Trip to Switzerland in April

Old Feb 12th, 2006, 09:22 PM
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Trip to Switzerland in April

My wife and I are thinking of going to Switzerland for the Easter break. So far I have come up with the following itinerary

April 11, leave NYC
April 12, Arrive Geneva
April 13, Geneva
April 14, Train Geneva-Montreux, visit Chillon Castle, then train Montreux-Zermatt
April 15, Zermatt
April 16, ?????
April 17, fly home Geneva-NYC

Our "must have" on this trip is going to Zermatt and going up to Klein Matterhorn, taking lots of pictures. Also, we like visiting Medieval castles, so that's why Chillon Castle is on the list. In general we like cultural experiences (old towns, castles, local cusine) and pretty scenery.

So, I would appriciate a little help with the following

1) As you can see, I have one more day to plan. Should we stay an extra day in Geneva, Zermatt, or try to squeeze in one more destination?

2) If we do not stay overnight in Montreux, what can we do with our luggage? Can it be stored in the train station for a few hours?

3) Will the trip to Klein Matterhorn be enjoyable in mid-April (too cold, too cloudy)? Also, this question may be a little silly, but Klein Matterhorn is a different peak from Matterhorn, right? Is "the main" Matterhorn visible from Klein Matterhorn?

4) I am not quite clear on all the options for train travel in Switzerland. I understand there is a Swiss Pass that gives us free travel on a certain number of days. But this only includes intercity trains, and not the ride to Klien Matterhorn. Also, there is some sort of a day pass that gives us 50% discount for train travel and Klien Matterhorn. Am I getting this right? Would we have to buy a day pass, and then buy train tickets on top of that? Would we have to by a day pass for each day we want to travel?

Anyway, I realize that's a lot of questions. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you to all respondents in advance.
sbalaban is offline  
Old Feb 12th, 2006, 10:44 PM
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Yes, Klein Matterhorn is a different peak than the Matterhorn. Klein Matterhorn has the highest cable station in Europe and provides access to the highest skiing on the continent. It also has great views of the Matterhorn, as does the Gornergrat, but both offer completely different perspectives (I prefer the view from the Klein Matterhorn myself).

You won't be going to the top of the Matterhorn unless you plan to climb it.

Whether or not the trip is enjoyable will depend on the weather gods, which is why you might consider spending your extra day in Zermatt - to increase your chances of clear weather.

I'm not familiar with train travel to and from Geneva, (assuming you plan to take the train) but keep in mind that it takes about 5 hours to get to Zurich from Zermatt so you may be looking at a long train ride back to Geneva.

You'll want to check the train schedules for connections to ensure you can leave Zermatt early enough in the morning to get back to Geneva in time for your departing flight. Better yet, you might consider re-arranging your schedule to spend the last day or two in Geneva instead of at the beginning of your trip.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2006, 12:13 AM
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I am also planning to stay in Zermatt (my second time) for 5nights during my trip to Europe in July, so that I may be able to answer some of your questions.

1) If I were you, I would stay in Geneva for only 1 night, and add another night in Zermatt. Geneva does not worth 2nights unless you do a day-trip to Chamonix (to see Mont-Blanc). Also, the weather in Zermatt may not be guaranteed in April. Longer you stay, the chances are higher to see great panorama of Alps mountains.

2) Going from Geneva to Zermatt, yes, I am sure there are some coin-operated lockers at the train station. Or you can send your luggage from Geneve to Zermatt by "Fast Baggage" service at 20CHF per luggage.

3)I've never been to Switzerland in April. But yes, Klein Matterhorn(3883m) is different mountain from Matterhorn (4478m). You can see Matterhorn from the peak of Klein Matterhorn. But I would recommend that you also visit Gornergrat (40min from Zermatt) for wonderful and perhaps better panorama of Matterhorn. It's a MUST in Zermatt. If you have 2 days in Zermatt, going to both KM and Gornergrat is possible (although it depends on weather). Here is the timetable for trains/cableways.

4) For the train passes in Swizerland, please refer to the SBB homepage.

For your itinerary, I would recommend either Swiss Transfer Ticket or Swiss Half Fare Card. Swiss Card which only gives you 25% discount on mountain trains and cableways (as far as I know) does not pay in your case.

