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Trip to the Bernese Oberland. Help with stay!

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Sep 3rd, 2014, 06:03 AM
  #1
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Trip to the Bernese Oberland. Help with stay!

Hello!

I'm planning a 10 day trip from the US to Switzerland and Italy with my spouse and a 3 year and 10 year old.

We'd land in Zurich or Geneva on the 4th of October and were planning on taking a train to Bern straight away so we could wake up there. We'd be buying a 4 day Swiss pass as well.

The 5th, 6th and 7th are dedicated to areas around Bern. We wanted to see the city, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Murren, Montreux even (whichever is possible) and my family loves to hike. How should we go about planning those visits? The best family friendly hikes? The Eiger trail looked good to me. And is Bern a good central location to travel from to those places? or is it better to stay somewhere else and then hop on a shorter train ride? Any other must see spots? How is the weather like in early October?

Also, we're planning to go to Venice from Bern or Zermatt on the 8th. How can my Swiss pass be useful in this regard? I read that the swiss region is covered but I would have to pay the italian portion to Milan (and then onward to Venice)

Thank you!
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 06:21 AM
  #2
 
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Are you buying a 4-consecutive day Swiss Pass or a flexipass - makes a big difference - with a flexipass you must save your last day of unlimited travel to use for your last train ride because once the final unlimited travel day is used the pass expires - so to get 50% off everything on trains, boats, etc on days in between the 1st and last unlimited travel day you must keep the last travel day unused.

If buying a 4-day Swiss Flexipass you will almost always be better off buying a 3-day Swiss Flexipass - especially in your case.

It seems since you are moving around everyday a 8-consecutive-day Swiss Pass would or could be your best deal - and then on the final day you use it to get to Brig-Domodossola and buy a Trenitalia ticket from Domodossola to Venice (www.trenitalia.com) which will kick in once your Swiss Pass expires at the border.

You should base at least a few days right up in the mountains and not far away Bern - to appreciate the awesome beauty close up - like in Grindelwald, my favorite or Wengen or Lauterbrunnen, etc - you can't go wrong.

Sites with lots of good info on Swiss trains, passes, etc I always spotlight these IMO superb sites: www.budgeteuropetravel.com (I've bought passes from Byron here for years - he will IME expertly answer any such questions); www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.ricksteves.com.
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 06:30 AM
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How many days do you plan to spend in Venice?
That is a long trip for less than 2 nights.

I would stay in Grindelwald.
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 07:43 AM
  #4
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After the 8th, we are not planning on coming back to Switzerland. We will be leaving for Venice, Florence and Rome and then heading back home from Rome. I will look into staying in Grindelwald instead of Bern. We looked at the swiss pass, the regional Bernese Oberland pass and the eurail pass and the swiss pass had the best options with regard to free tickets to attractions included and there was not much price difference between the swiss pass and the overland pass.

Will 3.5 days be enough for the oberland plus Montreux? My kids want to see the Chllon castle. What other uses can I get out of the swiss pass? Good museums around the area? We were planning on hiking from Grindelwald to lake Bachalpsee and Grutschalp to Murren? Any other scenic hikes with waterfalls?

Thank you for your help and the helpful links!
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 07:53 AM
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You seem to be focused on the best use of passes rather than what to see in that region. The Berner Oberland is spectacular---the best of the Alps. I would spend all of your time in that area and enjoy the many sights and activities within the region of Interlaken/Lauterbrunnen/Wengen et al. That will be hard to do in only 3 days. Bern is too far.
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 08:16 AM
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You are planning on covering an awful lot in a 10 day trip. Typically, 10 days is good for a "scratch the surface" first trip to Italy to visit the "big three"--- Venice, Florence, and Rome. If you spend the f4 days in Switzerland, that leaves you with 6 for Italy. That's much less than 2 days in each city, because you need to factor in travel time. Even for a short train ride, think about each morning getting a family of four up, dressed, packed, fed, travel to train station, find and wait for correct train, travel, get family and luggage off train, travel to new hotel, check in and get settled. At least half the day is gone at this point, and it's time for lunch, someone needs to use the bathroom, and does the 3 year old still nap?

