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Switzerland: Choose 4 ideal "Base" towns for day-trips??

Switzerland: Choose 4 ideal "Base" towns for day-trips??

Mar 22nd, 2010, 07:13 PM
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Switzerland: Choose 4 ideal "Base" towns for day-trips??

Please choose only 4 ideal "base" towns in Switzerland for day-trips (using trains & buses)? What towns or villages would you choose and why?

My idea is to spend 16 nights in Switzerland, with only 4 hotel changes. That includes the first hotel upon flying into Switzerland, and the last hotel when flying out of Switzerland. I can fly into or out of Zurich or Geneva, either one. We will be using public transportation...trains, buses, etc. No car rental.

Which 4 "base" towns would you choose and why? I'd love to hear your ideas!

I'm considering these base towns:
Fly into Zurich
1st base: Bern or Luzern (3 or 4 nights)
2nd base: Berner Oberland: Murren or Wengen or Lautergrunnen (7 or 8 nights)
3rd base: ??? confused
4th base: Montreux??
Fly home from Geneva (or Zurich!)
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2010, 08:00 PM
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4th base I suggest Vevey. You can take the train from either Montreux or Vevey directly into Geneva on your last day for the flight home (the train ends at the airport so it is extremely easy and only about an hour's ride). It can be your base for Gruyeres, Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux, Chateau de Chillon (castle), Rochers de Naye (tram), Lac Leman ("lake geneva"), nearby vineyards, etc.
suze is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2010, 08:15 PM
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My choices would be different depending upon the time of year, but:

1. Zurich, because I love the City, the outdoor concerts, the lake, and it's a good base to explore the little towns (some with great swimming areas) along the lake, which can all be done by train.

2. Luzern, touristy as all get out and go, but summertime is gorgeous, and good to explore the town, the swans, the Dying Lion, Swiss transport museum (what can I tell you, I love trains!), Mt. Pilatus (steamer to cogwheel train to te top, and from the top the gondola ride back down -- terrific day!), day trip to the top of Jungfrau (bus), Mt. Rigi . . . and again, trips on the lake to little towns around the lake.

3 Bern (aka Berne), one of the most liveable (and expensive) cities to live in on earth. The bear monument and medevil clock tower are a must, but my favorite thing to do in summer is body rafting on the Aare. Best place to start just across from the zoo. You must be a strong swimmer to do this because the river goes fast, but there are stairs with rails along the river to help people get in and out -- also poles to help grab onto. If you're not that daring, go to the Marzili baths -- one of the first public baths in Switzerland, but has free public swimming pools and a lawn area for sunbathing. There are separate areas for men and women who want to sunbathe in the nude. It's close to the Federal building. I like to think that Bern is in the center of everything, has a great bahnhof, making easy day trips possible. But there's so much to do in Bern, unless it was winter, I'd probably just stay the entire time there! Some of the best Swiss food (in the German style cuisine) can be found in Bern. There are several festivals in summer, including a jazz festival.

4. Montreux. If not just for the jazz festival, the vibe of Montreux is cosmopolitan casual, and it's such a beautiful town to base yourself for trips around the lake, and on the lake. Close to Vevey, Lausanne, and even Geneva (although I am not fond of Geneva). We even took a day trip Annecy by train from Montreux.

There, you have my summer choices!
Surfergirl is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2010, 08:17 PM
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4 nights each:
Vevey (as per suze - all are great ideas!!)

Luzern - daytrips: (1) Pilatus (Golden Roundtrip - be sure to take a ride on the alpine slide on your way down the hill--beautiful views of lake); (2) one-hour train to Engelberg to take the 360-degree rotating (yes, rotating) aerial cable car to Titlis, including the Ice Flyer over a glacier. Awesome! (3) Rigi via boat to Vitznau, where you then board a steam train (slooooooowwwww), then take the cable car back down, boat back to Luzern (train/cable car can be done vice versa also--just take boat to different landing; (4) another ride on the lake to anywhere ; time to enjoy the town of Luzern, including the old bridge, the churches, shopping, quick lunch at the Co-op deli; huge Wienerschnitzel for dinner at the Old Swiss House.

