Where to go in Switzerland on a short trip: Alps, lakes, and cities

SchilthornInsideViewSwitzerland is an extremely popular country for those planning multi-stop tours around Europe, yet very few potential first-time visitors actually know specifically where they want to go. Everyone seems to know that it has the most beautiful views of the Alps and some very impressive cities, but there are actually many misconceptions among casual trip planners, so I’d like to clear most of that up below. The places to visit in Switzerland are not obvious until you’ve been there yourself or done many hours of research, so the list below should be a short cut.

I get hundreds if not thousands of itinerary questions for people who are considering a Eurail trip around Europe, and most people just include the word “Switzerland” among a list of cities like Paris, Rome, and Berlin that they want to visit. So where in Switzerland should you go if you can only make a few stops at most? I’ll answer that question below.

Switzerland is about outdoor views rather than city visits

SwissMeadowViewThe first situation we usually run into is that people who want to visit “Switzerland” assume that the first and best (and sometimes only) stop should be its largest city, which is Zurich. Unfortunately, Zurich is the most expensive city in the world for travelers, and it’s not really very interesting.

Geneva is a very famous city (though not for tourism reasons) on a lovely lake of the same name, but it’s also notoriously dull and lacking distinction. Rick Steves puts it well by saying that “Geneva is pleasantly situated on a lake, like Buffalo or Cleveland.” The point is, you don’t want to go to Geneva unless you’ve got something specific in mind that you want to see there.

Switzerland’s cities in summary

Zurich – The largest city, very expensive, geared towards business travelers

Geneva – Second largest city, in the French part of the country, no major sights

Basel – Bordering France and Germany, no major sights

Lausanne – Near Geneva in the French part of the country, very hilly, and certainly more interesting than Geneva

Bern – The capital, compact, on a lovely river, some interesting sights and the best Swiss city to get a feel for the culture

How much time and which Swiss cities to visit?

BernRiverViewIf you have 4 or fewer days in Switzerland I wouldn’t visit any of the cities listed above. If you have 5 or more days and especially if you want to include a proper city then I’d recommend 1 or 2 days in Bern. For a longer trip, and especially if you want to visit the French part of the country, then a day in Lausanne is worthwhile.

Many people (me included) don’t feel as if they’ve scratched the surface of a new country if they haven’t spent at least a day or two in the largest city. Zurich is certainly pleasant and a useful transit hub so spending one or two nights there wouldn’t be a mistake. But Zurich isn’t even close to being a city like Paris, Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, or even Vienna. If you skip it in favor of spending more time in the outdoors, you won’t be missing much.

The 2 Swiss places to focus on for short visits

InterlakenGreenInterlaken – If you want the best possible Alpine views and activities, head to the Interlaken area, which will be described in detail below.

Lucerne – The traditional Swiss tourist retreat, Lucerne is a small city with interesting culture and sights, that is gorgeously set on a lake with plenty of top activities surrounding it.

If you have 4 or 5 days and want to see the very best of Switzerland, then divide your days between those cities. They are less than 2 hours apart by direct train, so it’s easy to visit both of them even if you only have 3 days. If you only have two days, I’d pick one or the other.

What about Zermatt for Alpine views?

Zermatt is a remote town in southern Switzerland that is famous for being the place to see the Matterhorn mountain. It’s also a busy ski resort area, and aside from that, there isn’t much to see or do here. It’s on a private rail line, so it’s more complicated and usually more expensive to reach than Interlaken.

In other words, unless you’ve irrationally placed “Seeing the Matterhorn in person” on your so-called bucket list, skip Zermatt and head to Interlaken on a shorter visit. You won’t be sorry.

What about the Swiss Travel Pass?

CogwheelTrainEasily the most confusing travel or city pass out there, the Swiss Travel Pass seems expensive at first, but is actually a very good deal for many people wanting to take the scenic and panoramic trains. Read our full Swiss Travel Pass review for all the details and information on where to buy.

The bottom line is that if you are coming to Switzerland for at least 3 days and you want to take 2 or more of the amazing scenic rail journeys that the country is famous for, the travel pass is probably a good deal. It also provides 50% discounts on the Schilthorn cable car and the Jungfraujoch mountain railway. Both of those are quite expensive on their own, but extremely worthwhile, so the discount is helpful.

How and why visit the area around Interlaken

InterlakenLakeViewEven though I keep referring to the city of Interlaken in this article, it’s really the villages just above Interlaken that you want to visit. Interlaken itself is a pleasant and scenic town that is dominated by tourism and feels more than a little out of date.

You can see everything discussed below by actually staying in a hotel in Interlaken, but it’s not the Alpine experience that you get if you stay in one of the small villages above. You can reach those villages in 20 to 40 minutes from the Interlaken Ost (East) train station, and it’s much easier than it sounds.

The 3 best places to stay to visit the Swiss Alps

Lauterbrunnen – A private train line runs from Interlaken Ost station to the end of its line in Lauterbrunnen. There’s a lovely waterfall here and great hiking trails, but you should probably only stay here if you can’t get to one of the villages mentioned just below.

GimmelwaldViewGimmelwald – THIS is where you want to stay if you can manage it. This tiny village has one of the most stunning natural mountain settings you’ll ever see, and it feels like a time capsule that is twice as wonderful as you thought possible. If you’ve ever seen Rick Steves discussing Alpine villages, this is the one he always refers to, and his readers are some of the only guests.

MurrenTownMürren – Just one stop above Gimmelwald by cable car, Mürren has a nearly identical mountain setting, but it also has about 20 times more hotels and tourist shops than Gimmelwald. Many people will feel more comfortable here with more choices and a bit of possible nightlife, but Gimmelwald is still the perfect choice for most nature lovers on short visits to the Alps.

The unforgettable things to see here (if the weather is decent)

Schilthorn observation deck and restaurant

SchilthornViewThe cable cars (mountain lifts that carry up to 80 people at a time) from Lauterbrunnen to Gimmelwald and from Gimmelwald up to Mürren are short and fairly cheap, but if you keep going up two more segments to the top, you reach the Schilthorn observation deck. It’s expensive (around US$100 round-trip from Lauterbrunnen to Schilthorn) but if the weather is clear this is very worthwhile and will be your single best memory of Switzerland.

There is a rotating restaurant (with prices similar to normal Swiss restaurants) and a bizarre and anachronistic James Bond attraction based on it being a key location in the 1969 movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The Bond thing is included with the lift, and it’s worth a look.

But the main thing you come here for is the 360-degree view from one of the highest peaks in Europe. Again, the weather here is key, but fortunately all the locals track the visibility on a minute-by-minute basis. If it’s clear up top while you are in the area, it would be a terrible shame to skip it based on the high price. But even if it’s cloudy up top, there are still plenty of wonderful things to see and do in the villages below.

Jungfraujoch observation area

This is famously the highest railway line and station in Europe, and it’s another privately-run line that is priced as a tourist attraction rather than as transportation. The train leaves from Lauterbrunnen and takes about two chilly hours to get up to the top, including a change of trains halfway up in Kleine Sheidegg.

The views from the top are similar to the views from Schilthorn, from the other side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Once on top you can have lunch, hike, or even go sledding. It’s also quite expensive at nearly US$200 round-trip unless you have a Swiss Pass or a Eurail Pass for discounts, and it takes most of your day, but you’ll never forget the views from the top.

Getting from Interlaken to Gimmelwald and Mürren

Getting up to these villages sounds complicated and time consuming, but it’s actually fast and easy once you get there. This little guide should help.

Arrive in Interlaken

InterlakenOstInterlaken has two main train stations, one in the west (closer to Bern) and one in the east (closer to Lucerne). If you are staying in Interlaken itself then most hotels are closer to the Interlaken West station, but if you are going up the mountain you’ll want to get off at the Interlaken Ost (East) station. All trains stop at both stations, and if you are staying at a local hotel then you get a card that allows free trips between the two.

Once you arrive at the Interlaken Ost train station, head for the ticket windows in the office and buy a ticket to your final destination (Lauterbrunnen, Gimmelwald, or Mürren). Eurail passes are good for 25% discounts on the rest of the trip, but not for the whole thing.

From Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen

The private train leaves Interlaken Ost every 30 minutes and arrives in Lauterbrunnen 20 minutes later. If you are staying in Lauterbrunnen then you are probably walking distance from your hotel when you reach the station.

From Lauterbrunnen to Gimmelwald

LauterbrunnenBusIf you are going to Gimmelwald then your combined train ticket will include the price of a shuttle bus that is waiting for each train as it arrives. Show your ticket to the driver and enjoy views of the waterfall as you pass it. A few minutes later you’ll arrive at the base of the mountain at the cable car station.

Again, the ticket you bought in Interlaken covers the whole thing, so just show your ticket at the cable car entrance and walk on in. A few minutes later the cable car will begin its fast ascent, and 5 minutes later the car lets everyone off at the base of the village of Gimmelwald. From here you are within a few minutes walk of literally the entire village and all of its hotels. The famous Mountain Hostel is directly up the path in front of you so it’s hard to miss.

GimmelwaldArrival

From Gimmelwald to Mürren

GimmelwaldCableCarIf you are staying in Mürren then you hop out of the cable car in Gimmelwald and then walk directly into the cable car across the platform, which is about to leave for Mürren. Once the door closes, you’ll be in Mürren in about 5 minutes. There is also another private rail line that goes to Mürren, but it’s slower and less scenic than the cable cars.

Recommended hotel and hostel in Gimmelwald

I guess asked all the time about where to stay in Gimmelwald, so here it is:

Hotel: Esther’s Guesthouse

EsthersGuesthouseWhen you step off the cable car in Gimmelwald, look a little bit to the right and you’ll see a path going slightly uphill. Even if you go in the wrong direction, you’ll hit a dead end in 15 seconds, so it’s impossible to miss the road. The first thing you’ll see on your right is Esther’s Guesthouse, which is also arguably the best hotel in lovely Gimmelwald.

It’s run by Esther, as you might guess, and she is very friendly speaking excellent English. Each room is different and the place feels like a mountain cabin, because it is. She offers an excellent buffet breakfast in the morning, which you have to order the night before. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it because it’s hearty and there are no other good options nearby.

Book as early as possible because this place is often the first place to sell out in Gimmelwald.

Hostel: Mountain Hostel Gimmelwald

MountainHostelIf you’ve ever wondered which hostel has the best view in the world, Mountain Hostel Gimmelwald would be at least in the Top 5, if not #1. Follow the path to Esther’s Guesthouse (above) and walk a few steps past it, and then look to the left for the short path down to Mountain Hostel. They offer fine dorm beds that are the cheapest accommodation in the village, and it’s quite a fun place in general.

You won’t believe the views from this place, which are the same as from Esther’s except a bit lower and more unobstructed. This place also has a busy bar and restaurant that is basically the only “nightlife” in Gimmelwald. Many hikers get to bed early in this own, but if you want to have a couple drinks and order a pizza or some local options, this is the place to go.

Again, book early because this place is always sold out.

Lucerne and what to do there

LucerneBridgeViewLuzern, as it’s spelled locally, is the other traditional holiday destination in Switzerland. Unlike Interlaken, Lucerne actually qualifies as a small city rather than a small resort town, so it’s a very nice contrast and very worthwhile.

The area around Lucerne is surrounded by small mountains, but it’s not in the Alps and it doesn’t have the sort of amazing views you get in Interlaken. The main attraction here is Lake Lucerne and the various small towns on its shores. There are excellent hikes that are mostly not too challenging, and some wonderful views from nearby peaks.

However, unlike Interlaken, the town of Lucerne itself is a great attraction and worth at least a day of exploration. This has always been a rich area so you can expect to find all of the high-end shops and boutiques along the small streets just north of the lake, but there are also many traditional shops and things to see that will appeal to anyone.

Recommended hotel in Lucerne

>>>Hotel Des Alpes (3 stars with an amazing location and view)

ChapelBridgeHotelViewHotels in Lucerne are not cheap, but you’ll probably spend only one or two nights there, so it’s worth paying a bit more for one of the hotels overlooking the prettiest part of the lake and the famous Chapel Bridge itself. The 45-room Hotel Des Alpes has rooms right on the water, in the heart of everything, and it’s a short walk from the train station and cruise dock as well. This place gets excellent reviews and is worth paying a bit more for unforgettable views from your bed.

If this place is booked, which is often the case, then book a hotel as close to it as you can find or afford. The whole historic part of town surrounding it is lovely, with restaurants, bars, and high-end shops. There are also a couple of nearby supermarkets where you can buy inexpensive alcohol and picnic supplies to keep other costs down.

Spend a day in Lucerne itself

LucerneLionThe covered wooden bridge (Chapel Bridge) that is the signature sight of Lucerne looks just as lovely when you are near it or walking across it, but there are several other historic wooden bridges just a bit upstream as well. On the north bank of where the lake becomes a river, you’ll find a string of restaurants and bars that each have excellent views. Food and drinks all over Switzerland are expensive by most standards, and fortunately the prices of the waterfront restaurants are within the normal range even though they could charge more.

Most of the interesting part of Lucerne is in the area behind those restaurants, and it’s certainly worth doing a self-guided walking tour if not a guided one. Heading farther east you’ll come to another older part of town where the famous lion statue is located. You can’t visit Lucerne without having a look at the lion, and fortunately it’s easy and quick to reach (and it’s free).

Take a lake cruise of some kind

LucerneLakeTourThe main lake-cruise boats leave from just in front of the train station, and at the very least it’s worth doing the simple round-trip of about one hour where you don’t even leave the boat. If you have most of a full day you have up to 35 different options of stops to disembark and walk around before catching another boat back to Lucerne.

Especially in nice weather, even the short lake tour is lovely, and if you have more time you can jump off at Vitznau and do the scenic hike up Mount Rigi. There are also small lakeside villages that are ideal for a stroll and lunch stop. Long story short, there are dozens of interesting sightseeing options that are available using part of the boat tour, and the views all around are wonderful.

Visit Mount Pilatus

PilatusViewThe tallest mountain around Lucerne is just behind the city, and it’s also extremely popular for hiking, although you don’t actually have to walk up or down if you don’t want to. You can take the steepest cogwheel train in the world up to near the summit, and there is also a gondola and cable car going to the same place.

You can take the cogwheel train up and have a more or less flat hike around the summit area, and then take the gondola and cable car back down again. You can do them in the other order, and the cost is the same either way. At around US$65, this is not a cheap hike, but like most everything in Switzerland, the quality is high so it doesn’t feel like a rip-off.



306 Responses to “Where to go in Switzerland on a short trip: Alps, lakes, and cities”

Konrad Rubin says:

I am a Swiss citizen but live in Australia. I had a good laugh and could not agree more with the above article. Avoid Zurich and do the things described above. I actually grew up around Interlaken. Cheers

 
    Regina says:

    Hi All,

    I would like to ask your advise whether it is the right time to go Switzerland on mid of Nov ?

    Thanks.

     

      Regina,

      November is a tricky month in Switzerland. Lucerne is a year-round city, although November is a fairly slow month there. But in the mountain resorts in the Alps, many smaller hotels and restaurants close from early October until mid December. During these months, it’s too cold for most hikers, yet too early for snow for the winter sports visitors. Now, some hotels and restaurants are open all year round, so you can visit without a problem. But it will feel like off season and it’s not an ideal time to see and hike in the Alpine villages and such. -Roger

       
        Khemant says:

        Hi Roger,
        Thanks for sharing valuable information about Switzerland. Me and my wife are planning to visit Switzerland from 2nd October to 6th October ( I know it will be cold but couldn’t help it).
        I have 2 Questions;

        1) Will we be able to enjoy the sights or will they be closed in first week of october?
        2) We were planning to spend 2 nights each in Lucerne and Interlaken (Skip Zurich altogether), or is it better to book all nights in Interlaken and travel to Lucerne for a day trip from there. does that make sense ?

         

          Khemant,

          Early October will be wonderful in Switzerland. Some small hotels and restaurants close from mid October until December when the snow season starts, but everything should be open and running when you are there. It won’t even be too cold, except at the mountain peaks.

          Interlaken and Lucerne are very different so it’s hard to recommend how to visit them both. Overall, if you are interested in Alpine peaks and dramatic views, then Interlaken is the better choice. However, there are a couple of peaks close to Lucerne as well. You could do Lucerne as a long day trip, or perhaps stay just one night. Of the two, Interlaken is the more dramatic and memorable. It’s a tough call and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them both either way. -Roger

           
Lee says:

Dear Sir,
I have trouble planning Switzerland. This will be my first visit and I will be traveling to other parts of Europe too. I am in a dilemma, I could not decide how many days and which Pass to get. To make matter worse for me,a low budget is my main constraint(time is not a problem)but I want Switzerland(more for the high scenery, snow and outdoor hikes)to be a highlight of my trip. I wish to visit Bern, Interlaken for Murren and Grimmelward(the 2 mountain trips you mentioned) and Lucerne, for Pilatus, Titlis, and Rigi(will visiting all 3 unnecessary ?) as well as all the 4 Scenic Railway routes, at least the best section of them and spare 1 or 2 days just for hiking around Murren and Grimelward. I see places rather fast so I need not spend too much time in any city, Bern, Geneva, Zurich, Lucerne may all be a few hours stop over if it helps to keep my days less to keep my expenses down.
Thank you very much and any opinions will be appreciated.
Based on my needs,can you design for me which which Swiss Pass shall I get, in case if I do not do with with a Eurail Pass ?

I missed to mention that I can be traveling in July or Auguest so I guess days will be long for sightseeing but will it be hot or short of snowy sceneries ?

If I use I Eurail Pass, I can break the journey while traveling to Austria, Germany and northern Italy.
Will this time of the year hot for hikings and short of snow scenery ?

 

    Lee,

    Switzerland can be tricky on a small budget because it is by far the most expensive country for restaurants and accommodation, not to mention most of the famous sightseeing opportunities. But it is incredible and has the best Alpine scenery in Europe, so you’ll be happy you went.

    If your budget is tight then I think the Swiss Rail Pass or Swiss Travel Pass would be too expensive, but it really depends on your main goals. The individual train tickets within Switzerland are actually quite reasonable, and the price is the same no matter when you buy them (unlike all other European countries). For example, Zurich to Interlaken is between US$25 and US$35 one-way, depending on which train you take. The big expense comes in the best cable cars (mountain lifts) and the private tourist railroads, which can cost between US$100 and US$250 round-trip. If you are sure you want to take at least 2 or 3 of those, then a Swiss Travel Pass will pay for itself. If you think you might want to take 1 of them, then the Swiss Half Fare Card could be your best bet, as long as the one you want to do is covered by it.

    The one I did recently was the cable car (above Gimmelwald) up to the Schilthorn and it was honestly the single highlight of my 3-month trip to Europe, even though it was partly cloudy and got worse as time went on. By the way, I’m pretty sure there is snow all year round up there. I think it cost around US$110 at the time, and I got 25% off with my Eurail Pass. It felt expensive as I was paying but I’m very glad I did it. Later that day I spoke to a guy who did the Kleine Scheidegg on the same day and he said it was also very nice, but maybe not worth the US$200 or so that it cost.

    And as you know, there are about 5 or 6 famous “scenic railways” in Switzerland, and I took 2 of the better ones on that same trip. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s worth it to go out of your way to try to do several of them. What I mean by that is that literally every rail trip I took in Switzerland had pretty amazing scenery, and those heavily-promoted trips didn’t really stand out as any better. In other words, if you just buy train tickets to travel around to the various corners of Switzerland, you’ll see awesome scenery no matter what. I think those famous journeys are mostly just to help people structure trips if they can only do one or two train rides.

    As for the Interlaken area, your best bet will be to book in advance at the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald (and Gimmelwald is not to be confused with the larger town of Grindelwald, which is located in the next valley over). Murren is 5 minutes above Gimmelwald by cable car, or 45 minutes away on foot. Gimmelwald is tiny and far more charming so I’d stay there and maybe take a walk around Murren at some point. Schilthorn is 2 more stops up the cable car from Murren, but those are the long and expensive stops. It’s only like US$6 to get from Lauterbrunnen to Gimmelwald, and a bit more to get to Murren.

    Since you are trying to keep costs low and if you want to visit a city, I’d spend 1 or maybe 2 nights in Bern, and I’d skip Geneva and Zurich because there isn’t really anything special about them except that most things are insanely expensive. Lucerne is also worth 1 or 2 nights, and I believe there is a good hostel there kind of on the edge of town. By the way, the main attractions in Lucerne are the lake and the views overlooking it. But it’s not in the Alps and the views from Gimmelwald are FAR more dramatic.

    So if you visit the area above Interlaken (Gimmelwald etc), and Lucerne, and Bern, then those train rides are going to be spectacular just going between them. But if you are pretty sure you want to do more of those scenic rides, a Swiss Rail Pass could save money.

    And in July and August you won’t be walking through much snow in the Alps, but you will see plenty of it on the higher peaks.

    Sorry that I can’t be more specific than that, but I’ll be happy to respond again if you make those decisions and are still unsure. -Roger

     
Lee says:

Hi Roger,
I am aware of the higher cost in Switzerland and I have read about all those places you mentioned, I have nearly all the Rick Steves books too. My biggest problem is deciding on what pass and which way to go; I still think they have a very complicated Pass system, although they simplified a little this year by doing away the flexipass. May I know the followings, it will help me to decide:
a) Have you been to Mt Pilatus, Mt Titlis(the new skywalk is very tempting) and Mt Rigi ? Wonder how is their scenery compared to Jungfrau and the James Bond one you did ? I will surely do the James Bond one after reading your last reply. Are there much to do or walk after reaching the top ? How much time shall I spend up there ?
b) How many hikes have you done ? I will do the Mannlichen – Kleine Scheidegg walk but can you recommend me any others that are as just as good or different ? I don’t mind a long hike, even if with my luggage.
c) If I get a Swiss Pass, will the bus fare from Lauterbrunnen to Mannlichen and Wengen to Lauterbrunnen covered ? Can you recommend a “postbus” scenic trip which I will not be able to see from the train ?
d) Why do you need 2 nights in Bern ? Is there so much to see there ?
e) Based on my above hiking plans and James Bond peak, where shall you suggest I should sleep other than Gimmelwald ?
f) If I wish to do all the 4 or 5 scenic railway trip with at least the best section of it, together with those places you mentioned above(time in every city kept to a minimum), and 2 or 3 hikes with 2 mountain trips in the Berner Oberland,one Mt Titlus and Lucerne, how many days minimum do I need in Switzerland,?
Thank you very much again.

 

    Lee,

    a) I haven’t been up any of those mountains, though I believe I’ve been at the base of all of them. The mountains in the Alps near Interlaken are all more dramatic than those near Lucerne.

    b) I recently did the Mannlichen – Kleine Scheidegg hike and several others in and near Gimmelwald. It’s all pretty amazing, but there are better experts than me out there on hiking. I trust Rick Steves’ opinions on these things and he writes a lot about all of the main hikes.

    c) I’ve never used a Swiss Pass and I agree they are confusing. My understanding is that they would cover the buses in that area, but I’m not sure about the private railways like the Mannlichen one. I had a Eurail Pass and got a discount on the private railways and cable cars.

    d) Bern is pretty small and you could see it in one day if you had to. Personally, I prefer to stay 2 or 3 nights almost everywhere I go, partly because 1-night stays mean you are in transit much of the day rather than sightseeing. When I can, I love one full day where I wake up in a city and see everything I want to see, without having to check out of my hotel, store my backpack, and worry about catching another outbound train. Also, Bern is probably the best of the Swiss cities for visitors and it’s very scenic. But you can see a good chunk of it in half a day.

    e) If I were you I’d book at the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald. I actually stayed at Esther’s Guesthouse, which is just above the Mountain Hostel, but I had dinners and hung out at Mountain Hostel each evening. If you prefer not to stay in Gimmelwald, I’d stay in Murren.

    f) It would be pretty easy to tell you how many days I’d stay in Switzerland, but it sounds like you might want to move more quickly than I prefer, so it’s hard for me to answer with confidence. By the way, I think traveling fast is appropriate in some situations, especially if you are trying to do a low budget in an expensive country. Good luck. -Roger

     
Lee says:

Thanks Roger,
When you mention Bern needs a full day, do you include Murten or not ?
When you search for train time schedules in the rail website, may I know how do you type alphabets with those “2 dots” eg. Zurich ?
You went up Schiltorn(Jame Bond); on top are there ant places to walk around or hike ? Or is it just a “one scene” place where you just stay for 15 mins and leave ?
I will like to sleep in Gimmelwald too but will 4 or 5 nights there too much ? I plan for 2 days to go up the 2 peaks(Schiltorn and Jungfra a day each) and 2 days of hiking. If I am afraid of being too monotonous in one place for too many days, where shall you suggest I stay other than Gimmelwald and Murren ? In case, I cant get a bed due to summer.
In those 2 places you mentioned in Gimmelwalk, are there kitchens to self-cater for dinner meals ? I am thinking of Esther’s cheapest room, do they have more than 1 bathroom to share ?
Thanks again.

 

    Lee,

    I was just referring to Bern. I’ve read good things about Murten, but on public transport I heard that Bern is far easier.

    I search for European train time tables on the free RailEurope smartphone app, which is much faster than the websites because it has the whole time table stored on the app, so it can be used offline. I’ve never needed to type in an umlaut. You just type the city name without umlauts and after a few letters you’ll see what you want among the choices. For most cities it accepts both the English spelling (like Munich) as well as the local spelling (Munchen), although in some cases (like Zuerich) it only has the local spelling. Not only can you see all of the trains going and all the connections, but it also tells you whether you’d need a reservation on a train or not.

    On top of the Schilthorn there is one large complex of buildings (mostly just one building) with the James Bond thing, a huge gift shop (of course), a revolving restaurant with typical Swiss prices, a large outdoor viewing platform, and also various walking trails. When I was there (in October) it was snowing so hiking around on the dirt trails didn’t seem wise, but the main views from the concrete public areas were stunning. I had a light lunch and a few beers at the restaurant, which allowed me about 1.5 revolutions and it was excellent. The weather was getting worse by the minute, so most people were leaving about when I did. Again though, it’s all about the view and visibility. If you go, make sure you are going when it’s pretty clear up there and it’ll be worth it.

    Gimmelwald is a tiny farm community that only exists because the Swiss government subsidizes the livestock operations because they are so popular with tourists, and traditionally Swiss. There might be about 30 or 40 total homes, barns, and guesthouses in town, so you could literally see it all in an hour or two. But the views are extraordinary and everything looks like it belongs on a postcard. You can hike up to Murren and back, or take the cable car one or both ways. I spent 2 nights there and then 2 more nights down in Interlaken, which seemed perfect to me. Murren has similar views, but it’s a large town filled with hotels and restaurants. I don’t think you’d want to stay in Gimmelwald for more than 2 nights. After that, Murren might be fun, or maybe Lauterbrunnen because it’s closer to several of the best hikes.

    At Esther’s Guesthouse in Gimmelwald I stayed in a single room with TV and I shared a bathroom with one other single room. They have ensuite rooms as well, I believe. There is a shared kitchen and they even prepare food if you order it early in the day. You could buy groceries in Murren or in Interlaken and cook for yourself, but I ate both nights at the Mountain Hostel, which has excellent pizzas among other things. It’s expensive (maybe US$20 for a very filling pizza), but it was a worthwhile splurge for me. In most of Europe it’s pretty easy to eat a good dinner for under €5 if you need to, so I cut corners in other places and didn’t mind spending more for my time in Switzerland. -Roger

     
Lav says:

Hello Roger
I am planning a trip to Switzerland with my 4 year old girl. I will be staying there for 3 days around October end. I am thinking of staying in wildersill. Do you think it’s a nice place to make my base for 3 days? Can you please advice me which places should I cover in Interlaken in 3 days. I am also thinking of taking a ride on panorama trains, most probably Golden Pass and Bernina Express. I am not sure whether I can fit in both the journeys along with other sightseeing in 3 day. Also do you know how will be weather be in October end? Your advice will be much appreciated.
Regards
Lav

 

    Lav,

    I’m not actually familiar with the small town of Wilderswil, but it appears to be a close-in suburb of Interlaken, and that whole area is ideal for Alpine sightseeing. I stayed in Interlaken itself and up in Gimmelwald, and both of those are wonderful for tourists.

    The Golden Pass train ride is really wonderful, but honestly I found that pretty much every train ride I took in Switzerland was pretty amazing. So in my opinion, I think if you took one scenic train ride you’d really enjoy it, and you’ll also really enjoy the train rides that take you into and out of the Interlaken area. And I also highly recommend the experience of taking the cable car up to the Schilthorn peak, as long as the weather is clear up there at the time.

    I was actually in this area last October and the weather was quite nice, although it can get cloudy and even a bit rainy on short notice. I think it’s a good time to visit and it’s not too cold to enjoy, but you have to plan carefully. There are a few things that you can do when it’s cloudy or raining and they are still fantastic. But others, like the Schilthorn peak, are best when it’s clear. So if you keep track of the weather once you arrive and try to do certain things when it’s clear, you’ll really love it all and can still have a great time if it gets cloudy. Have a great trip and let me know if you have more questions. -Roger

     
Richa says:

Hi Roger,

Need your suggestion for my honeymoon trip to Switzerland in march 1st week. Trip will be for a week. Suggest me what all is must see for a couple. What about a taking boat instead of train for Interlaken from lusern? Also, how about St. Mortiz

 

    Richa,

    I don’t believe there is a boat from Interlaken to Lucerne and even if there was it would take forever. If you want to do some pleasure boat trips in Switzerland then Lucerne has many great choices in a very scenic area. And I’ve only passed through St. Moritz, so I’m no expert, but it mainly has a reputation as a high-end ski resort town. In early March the luxury hotels will still be filled with very rich people, but it’s not really known for its sights otherwise. On a honeymoon trip it might be worth a look if you can afford it?