To spare your family misery, please consider eliminating at least one destination from your trip. If your flights are already booked, Florence would probably make sense as the place to drop. Also, since you seem to be going to Switzerland to enjoy the mountains and the hiking (which are glorious!) I'd urge you to actually stay IN the mountains. Wengen, Murren, or one of the other small towns would give you a true mountain experience. However, it would not be a convenient base for visiting Montreux. You may need to cut that from your list too. Think carefully about how much of your time you want to devote to traveling, compared to how much time you want to devote to actually enjoying and experiencing what's there. Always nice to leave a few things for the "when we come back next time" list. Happy travels!
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 12:01 PM
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Bern is too far.>

Yes indeedy - an hour or so to Interlaken-Ost and then another half hour to Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen and then up from there - to do that every day would be a drag and you would be missing out on the pleasure of having a family-run hotel or guesthouse with a balcony that is practically eyeball to eyeball with glacier-girdled peaks majestically rising thousands of feet above lush cow-dotted meadows, etc.

Plus the cost of accommodations in the Jungfrau Region is IME much cheaper across the board than in very expensive cities like Bern.
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 02:24 PM
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I found an 8- night apartment rental in Bern for FAR less than accommodation of the same length in many Berner Oberland towns. Just sayin'!
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 02:50 PM
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did you make daily trips to places like the Shcilthorn, Jungfraujoch, some hiking at higher climes - to Murren and Gimmelwald - etc from Bern? Just curious as to what you did from your Bern base - it is not unreasonable to day trip from there to the Jungfrua Region but IMO you miss so so much not staying in a Grindelwald, for the weird experience of basing in an Alpine resort with such awesome views.

Bern is a lovely city - less heralded than it should be but I can't imagine any neat views from hotel balconies - cheapness is not always the key for a place like the Jungfrau though across the board for a few night stays in a proper hotel I think you can find more cheaper ones there than in any place I've been in in Switzerland.
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 05:03 PM
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I agree, for OP's goals, Bern is not a good home base. But as for Bern being a "very expensive city", I just didn't find it to be true. Much more expensive IMHO in the tourist-heavy BO.
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Sep 3rd, 2014, 05:15 PM
  #11
kja
 
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If your main goal is to see the Bernese Oberland -- and that's how it sounds to me -- then Bern would not be my first choice, particularly as you are traveling with young ones. (I loved Bern, but think you would be spending too much of your time in transit.)

I recommend that you get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, note their opening/closing times, and mark them on a calendar. Then pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from the train/bus station or whatever, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Then see how things fit together. You might end up deciding to cut a destination or two....
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Sep 4th, 2014, 05:16 AM
  #12
 
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Well mokka maybe I am emphasizing the low end digs like I stay in - due to being on a starvation budget and I can get a single private room in a hotel in Interlaken for about 40 CHF a night unlimited breakfast buffet included

Or in Grindelwald could go to the Nature Friend's House - an all-ages semi hostel - these type places seem not to exist except in popular Alpine regions that draw a hiking/skiing crowd and have accommodations from official hostels to private hostels (Balmer's Auberge in Interlaken is such a place that cities seem to lack), etc.

Not sure what you flat costs but if 40-50 euros a night then that would be equivalent to cheaper hotels that abound in Interlaken, which though not right up in the mountains does offer sweet views of the Jungfrau Massif in its Matten district, a quiet sedate district that few of the many folks who diss Interlaken after just walking along its main tourist-shop filled main drag never go stumble on - Matten is as dreamy as any place in Switzerland in its own way - yet folks just say the very worst things about Interlaken after often just an ephemeral look over, while heading to the hills.
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Sep 4th, 2014, 01:12 PM
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Like Mestre in Venice the Lido or beach area, where cars are allowed, has similarly cheap hotel deals but only in the non-beach season of summer - off-season you get some rather nice hotels for a pittance compared to Venice proper. and just a short boat ride from San Marco or any place near it.
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Sep 8th, 2014, 03:07 PM
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Thanks so much everyone for your replies! We're landing in Zurich and have decided to take the train to Lucerne the next day and see the lake and Mt Pilatus or Mt Rigi (using our swiss pass) I plan to leave our luggage at the luggage lockers on the train station there. If there is time, we might take the train to Montreux and see Chillon Castle on the same day (It closes at 6 I believe, so we might be able to get in a little time at the castle) If there is no time, we will take the train to Bern and spend the night there.

