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Basel, Bern or Thun

In September will be departing a Rhine River Cruise in Basel, Switzerland. We want to spend one night either in Basel, Bern or Thun. We get off the boat at 8:00 am. Which is the better place to explore and spend one night before we head to Grindelwald and Lucerne for a total of 7 nights and flying home from Zurich.

Thank you in advance.

Deb

Posted by
5896 posts

If it were me, I'd stay right there in Basel.

Posted by
882 posts

We only did day trips to Basel and Bern and preferred Bern - seemed more compact and historic.

Posted by
25563 posts

Basel and Bern are quite different and both of course are on your way to Grindelwald (Bern not really on the direct route to Luzern). Which is first, Grindelwald or Luzern?

There are many things in both Basel and Bern that I like quite a lot. Will the cruise take you for a walk around Basel before they let you loose?

What sort of things interest you? What have you read which piques your interest or curiousity?

I've been through Thun dozens of times on the train and never had any interest in stopping there. Once got off the lake steamer there (immediately adjacent to the train station). I've seen several queries here on the Forums so somebody must be writing about the town.... can I ask where you're seeing references to Thun? I can learn something new.

Posted by
3861 posts

Haven’t been to Thun. I liked both Basel and Bern, a lot. Their appearance is totally different. Bern, more dark, historical town center, fountains and clock towers amazing. Basel is very colorful. Rathaus and square is stunning! Can u do 2 days in Basel and do a day trip to Bern?

Posted by
2096 posts

Thun is too close to Grindelwald, not worth staying there and then going 30 miles away. Lake Thun is an easy day trip from Grindelwald (and nearby Lake Brienz would be preferable).

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks everyone. The feedback was helpful. We will get off the train in Thun in any case because we want to take the boat to Interlachen before getting the train to Grindelwald. We just thought exploring Basel or Bern before starting the "real" reason for our stay in Switzerland was a good idea. This is our second trip to Switzerland, but didn't take the time to do any of the things mentioned above since we flew into Zurich, spent 8 days in Switzerland before heading to France for 8 days.

Posted by
2096 posts

A boat ride is nice, but with luggage it adds a lot of hassle to the trip: get off train at Thun, get on boat, head to Interlaken, get off boat, then on train at Interlaken West, change at Interlaken Ost... You get nice enough views from the train already.

Posted by
375 posts

Nigel, of the 8 travel guides I have on Switzerland, they all mention Thun. Even RS mentions the castle. The Michelin Green Guide gives it 2 stars. It looks like a nice town from the videos I have seen. I plan to visit there in September to see the castle and have lunch before taking the boat cruise. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back. 😊

Posted by
18741 posts

I stayed in Thun many decades ago. I remember it as an attractive lakeside town. There were swans. But it's quite a challenge to find an unattractive Swiss city, town or village. I once read a guidebook that actually said there was only one such. But if only for geographical reasons I agree that Thun makes less sense in this situation than Basel or Bern.

I've been to Bern twice. It's a very good walking-around city, very atmospheric. I've only passed through Basel and stepped outside the train station briefly. That made me want to return. I believe Basel is better for museums (not generally Switzerland's strong suit in any case).

Posted by
3861 posts

Basel has a huge art museum tho we didn’t have time to visit.

Bern has a Paul Klee Museum tho we did not go. We did go to the Einstein museum which was within the larger history museum. It was excellent. You can also visit Einstein’s home.

If you get the Swiss Travel Pass, it includes a smallish art museum in Luzern. We thought it was very worthwhile.

Though, acraven is right, museums not really Switzerland’s “thing”, the whole outdoors is a museum, however!

Posted by
14 posts

We've signed up for express luggage so we won't have anything but our backpacks with us when we leave either Basel or Bern. Thanks

Posted by
15945 posts

If you want to make a boat ride as part of your journey, it would be easier to do it on the Brienzersee, on the way to Luzern. The train from Grindelwald will arrive at Interlaken Ost station and the boat dock is behind the station. Just walk out the cross over tunnel opposite the station building. When you arrive at Brienz, the station is to your right, can't miss it and that is the train to Luzern. Much easier, as Balso described the transfer process at the Thunersee

Posted by
25563 posts

when comparing the two lakes at Interlaken, Thun and Brienz, named for the towns at their respective ends, I find the Brienzersee far superior. On both the ship will zigzag along the lake stopping at villages, but the views on the Brienzersee are fabulous. As you approach Brienz you will turn towards the Giessbach Falls and Hotel. The dock is right beneath the falls, and the outflow is adjacent to the ship. You can take an ancient funicular up to the hotel and then an easy walk over to and behind the falls. From there looking back across the lake to the Rothorn is pretty special.

Brienz is where the Rothornbahn leaves from, puffing up the mountain. It is also the home of accomplished wood carvers. When you hear of old bears and other things described as "Black Forest", it does not refer to the Black Forest in Germany. Most of the were carved in and around Brienz.

The ships calling at Brienz are timed to meet the trains. The station is adjacent, at the edge of the lake. Trains return to Interlaken Ost and go onwards to Meiringen (where Sherlock Holmes had his battle to the death with Moriarity, you can take a funicular up the mountainside next to the Reichenbach Falls and follow the trail) and onwards to Luzern via the very scenic narrow gauge cogwheel train over the Brünig Pass.

One day I expect I'll have a look around Thun, but not for a while....

Posted by
130 posts

Both Basel and Bern are nice cities and have plenty to offer. Basel is more of a "big city" (at least for Switzerland!) and has great museums, but personally I find Bern more charming and attractive. I like the architecture in Bern, the river, the bear park, lunch on the terrace at Altes Tramdepot enjoying the views of the old town, etc. There are a few interesting museums too (Einstein museum, the Alpine Museum, Paul Klee museum), but it is also just a nice place to wander around. The old town is compact and picturesque, just about right for a one night stay. Plus if you overnight in Bern, it's only 20 mins to Thun the next day for your boat ride.

As for Thun, it is a pleasant enough place but probably not worth an overnight in this case. Doesn't look like much from the train station, but if you walk the 5 minutes into town, there is a very lively and pretty center with picturesque wooden bridges (where you can often watch the river surfers practicing), the castle, a small old town, and lots of cafes/restaurants with outdoor seating in the summer months. There aren't really a lot of "tourist attractions" but it's a nice town. You can also walk to the Schadau park, which has great views of the lake and mountains as well as a beautiful historic hotel with restaurant and outdoor terrace. Thun is also a good starting off point for visits to some popular hiking spots, such as the Niederhorn or Sigriswil. Since you are continuing on to the Oberland, this won't really be of interest to you though. In short, for those who have already hit the highlights and/or want to explore a little bit off the main tourist trail, Thun would make a nice half-day trip in combination with something else (or for lunch and a stroll before/after the lake cruise) but for this trip, I wouldn't stay overnight there.