    Aside from that, I think the most honeymoon-oriented place in Switzerland is Lucerne, so I’d probably spend about 3 nights there. It’s a gorgeous town that is also very tourist friendly. And of course you’ll want to spend at least 2 nights in the Interlaken area for the best Alpine sights. As I have mentioned many times, I highly recommend the tiny hillside town of Gimmelwald, which should feel even more magical on a honeymoon.

    If you also want to spend a couple days in a Swiss city then I’d definitely recommend Bern. It’s fairly compact and it has a gorgeous setting. It’s also easy to reach from the other two places. If you speak fluent French then maybe Lausanne is another to consider, but most agree that Bern is the better choice.

    You can get between each of these cities on trains in about 2 hours or less, and they won’t cost too much. Let me know if you have any other questions I might help with. -Roger

     
richa says:

Hi Roger,

The only challenge I am facing while planning is the weather condition in march. I would be there from 27th Feb to 4th March.
I am afraid that while I am planning things, not sure howz the weather at time and which all places wlll give me the best of the view and worth and which all should I avoid going to in feb end till march 1st week.

Like for example if I am unable to see jungfraujoch due to fog, will the same climate will restrain me visiting mt. titlus or mt. Pilatus?

Similarily , will it be freezing cold there which would restrain me from enjoying out my trip or will it be moderate.
Also, I am sure some views and places or activities are more of worth in march 1st week or feb end ? what all are they..

Thanks a ton. Its really helpful to get advice from you.

 

    Richa,

    I know what you mean and those are valid concerns. Unfortunately, there is a chance of foul weather pretty much all year round in the Alps, and that includes July and August. I visited in November and it was nice most of the time I was there, but once I got up to the top of Schlitterbahn it started to fog up and an hour later you could barely see anything. I read a lot about it before I went and was also a bit surprised that this can happen in summer and winter as well.

    So the best advice, which is the advice that I followed, is to try to allow at least 2 if not 3 days in the most scenic areas of Interlaken, but don’t book an exact time for a train ride or cable car. Once you get there you’ll find that all of the locals in the travel industry keep up with the local weather conditions on an hourly basis. And there are webcams in key places as well, so you can log on from your hotel and see what the views are at any moment. You just have to go as soon as you see that it’s clear, which might be right when you arrive and possible during your whole visit.

    These areas are very popular with tourists year round and I don’t hear many stories of these places being fogged in for days at a time. My understanding is that these weather systems tend to blow in and then blow out a few hours later, rather than just park and stay for days. So there will be some risk, and the same has been true for everyone who has visited before.

    As for the general weather, it might be freezing at night, or even during parts of the day if you stay in Gimmelwald or Murren, but these are popular tourist areas year round and they don’t get extreme cold or massive snow storms. In other words, as long as you dress in a few warm layers, you should be fine. The hotel that I stayed in provided free sturdy umbrellas for all guests, so you probably won’t have to worry about bringing one of your own.

    There are loads of things to do in Lucerne in any weather. In Interlaken it’s all about the views and hiking and the cable car rides and scenic trains and such. I understand why you’d be cautious, but I really think you’ll have a great time, even if you get some foggy periods while you are there. Best of luck. -Roger

     
sudhakar says:

Thanks for so many crisp replies from you. How about St Gallen/ Santis area for staying 02 days. I am planning a trip to Switzerland in end May / early Jun for about 08 days with my wife. I am planning to stay at air bnb accommodation ( yet to be booked) and I need to know which other places to stay.
Sudhakar

 

    sudhakar,

    To be honest, I don’t know much about St Gallen and I haven’t been there. However, I have recently spent time in the Appenzell area, which is about 15km to the south. I assume that it’s similar in that it’s a rural area known for cows and cheese and traditional life. Ah, now I notice that Santis is just south of Appenzell, so it IS the same area. So yes, I think it would be two lovely days if you are looking for something very mellow and serene. My hunch is that most of the tourist-oriented things are actually in Appenzell, as the two places you mentioned aren’t really known on the tourist trail. Still, I think two days in that area should be very nice, although I wouldn’t recommend more time than that because you’d quickly run out of things to see and do. Have a great trip and feel free to follow up if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Ajith says:

Hi,
Thanks for the nice articles. I am planning a visit by 3 or 4 week of march with my wife and 2 children. My aim to enjoy the scenic beauty, nature and country side views. Is it a good time ?

 

    Ajith,

    Yes, I think March is a really nice time in Switzerland. Most of the country is green all year and there will be plenty of snow in the Alps to make it look even nicer than in summer. The rain is spread pretty evenly over the year (actually a bit more in summer), so it will probably be dry. It will be quite cool, and rather cold up in the mountains, but that’s the case much of the time there. Enjoy your trip. -Roger

     
Purba says:

Hi,
Thanks for the really helpful article. So my husband and I would be in switzerland for around 3.5 days (effectively) around 17 – 20th March. SO would basing ourselves out of Lucerne be better or would Interlaken be better. Or should we divide time between the places? Also we were planning to do Mt. Titlis. So would that be a good option or should we consider doing Jungfrau or Rigi or Pilatus? We are mainly interested in the scenic beauty.
Thanks in advance.

 

    Purba,

    I’m happy the article is helpful, and I can’t really stress enough how different Lucerne and Interlaken are. Lucerne is a really lovely and scenic town on a photogenic lake, and most people love it there. Interlaken is a nice enough town but the key draw is that it’s at the base of the most scenic and easily accessible parts of the Swiss Alps. As mentioned above, the best place to go for Alpine beauty in a short time is the area just above Interlaken in either the tiny village of Gimmelwald or the large village of Murren. From there you can also visit Jungfrau, although you’ll be able to see the peak from anywhere in that area. I went up to the Shilthorn observation deck on my most recent trip, and if the weather is clear there is no finer view anywhere.

    Rigi and Pilatus are nice, but they are nothing compared to the actual Alps near Interlaken. I believe Mt Titlis is more remote, so getting there might take most of a day, while the Jungfraujoch railway and the Shilthorn Cable Car can be done in a few hours each from the Interlaken area.

    So I’d recommend 2 days in Gimmelwald (not nearby Grindelwald) or Murren, which will hopefully give you enough time for a clear view of all the peaks. The weather there changes frequently, so it might be clear in the morning and covered in clouds a few hours later, or vice versa.

    And then spend a day and a half in Lucerne. Again, the town itself is really nice and you’ll have time for a short boat tour on the lake, with enough time to do some hiking or go up one of those mountains by cable car as well.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Khizer says:

Hi,

I am planning a 3 day Switzerland trip and I mainly want to see natural beauty, snowy mountains, and beautiful lakes. I’m flying from Amsterdam. Which city should I go to? Thank you, your article has been of immense help.

 

    Khizer,

    You should be able to find a pretty cheap flight into Zurich, and that airport is less than two hours by train from both Interlaken and Lucerne. Better still, the train rides between all of these places are all pretty stunning as well.

    So fly into Zurich and then head to Interlaken and follow the instructions mentioned above for the best views and experiences. I’d allow two nights there and then one night in Lucerne for the lake cruise and different views.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Yoon says:

Hello,

thank you so much for all the helpful information. I am planning a 2.5-day trip in Lucerne and Interlaken. We arrive in Zurich in the late evening and plan to go straight to Lucerne, stay there 2 nights, move to Interlaken, go up to Schilthorn and stay the night at Gimmelwald, and hike some more the next day. Should we spend just a half-day at Lucerne and stay 2 nights at Gimmelwald? Do you recommend we visit both Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn? thank you in advance.

 

    Yoon,

    This is a bit of a tough question because the answer has a lot to do with your goals and preferences. Lucerne is a really pleasant and photogenic town on a nice lake. Personally, the lake itself isn’t too special and it’s really a place that many people just go to relax. Also, I’ve been on a lot of lakes, including many that are just as scenic.

    Interlaken, on the other hand, is like nowhere else on earth. As long as the weather is mostly clear then you won’t believe the scenery that is surrounding you. Even if it’s overcast or foggy (which it often is), then it’s still an amazing place unlike anything you’ve seen. The Schilthorn observation deck is among the most amazing places I’ve ever been, and I’ve been all over the world. And as I mention above, the tiny (and I do mean tiny) village of Gimmelwald feels like you are on a movie set, except it’s all very real. Even the larger town just above of Murren is gorgeous, with plenty more options.

    So it’s pretty obvious what I would do, which is spend most of the time in the Interlaken area. But if you’ve seen more dramatic mountains than lakes, Lucerne might be more appealing. Honestly, Lucerne is very nice and you should spend most of a day there if you can, but Interlaken is otherworldly.

    As for Schilthorn vs Jungfraujoch, you just might want to wait until you get there to decide. You can check various web cams during the day and see what the conditions are in both areas. If both are clear I’d head up Schilthorn right away. It takes less than an hour to get to the top, and once up there you can have lunch and see everything (including the James Bond exhibit) in about an hour, so it’s only a 3-hour activity. The Jungfraujoch railway, from what I hear, takes most of a day going up and coming back down, and it’s cold in the carriages. If it’s clear and you have time to do both, then go for it. If you are thinking about both you might also look into one of the Swiss Passes that include the fares or give discounts. Have a great trip with whatever you decide. -Roger

     
Beatriz says:

Hi Roger!
Excellent information about Switzerland 🙂 I am planning to go this summer with some relatives – we’d be 8, and we were thinking of renting a car to spend 7-8 days visiting the country. I was therefore wondering where it would be better to stay. Interlaken sounds interesting and it’s more or less in the middle of the country, but I was wondering if it would be better to stay in two different places during those 7-8 days in order to cover a wider area. I was thinking of doing 1-day trips to Geneva, Zurich, Bern, Luzern, and Basel, so as we are 8, it would be more convenient to stay in a rented house and try to find a central place to move around. Do you think this is a good idea? Is Interlaken a good place to stay? Thanks very much!

 

    Beatriz,

    This sounds like a really fun trip. Not only would Interlaken be a central place to launch those day trips, but it’s the only place on your list where parking will likely be free or easy. It’s a relatively spread-out town and many of the hotels there (and probably all of the rental houses) have free parking or parking lots. In those cities, including Lucerne, you’d have to find a garage or pay lot and probably pay at least US$20 or more for a partial day or overnight.

    So Interlaken is good for a few days itself and also as a base for some road trips, but you might also consider spending at least a couple days in the Lucerne area because it’s very different and also wonderful.

    I mention near the top of the article above that Switzerland’s cities are actually pretty boring compared to Europe’s great cities and especially compared to the outdoor scenery and activities. And as I mention, Bern is the most charming and worthwhile to spend a day or so in. Geneva has little to see aside from the lake it overlooks, and Basel doesn’t even have a lakeside setting. Zurich might be worth a bit of a look, but it’s unbelievably expensive and you’ll wish you spent another day in the countryside instead.

    My general theory on cities like this is that if you have specific things you want to see in one or more of those cities, then maybe it’s worth a visit. But otherwise I’d just spend a day in Bern and maybe see the others driving by. You could do a drive to the Appenzell region, which is a traditional dairy area, and maybe even into Liechtenstein for a few hours.

    Again, Switzerland in general is quite expensive compared to the rest of Europe, so it’s important to plan well. With a group of 8 I do think a rental house for most or all of your 7 or 8 days will be the best value and also most enjoyable. With a house you’ll have the ability to do some of your own cooking, which means you won’t have to find a house close to the main restaurant areas. The Interlaken area is pretty big, and fairly spread out, so you could find a house in almost any part of it and be fine as long as it has car parking. Best of luck with all of this, and feel free to ask more questions if you have them. -Roger

     
ian says:

Hi Roger,

First of all, thank you for you article. It really full of useful information.

I am interested to go for both Gimmelward and Lucerne. Can you recommend an itinerary 5 days covering both places?

note: we will depart from Rome, Italy to Switzerland(Gimmelward and Lucerne), and then to Paris. appreciate if you could suggest a best & cheap route.

 

    Ian,

    Always happy to hear that this is useful. From Rome you’ll have to leave early. There is a train at 8am and another at 9am, but the 8am one is faster. That one gets to Milan at 10:55 and then you change to a different train to Spiez, Switzerland, arriving at 13:53. Then at 14:05 you board a train that gets you to Interlaken Ost at 14:28. Once you get there you’ll see a ticket counter where you can buy a ticket for the small train that takes you to Lauterbrunnen, and then the bus to the cable car stop, and then the cable car up to Gimmelwald, all in one ticket.

    You’ll get to Gimmelwald at around 15:30 or so, which is just enough time to wander around the village and enjoy the stunning views. Buy the Rome to Interlaken Ost train ticket as soon as you can for the best price. The ticket from there to Gimmelwald is the same price no matter when you buy it, so just buy it when you get there.

    You’ll want to spend most of the next day going up to Shilthorn and/or doing the Jungfraujoch train. You’ll also want to hike or take the cable car one more stop up to Murren for a wander through that town because it’s really nice and very different from Gimmelwald.

    If it’s sunny (which isn’t always the case, even in summer) then you can probably see the main sights on that first full day, but I’d allow for another full day just in case. After 3 nights in Gimmelwald or perhaps 2 nights in Gimmelwald and one down in Interlaken itself, you can get the train to Lucerne, which takes 1 hour 50 minutes, and is the same price no matter when you buy it. So you can buy it in advance, or when you get there.

    Then spend two days in Lucerne. As long as the weather is decent, the main attraction in Lucerne is a cruise on the lake to the other nearby small towns. You can stay on and go straight back to Lucerne, or hop off and go up the mountains or see other attractions before getting a later boat back to Lucerne. And the town itself is really gorgeous and pleasant. You’ll have plenty to keep you busy for two days there. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Larissa says:

Hello!
Thank you so much for your posts, it has been helping me a lot to plan my trip to Switzerland!

My partner and I are traveling on a budget, but we want to enjoy the most that we can as we never know when we are going to have the chance of visiting Switzerland again. So I kind of have an itinerary in mind and would just like to know your opinion about it and how can we make the best of it. We will be in Switzerland from 6.30 am on the 30th of march to 5.30pm on the 3rd of April, arriving & departing from Zurich. Really short stay…
30th of March: Arrive in Zurich at 6.30 am. Catch a train and go to Lucerne. See the city and do mt Pilatus. Spent the night there.
31st: catch a train and go to Interlaken area and do the suggested trip above to Murren. We love hiking, so maybe sleep here and enjoy another half day here on the 1st of April.
1st April: after lunch go back to Interlaken and catch a train to Bern. Enjoy the city, spend the night.
2nd of April: Enjoy the city a bit more and after lunch time catch a train back to Zurich.
3rd of April: Enjoy Zurich and at 5.30pm fly out of Switzerland.

If you have something to add or any suggestions, please tell me! haha

Thank you again!
Larissa

 

    Larissa,

    I think your plan sounds really good and definitely well considered. Generally speaking, I’m more of a city person than a nature person, but Switzerland is one of the few places on earth where I really recommend people minimize time in cities and maximize time in the outdoors.

    As I mention in the article, Bern is a very photogenic and pleasant city, and Zurich is also impressive in its own way. However, if you followed your plan exactly as written I think you’d regret only having those first two days in Lucerne and Interlaken. My best advice would be to add one more day in the Interlaken area, and push back your arrival in Bern. If you get to Bern at noon you can see all of the sights and town center by 5pm pretty easily. Then have dinner there and walk around a bit more.

    The following morning you can take a train to Zurich to get there by 10am or 11am. Stow your bags at the train station and walk around the city center for a few hours before fetching your bags and heading to the airport for your flight. You’ll enjoy those hours in Zurich, and see that you haven’t really missed anything. Also, you’ll be glad you didn’t spend a night in a Zurich hotel, where even a very modest room starts at over US$200 per night. The city is built for business people on expense accounts, so it feels really overpriced to tourists. Bern is more reasonable, especially for hotels.

    I hope this is the sort of advice you were looking for. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Roy W says:

Reading with great interest your article and comments. We are a family of 5 planning to fly into Paris and then driving thru Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy before flying on to Egypt and Israel. Our journey starts August 29. What road would be most scenic traveling the from Paris to Interlaken? I was thinking about staying a night in Geneva as i can stay free at Hilton but after reading your article, I might want to change. I was hoping to stay in Wengen for a night and then continue to Kyberg. Would you recommend getting accommodations ahead of time or use airbnb as we go? Any other ideas where to stay if not in Geneva?

 

    Roy,

    I haven’t done much driving in that part of Europe myself, although I’ve ridden a bit with my brother who lives in near Basel, Switzerland. Generally speaking, you’ll want to take the fastest highway in France or Switzerland. Fortunately, the views of the Alps and countryside will be really nice no matter the road you take. Once you get near the Alps you might take some smaller roads, though the best views will be once you take the cable car up the mountain and hike around where cars can’t go.

    As mentioned in the article, Geneva is really kind of a dud of a tourist town, even though it’s so famous for being on a lake and being the headquarters of so many international companies and organizations. Also, parking there would be expensive and a hassle. I’d recommend just heading to Interlaken because it’s the best place for Alpine scenery and there are actually hotels there with free parking near the town center. The population density there is quite low, so driving around will be easy and pleasant, unlike driving through the large and crowded cities.

    Wengen is essentially a suburb of Interlaken so it could be a good base if you can get a good hotel there. As mentioned in the article above, it’s really the Interlaken area that you want rather than the town itself. Wengen is closer to Lauterbrunnen, which is where you get the cable car to go up to Gimmelwald or Murren, which are the most scenic towns in the area.

    I don’t know much about Kyburg, but if you have a reason to go there then I assume you’ll enjoy it.

    I’ll definitely recommend booking accommodations ahead of time, assuming you are pretty confident of your itinerary. The end of August is obviously the beginning of shoulder season in Europe, but it’s still quite busy and the better places will all be booked in advance. Whether it’s hotels or airbnbs, I recommend booking as early as you are sure of your dates. In other words, if you lock in a schedule before you even get there, then booking ahead will give you the best availability and rates (last-minute discounts are extremely rare in Europe). For airbnbs in particular, I’d want to book at least a week ahead in order to have enough time to get approved and all that. Even if you don’t know of your exact dates until just a few days before, you’ll still want to book your accommodation at that point. There is really no benefit to booking at the last minute, or trying to book in person. Weirdly enough, pretty much all hotels in Europe offer better online rates than walk-in rates, even on arrival day.

    So assuming you are going to just drive through Geneva or skip it altogether, I’d spend more time in Interlaken or perhaps in Lucerne if you have an extra two days or so. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Naseer Qureshi says:

Hi Roger.

I have never been to Switzerland and would like to go there with my wife for 3 nights (getting there 25/03/16 and leaving 28/03/16). I have read your detailed article but am still at a loss as we don’t have much time to spend there. Can you suggest which airport would be best to fly to from UK, where to have “base camp” in terms of accommodation so that we can see the “Interlaken” area. Also, is it easy to find places to eat for people with dietary needs (Kosher/Halal)? We too are on a “budget”, so I am asking a lot!

Cheers,

Naseer

 

    Naseer,

    Three nights will actually be enough time to get the amazing highlights of the Interlaken area, so I think you’ll be fine. You’ll want to fly into Zurich or perhaps Geneva, and then take trains directly from the airport to the Interlaken area. Both airports have train stations on the main routes, so it’s quite easy.

    Once in the Interlaken area you have two main choices for a base camp. One would be in the town of Interlaken itself. It’s a scenic place and it’s also quite popular with Asian and Middle Eastern travelers, so you’d have no trouble finding Halal foods. If you stayed there you’d want to take the small train each of your two mornings to Lauterbrunnen and then up the mountain on the cable cars, as discussed in the article above. In addition to Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch, you probably want to hike from Gimmelwald up to Murren, or actually from Murren down to Gimmelwald is easier. Staying in Interlaken will mean it takes about an hour each way to get to the main attractions, but it’s all scenic and pleasant, so it’s probably your best bet.

    The other main option would be to stay in Gimmelwald or Murren, which both give you unbelievably beautiful views right from your bed, and you are closer to the hikes and attractions. Gimmelwald is tiny so if the Halal thing is important then Murren would be the better choice. I don’t know for sure that Murren has Halal places, but I suspect that it does and you might want to Google that.

    As far as being on a budget, you hopefully know that Switzerland is very expensive. Fortunately, it’s also a mind blowing place to see, so even if you splurge a bit it will feel like it’s worth it. You’ll probably want to choose Schilthorn OR Jungfraujoch rather than both of them because each is expensive. I recommend Schilthorn if the weather up there is decent. It’s expensive, but you’ll never see another view like that so it’s worth it.

    Have a great trip and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Naseer Qureshi says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you very much indeed for a very informative reply. Even if we don’t travel on the specified dates, we shall travel in the not too distant future and will make full use of your kind advice.

      Thank you once again for your valuable time.

      Naseer

       
Nakul says:

Hi Roger,

Great Articles about swiss tour…
I am Nakul from India.
Will be traveling to Swiss in the last week 22nd to 26th April 2016.
Actually we are travelling with Travel Company who will show us Mt. Titlis and Lucerne in one day on 22ndA April , after that we have deviation me , my wife will stay there for additional 3 days and board flight from zurich on 26th April 3 PM.
So I want to make most of these 3 days.
In evening of 22nd I would like to see lucerne night life.
After that spend 3 days as follows
1) 2 days in Interlaken
2) 1 day in zermatt
I have heard zermat is very beautifull.
Kindly guide us what we have planned is good or not.
we like to watch , visit mountains mainly snow capped mountains , area etc
will hostel be ok for couples ? or hotel is good.
Hotel is not issue as long as one night cost is less than 200$.
also will we get snow capped mountains/areas now in april ?
we are very keen on this aspect as we have never seen snow except in movies.

Thanks you
Nakul

 

    Nakul,

    I think your plan sounds really nice. One thing though, Zermatt is primarily a ski resort rather than a sightseeing city, except that it’s the place to go to see the Matterhorn. To reach Zermatt you have to take a normal Swiss train and then change to a private line for the last part, so it’s a bit remote and somewhat expensive. In other words, it may not be worth all the trouble to go for that one day to see the Matterhorn, and the Interlaken area is filled with stunning views of several main peaks. I think you’d be happy either way, although staying in or near Interlaken will be cheaper and easier.

    The hostels in Switzerland cater to all age groups, so you should feel comfortable staying in one. You can get bunk beds in all of them, and many have private double rooms, although those usually aren’t any cheaper than hotels. In the Interlaken area, I highly recommend Esther’s Guesthouse or the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald. They are 50 meters from each other, just off the cable car stop in Gimmelwald. There is snow on the highest peaks all year round, and there will still be plenty of snow in April. If you are looking for the storybook Alpine experience then you’ll find it in Gimmelwald. I’ll bet that if you search for videos on Youtube for Gimmelwald, you’ll see at least a few that will show you what I mean.

    If you also add Zermatt to your schedule then you won’t have much time to do more than walk a bit around town and admire the view of the Matterhorn. If you stay based in Gimmelwald or elsewhere in Interlaken, you’ll have more time for the top activities such as the Schilthorn or the train to Jungfraujoch. I’m sure you’ll have a great time and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
      Nakul says:

      Many thannks for Info Roger ,

      I saw this video on zermatt
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr-zhRp_VQ8

      I liked it very much , in this video apart from Mountains snow is in the city as well.

      so basically I am looking for such place atleast for one day.
      I am notn sure whether I will get that kindof scene in April ?
      Ok…also we want to have some snow games to play , kindly suggest will interlaken have any snow games etc.

      Also can we spend 3 days in Interlaken I mean to ask will interlaken have such much places to see for 3 days.

      If we are staying in interlaken all those 3 days then is it worth to buy swiss rail pass.?

      Thanks.

       

        Nakul,

        Yes, Zermatt is beautiful, especially from aircraft, although from many angles on the ground as well. But as the video says, it’s more of a ski resort area than a sightseeing area.

        Interlaken definitely has plenty of things to keep you busy for more than 3 days. The town of Interlaken is actually between two large lakes, and they are all at the base of the Alps. It’s the primary sightseeing area in the Swiss Alps, with many visitors year round.

        April is actually one of the better months of the year for snow. The highest peaks get snow all year, and the lower areas get snow mainly between November and March, so much of it will still be there in April. Not only are the Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch deservedly popular, but there are hiking trails all throughout the area, with many different types of views. There are ski lifts in many places in the area as well, including one or two in the town of Murren, which is just above Gimmelwald. You can walk between the two or take the cable car in 5 minutes. The ski lifts in Murren usually run until at least the middle of April, so there will be plenty of snow and snow activities.

        If you are going to Zermatt and want to do several of the expensive cable cars and private trains then a Swiss Pass might make sense, but if you are going to focus on the Interlaken area then it’s unlikely you’d get enough use out of it. Still, it’s worth looking into. They have different variations that offer discounts or included admission to the expensive cable cars and all that, so if you want to do enough of them then it might pay off. Have a great trip. -Roger

         
Nakul says:

Thanks a lot Roger..

 
Lisa Bolton says:

Roger, your article and the various responses to posts is most helpful. My husband and I are travelling to Basel in July to watch our daughter dance in the Tattoo. We will be based in Basel for 5 days and will then have another 4 days before flying out of Zurich. We had originally thought we would rent a car when we leave Basel and drive to a few places before returning the car at the Zurich airport (Interlaken and Lucerne sound perfect). But having read your posts I wonder if taking the train makes more sense. Can you let me know your thoughts on train vs. care. Also it sounds like a few day trips from Basel might be a good idea. Can you suggest any possible nearby sights?

 

    Lisa,

    Always glad to hear that this is helpful. Interestingly, my American brother lives in Germany, about 5 kilometers from Basel, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the area, although not too much in Basel itself. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the more charming parts of Switzerland, but that’s partly because the country has so many other highlights that aren’t really too far away.

    First off, I definitely recommend the train over a car rental if your main goals are to visit Interlaken and Lucerne. The train fares are pretty reasonable, partly because the distances are not too long. One major problem with renting cars in Europe is that parking in cities is usually an expensive nightmare. In this case, Interlaken is kind of spread out and parking might not be tough, but Lucerne is more compact and you’d have to pay a fortune to park anywhere near a central hotel. Really, it’s so pleasant to hop off trains and walk to your hotel and to other sights, that driving would add a large layer of unnecessary stress.

    Also, in Interlaken, you’ll probably want to stay in Gimmelwald or Murren to get the best experience, and those are both car-free cities so you’d have to park down below and take the cable car up. It’s better to just take the train to the bus to the cable car, as described in the article above, and not worry about a car.

    All of that said, the area around Basel is nice enough and has many small vineyards, so spending a day or two looking around should be enjoyable. But really the highlights will be on your way to Interlaken and Lucerne. I hope this helps and feel free to follow up if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Amandeep says:

Hi Roger,
First of all, many thanks for your detailed answers and wealth of information. I am finding myself building an itinerary reading through all of your responses!!
My wife and I are planning a 6 day trip to Switzerland and were earlier advised by members on Switzerland forum on Tripadvisor to split it between Montreux/ Vevey and Wengen/ Murren (and not Interlaken!) and that’s where we started from.
I have some specific questions that I hope you can help with. But first, here’s my original itinerary.
3rd July – TGV Lyria from Paris to Lausanne for a 3 night stay in Montreux
3rd to 5th July – in Montreux/ Vevey (Not very clear what we’ll do there)
6th July – Take the Golden Pass Line to Interlaken to stay for 3 nights in Murren/ Gimmelwald
6th to 8th July –
1. Aerial cableway in the Alps from Stechleberg to Gimmelwald to Murren to Schilthorn
2. Jungfraujoch observation area
3. Lucerne day trip
On 9th morning we take the train from Interlaken to Zurich and fly out to Prague
Now my questions are:
1. Does the Itinerary make any sense at all?
2. Geographically, am I doing the right thing by stopping at Montreux first and then moving on to Interlaken (considering I’m coming from Paris and going on to Prague)?
3. We would love to do at least 3 fantastic train journeys – I think I have these as Golden Pass Line, Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch but is there a better one that I could include/ substitute?
4. For us the Interlaken area is pretty much locked in with Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch confirmed from your reviews. But what’s your take on the start of our travel – Montreux and Vevey? What is there to do in and around that area? I may decide to cut that to 2 days and maybe even rule that out completely in favour of…? Laucerne? Your thoughts..
5. Would you suggest that since we have only 6 days we stay in one place only (Murren) and make day trips from there?
6. Finally, and most importantly, I’m totally lost about the Swiss/ Euro passes. What would be your recommendation as we will be doing the above 3 (or at least any 3 train journeys), multiple cable cars etc. We will be travelling to Switzerland from Paris via Train. Also, we may just end up taking the overnight train from Zurich to Prague? Would discount from any of the passes apply to these as well?
Your guidance on the above will be hugely helpful! Thanks once again.

 

    Amandeep,

    Your itinerary looks expertly crafted and I’m not sure I can add much to it, but I will try to address your questions to the best of my knowledge.

    First off, Wengen and Murren are both small towns in the Interlaken area, so it’s really the same thing. When I recommend that people go to “Interlaken” to see the Alps, I mean that area, and then go to Lauterbrunnen to reach Gimmelwald and Murren or over to Wengen. So we are on the same page.

