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Switzerland vs. Scandinavia for Summer Holiday?

Hello! My family is planning to take a 10 day trip in early July next year and are trying to decide between Switzerland (Bern, Berner Oberland area including Interlaken, Lucerne, Zurich and maybe day trip to Lichtenstein) and Scandinavia (Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and St. Petersburg).

For those of you who have been to both Switzerland and Scandinavia, how would you compare/contrast the two in terms of things to do, prices, etc? Our family likes a good mix of arts/museums but also walking around pretty towns, not too intense nature-y things, etc.

Thanks for your help in advance!

Posted by
3318 posts

I've spent quite a bit of time in both Switzerland as well as Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Both are pricey...Switzerland is the more expensive. We try to keep our costs down wherever we go by cooking as much as we can and shopping in grocery stores. Either region will require you to establish a budget that's on the higher end of places you could visit in the world.
Switzerland is all about the outdoors and the mountains - for your itinerary, Bern and Zurich are your "city" destinations and all the others are focused on the scenery and the mountains. Lucerne is a happy medium with a beautiful town along with the lake and surrounding mountains. That said, the mountains in Switzerland are very "civilized" with gondolas to take you up. mountain huts that serve great food and drink, and spectacular views. The nature is intense but very accessible...you really shouldn't miss it.
Your Scandinavian destinations are all cities surrounded by countryside if you choose to leave the main part of town. If you want museums and the arts then these are probably more along the lines of what you are looking for. There are VERY nice museums, art, and historic sights in all four of your destinations. I like the mix of architecture in Scandinavian cities - you have both the old and the new, especially in Copenhagen. It's one of my favorite cities in Europe.
Hope this helps a little!

Posted by
11259 posts

Anita's post is excellent. I'll just add that for St. Petersburg, you either have to take the St. Peter Line from Helsinki, or else get a visa in advance, which adds both cost and hassle (and don't underestimate the hassle). However, while hotels in St. Petersburg can be expensive, everything else there is cheap compared to your other destinations.

One more thing about cost - transit. For getting around Switzerland, you can use either a Swiss Pass or a Half Fare Card, which saves significant money (which is best depends on your EXACT itinerary). In 2014, I bought a 15 day Swiss Pass, under a promotion, for $492; this not only covered all but about 120 CHF of my transit costs (supplements for the Allmendhubel, Schilthornbahn, and Jungfraujoch), but also all but 15 CHF of my musems (supplement for the Swiss Transit Museum in Zurich).

For getting around Scandinavia, you have to use international trains, boats, or planes, and these can add up fast. They also require more advance planning; Swiss domestic trains run at least once an hour on all routes.

As for things to do, both Scandinavia and Switzerland are great, so you'll just have decide which one you're more in the mood for. Have you all watched Rick's various videos of these destinations? I find that's a great way to break a tie: https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show

If you want to hear more about these places in person, come to our next New York RIck Steves Travel Meeting, on Saturday July 15 at 1 PM at Panera Bread, 425 Fifth Avenue (between 39th and 40th Streets).

Posted by
9 posts

These are super helpful insights.. thanks for sharing to you both!!