The next day we will go to Grindelwald and stay there for the next 2 days. Take the First and then hike from First to Bachsee. That's the only hike i've figured out so far. I know I want to do Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg and Grutschalp to Murren as well.

We're planning to taking the train to Milan airport via Domodossola and renting a car there afterward so we can drive around Tuscany and finally Rome for the next 5 days. I know it's a bit much to squeeze in but atleast with a car I can expect some flexibility incase our plans change. I've heard some horror stories about driving in Italy, but we plan to leave our car outside the city limits to avoid the dreaded ZTL.
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Sep 9th, 2014, 09:44 AM
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For you long day in Lucerne and to Montreux and Chillon - why not just take the train from Zurich Airport to Lucerne the day of arrival - it's only about an hour or so all told - then you'd have a few more hours that long long day.

I'd stay in Lucerne two days - or cut Rigi or Pilatus - those excursions will take longer than you think I think.
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Sep 9th, 2014, 02:37 PM
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There are two rail routes between Lucerne and Montreux - the fabled Golden Pass scenic line with rolling over it the official Golden Pass trains with spiffy glass-domed observation 'panoramic' cars or you can take the faster main route via Bern and Lausanne - another reason to start early on that day to Montreux so you can take one of Switzerland's legendary scenic trains - would not have time to take the extra time to do that if you are doing all that you've outlined for the day leaving Lucerne - I would much rather spend the night in lovely Lucerne, on its lovely lake rather than Bern

Bern is a fine fine city but not as romantic as exceptionally romantic Lucerne.
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Sep 9th, 2014, 04:04 PM
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If going from Bern to Montreux you can again eschew the main faster route with so-so scenery (for Switzerland - IME the whole country is like a picture postcard) and head for Spiez, just a few minutes by train from Bern and join the Golden Pass train from there to Montreux and since you'll have a lot of time get to Montreux early - do Castle Chillon and even a boat cruise on sweet Lac LeMan (can take a boat from Montreux to Chillon, a trolley bus (regular bus now?), train or walk the few miles along a lovely lake front esplanade.

A Swiss Pas would be valid on all those transports - including the Golden Pass specialty scenic train (though reservations are recommended for panoramic observation cars and cost a few Swiss francs (CHF).
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Sep 9th, 2014, 10:27 PM
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hi jade777,

If you do get to Montreux -- I recommend that you walk along the flowered lakeside promenade to get to Chillon. It only takes 45 minutes, and imo the promenade is one of the best things about Montreux. It will be pretty spectacular in early October, with the fall leaves on the trees. I know you won't have much time in Montreux, but I think it would be a shame to miss that.

Taking a ferry ride is a good idea, but the trip from Montreux to Chillon only takes about 15 minutes -- not really enough to enjoy it. The best rides on Lake Geneva are between Vevey and Lausanne, when you cruise by the beautiful vineyards -- but you clearly won't have time for that.

So, I recommend that you walk along the promenade to enjoy the views, see Chillon, then take bus #201 back to Montreux to continue your journey. That entire outing will take about 3h.

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Sep 9th, 2014, 10:50 PM
  #19
kja
 
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"The best rides on Lake Geneva are between Vevey and Lausanne" -- Vive la différence! I thought that leg far less interesting than the leg from Chillon to Vevey.
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Sep 9th, 2014, 10:58 PM
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Can you say why, kja? Between Chillon & Vevey you pass mostly towns & buildings on the lake (Territet, Veytaux, Montreux, Clarens, La-Tour-de-Peilz, Vevey).

I far prefer seeing the pretty vineyards from the ferry boat.

s
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