    1. Yes, the itinerary looks great.

    2. Yes, going from Paris to Montreaux to Interlaken to Zurich is the most efficient way to do it.

    3. The Golden Pass Line is a long train journey within Switzerland, the Jungfraujoch is reached by a private (and expensive) train line that goes up the mountain near Interlaken, and the Schilthorn is an observation deck that is reached by a series of cable cars from Lauterbrunnen (near Interlaken). So they are three very different things, and I think it’s a perfect combination. Switzerland advertises a group of classic scenic train rides, and a few of them have special observation carriages, but honestly almost EVERY train ride in Switzerland is extremely scenic and gorgeous. You could just hop on any train and be impressed. Going from Montreaux to Interlaken and to Zurich will be great. If you had a lot more time you could take the train down to Lugano, but you’ll love the ones you are doing and you can save that one for next time.

    As for Montreaux and Vevey, I’ve only been through there on trains, so I don’t know much about the sights. I do know that they aren’t considered top-tier destinations within Switzerland, even though they are wonderfully situated overlooking Lake Geneva. Also, they are in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, while the other places we are discussing are in the German-speaking areas. Generally speaking, the German speakers are much better at English than the French speakers, so it tends to be easier to get around and talk to people unless you speak French.

    All of that aside, I highly recommend Lucerne (locally called Luzern, not to be confused with Lausanne). It’s also on a lake, but this one is much smaller and filled with activities and sights. The city of Lucerne itself is also beautiful, and it’s more tourist oriented. The lake is lined with hotels and restaurants, and it’s all very walkable.

    5. If you have 6 days then I’d do 3 or 4 in the Interlaken area and the other 2 or 3 in Lucerne or Montreaux. They are very different from one another, and you can’t see nearly enough of one of the lake cities just on day trips. Also, if you are staying in Murren, it would require taking two cable car rides to get down the mountain each time. They go every 30 minutes and they are pretty fast and fairly affordable, but still it’s not an ideal base to be coming and going long distances.

    6. You won’t want a Eurail Pass for this trip, but you might want a Swiss Pass. A Eurail Pass would cost way more than you’d save, but the Swiss Pass might work out. The Swiss Passes also confuse me, but I do believe that the ones that include train travel AND the cable cars and private railways are good deals if you are planning on doing those things anyway, which it sounds like you are. It’s also nice to not have to keep buying tickets at each stop. I haven’t run the numbers myself because I’ve never used one in Switzerland, but from my general understanding of the Swiss Pass, you are the ideal customer.

    Have a great trip and feel free to follow up. -Roger

     
      Amandeep says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you for your reply (immense detail and patience!) and the vote of confidence.

      Slight spanner in the works, someone just pointed out that the Montreux Jazz Festival will be on during out travel dates which means accommodation either not available or exorbitant. Also, I’m generally leaning towards your advice of doing Lucerne (2 days) and the Interlaken area (4 days). Given this, could you suggest a suitable scenic train journey as doing the Golden Pass Line from here to Montreux may now be a little impractical (5 hours going-5 hours coming back).. What do you think? Of the popular ones I would then look at the Bernina Express (which I think you mentioned as well, going to Lugano). Where would that start from? and how much time would it take? Can we be back in a day? Between the Golden pass and this, which one would be your pick?

      Thanks!

       

        Amandeep,

        Interestingly, the one thing I really know about Montreaux is the jazz festival, so it’s a bit unlucky that it’s on while you wanted to visit. Still, I’m 100% sure you’ll be happy with the Lucerne visit instead.

        As for the train rides, it’s a tough thing to recommend because they are all so nice. I think the one down to Lugano would be a great choice if it fits into your schedule. On the other hand, I’ve criss-crossed Switzerland on trains and I can barely tell the difference between the ones that are considered “scenic” and the normal ones. Except for the area directly around Zurich, which is still pretty nice, the views of Switzerland from train windows are gorgeous. What I’d recommend is to choose one or more places that you want to visit, and then ride the train there.

        For example, if you want to spend a few hours in Lugano then you’ll love the train ride there and back. Or you could go to Appenzell (a small and traditional dairy town) and you’ll enjoy the train ride there and back. What I’d hesitate to recommend is taking a “scenic” train ride somewhere and then just hopping right back on the same train in the other direction. In my experience, the scenery outside a train window can be hypnotizing for maybe 2 or 3 hours at a time. After that, it’s hard to focus on it. So if you take a 3-hour scenic ride and then 3 hours back, it will feel overly long and maybe not worth it. But if you spend a few hours in a town before heading back, I think you’ll enjoy wherever you decide to go. I hope this helps. Have a great trip. -Roger

         
Lisa Bolton says:

Hi Roger, thanks for your response. It was very helpful. If we took one day trip to France from Basel would you recommend Strasbourg or Colmar? The ‘old town’ in both places looks very interesting and it is hard to choose between the two if we only have time for one. Also I had wanted to plan t day trip to Germany as well and wondered if you have any thoughts on Freiberg or perhaps some other neighbouring town that might be more interesting (either in Germany, France or Switzerland) Thanks again!

 

    Lisa,

    I haven’t been to Colmar, but I have been to Strasbourg and it’s very nice so I think that is very worthwhile. Colmar looks nice though, and it’s obviously closer. Strasbourg is larger and more important, so it’ll also be more crowded. It’s a tough call and I think you’d be happy with either one.

    I’ve been to Freiburg and to be honest it seems quite generic to me, partly because I’ve been to so many other similar German towns. I was last there about 18 months ago and the cathedral, which is Freiburg’s big attraction, was covered in scaffolding. Another thing worth mentioning is that Freiburg does get many tourists, although they are almost all from the German speaking world, so it’s not as well suited to non-German speakers as most other tourist towns. On the other hand, it’s pretty close to Basel and if you haven’t spent much time in similar German towns, it’s probably a nice place to spend a few hours and have lunch.

    One other town I can definitely recommend is Bern, which is obviously the capital of Switzerland, and about 55 minutes from Basel by train. It’s the most photogenic and most interesting of the Swiss cities, so it should be great for a day trip. It’s a short walk from the train station to the historic part of the city, including a few sights related to Einstein’s work life there. And the river that snakes around town is lovely.

    As always, feel free to follow up, and I’m sure you’ll have a great visit. -Roger

     
      Lisa Bolton says:

      Thanks again Roger. That was my instinct about Freiburg as well. It is lower on the list. I think Bern s a great choice and we will definitely go there for the day (we had a Bernese Mountain Dog years ago and would live to see the city). Now if only summer will come quickly. I am ready to travel!

       
Amandeep says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks for your inputs! All very helpful.

Could you please give your thoughts/ feedback on my changed itinerary below:

Increased the trip duration by a day to 7.

Scenario 1:

So, 2nd July – We arrive in Montreux from Paris. Full day in Montreux to see Chillon Castle and maybe the vineyards of Lavaux. (The only reason we’ve added a day and are stopping over at Montreux is because we want to do the Golden Pass Line from there to Interlaken. Hope it’s worth it. Otherwise we would have gone straight from Paris to Interlaken or Lucerne). Your thoughts on this?

3rd July – We take the Golden Pass Line from Montreux to Interlaken.

3rd to 5th July in Interlaken – Same plan as before (you mentioned Murren not being an ideal launchpad for long trips in that area, what would your advice for the base location be then given we will be doing Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn for sure?)

6th morning move to Lucerne – Here we plan to do Mt. Titlis and Mt. Pilatus (both look better than Mt. Rigi in videos.. Again, your guidance would help).

8th July – Take the overnight train from Zurich to Prague.

Scenario 2: Could be that we keep it 6 days in Switzerland, skip Montreux altogether and do the Golden Pass Line only between Interlaken and Lucerne.

Scenario 3: Only a slight variation to Scenario 1; we take the Golden Pass Line from Montreux to Lucerne and not Interlaken and do Interlaken after Lucerne (although I know geographically the other way around is more efficient.

We’ll be purchasing the Swiss Travel Pass (8 days, 2nd Class). Would this cover the overnight train from Zurich to Prague?

Could you please help me decide between the above scenarios.

Thanks!

 
    Amandeep says:

    Sorry, read your last reply after I posted this.

    Some of this (especially about train journeys) is already answered.

    Thanks!

     

    Amandeep,

    I’ll answer your questions in the order they came up:

    Yes, I think the Golden Pass is an excellent scenic train journey and it’s worthwhile. However, if it puts too much of a toll on the rest of the trip, you’d also be happy with the scenery no matter how you got to Interlaken.

    Murren (or Gimmelwald) is part of the way up to Schilthorn so it’s perfect for that and lovely on its own. To do the Jungfraujoch you have to go down the cable car two stops to the base area and then go from there. It’s amazing scenery and not too much extra time. What I meant is that Murren isn’t an efficient base to go see or do things outside of the Interlaken area. From Interlaken West train station, it takes a train then a bus then the cable car to get up to Murren, which takes at least an hour each way. So if you wanted to see things outside of the Interlaken area, then it would be better to get a hotel in Interlaken town itself and come and go from there. But to see the Alps and the sights in that area, Murren is perfect.

    I haven’t been up those mountains near Lucerne, but I have been to the base of them. I have a feeling you’ll figure out which one or ones are best suited to your tastes.

    Scenario 2 would be enjoyable and you’d have plenty of time to see what you want to see.

    Scenario 3 seems somewhat inefficient, as you mention. I don’t think it’s wise. The portion of the train journey between Interlaken and Lucerne is nice, but it’s not the most scenic part, so I wouldn’t want to do that part twice just for the sake of doing the longer Golden Pass.

    As far as I’m aware, the Swiss Passes only work within Switzerland, so at most you’d get a small credit for the first part of that overnight train journey. I think your plans all look really nice and I think your meticulous planning will pay off for a great holiday. Best of luck and I’m always here. -Roger

     
      Amandeep says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks again!

      Very helpful indeed and we’ve decided to go the Montreux-Golden Pass-Interlaken route. Can’t wait to travel!

       
urmila says:

Thanks for your time to educate us. I and my husband planning from USA to Zurich from around July 21 to 30.and then as per your expert advise for 10 days.My question is ,Do i need to book hotel or train,bus ticket in advance? Any kind of problem if not book in advance?Any further suggestion appreciated.
Thanks.

 

    Urmila,

    First off, you’ll want to take trains to get around Switzerland rather than buses. The trains go pretty much everywhere and are famously punctual. Another interesting thing about trains in Switzerland is that the fares are the same no matter when you book, for domestic journeys. In other words, if you are going from Zurich to Interlaken, the fare might be about US$35 whether you book two months in advance or just as the train is about to leave. So to answer one of your questions, you can book as you go along and it won’t cost you any more money. But July is very busy in Switzerland and you might encounter some trains that are sold out, so it’s best to buy tickets as soon as you are able to. So if it’s Sunday and you know you want to go to Lucerne on Tuesday, buy the ticket on Sunday and you should be able to get seats on a good departure time. And of course, trains run on the popular routes pretty much every hour during the day, so even if the 10am one is sold out, you can probably get on the 11am or noon departure.

    As for hotels, I highly recommend booking as far in advance as you are sure of your destination. In a busy month like July, the better places will all be full, and sold out at least a week or two in advance. That means that anyone arriving in a place without a reservation is going to be choosing among the hotels with poor locations and/or bad reviews, and sometimes even higher prices. If you do your research before you go you’ll find that there are some excellent hotels with moderate rates and great locations, and those will be sold out first. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Nakul says:

Roger,

I have a query , I will be visiting interlaken (gimmewald) in the last week of april.

will it be very cold ?

what kind of dress we should be wearing , I am from India , so want to know whether we should buy some special sweaters etc.

Can u suggest some other hotels in Gimmelwald , i tried Esther’s Guesthouse , which is bookd.

and for hostel – ‘Mountain Hostel’ they say they dont have separate room for couples. can u suggest some other hotel nearby

 

    Nakul,

    In late April it should be quite nice in Interlaken, and still quite chilly up in Gimmelwald and Murren. It will probably be windy up the mountain as well, so a jacket might work better than a sweater. The usual advice is to dress in layers, as in, shirt, sweatshirt, and light jacket, so you can put things on or take them off as needed. Even in Interlaken, it’ll be like Delhi in January, so it will feel cold to you.

    As for accommodation, I stayed at Esther’s (and loved it), and I had several meals and spoke to people at the Mountain Hostel, so those are the only two places I know personally. But there are about 10 or 12 other hotels in Gimmelwald and they are all within maybe 300 meters of each other. As long as the TripAdvisor reviews look pretty good, I’m sure you’ll be happy at any of them. And if they are all booked up, then stay in Murren, which is the larger village just above Gimmelwald. There will be vacancies there for sure, and you can still do a little hike down to Gimmelwald to see it while you are there. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Satish says:

Hi roger
Me and my family (me wife daughter and son both 15+}planning to visit Lucerne and interlaken for 4-5days in July 1st week
Pls tell me where would we get a safe hotel and @what price??
Can we stay at one place all days and operate from there for both the destination
We will be landing Zurich from Copenhagen
Could you help to plan our trip
Regards

 

    Satish,

    The best views and experiences of Interlaken are in the towns up the mountain called Gimmelwald and Murren. You’ll want to stay in one of those towns for 2 or 3 nights, and in Lucerne for another 2 nights. They are less than 2 hours apart by train, so it’s easy to go between them once, but you don’t want to be doing that in the morning and coming back at night. And both are within two hours or so of the Zurich Airport as well, and the views from the trains are amazing all the way.

    Please have a close look at the recommendations in the article above about Gimmelwald and Murren. Gimmelwald is far smaller and more charming, but Murren has far more hotels and services to go along with similar (incredible) Alpine views. If you want to stay in Gimmelwald then I highly recommend Esther’s Guesthouse. I’m not sure of the room rates, but I do know that it’s one of the more affordable hotels in the area. Keep in mind that Switzerland is extremely expensive even by European standards, although you’ll agree that it’s worth it once you get there.

    In Lucerne I stayed at a place overlooking the lake with a pub taking up the bottom floor, so I wouldn’t recommend it for a family visit. But I do highly recommend staying in one of the hotels along the north shore of the small section of the lake near the famous bridge. There are 7 or 8 hotels in a row, and the views of the lake are breathtaking. In July they will be extra popular though. If you can’t book one of them, then any hotel near the lake and also near the train station will be great. It’s a compact town and that area is its center. It will be nice if you can walk from the train station to your hotel, and the lake cruise dock is directly across from the train station. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Nakul says:

Hi Roger ,

thanks for wealth of Info.

also just wanted to know can we book hotels after landing in Murren,

instead of booking from India.

I will be there is the last week of April , I am afraid whether we

will get hotels suddenly there or not.

Regards

 

    Nakul,

    I’d highly recommend booking your hotels online as soon as you are able. Booking.com usually has the best rates for Europe and they have a generous cancellation policy as well so there is very little risk. The thing is, most of those hotels near Interlaken are small and the better ones do get sold out well in advance. April isn’t one of the busier times of the year so if you just showed up without a reservation you’d certainly find something, but most likely it would be at one of the lower rated hotels. Best of luck with this. -Roger

     
Ling says:

Hi Roger,

May I ask if the Swiss Travel Pass Youth (Swiss Fr 309.00) allows one to have unlimited train rides? Does it include the cable car rides that you mentioned in your article?

Also, I have a relative staying in Genolier. So, to save costs for accommodation, I was wondering whether it would be feasible to make a day trip to Grimmelwald or Grindelwald to do one of the hikes, and travel back to Genolier for the evening, then back again to one of those places to do a second hike, if i like it there. Or would it be better to get an accommodation in those places, if i intend to do more than one of the day hikes?

Thank you very much! Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

    Ling,

    I find the Swiss Travel Passes to be confusing as well. I don’t see one for CHF309 on the page I’m looking at, but it’s in the same range. Those passes qualify for a 50% discount on the cable cars I mentioned.

    Genolier is a town I’d never heard of. Looking at it on a map, it’s probably two or more hours from Interlaken by train, and those train rides will cost probably CHF30 each way. Considering the 5 hours of traveling each day and the cost of the train rides, I don’t think it would be a worthwhile way to save money. You’d be better off going to Gimmelwald and staying in the Mountain Hostel for at least one night, and doing your hikes on both days. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Micheal says:

Hi Roger,

I am planning a trip to Switzerland in early July. After reading your website, I am really interested in Interlaken are as you mentioned it provides you with the best Alps views. However i do have a few questions that i need your advice from.

1. We will be a family of 4 travelling from Paris into Switzerland on 30 June till 3 of July and to Rome. What would be the best way to travel into Interlaken or those villages you mentioned from Paris and also out of Switzerland to Rome?

2. Is it best to stay in Interlaken for all the 3 nights as it is centre to Gimmelwald and other Alps village you mentioned. Also when you mentioned going around those villages and Alps sight seeing, does it include a of hiking? Because we are a family of 4 with 2 sisters of mine and our mum who aged 44 currently. I am afraid that too much hiking might burden them and ruin the meaning of the trip itself.

3. What would the weather be around the time in Interlaken and those Alps village you mentioned? We are planning to go light on our luggage as it would be summer and I’m just wondering will it be cold there or up the mountain?

4. I also hope to go for some ski activity there. is it possible to enjoy these activity in that area and how much would it cost for me to do so?

Thank you so much! I would buy you a barrel of beer for this!

Also is it worth taking the swiss pass if travelling from 30 june to 3 july around the interlaken area you mentioned?

Mike

 

    Michael,

    I’m happy that the articles have helped, and I’ll try to answer your questions below.

    1. You’ll wan to go from Paris to Interlaken by train for sure, and all of the journey within Switzerland is very scenic. Look for train connections into “Interlaken West” if you plan on staying in town, or to “Interlaken Ost” if you are going straight up to Gimmelwald or Murren. The stations are fairly close together and all trains stop at both.

    From Interlaken to Rome I’d also recommend the train, and the journey through the Alps is one of the most scenic railways in the world. However, you could take a train from Interlaken directly to the Zurich Airport or Geneva Airport and fly to Rome. It would be a bit faster, and possibly cheaper as well.

    2. If you have 3 nights I think I’d stay 1 or 2 nights in Gimmelwald or Murren, and 1 or 2 nights down in Interlaken itself. Gimmelwald is stunning but it can be fully seen in a couple hours. Murren is more of a town so it’s less scenic, though also lovely. So I think you want to spend at least part of a day enjoying Gimmelwald and Murren, which will include some walking, although it won’t be too strenuous if you walk downhill from Murren to Gimmelwald and take the cable car back up. And you’ll also want to spend several hours doing the Schilthorn observation deck, as long as the weather is clear up top, which it should be that time of year. You can do a lot of sightseeing by taking the cable cars and trains to the peaks and then just walking around a bit when you are there, so it doesn’t really need to be strenuous.

    With a day or two in Interlaken itself, you can walk around town a bit and also take the private train lines to some of the other nearby towns and cable car stops.

    3. In early July it should be fairly warm in Interlaken itself, and of course it gets colder the higher you go. The peaks in that area have snow all year round, and Gimmelwald and Murren will be a bit chilly, though much too warm for snow on the ground.

    4. There are many ski slopes and lifts in that general area, though I don’t believe any of them are open later than April or so. I’m not 100% sure so you might Google that for confirmation.

    It’s hard to say about the Swiss Travel Pass because they are a bit confusing to me as well. They cover the private trains, I believe, and a 50% discount on the cable cars. You really have to know which things you plan to do for sure to know if it will pay off. My usual recommendation is that you can enjoy that area just fine without the pass, although some (but not all) of the cable cars and private train lines are quite expensive.

    As always, let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
      Micheal says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks for your reply! It certainly gave me more insight on my planning! But i do have a few more questions.

      1. What website would you suggest me for booking the train from Paris to Interlaken? Also is there a direct train or do i have to change a few station? I am actually traveling from Paris to Interlaken on 3rd of July instead of 30th June. My mistake.

      2. So my plan would be 3rd July train to Interlaken and stay there for three night. Then we will head to Grimmelwald the next day and also Murren as well. Could this two places be done in one day or should i stay a day in there? then the second day we could do the Schilthorn observation deck and the area around it. what is there to see around there or there’s only one place? then we could probably spend half the third day around Interlaken and catch a train to Rome. will this plan work? or could you plan a better itinerary for me?

      3. Do i have to purchase all the train ticket ahead or can i just pop by the day before and purchase them?

      Mike

       
Ujwala says:

Hi Roger,

I am planning to go to Interlaken, Lucerne and Mount Pilatus, while staying in Interlaken.
I am having 3 days to cover this.
Reading your articles, i have got an fair idea, however it will be of great help if you suggest Itinerary.
I plan to reach Internlake around 3 pm on 26th May and leave on 30th May early morning to Zurich.
Also please suggest some good and safe Hotels in Interlaken, as i am travelling alone.

Thanks in advance

 

    Ujwala,

    I think if I were you I’d stay in Gimmelwald or Murren on 26 and 27 May, and then take a train to Lucerne for 28 and 29 May, so you can take an early morning train to Zurich or Zurich Airport. That would give you almost two full days and nights in Interlaken and at least one full day in Lucerne to see it and Mount Pilatus. The other option would be to stay the first two nights in Gimmelwald or Murren and the last two nights in the town of Interlaken, so you can do a full day trip to Lucerne. You’d have less time in Lucerne that way and you’d spend a lot more time on trains, but at least the trains in Switzerland are all comfortable, scenic, and famously punctual.

    If you want to stay in Gimmelwald I can highly recommend Esther’s Guesthouse, which is where I stayed, or the Mountain Hostel, which is just next door and where I had most of my meals. I get this question a lot so I should come up with more recommendations because those places are often booked well in advance. Gimmelwald is tiny so every hotel is within 5 minutes of the cable car stop. Murren is much larger though. I find that TripAdvisor reviews and Booking.com reviews are very helpful in popular places like this. Best of luck and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
mary beverly says:

Hello
I have June 27-June 30 open and will be traveling from Helsinki to Swtizerland. From Switzerland I need to be in Berlin by the 30th. I am trying to determine the best airport to fly to and out of. Would like to take your advice of visiting Lucerne and then travel to Interlaken, I just want to be certain I am back to an airport in time for the flight to Berlin as I am meeting people in Berlin…can you provide an estimate on travel time? maybe a night train to the airport on the 29th or 30th? IS there a train from lucern to Germany maybe?
I need to read more, sorry if you have answered similar questions in your posts already…I will go through them as well.
Thank you

 

    Mary,

    Zurich Airport is your best option, and airfares there are surprisingly affordable considering how expensive the rest of the country is. Geneva Airport is also a possibility, but it’s farther from Lucerne and Interlaken both.

    The good news is that Interlaken to Zurich Airport takes a bit over 2 hours, and Lucerne to Zurich Airport takes about an hour, with trains starting around 5am. The trains go directly to the airport train station on the main route, and they are famously punctual. Also, the train fares for journeys within Switzerland are the same no matter when you buy, so you can buy them the day before you want to leave and the price will be the same, and fairly reasonable.

    A train from Lucerne all the way to Berlin will take a bit over 9 hours. Most of it isn’t very scenic, and it will almost certainly cost more than a flight, so I think flying from Zurich to Berlin is the way to do it. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
      mary beverly says:

      Thank you so very much for your response…your timely replies are so appreciated!
      Regards,
      Mary

       
Diana says:

Hi Roger.
I was lucky enough to llive in Switzerland for a few years and agree with all of your recommendations. Friends who visited us couldn’t understand why we tried to steer them away from Geneva and Zurich. I am returning for a visit this June and am wondering what your suggestion would be for visiting the Italian region of CH. I am staying with friends near Geneva and we’d love to get away for two nights down South. Thanks.

 

    Diana,

    I’m always happy to hear that my advice makes sense even to those who have spent far more time or lived in these places. It’s funny about Geneva because it’s such a famous city (although mainly for hosting international organizations) on a famous and gorgeous lake, that it’s easy to assume that you should spend a lot of time there. It’s the same thing with Zurich, as I’m also guilty of mainly visiting a country’s largest city on my first and often only visit.

    Unfortunately I’ve spent very little time in the Italian corner of Switzerland so it’s hard for me to make recommendations with confidence. I can confirm that Lugano is the primary tourism town in that area, and is almost certainly where you want to stay. I was going to stop there on my way to nearby Lake Como, but the connections were slow so I ended up going a different way to save time. Have a great trip and thanks for the kind words. -Roger

     
Yesha says:

Hi Roger,

your write up about Swiss travel is excellent….i changed my entire plan and schedule based on this, coz this is exactly how we would love to explore switzerland.
My husband and i, along with our 2.5 year old were planning to travel in june…however we hate to travel when its touristy…and would love to travel when its an off tourist season…on reading up came across that September is not so crowded. so we were planning September. is that a good time?…
We are more of a place and food explorer kind of travellers…
Your input would really help us plan.
Thanks.

Yesha.
Your

 

    Yesha,

    I’m happy to hear that my article was helpful, and I’m confident that you’ll really enjoy visiting the places that I’ve recommended. As for when to go, I think September will be excellent, although only a bit less crowded than June. The thing is, many Europeans take either all of July or all of August off work, but most of them head to beaches and lakes and such. Some do obviously head to Switzerland as well, so those are the two busiest months of summer.

    Beyond July and August, June and September will be pretty similar in visitor numbers, so I think you’d be just as happy in either month. Fortunately, the main Swiss attractions such as the Alps and Lucerne are places that aren’t suited to day trips, so visitor numbers don’t really exceed the number of nearby hotel rooms. In other words, hotel availability helps spread the crowds out so it’s never overwhelming. This means it’s different from places like Venice or Dubrovnik, which get filled up each day with people on bus tours and cruise ships as well.

    To make a long story only a bit longer, I think if you can find affordable hotel rooms in the areas you want to visit, the crowds won’t feel too large or unruly. Have a great trip and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Judhajit Sen says:

Hi Roger,

My wife and me will be doing our first Eurotrip during October 1-12 (Central Swiss 4 nights, Paris 4 nights, Amsterdam 3 nights). I need your comments on the itinerary I have planned:
Day 1: Arrival in Zurich morning; Take train to Lucerne, spend the day in Lucerne, boat ride in lake lucerne, see main sights; stay at Lucerne
Day 2: Lucerne – Interlaken by morning train; check in at hotel; travel to Berne for half-day outing; night at Interlaken
Day 3: Visit Jungfraujoch; visit Gimmelwald during return from Jungrfrau; stay in Interlaken
Day 4: Take cruises on Lake Thun & Brienz and explore lake side villages/towns such as Speiz, Thun etc. by foot; stay in Interlaken
Day 4; Train from Interlaken to Paris
Some specific questions:
Is it worth stretching ourselves to do Rigi on the first day or we should do just lake cruise and explore Lucerne on foot?
Should we just stop over at Lucerne, put our luggage in railway locker, take a boat ride and walk in Lucern and push off to Interlaken on Day 1
Is it economical to stay in Gimmelwald/Lauterbrunnen with our plans to explore lakes in Interlaken?
How would you rate Lauterbrunnen against Gimmelwald?
Which place is cheapest in Interlaken area for stay?
How much money should I budget for food per head per day?
Are there lockers in train stations? What are their rates and safety?
Thanks Judhajit

 

    Judhajit,

    Your itinerary looks really well researched and organized. I think you’d have a fantastic time if you did exactly as you’ve written out. And I’ll take a shot at your questions in order…

    The train from Zurich Airport to Lucerne takes a bit over an hour, and if you can get to Lucerne by 1pm or so, then you’ll have time to go up Rigi if you like. Basically, when you get there you will buy a ticket on the lake cruise boats that stop at 5 or 6 nearby cities over the course of a 2-hour trip. One of those stops is the base of Rigi, and if you get there early enough you can get off the boat and spend 2 or 3 hours going up and down, and then get back on the next boat back to Lucerne. If you don’t get there early enough, just stay on the boat and enjoy the lake views.

    I’d spend at least one night in Lucerne. The Interlaken area is more spectacular, but the town of Lucerne is really lovely as well, especially if you can get one of the hotels that overlooks the part of the lake with the famous wooden bridge.

    Deciding exactly where to stay in the Interlaken area is a bit tough. There are advantages and disadvantages to each place. If you stay in the main town of Interlaken, you are close to the train stations and you have scores of restaurants and activities to choose from, but you don’t feel the “magic” of the Alps from the base. In Lauterbrunnen you are in a gorgeous valley at the base of some dramatic mountains, and you are between Interlaken and the best peaks, but you still aren’t really “in the Alps”. Gimmelwald and Murren are 5 and 10 minutes up the mountain by a cable car that goes every 30 minutes all day and evening from Lauterbrunnen, and as long as the weather is decent they are among the most scenic mountain towns in the entire world. But of course, it does take 30 to 60 minutes getting in and out each time, so they aren’t as convenient as the others. As far as I can tell, hotel prices are in a similar range in all of them, with more bargains available in the town of Interlaken itself.

    On my most recent trip I stayed at Esther’s Guesthouse in Gimmelwald, and on my next trip I’ll probably do exactly the same thing. If Gimmelwald was booked up I’d look for a place in Murren. To me, it’s worth the extra time and small expense to stay up the mountain rather than in Lauterbrunnen or Interlaken.

    I also stayed at a hotel a few blocks from the Interlaken Ost (east) train station, and hotel rates in that area do seem to be the lowest in the area. Most things (particularly restaurant meals) in Switzerland can feel shockingly expensive at first, even compared to Germany and France nearby. So you have to just think of this as a worthwhile splurge for a few days because you’ll see that it is very worthwhile. In other words, you can probably find a cheaper hotel if you are willing to go to an inconvenient location in another nearby town, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

    As for food costs, breakfast will run at least US$10, even for something simple. For lunch you can get a sandwich or doner or take away from an Indian place for around US$10 up to maybe US$15. When you go to a sit-down restaurant for lunch or dinner, a main course will cost between US$20 and US$25 at even the cheapest restaurants, not including a drink. But you will have several good choices within that range.

