Family of 5 thinking of traveling to Switzerland for a quick 2 day trip while in northern Italy but not sure if its worth it or where to go. Any suggestions?
It will take a half day to get there, a half day to get back. Your call on whether it is worth it. Where are you going to be in Italy?
Northern Italy is mostly Alpine territory. You don't need to go all the way to Switzerland to see majestic mountains.
Depending on where you are traveling from in Italy, it may make more sense for you to visit Austria or the Dolomites. It really depends on where you are leaving from, why you want to visit Switzerland and how far you are willing to travel. For me, Switzerland is always worth it if it fits nicely in my travel plans.
We are going to be in Milan and we had the great idea they we would extend our trip by 2 days and take a train up to Zurich and spend the day. But now I'm not so sure. Just want to see Switzerland because we thought it would be neat since we were only a 3hr train ride away. So it sounds like maybe it's not worth it???
In my mind there's nothing that compares to Switzerland's dramatic beauty. If you decide to go then I would choose someplace other than Zurich. Head to Interlaken to the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Would Lauterbrunnen Valley be family friendly? We have 2 small kids (under 4) so it would have to be semi interesting for them.
Yes. Do it. We have visited the Lauterbrunnen Valley several times and the most recent was last fall with an almost 3-year-old and a 6-month-old. There are lots of things to do with kids that little, you just need to be sure to pace yourself.
Some recommendations with kids that small would be:
1: The absolute highlight for our (almost) 3-year-old was the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn - a steam train trip from Brienz to the top of the mountain. He hung out the side of the train all the way up and down. The trip takes about an hour each way. We took a chance and went up on a cloudy dray and were blown away by the views, I imagine it would be multiplied on a clear day.
2: Ballenberg Open Air Museum - lots of cute buildings and farm animals. The best part is it is fenced in with no traffic so they can run around safely.
3: Murren is kid/stroller friendly (as long as you keep them close when you get near the edge of the mountain) with lots of cute fountains fed by mountain springs for little ones to splash in. It's an easy walk to the far side of the town and up the mountain a very short way where we had a picnic on a bench while our very fascinated 3-year-old watched the paragliders take off (he called them balloons).
4: Speaking of paragliders, he also loved watching them land in the park in Interlaken, which also has one of the best playgrounds we have found in roughly a dozen European trips with little ones.
5: Two kid/stroller friendly 'hikes' would be: 1 - the walk from Murren to Grutschalp (where the cable car from Lauterbrunnen arrives) is one we have done twice with a stroller; 2 - the walk from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg was one I had researched as being kid/stroller friendly but we didn't actually do because the weather wasn't great for the second half of our visit.
6: If the weather isn't great a boat trip is always a hit with our kids and you can take one on either lake.
7: St. Beatus Hohlen (a series of caves on Lake Thun) were on our rainy day to-do-with-kids list but we ran out of time.
8: Another rainy day option would be a day trip to Bern. Our little guy loved the fountains, 'streams' running under grates down the middle of the traffic-calmed streets and visiting the bears. But with only two days you should have more than enough to keep you busy in the Berner Oberland.
9: I would avoid any of the very high mountain trips like the Jungfrau. High altitude trips aren't recommended for kids so young.
We always have a car and rent an apartment off the beaten path so I can't recommend any kid-friendly places to stay. Although I will say we do find apartments very convenient with little ones and we have only once been refused a rental because we were looking for less than a week. It never hurts to ask.
Lastly, if your kids still take naps and you plan to go back to your hotel/apartment for them, make sure you find one with a balcony. Even if you have to pay a little more, it is worth it so you don't miss out on a second of the incredible mountain experience.
Have a great trip!
Thanks Chris for the tip...maybe we won't go to Switzerland. So many places we haven't visited so we are trying to knock off as many places at once as we can.
Visiting Switzerland is certainly possible, although Zürich might not be a good choice for the specifics of your group. With such a limited time, an overnight trip should be possible. Here are a few thoughts, depending on what you think might be suitable for your group).....
- Lucerne - it's a beautiful city and while there you could tour the extensive Museum of Transport (it's huge so may be too much for the attention span of a four year old, but there are LOTS of interesting machines to look at), take a cruise on the lake, a ride to Mt. Pilatus or just walk in the park where the famous Lion of Lucerne is located. It's about a 3.5H trip each way from Milan, so probably not something that would be practical for a day trip.
- Lugano - only about an hour from Milan, so could be done as a day trip. Probably not as many activities for the younger crowd, but you take the Funicular up Mt. San Salvatore or a cruise on the lake.
- Locarno - only a few hours from Milan (depending on which route you take) so again it would be possible as a day trip (albeit a long one). One option would be to take the regular train to Domodossola and then the scenic Cento Valli Railway to Locarno, returning in the evening by boat to Stresa (and from there back to Milan, which is about a one hour rail trip). If you travel by "regular" train from Milano Centrale, the travel time will be about 2.25 hours in each direction. Again, maybe not as many activities for the younger crowd, but they might enjoy riding the Cento Valli. If you decide to use the Cento Valli, you could stop for lunch when you arrive in Locarno, either at the Manor Cafeteria (meals cooked to order) or if your children insist there's also a McDonalds nearby. After lunch you could take the Funicular up the hill and then the Cable Car to Cardada for awesome and beautiful views of the city and lake. There's a nice restaurant at the top of the Cable Car run with a patio that has fantastic views, should you prefer that rather than dining near the station. There are often "special events" in town, such as Volleyball Tournaments and I've also encountered a vintage Mustang show (the locals seem to love old classic cars). There's also a beautiful park along the waterfront where you can stroll (with a Gelato) and just enjoy the ambience.
The last two locations are easily reached from Milan, and will give you a brief glimpse of Switzerland. Of the two places, the scenery in Locarno is better (IMO). Don't forget to take your Passports.
Your family could have a nice Swiss mountain experience without traveling nearly as far as Lauterbrunnen. Rigi, a mountain near Luzern, "has it all"--- beautiful views of alpine peaks across the lake, nice walking paths through flowery meadows, cable cars, and even Swiss dairy cows to wander past. Plus a very nice playground at Rigi Kaltbad, named Rigiland.
To get there, take the train from Milan north toward Zurich but get off at Arth-Goldau, less than 3 hours from Milan. You will enjoy beautiful views of the Alps on the way and go through a few short tunnels. At Arth-Goldau you take a cogwheel railway up and over the top of Rigi and down the other side to Rigi Kaltbad. There are a number of hotel choices here, most with glorious views over the lake. In addition to the playground and easy walks, there are a minigolf course and horse drawn carriage rides.
The next day, ride the big cablecar down to the lake at Weggis, and catch a lake boat to Luzern. Spend some time walking around town ( there are luggage lockers in the train station) and then catch a train back to Milan ( you will change at Arth-Goldau). Your children will travel free in Switzerland, including on the cablecar and boat, if you get a Family Card ( free with an eligible pass, including a Half-Fare Card).
This is a nice sampler of the beauty and fun of the Swiss alpine region without traveling all the way to the Berner Oberland.