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Switzerland Itinerary Help - First European Holiday As Empty Nesters

Switzerland Itinerary Help - First European Holiday As Empty Nesters

Jul 3rd, 2019, 02:38 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2005
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Switzerland Itinerary Help - First European Holiday As Empty Nesters

I have planned many family trips all over the globe with assistance from Fodorites so thank you in advance.

My DH and I will be going to Switzerland in late August for our first European holiday as empty nesters. Our sons are doing well and settled at universities - and this will be our time.

I will book flights in the next few days and am open to booking in and out of Zurich or open jaw Zurich and Geneva in either order. We love beautiful vistas, not too strenuous hikes, European cathedrals and museums, and just the sweetness of doing nothing off the grid in a charming Alpine town. We typically drive when travelling abroad but have heard so much about the Swiss rail system that we night do part of the trip or all of it by train.

However, my immediate question is what towns to lay my head in each night? Looks like we have 14 nights for our trip. Typically we book a trip with four towns where we spend three or four nights. I don't typically schedule one night in a town, for obvious reasons, but will if it makes the most sense for our trip. These are the locations that interest me and i know we might not be able to do it all. Also - I am not suggesting that we stay in each of these locations - but wanted your feedback on how to allocate our 14 days. Also if you have any favorite hotels, I would love to hear about them in any price range. We typically book charming mid priced hotels in a great location and splurge on a few. I hope this gives you enough information.

Zurich

Luzern

Lauterbrunnen Valley - perhaps staying in Grindelwald

Gstaad (I know it might not fit, but I've seen the pictures and I really want to go there)

Montreux

Geneva

Zermatt

I've heard all the raves about the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Mortiz

St, Moritz

Appenzell (with quick trip to Liechtenstein)

Once again, thank you in advance for any assistance you might be able to give us for a magical trip!
KimiG is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2019, 02:55 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 1,305
Given your wishlist, I would either do:
Zurich or Luzern + Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald + Gstaad + Montreux or Vevey (fly home from Geneva)
or:
Zurich or Luzern + Lauterbrunnen + head towards St Moritz but stay somewhere else + lake Como (fly home from Milan)

Either would be wonderful. Both would be busy with the time available.

What time of year are you travelling?
dreamon is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2019, 03:31 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
I'd take trains everywhere on your itinerary - you have several Alpine places where cars are banned but trains and gondolas go everywhere. And as you would be taking many train rides, a Swiss Travel Pass of some type should be a good deal. The pass is also valid on lake boats - wonderful rides - be sure to take at lest one ride on the iconic Swiss steamers - some have evening dinner cruises. For lots of info on passes and Swiss train travel check www.sbb.ch; www.swisstravelsystem.com; BETS: Switzerland; www.seat61.com.

To me, the Bernina Express is Europe's most scenic train - a day trip on it from St. Moritz would be great:

https://www.google.com/search?q=bern...w=1280&bih=625
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2019, 05:15 PM
  #4  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,035
Originally Posted by KimiG View Post
my immediate question is what towns to lay my head in each night? ... These are the locations that interest me:
Zurich
Luzern
Lauterbrunnen Valley - perhaps staying in Grindelwald
Gstaad (I know it might not fit, but I've seen the pictures and I really want to go there)
Montreux
Geneva
Zermatt
I've heard all the raves about the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Mortiz
St, Moritz
Appenzell (with quick trip to Liechtenstein)
I'd encourage you to do a lot more research before deciding on which places to stay, but FWIW:
  • For the Bernese Oberland, consider staying in Wengen or, in lieu of that, Lauterbrunnen rather than Grindelwald.
  • Consider visitng Gstaad from Montreux or some other base
  • I though St. Moritz a tourist destination that was once too glitzy and is now simply shabby. YMMV. The area, however, is beautiful; if you go to that region, consider staying in Pontresina instead.
  • With so much to see in Switzerland, consider skipping Lichtenstein.
I'm delighted to have used public transportation in Switzerland -- it's excellent!

If you haven't already seen it, you might find some useful information in my trip report:
My delightful sampling of Switzerland’s gems, with many thanks
I'm sure you've noticed that there are several other excellent trip reports on Switzerland, too.
kja is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2019, 09:58 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,853
Hi KimiG,

Wow, planning a trip for next month... that takes some guts and determination!

I agree with the posters above about Grindelwald; it's not my favorite town in the Jungfrau area, especially in July and August. In the summertime the town fills with tour busses (that's as high as they can drive to); the town is too small to gracefully absorb all the down-loaded passengers at one time, and it becomes really unpleasant and unattractive. Many folks like Lauterbrunnen as an alternative, but I personally dislike the effect of being at the base of the cliffs, which loom over the town (many folks enjoy the views down the valley, but I just dislike those cliffs.... ). My personal favorite town is Wengen, which is car-free, and which sits high up on a ledge in the mountains -- your views will be over to the other peaks and down into the valley. I recommend you spend some time looking at photos of Lauterbrunnen and Wengen before making a final decision. Just fyi, I have stayed in Grindelwald 3 times and in Wengen 2 times.

