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The Best Way to Basel Switzerland


Nov 3rd, 2016, 12:10 PM
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The Best Way to Basel Switzerland

Hello. I will be traveling with four other adults, ages 40-50, in late March 2017. We are scheduled to take a cruise which departs from Basel, Switzerland. In order to see more of Europe, we were considering flying into a different city a few days before our departure, then traveling by car or train to Basel. Since Basel is just a 4-5 hour drive from Milan, I was considering flying into Milan and touring Northern Italy/Switzerland by car. Three days is the maximum time we have. Milan seems to be a good one-day visit. Is this a good plan? Would you recommend us starting from a different city? What cities or towns would you recommend to stop and see on our way to Basel? The many lake towns look spectacular. We are an active bunch who enjoy the outdoors. We are not much into shopping, but would like to pick up unique gifts for friends back home. Two of us are foodies and appreciate a great glass of wine. One of us is crazy about craft beers and whiskey, two drink anything that's free or Miller Lite. All of us are easy going and incredibly excited to see this part of Europe. It will be the first time visiting Europe for three of us. Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

AdventureMomma is offline  
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Nov 3rd, 2016, 12:35 PM
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You are likely to be charged a hefty fee for picking up a car in Italy and returning it in Switzerland.

Have you already explored how easy it would be to visit destinations in these areas by mass transit? Your group might find it more fun to relax in a train or even on a ship than squeeze five people and their luggage into a car.

If you go to Lugano, you might want to have dinner at Bottegone del Vino. They have a great wine selection (glass and bottle). Food is good too (but limited menu that changes often).

March weather is unpredictable, it could be glorious or tempestuous. Also at least some of the places in the communities that depend heavily on tourism might still be closed in March.

Don't short-change Basel! Admittedly, I'm biased since I live there, but it has some excellent museums, attractive historic neighborhoods (esp. St. Alban). Try to give yourself a few hours in "my" city if you can.

Some Swiss places to think about between Milan and here: Zermatt (if the idea appeals to you, spend a night in the 3100 Kulmhotel reached by the Gornergrat train -- it's one of a kind), Bern, Luzern, Thun, Wengen (gorgeous views but it's not a foodie spot) etc. Or head to Tirano and take the Bernina express with a stopover along the way to Chur, then catching a direct train from there to Basel.

All dilemmas should be this pleasant
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Nov 3rd, 2016, 01:06 PM
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FlY into ZRH or GVA and use trains to explore a bit of Switzerland inthe few days you have. Nothing against Milano, but worth more than a day.

But - have you considered flying into Basel in the first place? A handy airport (BSL) a short bus ride from the city where you can be based or from where you can rent a car for your exploration of Switzerland. Easy, back for dinner every night - BAsel is a interesting city.

No North American flights go into BSL but connections from many EUropean hubs.
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Nov 3rd, 2016, 01:27 PM
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I second the idea of setting up camp at Basel for a few days. Apart from the city itself, which (in my biased opinion) is worth all of three days, you can easily go on day trips to Freiburg and the Black Forest or to Colmar and the Alsatian wine region. It will give you a nice taste of Europe.

Hope this helps.

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Nov 3rd, 2016, 01:28 PM
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oops - wrong addressee; sorry! The advice is still good, though ;-)
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Nov 3rd, 2016, 01:54 PM
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Trains in Switzerland are great - go everywhere all the time- can take direct train Milan to Lake Geneva- Lausanne and change there for Basel.

Montreux could be a great smaller city base -many folks rave about or neighboring Vevey-all easily got to by train and having sweet short excursions to do from those bases- for lots on Swiss trains check www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com (check their online European Planning & Rail Guide for lots of rail itineraries in Switzerland; and www.ricksteves.com.
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Nov 3rd, 2016, 02:01 PM
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>>> I will be traveling with four other adults
That is five passengers with cruise luggage.
You are looking at €€€€ in case you have not even looked at the price tag before going down this route.

Five passengers - need a larger car by local standard. €
With cruise luggage - even larger car. €€
If you cannot drive a stick, automatic adder, if you can even find a car in this category €€€
Cross border one way rental - €€€€ adder. You don't have to wait for an advice. Just do a test booking. The site will tell you or email you how much this is going to be. For example, Hertz says €525 adder. If you fail to study the traffic rule and enforcement differences between where you live and in Italy/Switzerland, the fines from the local traffic enforcement units and admin charges from your rental company are on top of this.
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Nov 3rd, 2016, 02:57 PM
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Swiss Rail will send your luggage from any Swiss station to Basel to wait for your arrival there.

