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Family trip to Switzerland- itinerary help

Hello!

We are planning a trip to Switzerland for 10 days in early September. Two adults and our 4 year old. Flying in/out of Zurich, but that’s as far as we’ve made it. We know we’ll spend our first night in Zurich due to arrival time, and our must-stays are Lucern and Zermatt. We’d like to take at least one scenic train journey. Other than that, we’re trying to decide where else we would like to visit—Berner Oberland, Bern, Lake Geneva region, Lugano are all on the potential list, but we won’t have time to see all. Since we’ll have a 4 year old with us, the hiking activities will be limited.

Happy to hear any recommendations for itinerary, as well as suggestions if you’ve traveled to Switzerland with young children.

Thank you!

Posted by
2303 posts

The Berner Oberland. Your 4yo will love the trains and gondolas. Check out the amazing playgrounds at First, Allmendhubel, Mannlichen. There are amazing sights in the area that don’t require serious hiking. Also check out the public pools with incredible views in Wengen and Lauterbrunnen. Many places (Wengen and Grindelwald) also have marble run type play areas and ping pong tables available to the public. Rent bikes in the Lauterbrunnen valley.

You could also take the train to Lake Brienz and take the boat along the beautiful lake. Check out the Brienzer Rothorn cog wheel train.

All of these excursions are covered by the Berner Oberland pass.

Posted by
5579 posts

How late are you arriving Zurich? Luzern is just a bit over an hour by train. Perhaps the late arrival can be outweighed by moving accommodations one less time? Likewise, you can end in Bern or Basel or Luzern and just head to Zurich airport day of, unless your flight is early.

Berner Oberland is an absolute must. Your 4 year old will love Gimmelwald, perhaps plan on going there twice!

Posted by
80 posts

This is amazing information—thank you! Do you have a favorite place to stay in Berner Oberland?

Posted by
5579 posts

In Luzern we took the boat and the cog wheel train up to the top of Mt. Rigi. AMAZING! I think 4 year old would like boat and train. Try to watch the mountain for clear skies, in the mountains mornings tend to be the best bet. Luzern has a transportation museum. We did not go, but others have enjoyed it and maybe it'd be fun for 4 year old. We really liked Bern, but it can be a day trip from BO or Luzern.

Posted by
80 posts

We arrive into Zurich around 8:30pm and are traveling from the West Coast (US), so will have been traveling for 16ish hours at that point. I was thinking best to just settle in for the evening, but maybe Lucern would be ok. My plan was to make Lucern our last stop before flying home.

Posted by
16155 posts

I will suggest a couple of itineraries that start in Luzern and end in Zermatt, and include a scenic railway ride somewhere in between. Here is a map of the Swiss rail system, with the named scenic trains highlighted, so you can follow:

https://cdn-doc.myswissalps.com/docs/default-source/rail-network-maps/swisstravelpass.pdf?sfvrsn=7788603a_56

I will start by noting that there are direct trains from the Zurich airport terminal right to Luzern (2 per hour) that take just over an hour. Since you will be getting on a train in the airport to go to Zurich, you may as well stay on the train a bit longer and go to Luzern. It will save you a hotel change and other hassles. (depending on the type of train you take from the airport into the Zurich main station, it can be complicated just getting out of the station,with lots of escalators and walking.). And there are more nice hotels within easy walking distance of the train station in Luzern than there are in Zurich.

Options for routes:

1). If the Berner Oberland is a “must” then the logical route would be Luzern (2-3 nights) to Interlaken on the Golden Pass scenic route (#7 on the map), changing there for the local train to Lauterbrunnen. Spend 2-3 nights there or in one of the charming car-free villages above, either Wengen or Mürren. I will say that Mürren offers a great playground (Flower Park) at the top of the Allmendhubel funicular, and a “children’s Adventure Trail with slides and tunnels from there back down to Mürren.

https://swissfamilyfun.com/allmendhubel-flower-park-playground/

https://play-basel.weebly.com/flower-park-adventure-trail.html

My grandchildren did the Adventure trail when they had just turned 6 and loved it (so did their parents). I don’t know if there is anything similar in Wengen itself, but there is a nice playground at the top of the Männlichen cablecar.

https://www.maennlichen.ch/en/summer/experiences/alpine-herdsmans-playground.html

From your Berner Oberland base, head back to Interlaken Ost and continue on the Golden Pass scenic railway (#4 on the map) to Montreux on Lac Leman. The most scenic part of the Golden Pass route is often deemed the downhill ride from the pass to the lake, with the panoramic view of the lake. Spend a night in Montreux and enjoy the lakeshore, and maybe visit nearby Chateau du Chillon the next morning. It is called a castle, but it doesn’t resemble the type of fairytale castles a 4-year-old might expect.

Next day take the train from Montreux to Zermatt. This is a journey of 2.5 hours, with a single change at Visp. Spend remaining time in Zermatt, leaving the last night before your flight to spend in Zurich. It is a 3 hour 21 minute train journey from Zermatt back to Zurich, and I do not recommend taking that on the day of your flight.

2). As above, but after Wengen/Mürren, take the train to Spiez, changing there to the local train to Kandersteg.
This is not a named scenic route, but it is pretty nice. Spend 2 nights in Kandersteg, a nice alpine village with a lovely lake above, reached by gondola. You can stay in town or better yet, in the rustic mountain inn by the lake. The rooms do not have private bathrooms, but the shared shower and toilet rooms on the hall are modern and spotlessly clean.

https://www.oeschinensee.ch/en/

After Kandersteg, continue shout on the train to Brig, changing there for the train to Zermatt.

The other options skip the Berner Oberland and head south from Luzern to Locarno, another scenic route. I will have to finish that later.. .

