Zurich or Lucerne ?

Nov 5th, 2006, 01:44 PM
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Zurich or Lucerne ?

I have a spare day in Switzerland. Any ideas on where best to spend it ? I'll have a Eurail pass so getting around is not a problem.
Chop is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 01:47 PM
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Zurich is more business oriented IMO. I'd spend the time in Luzern. It is truly a beautiful city on a fascinating lake with lots of great walking areas. The old town is FUN.
LN is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 01:53 PM
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Another vote for Lucerne
DAX is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 02:06 PM
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No question--LUCERNE!!
P_M is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 02:14 PM
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I have not been to Zurich although I saw it on Samantha Brown last week. It looks good but I must say that Lucerne, which I did visit once, seems more charming than Zurich.
francophile03 is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 02:49 PM
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Luzern! Beautiful. Take a boat ride on the lake, walk around town & along the lake, consider the symphony that night if they are playing. Or, take the boat tour to Mt. Pilatus and take the furnicular up the mountain and the tram down.
annw is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 04:51 PM
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zurich has it all, old town charm, great food and a very civilized feel, we never miss a stop there when kin switzerland.
richardsonsnm is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 05:03 PM
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Don't forget that on Sunday everything is closed, so I would try to schedule my day in Lucerne (or Zurich) for anyday but Sunday. If you do decide on Zurich, be sure to take the walking tour of the old town, which departs from the train station. The Zurich Zoo is also one of the best I have visited.
JenniferMB is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 01:18 AM
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What time of year is the trip and what are your interests? What is a "spare day", just a few hours, or overnight? These would all be helpful to me in providing a better answer.

In addition to one of the best old towns in Switrerland, Zurich has about a half dozen excellent museums in addition to its zoo, and all are open on Sunday as are restaurants. The only things that are closed on Sundays are shops, which you probably don't want to spend any time in anyway, and the souvenir and gift shops in the train station are open on Sunday, including chocolate shops.

If your'e interests are walking and biking you can do that from Zurich too, I am sure you can do it from Lucerene, I just could not give you expicit directions.

People who think Zurich is all about business do not know Zurich is all I can say....
Cicerone is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 02:09 AM
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I personally liked Lucerne more than Zurich, but both are nice places to spend a day at. There is more than enough to do and see that would fill up your day. Where are you coming from and going to? Maybe that might also be a determining factor.
sharon1306 is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 03:15 AM
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Cicerone, late September and staying overnight. Coming and leaving by train. Any suggestions for hotels or must-see attractions ?
Chop is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 03:40 AM
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On the train from Milan via Como ending in Frankfurt, any suggestions for hotels, etc ?
Chop is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 04:40 AM
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I like the smaller city feel of Luzern, coupled with the beautiful lake, river and mountain views. So, I'd vote hands down for Luzern.

If you like a bigger, bustling city, Zurich might be more to your liking. I don't; hence the vote for Luzern.
JN is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 06:24 PM
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Seems that you're more curious about Zurich. I've had 4 stays in Zurich within the last 6 years including last April. I would say that it's not a city geared toward tourism but you can find the typical swiss charm/hospitality if you know where to find it. Hopefully Cicerone will elaborate on this further. I know some but need to know your budget.

The old town straddles on both sides of the Limmat river. In my experience Zurich old town is rather dead on week nights but comes alive on the weekend nights when there are a few local marching swiss drummer groups or marching flute group going around. I've seen as many as 6 marching musical groups going along Niederdorfstr on the eastern bank and some even went to the old town alleys on the western bank of the river creating a festive swiss ambiance. The student crowd also comes out more on weekend nights. I would recommend coming to Zurich on a Friday/early Saturday so you can experience a livelier night in old town.

I tend to stay at the Park Hyatt (using Hyatt points) which is the best new hotel in Zurich, but many people get great deals through Priceline at the Marriott Hotel. Both are within walking distance to old town but on opposite corners. In the past, hotel Europa near the opera often offers reasonable rates. One good value hotel in old town is Hotel Kindli. It has the small hotel charm & it's located right in the most attractive part of old town. Hotel Widder is the upmarket version just a block away. Hotel zum Storchen is in the middle price range. In general hotels cost twice as expensive in Zurich (priced for business bankers) compared to Lucerne, but there are more great hotels in Zurich. There are also plenty of low budget hotels in the Niederdorf area but I don't know enough to make a recommendation.
Niederdorf is also where you'll find plenty of cheap eats where the students hang out.