Most Americans naturally think car but in Switzerland the trains are so so fantastic and once in a city cars are useless.
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Nov 3rd, 2016, 06:07 PM
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Ordinarily I would suggest flying into Zurich, which is only an hour from Basel - but you are going so early in the year that the mountains will still be in ski season and unless you have full on winter clothing even exploring the lower mountain villages and ascending the mountains wold be problematic. Also I think that the lake steamers probably don;t run that early in the year either.

(IMHO that is really early in the year for that type of cruise - hope you hae plenty of warm clothes).

Milan is a decent option. Or you might choose to head to Torino which is also a very charming city. Too early for the Italian lakes.
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Nov 3rd, 2016, 08:36 PM
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I'm another fan of Basel and could easily imagine a delightful few days with Basel as a base.

Or fly into Zurich or Geneva and explore some of Switzerland's delights. Since some of you have an interest in wines, Geneva might make most sense -- the Lavaux wineries between Geneva and Montreux produce some very pleasant wines that aren't well know outside the area because the harvests are too small to support substantial exports.

If you decide on Milan, do give yourselves enough time to actually see it!

And definitely consider using Switzerland's wonderful public transportation -- absolutely no reason to deal with a car, particularly when you are still going to be facing the possibility of snow and ice.

As PalenQ mentioned, Swiss Rail can forward luggage for you. Consult

You might find some helpful information in my trip report -- just click on my screen name and then scroll down to the section on trip reports to find it.

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Nov 4th, 2016, 08:47 AM
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Weather is always unpredictable in March, in Lombardy (Milan and lakes) as well as in Switzerland or Black Forest.
In late March, the snow line in the Alps may vary between 1300 metres (northern slopes) and 1800 metres (sunny slopes). Italian lake areas wil be in flowers.
Boats will run on
Lake Maggiore
Lake Lugano
Lake Como
Lake Lucerne
Lake Zurich
Lake Geneva (Sunday only)
Lake Biel/Bienne (Sunday only)
Lake Thun (2 boats only)

Define the places you want to visit.
You can easily spend 4 days

either at Milan, Bergamo and the lakes (inc. the 3 castles of Bellinzona)
or in the Swiss mountains
or in towns of Western Switzerland like Berne, Murten, Neuchatel, Gruyeres, Montreux/Vevey, Lausanne....
or in towns of Central Switzerland like Lucerne, Einsiedeln, Aarau, Zurich, Basel.....

You may have a look at
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Nov 5th, 2016, 05:30 AM
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There are direct trains from Milan to Basel, taking from 4-5 hours, the same as driving. The shortest route, a little over four hours, with three daily trains, passes through Visp, Spiez, Thun, and Bern, all of which would be possible interesting places to stop. The longer route, about 5 hours, with one daily train, passes through Lugano, Bellinzona, and Luzerne, all three interesting stopovers.

If you had more time, I would think renting a car might be a good idea. However, given the short amount of time, you won't have time to make numerous stops. That, and given the high cross-border drop-off charges, weighs heavily against renting a car. Choose either of these train routes, and stop somewhere along the way for two nights. That would give you time for a day trip. My suggestions would be Bern (of you take the shorter route) or Luzerne (if you take the longer route).

If you want to see a bit of Italian Switzerland, I would suggest you take the longer route and stop in Bellinzona or Lugano just for the day. Both stations have left luggage facilities. You would arrive before noon, and could catch a late train to Luzerne, with a change of train (very easy) somewhere along the line, because there is only the one direct train each day. Then you could spend two nights in Luzerne, giving you time to see the city or take a day trip. If you don't stop in Italian Switzerland, you could get to Luzerne early enough to see a bit of the city, and perhaps also take a day trip from there. In any case, there's enough to see in Luzerne to occupy two full days.
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Nov 5th, 2016, 12:15 PM
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Thank you all for the great advice. I was leaning towards taking public transportation, but one of us prefers to take a car. All of this information will help support my case for taking the train. I also know the weather can be unpredictable. I traveled the same time last year through the Netherlands and Belgium and was very lucky. I'm hoping for the same, but will plan for inclement weather.

