Switzerland for Spring Break?

Apr 16th, 2003, 10:46 AM
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Switzerland for Spring Break?

Starting to plan for next year...

Any thoughts about whether the last week in March would be a good time to visit Switzerland with family including 9 and 11 year olds? This would be their first trip where we travel around instead of staying in one place for a week or two.

We would probably fly into Zurich. What would you suggest for a six-day itinerary?

Thanks in advance for all help.
Traveler is offline  
Apr 16th, 2003, 11:22 AM
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Hi Traveler,

Can you tell us something about you/your family:

Do you ski or enjoy winter hiking?
Do you like museums?
Do you like city sophistication, country breaks, or cozy alpine villages?
Do you want to be on a lake or in the mountains?
Do you want to see German (Heidi-like) culture, French culture, Romansch culture, or Italian culture, or a bit of all?
Do you have a tentative set of places you'd like to see?

There's just so much in that spectacular country that this info will help us to help you!

swandav2000 is offline  
Apr 16th, 2003, 12:01 PM
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We don't plan on skiing and would hike a bit. We are really very flexible. Not really into shopping and don't attempt to have great dining experiences on trips with kids.

We like cities, but are wanting to go to Switzerland to experience the culture and see areas outside the cities.

No ideas of places to see really. We would plan on using trains to get around.

Thanks for your questions.
Traveler is offline  
Apr 16th, 2003, 01:25 PM
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Hi Traveler,

Here is a very very brief summary of the major sights in Switzerland. Be sure to to a text search here for more info on each of these:

Luzern, a small, charming town just about an hour from the Zurich airport, is just right for the first or last night in Switzerland, but it has enough to keep visitors busy for many days. It has great history, spectacular scenery, nearby mountaintops, and great activities (ferry rides on the lake and walking & biking trails around the lake). Here are some websites to explore: www.luzern.org, www.brunnen.ch, www.weggis.ch, www.vitznau.ch, www.titlis.ch, www.rigi.ch, www.pilatus.ch & www.lakelucerne.ch.

The Berner Oberland villages of Grindelwald, Wengen, & Muerren offer up-close spectacular mountain scenery and quintessentially alpine charm. They are about 3 1/2 hours from Zurich by train. There are numerous walks in the area, easily begun by cable car or funicular, and excursions to Lakes Thun & Brienz or shopping in Interlaken. Muerren and Wengen are car-free, with Muerren the most remote and less crowded. Websites to explore are www.wengen.com, www.grindelwald.com, and www.muerren.ch.

The Engadin Valley resorts of Scuol, Pontresina, and St. Moritz offer spectacular mountain scenery and buildings of white, decorated stone instead of chalets (actually, I am only guessing as my first visit is still two months away!). The Engadin is less touristy than the Berner Oberland; it’s about 3 1/2 hours from Zurich; however, it is somewhat distant from other locations in the country (7 hours to Zermatt, 6 hours to Interlaken, and 4 1/2 hours to Luzern), so it's difficult to fit it into a quick tour of Switzerland. Websites: www.engadin.ch.

Zermatt, home of the Matterhorn is best for the numerous walking trails in the mountains -- leaving Zermatt behind. I thought the village had some small corners that were charming, but overall it was overbuilt. It might be worthwhile to explore Saas Fee and Saas Grund in the same area. Zermatt is about 4 hours from Interlaken, 7 hours from St. Moritz, & 5 hours from Zurich. Website is www.zermatt.ch.

Kandersteg, another small town in the Berner Oberland, is another less-popular tourist spot, and a few folks here at Fodors have spent time there and loved it. It has a picturesque setting in a deep green pasture at the foot of some snow-topped peaks; it is close to the scenic Oeschinsee. Website at www.kandersteg.ch.

So you like hiking, want some country, want to use the trains, and don’t mind moving around. March is, of course, prime ski time, so most mountain resorts will be at their height of beauty and charm (as well as cost!). With those things in mind, here are some options.

Zurich Airport - Kandersteg (2.45 hours) - Wengen (1.50 hours) - Luzern (2.51 hours) - Zurich Airport

Zurich Airport - Luzern (1.30 hours) - Kandersteg (3 hours) - Zermatt (2.18 hours) - Geneva Airport (3.40 hours) (obviously better if you fly out of Geneva)

Zurich Airport - Wengen (3.30 hours) - Luzern (2.51 hours) - Zurich airport (1.30 hours).

Well I hope this helps a bit -- at least will give you some stuff to consider. Rail schedules at www.rail.ch

I’m sure we’ll hear lots more!!

swandav2000 is offline  
Apr 17th, 2003, 06:04 AM
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Wow! Thanks, swandav2000. I've got a lot to get me started. Since we won't ski, do you think it is a mistake to go in late March/early April?
Traveler is offline  
Apr 17th, 2003, 10:31 AM
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Hey Traveler,

Well no not necessarily. I live in the southeast US, and I love to go tromping about in the snow even when I don't ski. So if that idea appeals to you, continue with your plans for mountaintops in March! The hiking/walking paths are always kept clear of snow, but you should also invest in some sturdy, waterproof shoes with lug soles.