    Yes, there are lockers at all of the train stations you’ll be using in Switzerland. I’d guess that the rates are around US$5 to US$10 for 4 hours or so, but I’m not sure. And they are very safe, just like everything else in Switzerland. -Roger

     
AMIE says:

Hi Roger
Good evening.
We are planing to Swiss from Italy(Venice) for 6 days 5 nights visit in mid sep’16.
We hope to cover places like Interlakaken, Lucern, Jungfraujoch and possibly Bern too.
Would you please advise how shall we plan the above places?
(Including the Swiss passes advise, possibly..)
Hopefully, we could have a chance try on ice-skiing as well… 🙂
Thanks in advance.

Regards
Amie

 

    AMIE,

    I’m not sure exactly what you are asking, but I’ll give it a try.

    I’d recommend 2 nights in Lucerne and 3 nights in the Interlaken area. If you want to visit Bern, you can get there in 48 minutes by train from the Interlaken West train station, so you can do it as a day trip. The main sights in Bern are all within a short walk from the train station there, so you can have a great visit in 3 or 4 hours, so you can really do it all in half a day.

    Swiss Travel Passes are confusing and they are generally only good for people who want to travel on the private railways (like Jungfraujoch) and many cable cars (at half price) that are included. It’s hard for me to recommend them without knowing all of the things you plan on doing. And if you know all of the things you are going to want to do, you can probably tell yourself whether a Swiss Pass will be good value or not.

    The main ski season in Switzerland runs from December through March or April, so you probably won’t have a chance. There is snow all year round on the highest peaks in the area, but the ski runs are well below those, so they only operate in the winter season.

    If you have more specific questions, feel free to ask them. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

Hi Roger,

Many thanks for your detailed reply.

We will be reaching Zurich at around 6.30 in the morning, which means we should be in Lucerne by 9.00-9.30 a.m., with some time included for refreshments. That means we will have the whole day to see Lucerne. Instead of staying over at Lucerne on Day 1, I was considering putting our luggage in railway locker, do a boat ride and walk around in Lucerne and then push off to Interlaken later in the day. In that way we get 3 whole days in Interlaken. Do you think this will be too hectic for the day of arrival? Also do you think its worth spending an evening in Lucern?

After I reach Interlaken on Day 2, I plan to go off on a day tour to Bern. Since Bern can be seen in a few hours, should I consider covering some other place as well?

Do I need to book the train tickets in advance? Or in other words are the train tickets in Switzerland dynamically priced?

I think Swiss half fare card suits me the best. I understand that the cards can be purchased from the airport on arrival. Is my understanding correct?

Do you think lake cruises in Lucerne and then in Brienz and Thun will be repetitive?

Do you think it is worthwhile to keep one full day for exploring Lake Brienz and Thun and the lakeside towns and villages around it?

Many questions asked …. Waiting for your reply.

Thanks again.

 

    JUDHAJIT,

    As I mentioned in my original reply, I would stay in Lucerne for one night because it’s very nice. You can read the rest of my remarks in the other reply.

    Spending half a day on a Bern day trip would be worthwhile. Aside from that, there are many great sights and things to do in and around Interlaken, so I wouldn’t recommend any other trips.

    Train tickets within Switzerland are a fixed price, so you can buy them when you arrive or just before each journey. Some of the most popular morning or afternoon trains might sell out once in a while, but that is probably rare.

    I’m not sure where you buy the Swiss Pass if you don’t buy it online. I’m sure it’s on the official site though.

    As for the lake cruises, the ones in Lucerne are the most popular, but the scenery is quite different around Interlaken so I don’t think those would be repetitive. It’ll be best to decide on those once you get there. You might be in the mood to do all of them, or maybe not.

    The real magic of the Interlaken area are the Alpine views and peaks and hikes. I’d focus more on that, and probably less on the lakes. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

Hi Roger,

A couple of more questions:

What kind of weather could I expect in the first half of October?

I am super confused about Rigi. I am already getting Alps views from the Jungfrau (weather permitting) and a mountain railway ride as well. Do you consider as a must-do?

Thanks

 

    JUDHAIT,

    You can get better weather information on weather sites or wikipedia for each city. But I can tell you that it should be pleasant and fairly warm in the valleys in October, and it’s always fairly chilly up in the mountains, so it’s important to dress in layers. There won’t be snow in Gimmelwald or Murren that time of year, but it’s there year round on the peaks.

    As for Rigi, I skipped it myself for the same reason. Also, each of those cable cars are kind of expensive, so you do want to choose them wisely. On the other hand, Rigi is popular for a reason and those who do the trip seem to really like it, so I don’t think you’d regret it if you went up. I’d just go on the cruise and decide when you get there. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

Thanks again for the detailed replies.

Another question comes to my mind.

During Jungfrau excursion, I would like to get down at one/more villages en route for a walk around. Which villages (Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, Kliene) should I consider? Will it be a wise thing to go up without making any stops and keeping the village visits for the return trip.

Regards

 

    JUDHAJIT,

    Of the ones you listed, I think Wengen is the most charming of them and the best one to stroll around a bit in. If you do the hike above Wengen, which is one of the best, you’ll walk through the small town on your way from the train station to the cable car station. Just going to the places you are already planning, you’ll get plenty of chances to see the sort of Swiss villages and towns that are like these, so you won’t miss it even if you tried. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

Is there a convenient way to travel overnight from Interlaken to Paris? I do not see any train connections. Is there a bus service? Are the views on the route very good which will make a day trip worth it.

Thanks

 

    JUDHAJIT,

    There are night trains from Interlaken to Paris that take about 11 hours, but they aren’t convenient because you have to change trains twice or more in the middle of the night. I would not recommend it. The day trains take 5 to 6 hours with one change in Basel, and the scenery in Switzerland is very nice, but once you get into France it’s mostly rolling hills that all look alike after a while. It’s too much traveling to go there and back in one day, but if you can spend one or more nights in Paris it could be worthwhile.

    There probably are buses, but they would take around 10 hours or more. The trains in that part of Europe are all high-speed on these main lines, so they are much faster than buses. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

I understand that a cable car car takes one to Gimmelwald from Stechelberg. Could you tell me how much does the cable card ride to Gimmelwald cost?> Is there a website that shows this?

 

    JUDHAJIT,

    I’m also having trouble finding that price online, but it’s around CHF5 or so. When I was at the Interlaken Ost train station I bought a combined ticket for the train to Lauterbrunnen, the short bus ride from across from that train station to Stechelberg, and the first leg of the cable car up to Gimmelwald. I think that was CHF17 for the three legs, one-way. And I think it costs about CHF5 to go from Gimmelwald to Murren or back. The next leg of the cable car is also fairly short, and it’s used by local residents so the price is also reasonable. It’s only that long final leg up to Schilthorn that costs so much, and that is because it also includes admission to the observation deck building and the James Bond attraction. It’s worth it though, as long as the weather is fairly clear up top.

    In other words, most Swiss cable cars are used by locals and hikers, and the prices are similar to expensive local buses. I’d guess that they are all under US$10 or so. But the Schilthorn itself is quite expensive, justifiably so. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

I was just wondering if, instead of the Jungfrau trip, I just visit Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Grutschalp, Gimmelwald, Stechelberg and Murren in a day. That would be much economical and would also let me get a good fell of the alpine region.

Lauterbrunnen and Wengen is on the Jungfrau route. Howerver, I cannot understand which route to follow to cover the remaining places. Which site do I use to find connections and ticket fares? I tried the SBB and Jungfrau sites but it is not clear.

Regards

 

    JUDHAJIT,

    You are going past my knowledge of the area, so I am not of much help with this. I didn’t do the Jungfraujoch trip when I was there because it’s quite expensive and most people agree that the Schilthorn is the more amazing of the two. I spoke to a few people who did both and they agreed that Schilthorn is the one to do if you are only going to do one. So I instead took a train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen and then up the cable car on the other side of town, to do one of the famous mountain hikes. It was fantastic, with great views of the main peaks, and it cost something like US$20 in total.

    When you get to that area you’ll find that the views are wonderful no matter which way you look, so I think you’ll be happy with whatever you decide. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

Hi, I am back again with questions.

Tell me about Coop supermarket in Switzerland. Read it is a good place to pick up stuff for cheap meals. Your experience?

Thanks

 

    JUDHAJIT,

    Yes, Coop is a full-size supermarket with reasonable prices. There is a location just steps from the Interlaken Ost train station and another one inside the Lucerne train station. Food prices will seem low compared to restaurant prices, but high compared to supermarkets in other countries. -Roger

     
Jo says:

Hi Roger,
We’re planning on traveling from Paris to Italy via Switzerland in September and will be staying just 2 nights. Hoping to not spend the whole time in the car. Where would you recommend which isn’t too far off the beaten track which is still very beautiful to stay and explore a little? We will be coming into Switzerland by rail and leaving by car.

 

    Jo,

    The most amazing place to experience the wonders of Swiss scenery is the area in and just above Interlaken. Lucerne is also nice, but if I only had 2 days in the country I’d go to the Interlaken area every time. It’s on one of the main train lines so it’s easy to get in and out, unlike some of the other scenic areas such as Zermatt. Have a close look at the specific advice in the article above, and if you can get a reservation in the tiny town of Gimmelwald, that is the single best place. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

Roger,

As I am tinkering around with my itinerary, I come up with another question. Please tell me if the following activities are possible to do in a single day:-

Check out from hotel in Lucern – Travel Interlaken to Lucern by train – check into hotel at Interlaken – Lake Thun cruise on way – Explore Thun on foot – Take train to Spiez – Wander around Spiez – Train back to Interlaken

Thanks

 

    Judhajit,

    I’d say it’s possible to do all of that in one day as long as you start early and as long as the hotel in Interlaken you are checking into is near one of the train stations (all trains stop at both stations). But I don’t know if the Spiez trip is something I’d recommend unless you have at least a week in Switzerland. It’s a nice looking little town for sure, but without any real attractions that I’m aware of. You could have as much enjoyment out of walking around Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen or Wengen or many others that you’ll be going through already. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

Roger,

Do have the same opinion about Thun as Spiez. These places have small castles and looked interesting, so I thought of giving them a visit. Would you then recommend not to get off anywhere during the Thun lake cruise or just skip the lake cruise at Thun/Brienz?

Thanks

 

    Judhajit,

    I haven’t done a Thun cruise so it’s hard for me to say. The whole area is absolutely gorgeous and I don’t think you need to see it from the lake, but if you did it I imagine you’d enjoy it. What I’d recommend is to see what it all looks like when you get there and then do whatever appeals to you at the moment. You’ve done 90% of the planning already, from the sound of it, and you can give yourself some options to choose from on the spot. I also love travel planning, so I’m right there with you. -Roger

     
JUDHAJIT says:

Hi Roger,

Since I did not find a thread on the Bruges/Brussels page, I will post a query here.

How much time do you think is required to see Bruges.
Do you think the canal boat ride in Bruges is worth it?
Heard that Bruges looks surreal in the evening, when the day tourists have left. Any opinion on that?
Is a stop over at Brussels while travelling from Paris to Bruges to visit the Grand Place a good idea?

Many thanks,
Judhajit

 

    Judhajit,

    For non-Switzerland questions it’s probably best to ask them below this article about Europe itinerary planning. But I’ll handle this one here.

    Bruges is a fairly compact town and two nights should be enough, or even one night if you give yourself around 24 hours. It’s nice at night, but I don’t remember it being unusually nice. It probably is a bit less crowded at night because some people do visit it on bus tours, but there are loads of hotels and hostels in Bruges so it’s not too quiet at night.

    As I’ve written elsewhere, I do think that stopping for 2 to 6 hours in Brussels on the way to Bruges is a great idea. The main square (Grand Place) is one of the most beautiful in Europe, and the historic center is worth a look and maybe a lunch stop. Aside from that, Brussels is really built for business travelers and bureaucrats so prices are high and many things seem generic. -Roger

     
Helen says:

Hi!
I’m not a stranger to Switzerland, my mother lived in Luzern. I agree with you that it’s a beautiful city! We want to come for a 2 week vacation in August but we want to stay in an apartment in one place. the most important part I would like to know is which places offer such a card that includes free cable cars. the ones I know of are Davos and Saastal. Any idea which other ones? Thanks!

 

    Helen,

    It sounds like you are referring to the Swiss Travel Pass, which includes free rides on some cable cars and 50% discounts on others. It’s a confusing pass and I’m not an expert on it, so you are best off reading about it on the official website for it.

    I believe the popular cable cars in the Interlaken and Luzern areas are mostly the 50% discount ones, or at least the highest altitude sections are. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll take a shot. -Roger

     
Mona says:

Hi Roger,
your write up about Swiss travel is excellent! I needed some advice,hope you will guide me.
We(me,wife&2 kids) are planning a trip to Paris and Switzerland. we will be flying from SFO to Paris in first week of July. We will be in Paris for 2 nights.We are going to be in Switzerland for 4 days.We definitely wants to see Interlaken, Lucerne and may be Bern(my daughter wants to get a feel for the Swiss culture.We will be flying out from Geneva. So can you help me planning a itenary.
Mona.

 

    Mona,

    Thank you, and I’ll try to help. Two nights in Paris is a very quick trip and if you haven’t been there before, I’d actually recommend staying longer if possible.

    As far as 4 days in Switzerland, I’d recommend going to Interlaken for 3 nights and then 1 night in Lucerne. You can visit them in either order. And if you prefer you can do 2 nights in each, but if you want to visit Bern (definitely a highlight) then you can do it as a day trip from Interlaken. The train takes about an hour each way, and it only takes about 3 hours to see the main sights in and near the historic center, which is a short walk from the train station. So you could take a train to Bern right after breakfast, then spend 3 or 4 hours in Bern including lunch at one of its many outdoor restaurants, and be back in Interlaken by 3pm, allowing you enough time to still see something else.

    In the article above I describe the charms of the mountain towns of Gimmelwald and Murren. I highly recommend staying in one of those for 2 nights, but if you are doing a Bern day trip you might then switch to a hotel near one of the two train stations in Interlaken for the third night. You can get from Interlaken OR from Lucerne directly to the Geneva Airport train station in about 3 hours and the trains start at about 5am, so you could start in Lucerne and then go to Interlaken or the other way around. As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Deblina says:

Hi Roger,
I plan to go to Switzerland with my parents from 21st to 27th June arriving in Zurich. But my mom cannot walk much. Just wondering whether there are taxis available at Gimmelwald to take us from the cable car to the hotel? If not, then may be I will stay at Lauterbrunnen or Murren. Can we get taxis in either of these places for local transportation from hotel to train/cable station ?
Also, which region would be the best to see snow during that time. We are not really thinking of any snow activities but just being able to get into the snow and play with snow balls 🙂 We can do this in Jungfraujoch, right ?

Your early response would be greatly appreciated.

 

    Deblina,

    The only vehicles in Gimmelwald are tractors and small carts used by local farmers. The village is literally just about 10 small hotels, a few restaurants, and about 30 or 40 farms. That’s what makes it so magical. However, Esther’s Guesthouse and the Mountain Hostel are both about 50 meters from the cable car stop, and a few other hotels are in that same area.

    Murren is far larger, but also car-free so you’d also need to choose a hotel very close to the cable car stop. Lauterbrunnen is on the valley floor so it’s connected by road to everything else, and there are taxis. If you can book into one of the Gimmelwald or Murren hotels that are next to the cable car stop, there would be almost no walking involved.

    In June there will be no snow in Gimmelwald or Murren or anywhere else except the mountaintops. But yes, there will be snow on Jungfraujoch and possibly on Schilthorn as well. Those are your only real hopes for snowballs. Have a great trip and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
      Subhash says:

      Hi Roger,
      I am planning a trip to Switzerland in Sep/Oct for 8 nights. I am traveling with my wife and my three year old kiddo. I will be arriving at Zurich and stay there for a night and take train to Lucerne the next day. My high level itinerary looks as follows:

      Lucerne (4 nights) will cover Bern (one day trip from Lucerne), Mt.
      Titlis through cable car, Mt. Rigi or Mt. Pilatus, The Lake etc.
      Interlaken (3 nights) Gimmelwald or Murren , Some Adventure Sports ,Ballenberg – http://www.ballenberg.ch and jungfraujoch etc.

      Then I am planning to take the train from interlaken to Milan (Italy).

      Can you please help fine tune my itinerary. Which glaciers shall I prefer Titlis or jungfraujoch?

      I am also confused, where shall I spend more time. Lucerne or Interlaken?

      Can I skip Zermatt, or shall I visit there even if I am spending quite a few time in Interlaken and LucernE?

      Thanks,
      subhash

       

        Subhash,

        I think your current plan looks quite good. Jungfraujoch is the most dramatic of the high-altitude sights, and Schilthorn is another very popular stop, partly because it’s so easy to reach compared to the others.

        Interlaken is home to most of the Alps’ best sightseeing and I would probably spend more time there than in Lucerne, but they are very different so it’s hard to compare. At least one or two nights in Gimmelwald (or Murren) is something kind of magical, yet the city of Lucerne is nicer and more interesting than the town of Interlaken itself. Also, you can reach Bern in about an hour by train from either one, so you can do that day trip at any point of your visit.

        In other words, I think you’ll be really impressed and really happy at all points on your trip, and you definitely won’t have time to get bored in any of the stops.

        As for Zermatt, you can skip it on this trip without guilt. It does have that famous view of the Matterhorn, but it’s fairly remote and hard to reach, and aside from that view it’s mostly a winter-sports town rather than a sightseeing town. Once you see the views from Interlaken and Lucerne, you’ll be satisfied that you’ve seen the best of the Alps. Have a great trip. -Roger

         
          Subhash says:

          Thanks Roger.
          Since I am staying in Switzerland for 8 days and returning on 9th day. So I am now a bit confused on Swiss Passes. Shall I buy 8 days Swiss Pass ? I understand that some hotels in (Wilderswil) do provide passes which enable you to use all the public transport in the region for free.
          Do we also get similar passes in Lucerne area? Can you suggest me the passes, which I should buy which will be most economical for my family (wife and kid.

          Thanks,
          Subhash

           

          Subhash,

          As I’ve mentioned before, the Swiss Passes are confusing and you really have to know which expensive trains and museums and such you want to do in order to know whether it will save you money. In other words, the Swiss Passes are quite expensive, so they will only save money for people who plan on really doing all the expensive rides and things that are included.

          I’m not sure about all of the Wilderswil area, but I do know that ALL hotels and hostels in Interlaken include a free public transport pass that is good on the local buses as well as the trains between the two train stations in town.

          There is no transport card included for Lucerne hotels, but as long as you stay reasonably close to the train station, which is directly across from where the lake boats leave, you can walk everywhere. And of course you will visit nearby towns on the regular boats more easily than buses. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help on this. -Roger

           
          Subhash says:

          Thanks Roger.
          Now probably the last question. I generally read that Switzerland is pretty safe country for tourists. Just need a bit of more feedback about the crime in general for tourists? Do we have to avoid certain areas in Lucerne or Interlaken during night? or we should play little safe during night travel or pub crawling? How is these places as far as mugging or any petty crime against tourists?

           

          Subhash,

          All of Europe is possibly the safest region in the world, and Switzerland is definitely one of its safer countries. There are some junkies who wander around in the areas near the train stations in the cities (although probably not in Interlaken because it’s a quiet town), but they won’t bother you. Pickpocketing is Europe’s main nuisance crime, and you should always take precautions for that, but it’s far more common in Spain and Italy than in Switzerland. Long story short, nothing to worry about at all. Have a great trip. -Roger

           
      Deblina says:

      Thanks a lot, Roger. This really helps. So, here is the travel plan I am making. Since I will be with my parents, I have to make things really slow so that they get ample rest. I plan to arrive at Zurich on 21st afternoon. stay the night at Zurich. Go to Gimmelwald on 22nd. go to Jungfraujoch on 23rd. 24th rest. 25th go to Schilthorn. 26th return to Zurich. 27th flight back from Zurich.I had a few qs
      1> which pass should I take, we will be 3 people
      2> In June though there will be no snow, its still recommended to stay at Gimmelwald instead of Lauterbrunnen, right ?
      3> Are there hotels in Jungfraujoch region where we can stay overnight and enjoy the snow ?
      4> Do you have any suggestions of things to do in the evening in Zurich on 26th June

       

        Deblina,

        1. I find the Swiss Travel Passes to be just as confusing as everyone else does. They are good for free train travel and free museum visits, and 50% discounts on the tourist trains and cable cars. I think if a visitor plans on taking several of the longer train trips and also visiting at least a few of the included museums and such, the pass can pay off. But in your case it doesn’t look like you’ll be doing too many train rides, so the 50% discounts might not be worth the price of the pass. Again, it’s very confusing and I think you have to just add up all of your planned expenses to check.

        2. Yes, stay in Gimmelwald if you can. It’s definitely nicer there without snow on the ground, in fact. When you arrive on the cable car you’ll be in this dream-like setting of gorgeous green pastures surrounded by surreal views.

        3. I don’t believe there are any hotels near the top of Jungfraujoch, but there are some in Kleine Scheidegg, which is where the train trip begins. Honestly, the views from anywhere in that area are amazing, so it may not be worth it to spend a lot more for a special hotel.

        4. There are some really nice views along the river in Zurich, and especially along the lake front. At that time of year you’ll have no problem finding things to see and do there by just walking around. Zurich is a really nice city, even though it lacks major sights and it’s quite expensive. -Roger

         
          Deblina says:

          thanks Roger. Just wondering. Is it worthwhile to go to both Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch ? or both are very similar and going to just one is recommended ?

           

          Deblina,

          They are both the absolute best panoramic views of the top of the Alps, but from different peaks. If you have time (and money) to do both, it’s recommended. Shilthorn is about an hour up from Lauterbrunnen and Gimmelwald by cable car, and then there is the 360-degree revolving restaurant on top (with normal Swiss prices, by the way) and the James Bond attraction. The Jungfraujoch is a 2.5-hour train ride that can be cold, to the highest station in Europe, also with a restaurant and observation deck. Shilthorn can be done in 3 hours or so, where Jungfraujoch takes most of a day. -Roger

           
          Deblina says:

          Hi Roger,
          I decided to stay at Murren. Just wondering, can we buy tickets to Scilthorn and Jungfrauch from Murren cable car station or somewhere else in Murren, the same morning that we intend to travel ? Also is it recommended to reserve train seats for Jungfrauch or generally seats will be available in June end? Moreover, can we also buy train tickets back to Zurich from Murren ?

           

          Deblina,

          I’m 99% sure that all of those ticket booths are hooked into the main national SBB system, so you should be able to buy any ticket at any of them. I’m 100% sure you can buy Schilthorn tickets in Murren, because that’s the main stop in the middle of the cable car system on the way there.

          I don’t know about reserved seats on the Jungfraujoch train. Many people book at the last minute because they want to make sure the weather is okay. Sometimes it can be foggy or cloudy up there, but not too often in summer. So my guess would be that you’d have no problem buying tickets, but I’m not 100% sure.

          And again, I suspect you can buy tickets to Zurich in Murren, but at the very least you can buy tickets from there back to the nearest train station in Lauterbrunnen, and then get tickets there to Zurich. They are very professional and well run, so it’s unlikely that you’d find long queues, so you can just buy tickets as you go if you like. Have a great trip. -Roger

           
Ahmad says:

Dear Roger, thanks for all the wonderful information provided above. I plan to visit Switzerland from July 28th to 1st of August. Me, wife and three kids aged 17,12 and 6 years. Am trying to plan as per your suggestions above. We are reaching from Paris by train to Basel. Am thinking of heading by train to Lucerne spending the night and 29th night. Then move on to Interlaken on 30th and stay at Interlaken itself commuting to various mounts etc. We will leave on 2nd August morning for Europa Park in Rust / Germany. Could you please suggest a more personalized plan keeping in view the youngest member of the family. And is it possible to include a visit to the chocolate factory staying in interlaken ? Please also suggest most suitable rail passes . Thanks

 

    Ahmad,

    I won’t be much help on this, unfortunately. I’m not aware of a chocolate factory near Interlaken, though there might be one as there are quite a few chocolate-oriented attractions in Switzerland.

    Your plan sounds quite good as it is, and I think the 6-year-old will be entertained by just the scenery and walks. It’s really a stunning place and you’ll be on the move a lot, so it’s not like dragging a bored child through an art museum.

    You should buy your train ticket from Paris to Basel as soon as possible for the lowest fare. But once you get into Switzerland, the train tickets are always the same price no matter when you buy, so you can just buy them once you get there. They aren’t too expensive either because the distances are fairly short. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
      Ahmad says:

      Thanks Roger. This is the best and most informative page regarding a switzerland visit. One can probably get all the information going through the article and the following posts. Great job.
      Can mount titlis be visited as a half day activity ? Can one arrange tickets etc on his own or it is a must to arrange / purchase a tour ? We will reach Lucerne in the evening (5-6pm) from Paris. If we can visit Mt Titlis next day and return to spend the remaining half day in Lucerne itself. Will it be too much ? We can spend the following morning as well in Lucerne before leaving for Interlaken. Interlaken area has been planned as per your suggestions in the article and following posts. Lastly how early one can start to visit Mt Titlis ?

       

        Ahmad,

        If you are going to do the cable car to Mt Titlis or something along those lines, you’ll want to allow about 6 hours for your visit after leaving Lucerne. You should be able to plan and book everything you need on travel day with no problem. Fortunately, Switzerland has fixed prices for domestic train tickets and all of the cable cars, so you can buy everything there on the day. Also, most of the trains and attractions are all connected to the same national system, so you might be able to buy all of your tickets at the Lucerne train station. The clerks all speak fluent English, so it’s an easy country to travel in, more so than most of its neighbors.

        The first train from Lucerne to Engelberg (base of Titlis) is at 05:05 every morning. After that one, they leave at 10 minutes after the hour starting at 06:10, and the journey takes 43 minutes on a direct train. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
          Ahmad says:

          Thanks Roger for the quick response. Will follow your advice. Keep up the excellent job.

           
Maggie says:

I have read all the post and ask your advice. We are on a tour which spends two nights in Lucerne then buses you to Zurich for plane home. We have decided to stay an additional 4 days and thinking of all your recommendations I think we will leave Lucerne and head to Interlakenhoheweg for two nights then Murren for one then train to Zurich and spend a night there. Does this sound like a good plan?

 

    Maggie,

    You’ll definitely want to get between cities on trains rather than buses, although you will need to take one short bus ride on your way to the cable car leading up to Murren. I think your plan sounds really nice. Zurich is a fine city, but there really aren’t many things to see, and it’s extremely expensive. The Zurich Airport is on the main train line, so you could just as easily go directly there from Interlaken or Lucerne, and skip the night in Zurich if you wanted. The trains are fast, famously punctual, and they start at about 5am, so you can easily reach Zurich Airport from any of those cities in the morning.

    And again, if you want to see one Swiss city, then Bern is probably the best choice as it’s more photogenic and has more things to see than the others. So with all of this in mind, you can spend those days in several different ways and be good on timing. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Helen says:

Hello Roger,

Thank you so much for your thorough post on Switzerland and all the comments and your responses help a lot as well. I am planning a backpacking trip around Europe and would love to visit Switzerland. I keep hearing how expensive this country is so any tips/advice on making it accessible but still enjoyable for a budget backpacker would be helpful!

I am still in the beginning stages of planning but would love your insight. So my plan is that I will be coming from Milan/Lake Como, traveling to Interlaken by train, stay for 2 days, then train to Lucerne, stay for a night, and then to Zurich for 2-3 days with a possible day trip to St. Gallen. I know it seems long for Zurich but I have a few friends in Zurich and St. Gallen that I want to visit and will most likely stay with (which will help with costs). Do you think that is a great plan? How much are the trains usually for that type of route? And from reading all of your responses to other readers, those train routes should be quite scenic as well? How much could you see this entire trip to be roughly? Or should I skip Lucerne and go straight to Zurich from Interlaken?

Budget is a big concern so I don’t want to stick around areas that are overrated and I can just skip to save money.

Thank you so much for your help!

 

    Helen,

    As long as you have a place to stay in Zurich then I think visiting for several days will be lovely. The thing about Zurich is that it caters almost exclusively to business people and/or the rich, and not really to budget travelers. Basic hotel rooms in the center start close to US$200/night, and those same rooms would be around US$100/night in Paris, which has MUCH more to see. If you go to a sit-down restaurant, even a casual place, the cheapest meal on the menu will be CHF19 (US$20), without a drink. So it’s not so much that it’s boring or overrated or a bad place, it’s just terrible value compared to almost anywhere else in Europe, and there are very few (none, really) must-see attractions. But with a free place to stay and being able to eat some of your meals at home, it will be fun and worthwhile.

    I think your plan sounds really fine and I’d definitely include Lucerne because it’s a wonderful small city that is nothing like Interlaken and that area. A standard 2nd Class train fare from Interlaken to Lucerne is CHF32 and it’s the same from Lucerne to Zurich, and the price is the same no matter when you buy them. That’s not exactly cheap, but especially for a last-minute ticket, it’s not bad at all, and the trains are very nice and famously punctual.

    Pretty much every train ride in Switzerland is quite scenic, especially any of them that go along the Alps or through the Alps. The trains closer to Zurich aren’t quite as scenic, and there are a few long tunnels you go through, but still most of the country is green and hilly or mountainous.