FYI: If your rail pass is first class, be sure to go to the top deck on the boats. Lower deck (second class) can get very crowded.

Murren & Wengen - truly, you'll never run out of things to do using both these areas as bases.

Great trip, Melissa.
swisshiker is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2010, 08:43 PM
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I'm getting lots of great ideas for our late June/early July trip to Switzerland!

suze: I like your idea. You have just named a lot of the places I am interested in seeing that aren't far from Geneva. I'm going to look up both Vevey (and more about Montreux.)

surfergirl: It's fun to see everyone's idea of the best 4 bases! Interesting that you chose both Zurich and Bern among your 4 bases... I figured Zurich was too expensive but I'm considering Bern as one of my bases... It sounds like Luzern might be overcome by tourism in summer for my tastes, but you have described wonderful day-trips from Luzern so its still tempting...and the photos of Luzern look so lovely! I don't know as much about Montreux but I'm going to learn more. Thanks for sharing!

swisshiker: Now I'm getting excited! Luzern, Murren, Wengen, and Vevey sound great as bases! Just reading your list of all the great day-trips from Luzern is fun. I'm interested in that hour-long train to Engelberg...does the 360 degree rotating cable car get you dizzy on the way up to the Titlis? And what is the Ice flyer over a glacier? It sounds awesome! By the way, yes I want the 1st class Swiss pass beause I love train travel and 1st class is so much more relaxing for me...and sounds like sometimes better views as well. THANKS for the tip about going to the top deck on the boats with a 1st class pass...

OK I feel less overwhelmed now. Organizing Switzerland in terms of 4 base towns/villages, with day-trips from those bases works for me. I came up with that formula by thinking about what I wanted to improve about other trips I've taken.

If anyone else wants to share their 4 best base towns or villages for day-trips in Switzerland, please do share your idea! Those 4 bases include the first hotel upon flying in, and the last hotel upon flying out. (Zurich or Geneva airports.)
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2010, 10:19 PM
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Hi Melissa5,

I like your choice of base towns, and I think they will give you a very good first impression of the country.

I've been to Montreux on Lake Geneva about 11 times, and it is my favorite spot on the lake. One reason why is the 11-km flowered lakeside promenade, dotted with benches and cafes so that walking it can take a full day. It runs all the way from La Tour-de-Peilz (just outside of Vevey) all the way to and through Montreux to and past Chillon to the village of Villeneuve. I love seeing all the world on parade there.

Montreux is more convenient for Rochers-de-Naye, Chillon, and for arriving on the Golden Pass route.

Howver, in high summer, it is truly a madhouse, with nearly wall to wall folks. Also the Jazz fest is in early July (2-17), so that will make it even worse (or better, lol!). So Vevey would be a great spot. Vevey is more quiet, filled mostly with residents rather than travellers and tourists. I love its old town, with ancient streets lined with boutiques, antiques stores, dairies, and cafes -- and I love that its old town is right next to the lake. Vevey is more convenient for trips to the Lavaux vineyards and also for your departure from Geneva if that's what you decide.

Here are links to some reviews (w/photos) of my favorite things in/around Montreux:

Montreux old town


Promenade Fleuri





Of course, you can do Saanen and Gstaad on the way from the Jungfrau region if you go on the GP route.

Also, you can rent bicycles from the train station and cycle the vineyard trails; you can also cycle the lakeside promenade, but if it's crowded it may not be a great idea.

Have fun!

swandav2000 is online now  
Mar 22nd, 2010, 11:41 PM
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swandav2000: I truly enjoyed "arm-chair travelling" through all of the above villages near Lake Geneva via your links... Thanks for sharing your reviews & photos of those villages! Alas, I'm glad you told me that Montreux is a crowded madhouse in summer, especially during the jazz festival, which is exactly when we would be in the area! So maybe I will look into Vevey for an early July stay as our 4th base if we fly out of Geneva.