I love Gstaad. It doesn't have a dramatic high-peaks landscape, but instead has a softer one of green rolling hills that disappear into the distance. It's a lovely area for hiking or biking. However, it hosts a huge classical music concert in August that runs into September, so you may find it tough to get a hotel room so late. So, you may have to make that a day-trip or a stop enroute on your way to/from Montreux.

As for the specially marketed "scenic" trains, my favorites are the Bernina Express, the Panorma, and then the Glacier Express. That GE is just so long, imo, at 8h. If I were you, I would save the GE and St Moritz for another trip, as they are just too far away from the rest of the towns on your list.

So this is what I would do --

Upon arrival in Zurich, go immediately to Zermatt and stay 2 nights (aside from hiking, ascending the peaks, or skiing, there's not much to do in Zermatt -- it's a small town isolated at the end of a valley). Then go to Montreux and stay 3 nights; see Geneva as a day-trip from Montreux. Then take the Panorama Express to Gstaad and spend a few hours -- you can even send your luggage ahead of you, then take a short walk (from Gstaad to Saanen) and then continue your journey to Wengen, and stay 4 nights. Then on to Luzern for 3 nights. Finish up in Zurich for 3 nights, and you can reach Appenzell as a day-trip from Zurich.

Hope this helps get you started. Once you have your base towns idientified, you can start looking for hotels. At this late time, you may just have to search a site like booking.com and see what is still available. August is prime tourist season!

Have fun as you plan!

s

Last edited by swandav2000; Jul 3rd, 2019 at 10:01 PM.
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Jul 4th, 2019, 06:55 AM
  #6  
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Posts: 199
Thank you so much for this information. Very helpful. We are going at the end of August and early September. I know I'm a little late to the game. Again, thank you!
KimiG is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 08:12 AM
  #7  
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Posts: 199
Thank you dreamon PalenQ kja and swandav2000 for the amazing feedback. I have reviewed all of your suggestions and read the Trip Report links you suggested. If there are other trip reports you found helpful, feel free to share.

I have revised my literary - let me know what you think and if you have any hotel suggestions. Also - on a preliminary search Luzern seems to be the one location that may be challenging to get a hotel room. Wonder if that's a sign that we not stop there but go elsewhere. If so - where. Again, thank you so much. Very excited!

Land in Zurich - spend one night to acclimate (or should we immediately board train for Zermatt?)

Zermatt - 2 nights

Montreux - 3 nights

Gstaad - 1 night

Wengen - 3 nights

Luzern or elsewhere - 2 nights

Zurich - 2 nights then fly

Wondering if I should steal one night from Wengen for another in Montreux. How does this look?

KimiG is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 09:32 AM
  #8  
kja
 
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Posts: 22,035
There's no need to acclimate in Zurich at the start of your trip, so going strait to Zermatt (and saving one change of hotels) makes a lot of sense.

IMO, Luzerne is absolutely lovely, though it can get a bit overwhelmed by tourists during high season. Personally, I'd want to visit it even so; YMMV.

And I'd want another day in Wengen -- 3 nights really isn't much for that area. I certainly would NOT take a night from Wengen for Montreux; if anything, I'd do the reverse. But of course, it depends on what you want to see and experience.

Too, I'd visit Gstaad from Montreux, though I must admit that I didn't enjoy Gstaad as much as some people. Its not the type of terrain that drew me to Switzerland, and I was put off by the many dogs wearing more jewelry than I own. Others have not had that experience, so maybe it was just a fluke of the day I visited.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 04:45 PM
  #9  
 
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Posts: 1,305
I prefer to not change hotels too often so I'd consider staying in either Zurich or Lucerne and visiting the other by train for the day. That way, your 5 allocated nights in Zurich and Lucerne could be reduced to allow you that extra night or two that you're seeking. However, I say that because I prefer the countryside to the cities - if you'd like to spend more time in the cities, then that's different. Also agree that there's little need to stay in Zurich on arrival - just stay there once. sbb.ch/en has the Swiss transport timetables.
dreamon is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 10:21 PM
  #10  
 
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Posts: 7,853
Hi again,

Yup agree with kja about arrival and with dreamon about not changing hotels often -- I just count arrival day as a travel day, and travel all the way to my first destination. IMO, it is a waste of a day to stop, and it's a lot of hassle with checking in & unpacking, then packing up & checking out. I'd rather just continue (in a jet-lagged haze if necessary) on to my destination. I have vivid memories of the first jolt of strong amazing Swiss coffee sipped on the first train out of the airport, enthralled with the scenery we were passing through, just so happy to be in Switzerland.

