonderful botanical garden (Isole di Brissago), etc.

I thought the Engadine more dramatic, with glorious high peaks and deep valleys and charming little villages nestled on ledges in between. I thought the local architecture, with its abundant sgraffito, beautiful, and there are a few churches with very old, surprisingly well preserved frescoes.

Each area offers opportunities to get to great look-out points quite easily by public transportation and each has a least a few relatively flat walks that offer glorious views.

I liked Zurich -- it has some very good museums, awesome stained glass, interesting public squares, etc. It is, however, decidedly urban and it is not smack-dab in the heart of Alps.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!
kja is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 01:54 PM
  #8  
 
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We really enjoyed the various trains in the Berner Oberland region. Check out our trip report, searchable by my name. Zurich was OK, it didn't leave much of an impression. We really liked Lauterbrunnen and the surrounding town/peaks easily reachable from there. The train from Lauterbrunnen/Interlaken to Lucerne is great. We did it three times -- incredible views. I think Switzerland is about the small mountain towns. Lucerne was very polished and touristy -- if you like that kind of high-end shopping and 4 and 5 star hotels you'll enjoy. I like the simpler stuff.
annealex is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 07:50 PM
  #9  
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Thanks for your responses. After I do more research and make some of the hard choices, I may be back in touch
elyse is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 09:39 PM
  #10  
 
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kja, I've done most of the scenic trains as well (and just did part of the Golden Pass last week for about the 20th time). My point was that I wouldn't go out of the way to experience one. In other words, I would not take time away from outdoors/mountain experiences in order to sit passively on a train.

elyse, you don't need to be a hiker to enjoy an outside experience in the Alps. Just take a cable car or cogwheel train up to a peak and just stroll around the top or sit at the mountaintop restaurant and absorb those views!

s
swandav2000 is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 09:56 PM
  #11  
kja
 
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@ swandav -- I think you stated your opinion quite clearly; I just couldn't resist sharing the humor I found in your analogy. No offense intended!
kja is offline  
Nov 30th, 2014, 08:23 AM
  #12  
 
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Asking, should I go to the Ticono or Engadine etc. or skip a place, is pointless in my opinion.

Having spent more than a year in total visiting Switzerland on numerous trips of a week to a month at a time, I could not suggest to anyone that one is better than another.

There is this common tendency to think you can put places in a list in some kind of priority. That is not always true unless you have some very specific criteria you use to arrange that list.

Places are 'different' rather than 'good, better, best' in many cases. Places in Switzerland fall into the 'different' camp in my opinion, no where is 'better'. The individual just has to read the guidebooks and pick what appeals to them for THIS trip.
Sojourntraveller is offline  
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