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12 Day Switzerland and Austria Itinerary Help

We are a family of 5 (couple with 3 young adult children) planning our first trip to Switzerland and Austria. There is so much information and I've found this forum very helpful. Can you please comment on the following itinerary and suggest improvements/provide general comments? I'm also wondering if we should buy the Swiss passes or the Half Fare card for all 5 of us or are there other train ticket options I should be looking at?

May 30th - Arrive Zurich late afternoon and train to Luzern

May 31st - day in Luzern

May 31st - Train to Bernese Oberland. Stay in Gimmelwald or Mürren/Wenger as a base - which do you recommend?

June 1st and 2nd - explore Bernese Oberland area. Does it make sense to take Bernina Express to Tirano for a day?

June 3rd - Back to Zurich (or Luzern?) and travel to Salzburg - what's the best way to do this?

June 4th - Salzburg

June 5th Salzburg

June 6th Salzburg → Vienna

June 7th - June 11 - Vienna

June 11th - Depart Vienna

Posted by
9999 posts

May 31 - Gimmelwald is VERY small. Stay in Muerren and you can easily walk down (20 mins) to see it.

June 1 & 2 -- Plenty to do in the Berner-Oberland without a day trip. Beautiful walks in the mountains, well-explained in the Rick Steves Guide.

June 3 -- the Swiss rail site, SBB.CH, shows it to be an 8-hour train trip from Lauterbrunnen (transportation hub in the valley) to Salzburg, Yes, through Zurich, 3 changes.

It looks like a long time in Salzburg. I haven't been there yet (next week!) but my research led me to spend only two nights there. Do you have a plan as to how to spend your time? 5 nights Vienna seems heavy, too. I might shift a night to Luzern and one to the Berner-Oberland.

Without doing the math, I think half-fare cards would serve you well. You can ask at the station in Zurich. Tell the agent your plans and they will advise you. The half-fare cards also give discounts on the lifts and trains you may take in the Berner Oberland. You might look at the Berner Oberland Regional Pass as well if you plan to ride a number of the trains and lists there. The lifts are expensive, and the pass makes it possible to ride most of them at no additional charge. The B O Pass is also discounted with the half-fare card. We found it advantageous on our last trip to buy both half-fare cards and B O Passes, but I had to do a spreadsheet with our plans to figure that out.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you! I meant Grindelwad rather than Gimmelwald. Do you think Murren would be a better base than Grindelwald?

Also, is there a way to get to Salzburg from another city close by that won't involve 3 stops? Would it be better to rent a car and drive to Austria then return the car in Salzburg?

And great idea to do a spreadsheet with all the costs to see if the BO Pass makes sense. thanks

Posted by
16883 posts

Getting to Salzburg from Muerren or other BO base will take a few train connections, but they're easy. If you're visiting Luzern, it's one connection from there, boarding the direct, Austrian RailJet train at Zurich. You should not need to rent a car, and an international rental comes with stiff second-country drop fees.

Posted by
9999 posts

I do think Muerren or Lauterbrunnen would be a better choice than Grindelwald. Muerren has teh views, Lauterbrunnen has the convenience.

Posted by
218 posts

4-5 nights in Vienna is a little heavy.

I did Switzerland in one trip and Bavaria-Salzburg-Vienna in another, in about your time span, but without the travel from Switzerland to Salzburg. I also had a car for Bavaria-Salzburg-Vienna which was a major convenience (we included Hallstatt and Mauthausen Memorial).

If I were planning the trip itinerary, at the end of the Swiss portion, I would train from Zurich to Konstanz, Germany (about 1.25 hours) to then rent a car to drive from there to Freilassing (just across border from Salzburg so the car stays in Germany) and find a stop or two along the way (Neuschwanstein, Garmisch, Munich?) for the Zurich to Salzburg portion.

I enjoy working out itineraries, so here's my $.02:

May 30 - Arrive Zurich; train to Luzern (45 minutes)

May 31 - Luzern (visit to the top of Pilatus is must-see and good alpine slides overlooking the lake)

June 1 - Luzern to Interlaken (2 hours)-Bernese Oberland - Murren and Lauterbrunnen Valley; the Trummelbachfalle (waterfalls in the mountain) are well worth a visit

June 2 - Bernese Oberland - Jungfrau and Grindelwald

June 3 - Interlaken to Bern (half day) to Zurich (2 hours)

June 4 - Enjoy morning in Zurich; Zurich to Konstanz (1.25 hours); rent car and drive to Schwangau (2.5 hours)[dinner in Fussen]

June 5- Schwangau (Neuschwanstein Castle and some hiking; Alpine slides if you didn't do them in Luzern - or really liked it!)

June 6 - Schwangau to Salzburg, visiting Oberammergau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen along the way to Freilassing (3.5 hours); drop the car off in Freilassing then 10 minute train ride into Salzburg (evening in Salzburg).

June 7 - Salzburg - RS walking tour; Hohensalzburg; evening Mozart concert somewhere

June 8 - Salzburg to Vienna (2.5 hours) - morning to lunch in Salzburg - waterfront bike ride to Hellbrunn Palace (rent bikes at Mozartplatz or cheap city bikes near bridge where RS walking tour starts); Evening - Vienna Opera and Kartner Strasse

June 9 - Vienna - RS Tram Tour and City Walk; Hofburg; evening Opera and Kartner Strasse (if you didn't get to the evening before)

June 10 - Vienna - Museums

June 11 - Vienna

This gets you a nice taste of Switzerland, Bavaria, and Austria and a decent mix of:

  • breath-taking mountains and vistas;
  • outdoors and adventure
  • city, music, culture, museums, castles, and palaces
  • and good food!

And, for the most part, the itinerary sticks to RS' 2-night stay rule (all except for the 1 night in Zurich).

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks so much everyone and bradleysmith thank you for the plan. We'll definitely do more research on the route you suggested!