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3 day itinerary: Lucerne and Lauterbrennen

Guys, my wife and I are making a 3-day stop over in Switzerland on May 16-19, before moving on to France. We are keen on Lucerne and the Lauterbrennen valley areas. Our main interests are in: (1) Old town sight-seeing and (2) Alpine experience. We are happy to skip the mountain peak tours (Mt. Rigi/Mt. Pilatus/Jungfrau) etc. However, we are not yet sure how to split the days. The options I am thinking are:
Option A: 3 day stay in Lucerne and do day-trips for the Lucerne old town, Lauterbrennen valley. Not sure on the 3rd day trip, yet.
Option B: 1 Day in Lucerne (old town) and 2 in Interlaken (this would be our base for visits in the Lauterbrennen valley)
Option C: 2 days in Lucerne (old town and boat cruise) and 1 in Interlaken (Lauterbrennen)

We will be travelling around by trains/buses. Based on this, I would love to hear from those who have traveled to these parts. Many thanks!

Posted by
7205 posts

So you've only got 3 nights which is not really long enough to see everything from Lucerne to Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen is stunning, and if you've never been to Switzerland you really need to see this area. Unfortunately it's a 2.5 hour train ride one way so doing a day trip is going to eat up 5 hours of your precious vacation time just sitting on the train.

Lucerne is also beautiful with its old town, the crystal clear lakes and stunning peaks in the distance.

As much as it pains me to say this (because I want everybody to see the Lauterbrunnen Valley) I think your time would be better spent staying in Lucerne. Do stay in the town center and not the outskirts. Staying near to the train station will give you quick access to both trains and boats. You say you're not interesting Pilatus, but it is a very beautiful trip on the boat to Alpnachstad and then onto the cogwheel that climbs to the top of Pilatus. Weggis is also close by and stunningly beautiful little lakeside village accessible by boat and bus from Lucerne. Mt Rigi is also easily started from there.

You didn't say what your destination was after your 3 nights in Switzerland. If you're flying out from Zurich you might want to consider staying the night before your flight in Lucerne and checking your bags in and printing your boarding pass directly from the Lucerne train station.

Of course you could do the opposite and spend 3 nights in Lauterbrunnen and the surrounding alpine villages like Murren (my absolute favorite place in the world). The middle of May is a little early for everything (all hotels and restaurants) to be open. Of course there will be a few open. There could also be snow and/or mud on the trails because which doesn't bother me because I'm not an avid hiker. Just walking through the villages, or from Murren down to Gimmelwald is fine with me. You can take the gondola up to Schilthorn or down to Stechelberg and walk along the little deserted road all the way to Trummelbache Falls. It's just a stunningly beautiful area that is just unbelievable to see.

Posted by
27711 posts

Just so I can be clear on your "We are happy to skip the mountain peak tours (Mt. Rigi/Mt. Pilatus/Jungfrau) etc." - is that because of the time and you are worried it will take too long, or because you are scared of heights?

The reason I ask is that being in the valley and looking up (foot of Pilatus, Lauterbrunnen, etc.) is a significantly different experience than being on the edge of the cliff on an Alp looking across at all the mountains - like Wengen or Muerren, and entirely different to looking across and down on the boundless sea of mountain tops and clouds.

The three experiences build on each other, and of course you are free to stop at stage one, but we may be able to help you with stage two or three if you wish.

Posted by
4 posts

Tom, Nigel, many thanks! This is very helpful stuff! Fear of heights is not the concern. Its more a time and priority thing. We are keen on both, an Alpine experience (walk around the little towns in the Lauterbrunnen) and explore the old town of Lucerne. I guess, if we could cover these two, we wouldnt really miss skipping on the trips to Mt. Rigi/Pilatus/Jungfrau.

Do you think it would make sense if we did 1 day Lucerne (old town) and 2 days in Gimmelwald/Wengen? Do you think mid-May would be a good time to go the Valley area? I have been reading reports that May is largely shut down. If that is the case, then we'd just do 3 full days in Lucerne.

Btw, we will be landing in Zurich after a 13hr non-stop flight and the exit will be from Lucerne/Interlaken by train to Paris.

Your advise is much appreciated!

Posted by
7205 posts

Largely shut down? No, because there are REAL residents who live and work in these towns. Some of the hotels may not be open (who cares?) and some of the restaurants may not be open (again, no big deal). To me that's more of a plus because it means less tourists.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks, Tim. I appreciate the time you and Nigel took to guide us on our maiden trip to Switzerland! Much appreciated :)

Posted by
1831 posts

We spent two days in Lucerne in early March, and probably should have spent one more day because it was our first trip to Switzerland and because it was just so damn enjoyable. Arrived by train from Paris in the late afternoon, stayed at Hotel Walstaetterhof right across the street, and had easy access to the river Reuss, the Chapel Bridge and the Old Town. Spent the next day just walking around, having lunch at--believe it or not--the Manor Department store cafeteria, with rooftop dining (you carried your tray up there!) in which the vistas in every direction were spectacular. Phenomenal choice of food, reasonably-priced for Switzerland. Also visited a couple of boutique chocolatiers and the Lion Monument. We left via train for Italy the next morning, but had we had the extra day, a boat cruise and maybe a visit to the casino on the other side of Lake Lucerne would have been in order.

What struck me about Lucerne (and maybe all the Swiss people) is how nice & helpful they all were. Virtually all of them spoke perfect English, and were all like tour guides in trying to make our stay memorable. It was no more than 45 degrees & during the week (Tuesday), yet many locals were soaking up the late winter sun while dining al fresco at the numerous cafes or the Rathaus Brauerie--fantastic lager. I guess it must be nice to be neutral!

Here's the thing, though. During this trip, you really need to take a train through the Alps if you can do it. After leaving Lucerne, we took the south but eastern route, not toward Lauterbrunnen but toward Chiasso at the Swiss/Italo border. While it is not rated as anything unique, that path was still unbelievably scenic--at one point we rose up above the snow line into a squall, then down to Chiasso for the change, where it was 60 degrees. I can only imagine how the other routes are.

Enjoy!

Posted by
16883 posts

The direct train ride from Luzern to Interlaken (toward Lauterbrunnen) is rated quite scenic and is part of the "Golden Pass" route. But even better will be getting up into those mountains by a combination of train and cable car/gondola.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you, Laura and Jay! We have decided to spend one day in Lucerne and take the train over to Wengen and spend 2 days there. All this is largely thanks to the contributions from all the members on this thread! Thank you! Now...cant wait to get on that plane!!