My wife and I are in our 60s and our mountain climbing is behind us; however, we love to drive in the mountains, take short hikes and enjoy local food and beer. We are planning 5 to 6 days for our first visit to Switzerland in May and hope there is some "hub" from which we can take day trips each day to enjoy mountain drives. What hub city/town would be best? Thanks.
I don't know if you can call it a hub city but it was convenient for us to stay in Zug -- just outside of Zurich. Did Mt Rigi with clog railroad to the top and after an hour or so downhill hike to a cable car to Lake Luzern. It is a lovely area with good transportation via rail.
In Switzerland it is more about scenic train rides while relaxing and enjoying local food and beer than car drives that require paying attention to the road. Some of the great alpine towns conducive to easy hiking and stunning views like Murren and Wengen are pedestrian only. However Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen or Luzern are central valley towns where you can stay with a car
The trails in the high Alps will likely still be snow covered in May. Rail is really the way to go in Switzerland, where trains go where the roads won't take you. Maybe rent a car for a day or two to explore some high places like the Grimsel Pass, but the driver will have their eyes glued to the road as you go through 20 or so hairpin turns.
Bern, Interlaken or Luzern are on main highways with good access to mountains and other great areas.
I like Lucerne as a central base. With trains or ferries to alpine area. However for the BerneR Oberland a car is not an advantage. stay in Lauterbrunnen in the valley and use gondola to upper alp8ne areas of alps. Same with visits to Matterhorn. Stay in valley and gondola up Cars in Switzerland are not necessarily for alpine visits. The Swiss have perfected train travel. Perhaps u could consider this option as locals do. It has worked for me perfectly but at some point I may rent a a car but not usually for Switzerland. Of course if u venture to Italian alps in Italy a car would be preferable. Ck out Italian alps Callied the Dolomites. Beautiful mountains and a must.
If you're still in the "planning" stage then alter your May arrival date to mid June so that you'll have a better chance of nice sunshine weather and minimal snow. Don't be mislead to stay in Interlaken - it's not in the alps and is best used as a gateway to get somewhere else...so don't waste your time there. You can drive as far as Lauterbrunnen and choose a hotel there if you want to stay in the valley with towering alps all around. But you could also just leave your car in the big parking garage in Lauterbrunnen and hop on the gondola to Murren where you could stay one of the many wonderful hotels and have the alps at your front door.
We spent 2 weeks in Switzerland last year and if I was planning your trip I would go straight to Lucerne and spend 2-3 days because you will have great public access to Mt Riggi and Mt. Palatus. Also, the lake offers great boat rides. Then I would take the train to Zermatt to see the Materhorn (1 day only) then head to Murren (by train) and spend the rest of your time there.
If you have to condense your trip due to time then go Murren first and spend 3 days and proceed to Lucerne, this works well because the Zurich airport is only a hour away by train.
DO NOT RENT A CAR, THE TRAIN IS THE WAY TO TRAVEL IN SWITZERLAND.
You didn't say if Switzerland is part of a bigger trip or it is just your arrival and destination. Just getting to Switzerland and leaving will eat up 2 days of travel. If you only have 5-6 days, I would strongly suggest using trains only. Driving stinks for the driver. Too much concentration on the road. With only 5 or 6 days, I would suggest staying in Lauterbrunnen. You can explore the mountain areas of Wengen and Murren and the Falls in Lauterbrunnen. I would also suggest June if possible.
Agree with the poster who said go in June or later. In May, snow will be a problem in high roads and stations (even in June, we couldn't hike down from the Schilthorn peak.
Agree with you and disagree with those who say go by train. Car is the way to go. True there are some amazing train trips (Bernina Express) and some places you can only get to by train (Jungfraujoch). But those can be day trips from a vacation strung together with drives. With a car you can stop by the mountain lake you come across, or take a left turn if it looks interesting. Trains are for stringing cities together (great if you are going from Bern to Zurich; unsuitable if you are going from Stechelberg to Chur).
Our base was Murren, but it is not so convenient for the other side of the Lauterbrunnen Valley or for other mountain locations. Unfortunately the best transport hubs (like Interlaken) are, as previous posters have said, not in the mountains themselves. If you want a bit of both transport convenience AND mountain views, the town of Lauterbrunnen itself might hit the sweet spot for you.
What helpful hints I have to chew on while planning. Than you you all.