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4 or 5 days in Switzerland

Hello all,

We have a wedding in Croatia early September and have decided to take a quick flight over to Switzerland for a 4 or 5 day stay after. I know this is not long, but its all the time we have. Looks like we will be arriving in Zurich (very late- September 14th) so we have from September 15, 16, 17, 18 and most likely flying back to Canada on September 19th.

This is a short trip...we want to see the swiss alps, in town exploration is not our cup of tea (unless its small little villagge mountain towns), we will most likely wake up in Zurich the morning of September 15th and leave right away.

Looking for some itinerary options as well as somewhere to base our stay out of.

We are going to take advantage of swiss public transit/train system this whole trip

Places of interest are

Lucerne -Mount Rigi, Mount Titlis
Interlaken- Grindewald (cliff walk, hike to bachalpsee)
Lauterbrunnen- waterfalls, paragliding, Jungfraujoch and or schilthorn
Stoos peak experience
possible lake tours
suspension bridges

-small easy hikes, waterfalls, mountain views, trains

Any recommendations on a train route that's not an entire day and has beautiful views?

Any recommendations on where to stay, how long to spend in each place. We will need to end back up in Zurich to fly home morning of September 19th, wondering how we can plan this so we leave Zurich...explore the alps, end up back in Zurich without touching on the same again on the way back.

Would it make sense to stay in one of these regions and travel to desired destinations daily or move around? I feel like staying in one place or max 2 is good so we can leave luggage behind.

Any recommendations would be great!

Amy

Posted by
6644 posts

Try and plan it so that you dont have to stay in Zurich at all. The train from/to the rail station at the Zurich Airport (Flughafen) is only 1.25 hours from Luzern, so you easily either go right there, or stay there last night. I dont know about waterfalls, but Luzern has three mountains with views you can go up, small hikes, trains and a beautiful lake you can cruise on as well. Yes, the Lauterbrunnen area is better, but harder to get to and around in the time you have.

Posted by
1122 posts

Stay at an airport hotel in Zurich. Get on a train at the airport at about 9:00am the next morning and you can have lunch in an alpine village in 3 hours. (Murren or Wengen). You can fill up 4 days without moving anywhere else and fulfill anything on your list.

Check out this website for things of interest.

https://www.myswissalps.com/berneseoberland

Posted by
13096 posts

You won’t have time for everything on your list, particularly to do both the Schilthorn and the Jungfrau, or the Stoos peak experience. And I assume you mean to just see paragliders, not go paragliding yourselves. You won’t have time for that unless you give up most of the other things you list.

However, you can include most of the rest—-Mt. Pilatus, a lake boat, suspension bridge, Grindelwald Cliff Walk and walk to Bachalpsee, and waterfalls. You would ideally need 2 nights each at Luzern and Lauterbrunnen, which you could manage by spending your arrival night OR your night before departure in Luzern instead of Zurich. Depending on the actual timing of your flight in or out, that could work, as the train trip from the airport to Luzern is only one hour. And depending on which of those works, you could start in Lauterbrunnen or Luzern, and end at the other.

This would give you one full day and part of another at each location. Activities to include:

From Luzern, take the cablecar route via Kriens up Pilatus, then down to Alpnachstad by cogwheel train. From Alpnachstad, you can either return to Luzern by boat, OR take the train the short ride from Alpnachstad to Engleberg and ride the lifts up Titlis for your suspension bridge experience on the Titlis Cliff walk: the first bridge depicted on this page:

https://www.asmallworld.com/explorer/articles/most-beautiful-suspension-bridges-switzerland

Then return to Alpnachstad and take the boat back to Luzern, or leave the boat ride to the following morning, before you travel to Lauterbrunnen. The train ride from Luzern to Lauterbrunnen is 2h 19 minutes and part of the scenic Golden Pass route. You will pass a lovely waterfall near the Brunig Pass.