    As for general budget tips, book your hotel or hostel online in advance. Quality tends to be high, but still I’d recommend against getting a really remote place to save US$10 or US$20 per night because you’ll spend that much or more going back and forth, or at least you’ll waste a lot of time. Generally speaking, Switzerland is a splurge, but it’s worthwhile. I’m generally quite thrifty and my instinct is to always see just how cheap I can do things, but Switzerland is so nice that it’s worth just paying what things cost, and trying to save money in other countries.

    After accommodation, the other tricky thing is food. Even a “meal deal” at McDonald’s in Switzerland will cost around US$14, and something like a doner kebab from a take-out place will be the same. As mentioned, sit-down meals start at around US$20 at every single restaurant. However, you can buy a prepared sandwich at a supermarket for around US$5, and groceries in general aren’t too expensive. Alcohol in supermarkets is actually quite cheap (1L of vodka for US$10). So if you stay in a hostel with a kitchen, even in a private room, you can save a lot by cooking some of your meals yourself, or buying prepared foods at supermarkets. There are large supermarkets (Coop is the most common one) in or very near every train station in the towns you’ll be visiting, by the way.

    One sort of nice thing is that Switzerland isn’t really a foodie destination, so you won’t miss much if you avoid proper restaurants. You might want to try fondue once, but aside from that, it’s pretty much the same as German food except at 2 or 3 times the price.

    The last tricky thing are the attractions. Most notably, the long cable car ride up to Schilthorn or the train ride up to Jungfraujoch. Both of those are shockingly expensive at first glance, but as long as the weather is decent, they will be the highlights of Switzerland and maybe your whole trip. There is just no substitute elsewhere for those experiences, so I’d budget for at least one of them.

    As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Helen says:

      WOW! Thank you so much for the very thorough response. Definitely covered everything and more! I will peruse the rest of the website to help in planning the remaining parts of my Euro trip. I am sure it won’t be the last you will hear from me! Thanks again, Roger!!

       
Garima says:

Hello Roger,

we are travelling to switzerland for 5 days . We have chalked out an itinerary can anyone suggest if we should exclude or include anything .

Day 1 – Luzern – Lake, Chapel bridge , Local tour
Day 2- Mt. Titlis
Day 3-Interlaken , Lauternbrunnen, Grindelwald ,Jungfraujoch
Day 4 – Glacier Express/ Golden pass line
Day 5 -Geneva
Day6 – Zurich – Rhine fall

Can we skip geneva and include places like gimmelwald or bern or suggest any other places,

 

    Garima,

    I think your plan looks quite good and that you’ve got it filled with highlights already. Really, the only suggestions I’d make are the ones you mentioned at the end. Geneva is a famous city with almost nothing interesting to see or do there, while Bern (the capital) is gorgeous and the best Swiss city for a short visit.

    And Grindelwald is a fairly large town with a gorgeous setting that is mostly known as a winter sports resort, while Gimmelwald (on the other side of the mountain) is a stunning and tiny village with an even better view, and an experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world. You could spend a week in the Interlaken area on different hikes and cable cars and view points and such, and you wouldn’t be bored. But on a quick visit, I think Gimmelwald is the most magical place to stay, or at least spend a couple hours in. The Schilthorn (above Gimmelwald and Murren) is the other don’t-miss attraction near Interlaken along with Jungfraujoch, although both are (justifiably) expensive so many people choose just one or the other.

    Also, I’m not sure I’d want to do two scenic train rides on one day. In my experience, just about every train ride in Switzerland is extremely scenic, even if it doesn’t have a special name. And after about 3 or 4 hours of admiring the jaw-dropping scenery, it’s hard to continue to focus on it. So my general recommendation is to take trains to and from the things you want to see and visit in Switzerland, rather than focus primarily on the few train lines that have special names (and sometimes special carriages).

    As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Uttam says:

Hi Roger

I have read your posts and found them very helpful, thanks for those.We are going for a 7 days training program in Sargans,Switzerland from 5th to 11th June.We would be in Grossfeld Sargans,please suggest which nearby places will be better to visit. We would be free in the evening time after 7 pm and also would have two full days to travel..
Also please guide better transport options..
How much time it would take to reach Interlaken and Lucerne from Sargans.Which are the better Alps view nearby Sargans?How would be the weather??

 

    Uttam,

    Ah, you’ll be very near the Lichtenstein border, which is an area I don’t know too well. You’ll be just a bit south of the small town of Appenzell, which is famous for its cheese and being a friendly small dairy town. It’s better to see it during the day, so you might not have time.

    Lucerne is 1 hour and 48 minutes away from Sargans by train, and Interlaken is 2 hours and 54 minutes. The area you’ll be in is quite scenic, but for those two free days I think I’d head to Interlaken or at least to Lucerne, depending on which sounds better. The train rides to either one are gorgeous as well. It’s hard to be more specific than that. I’m sure when you get there you’ll get great advice from the locals. And since the domestic Swiss train tickets are always the same price, you can plan and buy at the last minute and it still won’t cost too much. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
roy says:

Hello Roger,
u are the Federer of tours and travels I must say. crisp and clear answers.i am planning to visit paris for 3 nights,nice for 2 nights, then want to go to Interlaken for 3 nights and then move further to venice for one night and rome for 2 nights.please tell me is it a good itinerary and also I want to know how I can travel between these cities starting from paris and ending in rome.i am with my wife and 2 kids below 10 years.

 

    Roy,

    That is nice of you to say. As for your itinerary, I can see why you’d plan it that way, but getting in and out of Nice is going to be challenging. There are just no fast trains running between Nice and Switzerland, so it would take at least 9.5 hours to get from Nice to Interlaken, and it would be very expensive. You’d have the same problem if you did it the other way around, with Switzerland in between Paris and Nice.

    So as nice as Nice is, I’m going to recommend saving it for another trip. You don’t mention when you are going, but if it’s between June and September, Nice will be very crowded and hotels will be expensive because that’s where so many French people go for their one-month holiday. Besides, Italy has many more cities that are actually more interesting than Nice anyway.

    So I’d recommend Paris to Interlaken to Venice. You can do one night in Venice because it’s a small place, but two nights in Rome will feel rushed because it’s huge and has so many worthwhile things. Also, most people stop in Florence for at least two days in between Venice and Rome.

    If you are saving Nice for next time, you’d have two nights to work with. You could spend those in Florence and you’d love it, or you could spend one more in Rome and one more somewhere else. My recommended rushed trip to Italy is one night in Venice, two nights in Florence, and three nights in Rome. If you can do that, you will have an amazing time and you’ll see why three nights in Rome is critical if you can spare them.

    And you’ll definitely want to travel by train. The kids will get cheap fares, and even the adult fares will be reasonable if you buy them online in advance from the official rail sites for the countries involved. As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      roy says:

      Roger, thanks a lot for your crystal clear answers,advice and suggestion. I guess, as you rightly said ,I might fall short of time if I go to the French riveira though I badly wanted to see the beaches and Cannes and soak in the atmosphere. I am planning to travel for 11 days starting 29 august.Now I guess 3 nights in paris,3 nights in Interlaken / Lucerne,1 night in venice,1 night in Florence,3 nights in rome might be best for me. Can u recommend some quality hotels for these places?Can be international chains like holiday inns or intercontinental. And also in these places are there beaches to go to?thks for your help.

       

        Roy,

        I’m happy to help. As for hotels, it’s hard to recommend specific places because rates go up and down and many of the best places get booked well in advance. Still, I’ve put together articles with recommended hotels in Paris and the Italian cites on your list, and you’ll find links to all of them near the bottom of this article:

        http://www.priceoftravel.com/7332/europe-trip-planning-guide-itineraries-transport-accommodation/

        Even if the specific recommended hotel isn’t available or is showing a higher price, at least you’ll see the better neighborhoods to focus on so you can certainly find a good place nearby.

        Unfortunately, there are no easily accessible beaches in or near those cities. There are some small beaches near Rome, but I’ve never heard anyone say that they are worthwhile for short-term tourists. The problem is that there are so few sandy beaches, or even pebble-covered beaches, in France and Italy, that the few decent ones that are there get completely packed all during the warm months. Spain, on the other hand, has plenty of great beaches. If you were spending longer in Italy you could potentially spend a day in the Cinque Terre region, and one of those towns does have a nice, sandy beach. But you will already be rushing, and otherwise that area doesn’t have enough to see to justify it. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
          roy says:

          thanks roger for your reply. I have a question related to port of entry. i am actually having 4 nights in france and 4 nights in Italy and 3 nights in swiss, so if I arrange schengen visa through italian embassy can I arrive in france for my first port of entry or will france refuse me saying that I must have applied in French embassy for the Schengen visa.

           

          Roy,

          That’s an interesting question and unfortunately I don’t have any information on it. I’m an American so I can enter the Schengen Zone with just my passport. I’d guess that any Schengen visa would be valid at any entry point, but that’s just my guess. I’m sure you can find an answer elsewhere. -Roger

           
Vani says:

Hi Roger,
Good day to you. I’m planning to visit Switzerland by middle of June with my husband and two boys. First I would like to know how the weather like around these time? I would like to have a panoramic view of lake and mountain besides beautiful view of flowers. Is there any chocolate factory around those places as well? Would you suggest which place we should visit? By the way we might be staying for 6 days. Could you recommend some quality hotel around those places and which train pass we should buy? Thanking you in advance.

 

    Vani,

    The June weather in Switzerland will be warm, sunny, and beautiful in the valleys and flat-lands, and chilly and a bit unpredictable the farther up the mountains you go, but there won’t be snow falling except for the highest peaks.

    The best panoramic views of lakes and mountains are from near Interlaken or Lucerne, as described above.

    There are about 15 chocolate factories in Switzerland, though none of them are near Interlaken. However, there is one in Lucerne, as well as something called the Swiss Chocolate Adventure attached to the popular transport museum there.

    If you have 6 days I’d spend at least 2 or 3 in the Interlaken area and at least 2 or 3 in the Lucerne area. You’d still have time for one day visiting Bern if you want to see the most beautiful Swiss city, or you could stay longer in Interlaken. And as mentioned in the article above, you should try to spend at least a night or two in Gimmelwald or Murren, which are just above Interlaken.

    I get so many questions about hotels in Switzerland that I will write an article soon with my favorite ones and best advice. But for now, the only one I can recommend without any more research is Esther’s Guesthouse in Gimmelwald. It does get booked well in advance, however.

    The train fares in Switzerland are pretty reasonable because the distances are short and the prices are the same no matter when you buy. So buy tickets once you get there and they will be cheaper and more flexible than a rail pass. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Knagarjuna says:

Hi Roge,

I am planning to visit Interlaken and Lucerne for 3 days from 24jun to 26jun. Currently I am in Turin (italy)on some company work. I am facing some difficulties in planning and tickets.
1. Is better to directly go from Turin to Lucerne and while returning going for Interlaken?
2. Which place is better to spend more days among Interlaken and Lucerne?
3. Could you please suggest me to go around in 3 days?
4. Is it useful to take Swiss pass for travelling in Lucerne and interlaken? If so, at which places it is useful like transport, museum, skiing etc. And which pass is better?
5. If the Swiss pass is taken, can I use it for Turin to Lucerne transport or only useful after entering Switzerland?

Thanks & Regards,
Reddy

 

    Knagarjuna,

    It appears to be easier to go to Lucerne first, because there are more departures in the mornings. It will take about 6 hours, although you can get to Interlaken in around 5 hours if there is a connection when you want to go. It takes about 2 hours to get between the two cities. What I’d do is go to the Swiss rail website and check your itineraries. Since Turin is a bit out of the way, there aren’t departures every hour like there are out of Milan. As long as you plan ahead, you can definitely put together a convenient itinerary though.

    If I only had 3 days I’d spend one day in Lucerne and two in Interlaken. Both cities are wonderful, but Interlaken has the dramatic Alps views that we all love.

    So yes, leave as early as possible to get to Lucerne in the early afternoon. Spend the day and next morning there, and then take the train to Interlaken for your other two days. As mentioned in the article above, if you can stay in Gimmelwald you should.

    The Swiss Passes look expensive to me and I think you have to be taking a lot of train rides and visiting many museums to get value out of them. They are only valid for travel and attractions within Switzerland, so your journey before you hit the border would not be discounted. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
      Knagarjuna says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks for your prompt reply.Is it possible to cover Mt.Titlis also besides Lucerne and Interlaken in the same 3 days. If Yes,then what are all the costs involved from Engelberg to top of the mountain and activities on top of the mountain. Thanks in advance.

       

        Knagarjuna,

        Yes, technically you could visit Mt Titlis within those 3 days, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Titlis isn’t very close to either Lucerne or Interlaken, so the trip along with the time to go up the cable cars to the summit area will take most of a whole day. It’s one of Switzerland’s best views so it’s worth considering. However, if you were going to spend one day in Lucerne and two days in Interlaken, you’ll find many other worthwhile sights and attractions that are much easier to reach, so you can do 2 or 3 things each day. For example, if you are staying in Gimmelwald or Murren, you are already part of the way up Schilthorn, so visiting that observation deck can be done in only 2 or 3 total hours.

        As for the prices, there are many different cable car rides available. The one all the way up to the top costs CHF89 (around US$90) return. All of these mountaintop cable car rides are in the same price range, but once you are up at the top you’ll see why it’s worth it. -Roger

         
Angie says:

We are planning a trip to Switzerland in September. We have traveled to Ireland and France and rented a car those trips. We are trying to figure out if it is better to travel by train or if we could do it by car. We like to keep a flexible itinerary and see the sights as we like. There are 2 couples traveling together, we have a week to see the sights. Thank you for your help! Our travel agent would not give us her advice on this.

 

    Angie,

    I almost always advise against touring Europe in a rented car, but Ireland is one famous exception, and France is as well as long as you want to spend time outside of Paris and the other larger cities. Particularly for seeing wine regions and battle memorials and that sort of thing, a car is ideal.

    Switzerland could be another good place to visit by car as long as you don’t want to spend much time in cities, and that’s probably a good idea anyway. So especially for two couples, as driving will be much cheaper than 4 train tickets, I think it’s a fine idea.

    The town of Interlaken has a suburban feel where many hotels and other businesses have free parking lots. The tourism hub of Lauterbrunnen is even more spread out, so parking will be easy. I’d still recommend staying in Gimmelwald or Murren for a night or two if you can, and those are car-free villages, but you should still find an easy and reasonably priced parking spot near the cable car station below. You’ll also be able to drive to most of the other mountain villages, where you can park free or cheap and then go hiking or take a cable car.

    Lucerne is a larger city and has quite a dense center, so parking near the lake won’t be free, but at least it shouldn’t be difficult.

    And if you wanted to visit a city it should probably be Bern, and that would be similar to Lucerne in that you’d have to pay to park, but it shouldn’t cost a fortune.

    So again to be clear, I think for 1 or 2 people the best way to get around Switzerland is usually by train, or even for larger groups that just want to go to the main destinations and don’t want to go to the trouble of renting a car and sorting out parking. But for a group of 4 who has a week and wants to move around quite a bit, I think a car is the way to go. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Jags says:

Hi,

I am planning a 3/4 days trip to Switzerland with my wife and one year old Son. I am not sure where to start and end the trip, should I take a flight to Zurich or Geneva and then start the trip ?

We are interested to see scenic view, alps. Could you help me in preparing the itinerary keeping in mind that I am travelling with my One year old son. I am planning this trip in July.

 

    Jags,

    Zurich is closer to both Interlaken and Lucerne, and it’s a larger airport that usually has lower fares, so that’s where you want to fly into. The airport itself is on the main train line, so you can take a train directly from the airport to Interlaken, and skip going into Zurich.

    The whole article above describes where to see the best views, but the short version is that you should spend at least 2 or 3 days in the Interlaken area. If you have one more day you might also go to Lucerne for that day, as it’s also lovely, quite different, and easy to appreciate in about 24 hours.

    My advice to everyone is to plan on spending at least one or two nights in the amazing little village of Gimmelwald, or in the larger resort town of Murren (one stop up on the cable car from Gimmelwald) if Gimmelwald’s hotels are sold out, or if you require a wide variety of restaurant choices.

    For anyone who has time, I recommend spending one night in or very near the town of Interlaken itself. It’s the hub for pretty much all nearly Alpine sightseeing trips, and the town itself is really nice. With that in mind, have another look at the article above for more specific instructions, and let me know if you have any more questions. -Roger

     
      jags says:

      Thanks Roger !

      I have got 8-9 days now for visit to Switzerland. Could you please help me in finalizing my itinerary? I am not sure, how many days I should spent to see below places. You can also add or remove any city from the below:

      Interlaken
      Lauterbrunnen
      Gimmelwald
      Mürren
      Jungfraujoch
      Lucerne / Luzern

      Regards,
      jags

       
Lauri says:

Where did you suggest is best to visit Switzerland for a short trip out of Italy? We are going into Venice and out ofmilan for a 14 day trip but we really would like to Switzerland while there! We are staying in lake como for a few days in between. Thank you!! My hunt really wants to see the alps!!

 

    Lauri,

    From the Milan area, the entry point into Switzerland is the mountain town of Lugano. You can get there by train from Como town (at the south end of Lake Como, or by bus from the western shores near the middle of the lake. Lugano is a larger town but otherwise not much different from the small towns on Como, so it’s probably worth pushing on into Switzerland from there. You can get to Lucerne by train in about 2.5 hours from Lugano, or to Interlaken in a bit over 4 hours. In fact, the train from Lugano to Interlaken is one of Switzerland’s named “scenic” train routes, known as the Wilhelm Tell Express.

    So it really depends on how much time in Switzerland you have. If you have only one night you might want to take the train to Lucerne and back, or if you have two nights you might go all the way to Interlaken, which has the best Alps views and activities. As always, let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
sandesh says:

Hi Roger, I am visiting Paris in December 2016 during Christmas on visitor’s visa. I am staying in my friends place for about 7-8 days. I would like to travel near by neighboring countries to Paris. My first preference is Switzerland.I do have max 2 days plan to Switzerland, Which would be the best places for me to go that includes skying, cable car, covering exotic places.

 

    Sandesh,

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record in these comments, if you have two days in Switzerland and want to see the most dramatic scenery all in one place, you should head to the Interlaken area (as described in the article above). Take the cable car in Lauterbrunnen up to Gimmelwald for the scenery, or one stop higher into the town of Murren, which has a large and reliable ski resort with 13 lifts right in its center.

    The train from Paris to Interlaken Ost train station is 5 hours and 5 minutes, and the scenery once you get into Switzerland is incredible. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Harvey says:

Hi Roger! Thanks so much for this article – it really helped narrow down our trip to Switzerland. I will be travelling there with my wife on our honeymoon at the beginning of September, and wanted to get some insight on our drafted itinerary.

Right now, it looks like this:

Day 1: Fly into Zurich (arrive 9:30AM), head straight to Lucerne
Day 2: Lucerne
Day 3: Head to Interlaken (do Lauterbrunnen-Schilthorn from here)
Day 4: Day trip to Gimmelwald from Interlaken
Day 5: Day trip to Murren from Interlaken
Day 6: Head to Bern to stay for 1 night
Day 7: Leave Bern to Geneva Airport to fly out

Do you think the above itinerary would be a good idea? Right now we are using Interlaken as our base to go to Schilthorn, Gimmelwald, and Murren. Should we instead use Murren as a base?

I’m also wondering if we should keep the 2 nights in Lucerne, or do 1 night and spend the 2nd somewhere else.

We are a young active couple and are hoping to keep ourselves entertained from day until night (keep it lively and not get bored).

Thank you!

 

    Harvey,

    I’m always happy to hear that this helps. I think your itinerary looks quite good, although I do have a suggestion or two. Gimmelwald is a tiny village that literally consists of about 40 farms, 10 guesthouses, and a couple of shops so tiny that no one works in them (they are “honor stores” where you take what you want and leave the money). The path that runs through town is about 300 meters and then doubles back up the hill a bit for about 300 meters in the other direction. So you can literally tour the entire village in under 30 minutes. Still, it’s an amazing place to spend at least one night because that’s all there is to it, aside from some of the finest mountain views in the world.

    Murren is literally 50 times larger, but it’s also very quaint and car-free. It has dozens of guesthouses and hotels, and a proper little downtown, as well as ski lifts (there won’t be snow at that altitude in September though). If you want to see both towns you can take the cable car up from Lauterbrunnen up two stops and you’ll be in Murren. You can walk around there for an hour or two, and then walk down the path about 15 minutes and it goes straight through Gimmelwald, where you can take the cable car back down one stop to the valley floor. So again, I’d recommend at least one night in one of those towns, but if you just want to see them, you can do both in a few hours. And Schilthorn is at the top of that series of cable cars, so it’s best to actually take the cable car all the way to the top and spend an hour or two there, and then take the cable car a couple stops back down to Murren, and then walk to Gimmelwald for the ride back down (or stay the night there).

    There are also many other excellent sights and hikes and such in that area, and the weather in September should be nice enough to enjoy any of them. Lucerne is really nice, but I do think that one night there should be enough if you can spend 3 nights in the Interlaken area. As long as you do some research of the various scenery and attraction options, you’ll love it and won’t get bored. I highly suggest getting Rick Steves’ Switzerland guide, as he describes all of this and the best options in great detail. It’ll be the best US$10 or US$20 you spend on this trip. It also gives you the best suggestions for Lucerne and Bern as well.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      jags says:

      Thanks Roger for elaborated information.

      I am bit confuse in choosing my base. Should I keep my base at Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen? Also, I just wanted to highlight that I am travelling my with son. I hope, there would not be any challenge in taking his pram / stroller everywhere during the trip.

       

        jags,

        For the nights that I wasn’t up in Gimmelwald or Murren, I’d base myself in Interlaken. Lauterbrunnen is a small town that happens to be the transit hub of many sights in that area, but there isn’t much there really. Also, Lauterbrunnen is only a 15-minute train ride from the Interlaken Ost (east) train station, leaving every 30 minutes. The other decision will be where to stay in Interlaken. There are clusters of hotels near both train stations, and the West station has more hotels and restaurants and such, but the Ost station is the one where the Lauterbrunnen train leaves from. Fortunately, if you are staying at any hotel or hostel in Interlaken, you automatically get a card good for free public transport in the city, and that includes rides between the two train stations. And all trains stop at both stations, so you can get on any train going in your direction and it will stop at the other one. I stayed near the West station, and liked that area and the more food options. And the most historic part of the town is close to the West station as well.

        Switzerland is extremely professional and well organized with its trains and buses and everything else, so I think you’ll always be fine with the pram, and that includes the cable cars. Have a great trip. -Roger

         
Hamid Merchant says:

Hi Roger, We are 2 adult and a 11 yrs.Here is itinerary should we get swiss pass or half pass Please advise. 13 July train from Paris to Basel and on to Murren maybe go to Almendhubeghts 14 July start early Schilthorn – Stechelberg Falls – Trummelbach Falls – Lauterbrunnen valley – Staubach Falls- Wengen – Mannlichen – Kleine Scheidegg – Mürren on 15th July train to Ballenberg Museum and on to Lucern Gletschergarten Museum. 16 July start early Swiss Museum of Transport Boat to Vitznau – Rigi Kulm – Rigi Kaltbad – Weggis – Lucerne on 17th July train to Geneva. Is this doable. Please suggest.

 

    Hamid,

    Your trip looks really well planned out, but also quite busy. I think you could probably do all of that, though you might be rushing around a bit to do it. It’s hard to say whether it’s worth keeping up such a good pace to see it all, and I guess it depends on the traveler.

    As for the Swiss Pass, I find them very confusing myself, and also quite expensive. My general hunch is that they are not good value for most people, unless you are really planning on traveling a lot and seeing many museums and such in a short time. However, it looks like you are planning exactly that, so it could be good value.

    I’m not sure if you’ve scanned the comments above, but I seem to get this Swiss Pass question a lot, and so far I haven’t had a good answer. I think I now have to spend a few hours researching this and writing a proper article running the numbers so I can make confident recommendations. I should be able to do that within a week or so, and I’ll link that article to this one. Sorry I couldn’t give you a more conclusive answer just yet. -Roger

     
      Hamid Merchant says:

      Thanks Roger.
      You are right my plan is too tight I will play by ear and skip some places. (Any suggestion what we should skip ).

      Regarding the Swiss pass its so confusing that i did the spreadsheet for both Swiss pass and half pass but still confused because lot of places i am not sure if its covered for discount and seems everyone else has the same issue. Maybe i will just get half pass for now to get 11 yrs old free.
      Hamid

       

        Hamid,

        I’ve been to most, but not all of the places on your list, and you’ll have time to see many of them for sure. For example, Stechelberg Falls can be seen clearly while on the short bus ride from the Lauterbrunnen train station to the bottom of the cable car up to Schilthorn. If you look out the right side of the bus, you’ll get a good look and can probably take a decent photo. And Wengen is a nice little town that you can see as you get off the train in one area and walk through town to the cable car stop that takes you up the mountain there for excellent scenery and hiking.

        So really, I’d just focus on the big things like Schilthorn and/or Jungfraujoch, and you’ll end up seeing many of the smaller things on the way without even really trying. You’ll love it. -Roger

         
          Hamid says:

          Thanks Roger. you are the greatest.
          We all will anxiously wait for your write up on a proper article in details about Swiss pass in coming week to make proper decision. Thanks again.

          Hamid

           
Aida says:

Hello Roger,

Thank you for the all the information which is really helpful.

I’m planning to visit only interlaken for 5 days in August and wanted to seek your advice on the below please:

– Do you think 5 days is quite too much to spend in Interlaken only keeping in mind I will do hiking twice during the trip (each time on a separate day)?. Unwinding and hiking are actually my main objectives of the trip and I would like to avoid the cities atmosphere.
– I will be arriving Zurich in the evening by probably 8:00 p.m. In this case, do you still suggest I go to Interlaken by train or probably by car since I will miss all the scenery on my way to Interlaken?
– I will be travelling by myself. Do you suggest I get myself a private tour guide? If yes, what tour guides do you recommend?
What other activities do you recommend in Interlaken?

Many thanks.

 

    Aida,

    Interlaken is packed with sights and activities and hikes, and it’s also very relaxing, so I think 5 days there sounds wonderful. I think the reason that most people move through so quickly is that it’s so expensive, or at least it is if you are going Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn and such. Those are both great, by the way.

    Arriving in Zurich near sunset is indeed a bit tricky. The hotels there are so expensive that I wouldn’t recommend staying there just because you would miss the scenery on any train ride. Seriously, a basic room in Zurich will start at around US$200/night, and that same room would be around US$120 in Interlaken. I don’t think I’d recommend renting a car for one person because it’s almost certain to cost more than the trains you’d take, which go everywhere you want to go. But if you do rent a car, at least Interlaken is a pretty good place because some of the hotels have free parking. Also, the Zurich Airport is on the main train line, so you can go straight from there to Interlaken without having to even go into Zurich.

    As for the scenery from Zurich, the first half is not much to look at, and it gets really good as you get closer to Interlaken. But if you’ll be spending 5 days in Interlaken anyway, you’d have forgotten that train scenery, as the main sights are just off the charts.

    My guess is that a private guide would cost a fortune there. If you can afford it, it would be enjoyable, I’m sure. But really my best recommendation is to buy the current edition of the Rick Steves Switzerland guidebook, in print or digital. He explains all of the worthwhile sights and hikes and attractions in a concise manner. If you follow his advice, you’ll have an excellent trip for a relatively modest price.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Aida says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks for your reply.

      I’m actually not planning to stay in Zurich especially if the scenery is not worth it. My flight back home is in the afternoon so I might get a train ride to the airport if needed.

      As for the private tour guide, thank you for the recommendation!

      I’m just now not sure whether to be there for the last week of August or the 1st week of September since the rainy weather starts in September as I heard and which might make my hiking plan not work out.

      Thanks again. You’ve been a great help.

       
        Aida says:

        Hi again Roger,

        Would it be possible to share with me some tips on how to find a local tour guide in Interlaken, especially those who are good at hiking.

        Thank you.

         

          Aida,

          I wish I could help you with this one, but I have no experience in finding local, private guides. I’d just Google “Interlaken tour guide” and I’m sure there will be many results. Good luck. -Roger

           
Debbie D says:

HI – I really enjoyed this information. My adult son and I are starting to plan a trip to Europe in 2018, spending 3 days in Switzerland. My plan is to fly in from Vienna to Zurich and then take the train to Interlaken. I’m thinking of making Interlaken our base and then taking the trip by train further to Schilthorn for a day trip. We are planning on May – what do you think?

 

    Debbie D,

    Happy to hear that. Yes, that plan sounds ideal. However, as I’ve mentioned quite a few times, I highly recommend spending 1 or 2 nights in Gimmelwald, or in Murren, as mentioned in the article above. Both of those towns (Gimmelwald is really a tiny village) are part of the way up the cable car that goes to Schilthorn, so it’s actually slightly cheaper to start from there. Also, Schilthorn can be moody with cloud cover and such, so it’s best to have a look at the weather on top just before you go, and then head up quickly when it’s sunny. From Gimmelwald you are less than an hour from the top, while from Interlaken itself it takes about 2 hours.

    The weather in May should be almost perfect, but still chilly up in the mountains. You can stay the other 1 or 2 nights in Interlaken itself, near one of the train stations, and that will give you the ability to get anywhere else in the region quickly. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Arindam Pal says:

Hello Roger, First of all r right article just what I needed to get started! I am from India and I am planning a Honeymoon trip from 12-17 August 2016 in Europe. I am planing to cover Paris and Switzerland only. I need your advice in deciding as to how many days I should spend at each location and which location to visit in Switzerland as I am tight on time & budget both.
Many Thanks!

