My family (myself, husband and sons 16 and 10) will be visiting Europe for the first time this May-June. We have a four week trip planned, and I have reservations for three nights in Murren, Switzerland, in between time in Paris and Munich. Now that I am trying to figure out transportation details, I am kind of balking at the price of train travel in Switzerland. I am considering shifting that part of our trip to the Salzburg area or some other part of Austria. We will have city time in Amsterdam, Paris, and Munich, so the Switzerland part of the trip was primarily geared toward natural beauty. If you have experience both in Austria and in Switzerland, can you comment on whether we will get somewhat comparable beauty if I make this change? I am also interested to hear suggestions on places to stay for quiet mountain beauty, which I was planning on enjoying in between two city stays. (We have free stays at home-exchange homes lined up for Paris and Munich, so those parts are pretty solidly scheduled.) Thanks for any thoughts!
Switzerland is expensive, but since they aren't making any new ones, you just have to pay up. I can't think of anything close.
You should be able to buy advance nonrefundable tickets from Paris to Muerren for reasonable prices, or at least as far as Interlaken. Same for when you leave for Munich. Also, for while you are there, some sort of local pass may be in order.
For instance, I see 3 adults and 1 child, June 3 at departing at 10:58 to Munich for 119.70 EUR.
I'm not sure what price you are getting for train travel in Switzerland. Are you talking about getting to Murren by train from Paris vs Salzburg from Paris. I think it is about the same price. As someone who really loves the Alps, I have to recommend Murren over Salzburg for what you describe as natural beauty. I can assure you IMO there is no comparison. Murren or Wengen in the Bernese Oberland has natural beauty you will never regret seeing.
A bit out of the way, so maybe not a bargain in transportation, but Italy’s Val Gardena vies with the Lauterbrunnen Valley as our favorite mountain destination. Food is better and cheaper, too.
Thanks much for the replies. I had been getting a little overwhelmed with figuring out how to get the best train fares for the Swiss travel but these comments are giving me some encouragement to keep trying. I had not seen the Lauterbrunnen-Munich fare that Sam mentioned, because I was looking on trainline and on the Swiss site, not on the German site. I also think I am figuring out how to get the saver fares for the Paris-Lauterbrunnen trip through the seat61 website. It looks like if I buy different parts of that journey at different times, I can get the super saver fares. And then I guess I should use the German site for the trip to Munich. I'm glad to hear others say the Swiss alps are worth the extra steps. (Still hope to get to Austria some day, but might stick with my original plan for this trip.)
I think you are getting on the right track (sorry for the lousy joke - I didn't plan it but when it came out I thought I'd leave it). I like Seefeld and other villages in the Tirol, I like Salzburg and the Salzburgerland, and I like Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald and the German Alps areas - but I just don't know of anywhere like Mürren - the views are fabulous and I just haven't beaten it. That is only my perception however - others may well have different preferences.
Have you looked at the SwissRail cards/passes? I don't know how this would measure up economically, and it depends on what you plan to do in/around Murren and the Jungfrau region. However, the passes are available for durations as short as 3-days and cover boat (e.g. on the lakes adjoining Interlacken) and -- I believe -- gondola/cable car transport (or perhaps only discounts). If you plan to hike in the area, the lift system is highly developed and coordinated with the trains; this permits 1-way hikes to suit your interests. I believe it will also cover the funicular from Lauterbrunnen up to Grutschalp and the connecting train over to Murren (altho the latter is also a terrific walk when you aren't schlepping baggage).
We've enjoyed Alpine visits in Germany and Austria; nothing compares in my opinion with the Jungfrau region in Switzerland.
Are you looking at junior fares for your sons? Those rates are a fair amount lower. I purchased Swiss travel passes and I came out about even which was great because the pass is a convenience. However, you really have to price out the different options.
I think the enormity of famous areas of the Swiss Alps and valleys are unique in Europe and I would go there for a onetime Alps visit. For the Austria option I'd consider southeast from Salzburg in Austria to the Grossglockner area. Different local cultures, but high in the mountains somethings remain the same. There are so many great places in the Alps, but you need time to visit them. I drive and I am not knowledgeable for the best train fares/deals. Costs some but maybe a few telephone calls. Most of the German speaking Countries business/Bahn will speak English and maybe you get an offer not online. You are not getting any younger so go with what you want.
It's really this simple - if you're really trying to save money you would never leave home. if you want to create unforgettable mountain experiences for you and your family go to the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. Much of the Austrian and Bavarian Alps are of a beauty comparable to parts of the Colorado Rockies or the California Sierras. You could save a lot of money by staying in North America. The Swiss Alps, especially around Murren, Grindelwald, Wengen, etc have a beauty and aura that are singular on this planet.
Go there. Spend the money and don't second guess yourself.
You will never, ever regret it.