On arrival in Lauterbrunnen, after dropping your luggage at the hotel ( book a room with a view of the nearest waterfall if you like). you could walk to Trummelbach falls and experience the “inside the mountain” views of the falls. Or head up the Schilthorn if that is still on your list. If you choose the Schilthorn, I suggest for your descent you go via Gimmelwald to experience the thrilling swing of the cablecar beyond the cliff over 3000 feet of nothingness below. You are likely to see paragliders from the cablecar—you may even be above them. You will end the cablecar ride at Stechelberg and take a bus the short ride back to Lauterbrunnen, but it is better to walk. And you may see more paragliders this way, or even have one or more land right near you.

I am suggesting you stay in Lauterbrunnen as that makes it easier to do multiple activities, especially the Grindelwald ones, but you could also stay above the valley in Wengen. Then you are closer to Grindelwald by the cablecar/gondola route over the Männlichen ridge.

Wherever you start (Lauterbrunnen or Wengen) I suggest you take the Männlichen cablecar up and either walk the easy scenic trail to Kleine Scheidegg for the train down to Grindelwald, OR skip the walk and take the gondola near the Männlichen cablecar to station directly down to Grindelwald. You can buy tickets for either option.

In Grindelwald, you walk through town to the First gondola and ride that up for the Grindelwald Cliff walk and/or the hike to Bachalpsee. If it is near lunchtime, you can either stop in town for a bite, or ride the First gondola partway up to Bort and have lunch at the mountain inn there before re-boarding the gondola to ride to the top.

Here is a good description of the best way to approach the Grindelwald cliff walk:

https://fullsuitcase.com/first-cliff-walk-grindelwald/

You can return from Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen by train through the valley instead of going back over the ridge, if you like. It may be cheaper and faster—-I don’t recall.

Here is a map of the Swiss rail system so you can plan your route:

https://cdn-doc.myswissalps.com/docs/default-source/rail-network-maps/swisstravelpass.pdf?sfvrsn=7788603a_56

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks so much everyone

Our flight arrives pretty late in Zurich on September 14th (10 pm), would you suggest staying in a hotel in Zurich and then making out way or should we just leave right away via train to.....wherever we plan on going first?

Posted by
13096 posts

That is indeed late! At that hour, there is only one more direct train to Luzern, at 22:38, and you won’t make that. Later trains involve one or more changes, and you would arrive in Luzern very late for hotel check-in.

Instead, I would book the Radisson Blu that is right in the airport terminal. You can easily walk there from the arrivals area, with no shuttle or train involved. That would be the simplest solution, and I am all in favor of keeping things simple, even if it costs a bit more. You go straight to sleep, and the next morning you can easily take an early train from the airport station to your first destination.

What time is your flight home from Zurich? If it is 10:30 or later, you could spend the previous night in Luzern and easily make the flight by catching a train by 7 am. If not, you could still spend most of the day at your final stop and take a late evening train to Zurich to be ready for your flight in the morning.

Posted by
11 posts

Update-- I was wrong on the flight time, flight arrives in Zurich at 750 pm, you think I will have time to get myself out of Zurich? My concern is wasted time the next day.. exciting out of Zurich hotel, traveling to destination, and carting around luggage until check in. We will pack light but we are spending a week before in Crostia and in a wedding, so we will have some stuff to cart around!

Posted by
454 posts

I am one of the dissenters here in that we didn’t like Lucerne. Ironically we liked Zurich. If you are hauling more than normal stuff because of the wedding you could just crash in Zurich (we actually like Zurich) one night and -personally- with the short amount of time you have early the next morning I would get up to the Lauterbrunnen valley on the earliest trains possible. Then just stay there the entire time. The last thing I would want to have to do if I were hauling extra luggage is check in and check out of multiple hotels. You can see almost everything on your list in the BO. Lauterbrunnen or Wengen might suit. Then just Park all your stuff and EASILY get around the area. You might be able to get there the night you get in, which would be ideal as again it avoids multiple check in and check out of hotels schlepping all your extra stuff.