DAX is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 07:01 PM
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I happen to like Zurich quite a lot, and have stayed there a number of times. But if you're saying you have only one day to spend EITHER in Zurich or Luzern and you've never been to either, I can't imagine anyone seriously suggesting Zurich OVER Luzern.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 08:17 PM
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Lucerne is indeed easier to explore and do in one day as everything is there ready to be enjoyed, no need to study & select the scenic enjoyable route.
DAX is offline  
Nov 7th, 2006, 02:55 AM
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Thanks for the info Chop, on your dates and timing, that helps me a lot. If I can first make a completely different suggestion, and recommend that rather than just looking at the Alps from a distance, you skip BOTH cities and actually go up into the mountains of Switzerland which will be absolutely glorious in late September. Switzerland is all about the countyside, not the towns. Coming from the Como area, I would have two recommendations on now to get up into the mountains:

1. Go to a little village called Arosa in Graubunden which is on the edge of the Engadine not far from St Moritz and Davos/Klosters. This will take about 4.5 hours by a combination of train and bus, but the trip is a lovely ride, especially the deep valley floors up from Italy and then the great little train up the curving mountainside from Chur to Arosa. You will then be able to see a nice neat little Swiss village and some gorgeous Alp scenery up close and personal with ‘nary a tourist in sight (certainly few if any American ones), with cows and cowbells and the whole Swiss country experience. There is some excellent easy walking and more challenging hikes here, and cable cars you can take up for mountain views, and easy walks down from there. A few hotel reccos are below. You can then train to Frankfurt the next day, the trip will take about 6.5 to 7 hours (admittedly a long day, but IMO worth it for the great countryside you will have seen.) If you have a lot of luggage, leave it at the Chur train station as you will change in Chur train station for the Frankfurt. If you want to overnight in Chur that is a possibility too, they have a very nice if compact old town area, but is a fairly large modern city otherwise.

Hotel Arve Central. 3 stars but really quite nice and very charming in the Swiss wood-panelled way. Definitely get a room with a balcony and view. arve-central.ch

Arosa Kulm. 5 stars, located right near one of the cable cars, really nice rooms and all the extras. http://www.arosakulm.ch/

The Tschuggen Grand is another luxury hotel which is supposed to be very good, although I have not stayed in it. tschuggen.ch.

2. Go to Tirano Italy and take the Bernina Express train up and over the glaciers and down into the Engadine. This is IMO the best of the “scenic” train rides in Switzerland and September is a great time to do it. This will require some longish train rides for you, esp to Frankfurt the next day, but will also let you see some of the most beautiful countryside and take two of the best train rides in Switzerland IMO. For info on the Bernina Express, go to rbb.ch. To do this, you first need to get to Tirano, which takes about 3 hours by train from Como. The Bernina Express has three departures, all in the afternoon after 2 pm, so you would aim to be there before 2 pm. Tirano is a little town with not much to see but you can have a nice lunch there and a walk around if you want to get there 1-2 hours early.

I would choose to go to the St Moritz area and so would take the 2:50 pm Bernina Express train. This would get you to St Moritz by just after 5 pm. This portion of the ride is up over the Alp pases and glaciers and is really interesting. When you get to St Mortiz, you would have time to see some of the area which is very pretty, and this is also not so long a day on the train. Then the next day if you can spend some time there, go up one of the cable cars or do some walking, and then take the train down to Chur for your onward journey to Frankfurt. The train down to Chur is IMO the most beautiful in Switzerland as you wind down through the Bergun valley. Once in Chur, you will switch trains to the Frankfurt train. From St Mortiz to Chur is 8 hours, so this is a long day and a long day before, but again for the scenery and the Bernina Express train ride it is far worth it IMO. If you can arrange your schedule to add a day more in this area, this makes the trip even more worthwhile. It’s probably my favourite area after the Lake Geneva area and really not touristed at all by Americans. (They all go to Lucerne and the Lauterbrunnen valley.)

