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Advice on a 1st timers trip to Switzerland


I'd love any suggestions about our tentative itinerary. This will be our first time to Switzerland. We are both active and love to explore the outdoors. Thanks for your help!

Thursday: arrive in Basel from Paris; overnight in Basel

Friday: explore Lausanne, Montreaux, Vevey area; overnight in Lausanne

Saturday: hiking in Berner Oberland area; overnight in Murren

Sunday: mountain biking in Berner Oberland area; overnight in Murren

Monday: Berner Oberland area; overnight in Murren (is three nights too many?)

Tuesday: take train to Luzern; overnight in Luzern

Wednesday: explore Pilatus, Stanserhorn or Rigi mountains; overnight in Luzern?

Thursday: morning in __?; pm take train to Paris

Friday: fly home

Also, do you recommend that we rent a car or get a Swiss rail pass for what we want to see?


Posted by
16883 posts

You don't need a car for any of this. I have not been to Basel but would be more likely to do 2 nights Lausanne, 3 nights Muerren, and 2 nights Luzern. You probably already know to book the Paris-Basel TGV and return months ahead for the best rates.

Since your stay in Switzerland just fits into 8 consecutive days, I'd choose that version of the Swiss Travel Pass at about $385 per adult, giving maximum coverage and hop-on flexibility for most transport and museums, but just 50% off Muerren-Schilthorn and 25% off Wengen-Jungfraujoch.

If you were traveling with a fear of bad weather or otherwise not sure that you'd actually do most things on your list, then you might make a smaller advance investment with the Swiss Half-Fare Card and then pay half price for all transport tickets as you go (no museum benefits).

Posted by
27709 posts

Just a few things....

I happen to love Basel. It is a gem, with a great sense of humour.

A cable ferry (unpowered, just uses the power of the river) across the Rhine is plenty fun.

I think that three nights in Mürren is about right - it is important not to let a day of bad weather spoil your enjoyment of the mountains and mountain weather is notoriously fickle, if it were me I'd have 4 there but I love to walk, hike and explore. Years and years of going back and I'm never satisfied.

When you go from Mürren to Luzern take the cog wheel narrow gauge train ride from Interlaken to Luzern via the Brünig Pass. It is extremely scenic. Sit on the right along the lake. You don't need the fancy tourist only Golden Pass train, the little local trains every hour go on the same route, have the same map printed on the tables, and have modern air conditioned cars with panoramic glass all the way up into the roof, and actually have local people on them.

If you don't ask to go via Brunig you will probably be routed by the flatlands, not nearly as scenic.

If you do as I suggest, your train will turn around after a little while in Meiringen - where meringue was invented - and the location of the fight to the death between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty took place on Reichenbach Falls. Those real falls are just a few hundred metres from the station, and a funicular goes about half of the way up the falls - if you had time there is a scenic hike the rest of the way up.

As the train turns around (actually it reverses so the front becomes the back and the back the front) change seats so you are facing forwards and on the left. As you climb up from the valley note the waterfalls, including the Giessbach, descending to Lake Brienz, and as you go through the woods you can still see them if you look backwards. Enjoy.

I like the mountains around Luzern, but for me they are small potatoes compared with those in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. I've never been up any of them, but I have ridden the train up Rigi. Very nice, quite foggy at the summit the day I went, but it is a smoother mountain and I like craggy. YMMV, of course. The lake at Luzern though is incredible. I happily while away a few hours on a lake steamer and I like the tiny tiny cablecar up to Wissiflue.

A car would be a hinderance. Take the train, like the Swiss do.

Posted by
703 posts

we were in montreux, last month, our accommodation gave us a visitors pass that gave us free trips on the local bus and discount to the castle, so it might be worth asking?

Posted by
8889 posts

Re glennlorrainer's comment. This is common in many cities in Switzerland.
This includes Basel. If you stay in any hotel in Basel city you get a free public transport pass for the duration of your stay. The pass is valid for Basel and suburbs, including as far as the airport. This is a city council requirement, hotels in Swiss cities rarely have parking.

Posted by
1353 posts

I agree with Nigel about the time in Lauterbrunnen Valley! I'm planning our 4th trip there for a 6 night stay (on a 5 week trip). Our previous trips have been for 4 and 5 nights. I always leave wishing I had more time there:)

Posted by
3 posts

Wow! Thank you so much for these extremely helpful tips and insights. We are more excited than ever now to experience Switzerland and especially the Lauterbrunnen valley area and Murren.

Are there any other areas that we don't have built in that you'd recommend visiting? We've heard from some that Lausanne is not worth visiting and that we should also try to fit in a visit to Bern.

Thanks again for your help!!

Posted by
27709 posts

I enjoyed Lausanne which I visited because I was completely bored with Geneva after a few minutes. Lausanne is fun, I spent 3 or 4 hours there. It is interesting how the city is on so many levels with the funicular-sort-of-mass-transit thing connecting them. I liked the green wall too. But I wouldn't have gone out of my way for them. I rather like Montreux though and they are somewhat similar.

Bern is interesting because it is built on a peninsula and has many many ancient themed fountains, arcades, and a few bears. I used to think it was pretty cool but now prefer smaller towns and villages.

I'd advise against spreading yourself too thin. Pick the best and focus on those.

Posted by
16 posts

3 nights is definitely not too many in Murren. For hiking take the gondola to nearby Gimmelwald. You can go to the Mountain Hostel at the end of the gondola, (maybe even stay there, I would) Ask them where to hike. It's world class. See what Rick Steves says about Gimmelwald.
P.S. You love the outdoors. Maybe consider Zermatt and the Matterhorn. Luzern is nice, but the Matterhorn is the $hit. Zermatt is expensive, but the hostels are like $40 or the (right off the train station. in town) campground is $12.

Posted by
5783 posts

Just wondering why you are departing home from Paris and not Zurich? Train to Zurich Airport from Luzern takes a little over an hour. Departing Zurich would save you a day and a long train ride.