Posted by
13096 posts

With a 19:50 arrival in Zurich, you have time to go to Luzern, just over an hour away ( and a direct train, no changes, departing at 20:38 which you might well make). But Lauterbrunnen would be too far—-the next reasonable connection would be at 20:45, and with a travel time of 2 h 40 minutes it would be nearly midnight when you arrive at your hotel.

To respond to the post above about Luzern, I will point out that I suggested this town as a base for 2 nights to provide opportunities for at least 3 of their major stated goals: Pilatus (or Rigi), a boat trip on a lake, and a suspension bridge experience. While a boat trip can be found near Lauterbrunnen on the Brienzersee or Thunersee, the other two cannot be satisfied from Lauterbrunnen without a significant amount of travel time there and back. And Luzern is an easy trip from the Zurich airport, with numerous good hotel options within easy walking distance of the train station—- important for a short visit. In 5 visits to Switzerland, we have not found the Zurich hotel options to be nearly as convenient, nor as good.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you for the replies!

Lola--

I was wondering if it made more sense to stay in Lucerne so we could wake up early and get a few things done on our list, spend the day exploring, check in late in the day to a hotel in the BO to avoid getting there early and carrying around luggage.

Any recommendations for a hotel in Lucerne?

Have you done the Stoo' experience, it was top of our list due to the beautiful panoramic walk but it seems to be out of the way of everything.

Also wondering if you have done the Mt Rigi Spa and its worth it to go when I visit Rigi (Mineralbad and spa)

Thanks
Amy

Posted by
11 posts

Also to add on to Lucerne location-- if possible somewhere close to the train station as we will be getting in late, and I assume to do the few activates we want to do the next ay we will need access to the train station once again

This also goes for a location in BO-- thinking Lauterbrunnen or Murren-- which do you think? is one "easier" to get around, like Lucerne, I think I will need easy access to the transit system
Thanks
Amy

Posted by
3838 posts

In Lucerne, Hotel Des Alpes gets a lot of recommendations on these boards (never tried it myself). The train station, and the boat dock next to it, are so unbelievably central that any central hotel will also be close to the trains and boats, so no issue there.

I have only been to Stoos in the winter: the view from the Fronalpstock summit is truly impressive, but so is the view from Rigi (make sure to go to Chänzeli too), Pilatus, Stanserhorn, or Titlis - all of which are much easier to reach than Stoos.

No idea about the spa on Rigi.

As for Lauterbrunnen vs. Mürren: Mürren is less convenient, so not ideal in your timeframe. Consider Grindelwald, too: there is more daytripping and car traffic than in Lauterbrunnen, but it is no less impressive, and will provide easier access to most of the activities on your list.
Also, if you really want to stay in the mountains, Wengen would be more convenient than Mürren.

Posted by
13096 posts

The Luzern hotels closest to the train station (from looking at a Google map) are Hotel Flora Ameron, Hotel Waldstätterhof, Hotel Monopol, Hotel Alpina, and Continental Park. For the shortest walk to most of these, you would exit the train station out the side door (to the left as you face the arrivals area from the trains). Or exit the front, walk over the main bridge, and turn left to reach the waterfront Hotel des Alpes (which has many fans here).

Note that the boat dock, should your plans include a boat ride, is right in front of the train station.

I am afraid I cannot help with. Stoos—-I have looked at that as a possible base for hiking, but it has never fit well into our Switzerland trips.

You have a lot of things on your list and will not be able to do them all in the short time you have, so you will have to make some compromises. You may also want to consider the costs—-they can add up quickly if you are riding mountain lifts and trains. Check the websites like Jungfrau.ch and Pilatus.ch to find the prices for the various lifts and cogwheel trains.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks again, you are all so knowledgeable!

Would you recommend a swiss travel pass for the amount of travel I plan on doing?

Posted by
454 posts

Since you want to do a number of things a Swiss Pass would be smart. Note some of the passes have 4 days or 6 days, no 5 days. There are a number of threads on this board about the passes.