I'm having a challenge trying to be sure that I select 4 bases which are convenient for great day-trips, and yet won't be so over-run with tourists in late June/early July that I will regret going there!

In Italy for example, we ended up staying in Florence during the most crowded days...when there were 2 major events in town filling hotels. Because Florence is so compact, I felt overwhelmed with the crowds...it was still crowded outside even at 11:00 pm! It caused me to dislike Florence! On the other hand, I enjoyed Rome and Venice, perhaps because they are a bit more spread out with some traffic-free areas, so they didn't feel so crowded.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 12:37 AM
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Hi again,

Well -- the Oberland really is crowded in July and August. You'll see tourist busses lining both Interlaken and Grindelwald, and, yes, the offloaded passengers clog up the sidewalks and the shops.

I was really unprepared for the crowds the August I took my mom to Grindelwald. Then we had lunch in Wengen, and it was so peaceful and quiet and undisturbed. There is a dramatic difference between staying in a village that allows traffic and one that does not. I don't know what Lauterbrunnen is like then (I've never been tempted to get off the train there).

Anyway, I know you'll have a great trip!

swandav2000 is online now  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 01:09 AM
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I'd definitely agree with Montreux or perhaps Vevey and Luzern..Luzern "touristy?" say it isn't so!!!
Dukey is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 04:33 AM
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Engelberg is a charming village with one main street with shops, bakeries, cafes, etc. At the far edge of town (only a 5-10 minute walk from the station) is a Benedictine monastery. You can wander thru a bit, but also don't miss their little restaurant/gift shop. Inside there is a small cheese-making factory. Fun to watch, and free samples!

To visit Titlis, it's a short 5-minute walk to the Rotair tram. The station is very small, so if you can't see the directional sign, just ask someone in the office to point you in the right direction.

As far as getting dizzy on the rotating tram, no! It's very slow, and only rotates one complete circle by the time you get to the top. But it's a truly unique experience, slowly turning as you make your way up.
swisshiker is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 04:39 AM
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Whoa... my typing suddenly posted. Oh well. Continuing....

On the link for Titlis, click on the picture for the Ice Flyer, and you'll get a good idea of the glacier you'll be traveling over. It's basically a ski lift that goes round trip over the glacier. The views of the crevases are spectacular!

Do you have enough ideas in mind activities for your time in the Berner Oberland region?
swisshiker is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 07:48 AM
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I have a friend who lives in Vevey/Montreux so that's why I first went there, and have returned often (5x). I just LOVE it, hard to describe exactly why. The setting of the town, right on the lake, with the mountains as background, it's pretty stunning. Also I really perfer the French-speaking area (food, culture).

You certainly can take plenty of day trips, but it's also a sweet area just to hang around. I could spend a week just toodling around Vevey especially in the summertime!

Especially because of the jazz festival, I would not stay in Montreaux, and go with Vevey, or any of many smaller towns right in that same area. www.montreux.ch or www.vevey.ch will get you started.
suze is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 08:04 AM
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My choices - (1) Bern - Great looking city and so many day trips from there to do. Can get to Lake Geneva and Vevey on a day trip. (We did.)

Anywhere in the (2) Berner Oberland that is car free (like Wengen). ALthough we stayed in Interlaken and were fine with it. It's easy traveling all over the BO from there. Would not do separate stays in Wengen and Murren. Not necessary. Choose one.

Perhaps go down to (3) Lugano? About 4 hours by train from BO and then 5 to Zurich. See a lot of the country side.

