My husband and I are planning a trip for next spring that will include 3-4 nights in Switzerland. We will most likely have a car and are hoping to figure out the best city to stay in for the duration that would be centrally located so we can make a few day trips to see the country's best highlights. We would like a place that offers great scenery a 3-4 star hotel and various dining options. All recommendations are appreciated.
It is impossible to stay in one place and see the country’s best highlights in 3-4 days.
You can pick a location and enjoy 3-4 days of enjoying a few highlights. You mention city. If you are looking for a city base, I would pick Luzern.
Are you sure that having a car is a good idea?
if you want cities you may want to rethink the car because free parking is very rare in Switzerland and almost non-existent in cities. Where you can find a multi story parking facility it will be very expensive. Don't be surprised at 40 CHF a day.
There are very good trains linking almost everywhere, and where trains don't go there are seamless links to cable cars, gondolas, boats, buses and Postbuses.
If you want to use a car you may find that non-city hotels can be more accommodating...
What specific highlights are you hoping to visit?
I see from a previous thread of yours that you are planning a Germany-Austria-Switzerland road trip. Is that still the case?
If so, a car can make sense, but distances are longer than it seems: Bern to Salzburg is a solid 7+ hour drive by the fastest route. Vienna is farther still and best reached by train.
And to answer your question, with the car in mind and the requirement for at least a town, I would suggest Brienz. Beautiful lakeside location, easy day trips to the Berner Oberland (Lauterbrunnen valley, Schilthorn,...), possibility for a breathtaking drive around the "3 passes" (Susten, Furka, Grimsel, only open after end May), good local excursions (lake tours, Rothorn railway).
The Luzern area works too, but with a car I would aim for a lakeside hotel out of town.
And even though the best villages are car-free, you could park in the valley (Lauterbrunnen) and stay in Wengen or Mürren to explore the Berner Oberland for 3-4 days without getting bored! Including a choice of restaurants, despite the small size of the villages.
If you want to see cities, then don't get a car.
But if you want to see the best of Switzerland in only 3-4 days, a car is essential. You don't want to be tied to a train schedule and you don't want to limit yourself to what you can see within walking distance of a train station.
Myself, if I had 3-4 days in Switzerland and wanted to see the best of it, I would base myself in Murren and just see the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Second choice, and more of a city base, would be Bern. The city itself is great, and you can day trip to the Lauterbrunnen Valley, Murten, and even Montreux.
Depending on how you define highlights perhaps consider Luzern, Interlaken or Bern. All very accessible. The scenery of the places up in the mountains (i.e. Wengen, Murren, etc.) will be better but you have to trade off the time you will use up each day getting in and out compared with cities on main highways.
Wow!! You guys are San Frantastic. This forum has been so helpful for me planning our trip. I think the suggestion of staying out of cities is likely our best option. We like the freedom that comes with a car so like said, we aren't tied to a train shedule or only highlights nearby. Plus...I like to think if I see something intriguing along the way, I have the ability to stop and explore. I appreiate any further suggestions and I will certainly look into the ones I already have. Thanks again my fair traveling friends!
Hubby and I are HUGE car people….like you love the spontaneity of stopping when we want…..have been to Europe numerous times and do this every trip……BUT…….this September we are taking our 3rd trip to Switzerland and it will be train all the way. Prior trip we parked our car in the Lauterbrunnen garage and trained everywhere while hiking mostly out of Wengen…..we wanted the car for the majority of our trip but left it parked in Lauterbrunnen……just too many wonderful things to hike and visit that could best be done by train……if I had 3-4 days I would park at the Lauterbrunnen garage, stay in the valley and hike each day in those gorgeous mountains…….Zurich, Lucerne, Lausanne, Bern and Geneva are great cities but need to be seen later with more time.
just to save you some money in Switzerland when you're driving - there are a lots of speed cameras which you won't see. Don't speed anywhere, but especially in tunnels, and some tunnels have markers for keeping distance from the vehicle in front which must be obeyed.
The Swiss obey laws. There have been horrific crashes in tunnels in prior years and all Swiss tunnels have lower speed limits so they don't repeat the past - and they mean it. The speed reduces before you enter the tunnel and this usually a camera right at the entrance in addition to the ones inside.
For your safety always be aware of the green lighted doors and where the nearest one is.
Get your Vignette (CHF40 at last check) before you enter Switzerland. At major crossings you can join a queue to buy it at the border but it is much easier to get it 30 or 40 km from the border and have it stuck to the windscreen before you get there - those queues move much faster.
This is incredible advice. Nigel, can you explain what you mean about green lighted doors? It may be obvious but, to be honest, I have no idea.
The biggest hazard in tunnel accidents has proven to be fire and smoke. Tunnels have safe areas every so many metres, indicated on the walls with how many metres to the nearest green safety door, both in front and behind. These safety areas are highlighted in bright green light. If you need to you can move towards the nearest door and find safety beyond. Keep your nose close to the floor.
Switzerland has a lot of mountains. Switzerland has a lot of tunnels. They employ special tunnel digging gnomes and dwarfs. You've heard of the gnomes of Zürich? These are their industrious cousins.