A friend and I are ending a tour of Munich, Austria and Switzerland in mid-October and will be dropped at the Zurich airport in Switzerland at the conclusion of the tour. Three days later we must be in Budapest for the start of a river cruise. I had always heard Lake Bled and the Ljubljana area was beautiful and thought it might be a good stop in route to Budapest. We have October 17th and 18th to travel around and visit another interesting spot before needing to be in Budapest by the afternoon of October 19th. Travel between Zurich and Ljubljana and then on to Budapest via train or bus do not seem very efficient. While a night train from Zurich to Ljubljana takes 11-12 hours, travel on to Budapest on the 19th also seems to take at least 6 hours. Is there another route or travel destination that anyone can recommend seeing? Our initial tour between Germany, Austria and Switzerland already covers Munich, Salzburg, the Neuschwanstein Castle, Vienna and the Schönbrunn Palace, Villach, Innsbruck, St. Moritz, and Lucerne. Any suggestions of the best mode of transportation and sites to focus on in route to Budapest are appreciated.
I'm guessing that you might not arrive to Zurich early enough to be sure of catching an all-day train through Austria at 8:40 a.m. You could see some museums and walk the city center of Zurich before catching the overnight train to Ljubljana, but yes Ljubljana is a detour from the most direct route. A direct daytime train from Ljubljana to Budapest takes 8.5 hours, not 6.
How much time do you have planned in Budapest? Is it enough? If you fly to Budapest, you could also visit a city like Pecs or Eger (by train) that might not be on your next cruise route.
You don't say what you are seeing in your Munich-Austria-Switzerland tour. Salzburg is about half way from Zurich to Budapest on direct trains. If you did that already, Hallstatt is a short side trip off the main rail line at Attnang-Puchheim. A lot less time riding the rails than going to Bled.
Thanks for the feedback. Actually we are arriving at the Zurich airport about 8:00 a.m. so would have time to catch an all day train to Ljubljana. However, spending two of the three free days between tours just traversing down to Lake Bled and then back to Budapest doesn't seem like the best use of time. We will already be spending 4 days in Budapest (two in a hotel) and two on the start of a 10 day Uniworld cruise between Budapest to Prague so spending additional time in Budapest isn't needed. Our initial tour between Germany, ransAustria and Switzerland already spends time in Salzburg, Munich, at several castles, Villach, Innsbruck, Str. Moritz, and Lucerne so we were really looking for some place that we could spend an additional two days before traveling back to Budapest. Perhaps Salzburg warrants 2 additional days? I realize it's a much more "direct" means to get from Zurich to Budapest with fairly decent train transportation but was just looking for alternative options. Our initial tour also covers the Hadsburgs. Any additional ideas are appreciated.
Salzburg is pretty, but small and touristy. It would not be my choice in your situation. Options to consider:
Bernina Express or Glacier Express (might take too much time)
Bodensee (maybe too watery with the impending river cruise)
Sopron (picturesque but quite small)
Gyor (somewhat larger historic district; several small art museums)
Eger if you're interested in wine; Pecs if not.
I haven't checked to see what the various diversions do to the overall travel time. I think Sopron and especially Gyor would have the least impact. Unless you decide to fly, you have quite a long trip between Zurich and Budapest. I wouldn't want to make it too much longer by planning a substantial detour--which I'm sure some of my suggestions are.