 

    Arindam,

    Always happy to help. It’s a shame you don’t have 6 days for this trip, but if you only have 5 I’d do 3 nights in Paris and 2 nights in the Interlaken area. Have a close look at the article above, and you’ll see my suggestion for staying in Gimmelwald or Murren, which will give you the most amazing Switzerland Alps experience in the shortest time. If you require vegetarian food, it’s probably easy to get that in Murren compared to Gimmelwald, which is tiny with only a few restaurants. But even if you stay in Murren, have a walk down the path to Gimmelwald while you are there.

    The city of Interlaken is quite popular with Indian tourists, so you’ll find a wide selection of veg and other familiar options there. The same is true in Paris, of course.

    Especially on a honeymoon (congrats, by the way), Paris is not a place you want to rush through. Even with only 2 full days (and 2 partial days), it will be tough to see even half of the wonderful and romantic things there. Fortunately, the best part of Switzerland in the Interlaken area is quite compact, so in two days there you’ll feel like you’ve seen what you’ve come for. Have a great trip, and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
mary beverly says:

Hello again…
I will be arriving in Zurich on Monday at 1:40pm and will be staying in Murren for two days and then heading back to Zurich to Berlin…I have a carry on and one large suitcase 🙁 Will I be able to take that on the cable car up to the Hotel in Murren? I have looked at some of the door to door luggage services and thought I could register 48 hours in advance but have learned it needed to be 7 days in advance…any suggestions?

 

    Mary,

    The cable cars going up to Murren (and further to Schilthorn) are simply empty boxes with standing room for about 80 people each. They are the primary source of transport for all the tourists and most of the residents of the area, so they are often used for carrying cargo of all kinds. In other words, you’ll have no problem boarding with your suitcases, and having them sit at your feet. The first leg is only 5 minutes up to Gimmelwald, and then you walk 5 meters across the platform to the next cable car waiting for you, which leaves for Murren after everyone is on board.

    Even the free bus that takes you from the Lauterbrunnen train station to the cable car station in Stechelberg has plenty of space for luggage, as it’s also used to carry cargo for locals and all belongings of visitors. It’s a lot easier than you might think once you get there. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
jags says:

Roger,

Though I have 8-9 days, I could prepare the following itinerary for only 6 days. Could you confirm if it is fine? Also suggest if I can cover more in 8 days.

Day 1 – Zurich – Head streight to Interlaken
Day 1 – Interlaken – Stay in Interlaken & roam around the city
Day 2 – Lauterbrunnen – Stay in Interlaken & travel to Lauterbrunnen-Schilthorn from here
Day 3 – Jungfraujoch – Stay in Interlaken & do Jungfraujoch from here
Day 4 – Transit – Move to Gimmelwald from Interlaken
Day 4 – Gimmelwald & Mürren – Stay in Gimmelwald and do Gimmelwald & Mürren
Day 5 – Transit – Travel to Lucerne / Luzern via Interlaken
Day 5 – Lucerne / Luzern – Stay in Lucerne / Luzern and roam around the city
Day 6 – Transit – Travel to Zurick Airport to fly back to Finland

Regards,
jags

 

    jags,

    If you are primarily interested in the scenery and specifically the scenery near Interlaken and Lucerne, then I agree that 6 day should be plenty. For one thing, your 2nd and 3rd days in the Interlaken area will be magical, but your 4th or 5th day would be less magical because it does get to look a bit similar after a while. And as mentioned in the article above, if you want to spend a day or so in one of Switzerland’s cities, then a day and night in Bern is very worthwhile.

    As for your itinerary here, it looks pretty good, but you can actually combine a few of these things and free up more time. Specifically, the Schilthorn observation deck takes about an hour to reach from the valley floor near Lauterbrunnen, on a series of cable cars. If the weather at the top is clear in the morning, you could take the cable cars up there and spend maybe an hour or so (there is an included James Bond attraction in the basement of the structure, and it’s worth a look, but after 90 minutes up there you’ll be more than ready to go back down).

    On your way down the cable cars, the second to last stop before the bottom is Murren. You could get off there and spend an hour or two walking around the town, and then another 30 minutes walking down to Gimmelwald, which is the next stop down on the cable car. It’s a really lovely walk and I’d recommend it for everyone if the weather is decent. Once you reach Gimmelwald, you can literally walk the entire town in 10 minutes or less. At that point you could climb on the cable car and in 5 minutes (departures every 30 minutes) you are back on the valley floor.

    Now, I’m one of many people who highly recommends spending a night or two in Gimmelwald or Murren because it’s just such a stunning place to wake up and hike around a bit. Gimmelwald in particular is this tiny village of farms and a few hotels and guesthouses, with no roads or cars (although some farmers do have little carts that drive along the main path as they work). It’s this heavenly and gorgeous place to stay that you’ll never forget. But again, it’s better if the weather is clear, which isn’t always the case.

    So with that in mind, you could combine Schilthorn and Murren and Gimmelwald into no more than 36 hours, or perhaps 48 hours altogether. That said, there are dozens of other scenic hikes and places to visit in and around the Interlaken area, not to mention all of the adventure activities on offer. You can and should use the rest of the time in that area to visit a few more places and do a few scenic hikes. Once you research it a bit, you’ll find endless options.

    I think one day in Lucerne is very worthwhile and should be enjoyable as well. You might even do two days if you have the time. The city itself is really lovely, and the key activity there is to take the boat out on the lake that stops in all of the local villages before coming back to Lucerne. You can get off at any of them, and walk around those little towns and do some other hikes and whatnot, and then get on the next boat coming by like a ferry. Mount Rigi is reached from one of those stops.

    And the last thing to mention when discussing Switzerland is that some things are shockingly expensive. Coming from Finland it might not be as shocking for you as for many other people, but still Switzerland is not a place to try to visit on a typical backpacker budget.

    Let me know if you have any other questions, and I’m sure you’ll love it. -Roger

     
Arindam Pal says:

Hello Roger,
Thanks for the reply! I have booked the flight to Paris and hotel and exit from Zurich back to India.
I need your suggestions as to where to stay in Interlaken.

 

    Arindam,

    Very good to hear and I’m sure you’ll have a great trip. It’s hard to recommend a specific hotel in a city like Interlaken with so many of them, and without knowing your budget. But in general, I find that the most convenient location is somewhere within a short walk of the Interlaken Ost train station. Just check booking.com and find a place with good reviews that is within your price range. -Roger

     
Padma says:

Hi Roger,
Your article was very informative, i would be visiting Switzerland with my husband and 12 yr old daughter for the first time from Singapore (26th nov 2016 to 6 th dec). We do not ski . We are more interested in sightseeing , would like to see a lot of snow ,kindly suggest the places that we can visit during 10 days, our entry and exit to switzerland would be from Geneva airport.
Thanks in advance.

 

    Padma,

    One sort of tricky thing about this is that the snow season in Switzerland can be tough to predict, depending on your altitude. There is snow all year long at the highest peaks, including up at the Jungfraujoch train station, so you can definitely spend some time in the snow while you are there. However, in the towns with hotels and tourist infrastructure such as Murren, Gimmelwald, Grindelwald, and Wengen, there might be snow in late November, or maybe not. You probably won’t know until about a week in advance.

    Another good option to consider is St. Moritz, which is mostly known as a ski area, but there are many more things to do there and it’s at a higher elevation so there is greater chance of snow while you are there.

    Since you have 10 days I’d recommend spending at least 4 or 5 of those days in the Interlaken area, as discussed in the article above. You could also plan some time in St. Moritz, or even Zermatt (another ski town with the Matterhorn behind it). I’d also recommend at least 2 or 3 days in the Lucerne area, which is quite different from the others. There are several nearby mountaintops that you can reach by cogwheel train or cable car, and some of those should have snow while you are there as well.

    It’s a quiet time of year for tourism in Switzerland in late November, so there will be plenty of hotel vacancies. In fact, in some smaller towns like Gimmelwald, many of the hotels close from mid October to mid December. Still, it should be pretty easy to get hotel reservations with no notice, so you might want to keep your trip flexible and then just go where the snow is and where you feel like. -Roger

     
Mohamed says:

Hello Roger,
Thanks for all the info and tips above.

will be visiting switzerland by mid July with family (4 adults + 7 kids) coming from Paris to Geneva by train. Interested more in the outdoors than big cities. we are on a tight budget, but wish to make the most out of our three day stay (two nights) in Interlaken and Lucerne.
Your feedback on where to stay and what to do with kids in both places is much appreciated.
Thank you.
Mohamed

 

    Mohamed,

    I’m happy that this information seems useful. Two nights is quite a short visit to include both Interlaken and Lucerne, so I’d probably recommend saving Lucerne for a future trip. It’s lovely, but Interlaken has the dramatic Alps views that you can’t see anywhere else.

    And actually, the article above already pretty much answers your questions. I recommend staying in Gimmelwald or Murren, and also doing the Schilthorn cable car and/or the Jungfraujoch rail trip. There are many other hikes and sights in that area, and you could easily stay busy for a full week without getting bored. And as long as the children are able to walk around on their own, they will probably really enjoy it. There are long hikes and short hikes and cable cars to viewing areas that require little or no walking, so it will be easy to find suitable activities.

    With a group that large I think you might be best off looking for an airbnb or other vacation rental. Hotels in Switzerland are fairly expensive, so one 4 or 5-bedroom house would probably be much cheaper than 4 or 5 individual rooms. It might be easier to find a house rental in the town of Interlaken, but you might also find one in Murren or even Lauterbrunnen. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Sunita Sri says:

      Hello Roger,
      It’s nice to see you patiently replying to everyone! 🙂
      I have some queries too.

      We are planning a 10 day trip to Switzerland and below is our rough plan:-
      Day 1: Arrive at Zurich at night and transfer to Lucerne to check in to hotel.

      Day 2: Mt Rigi in the morning and then Lucerne local tour. We are planning to take the short boat
      cruise on the way to Mt Rigi. There is also a 1-hour panoramic cruise in Lucerne. Do you recommend taking this or the boat cruise during
      Mt Rigi will cover the scenic part of the lake?

      Day 3: Mt. Titlis excursion.

      Day 4: Lucerne to Lugano. Can you suggest any good attraction to see in Lugano in half a day?

      Day 5: We take the Bernina Express and reach St Moritz. Any specific places that we shouldn’t miss seeing in St Moritz in the evening?

      Day 6: We take the Glacier Express and reach Zermatt.

      Day 7: We visit the Matterhorn. Can we cover Gornegrat on the same day? Which excursion do you recommend – Matterhorn or
      Gornergrat? Any other attraction that we should cover in Zermatt?

      Day 8: Reach Interlaken and cover Trummelbach falls in the evening. Is it better to cover in evening or morning?
      What about Lake Brienz and Lake Thun cruise? Do you recommend either?

      Day 9: Jungfraujoch excursion.

      Day 10: Checkout from Interlaken and leave for Zurich. Is there anything in Interlaken which we shouldnt miss? Then we can cover it after checking out. Saw something called Schnige
      Platte.Should we go here or is there some nicer place which we can visit?

      Day 11: Planning to go to Rhine Falls. When would you recommend going here? morning or evening? Any other attraction in the Zurich area
      which we shouldn’t miss?

      Thanks,
      Sunita

       

        Sunita,

        Your plan looks very well thought out, and by the time you have finished this trip you will be more of a Switzerland expert than me. To be honest, I haven’t been to several of the places on your list, so much of my advice would just be based on all the research I’ve done on those places, and advice from other travelers who have been there. I’ll answer what I can, and you might need to buy a guide book for some of the rest.

        From Lucerne, the lake tour boats all start out in the same direction, and the longer ones go farther and make more stops. Mount Rigi is reached from the Vitznau stop, which is on the 2-hour cruises, and perhaps some of the shorter ones. In other words, if you get to Vitznau, you’ll have already done more than the 1-hour cruise.

        I haven’t stopped in Lugano, although I’ve spent time in nearby Lake Como. From what I understand, Lugano has a charming historic town center and a nice location along the lake, so I think you’ll mainly just want to stroll around.

        St. Moritz is mostly known as a ski resort area rather than a sightseeing area like Interlaken or Lucerne. It is a really beautiful area though, and sightseers do go there and enjoy it. I just don’t know the specifics.

        As far as Zermatt and Gornegrat are concerned, it’s a similar situation. The Matterhorn is near Zermatt and it’s obviously very famous, but the area is mostly a ski resort area, and I haven’t been there since my youth.

        When you take the bus from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg for the cable car up to Schilthorn, you pass right by the Trummelbach falls. I’ve done that bus several times and you get a great view without even stopping, but I haven’t stopped there. I think I’d do it during the day if I were you.

        As far as Lake Brienz and Lake Thun cruises, I haven’t done either, and I think you should decide once you get there. It’s hard to imagine until you are actually there, but the whole area is just so dramatic and gorgeous that you can get great views from the trains or even just standing in the middle of Interlaken. As a result, you might not feel the need for a lake cruise, but if you do I’m sure you can book it on the spot.

        As far as other recommendations, I put my best ones in the article above. If you can spend at least one night in Gimmelwald you won’t regret it. Or at least spend an hour or two in the village if the weather is nice. Aside from that, you’ll find that each thing is more amazing than the next. I think planning like you are doing is really great, and it will help you see the best things. But even if you just wander around and see the things that interest you at the moment, you’ll have a great time with no stress. -Roger

         
      Mohamed says:

      Roger,
      Thanks so much for your input and advice. I thought that three days might be enough for both Interlaken and Lucerne based on your advice earlier above. However, as you just mentioned here, we probably need to focus on just one place to make the most of our stay.
      Will definitely take your feedback into consideration in my holiday plan. Do I need to book the house in advance or just walk in and book on arrival? if so is there a booking site that you particularly recommend apart from booking.com?
      Thank you.

       

        Mohamed,

        If you want to book a rental house you’ll definitely want to arrange it in advance. And the same goes with several hotel rooms, because you wouldn’t want to risk not getting a desirable place for that many people. It’s probably easiest to find a rental on airbnb.com, although there are many other companies that do it including vrbo.com. You can also just Google “house rentals Interlaken” and you’ll see some popular sites to choose from. Best of luck with this. -Roger

         
          Mohamed says:

          Roger,

          Thanks again for your advice and suggestions. I’ve checked the sites you suggested but could not find anything on my dates and with my number of travellers. The best I could find so far is one family suite and one family room for two nights in Hotel und Restaurant Stechelberg on booking.com for CHF 1190, including breakfast and free cancellation before July 9. Your feedback on the location is much appreciated.
          Best regard,
          Mohamed

           

          Mohamed,

          The location of the Hotel und Restaurant Stechelberg is excellent, as it appears to be less than a 10-minute walk (along a gorgeous country road) to the cable car station below Gimmelwald. It sounds a bit expensive, but for such a large group in Switzerland, that is probably about right. I would be happy to stay there on my next trip, so I think it’s a good choice for you. Have a great trip. -Roger

           
Mohamed says:

Hi Roger,

I had to cancel my booking in Stechelberg and opted for another hotel in Wengen, which I believe offers better views of the Alps and is closer to the Jungfrau rail network. I hope it is a better choice though it’s a bit more expensive than the first. However, it’s the best rate I could find given the large number of travellers and tight schedule. I will certainly allow for some time to visit Schilthorn on the other side as you advised in your article above. Do you think we should need a 3-day Swiss travel pass? with that we can get 50% discount on the Jungfrau network and a similar discount to Schilthorn, I guess. Besides, all kids should be able to travel for free. Are there any particular scenic routes and panoramic trains you would recommend during our short stay?
Thanks again for your time.
Best regards,
Mohamed

 

    Mohamed,

    That sounds like a good plan. Wengen is yet another lovely little town that feels like you are walking through a postcard.

    I keep getting so many questions about the confusing Swiss Travel Pass that I finally did all the research and wrote a Swiss Travel Pass review. The short version is that if you plan to take at least 2 of the expensive scenic trains, the pass will probably pay for itself. For me, pretty much all train rides in and through Switzerland are very scenic, so if you just travel between the places you want to visit you’ll love it. But if you want to spend a day or two on a train seeing a lot in a short time, those specific scenic train rides are all excellent. -Roger

     
Mohamed says:

Roger,

Thanks so much for your input and advice, much appreciated.
Just a quick question. Is it worth doing a Jungfrau trip after Schilthorn and if yes, is a half-day trip from 9am to 3pm enough to enjoy all it has to offer with the kids?
Thank you.
Best regards,
Mohamed

 

    Mohamed,

    Schilthorn and Jungfraujoch are very different experiences, both with amazing scenery. If you have time and the budget to do both, I think you should do it. Schilthorn can be done in about 3 hours from Lauterbrunnen and back, while Jungfraujoch takes about 6 hours there and back. The kids should love both of them, but they are quite expensive, as you’ve probably noticed already. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Shilpa says:

Hello Roger , I am very impressed with your great advices above and request your help in planning my itinerary. Me and my husband are visiting together with our parents (60+) and a son (3year) .we will be visiting in August for 8 days . Could you suggest if Lauterbrunnen is a good option to stay considering parents won’t be able to walk much esp after full day trips . We would like to do jungfrau , Lucerne ,, Interlaken,, bern .

 

    Shilpa,

    Lauterbrunnen would be a good place to stay to minimize extra walking, as long as you book a place close to the train station there. But it’s a tiny town and I don’t think I’d want to stay more than 2 or 3 nights there. For a longer stay I’d probably want to stay at least part of the time in Interlaken itself. There are quite a few hotels within a short walk of both train stations, and all trains stop at both stations. The hotels here also come with a card good for free public transportation in Interlaken during your stay, and that includes rides between the train stations.

    Lauterbrunnen is a good hub for your trips to Gimmelwald, Murren, and Schilthorn, and to Wengen for the Jungfraujoch. But there are other views and activities in the Interlaken area, and Lauterbrunnen is a bit inconvenient for some of them. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Shilpa says:

      Dear Roger,

      Many thanks for your valuable and practical advice.

      I will search for apartments in Interlaken 🙂

      Best wishes and thanks again !

      Regards
      Shilpa

       
Cristiana says:

Dear Roger,

We will be vacationing in Italy (north of Venice) and driving through Switzerland. We’ll take the first day and drive possible toward St Moritz and based on your suggestions make our way to Interlaken. If we stay in Murren – can we park the car(s) at the train station? I’d assume we could – we have 4 adults, 2 seniors and 2 children – as much as we’d love to REALLY hike, it’s more the scenery for this crew. (short hikes would work) What would you suggest coming from N. Italy with a night stop before a 2N stay in Murren (or that area) and one more stop (with a night) before we head back to Italy? Appreciate any advice you have – it seems most sights talk about train travel, but my husband wants to the driving experience through the alps and across the country. Thank you!

Sorry – forgot to mention we are traveling mid August.

 

    Cristiana,

    I haven’t driven around Interlaken myself, but it’s a very spread-out area so reasonably priced parking should be easy. Your best bet would probably be in or near the parking lot for the cable car in Stechelberg, which goes up to Gimmelwald and Murren. I definitely remember a parking lot there, and wide open spaces on either side. The train station in Lauterbrunnen is in the center of the little town, and the train station in Interlaken is also in its center. I’m sure there is parking available at both, but not sure how much it costs. Many people drive around Switzerland, so it should be easy and not too expensive.

    It would be tough for me to recommend a town in particular on your way to Interlaken to stop at for the night with a car. I’m mostly familiar with the cities and towns along the train lines, and you’d probably want to avoid most of those. In other words, with your own wheels, you’ll be able to stop in one of the towns where the train doesn’t go, which will also mean modest hotel prices and free parking. So I can’t recommend one town in particular, but I can say that you’ll have many great choices, and it’s all very scenic and pleasant through that whole area. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
      Cristiana says:

      Thanks Roger. Good to know! I think we are narrowing it down a bit more – decided to stay in the Interlaken area…two night around/in Lusanne and two night in Murren. Drive via the dolomite’s to Interlaken – really get to know that area and drive back to Italy. Should be a scenic drive/vacation all around!

       
Jenny says:

Dear Roger,
We are visiting Switzerland and Italy in August.We are planning to buy the Eurail pass enabling us to travel in and out of these countries.We understand that we can enjoy discounts at several sightseeing areas in both countries. My question is would we be allowed to use it in the trains going to the scenic villages and mountains or would we have to still buy the Swiss rail pass for that.Please advise.Thank you so much

 

    Jenny,

    Eurail Passes are good for all of the normal trains in Switzerland, including on all of the main “scenic trains.” However, Eurail Passes are not accepted on the special tourist trains such as Jungfraujoch or the cogwheel trains to observation points. For those the Eurail Pass entitles you to a 25% discount in most cases, and you don’t even have to use a Eurail Pass day in order to get the discount. The discounts are also available on the Schilthorn cable car, and many of the others.

    The Swiss Travel Pass is quite confusing so I put together a long article that discusses what the Swiss Pass covers and what it doesn’t. That should help you decide whether you want it, as I list all of the prices with or without the pass. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Karan says:

Hi,

I would be travelling in the month of August for 5 nights in Switzerland. I have taken a 4 day swiss pass which will be activated from Day-2 of my trip.
I have booked hotel in lucerne for 3 nights since I want one place to be taken as base for my day trips to alps/towns to avoid checkin and checkout from hotel, 1 night hotel booked in zermatt and 1 night hotel in zurich for my return flight back home.

Here is my itinerary:-

Day 1 – Arrive from paris to lucerne via basel by TGV train by evening and spend time in lucerne seeing it’s sights and all
Day 2 – Travel to day trip to Mount titlis and when returning back travel to bern night life and then return back to hotel in lucerne for stay
Day 3 – Explore Lauterbrunen / Wengen / Murren area for day trip OR do some paragliding activities OR visit Mount Rigi and then return back to hotel in lucerne for stay
Day 4 – Take a train from lucerne to Zermatt and visit Matterhorn and then return back to hotel in Zermatt for stay
Day 5 – In morning explore some sights in zermatt and take train back to zurich to visit rhine falls in zurich and night stay in zurich hotel for next day return flight for home

Does my itinerary looks good or i need to make some modifications? Open for suggestions.
Should I make lucerne as base or basel – I am asking for basel because of cheap hotel rates since I want to spend less on hotels and more on travel?

PLease suggest.

 

    Karan,

    I think your itinerary looks fantastic. I wouldn’t have recommended basing yourself in Lucerne for that long, except that with the Swiss Travel Pass you’ll be able to go everywhere by train at no additional cost. And what they say is true about the punctuality of Swiss trains, so you probably won’t waste any time waiting for late trains and such.

    The Lauterbrunnen, Gimmelwald, Murren area is amazing so I’d recommend going there, but paragliding would be epic as well so it’s hard to decide.

    Basel is a large and rather generic city, so I wouldn’t recommend staying there at all. Lucerne, on the other hand, is gorgeous and lovely, so it’s worth paying more to stay there. If you are open to other options I’d consider staying near one of Interlaken’s train stations. It’s a smaller town and it’s very pleasant, as well as very central to the main attractions. But overall, your plan looks great. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Roger Albertson says:

Hi Roger, I’m so glad I came across your article! I was planning on a day or two each in Geneva and Zurich. . .

I have six full days that I’m balancing with Interlaken and Lucerne.

1. I arrive in Geneva at 5:10 pm – is that a bit late to get to Gimmelwald/Murren? The first night, I’m considering going to Bern, Luasanne, or Interlaken. What would you suggest?

2. Then I have three nights in the Interlaken area. I have the option of a secluded hotel in Stechelberg or an AirBnb in Gimmelwald. Stechelberg is slightly cheaper with a free breakfast and a late 12pm late check-out – allowing a full morning. Yet, Gimmelwald has a better community atmosphere.

3. Then, it’s off to Lucerne for the last three nights.

I’m debating whether to try and get to Interlaken late the first night or stay in Bern. And, whether three nights in Stechelberg/Gimmelwald is too much.

 

    Roger,

    I’m glad you found this article too then. You’ll be much happier in Interlaken and Lucerne than in Geneva and Zurich.

    1. The trains and even cable cars to Gimmelwald and Murren do run well into the evening, so you could actually get there. But they are far more spectacular during the day. I’d stay the night in Bern if you want to get a look at an interesting and photogenic Swiss city. You can get to Interlaken in an hour from there the next day.

    2. Stechelberg is in a gorgeous valley with tall mountains surrounding it, and Gimmelwald is on a cliff directly above it. Gimmelwald is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in the world, and I’ve been all over. If you can stay up there, I’d highly recommend it.

    Bern is really nice and places will be open fairly late there, so I think it’s your best bet for the first night. Interlaken has a few bars and restaurants open until 11pm or so, but it’s a small and quiet town. Gimmelwald is a tiny village where the only thing open at night is the bar and restaurant at the Mountain Hostel. I’d say 1 or 2 nights in Gimmelwald is ideal, but 3 might be a bit much because there are so many other places to see. If you get to Gimmelwald before noon after staying the night in Bern, even one night would be fine. It’s an incredible place to see and sleep, but it is tiny. You could spend other nights near one of the train stations in Interlaken. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Roger Albertson says:

Update:
I decided to go straight to Interlaken. Here is my sched.

Aug. 3: Arrive Interlaken at 9pm
Aug. 4: Interlaken (day and night)
Aug. 5: Up to Stechelberg/Gimmelwald
Aug. 6: Stechelberg/Gimmelwald
Aug. 7: Stay in Stechelberg/Gimmelwald or head to Lucerne?
Aug. 8: Either half or full day in Lucerne
Aug. 9: Lucerne
Aug. 10th: Zurich Airport

My two questions are whether to stay in Stechelberg or Gimmelwald. I’m leaning toward Gimmelwald – it would have one less cable car connection when traveling around and Stechelberg is small and remote, yet it looks like it gets a lot of traffic, being the last bus/car destination.

And wether I should stay in Stechelberg/Gimmelwald an extra day – I would like to maximize the chances of good weather for Shilthorn. So. . . 3 full days in Interlaken area + 2.5 days in Lucerne or 4 full days in Interlaken and 1.5 days in Lucerne.

 

    Roger,

    I didn’t see this before answering the other one. Your plan looks good and I gave my opinions in the other one. If you have more questions, let me know. -Roger

     
Navyatha says:

Hi Roger,
We are a group of 4 travelling to Europe in October. We are reaching Switzerland on 12 October and plan to stay there for 3 days. We are considering staying in Wengen/Murren/Grindelwald for all 3 days. Which place would you recommend during this time?

Also, Snow is a must, so we are planning to go to Jungfrau top but it is turning out to be very expensive. Do you think Schilltorn will have snow at this time of the year?

 

    Navyatha,

    Wengen, Murren, and Grindelwald are all nice towns. I prefer Murren due to the dramatic views all around you because it’s more or less up on a cliff with a deep valley in front of it. The other two are larger towns with car access and all that.

    I was at the Schilthorn observation deck in October and there was some snow on the ground, and it actually started snowing while I was there. But it was nothing like you’d get up on Jungfraujoch. If being able to make snowballs and throw them at each other is a high priority, then Jungfraujoch is your best bet. The highest peaks all around you will have snow on them all year round. It’s just that the rest of the mountains generally only have reliable snow covers from December through March. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Navyatha says:

Thanks Roger for the comments! I read your earlier messages and I am very much inclined towards Schilthorn because of the views, also Schiltorn is less expensive than Jungfrau (correct me if I am wrong). Does it make more sense to go to just one of the peaks or both of them.

Also, wanted to understand which place would be better to stay in October? I read somewhere that most places / restaurants /shops shut during October In Wengen / Murren. Moreover how is Gimmelwald as an alternative to these both? Is it easy to go there by train as we will be having a lot of luggage.

Regards,
Navya

 
Navyatha says:

Can you please suggest a tentative itinerary for me in these 3 days including Schilltorn? Hiking is not one of my priorities. Want to have a relaxed holiday as this is the last stop of our trip.

 
Navyatha says:

Sorry for spreading out the messages, but we found some budget accomodation in Grindelwald. Would you recommend staying in Grindelwald and doing side trips to Wengen/ Murren or should we stay in Wengen / Murren / Gimmelwald?

 
Rachel says:

Hi Roger,
Your article and responses to people on this website is incredibly helpful! I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer questions on here and help people plan a visit to Switzerland.

My husband and I are planning a trip to Europe and are going to spend about two and half days in Switzerland (Arrive 3/28/17 and leave early morning 4/1/17). We arrive in Zurich at 2:05pm on 3/28 and plan to take the train to Interlaken right away. I understand that the train from Zurich to Interlaken is about 2 hours. Would we have time to get up to GImmelwald or Murren that night or should we stay in Interlaken and go up to Gimmelwald/Murren the next morning? How late into the night do the cable cars/buses run? We are hoping to spend at least one night in Gimmelwald or Murren.

On 3/29 we plan to spend time in Gimmelwald and Murren. Hoping that the weather is clear enough to do Shilthorn. Another question- Will it be too cold to hike in late March? My husband and I hope to do a little hiking if possible.

We also have 3/30 to spend in Interlaken/Gimmelwald area but fly out of Zurich at 7:30am the morning of 4/1. I am wondering if we need to get back to Zurich and spend the night there on 4/1 so we can get to the airport in time the next morning. Are there any other options? Do trains from Interlaken to Zurich run all night? I want to avoid spending the night in Zurich if we don’t have to avoid expensive hotels.