If you don't find a good place to stay right in the city of Luzern, you can opt to stay in a smaller town on the lake. I've stayed in Weggis before, and loved it. Note that there's not a LOT to do in a small town like that except use it as a base for hiking or for excursions around the lake or for excursions to Luzern. But it would have amazing scenery, and you can often find hotels right on the lake cheaper than in Luzern. You could look at Weggis, Brunnen, Vitznau, Hergiswil, etc. Also note that it will take longer to transfer to a smaller town. For instance, Weggis doesn't have a train station, so one has to transfer to a ferry boat or a bus to get into town. Luckily, though, you can still use the SBB's service to transfer your luggage, so if you choose to stay in a smaller town, you can get there easily.

I also normallly would say to base in *either* Zurich or Luzern, but maybe not in your case. Because you want to go to Appenzell, it is easier and quicker to get there from Zurich than from Luzern. And I really wouldn't miss spending time in Luzern.

Also normally Gstaad is good for a day-trip, but there is definitely a lot you can do with an overnight. Visit Gruyeres and soak up the atmosphere of the medieval town and take a tour of the castle and enjoy the cheese demonstration. If you are fit and up for it, you can rent bikes and ride there (I tried this one time, but wasn't as fit as I thought I was -- lol -- but got almost to Gruyeres and parked the bike and went on by train). Or if you just want to hike or walk the area, take the cable car to Wispile and walk down to Lauenen Lake -- spectacular scenery. Or simply walk from town to town -- lots of options.

Three nights in Montreux gives you just two full days -- I would definitely spend one of them in the vineyards of the Lavaux (between Vevey and Lausanne). You can walk from one to another (for instance, from Epesses or Cully to Lutry). Please be sure to include Lutry in your plans, as it's a lovely little lake-side town with an interesting sign-posted walk around historic buildings. Also be sure to include Vevey, even if it will be a bit marred by dismantling the huge arena-like stage and bleachers they erected for the wine festival. I love hunting around the shops and cafes of Vevey's old town.

Either in Gruyeres or in Vevey, be sure to try some creme de Gruyeres, or doube cream. Fabulous. Try it over berries or over meringue.

As a postscript -- If it were me I would cut Zermatt to 1 night and add the night to Gstaad. I've been to Zermatt twice (once for a week) and was definitely underwhelmed. And there's not much to do there except great hiking because it is sort of isolated at the end of a valley. Imo, 1 night there would give you a nice introduction to it and enough time to poke around the town.

Have fun as you plan!

s

Last edited by swandav2000; Jul 6th, 2019 at 10:27 PM.
swandav2000 is online now  
Jul 7th, 2019, 04:56 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 35,464
I just returned from Zurich this past week. We often go there, mainly for the opera offerings, but there are other things in that city besides opera. This time around we spent a good part of one day at the Kunsthalle (art museum) which we had not done for a while; there are also several churches you might enjoy seeing and there is also the opportunity to take one of the several lakeboat trips. I don't think you need to spend more than a couple of day there, if that, but one full day wouldn't be wasted IMO.

St Moritz itself I would not bother with, frankly; the spots nearby are more enjoyable; Zermatt (been many times) is good for the Matterhorn views assuming the peak is not socked in; the village itself you can walk from one end to the other in an hour. The Glacier Express I do not think is as scenic as it used to be with the reroutes; the Bernina is more so but at the end you're down in Tirano and unless you are going on or turning around to go back...

Luzern I would also consider doing the Mt Titlis or Mt Pilatus trip(s) by rail and those can be done in 1/2 day.

The Berner Oberland..I am not going to get into the whole "nasty Grindelwald" issue and the "all those tour buses" argument but if you want spectacular scenery the BO is the place IMO

And then there is the almost forgotten around here Lac Leman...Chillon, Rochers de Naye, the boat rides with stops in places like Vevey (ignore the Nestle thing); and, of course, places like Appenzell and St. Gallen with the famous library and the abbey church interior which has been called, by some. the most beautiful church interior in Switzerland.

BRING YOUR MONEY and enjoy your trip.
Dukey1 is offline  
Jul 7th, 2019, 08:47 AM
  #12  
 
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My favorites may or may not fit with your trip. I do think the into Zurich and out of Geneva is your best bet for flights.

I am crazy for the Lac Leman area including Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux. Vevey is my favorite town. Depending on days of the week you are there the street markets are really fun. Vevey's is Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Marchés folkloriques happens mid-July thru August along with the Saturday market in the square. This means in addition to all the usual vendors at the Vevey market there is also a wine tasting/drinking and orchestra or live music featured as well. It's a big time for locals to be out socializing and a great thing to be a part of if you can make the dates work.

Montreux has a smaller one on Fridays. I'm sure you know the obvious in the area like Rochers de Naye tram and Chateau de Chillon. I enjoyed a half day trip to Gruyeres and seeing the castle there.
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