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Switzerland in September

My husband and I are flying from the U.S. to Milan, Malpensa airport to stay in Lake Maggiorre in Stresa for 3 nights. We want to go to Wengen or Grindelwald for 3 nights. From there, to Lucerne for 3 nights. From Lucerne, we will need to fly to Hamburg, Germany to catch a cruise. We do not ski or hike and we want to see the alpine villages, alps, and have good memories of Switzerland as this will be our first time in Switzerland. My husband is in his early seventies and I in my sixties but in good health. We'd like this trip to be convenient. Any suggestions please on train or flights. I do not understand the rail system. If this itinerary is stressful and not direct, please help with a doable itinerary. Please help.

Posted by
31140 posts

isabel,

Your proposed Itinerary is actually quite easy to achieve. A few thoughts and questions....

  • Milan to Stresa - take the Malpensa Express (train) from MXP to Milano Centrale. There are two different destinations on that route, with the other being to Milano Cadorna. Be sure to board the correct train!
  • When you buy your ticket for the M.E. at the airport station, also buy a ticket from Milano Centrale to Stresa. The trip will be about an hour and may be via a Regionale train, so DON'T forget to validate your ticket prior to boarding the train or you face a hefty fine which will be collected on the spot!
  • Wengen or Grindelwald - are you "firm" on staying in either of those two towns? Many of the group here prefer Mürren or Lauterbrunnen. You might find it helpful to check your local Library to see if they have a copy of the Switzerland Guidebook, as that provides a good description of the various towns in that area. Mürren would probably provide a better "alpine village" experience, although I usually prefer Lauterbrunnen as it's more central to exploring both sides of the valley.
  • Travel from Stresa to Berner Oberland - that trip will be about 2.5 hours with one or two changes, depending on which train you use. You can buy tickets at the station in Stresa (perhaps when you arrive there), but they may only be able to sell tickets to the first station inside Switzerland. If that's the case, it's very easy to buy tickets for the Switzerland portion of the trip at the first station in Switzerland. Your route will be from Stresa to Interlaken Ost, transfer to the Berner Oberland train for the trip to Lauterbrunnen and then from there to whichever town you choose to stay in. It sounds complicated but it's all rather easy.
  • Travel from Berner Oberland to Lucerne - a very easy trip. You'll first need to get back to Interlaken Ost. From there you can board a direct (no changes) train to Lucerne, with a travel time of 1H:51M.
  • Travel from Lucerne to Hamburg - I wouldn't bother flying on that route, as it will be more complicated, more of a hassle, more tiring and probably at least as long as train trip when all is considered. That's a fairly easy trip by train, although not a short trip. There's a departure from Lucerne at 07:41, arriving Hamburg Hbf at 15:35 (time 7H:41M, one change at Basel SBB). What time do you have to meet the cruise? You can check the Bahn.de (German Rail) website to plan all your rail journeys.

As you may have heard, Switzerland is expensive so be sure to budget accordingly. I'll try to provide a more detailed Itinerary later, but I'm sure the others will have lots of good suggestions also.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you for your reply. It sounds complicated and we'd prefer train trips where it is non-stop or direct. I may have to change my itinerary as follows: From Stresa to Zermatt for 3 nights and from Zermatt to Lucerne. Lucerne to Hamburg is quite a long train ride. Should we skip Lucerne and go elsewhere in Switzerland that would be very memorable? Can you help with how to get to Zermatt from Stresa? From Lucerne, where would you recommend? We can arrive in Hamburg by noon time. Please help.

Posted by
15683 posts

Stresa to Zermatt is very straight forward. You can get an EC train to Brig and change to the narrow gauge line to Zermatt. Zermatt to Luzern can be done the quick way via Visp and Bern in 3+ hours, or the slow way through the old Lotchberg tunnel to Speiz, then Interlaken and regional train through Brienz in 6+ hours.
I'd fly to Hamburg from Zurich.

Posted by
5 posts

Ok - EC train to Brig and change to the narrow gauge line to Zermatt. I'll have to figure out how to get to Brig and change to Zermatt. I don't know what you mean by the narrow gauge line. I'll have to figure out how to get to Visp and fly out of Brienz to Zurich and from Zurich to Hamburg. If there is any more details, please let me know. Thank you for your help.

Posted by
15683 posts

Just go to www.sbb.ch. All the schedules are there. Just input your start point, end point and date and all the options will appear.

Posted by
12040 posts

Fly from Zürich to Hamburg, if you can. I know how long the rail ride is from Frankfurt to Hamburg, that would seem entirely too long to start in Luzern.

Either Grindelwald or Wengen is a decent choice. They're both convenient to the Jungfraubahn.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you Tom for your reply. There is no airport from Luzern. How do I get from Luzern to Zurich? I know, check the rail.

Posted by
15683 posts

Yes, easy rail connection from Luzern right to the airport. There is a direct train every hour at 10 past, and it takes 1 hour 3 minutes and costs 28 chf. There are also trains at 35 past the hour if you don't mind changing trains at Zurich main station.

Posted by
1 posts

I would not skip Lucerne. It is a beautiful city and easily walkable (as is everyplace in Switzerland that I've been). Just walking around the main part of town, there is much to see (including the old Jesuit Church and covered bridge), and you can walk up to the watch towers to see the view. I went at 68 after a long illness, and was not in great shape, but it was not too much for me. You can also take the rail up Pilatus, the beautiful mountain that rises above the city. Don't miss it!

Posted by
31140 posts

isabel,

I'd also recommend not skipping Lucerne. It's a beautiful and historic city, with lots of great sightseeing opportunities.

While my previous comments might seem complicated, rail travel is not really that onerous. The rail system in Switzerland is excellent and very easy to use, but the reality is that changes are sometimes necessary (that applies anywhere in Europe). You may find it helpful to watch THIS short video on the topic.

If you could increase the time of your trip and your budget will allow, you could also consider taking a tour such as the My Way Alpine Europe tour. All transportation and hotels would be taken care of, and you'd have a tour escort to help making arrangements along the way. You could always visit Lucerne after the tour, before flying home from Zürich. Just a thought......

Cheers!

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you all for your reply and they are most helpful. I have gone into the www.sbb.ch/en. I picked dates 4/18/14 departure since it is leaving on a Friday and the September schedule is not yet available. The schedule is as follows:
leave Zermatt at 9:39 a.m. on R230
arrive Visp at 10:47, platform 3
depart Visp at 10:57 on IC823, platform 5
arrive Bern 11:54, platform 4
depart Bern 12:00 on IR2523, platform 8
arrive Luzern at 1:00, platform 3
Because there is only 10 minutes to get on the next train from platform 3 to platform 5 and from platform 4 to platform 8, should I book 3 separate tickets so that we can catch the train leaving later?
I am nervous if I cannot catch the train in 10 minutes because of the different platform and I have to inquire from someone on whether I am taking the correct train. Further, I might not locate english speaking folks at the train station. Please help.

Posted by
12040 posts

10 minutes is more than adequate time to change trains. Don't worry, millions of people manage every day. It's very hard to accidently get on the wrong train and you won't have any trouble finding an English speaker if you need help.

Posted by
15683 posts

In Switzerland it is highly likely that your conductor will speak some English, especially on the Zermatt-Visp train. Just ask them for advice. They will be very familiar with platform situation at Visp. Visp is not a big station and nearly everyone will be doing the transfer to Bern, (and the rest will be going the other direction).