We landed in Zurich late afternoon/early evening last August and stayed one night in Zurich. 15-20 minutes by train into the city. Stayed two blocks from the train station at Hotel St. Gotthard. A very easy walk, even toting bags. Lots of dining options nearby. Left the next morning straight away from the train station two blocks away for Wengen. Our room was ready when we got there but we would’ve also been fine just having the hotel store our bags and immediately head outdoors. You could take the lift to Mannlichen and the easy walk/hike to Klein Scheidegg, stop for food/drink there and then take the train back to Wengen. Or loop the other way if you are in Grindlewald. Or, you could stay in Lauterbrunnen. Leave your bags and head down the flat walk on the valley floor, picnic and see two of your wishes—waterfalls and paragliding on that walk. Or take the Jungfrau that day. Shilthorn you want to try in the morning when the weather is often best. Most places have TV monitors where you can see what’s going on at the top before you go up there. We’ve done both once but no desire to do again. Your options in the BO/LV are significant! Good luck.

Posted by
13096 posts

You need to do the math to decide if a pass would benefit you, which means figuring out your itinerary.

If you follow the plan of going straight to Luzern on the 14th, spending 2 nights there, then traveling to Lauterbrunnen ( or Wengen or Mürren) on the 16th and spending 2 nights, you would travel back to Zurich late on the 18th to spend the night before your flight the next day, the 19th.

In that scenario, the 4-day Swiss Pass for 281 CHF might work; you would not activate it until the 15th because the trip from Zurich airport to Luzern is so inexpensive it is not worth using up a “pass day” to cover it. You would then be able to cover all train ( except mountain trains) and boat travel for the 15th-18th inclusive. You would ten pay for your ticket from Zurich to the airport on the 19th ( unless you choose to stay at an airport hotel on the 18th). Again, that is dirt cheap and not worth covering with a pass.

However, unless you add a lot of travel for your excursions, the trip Luzern—-Lauterbrunnen (or Wengen, etc.) —- Zurich is not worth covering with a pass either. At 281 CHF for a 4-day pass, your travel each day must average 70 CHF or more to be worth the cost. Luzern to Lauterbrunnen is around 34 CHF, or to Wengen is around 40. And if you buy around 25-30 days ahead, you may be able to get SuperSaver tix for 27 CHF. Then Wengen (or Lauterbrunnen) back to Zurich is around 42-56 CHF, but again you may bbe able to buy SuperSaver tix for much less. (Note that these are good for a specific train on a specific date only, and non-refundable/non-changeable).

So, you will need to decide on what excursions and activities you want, and look up the transport cost of those, before you know if a pass will be cost-effective. Remember that the Swiss Pass fully covers trains and boats to towns and villages (thus up to Wengen or Muerren), but only covers 50% of the cost of cable cars and other mountain lifts, and only 25% of the Jungfraubahn train above Kleine Scheidegg.

On exception is the Rigi roundtrip (boat to Vitznau, cogwheel train up the mountain, cablecar down from Rigi Kaltbad to Weggis, and boat or train back to Luzern from there. This may weigh heavily in favor of Rigi over Pilatus—-along with you interest in the Rigi Kaltbad spa experience (I too am very attracted to that beautiful infinity pool, but we have not yet been there).

You can see the coverage of the Swiss Pass on various means of transport on this rail map that comes with each pass:

https://cdn-doc.myswissalps.com/docs/default-source/rail-network-maps/swisstravelpass.pdf?sfvrsn=7788603a_56

I will leave it up to you to figure out the prices of the various lifts and excursions, as you need to learn to do that. I have given you some of the links in my earlier posts.