Then final days in (4) Zurich. Easy to get back to airport from there (about 15 minutes.)
kenav is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 08:44 AM
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3 days Lucerne (boats Lake Lucerne; Mt Rigi; Mt Pilatus
5 days Interlaken area
3 days Zermatt (day trip to Saas-Fe)
4 days Montreux/Vevey - swandav2000 has given many - my favorites are the lake boats over to Evian-les-Bains in France and the Chocolate Train to Gruyeres (fine walled town; cheese factory) and Broc to Willy Wonka the Nestle Chocolate factory and Crans-Montana - primo Alpine resort but the highlight to me is taking an extremely long and really antique funicular up top to where aerial cable cars take you to snow and ice.
Palenque is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 06:12 PM
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swandav2000: I'm always looking for ways to minimize the impact of tourists & crowds on our trips. So I will definitely keep in mind that the villages/towns that allow the tour busses & traffic are more crowded than the traffic-free villages like Wengen & Murren. Makes sense... We have travelled to Europe in June before, and with some planning it is possible to carve out some peace for ourselves.

swisshiker: I'm getting more excited about our trip, just reading your ideas for day-trips from Luzern! I think we will spend 4 nights in Luzern to have enough time for the day-trips. I want to see Engelberg...love small villages or small towns... So we take the 1-hour train to Engelberg from Luzern...and then take the 360 degree rotating cable car tram to the Titlis, right? So, when that rotating cable car stops at the top, do we get out, and is it cold up there in July? We would need sweaters? Is there snow in July? Just wondering what clothes we will be needing to pack for this late June/early July trip. My husband will love the views of the glacier from the rotating tram...I think I will faint since I have a fear of heights...but my husband and I do things for each other on our trips so that we can both have fun! (He sits through long chatty meals for me, for example.) So its up in the air for me!

And you mentioned Pilatus and the Golden roundtrip from Luzern with the downhill slide...What is the downhill slide?

YES I'm open to hearing your ideas for day-trips in the Berner Oberland! We will have 8 nights in the Berner Oberland...Either at 1 hotel or splitting the time between 2 hotels...(choosing between Murren, Wengen, and Lauterbrunnen.) So far I have my heart set on breakfast up at Piz Gloria on top of the Schilthorn, hopefully the weather will be clear in July. I will consider going up to the scary high Jungfraujoch if my husband wants to do that but I'm a bit scared about getting altitude sickness. I'm open to hearing ideas for easy walks in beautiful areas in the Berner Oberland, especially for seeing the Alpine flowers in late June/early July. I can do a walk from 1 to 3 hours, but won't get very far going uphill. (I'm out of shape due to a recent foot problem which caused me to be off my feet for a while.) Foot is better now but I have to get better shoes which I can actually wear!

Thanks a million for showing me how much I have to look forward to!
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 06:36 PM
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suze Where would you recommend staying near Vevey and Montreux in July (during the jazz festival). Since you have visited so many times, are there any lovely accomodations in peaceful settings that you can recommend? It we fly home from Geneva it would be convenient to spend several days in a base town near Montreux or Vevey. I'd love to see the castle but am wondering if it would be so crowded we should miss it in July...the Chateau de Chillon.

Does Lausanne make a good base for the area in early July? Hmmm...it looks a bit complicated to get to the Chateau de Chillon from Lausanne...looks like we'd have to take the train from Lausanne to Montreux and then transfer to the bus #1 to the Chateau de Chillon castle...or else I think we can take the REV train from Lausanne towards villeneuve to the station at veytaux-chillon and then walk 10 minutes along the lake to Chateau de Chillon castle. If I sound where I'm going, I don't...I'm getting these lovely directions from the new Rick Steves guidebook for Switzerland, which I've just added to my pile...I also have Fodors Switzerland and Lonely Planet Switzerland!
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 06:57 PM
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kenav: Bern seems interesting to me too, as a base. I will probably have to choose between Bern and Luzern as my first base, since I don't think I have time for both. As for Lugano as the 3rd base...I hadn't considered Lugano. What did you enjoy in the area of Lugano? Sounds like Lugano has an Italian flavor. I very much enjoyed our trip to Italy!

