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3 or 4 days in Switzerland (Zurich as home base). Possible ideas

Hello, as I have not picked up a RS guidebook for Switzerland yet (I will soon), I have a general inquiry as to the feasibility of what I can see in a short period of time. I'm doing this so that I have a general idea of what's possible so that I can plan my stay in Switzerland more thoroughly. I plan to be there the first week of September 2015. I initially thought of staying 3 nights, which gives me about 2.5 days of sightseeing. But am thinking of adding an extra night. I'll be travelling solo and my interests lean more towards outdoor scenery and walking the streets of the towns. I don't know if I'd be interested in visiting any museums, maybe one. With that in mind and from the little research I've done, I was hoping to do the following:

-Arrive Zurich afternoon, explore the town on this day with whatever free time I have left after checking into hotel (I've seen plenty of photos online of Zurich and it doesn't seem as charming to me as other towns, so I am ok with not exploring too much of this city).
-Spend the day in Lucerne, or part day here and the rest back in Zurich.
-Would really like to use a day to explore Gimmelwald/OB and the surrounding areas (I've read in other forums that a day trip here is feasible).
-If I have the extra day, would love to explore Bern.

Train rides seem relatively short between these places. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by
6869 posts

Zurich is a very quiet city, and it's not in the mountains. I suggest you fly into Zurich and head into the mountains.

Most of our travel throughout the Alps has been in Austria, as it seems to be easier to travel in. And much more inexpensive.

Posted by
6622 posts

Gabriel, Switzerland is relatively small, but the time it takes to get form one place to another (not just the length of the actual train time) will eat up most of your time. It will take almost all day to get to Gimmelwald from anywhere further away than Interlaken, for example. With three nights, you may only have two days to see anything. Skip Zurich altogether. Easy to do, with the rail station at the airport.

Posted by
8889 posts

I agree, skip Zürich. Take a train from Zürich airport (I assume you are flying in) direct to Luzern. 2 trains per hour, journey ~1 hour, than stay in Luzern.
Do Grindelwald (or somewhere else nearby) as your third night. The train ride Luzern - Interlaken - Mürren (Grindelwald) is scenic.
If you have time, you can do Bern on the way back from Grindelwald to Zürich airport. It is on the way.

Click here for a map of the Swiss Rail network. This is good for planning. It needs a lot of zooming!

Posted by
567 posts

Thanks for the responses. I am using Zurich as my base because of the hotel discount I have for the Sheraton there. It would cost me less than $100 a night, which I'm pretty aware is a steal in Switzerland. I suppose I can search airbnb to see if there are cheaper rooms in Luzern or Interlaken. I'm trying to keep costs as low as possible. And I'm pretty adventurous in that I don't mind waking up at the crack of dawn to catch early trains and getting back to my home base late. If you can suggest any reasonably priced hotels in Lucerne or Interlaken I'd be delighted.

Posted by
67 posts

Gabriel,

We had considered using Zurich as a base this Summer but changed our minds but in our two days there, we are going to use Zurich as base to see the Rhine Falls, so that is one suggestion.

Posted by
16883 posts

The cheap hotel is a false economy if it makes it harder to focus on the best that Switzerland can offer. For instance, check www.silberhorn.com in Lauterbrunnen or www.edelweiss-muerren.com in Muerren which have singles under 120 Swiss Francs. Several places charge half that much if the bathroom is down the hallway.

Among the Swiss Travel Pass options, there are versions covering lots for transport for either 3 or 4 consecutive days or there's a Half Fare Card that gives you reduced rates as you go.

Posted by
567 posts

Also, this might be a silly question. If I visit Gimmelwald or Grindelwald, will there still be snow on the highest mountain peaks? Ideally would like to get photos of the green valleys with the snow capped mountains. I visitied Chamonix once back in August 2005 and I remember there still being snow on Mont Blanc (not aware of the height in comparison to the peaks in Switzerland).

Posted by
11286 posts

If you visit Mürren, there will be snow on the Eiger, the Mönch, and the Jungfrau. While the view from the Schilthorn can be spectacular if it's clear, I had a better view from the Birg viewing platform. And if money is a factor, the Allmendhubel is much cheaper than the Schilthorn, and you get a great unobstructed view of the tops of all three peaks.

Posted by
567 posts

Hi all, time to reformat the plan. I've decided to add another day because I think I will want to spend at least two of them in the Berner Oberland. So here's the plan: fly into Zurich Monday evening. Should I stay in Lucerne or Interlaken (or nearby)? And for how long? I'll fly out of Zurich that Saturday morning, so ideally would like to be in Lucerne on Friday. I guess I need help with the logistics of where I should stay and when. I'm cutting out visiting Zurich completely. I want to still see Bern and of course I'll have an entire day in Lucerne.

Posted by
567 posts

Also, would visiting the Lake Como area be a far stretch for a day trip from Lucerne? I know it's about a 3.5 hour train ride one way to Como.

Posted by
12040 posts

If must stay in Zurich and you want to see the mountains, Luzern, Engelberg and Flumserberg are all much more easily accessible than the Berner Oberland. Keep this in mind... the weather in the mountains is fickle and tends to change throughout the day. If you trek all the way from Zurich to the Berner Oberland, what appeared to be sunny skies when you left could easily turn to an overcast grey-out by the time you arrive.

The Berner Oberland is beautiful, but it isn't the be-all, do-all of the Alps. Worth seeing on a longer trip, but if you can only devote a long day trip to it, I would get my Alpine thrills some place closer.

Posted by
567 posts

Tom, the plans changed. I will spend about 4-5 days in Switzerland and use Lucerne as a home base, but am contemplating staying a night in the Berner Oberland area.

Posted by
650 posts

I recommend Luzerne as the home base. My favourite city in Switzerland. I spent 5 days there last September and it abounds with tourists. Day trips from there are possible to anywhere. Mount Rigi was a great adventure. I loved it. City, river, lake surrounded by mountains... how can this be better?
Yes not up in the high Alps so if you are strictly looking for that then the BO is your better choice. Good trip whatever you decide!!!

Posted by
306 posts

I'm planning our route from Basel to Luzern to Engelberg, thanks to advice from this forum and lots of reading. We wanted some snow capped mountains as part of our trip and don't have enough time to really do the Lauterbrunnen area justice. Plus, it would be even more costly.

Our compromise, which I'm really excited about, is 2 nights in Engelberg with hopes for a beautiful day for a trip to Mt. Titlus, followed by three nights in Luzern before heading back home. Strolling around the town, and taking a water taxi (hopping on and off to explore towns around the lakeshore) will be a relaxing and lovely end to our big trip. (We will have spent time in Paris before we get to Switzerland.)

I'm so appreciative of the help from this forum, especially from Chris from Basel. I understand the train timing and system better and think this will work well for us...

Maybe the Luzern-Engelberg-Titlus plan will meet your needs as well?

Laurie

Posted by
650 posts

Laurie, glad you are spending time in Luzern. You will absolutely fall in love with the city. I know most people on this forum recommends the BO and higher Alps. And I agree that they are most likely awesome. But, if you can't get to them I think Luzern is a great choice. Have a great trip!!!!

Posted by
567 posts

Weather permitting, is it out of the question to do a day trip (from Lucerne) to visit Gimmelwald, Schilthorn or Jungfrau (only one), and view the Lauterbrunnen valley (by this I mean snapping pictures from the gondola, not actually visiting the valley)? I have no problem getting up early to catch the earliest train to Interlaken.