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5 nights with Bernese Oberland in the middle

Hello, I’m just beginning the planning and would love some advice. Never been to Switzerland and have 5 nights this summer there. I was thinking Lucerne - Oberland - Montreux (or elsewhere?). Flying into Zürich arriving very early morning and out of Geneva departing in evening. Using the trains and public transport. Can someone suggest how many nights in each, esp Oberland? 1-3-1? 2-2-1 Also, can someone suggest town for staying in Oberland? Looks like Murren or Wengen or Lauterbrunnen would be good choice?

We will have our teenagers with us. Our primary goal is the scenery but we enjoy strolling European towns with restaurants and shopping and city type sightseeing.

Posted by
4262 posts

Murren, Wengen and Lauterbrunnen are all good choices. Depends a bit on what you plan to do. I liked Lauterbrunnen and felt it was a bit more central, but Murren and Wengen are very beautiful. I feel like you are a couple days short of a trip that would allow you enough time to see things at less than a frantic pace. With the days you have, 1-3-1 is probably the best. Ideally, I would want 2 nights in Luzern and 4 in Berner Oberland. Is the plan to fly out the day after you stay in Montreux?

Posted by
4 posts

I completely agree with you about another day or two, but I’m not sure I can add any. My logic was that since we’d arrive in Luzern by around 10 (flight arrives 6:30 in Zurich), we would have most of that day and the next for strolling and just taking in the city, maybe boat on the lake (perhaps leave for Oberland on that second day at 16:00)? And yes, we would fly out of Geneva the day after Montreux (flight is at 7 PM so we would have at least time for a little sightseeing early in the day). Do you think skip Montreux? I added in only because seemed like a popular stop between Lauterbrunnen and Geneva.

Thank you so much for your reply. I got as far as the region we wanted but got stuck then.

Posted by
10057 posts

Note that it is the Berner Oberland. Using the full names of places in Europe can avoid some confusion. 🙂

I would skip Montreux and spend as much time in the Lauterbrunnen Valley of the Berner Oberland as possible. Once you are there you will understand. Hopefully you have Rick Steves’ Switzerland guidebook as he covers this region very well. We have been all over Switzerland (Luzern, Engadine, Ticino, Lausanne/Montreux/Lake Geneva environs, Zermatt, Bern) and nowhere draws us back like the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

Posted by
1422 posts

Head straight to the B.O. after you arrive in Zurich. Spend 4 nights in Wengen or Murren and then head to Montreux for the 5th night.

I would skip Luzern this time. It and the area are worth 2-3 days, but you would only have a half-day to spend there. Not really worth the travel effort to get to it.

ETA: I saw you're flying out of Geneva, not Zurich so I edited accordingly.

Posted by
4262 posts

It is not a big deal and it is more commonly referred to as Berner Oberland and least on this site, but Bernese Oberland is a term that is also used for the region. Switzerland is wonderful, especially the area you are looking at. Montreaux is a beautiful spot. We stopped on our way to Geneva and visited the Chateau for a bit. If you are wanting to stay closer to the airport on your final night, Montreaux, Lausanne and others may be a good idea as you make your way to the airport. Those cities on Lake Geneva are lovely, are they as wonderful as BO, probably not.

Posted by
7723 posts

We preferred staying in Grindelwald and easily visited the villages you mention. Grindelwald has more to do, more dining and hotel options as well as terrific transportation. I agree that the Berner Oberland deserves four days.

Posted by
1122 posts

Sorry, but I can never tell by some of the posts if they are talking about 5 nights in Switzerland after you fly in and out or are those nights included.

Either way I agree with another post. Just head to the BO and skip Luzern and Montreux. I am partial to Wengen, but Murren is also equally as nice. I am not a big fan of Grindlewald, but Lauterbrunnen Valley gives you the opportunity to access Murren and Wengen equally. Depends on if you want a hotel in the mountains or the valley. Also, I am partial to staying very close to my departing city the night before my flight especially if it is in the morning. IMO the more time spent in the BO the better. Enjoy.

Posted by
4 posts

You all are fantastic. Thank you! I'm only including nights "on the ground." So we will have 5 nights and 6 nearly full days. I think my reasoning with Luzern and/or Montreux was to get a little bit of (bigger) city-on-a-lake feel, as opposed to smaller villages. We wouldn't do day trips or mountains from those (I see that Luzern has some mountain top and/or day trips that folks like but we'd just do city strolling and breathing in the vibe/culture). That said, we could skip Montreux and head straight from Lauterbrunnen to Geneva airport on final day (night flight). If we left Luzern later on the second day, we'd have 3 full days/nights in the Bernese Oberland.