Swiss Transfer Ticket - your return trip between Geneva and Zermat will be free. You can stop few hours in Montreux at no charge. However, it does not give you any discount on cableways, etc., in Zermatt. Swiss Transfer Ticket is sold outside Switzerland (please check the price in US), or through SBB homepage (the cost of delivery to your home in the US is 42CHF).

Swiss Half Fare Card is sold in Switzerland (I once bought mine at the train station which is located underneath Geneva-Airport) and costs 99CHF(valid for 1 month). It gives you 50% discount on ALL the trains AND cableways.

Do some calculatins to see which is better.

Zermatt-Goranergrat - 72CHF/return
Zermatt-Klein Matterhorn - 78CHF/return
Geneva-Zermatt - 170CHF/return/2nd class, 282CHF/return/1st class
Swiss Transfer Ticket - ?
Swiss 1/2 Fare Card - 99CHF

Please check the homepages of SBB and Zermatt. They both have tons of useful informations (Zermatt site has a complete list of hotels).

Also Geneva and Montreux, if you don't have them yet.

PiscesAK is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2006, 12:25 AM
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Sorry, Swiss Pass gives you 50% (not 25%) discount on the mountain trains and cableways.
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Old Feb 13th, 2006, 12:32 AM
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It's me again, very sorry.

Zermatt-Klein Matterhorn 82CHF/return
PiscesAK is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2006, 01:18 AM
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Some thoughts on your itinerary:

1. As mentioned above, you first need to figure out your train and flight schedule for your return flight to NYC. Most flights for the US depart before 11 am, and as the train time from Zermatt to Geneva is about 4 hours, and the first train does not leave until about 5:30 am, with check-in time, etc it is usually necessary that you spend the night before your flight in the Geneva area. (I used to live in Switzerland and this was a common occurrence with visiting friends and relatives). Given this, I agree with the recco above that you might want to reverse the order of your trip and go directly to Zermatt on the day you arrive. The train trip is quite pretty and, assuming you have am arrival into Geneva, you could get a little bit of sightseeing in on your first day, weather permitting. There is a train station in Geneva airport and you can get to Zermatt in about 4 hours. For example, there is a 10:30 am train departing the airport that would arrive in Zermatt at 2:20 pm. You will still have a good bit of daylight left at that point, and if it is a clear day you would definitely be in plenty of time for the great Matterhorn twilight and sunsets. Go for schedules. Do you have a hotel in Zermatt? If you give a budget I can recco some.

2. April is a little iffy in terms of weather, it is changing over to Spring and temps are rising, so you tend to get clouds, rain and fog. Given this, I would second the recco that you schedule 2 full days and so maybe 2/3 nights in Zermatt so you have better chances of having some hours/days of clear weather for photos, walking and cable car trips. There is a lot to do in Zermatt, so you could fill the 2 days pretty easily, see below. I would say use your arrival day and then the next day, and then see what the weather is like on the third and how much you accomplished on the previous days and head back to the Geneva either in the morning or the afternoon based on that. You could also do to full days and take a late evening or night train back to the Geneva area if you don't want to spend a third night.

3. For the rest of your trip, as you like old towns and castles, then I would recco that you stay in either Lausanne or Vevey rather than Geneva itself. Geneva's old town is not as interesting, IMO as Lausanne's and its aspect on the lake is not nearly as beautiful as Vevey or Lausanne's. Vevey has a very charming old town as well, quite small but pretty. Both have many good restaurants. You can get to the Chillon Castle from either by train quite easily ( 30 minutes from Lausanne 15-30 minutes from Vevey). If you want to see another castle, you could go to Gruyere for half a day from either ( just under 1.5 hours by train) and see the tiny village and castle which is also quite nice. This is in a lovely area of rolling hills with Alp backgrounds, could be a bit brown and slushy in April, hard to say. Finally, both are further down the lake closer to the lovely vineyard areas. Although these will be quite brown in April, if you get a good sunny day they are still worth a walk. If you get a bad day, Lausanne has the Olympic museum as well. You can get to Geneva airport from either easily (about an hour, first train runs at 4:30 am, most require no changes). Montreux would be a possibility, I am not a fan and don't think their old town is that interesting, but it has fans on this board. It is just over an hour to the airport from Montreux. If you give a budget, I can recco some hotels in the area.