Whether or not we have to get back to Zurich that night would determine what we do the day of 3/30. Would you suggest another day in Gimmewald/Murren or spend it in Interlaken? What are your top recommendations for activities in Interlaken?

One more question for now- is there a way to figure out how much all these train rides will cost? We are definitely on a budget and want to prepare for the travel cost so we can plan activities.

Thank you so much!

 

    Rachel,

    Thank you for the kind words, and I’ll try to answer your questions in the order they came up…

    Believe it or not, the Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg to Gimmelwald to Murren buses and cable cars are the only local transportation for residents, so they leave every 30 minutes until 8pm and then hourly until 1am. They start again at 6am, by the way. So you’ll definitely have time to get up there that first night, but it’s a toss-up as to whether it’s the best plan.

    If your flight lands in Zurich as 2:05pm you should probably be on a train from the airport by 3pm or 3:30pm at the latest. The train from the airport all the way to Interlaken Ost station takes about 2 hours 10 minutes, so you’ll be there by 5:30pm or so. You could then be in Lauterbrunnen by train by 6:20pm, and at the Stechelberg cable car station for the 6:55pm departure, which gets you to Gimmelwald 5 minutes later, and Murren 5 minutes after that. The trains (and everything else) in Switzerland are notoriously punctual, so unless you somehow get bogged down at the airport, you’d be in Gimmelwald at exactly 7pm. Sunset that time of the year is around 6:45pm, so you’d be going up in the twilight. It would be nice, but it is nicer during the daylight. However, you’ll come down during the daylight, so going up at sunset might also be fun. Gimmelwald is extremely quiet at night, though there are a few restaurants and a bar at the Mountain Hostel (right off the cable car).

    The daytime temps in late March should be around 50F/10C, so as long as you have a jacket it should be quite nice hiking weather. It’s so wonderful up there that it’s really nice even when it’s cloudy and drizzling, but hopefully it will be clear enough for Schilthorn the following day.

    The Swiss trains don’t run all night, and the first one from Interlaken leaves at 5:20am, arriving at Zurich Airport at 7:42am, so you’ll definitely have to spend the night close to the Zurich Airport. Fortunately, there are some pretty good hotels very close to the airport with rooms around US$150 per night, so it won’t be too bad.

    You can still spend most of that day in the Interlaken area, and get to the airport as late as 11pm if you prefer. It’s a bonanza of great hikes, sights, and activities, so find a guidebook or check online and you’ll find plenty of things that interest you. The Rick Steves Switzerland guidebook is a favorite of mine.

    I’ve got many of those train prices listed on my Swiss Travel Pass review. Zurich to Interlaken is about US$50 each way in 2nd Class (the trains are very modern and nice). You can check fares on the Swiss rail website. It’s a bit confusing and they don’t sell domestic tickets until 30 days out. Sometimes they have promo fares that are half the price if you buy early. If you don’t get one of those, the domestic train tickets are the same price no matter when you buy them, so you can buy them as you go if you prefer.

    I’m sure you’ll love Switzerland and it’ll be worth the costs. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Rachel Enslin says:

      This is so incredibly helpful. Thank you! I will definitely come to you with further questions.

       
vikram says:

Hi Roger,

Your article and responses to people on this website is incredibly helpful! I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer questions on here and help people plan a visit to Switzerland.

We are from India and planing to visit Switzerland with my family in my entire Europe trip.My stay will be for max 2-3 nights only because I have my small kid (10 yrs)old and my mother 65+ years old with trip. My mother has some health issues so she cannot tolerate so much high level visits but we love to see the scenic view lake, mountain, glassier by train or cruse or short trip cogwheel trains.We planing to visit to Switzerland in month of August when i think climate should be warm. Kindly please suggest me considering the above limitation in which part i have to stay where climate sill be warm, what should be my traveling itinerary in which we can see the scenic view lake, mountain, glassier by train or cruse or short trip cogwheel trains which would be easy,less hectic to travel. My next visiting country would be ether Austria or Italy or Paris.

 

    Vikram,

    The best views in Switzerland are all at the higher altitudes, but even from the valley floors the scenery is amazing. In August it will be quite warm at lower elevations, and colder as you go up the mountains. It won’t be nearly cold enough to snow anywhere except the peaks of the highest mountains in August, so you should be fine with just a sweater or light jacket.

    Your best options are still the Interlaken area or the Lucerne area. In Interlaken you can take a train to Lauterbrunnen, and from there you can take trains to various villages and scenic areas, or the bus to where you catch the cable car up to Gimmelwald and Murren. You don’t need to walk much to visit any of these places, but the altitudes are high.

    Lucerne might be a little easier because you can spend most of your time at or near the elevation of the lake, which is about 400 meters. You can take the boat around the lake and visit the villages as you go, and take the cogwheel trains up the mountains if you feel up to it. The scenery around Lake Lucerne isn’t as dramatic as the scenery in Interlaken, but it’s still very nice, and at lower elevations. Have a great trip and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Mehul says:

Hi Roger,
We look forward to a trip to Switzerland in third week of September and since it is our first trip we will mainly visit the scenic central region ie: Lucerne, Interlaken, Jungfrau, Engelberg and may be a day trip to Zermatt.

Need your help to chose a base location where we can stay for 4-5 days and offers the following:

1) Convenient travelling- ie: frequent trains and well connected to each of the above areas of interest

2) Good to options to spend evenings in leisure – markets, boat rides etc

3) vegetarian Indian food which is not obnoxiously priced. Can’t do without it 🙂

Kindly advise.
Thanks
Mehul

 

    Mehul,

    Your best options for a home base would be Lucerne or Interlaken, but I think you want to go to Interlaken. It’s more central for what you want to see, and hotels near the two train stations should be cheaper than in Lucerne. And you’ll be happy to know that Interlaken in particular is unusually popular with Indian travelers, and there are many Indian restaurants from which to choose. And of course, with real Indians coming through all the time, they have plenty of vegetarian options.

    It’s best to stay near one of Interlaken’s two train stations. The Interlaken Ost (east) station has fewer hotels nearby, but it’s the hub for reaching Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn. Interlaken West station has more hotels and restaurants nearby, so that’s where I’d go. Also, as long as you have a hotel in Interlaken, it includes a free transit card that allows you to ride the buses in town for free. It also allows you to ride the train between the two stations, so you can get from one to the other in a few minutes. All trains stop at both stations, so there is one coming many times per hour. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
vikram says:

Hi Roger

Thanks for helpful words. can you please suggest me 2-3 day Swiss travel route if i travel from Germany to Swiss to Italy (Venice) and if i want to travel from Italy-Swiss-Provence-Paris. It should be include 1 day stay at city and 1 day travel by Panoramic train travel towards our further destination as mention above ether Italy or France (Provence).

 

    Vikram,

    I’ve only taken a few of the famous “scenic trains” around Switzerland so it’s hard for me to choose which ones you should take. However, what I can say is that virtually every kilometer of track in Switzerland is extremely scenic, and in my opinion those “scenic routes” are more of a promotional tool than anything. It’s true that some of them have special panorama carriages, and those are very nice if you reserve far enough in advance to get one of those seats. But in general, if you just go on the trains that you’ll need to get between the places in Switzerland that you want to visit, you’ll be amazed by the scenery.

    And every train that goes along and through the Alps has stunning scenery. So my advice is to decide on which places in those areas you want to visit, and then book the trains between them. In some cases you’ll have panoramic carriage options, and if you can book those early enough it will be worthwhile. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Penny says:

Hi Roger!

Thank you for the advise and tips above.
I’ll be going to Italy and Swiss (12 – 23 Sept 2016 tentatively, but may be extended till 25 Sept) and Would appreciate your comments/input for my planned itinerary.
Will be traveling on an “all girls trip” with my mum and aunt. (both in mid 50s and i’m in mid 20s)

12/09 – Arrived in Rome @2pm from Sin. (Rest to cope with Jetlag)
13/09 – Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona.
14/09 – Vatican City
15/09 – Rome to Florence
16/09 – Florence – Pisa – Cinque Terre – Florence
17/09 – Florence – Venice
18/09 – Murano & Burano
19/09 – Venice – Milan – Interlaken
20/09 – Interlaken
21/09 – Interlaken
22/09 – Lucerne
23/09 – Lucerne – Zurich – Sin

i know the itinerary seems a bit tight.
But i would like to cover as much as i can as its the ladies first time in Europe!
We are not into any museums kind, more for picture takings and more into scenic sights.

I saw many said Vatican City will take up a day, but is it possible to cover it in half day, so we can travel out of Rome earlier?
Do you think Florence should be considered to overnight at? I have heard about Florence being very charming and beautiful city, but when i look upon it on web, its more of art and museum which i believe it will not interest my 2 ladies. But then again, i thought Florence will be a good connection to Pisa and Cinque terre.
I’ve been to Venice, and it captivates me so much that i want to go again. But Venice seems out of the way to Swiss. Would you suggest to remove it or do a day trip from Florence?

I have been looking at the places i would like to go in Swiss, but i need your help on how to go about.
Firstly, where should our days in Swiss be based at? Interlaken? Preferably 1 base (or 2 the most) as we will be with 3 big luggage and moving around will be tedious.
These are the places i have in mind to go (but not restricted to):
First cliff walk by tissot, Bern, Mt titis, Schilthorn, Gimmelwald, Murren, lake cruise.
Appreciate if you could suggest the itinerary in Swiss and how to go about from places to places.
and, do you recommend us to get the Swiss Travel Pass?

I’m quite interested in doing the paragliding, and also would like my ladies to try it.
Do you think a paragliding trip could be planned in as well?

Sorry for the overload of questions! Its my first time planning for a trip and i’m really bad at it. and time are ticking so fast and i’ve nothing set at the moment.

Thank you so much Roger for your help!

 

    Penny,

    I’ll try to answer the questions in the order they came up…

    As long as you get to the Vatican City early and hopefully have a reservation so you can skip the ticket queue, you can see the highlights of Vatican City in around 4 hours. It will take you a bit of time to get in, and once you are inside you follow a one-way route through the museum, which ends shortly after that Sistine Chapel. Even though you may not like museums, this museum is amazing and is not to be missed. You can move through it pretty quickly if you like, and maybe be out in 90 minutes. After that it’s just a matter of going next door to St. Peter’s Basilica. You’ll want to look around there for maybe 30 minutes, and then you’ve done all the highlights.

    I’d definitely overnight in Florence. It is known for art and museums, but it’s also the capital of Tuscany so it’s an excellent stop for food and general culture. It’s also very visitor-friendly, which isn’t true of Pisa or Milan. If you go to Pisa from Florence it will take about 4 hours total if you want to spend about an hour near the Leaning Tower and cathedral. I really wouldn’t recommend Cinque Terre in the remaining half day, especially if it means skipping most of Florence. You’d really only have time to take the train through Cinque Terre, and maybe hop off in Vernazza for a walk around before you’d have to be on the train back to Florence. You can’t see much from the train, and Vernazza will be so crowded with other tourists that it feels like Disneyland.

    I agree that Venice is amazing, and you can enjoy it on around a 24-hour stop there. If you can work it in, I think the others would love it.

    I think your plan for 2 nights in Interlaken and 2 nights in Lucerne sounds very good. In both towns you can get a hotel within a fairly short walk of the train station, and then do your sightseeing after that. It’s actually very easy to get luggage up to Gimmelwald or Murren though, and I think it’s worth it to stay up there if you can.

    I can’t really offer more of a specific itinerary than the suggestions I make in the article above. Really, every place and view in Switzerland is just breathtaking, so you really can’t go wrong. Also, if you do Schilthorn, you can get to the top in less than 2 hours from Interlaken, or 1 hour from Gimmelwald or Murren. After Schilthorn you can stop in Murren for a walk around and then walk downhill to Gimmelwald. The views are amazing and it’s so charming you can’t believe it exists. You can be back to Interlaken after all of this in 4 or 5 total hours, so that’s only half a day.

    You hopefully noticed that I did a long review of the Swiss Travel Pass. I don’t think it would be good value for you, because it’s usually only worth it for those planning at least two of the more expensive scenic train rides.

    There are several paragliding outfits in and around Interlaken, and you’ll see them for sure. I’ve not done it, but I assume it would be easy to book when you are there.

    For Switzerland, just choose the things that pop out at you when you read about them or see the photos. It’s all incredible. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Neelam says:

Hi Roger
We have booked our resort in Haute Nendaz (as this was the centre place for Zermatt and interlaken)from 1 to 5 of Oct.We r planning to reach Geneva as it is the nearest airport from our resort.After reading your article ,I need one suggestion.Will it be fine to travel everyday to interlaken,Murren etc and back to Nendaz.or staying in interlaken for a day would be more cheaper than commuting to and fro as well as saving time to visit places near interlaken?

 

    Neelam,

    I am not familiar with Nendaz, but I looked it up just now. It doesn’t seem to be on the rail lines, and it appears that a bus from there to Interlaken takes about two hours each way. From Interlaken to Gimmelwald or Murren takes at least an hour as well, so that would be a minimum of 6 hours travel time to do it as a day trip. If you can stay at least one or two nights in Interlaken, I think it would be well worth it. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Neelam says:

Hi Roger
Greetings
great job ,answering so many people
We r reaching Geneva on 1 Oct at 3:25 pm.We had already booked a resort in Haute Nendaz from ! to 5 Oct,as we thought it would be centre point for Zermatt and Interlaken.Now after reading your article,I thought we can avoid zermatt and just see interlaken ,Lucerne,wengen…..
Now help us with a perfect itinerary so that we can cover maximum places in less time. We will be leaving on 5 at 12:35 pm from Geneva.Suggest one scenic tour also
Regads
Neelam

Now

 

    Neelam,

    One of the best things about Switzerland is that every train journey is a scenic one. There are 10 or so “scenic trains” that the tourism board promotes, and all of them are wonderful, but most of them take a whole day round-trip. Since you only have 4 days my recommendation is to just go to the places that interest you and you’ll find that the train rides will all be great. You’ll be on a few of the scenic routes as well, but you’ll only be taking parts of them. Anything near the Alps is stunning. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Kiran says:

Hi Roger
I checked all your posts and understand for short trip Interlaken and Lucerne is the best.
I will be travelling from Frankfurt(2nd sep) for 3 or 4 days trip to Switzerland. Can you suggest me how to plan my itinerary. After this trip i will leave to india. So i request you to consider this point.
If you feel, frankfurt is not a better option to reach switzerland, please suggest any other place near to frankfurt.
Will wait for your suggestions

 

    Kiran,

    If you have 4 days in Switzerland I recommend 2 or 3 in the Interlaken area and 1 or 2 in Lucerne. You can easily reach Interlaken by train from Frankfurt, but aside from that, I’m not sure what kind of advice you are looking for? -Roger

     
Ana says:

Hi,
Me and my husband (both aged 30, no kids) are traveling to Switzerland in the 2nd week of September and have kept 2 days for Interlaken. Can you please suggest us a good itinerary to travel.
What would the best places to cover.

Places I don’t want to miss are Gimmelwald, Grindelwald, Jungfrau, Mt Pilatus, Titlis, First-Bachalpsee, Lake Thun , Lake Brienz.

Can you please help me plan the order, and suggest minimum time required for each. Also, how do you think should we should commute. Shall we take Swiss Pass or Euro Rail Pass?
We are planning to stay in
Camping Lazy Rancho 4 (Lehnweg, Interlaken)

Thanks in advance!

 

    Ana,

    I’d like to help, but I wouldn’t feel confident planning your itinerary down to that level. You’ve got a good base near the west train station in Interlaken, so you can reach nearly everything on your list by rail in a short time. If you only have two days it might not be worth it to go to Grindelwald, as it’s mostly just a touristy ski town. Gimmelwald, however, is definitely worth a stop, and probably a hike down from Murren to Gimmelwald as well.

    I wouldn’t recommend a Swiss Travel Pass for you. Those are really only good value for someone wanting to do at least two of the long scenic train rides crossing the country. They are too expensive to use for the short hops you’ll be doing. The individual train tickets for those short distances aren’t too expensive, so a Eurail Pass wouldn’t be worth it either. I’m sure you’ll have a great time. -Roger

     
Gopinath says:

Hi Roger,
As this is our honeymoon trip, I require more information.we will be starting frm chennai probably by October.I wish that this trip should be a memorable one.I wish to explore more snowy and greenish places.the places I like to see Rhine falls Interlaken, Lucerne, St.mortiz and the panaromic train travel and Berlin express with few stops and the cable car ride to jungrafrunch.
I have also checked with airbnb for rooms too.we will be der for a week’s time.
Can u please help me with a itenary for my trip with a moderate budget.as we are going on our own without any travel guides.so i need information regarding the attractions along with swiss passes. I have to plan properly and make my spouse happy and excited.please guide me in this regard.

Email:[email protected]

 

    Gopinath,

    I can answer questions you might have here in the comments section, but I don’t offer an itinerary-planning service aside from that. The article above is meant to help you decide on which places to go and how much time to spend there. Switzerland is a very expensive country so real budget options aren’t always available, but it’s an amazing place and worth the money if you’ve got it.

    The Swiss Pass is a good choice if you are sure you want to do at least two of the longer scenic train rides. But in general, just taking the train from one place to another in Switzerland is automatically going to be very scenic. So put together an itinerary that you are thinking about, and I’ll give you my comments on it if you like. Congratulations. -Roger

     
Aslam says:

Hi Roger,
Thank you for the beautiful article, you are doing great job by giving to replay everyone.
I would like to visit Swiss with my family by 2nd week of October for 5 days. As I am coming from Dubai I don’t want to visit big cities, I would like to visit and enjoy natural beauty of Swiss and alps. Could you give a beautiful itinerary? After i ready your article I would like to visit Interlaken and Lucerne and I want to enjoy the Alps beauty. October is a good time to visit those place??? Please let me know..
Looking forward for your replay brother

 

    Aslam,

    Thank you for the kind words. If you have 5 days I’d spend 3 in the Interlaken area and 2 in Lucerne. Spend at least one night in Gimmelwald or Murren if you can, and you’ll love it. You can spend the other 2 nights near one of the Interlaken train stations, and you’ll be able to do all of the activities that interest you with no trouble. I give all of my best suggestions in the article above, and that should be enough for you to put your own basic itinerary together. If you need more help, let me know. -Roger

     
      Aslam says:

      Thank you for your kind replay. As you suggest me I was looking for hotels near Interlaken station. Could you please suggest me some nice & clean hotels (3 star) near to station. I also checked some swiss voyages packages which costs CHF 750-800 per person for 5 days / 4 night. I don’t know is it worth??
      Here is itinerary
      Oct 12 – arrived in Zurich and transfer to Interlaken. Stay in Interlaken and explore the city
      Oct13 – excursion from Interlaken to Jungfraujoch and overnight in Interlaken
      Oct14- Transfer to Gimmelwald from Interlaken, explore Gimmelwald and Murren and overnight in Gimmelwald.
      Oct 15 – Transfer to Lucerne and explore the city and overnight in Lucerne
      Oct 16 – spend morning time in Lucerne and move to Airport for evening flight back to home.
      Please let me know, if you have any options.

       
Neelam says:

Hi Roger
Thenk you for your response.
Just one more question.Suggest me two out of four
Chocolate train
Jungfraujoch
Schilthorn
Scenic train
Which two points are must see
Thanx
Neelam

 

    The two most dramatic on your list are the Jungfraujoch train and the Schilthorn cable car. And they are very different from each other as well. Both are close to Interlaken, so easy to reach from the same base. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Neelam says:

Thanks a lot
Neelam

 
ASLAM says:

Thank you for your kind replay. As you suggest me I was looking for hotels near Interlaken station. Could you please suggest me some nice & clean hotels (3 star) near to station. I also checked some swiss voyages packages which costs CHF 750-800 per person for 5 days / 4 night. I don’t know is it worth??
Here is itinerary
Oct 12 – arrived in Zurich and transfer to Interlaken. Stay in Interlaken and explore the city
Oct13 – excursion from Interlaken to Jungfraujoch and overnight in Interlaken
Oct14- Transfer to Gimmelwald from Interlaken, explore Gimmelwald and Murren and overnight in Gimmelwald.
Oct 15 – Transfer to Lucerne and explore the city and overnight in Lucerne
Oct 16 – spend morning time in Lucerne and move to Airport for evening flight back to home.
Please let me know, if you have any options.

 

    ASLAM,

    I’ve added some hotel recommendations to the article above for Gimmelwald and Lucerne, and I’ll add a couple soon for Interlaken as well because so many people are asking. Aside from that, I can’t recommend hotels for your specific dates because there are so many factors to consider. Any hotel that gets good reviews and is within 500 meters of the Interlaken West train station that you can afford should be good.

    If you are talking about a Swiss Travel Pass, they are only worth it if you want to do at least 2 longer scenic train rides. I’m not sure what package you are looking at though. I think your itinerary looks quite good, so it will be a great trip. -Roger

     
Prabakaran says:

Hi Roger,
Thanks for sharing valuable information about Switzerland.
i’m planning to stay 4 days in Paris and 7 days in Switzerland in the end of september.

1) In Switzerland i planned to stay 3 days in Murren, 2days in Lucerne and 2 days in bern. In Murren i like to experience two famous scenic rides.

2) I need to know is there any scenic train routes from Paris to Interlaken. If so what passes i need to take to get benefit?

3?In Lucerne is it worth to visit both Mt.Pilatus and Mt.Titlis? And i need to know which pass will cover all the local transport?

 

    Prabakaran,

    Your plan sounds quite good, but be aware that Murren is just a small tourist town with a stunning location above Interlaken. It’s a great base, especially for a trip up to Schilthorn or down to Gimmelwald, though you might want to spend only 1 or 2 nights there and the remaining time in Interlaken itself so you are closer to more other things.

    You can see the main scenic rail journeys on my review of the Swiss Travel Pass. Honestly, pretty much every train journey in Switzerland is a very scenic one, so I usually don’t recommend people go too far out of their way to do the official ones. And if you go from Paris to Geneva to Interlaken, you’ll do most of the famous GoldenPass line, and you’ll get the rest when you go to Lucerne. But if you go from Paris to Basel to Interlaken, it will still be scenic though not an official scenic train.

    If you have the time then both of those mountain trips from Lucerne are worthwhile, since they are quite different from each other. Again, the Swiss Travel Pass covers all main train trips and some of the cable cars as well. See that review to see if it makes sense for you financially. You really have to be doing quite a few of the more expensive things to justify those passes, and you seem to have many of them on your list so it could work out. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
      Prabakaran says:

      Hi Roger,
      Thanks for your valuable reply,
      I’m confused with taking Eurail pass or swiss rail pass, because i’m planning to stay 4 days in Paris and 7 days in Switzerland. If i take Swiss rail pass, i need to know what pass i need to take for local train transport in Paris and for train from Paris to Interlaken.

       
Prabhjot says:

Hi Roger

Your article has helped me a lot in preparing for my trip. However I am still in doubt whether I need the Swiss pass. I would be staying in Bern and will be spending a day each in Interlaken and Lucerne. I do plan to visit Schilthorn but not planning on train rides though.

Will it still be reasonable travelling on trains without the Swiss Pass?

Regards
Prabhjot

 

    Prabhjot,

    As I mention in the Swiss Travel Pass review, it’s quite expensive so it’s only really good value for those who are planning on doing at least two of the more expensive scenic trains, and also one or more of the other included mountain adventures. From the sound of it, you’ll save money by just paying as you go. The train rides within Switzerland aren’t too expensive, partly because the distances aren’t very long. And the fares are the same no matter when you buy, although in some cases they do offer a Supersaver fare that is even lower. The cable car up to Schilthorn is expensive, but as long as the weather is mostly clear up top (and it’s easy to find out before you go), the views are stunning and well worth it.

    So if you know when you want to go on the trains, check the sbb.com website to see if there is a supersaver fare. If there is, buy it then for the best price, but if not you can just buy tickets as you go from the stations. The clerks in the main stations all speak English well and it’s easy, since they are such a major tourist destination. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Jisha says:

we are planning for Switzerland trip from n December 24th to Jan 3rd.
We have planned to visit from Geneva to Zurich or vice versa by rental. cars. Kindly assist me which all the places are best to visit and places to stay near by.

 

    Jisha,

    The entire article above is meant to answer that exact question you asked. I really don’t recommend spending any time in Geneva, and not more than a day in Zurich. You really want to spend time in Interlaken and Lucerne, and perhaps another of the places mentioned in the article. I’m happy to answer questions for people who are unsure of some details, but I can’t write up an itinerary from scratch. -Roger

     
Farhan says:

Hie Roger,

My brother is booking a honeymoon package for me at Kempinski Grand Hotel St. Martin, i heard from travels saying hotel provide the visa. Kindly guide me with the visa process. I am presently a resident of kuwait. Wish to enjoy the stay at the hotel and to enjoy my honemoon trip.

thanking you
Farhan

 

    Farhan,

    I wish I could help you, but I know nothing of the visa process. I’m an American so I can visit Switzerland with just my passport. There are good resources for this on other websites, so I’m sure you’ll find the information you need. -Roger

     
Rajan Jain says:

Hi Roger,

I am visiting Switzerland for the first time, i am visiting this place in the month of October as a part of Corporate Incentive Travel Rewards along with my Partner

I am starting on 14 Oct from India to Paris (15th & 16th Oct) and want to spend 2 days before i reach Switzerland. I just have 2 days 17th & 18 Oct as i have to Reach Zurich or Basel on 19th October for River Rhine cruise with my colleagues which is starting from 19th October.

I need following information.
1. What is a best way to reach Switzerland from Paris on 17th Morning, Which city should i land to cover – Mt. Altis, Glacier or Rail Network.
2. Do i need to carry heavy winter clothes
3. Mode of transportation
4. Places to Stay
5. I am pure Vegetarian, do i get food..
6. As a part of my Corporate Itenary, i am going to cover some small part of Basel post check in the Cruise on 19th, as it is starting from 20th October.

Thanks in advance for your support

Rajan

 

    Rajan,

    I’ll be happy to try to help.

    1. I’m not sure where you mean, and I’ve not heard of Mt. Altis. You should probably go to Interlaken if you want to see the best Alpine scenery in a short time.

    2. The weather in October in Switzerland will be pleasant and reasonably warm in the low elevations, and colder as you go up the mountains. So as long as you have a jacket or sweater/jumper with you, you should be okay and won’t need heavy clothes.

    3. Take the trains.

    4. There are some recommendations near Interlaken in the article above.

    5. There are many Indian restaurants in Switzerland, including quite a few in Interlaken, partly to cater to the large numbers of Indian and vegetarian visitors. It won’t be a problem as long as you research places in advance and ask around when you get there.

    6. Basel doesn’t have much to see, so part of a day should be enough.

    Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Samantha Drury says:

Hi Roger,

Your entire article is absolutely fantastic !!
my husband and i are planning on spending 6 nights in Switzerland the end of march 2017 for our honeymoon.. We will be departing from Rome to head to Gimmelwald. i was reading part of your thread before about getting a train at 8 am from Rome. Do you think its best to travel to see Switzerland via train or car. The options we were thinking were
1. Train from Rome to Switzerland (Gimmelwald) and then train it up through the towns over the 6 nights then fly or train to Paris
2. hire a car from Rome (or fly to Milan and hire a car) and then drive to Gimmelwald stay a couple of nights then drive up through Switzerland then onto Paris.. where we would drop the car off..

Sorry for rambling on.. just want to figure out if train or car is the best way to see Switzerland. 🙂

Thank you !!

 

    Samantha,

    Your question wasn’t rambling at all. I’d highly recommend taking the train, although I must confess that I’ve never driven through that part of Europe. My guess is that the highways through the Alps will have some nice views and maybe even a place or two to pull over, but I also know that several sections are now covered by long tunnels. The train, on the other hand, has excellent views and very few tunnels in general. Better still, you’ll both be able to enjoy the views from the train, while someone driving has to concentrate so much that appreciating the scenery is challenging or dangerous.

    Yet another reason to favor the train is that the peaks and other sights in Switzerland are all connected by trains and cable cars, so you can get anywhere without having to worry about driving or parking. And of course, Gimmelwald is WAY up the side of a mountain with no real roads, so you’d have to park somewhere down in Lauterbrunnen anyway. The trains in Switzerland are also famously punctual, and the fares are pretty reasonable because the distances of most of them are fairly short.

    It’s possible that driving could be a bit cheaper overall, although even that is uncertain, but taking the train will be more enjoyable, more scenic, and less stressful. If you buy the train tickets from Rome to Interlaken and from Interlaken to Paris at least a few months in advance, they’ll be reasonably priced. The train tickets within Switzerland are always the same price, and they only go on sale 30 days out, I think, so you can get those as you go. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Gopinath says:

Hi Roger,
Thank you for your reply.after reading ur article I have made my itenary
* arrival to Zurich and transfer to Interlaken 2 days stay at Interlaken
*1 day stay at grimmewald
*2 days stay in Lucerne
*start to Zurich to see Rhine falls and
start to chennai.

Is there any bank balances should I maintain to get Visa and kindly let me know whether schengen visa will be fine for us.
And I have planned to take Swiss pass for the train journey.
Thank you

 

    Gopinath,

    Your itinerary looks quite good and I’m sure it’ll be a great visit. One small note though, the stunning small village part of the way up to Schilthorn Observation Deck is called “Gimmelwald.” It’s a wonderful place to spend a day or so, but you don’t want to confuse it with a much larger ski town just over the hill called “Grindelwald.” They are easy to confuse, especially since they are close together, though they are very different.