Lucerne is intriguing to me, as is Basel. I'm now convinced that we need more time in Switzerland.

Thank you all!
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Nov 5th, 2016, 01:33 PM
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I've done more research about Switzerland. It looks breathtaking! I am an amateur photographer and already know that I will need more SD cards.

Since we booked our air travel through our cruise line, we have the option of flying into any European city. We are just responsible for getting to the Port in Basel prior to departure. Our thinking was that we could see another part of Europe before our cruise. Through the cruise, we only have one day in Basel. It looks like we should spend more time there.

We will spend many days touring Germany and the Netherlands, but we get only one day in Switzerland and France.

Thoughts? Should we spend three days around Basel or adventure out to see another part of Europe?

Thank you in advance for your time and input.

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Nov 5th, 2016, 03:36 PM
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Depends on what you want to see and experience, how much time you are willing to spend in transit from place to place, and whether you prefer to use a "base" city or don't mind moving around with some frequency. There are parts of Switzerland that are easily reachable from Basel that are much less like Basel than some places in other countries that are much nearer -- a lot depends on history, not current geopolitical boundaries.
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Nov 5th, 2016, 05:55 PM
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Does your cruise make a stop in Strasbourg, France? If not, this would be easy and interesting, and less expensive.

Fly into Frankfurt, Germany. Take a train straight from the airport to Strasbourg, France. A bit under two hours and the station is right at the Frankfurt airport, so relaxing ride, nice for a nap. Strasbourg is absolutely beautiful and has great food. It is easy walking, has a pretty square and cathedral. Stay three nights (2 full days). Perhaps one day, rent a van or hire a driver to visit a bit of the Alsace area.

Day of cruise, as early as possible, drop off luggage at the boat, walk around Basel for a couple of hours.

Where does the cruise end? What about 2 or 3 days there?
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Nov 5th, 2016, 07:22 PM
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Do consider giving yourselves MORE than just a few hours in Basel! It offers a lot, and unless you plan to return to Basel per se, this is your chance to see it. Why short-change it? At least consult a few good guidebooks to decide what YOU want to see / do there, and make sure you have time!

Here's an alternative to Sassafrass's plan (which I'm sure could be very enjoyable), an alternative to which I alluded above -- Fly into Geneva. Plan to spend two or three nights in Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, or Montreux (your call!), and in that time, visit what interests you in Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, and Montreux. Move on to Basel, perhaps with a stop on the way (or overnight) in Gruyeres (or...). These parts of Switzerland are decidedly within its French-speaking region, and so will be different from Basel, which straddles the French- and German-speaking regions of Switzerland. And you'll capture some lovely scenery as you move along the northern reaches of Lake Geneva....
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Nov 5th, 2016, 08:27 PM
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Kja is always kind to me, and my suggestion would be nice - for me. I am a lazy traveler and like scenery from the point of view of a cafe terrace or lounge by a pool, in warm weather. I was looking for an easy, but nice alternative to going through Milan, which for some unclear reason I have developed a bias against as an arrival or departure point. Plus, I do love the buildings in Strasbourg.

Honestly, though, given how much you all like the outdoors and photography, Kja's plan is a better fit for you. It would give you more variety and much more wow! Really, truly unforgettable!
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Nov 5th, 2016, 08:58 PM
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Oh, gosh, Sassafrass, you are being far too kind to me. I think either option could be great!

(And neither of us route them through Milan! ;-) No intended criticism of Milan -- it just doesn't seem to me the best for the OP's purposes.)

The problem with MY suggestion is that there may be too much to fit into the OP's time. It really depends on preferences...
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Nov 6th, 2016, 09:08 PM
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I boarded a Rhine cruise in Basel last year and spent a couple of nights there before boarding the boat. My cousin and I stayed at the Hotel Spalentor which was simple and comfortable. The hotel provided a transport card for the city's trams which made exploring easy.

We flew from the US to Paris on Air France then transferred to a flight to Basel. The EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg makes destinations in three countries easy to reach. Colmar would be a lovely choice if your cruise already goes to Strasbourg. If you spend the days all in Basel you could make easy day trips by train to Colmar or Lucerne.
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