Just a thought in your choice between Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, and Mürren: we always prefer the car-free mountain villages over Lauterbrunnen in the valley, but the latter is more convenient for some of your wish-list items, and the Staubbach waterfall views from one of the hotels (I forget which one) are very nice. Or if you want to include the Grindelwald activities from the First gondola, Wengen would be fine, as you can have a very scenic trip there by going over the Mannlichen ridge by cablecar and gondola. Wengen has a number of good hotel options, but we prefer the moderately-priced Hotel Bären and take half-board there as the food is wonderful. It is a steep downhill walk from the train station (or steep up on your way back).

I hope others will weigh in with their own advice and comments.

Posted by
1317 posts

I’m a huge fan of the Swiss Travel Pass. As an inexperienced traveler, I will choice convenience over cost. Also, I think if you have the Pass, you tend to look for more things that are covered by the Pass and try to fit some more of those in to get your money’s worth.

I don’t think this link was shared above (apologies if it was). This gives you an idea of that the Pass covers and what is discounted.

https://www.myswissalps.com/swisstravelpass/validity

As far as Lauterbrunnen vs. Murren vs. Wengen, I stayed in Lauterbrunnen this past Sept. and loved it!! Easy to get to the hotel oberland and close to all things we wanted to do in all 3 locations, plus Interlaken to take a boat ride. But, when I return to Switzerland this June, I’m staying in Wengen. Just to try a different location and it’s closest to my favorite thing—mannlichen. Plus, it has more restaurant options than Murren. If (or I should probably say when) I return to Switzerland a third time, I might stay in Murren to give that a try. So, I really think you can’t go wrong with any of those. I haven’t been to Grindelwald yet (I plan to visit in June), so I have no opinion on staying there.

Regarding Lucerne, I understand cchapin’s opinion. I was a little underwhelmed with the old town, but loved lucerne for it’s convenience to the airport and it’s nearness to Mt. Riggi (another favorite of mine) and other mountains too. I plan to return for 3 nights in June at the end of my trip. Plus, I really fell in love with the berner oberland area. So, anytime I was away from there, I was a little disappointed. I was also disappointed with Bern, which surprised me as I was really looking forward to going there. But again, it wasn’t in the mountains and there were no cows walking around. 😊

Posted by
11 posts

cchapun100 may I ask where you stayed in Wengen? Thanks for the tips and reccomendstions, it's a lot for me coming from a place in Canada where I've never even been on a train, or any public transat at that!

Posted by
11 posts

@carrie, thanks for the response, I am leaning towards the convene of the pass as well as an I experienced transat traveller.

I'm looking forward to Mt Rigi, any tips? Have you been to the spa up there?

Posted by
1317 posts

Regarding mt rigi, I loved the boat train combo on the way there. Sit on the left side of the train when looking at the direction the train will be heading. I might try part of this walk this time:

Mount Rigi Panoramaweg. Follow the panorama trail, which winds its merry way along cliffs and around mountains peaks, with spectaculars views in every direction. The trail ends at Rigi Scheidegg, which has a restaurant and big playground with trampolines and cable car that takes you back down to the valley.3 hours.

https://swissfamilyfun.com/rigi-panoramaweg/

I’m also going to try and see the Stanserhorn, which is free with the Swiss Travel Pass.

https://www.stanserhorn.ch/

I’m not really a spa person so haven’t done that.

Posted by
11 posts

does anyone have a preferred website to try and map out costs of trains and to see when various trains leave throughout the day?

Thanks

Posted by
1317 posts

You want to use the website for the Swiss rail system (it also covers trams, boats, and buses)

https://www.sbb.ch/en

And if you have a smart phone, download the SBB app and practice using it before your trip. It provides so much helpful info. in addition to just times. For example, it let's you know which train cars are first class and second class so you know where to stand on the platform.

Posted by
13096 posts

On SBB.ch (or use rail.ch to go directly to English), note that the price shown on the page with routes and schedules, right above a little red ticket symbol on the far right, assumes you have a Half-Fare card, so it is only 50% of the regular fare.

You need to work through the purchase process a few steps, “un-checking” the pass options to show “no pass” to see the actual price, and possible special fares as well.