I would overnight in Celerina, which is next door to St Moritz (about 10 minutes by train, it’s the next stop) and is much smaller and less expensive than St Moritz and does not involve so much hill climbing to reach the town, most things are walkable from the train station. In Celerina, two hotels I can recco are below, both are walkable from the train station. The first hotel is a nice 3 star with each room done in an individual style (in some cases kind of quirky), the second is a more luxurious 4 star, and has an indoor pool and wellness centre

Hotel Misani

Cresta Palace Hotel
http://www.crestapalace.ch/default_english.htm (Southside rooms have great views)

Another very lovely area is around Sils Maria, about 10 miles south of St Moritz, and a great hotel there is the Waldhaus, go to http://www.waldhaus-sils.ch/en/home/home_e.htm

You can also just go from Como straight to the St Moritz area and skip going via the Bernina Express, this takes 5 hours and a combo of bus and train, but IMO you should take the Bernina Express if you can so you can experience the high moutain passes

3. One final recco that is not in the mountains but IMO better than Lucerne or Zurich is that if you are interested in the Lake Geneva area which would be glorious in September and be the wine harvest time, you could get to in 5 hours if you took a 7 am train. Vevey is a lovely town with a very nice old town, and there are ferries on the lake, walks in the vineyards above the lake and at all times the glorious Alp views. There is the castle at Chillon near Montreux which is a great castle. I could give you more info if you wanted. From Vevey to Frankfurt is about 5.5 hours. It is a bit too long to get to the Alps above the Interlaken area from Como by train because of the long train rides involved both ways and with only 1 day this is not worth it, IMO.

It is possible to get to Zermatt from Como in 5 hours, then from Zermatt to Frankfurt is about 8 hours. Not sure if this would interest you.

Otherwise, I can see where going to Lucerne or Zurich would be attractive as the train trips are shorter. Train time from Como and then on the Frankfurt is about the same for both, so no real advantage of one over the other. I WOULD pick Zurich over Lucerne, esp on a Sunday, because to me to be in Lucerne and just be a bit closer to the mountains but not actually IN them is a waste of time; you may as well stay in Zurich which has a better old town, better museums, many more restaurants, and its own river and lake. Lucerne on a Sunday afternoon will be jammed with lots of Swiss and other tourists, line up for the ferry ride as soon as you can.....

For hotels in Zurich, my general recco is the Kindli for lots of Swiss charm in a lovely part of the old town take a look at that (kindli.ch); if it is not in your budget then I can recco some others. For this hotel I would leave most of your luggage at the train station and just carry a small overnight bag. It is walkable from the tram, but is a little bit uphill and so there is no point in dragging luggage you don’t need, if you want to take a taxi then lug all the bags you want and pay the US$20 or so for the 5 minute ride.

If you want to know what there is to do in Zurich, I have topped a recent post on stuff to do in Zurich. It is called “One Day in Zurich” .

Cicerone is offline  
Nov 7th, 2006, 03:02 AM
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Hi Cicerone,

Again, incredible advice. My "hut" is off to you! They would love you at the Zürich tourism office.

I still don't agree with Zürich over Lucerne, but your information is outstanding!
kleeblatt is offline  
Nov 7th, 2006, 03:34 AM
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Wow Cicerone, what a huge amount of info. Thanks heaps, I'll take some time to digest all that.

Thanks again and I'll let you know what I finally decide to do.
Chop is offline  
Nov 7th, 2006, 06:01 AM
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I really enjoyed reading your great details about Graubunden. I always thought that Chur and its surrounding resort towns are filled with international jetsetters including Americans,British lords, Arabs and Russians. Your descriptions made it seem more accessible to middle class tourists. I've heard a lot about the Waldhaus at Maria Sils when I was a child so it's a treat to see the website, thanks Cicerone. I have to make it there one of these days.

That said I wonder if Graubunden is an ideal destination for a lone traveller. Wouldn't it be better enjoyed with family or someone else. I have occasionally travelled by myself and tend to prefer destinations with more people where I can meet/converse with people. Of course there are hikers who enjoy being with nature alone in solitude.
I agree with Cicerone on the fact that Lucerne is overinvaded by Americans though more so in the summer not in the fall. I do notice that I can hear more English spoken than Swissgerman in Lucerne's old town lanes during the summer. However, IMHO, Lucerne is more ideal in terms of train timing as well as swiss charm and easy access to the Vierwaldstaettersee, Mt Pilatus for a first time lone traveller. You'll get to see the different elements of Switzerland in one area with easy access. The fall season is the best time to enjoy the central lake region as well.


It would be great to get more insider's info about Zurich's hidden charms from Cicerone. To me, Zurich is a comfortable swiss metropolitan city.
DAX is offline  
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