Alternately, you could head south. The Lake Geneva region is known as the Swiss Riviera partly because of its moderate climate and also because of its French/Belle Epoque influences. Or you could go really south to the Ticino, the Italian-influenced area. If you do this, you may want to fly out of Milan.

Of course, if you do go south, you'll probably be trading snow for rain!

Best of luck.

Hope some others see this!


swandav2000 is offline  
Apr 17th, 2003, 10:49 AM
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I am a fan of the Ticino, however, I suspect that in March and April you will find muddy hiking. If you are willing to chance it I would stay in Locarno and take the Centovalli train one of the stops where you can take a gondola either across the gorge or up the mountain. There are tons of great, well marked hiking trails. If it rains you can always take a boat to one of the other towns on the lake, even all the way down to Italy (Stresa).

Hiking in the snow is not bad at all. I would consider Blonay, in the hills above Vevey/Montreux. Again, I'm sure there would be no shortage of fun things for your family to do.
Grasshopper is offline  
Apr 17th, 2003, 11:56 PM
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The weather is extremely unpredictable in March and April. This year we had a beautiful, sunny March and April, we had 10 cms of snow! Having said that, I think it is a great time of year to visit Switzerland.

If you are not into skiing, why not try sledding instead? You should visit the Alps and you may as well enjoy some of the excitement they offer. Hiking could be great or very muddy, but the sledding is fun and not just for kids! Also, since you are here, why not offer the girls a couple of days of ski lessons. You can have them in English and it would give them a taste of the sport. You would also get some free time. You can rent all of the equipment and it would be a great memory for them. The ski resorts have so much to do that even if YOU don't ski, you wouldn't be bored and you would see some of the best that Switzerland has to offer.

Since you don't have that much time, I would suggest the first two days in Luzern and then, take the train to Saas Fee or Zermatt and spend the rest of the time. Even if you don't go, both cities are charming and the views are magnificent.

If this doesn't interest you, two alternative suggestions are:
1) Berner Oberland--Many here love this area. I don't...I find it a bit boring (duck and run for cover) but do a search on it.
2) Engadine - Now, this area I LOVE. I think the food is the best in Switzerland, the views are amazing and the culture unique. In March and April though, it is often snowier than many other parts of Switzerland. Again, there are many good posts on the Engadin if you do a search.

Whatever you decide, I am sure that you will have a great time!
SloJan is offline  
Apr 18th, 2003, 06:23 AM
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Hello wonderful people -- when I read your enthusiastic replies, my heart glows. I hesitate to contribute because I don't know what March in Switzerland feels like (or if Traveler's family is from a northern or southern clime), nor do I have much experience with 9 and 11 year-olds. But here are a few thoughts:

How could a youngster not love the castle of Chillon at Lac Leman and the boatride to get there? And Gruyeres? and the cheese-making demonstration in the little restaurant in Chateau d'Oex? Is March a good time for finding a parade of cows? Or what about walking the walls around the little town of Murten? or the Roman ruins at Avenches? And the bears of you-know-where? (Though they always make me sad.) And I highly recommend a visit to the outdoor museum at Ballenberg(I give it ****) near Brienz, and Brienz to see woodcarvers, and a boat on Brienzsee to the waterfalls (Is there a good walk there? I cannot remember), the toy museum in the castle at Thun (is it still there?), and how about visiting some of the Sherlock Holmes places, and William Tell's Altdorf? Don't forget the magnificent lion of Lucerne. And if you do decide to go to Ticino, isn't there a Swiss Miniature village on Lago Lugano? (I've never been to see it, myself) And just in case painted buildings might be of interest, think about Stein am Rhein. And what's that toy store on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse? And where can they see some of the most spectacular Tinguely kinetic sculptures? (Ursula?) And a concert of alpine horns. Well I've clearly lost control. Love to all, J.
Apr 18th, 2003, 08:10 AM
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It is nice to read the responses of all the folks addicted to Switzerland!

Traveller, I think it is not a mistake to travel Switzerland in late March/April. I did it twice in the last couple of years and enjoyed it thoroughly. I must admit I am a skier and cross-country skier, but I also love to just walk and enjoy the scenery.

Weather is of course unpredictable. Ticino and Lake Geneva usually (but not always) have nice weather at this time of year with some blooming spring flowers. Both are good choices if you don�t like snow.

The high Alps usually still have snow, but the sun is shining warm and makes it comfortable. I second SloJan�s recommendation of the Engadine, which is my favourite region, too. It also offers fantastic opportunities for excursions. To name just a few � Bernina Express train ride to Poschiavo or further down to Tirano/Italy, the bus trip to the picturesque village Soglio (with stunning views) in the Bregaglia valley (or further to Chiavenna/Italy), the bus ride to the convent M�stair (an UNESCO world heritage site � 1200 years old frescos etc.) and many more. For a non-skier probably the best choice in March/April in the Alps.

So, my recommendation is to split the time between the Engadine and Ticino. First Engadine, then Locarno. You should consider that many tourist facilities and hotels are still closed before Easter in Ticino.

Ingo is offline  
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