Apart from Switzerland, the most dramatic areas in the Alps are the north of Aosta valley and Dolomites, from Gardena to Cortina. Other alpine areas are fine but if you are searching for landscapes these are the best alternatives.
Personally, when I throw in culture, easiness of life and what the Germans call "Gemütlichkeit" (the coziness factor), I prefer Austria - Salzburg or Tirol - well over Switzerland or Germany, and prices are right too. But for sheer natural beauty, the first class choices are those above and Bernese Oberland.
You might find this website useful in reducing costs for the Switzerland segment of your European trip - https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/switzerland-rail-passes . You could also look at the Regional passes such as this - https://www.regionalpass-berneroberland.ch/en/ .
There's no doubt that Switzerland is expensive, but the scenery is incredible and somewhat unique - https://goo.gl/images/nAC6af . You'll need to budget appropriately for hotels, food, etc. but you can save some money by getting light lunches at the local Coop store.
While not exactly the same as Switzerland, the Salzkammergut region of Austria is incredibly beautiful, especially the small town of Hallstatt - https://goo.gl/images/e6SGeC . You could also visit places such as Berchtesgaden (DE) which is only a short bus ride from Salzburg. That's the location of the famous Eagle's Next from WW-II. There's also a Dokumentation Centre & Bunkers there, as well as a Salt Mine which you could tour.
You can look into the Oetztal or Zillertal as Swiss alternatives.
I have been to Murren,Matterhorn and the Jungfrau as well as the Austrian Alps at Kitzbuhl and Zell am See and when I went to Chamonix I was blown away by the Beauty and the Gondola Ride to Agile du Midi and the train to Mer du Glace,train to the Glacier,check it out and train back to Paris.
The Mont Blanc area is pretty grand - the highest mountain in Europe, great hiking, an unbelievably cool cable car up to the viewing point, another cable car over jagged peaks into Italy. You can read about it in the RS France book. We stayed in Chamonix but there are other towns to stay in too. I love Murren but I also loved Chamonix. And, of course, France is cheaper than Switzerland.
On the plane going home after 2 weeks in Austria, I said to my wife, "That's 1 trip to Austria, 16 trips to the rest of the EU. When we reach 32 trips, it should be 16 Austria, and 16 for the rest of EU". Didn't quite make it-- took until trip 36 to get to an 18-18 tie. It's now Austria 32 out 54 EU trips. Forget Switzerland. Go to Austria.
What are you going to do in Murren if the weather is bad? Locate in or near Innsbruck or Salzburg and see the Alps in good weather, the town and museums etc in bad weather.
Having traveled extensively in the French, Swiss, Bulgarian, and Austrian Alps, I disagree with those claiming the Swiss Alps are unique. There are great sights everywhere in the Alps. My preference is Austria, by far. I disagree with the suggestion of the Grossglocknerhauptstrasse-- expensive toll, and the parallel Felbertauren pass has better scenery.
Consider two options, Innsbruck or Salzburg, both good fallbacks in bad weather and both have easy access to great scenery (Salzburg has the edge here, but you don't have enough time to realize the difference). I have a bunch of posts on how to see the sights from both these centers, so I won't repeat it here)
Best way to travel in the Alps:
Car- most flexible, goes places that are hard to reach otherwise. Try to find public transportation to the Oratory at Chazelet, the single most spectacular view in the Alps.
Local tour companies. See Viator, the only one I know. This is not a recommendation, just info that this is a serious option worth considering if you don't want to drive-- probably better than bus or train..
Bus-- more variety than train.
And don't forget that by bus or train, you will spend a lot of time waiting for them to arrive to pick you up.
I thought Murren and indeed the entire country of Switzerland, despite its admitted expense, was worth every single penny that we spent there. If you want to see it, don’t short yourself. My kids liked Switzerland better than Spain, Italy, or France. Our family definitely is an outdoorsy family though.
I agree with Laurel that Italy’s Val Gardena area in the Dolomites is outstanding, and many areas in Austria are also beautiful. But, the Lauterbrunnen area in Switzerland is spectacular! My husband who grew up in Montana is always sad when we have to leave the Jungfrau region. If this is your one time to see Switzerland, I wouldn’t pass it up. (We ate picnic lunches from the grocery store to cut some of the expenses, and hiking all day is free!)
By the way, Viator mentioned in one of the replies is just a 2nd party “middleman” reservation company. Always try to find the actual company supplying the tour, cooking class, etc. for the best service and lowest price.
It’s now early May, so perhaps you’ve got all your plans set, but since this thread’s gotten resurrected, on our trip 20 years ago, which included stays in both the Austrian and Swiss alps, and travel by train, Schladming, Austria made for a great base.
The French Alps, Swiss Alps, and Austrian Alps are all six of one kind, half dozen of the other. After many trips to all, I far prefer Austria.
For " for quiet mountain beauty," its no contest. A lake side room at the one little hotel on Gosausee (Austria).