    Unfortunately, I have no information on the Schengen Visa or bank balances. I’m an American (based in London at the moment) so I can visit with just a passport. There are a few websites that specialize in visa information like that, and it’s hard for me to keep up with it all so I don’t. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Monika says:

Great and informative article dear. Thanks for sharing with us.

 
Nora says:

Hi Roger, I’m planning to travel to Switzerland for 2 days from 30 nov. Its my honeymoon trip. Would need your expert recommendations in which place is suitable? thanks

 

    Nora,

    If you have 2 days and you want to see the most dramatic scenery in Switzerland, I’d go right to Interlaken as mentioned in the article above. It’s where you’ll get the amazing Alps views and experiences all in one compact area. Some hotels are closed that time of year, but enough should be open that you can find something good. Obviously it will be cold, especially in the higher elevations, but if you dress appropriately you should be able to have a great visit. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Corina says:

Hi Roger,
We plan to stop by Switzerland on 13nov – 14th Nov 2016 on our way to Italy. We are looking at Lucerne & Intrlaken and plan to take the Golden Pass by Eurail. Would love to hear your suggestion and recommended place to visit in this short period. TQ

 

    Corina,

    As I mentioned just above, Interlaken is the best place to stop to see the dramatic views of the Alps in Switzerland. The Lucerne area is also nice, but it’s more of a pleasant lake with a few high peaks nearby, while Interlaken has the Schilthorn observation area and the Jungfraujoch train ride just above it, among many other sights and viewpoints.

    So go through the article above and focus on the Interlaken area. If you can spend the night in Gimmelwald or Murren you’ll love it even more, though some of those hotels will be closed that time of year. The smaller places close in mid October until mid December, when the snow tourists start coming again. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Saba Ahmed says:

Hi,I’m planning a trip to Switzerland on 30th September to 8th October with my husband and my wheelchair bound daughter who is capable of walking a short distance and climb stairs with support.She does not have any other healh problems.Iwould like to do scenic views ,waterfalls,go up to The mountains.From what I have gathered if I want to do Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn I need to stay at Interlaken and Gimmelwald but I’m not sure if it is a great idea with my daughter as Gimmelwald is a car feel town.I would love to include a trip to a waterfall if any.Obviously hike are out for me.From there is plan to move to Luzern and cover Mt.Pilatus and Titles. I would love to do scenic train trips but not too long so would a Swiss rail pass be a good idea.Also are there any concessions for handicapped people or rather foreigners.I think I should be near hotels near the train stations.I would love some help with 3 or 4 star hotels with great views near the stations as it would be more convenient for me to walk to stations instead of getting a cab all the time.Should I include any city in my tour.

 

    Saba,

    I’ll try to cover your questions in order…

    I think Gimmelwald would work well for you, even though it’s car free. There are several good hotels with 100 meters or so of the cable car stop, all connected by a wide footpath. It’s a bit steep in some places, but with someone pushing a chair it should be easy enough. Murren is larger and flatter, so if you can find a hotel close to the cable car stop, it might be even better.

    There is a really nice waterfall in Lauterbrunnen and you can see it well from the public bus that goes from the train station to the cable car in Stechelberg. It’s on a flat valley floor, and the water falls from a cliff high above. That is the easiest to reach by far, and you can see it without even getting off the bus if you like.

    A Swiss Travel Pass is good value for someone doing at least 2 of those scenic train rides. I go over all of the math and value in that article about the Swiss Pass.

    I’m not aware of any concessions for handicapped people, although they may exist. And there are none for foreigners, unfortunately.

    As far as I saw, Switzerland does a great job with accessibility. The trains and buses are all wheelchair friendly, and the staff are well trained. I think it will be a fairly easy trip in that regard. If you have any other specific questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them if I can. -Roger

     
Donna says:

We are leaving Venice on the 22 Oct; we have 5 nights in Switzerland. I am taking your well given advise in seeing Lake Lucrern and Interlaken. What do you advise: We could either stay 4 nights in Lucern and use this a ‘jumping off’ point to sight see. OR spend 2 night in each place. Our last night will be in Zurich prior to flying out.
What do you think
Thanks

 

    Donna,

    Of those two choices I’ve vote for 2 nights in each place. In my opinion, and I think most other people agree, the real magic of Switzerland is with the Alpine views and activities, which are primarily clustered in the Interlaken area. They aren’t cheap, but if you can do the Jungfraujoch railway and the Schilthorn cable car, you’ll never forget them. There are plenty of other really impressive sights and viewpoints in that area as well.

    Lucerne, on the other hand, is an even nicer town than Interlaken, and it’s on a scenic lake, but the nearby sights aren’t the blockbusters that you get around Interlaken. There are nearby peaks reached by cogwheel train or cable car, and of course a little cruise on the lake itself. But even if you spend 2 nights in each place, it’s the Interlaken sights that you’ll remember most vividly.

    By the way, the Zurich Airport is on the main train line and trains start at around 5am on those lines, so if your flight isn’t one of the earliest departures you might be able to go from one of those two cities directly to the airport in time. Zurich is a nice city, but the hotels there are VERY expensive and it’s not all that special compared to those other places, so you might also consider staying at one of the more affordable hotels close to the airport. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Matt says:

Hi,

Planning to go to Switzerland and have need advice as follows:
1. Can Jungfraujoch and Grindewald be done in a day?
2. Can Mt. Titlus and Lucerne city tour be done in a day?
3. Will the Swiss Pass give free access/ discounts for going to Jungfraujoch, Mt. Titlus and any other cable car ride or cogwheel train?
4. I plan to stay in Interlaken for 5 nights and plan to cover the above places. Any suggestions on revisiting the places or adding any more?

Thanks.
Thanks.

 

    Matt,

    In the article above I write about a tiny mountain village called Gimmelwald, but there is also a larger ski town in the same area called Grindelwald. Grindelwald is on the way from Interlaken to Jungfraujoch, so you can see them on the same day. Gimmelwald is not far away, and you can see them both in one day, but it would be a full day.

    2. Yes. You can do Mt Titlus in about 5 hours total, and then be in Lucerne for the late afternoon and evening. Lucerne is wonderful in the evening.

    3. You can see which trains are included in this review of the Swiss Pass that I did recently.

    4. If you have 5 nights you should spend at least 3 of them in Interlaken, but you could also spend 1 or 2 in Lucerne to be closer to those attractions. Taking a train back to Interlaken at the end of each day will add a lot of extra time to your trip.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Spring says:

Hi Roger,

I came across your article and it really give me great ideas on how to plan my trip in Europe! Thanks so much!

Based on your suggestion,I am planning the following itinerary for Switzerland:

-Fly in to Zurich from Hamburg and immediately take the train to interlaken and follow your suggested round to Murren, plan to stay 2 nights at Murren.
-Move to Lucerne and stay one night before move to italy

Some questions below need your help:
1. Should I buy Eurail pass or Swiss travel pass? or I should have both? As I am going to visit Hamburg Germany, Switzerland (4 days) and Italy(5 days).

2. What is the route I should use to go Lucerne from Murren? back to Interleken?
3.How long does it take to reach Lucerne from Murren?
4. Will it snow at Murren on end of Oct? Need to ensure we have the right outfit for the weather.
5.We will travel to italy from Switzerland by train, wonder which train should we use? Bernina express from Chur (for the scenic) or EuroCity Train direct from Lucerne to Milan (for speed)?
when reach italy will use italian trains to move around italy.

Thanks
Spring

2.

 

    Spring,

    I’m always happy to hear that this information is helpful.

    1. A Swiss Travel Pass is only good value for those taking at least two of the long (and expensive) scenic trains in Switzerland and doing some of the mountain attractions as well. And a Eurail Pass is only good for trips quite a bit longer than yours. Just buy your train tickets online at least 2 months in advance and they will be fairly cheap. For domestic Swiss trains, you can buy them as you go because the price is always the same.

    2. There is a direct train from Lucerne to Interlaken, and then another train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen where you hop on a bus that is waiting just outside the station for each arriving train, and that will take you to the cable car station. Murren is the second stop. It’s all explained in the article above. You can buy your ticket from Interlaken all the way to Murren at the same time, so it’s easier than it sounds.

    3. About 2.5 to 3 hours.

    4. No, it usually doesn’t start snowing at that elevation until December. There is snow on the highest peaks all year though. It will be chilly, however, but probably not below freezing.

    5. I’d just book the fastest and cheapest train you can find. The scenery is amazing from any of them, and the ride is long enough to enjoy it. The trains from Switzerland to Italy are also incredibly scenic. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Boris says:

Hi Roger,

We’ll be visiting Switzerland in late October (20-24th), probably by car.
Interested in light to medium hiking (or at least getting the best of the Apline scenerely, without expensive cog trains), but wonder if it won’t be too cold for that.
Where would you recommend to spend our 3 days, considering the above?
Would you recommend sleeping in the mountain villages you mentioned?

Thanks a lot!
Boris

 

    Boris,

    If you have 3 days there and want to see the Alps, definitely go to the Interlaken area. The weather will be chilly at higher altitudes, but still quite nice on the valley floors. My most recent Switzerland trip was in mid October and it was wonderful. Some of the smaller hotels close from mid October until mid December, when the snow season usually begins, but you should be able to find a room pretty easily.

    I’d highly recommend spending 1 or perhaps 2 nights in Gimmelwald or Murren, as mentioned in the article. And spend the other nights in Interlaken itself near one of the train stations. There are many excellent hikes that aren’t too strenuous. You can take the train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, and then you can take another train to one of the nearby villages where the good hikes begin. In some cases you can take a train up and then walk down. Have a great trip and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Boris says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks a lot for your reply!
      The forecast for these days currently promises us 1 sunny (but partially cloudy) day and 3 rainy ones.
      We will visit Gimmelwald and hike there on that sunny day, but wonder what to do with the other (rainy) days.

      We are traveling by car, could you please recommend us what we shoudl better visit on those rainy days?

      Thanks!

       

        Boris,

        It’s difficult for me to give out specific sightseeing advice without knowing your tastes and budget and such. You’d do better checking websites like wikitravel.org or Lonely Planet and checking their pages on Interlaken. There are many great choices, and with a car you’ll be able to visit many of the scenic towns in that area, as well as drive to the starting point for some great hikes. It’s rare for it to rain all day there, so most likely you’ll only have a few hours of rain to deal with on those days. For Gimmelwald and that area, the rain isn’t as much of a problem as fog or low clouds. I’m sure you’ll have a great visit. -Roger

         
Viktorija says:

Hello Roger,

I am planning my trip to Switzerland and I am going on 13th of October for 5 days. My flight is to Geneva and I have booked very reasonable accommodation in the city centre.

However, your artical changed my mind on what to see while I am there. Please recommend what would be the best places to see and the cheapest way to travel? I am on the budget but can stretch a little bit if it is worth it. Also, I am travelling with my 4 year old.

We are nature girls and would love to see beautiful places and stunning views.

Thank you so much.

 

    Viktorija,

    I am confident that you made the right move in cancelling the Geneva stay. It’s a nice-looking city on a lake, but the magic of Switzerland is the Alpine and lake views and nature in general.

    My recommendation would be to spend 3 nights in the Interlaken area, and the other 2 nights in Lucerne, pretty much just as recommended in the article above. That is the perfect amount of time to see the best highlights of both. The hotels around Interlaken should be less expensive than Geneva, although nothing in Switzerland is cheap. I give hotel recommendations for both cities above as well, and those should be a good place to start.

    The Geneva Airport is on the main train line, so you can buy a ticket from there to Interlaken and then another from Interlaken to Lucerne. Domestic train tickets are the same price no matter when you buy, so you can buy them when you get there. Sometimes they do offer “supersaver” tickets, so it’s worth checking the official Swiss Rail site to see if those are offered on your dates. If they aren’t, just wait until you get there to buy. The distances aren’t too far so the tickets aren’t crazy expensive.

    Once you start adding up the costs, Switzerland is quite expensive compared to even France and Germany. But those places you’ll be going are amazing and very much worth the money at least once in your life. It’s a splurge destination that has no substitute. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Irfan says:

Hello Roger,

Awesome info. Like some of the above comments I am changing my plans too from Zermatt/Zurich to Interlaken and lucerne and maybe a bit of Appenzell, if possible.Would appreciate your advice on the below

Will be in barecelona for a conference ending on the 27th of Oct and my wife will be with me. 27-1st Nov in Switzerland then take a train to Paris and spend a day and a half there before my flight back .

Is there a night train I can take to Geneva/Zurich from Bareclona?
If not then do you recommend taking a flight at night or a morning train on the 28th?

What would be the best itinerary ? go to Geneva then train to interlaken or go to Zurich and then a train to Appenzell?

Can I stay in Interlaken and visit Murran, Schilthorn, gimmelwald,jungfrau and come back at night? Or do you recommend a day in Interlaken and then a day in Gimmelwald ?

The 3rd day I can take a train to Lucern but then will be missing out on Appenzell since it would be far and would need to be back in Zurich/geneva to take the paris train . Or shall I do Appenzell instead of Lucern

Also since most of my train travels will be in switzerland would you recommend the swiss pass or the eurorail pass ? ( I have not started my research on the trains yet) but from your comments you recommend the cable car in gimmelwald and the pass should give me better option instead of buying it on the spot.

Appreciate your help and regards-Irfan

 

    Irfan,

    There is a night train from Barcelona to Geneva, but it requires 3 changes and takes almost 15 hours, so I don’t recommend it. An early morning or evening flight will be cheaper and obviously far faster. You can fly into Zurich or Geneva (Zurich is a bit closer) and take trains right from the airport to Interlaken.

    Appenzell is quite nice, but there really isn’t too much to see. You can take the train there and roam around the traditional town center, and try some of their famous cheese and do a bit of shopping. But the sights are mainly the town and the lovely pastures nearby. In Interlaken and Lucerne, the sights are all far more dramatic.

    If you stay in Interlaken you can easily take the train to Lauterbrunnen and then be on the cable car up to Schilthorn 30 minutes later. Assuming it’s clear enough at the top, take the cable car all the way up and spend an hour or two up there, maybe even have lunch. Then on the way down you can get out of the cable car in Murren and walk around a bit, and then walk down the hill to Gimmelwald. If the weather is decent enough, it will be an amazing hour or so. Then you can board the cable car in Gimmelwald and take it back down to the valley station, on the same ticket you already bought. So yes, you can do all of that in maybe 4 hours and then back to Interlaken.

    Interlaken is a nice town and it’s loaded with restaurants and hotels and such, but if you have a night to spend in Gimmelwald I’d highly recommend that instead. It’s this tiny and stunning village with ridiculous Alps views and you’ll never forget it. But one night should be enough there, since it’s so small, and then spend remaining nights in Interlaken or Lucerne.

    As mentioned above, Lucerne is much more interesting than Appenzell. I wouldn’t recommend Appenzell on any visit shorter than a week.

    The Swiss Travel Pass is only good value for those taking at least 2 of the expensive scenic train rides. It wouldn’t save you enough because it only gets you a 50% discount on Schilthorn. A Eurail Pass is only useful for trips that are much longer than yours. Fly into Zurich and then those other train rides really won’t add up to too much. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Irfan says:

Many thanks for the advice Jason.

Done and done. As suggested ,flyin to Zurich , taking a train to Lucern and spending a day and a half there , then 1 day in Gimmelwald and 2 days in Interlaken. Will purchase tickets at the stations itself and then back to Paris from Interlaken on train .

 
Jennifer says:

I have been reading your article and all the posts which have been very helpful in planning a trip for my husband and I in Switzerland. We plan to take a train from Munich to Switzerland on May 19 and we will be leaving from Zurich airport on May 25th. We want to stay in Gimmelwald for a few days, then travel to Lucerne for a few days. Since we have 6 nights in Switzerland do you suggest we try to squeeze any mother visits in or will there be enough to do in Gimmelwald and Lucerne. I’m afraid we may get bored. We will want to do some hikes, take a boat ride as you suggested, and visit some popular attractions and views you mentioned. We like to enjoy the outdoors and relax and are not much of the touristy type. Also enjoy great food.

 

    Jennifer,

    If you have 6 days I’d spend 2 of them in Lucerne, and 3 or 4 in the Interlaken area. One more really nice option would be to spend on day and night in Bern, which is the capital, and not far from Interlaken. It’s a gorgeous city with plenty to keep you busy for a day or two, and it’ll be a nice contrast from the other two places. Or you could spend all 4 of those days in the Interlaken area, and you’d definitely still be entertained.

    I’d recommend one or maybe two nights in Gimmelwald, and the remaining nights near one of the train stations in Interlaken. Gimmelwald is a magical little village, but it’s tiny and can be fully seen in a few hours. It’s a wonderful place to spend one or two days, especially if you are going up to Schilthorn (highly recommended) as Gimmelwald is already part of the way up, and you can jump on the cable car when you are sure the weather up there is clear. Or if you also want to see Murren or hike in that area, Gimmelwald is a great base. But for any other hike or sight in the Interlaken area, you’d have to take the cable car down and then the bus to the train station in Lauterbrunnen to get anywhere. That can be done in 30 to 45 minutes, and it’s all really pleasant, but if you base yourself near one of the train stations in Interlaken, you can get anywhere really quickly. In fact, Bern is only an hour away by train, so you could still sleep in Interlaken and visit Bern on a day trip.

    The Interlaken area is really lovely and filled with sightseeing options and activities. If you do one day in Bern, or not, you’ll have more than enough to enjoy in Interlaken for 3 or 4 nights. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Divakar says:

Hello, I would like to visit 2 nights and 3 days, or at minimum of 2 days and one night in switzerland with my wife and 6 year old son. As this would be first visit, can you please advise of interlaken and lucerene. I know this off season, but November and December, may be even more cold.
Kindly please let me know or suggest an iternary from Milan.
Thanks,
Divakar

 

    Divikar,

    If you’ve only got 2 or 3 days and want to see the most dramatic sights in Switzerland, I highly recommend focusing on the Interlaken area. It’s all explained in the article above. Some of the hotels up in the mountains close from mid October until mid December, but plenty others stay open so you’ll find something. Let me know if you have any specific questions. -Roger

     
      Divakar says:

      Thanks Roger. As you suggest, I would stay at Interlaken and visit around Grindelwald, Murren, Lauterbrunnen. But on the way back, I thought to take up the bernina express route. But it looks like I have to skip the Luzern, to avoid too much travel. Please advise.

       
Styagi says:

Hi Roger,

I have been looking through various blogs, which can guide me properly for my tiny stay in Switzerland. And yours seems to be most correct and honest. So here I am. I will be landing in Geneva, Switzerland on November 01, and plan to start my expedition from November 01 to Lucerne to visit mount titlis in early morning, experience the area and try some activities like paragliding, car ride etc. step down to Lucerne town explore it till evening and head back to Geneva during night.
Next day early morning, I plan to visit Berne, and return to Geneva early and head to Laussane. I have a business purpose there. Therefore will have mostly evenings from 7:00 Pm to explore for three days.
I will be visiting this beautiful city first time, and want to experience the most but in a relaxed way. Also, my budget is not on a higher side.
Any guidance from you will be helpful. Whether I trip plan is good, or if you can suggest anything better. Also I am looking forward to buy some authentic gifts for family and friends, but again I am on tight budget and can not spend huge!I read some like swiss mini bells ?
Any help is appreciated!

One correction, I plan to start from November 02, and have two days till November 03 to explore.
Thank you

 

    Styagi,

    If you are locked into staying in Geneva then your plan could be okay, but you’d be far better off staying in Lucern and then Bern on your way to Lausanne. The trains start early and are always famously on time, so you can do your plan as you mentioned.

    Switzerland is quite expensive, but they do have some modestly priced souvenirs. When you get there you’ll find some things that are meaningful and interesting, and not too expensive. I don’t have much else to say, although if you have specific questions let me know and I’ll try to answer. -Roger

     
Gaz says:

Hi Roger,

Agree with Styagi’s sentiments above… am having a bit of difficulty figuring out how to plan my Switzerland trip and you are definitely very knowledgeable. My itinerary is as follows:

Arrive in Vienna on 14th Jan and have 3 days there
16th is a travel day
17th – 23 is Switzerland (fly out 23rd)

So I am trying to understand where it is in Switzerland I should go and how that location fits in with travelling from Vienna on a train (apologies if this goes beyond your jurisdiction 🙂 ).

Having read earlier posts I am sold on staying in Gimmelwald as we have 5 days in total for Switzerland and am leaving 2 for Zurich (?).

– Does coming from Vienna to Gimmelwald straight make sense or would i need to go through Zurich?
– If not, is there a different option for the Swiss Alps that might be more relevant for my scenario?
– travel is in January – I am assuming there is no real hinderance on getting to and from / doing activities at this time of the year ….specifically in the Swiss Alps?
– Is there still a lot to do in Jan in the Alps other than skiing? (I am more than okay but this will be a family trip with my parents and brother who aren’t as big on the skiing).

Appreciate any guidance you can help provide.

Thanks in advance
Gaz

 

    Gaz,

    I’ll take your questions in order…

    Vienna to Zurich is almost 8 hours by train, and then another 2 hours from there to Interlaken, and then another hour from there up to Gimmelwald. That is an extremely long day and I wouldn’t recommend it. The train ride through Austria and then Switzerland is very scenic, so I highly recommend it. Still, flying from Vienna to Zurich and taking a train from Zurich Airport to Interlaken would be a much easier day.

    Another option would be to take a train from Vienna to Salzburg for one memorable afternoon and evening, and then take an early train from there to Interlaken and then up the mountain to Gimmelwald.

    There are a few Alps towns that are a bit closer to Vienna than Interlaken, but it’s not worth it to save an hour or maybe two to spend a few days in an inferior destination. Gimmelwald and the Interlaken area is really special, and very worthwhile.

    In January all the trains will be running, and the cable cars up the mountains will be as well. There are some ski resorts in Murren, just above Gimmelwald, so all the hotels will be open and you’ll be seeing some skiers, but access should not be a problem because the Swiss are experts at that.

    There are many great sights in and around Interlaken that don’t involve skiing. The Schilthorn observation deck above Gimmelwald is amazing as long as the sky is fairly clear. And there is plenty of great hiking as well. In many cases you can take a train or cable car up, and then have a pleasant walk down, so it’s easy for anyone with decent shoes. Buy the Rick Steves Switzerland guidebook if you can, and he lays out all of the best options in the whole country.

    As I mention near the top of this article, it’s hard to recommend Zurich for more than a day or so. It’s very expensive and not very interesting compared to Vienna or other famous European cities. Bern is much nicer for a one-day look at a Swiss city. So if I were you I’d spend no more than one night in Zurich, or perhaps no nights at all. Since it might take more time to get there from Vienna, you could use the extra day in Interlaken or Lucerne or Bern, and then go straight to the Zurich Airport on your way out. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Gaz says:

      Thanks for the above Roger,

      So my next questions will be about the trains – I believe i need to purchase the tickets from OBB website?

      I am having difficulty getting the right kind of connections that give an overnight stay in Salzberg and Bern – is this not possible if I am purchasing the tickets throughout?

      The timing for each “via” is restricted to 12 hours which means you never get a full day… am i going about this the wrong way? Is there a different way I should be trying…?

      I was thinking :
      16th Jan -Vienna >> Overnight in Salzberg >> 17TH Jan – Overnight in Bern >> 18th Jan – Gimmelwald >> 22nd Jan – Zurich as early morning flight.

      thanks again!

       

        Gaz,

        It would be best to book your Austria train tickets on the Austria rail website. So just book your Vienna to Salzburg trip there. Then book a separate trip from Salzburg to Bern on either that site, or the Swiss rail site. And book all of your travel within Switzerland on the Swiss site, of course.

        The domestic trains within Switzerland only sell tickets 30 days in advance and they are the same price no matter when you buy. So you can just buy those as you go when you get there. You can buy a ticket that goes from Bern (or any other station) to Interlaken Ost Station and then another train to Lauterbrunnen and then the bus (waiting just outside the station after every arrival) to the cable car station and then the cable car up to Gimmelwald, all in one ticket. There are no reservations on the parts after you arrive in Interlaken, so you can buy when you get there if you like.

        Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
          Gaz says:

          Hi Roger,

          I think I have settled on the following:
          Vienna >> Salzburg >> Gimmelwald >> Interlakken >> Zurich

          I was thinking stay in Gimmelwald/Murren (depending on accommodation availability) for 2 nights so it allows us to experience the Alps and then stay in Interlakken (or Lauterbrunnen?) to make any day trips to surrounds perhaps?

          Are there any scenic train journeys from Interlakken that we could do as day trips?

          Also just want to double check that the Swiss Pass is not the cheaper option in my case?

           

          Gaz,

          In order to reach Gimmelwald you’ll need to go to the Interlaken Ost (east) train station. If you get an early enough train from Salzburg then you could do that, but you might also consider staying in Interlaken that first night and going to Gimmelwald the following day.

          As for train journeys, the Golden Pass is the most famous and it goes through Interlaken. The section that goes west from there is more interesting than the smaller portion that goes east from there. But still, I probably wouldn’t recommend it unless you had a full day free. The thing is, almost every train journey in Switzerland has amazing scenery. I think they just named and started to promote some of the better ones, but if you just take trains between the places you want to see, you’ll get incredible scenery along the way.

          Similarly, the Swiss Travel Pass is really only good value for visitors who are doing at least two of those longer scenic train rides, plus at least a couple of the other attractions where discounts are offered such as Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn. If you are just doing a couple of those things, then a Swiss Travel Pass won’t save you money.

          Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

           
Sanjev Modi says:

Dear Roger,
It was indeed very informative reading your posts.
Perhaps you can guide me for my Trip :
I will arrive from Paris and will spend 4/5 days in Switzerland. Can you please guide me on the place to stay and visit as also the transport mode to take.

Sorry, forgot to mention that will be visiting during last week of May 2017.

Many thanks in advance.
Cheers !

 

    Sanjev,

    I understand why you are asking for a bit more help. But really, the whole article above is the answer to your question. The short version is that you’ll want to travel by train, and book tickets from the Swiss Rail website.

    If you have 4 or 5 days you should spend at least 2 or 3 of them in the Interlaken area, as mentioned in the article. And spend at least 1 or 2 days in the Lucerne area. There are hotel recommendations for both places above, and I highly recommend staying in Gimmelwald or Murren for at least one of your nights in the Interlaken area.

    If you have any other specific questions just let me know. -Roger

     
Diane says:

Hi Roger_
My family and I will be traveling to Switzerland from Venice for the first time and will have 5 nights there, flying out of Zurich at the end in July. What would be the best itinerary to see the highlights of Switzerland? Definitely Interlake is on the list, but not sure if we should fly from Venice to Geneva or Zurich or take the train and where to go after that! Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

 

    Diane,

    The best 5 days in Switzerland to get the greatest impact would be 3 days in the Interlaken area and 2 days in Lucerne, both of which are described in detail in the article above. If you had more time there are some other options to consider, but with 5 days you’ll be best off just focusing on those two places.

    Zurich is closer to those towns and it usually has cheaper flights, but Geneva could be fine as well. Both of those airports are on the main train line, so you can take a train directly from the airport to Interlaken or Lucerne without even having to go into the city. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Bilal Saeed says:

Hi Roger
I have read ur article..the suggestions are great. I am planning to visit Swiss for 5 days in the first week of October 2017 as a part of my Europe trip. My Iternery is below..Please suggest will it work. Also can you suggest if I need the Swiss travel Pass.
Venice to Turino to take Burnina Express for Chur/St Mortiz
The same day Chur to Zurich and stay at Zurich. Next half day get around in Zurich and in the afternoon move to Lucerne.Stay in Lucerne for one night…Next day do either mount rigi or mount Pilatus and a boat tour of the lake. Afternoon get Golden Pass train to Interlanken and Stay there for one nite. Next Morning get to Murren Gimmelwald etc and stay at Gimmelwald for the night. 5th Day get Gloden Pass to Montreus and stay at Montreux for 1 night. I can spare a 6th day also but not sure what to do with it. 7th Day I will move to France. Can you give some suggestions specially for the swiss travel pass.

Also will it be green enough in Interlaken in the first week of October?

 

    Bilal,

    Your itinerary looks pretty good. As I mention near the top, Zurich itself is not a great tourist stop, especially compared to how amazing the scenery is in the other places you are going. Half a day in Zurich will be entertaining, although the hotel will be shockingly expensive there. Still, unless you have something specific you want to see in Zurich, you might use that time elsewhere.

    Since you are planning at least two of the longer scenic rail journeys, plus Rigi and/or Pilatus, you could get good value out of the Swiss Travel Pass. You should also consider doing Jungfraujoch railway and the Schilthorn cable car and observation deck while you are in Interlaken (and Schilthorn is directly above Gimmelwald and Murren). The Swiss Pass gives you 50% off those things, and both are amazing and very popular even at full price.

    My most recent time in Interlaken was in mid October and the weather was fantastic. The grass all over the country, including in Interlaken itself, was still bright green. The temperatures were getting a bit cold, and it did get foggy up on Schilthorn off and on. Some hotels in the mountains close as of mid October and don’t open again until the snow season in mid December. So early October is pretty much ideal.

    So again, if you want to spend the extra day or days in the Interlaken area and doing those top attractions, the Swiss Travel Pass could save you money. Or you could still get good value if you did one or more of the other scenic train rides that I cover in the article linked above. You’ll have a great trip. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Bilal Saeed says:

      Dear Roger
      Thanks for your prompt feedback. It helpful. I will then spend two nights at Gimmelwald and also do Schilthorn. Your suggested Mountain Hostel is available for my dates however I am travelling with family (wife and 3 years old daughter)…Do you suggest its still good to reserve mountain hostel with family?

       

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