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4 Days in Switzerland - How best to use our time prior to cruise leaving from Basel

My husband and I are scheduled to take a 8 day river cruise out of Basel in lat July 2018.

I would love to get recommendations on how best to use the 4-5 days prior to our departure.

Question 1: fly into Zurich or Geneva?
Question 2: what areas should we visit in order to see the beautiful scenery and get the experience of the culture.

Question 3: how many different locations should we consider seeing in just 5 days

Some options that we have considered:
Zurich - Lake Lucerne - Basel
Geneva - Zermatt - Basel

Appreciate any thoughts and recommendations and how long in each location.

Posted by
501 posts

First off, don't fly. It's a small country. It's quicker and more scenic to simply drive. To get a true taste of the culture, you need to visit a smaller city or village. Some of them will be more touristy. If you truly don't want to drive, take the train -- it will still be faster.

I'd drive/train it to Lucerne for a charming smaller city and then head to the Alps. Either Zermatt or the Jungfrau (take the Jungrau railway from Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald). Being able to take a train or cable car to the top of a high Alpine peak is well worth it. That is probably enough in four to five days.

Posted by
1353 posts

If you haven't booked flights yet then I would fly into Zurch, take a train to Lucerne for 2 nights, then train to Lauterbrunnen valley for 3 nights before taking a train to Basel. There is no way I would go to Switzerland without making it to the Lauterbrunnen valley!

Posted by
8889 posts

Q1: Probably Zürich. More flights than Geneva and nearer to where you want to be. Unless you get a very good deal into Geneva.

Q3: (Yes, I know I am answering in the wrong order) no more than 2. 5 days = 4 nights = 2+2.

Q2: From Zürich (or Geneva) airport you can get a train direct to anywhere in Switzerland, so go direct to the Alps. And train is the easiest way to do this trip.
Plan A: Luzern (3 nights). Luzern is 70 minutes from Zürich airport by train. Then 1 night in Basel.
Plan B: Luzern (2 nights). Then Berner Oberland for 2 nights (Mürren, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen or Wengen).
This is a scenic train route from Luzern over the Brünig pass. Train to Basel to catch boat.

Map of Swiss Railways here: https://www.sbb.ch/content/dam/infrastruktur/trafimage/karten/karte-sts-pass-gueltigkeit.pdf
All rail routes (all the red lines on the map) have at least one train per hour, many have two.
Look up train time on the SBB (Swiss Railways) site: https://www.sbb.ch/en/
Times for 2018 are not yet available, but they will be 98% same as this year, so just use a random date in October.

Posted by
1761 posts

Hi PRoss, we're planning a similar trip this fall. We are flying into Zurich and taking the train to Murren. Planning a week of hiking, trips to the Schilthorn and Jungfrau, and sitting on the balcony admiring the beautiful scenery! Train to Basel.

If you haven't been to Lucerne, you might consider that as an overnight from Zurich before proceeding to the Berner Oberland area.

Posted by
901 posts

A lot of it will depend on what airline you choose and where they fly. Here in Atlanta, Delta is the big name, and they only fly to Zurich, not Geneva, so that made our choice for us (we used frequent flyer miles. I have noticed after years of stalking "cheap miles flights" from ATL to Europe that Zurich and Brussels consistently have the low points miles, FYI.) You may even consider flying into a city like Munich, etc. that is within a couple hours' train ride to Switzerland if you are really shopping for a deal or a miles flight.

Personally we are visiting Switzerland next month after a 5-day Mediterranean cruise. We are flying from Barcelona to either Geneva, Basel, or Zurich, and then going to Bern and Murren. We wanted the mountain scenery/hiking/Heidi experience.