Palenque: Both you and swisshiker have mentioned Rigi and Pilatus as day-trips from Luzern, so I'm definitely looking into that. Thanks for the day-trip ideas from Montreux/Vevey area. What is Saas-Fe, the day-trip you recommended from Zermatt? I was considering going to Zermatt to try to get that scenic train ride between Zermatt & St. Moritz, but I didn't think I could get all the way to St. Moritz with this itinerary. (We do want a week in the Berner Oberland area as the highlight of our trip.) Thanks for the ideas!
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2010, 10:33 PM
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Hi again,

Hope you don't mind my responding to questions you've posed to others.

First, I don't recall if you've given us a budgtet for your hotels, or told us how many will be in the party. But without that, here are a few choices for the Vevey area --

Hostellerie de Bon Rivage, right on the pedestrian path next to the lake in the "suburb" of La Tour-de-Peilz just outside of Vevey. It's about a 10-minute walk to the central market from there. It's a 3-star. www.bon-rivage.ch

Hotel Negociants, another 3-star, right in the heart of the town about 10-15 minutes from the train station by foot. It is above a restaurant, though, and in summer it can be noisy with the windows open. www.hotelnegociants.ch

About getting to Chillon, yes, your information is correct. But it's not complicated at all; it's dead-easy. The best way is just to walk along the lake, which is what one comes to Montreux for anyway, and it takes about 40-45 minutes.

The next best way is by ferry - what fun! You can get ferry schedules at


And then finally the third best way is by town bus, which is, as I said, dead easy. As you exit the train station, cross the street, and walk downstairs to the lake. Walk across the street and stand with your back to the lake. Then look for a bus stop!

If you are staying in a hotel in Vevey, you will get a Riviera Card, which gives you free bus transport between Vevey and Villeneuve, so it'll save you a few chf.

This would be the perfect way to do it:

Catch a ferry from Vevey to Chillon, explore Chillon. Grab an ice cream at one of the vendors as you leave the castle. Wander back to Montreux along the path, enjoy Montreux, maybe have lunch at a cafe next to the lake. Then take the bus back to Vevey. Or, if you like to walk, you can walk along the lake all the way to La Tour-de-Peilz; in fact I do this at least once during each of my visits. It takes about an hour from Montreux to La Tour.

Have fun!

swandav2000 is online now  
Mar 24th, 2010, 12:57 AM
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swandav2000, no problem, please respond to the questions I've posted to anyone, if you wish. I'm grateful for the help! The more, the merrier! Sometimes I bold names just to catch people's attention so they won't miss something if they are browsing. Thanks for the info and the hotel suggestions! I generally book moderately priced hotels, with a splurge thrown in here and there...and a budget hotel to balance the splurges! A Quiet room at night for sleeping is my highest priority. Next, I hope for a comfortable bed for my husband and I, and good water pressure in the shower. Next, friendly, interested, helpful owners and staff are important. When possible, we prefer accommodations which are run with pride by the owners in person. If a memorable breakfast is included, that's nice too.
Melissa5 is offline  
Mar 24th, 2010, 02:08 AM
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I didn't find Lucerne too touristy and I was there in August it's lovely and hope to return.

My absolute favourite place in Switzerland was the BO and Wengen in particular. Very very easy to get around by train, pick one of the villages and train to all the others from there.

I found German speaking Switzerland conjured up my images of Heidi and all things Swiss.

Although I liked Montreux and the Chillon was lovely, it was just too French for me, it didn't feel like Switzerland. Having said that the scenery was great and the train journey to Gruyère was just one magnificent vista after another.

Lugano in Italian Switzerland was also very nice and from there you can take a day trip to Lake Como in Italy. The train journey from Lucerne was wonderful.

I loved Switzerland and keep meaning to go back - lucky you.
cambe is offline  

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