4. With only 5 days on the ground, I would not try to see more than the 2 destinations you have planned. There is a lot to do in both areas, in addition to the cable cars and mountain railways, there is very good winter walking in the Zermatt area, and walking and biking in the Lake Geneva area if you have enough of old towns, castles, cathedrals, etc.

5. In Zermatt, while the series of cable cars up the Klein Matterhorn is thrilling, I think for better pictures and a chance to get out and walk around and possibly down the mountains a bit weather permitting, you should also take the Gornegratbahn train up the Gornegrat. I think you will even get more spectacular pictures from here as it is across the valley from the Matterhorn, while the Klein Matterhon (the "Little Matterhorn" is next door to the actual Matterhorn so you get a somewhat sideways view, still good of course.) Contrary to Melnq8, I prefer the views from the Gornegrat. Go to for info on the train. The Gornegratbahn train station is across the street from the main train station in downtown Zermatt so is easy to find. You can go all the way to the top station which is at almost 10,000 feet, you can also get out at any lower station, you can also walk up or down from lower or higher stations to the next station. In mid-April you will still find a good bit of snow in the upper stations, but if conditions permit and you have boots, this should be walkable. If you can, a good walk over open snow fields with tremendous open Matterhorn views would be from the Rotenboden Station down to the Riffleberg Station. (There is a cafeteria restaurant here, and a hotel restaurant about 300 yards further down.) Another great place would be to get out at the Rifflealp station and have lunch at the wonderful Rifflealp Hotel, if their outdoor terrace is open, their view is unparalleled, if not they have an indoor restaurant with views and a bar with views as well. Take a look at or

6. I would bring a winter coat, gloves, a hat, good waterproof boats, an umbrella and other than that clothes that you can layer and take on or off and be prepared for any kind of weather. I have been in the Montreux area in mid-April when we had snow (last April 19 in fact), and have been there in other Aprils when it was 78 F and sunny. Zermatt could be pleasant, rainy, snowy, blizzardy or anything. Go to for an idea of historical averages.

7. As you know, you will be in Switzerland over Easter weekend. You will find some shops and restaurants closed on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (shops are generally closed on Sunday everywhere in Switzerland, shops in Zermatt generally closed between Noon and 2 for lunch). Hotel restaurants will be open. It will be hit or miss as to what is open in Zermatt as far as restaurants and shops, as it is a major tourist destination, you probably will find a good bit open, but I have not been there on Easter myself so cannot say for sure. The cable cars and trains should all be running.

8. If for some reason you do not stay overnight in the Montruex area and only go to Chillon Castle for the day, you can store you luggage in the Montreux train station. There are luggage lockers and a manned luggage room at the Montreux train station (there are lockers at virtually every train station and manned luggage rooms at larger train stations). For the manned luggage room. Look for a blue sign with a white suitcase. The charge is something like CH5 per piece per day (about US$3). I believe they are open 7 am 6:45 pm every day, but do confirm this when you arrive at the station.

FYI, the Castle is NOT in Montreux, it is in Veytaux-Chillon, which is a good 45 minute to an hour walk or a 5 minute train ride down the lake from the city centre, a pleasant walk in good weather, not so sure about April. You should also be able to store you bags in Veytaux-Chillon, but if you don't want to risk it, and as you have to change in Montreux anyway, you could just store then in Montreux.
Cicerone is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2006, 03:02 AM
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While staying in Lausanne (if you follow Cicerone's suggestion), you can not only visit Chillon, but castles at Aigle and Gruyeres, as well as a daytrip to Bern or Avenches (Roman). J.
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Old Feb 13th, 2006, 03:44 AM
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In terms of viewing the actual Matterhorn peak. If you go into the Gornergrat railway station (which is directly across the street from the main RR station) there is a "live cam" in the waiting area. The advantage of this is that you can see what the viewing will be like up above. Sometimes the village can be shrouded and the views up above more clear, and, unfortunately, vice versa.
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