I've been googling "things to do in Bernese Oberland" and the majority of activities is hiking/cable car/cog train for scenic vistas and then some lake tours by boat. We absolutely want to do these and it's why we are going in the first place. For variety, though, what are some of the other activities you all like? (I should also say that we are not planning to do Jungfraujoch because of budget.)

Posted by
4262 posts

I'm not sure of the status right now, but Schilthorn (the "other" BO excursion to a mountain top) was recently completely covered on the Swiss Travel Pass. Then I heard it was pulled due to some lawsuit. When I was there, it was half price on the Swiss Travel Pass. Schilthorn is a fair amount cheaper than Jungfrau. If it's included and you have the Swiss Travel Pass, Schilthorn is probably worthwhile even in poor visibility for James Bond fans. I don't think the Jungfrau makes much sense in poor weather and as you know, its expensive. Incidentally, I know you are not sure what you want to do for that last day, but the chateau at Montreaux is also on the Swiss Travel Pass as are boat and mountain excursions in Luzern as well as a small art museum. (Rosengart) Even if you don't feel you have time to go to the top of a mountain in Luzern, you could consider a boat ride. The lake is rather large and quite pretty.

Posted by
4 posts

Yes, I like the idea of a boat ride in Luzern. Am thinking about the Bernese Oberland regional pass, which seems to include Luzern, but I am not sure if includes boats. Will check.

I realized that the flight I'm looking at arrives in Zurich at 6:20 AM. If we get to Luzern around 9 or 10, we won't be able to check in to a hotel. And we will be tired (transatlantic flight). Does anyone know the standard check in time and/or if they will allow us to leave luggage? I'm seriously considering different flights b/c of this, maybe even switch the plan and start in Bernese Oberland and last night in Luzern (and switch to a flight out of Zur instead of Gen) b/c the train to BO will be okay when we are tired (was trying to avoid so much travel all at once though). I imagine we may need a nap. UGH!

Posted by
4262 posts

I wouldn't worry about an early arrival. Most often hotels have allowed me to check in early. When the aren't able to, they are always willing to store luggage. I would just take passports and any valuables with you if it looks like it isn't in a locked area. That said, I've done this a lot both in Europe and the U.S. and never had an issue.

Posted by
719 posts

You've Googled "things to do in Berner Oberland" and that's a good start. Having been there a dozen times, half of those with teens, I'd recommend being there as long as possible, because there's enough to do for 2 weeks. A boat ride on Lake Brienz is nice, and covered by the Berner Oberland Pass, but cog trains and hikes are even better, in our opinion. Take a look at some of the hikes we've done and decide for yourself. (Click on my name and you'll find a link to our dozen favorite hikes with pics and maps. Most are around 2-3 hrs.)

Wengen is a beautiful setting, but is only close to one great trail. Murren is close to 4 great trails and the Schilthorn. Lauterbrunnen is the train hub, with it's own beautiful valley worth walking down, plus Trummelbach Falls down the road. So, for teens with you, I'd recommend Murren or Lauterbrunnen.

Posted by
68 posts

I don't usually like taking just one night in a location, however, with just 5 nights, it might work. I hate for you to miss Luzern and the beautiful covered bridges. So if you spend 1 night there, and then head to the BO (we stayed in Murren) for 2 nights, and then 2 nights in Montreux. As stated before, the Chateau du Chillon is wonderful. We found it very easy to hop a boat for a lake trip to Laussane, and then across the Lake to Evian les Bains, France. We spent a few hours there, ate a delightful lunch at an outdoor cafe, and then back across the Lake to Lausanne. We spent the rest of the day there. We aren't particularly big museum fans - we prefer to be outdoors. However, I am a big Olympics fan, and the Olympic museum in Lausanne was very impressive. We even had time to take the Metro up to the Old Town, which has the European cobblestone streets and shops you are wanting. While I would have loved to spend more time in Murren, even with just 2 nights, we were able to hike, go to the Schilthorn and even to Gimmelwald. All I have mentioned was covered by the Swiss Travel Pass.

Posted by
7205 posts

I love Lucerne - my daughter and Swiss son In law were married in the Jesuit Church at Christmas 2017.

As beautiful as Lucerne is - I would skip it and head straight to BO. It’s stunning! But even so, Lake Brienz and Lake Thun are both very very near to BO, and you’ll be able to do your boat riding there. Thun itself is a very nice town with its own wooden covered pedestrian bridge and a fairy-tale castle high on the hill. You’ll be able to see and do all of that easily from the BO.

And definitely choose one of the alpine car-free villages to stay - either Murren or Wengen. It’s just beyond breathtaking there!