Posted by
16155 posts

OK, others were posting while I was writing, and I just saw your post about thinking of ending in Luzern, and your late arrival in Zurich.

So reversing the above itinerary would accommodate that plan easily. Ride the train 12 minutes or so from the airport to the Zurich Hauptbahnhof (main station) and stay overnight. The next day, take the fast train to Zermatt. Spend 2 nights there, then head to either Kandersteg or Montreux, reversing the path I described above. I neglected to mention the alpine slide (Rodelbahn) at Oeschinensee, but perhaps you saw that in the website I linked.

Or maybe you would like to ride the scenic Glacier Express from Zermatt as far as Andermatt, changing there to a train the short distance to Göschenen to catch a direct train to Luzern. You might want to overnight in Andermatt as otherwise this would be a long day of riding trains.

This option would mean either skipping the Berner Oberland entirely, or spending additional time on trains backtracking. Look at the map and you will see.

Note that the dashed lines on the map indicate long deep tunnels, and I avoid those as much as possible. But the fast train between Zurich and Zermatt uses a tunnel and that one is pretty much unavoidable unless you want to spend a lot more time on trains.

Posted by
80 posts

Lola, thank you for this wonderful, detailed itinerary. I really like the first itinerary you suggested, and think we may opt to just take the train directly into Lucern. Wonderful suggestions for children as well, this all sounds lovely.

Posted by
16155 posts

If you choose Mürren, I have a couple of lodging suggestions.

If you are very budget conscious, the popular Chalet Fontana Band B is a great choice. We stayed here the first 4 times we went to Mürren (now we book an apartment that sleeps more people).

http://www.ferntree.ch/chalet/fontana_summer.htm

The rooms and apartment are listed on Air BnB, and according to their calendar the apartment is available for 2 nights in September, Sept. 10-12. This way you have a kitchen and a private bath, but still get breakfast in the BnB. There are individual rooms in the BnB open on other nights, but there are only 2 triple rooms that I know of, and all have a shared bath.

http://www.ferntree.ch/chalet/fontana_summer.htm

If you would like something larger and nicer, try one of the Chalet Oberberg/Oberdorf apartments listed here:

https://www.topapartments.ch/en/4-persons

They usually rent by the week, but in September they may be willing to reduce that to a 3-night stay, since they have no bookings at all that month. We have rented a different ( much larger) apartment in the same building, and I love the location. Great views, and you get to watch the little Allmendhubel funicular go up and down. The Coop grocery is below on the lower street, but there is a shortcut that makes it very close.

If you want a hotel, you can check booking.com for what is available on your dates, then book directly with the hotel. It appears many are pretty booked up in September, but of course some that are available may not be listed with booking.com. I used to recommend Hotel Bellevue, but they are under new ownership as the Drei Berge hotel and we have not heard anything about it.

Hotel Jungfrau is in the same area as the apartments I like, on the upper village street far from the construction noise by the cablecar station. Friends stayed there with their child when they came to visit us (we did not have room for them in our apartment that night) and said it was fine. You might give them a try—-you cannot book directly on their website but you can send a request and they will respond.

https://hoteljungfrau.ch/en/

I am sure others will have others hotels to recommend in Mürren and also in Wengen. My recommendation in Wengen would be Hotel Bären, which we liked very much, or Hotel Bellevue, where we have not stayed but I have heard good things. They used to have a nice little model railroad in the yard but I do not see it in any of their photos. Nor do I see any children, so maybe not the best place for your family.

https://www.bellevue-wengen.ch/en/hotel-restaurant/breathtaking-views.html

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2303 posts

We stayed in Chalet Gerbera in Wengen in late June. Four of us were in apt DG and two were in apt OG. Both were wonderful. The views were spectacular. It’s a bit of a steep walk back up to Wengen, but you can walk downhill to the next train stop, then take the train uphill to Wengen. I’d return in a heartbeat. https://www.chalet-protea-gerbera.com/preise-verfuegbarkeiten?lang=en

Lauterbrunnen is more central, but much busier. More restaurant options immediately out the door. It depends on what you are looking for. We loved Wengen, others love Murren. There’s a lot of noisy construction happening in Murren for probably the next year. That would not be my choice this year.

Wengen is great because you can get down to Lauterbrunnen easily, or go up and over the mountain the opposite direction to get to Grindelwald. So many options. And those views…

Posted by
405 posts

The inn up at Oeschinensee is closed this summer, so that’s not a lodging option.

With a 10 day trip (not sure if that includes your travel days) and with a 4 year old I’d highly recommend picking just 2 bases and really enjoying them instead of trying to hit all the highlights. Every time you pick up and move it’s going to eat up atleast half of a day and 9 hours of time change for jet lag all the way from the west coast of the US is going to be a consideration, especially with a 4 year old.

If Luzern and Zermatt were your must dos, go for 5 nights in each and take a day trip here or there if you want to see something in addition to that. If that feels like too little for you, max add 1 more stop and always do a minimum of 3 nights wherever you go to account for weather, naps, etc.

Posted by
16155 posts

Thank you for letting me know about the Berghotel Oeschinensee being closed this summer. And maybe going forward.

https://www.berghotel-oeschinensee.ch/en/uebernachten-2023/

We enjoyed staying there several times in the years 2002 -2012, always with a friendly welcome from David Wandfluh and his wife Susanne. We had our favorite lakeview room each time,,and it felt like “home”.

After a gap of some years, we brought our son’s family there in 2018, to find their son Christoph now in charge. But David came around to our table at dinner to greet us and tell jokes. That summer Switzerland was experiencing a heat wave and drought hit, and the lake level,was very low, which was sad. And now it appears the pandemic years have be very bad on their business. I hope they can reopen the inn eventually,but in the meantime it is a nice place to,stop,for lunch,,as the restaurant is still open.