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First time in Switzerland- seeking itinerary feedback/advice

Hi all!

I am currently planning a family trip to Switzerland in July (2 adults, 1 teenager), and need some advice. I am hoping someone can chime in and help me out. I have watched and rewatched Rick's videos, and I believe I have created an achievable itinerary, but having never been to Switzerland before, I am not fully confident in my choices.

We will not land in Zurich until quite late in the day (10:30pm) day 1. I would also like to note that I am attempting to stick to a budget of no more than $300 USD per night for a room (when I am not paying with points), hence some of the hotels mentioned below.

Here is my first go at our itinerary:
Day 1: Train from airport to Zurich's main station (eye on Central Plaza Hotel or Swiss Chocolate by Fassbind)

Day 2: Morning walking tour of Zurich's old town and lunch, train to Lucerne, late afternoon walking tour of Lucerne (eye on Hotel Central Lucerne)

Day 3: Morning boat tour of Lake Lucerne, train/bus to Lauterbrunnen then cable car to Mürren (eye on Hotel Alpina, Jungfrau Mürren, or Hotel Alpenruh- will depend on construction from what I have read here- I prefer Alpenruh based on photos)

Day 4: Gondola to top of Schilthorn, breakfast, some hiking, and possibly Pfingstegg activities (too much?), spend 2nd night in Mürren

Day 5: Morning in Lauterbrunnen Valley, train to Bern, early evening walking tour of the city center/riverwalk (eye on Moxy Bern Expo- not very charming, but free with 35k Bonvoy reward certificates)

Day 6: Day trips to Gruyères (morning), backtrack to Broc for the chocolate factory tour, and then on to Lausanne (afternoon/evening) with cruise on Lake Geneva and a tour of Château de Chillon, spend 2nd night in Bern

Day 7: Open to exploring Bern or only doing the cheese and chocolate day 6 and travel to Lausanne on this day- very open to sage advice; we will stay near the airport the evening before our flight (eye on Leonardo Hotel Zurich Airport)

Day 8: Very early flight into Heathrow

We are exclusively traveling by train, bus, and cable car. Do the areas I have selected as our home-base each evening make sense?

We vacationed in Italy this past summer, so I am OK with us not visiting Lugano. We have traveled throughout Germany and Austria, so I feel Appenzell may be a bit out of the way with only a week to explore, as it appears to be quite similar to villages we have visited in the recent past- am I way off base here? I do not have a stop planned in Zermatt because we would like to avoid anything too touristy- is this a huge miss?

A bit about us- we are not big shoppers, we appreciate the art and architecture throughout Europe, and experiencing new cultures and exploring trails and natural wonders are very high on our list. We are not "foodies", but I do seek out authentic cuisine when traveling- budget and moderately priced. Making our dollar stretch as much as possible so we can do as much as possible is important to us, but we do occasionally splurge.

Posted by
4440 posts

Initial thoughts-
Too many locations, too much moving around, and no flexibility for weather fluctuations. You really need a few more days- is this possible?
Skip Bern.
More time in Murren/ Wengen. No one is ever ready to leave the BO, and the Swiss Alps are exceptional. You are spending most of your proposed time in cities.
Zermatt is a good area to skip.
Go straight from Zurich in the morning to Lucerne, it's a much more charming city. Go up to Mt Rigi from the boat ride.

If your initial flight is delayed, canceled, or has schedule changes, you may have challenges. Since COVID, there is a much higher chance this will happen. Build in an extra day at the beginning of the trip for a Plan B.

Swiss cities get hot in July. Does this trip have to be mid- summer?

Have a wonderful trip in this beautiful country.

Posted by
4602 posts

...Gondola to top of Schilthorn, breakfast, some hiking...

Hopefully this will go as planned. Do have a plan B in mind, however, as the weather does not cooperate all the time, and it might not be feasable cost wise to go on a bad weather day. When that happened to us we hiked the North Face Trail which starts between Murren (can't remember the name of the cable car station) and the Schilthorn and took the trail back to Murren. Not a really hard hike; more like a nice walk along mostly paved pathways.

Posted by
8322 posts

It's costing you a half-day or more every time you move from one city to another, and the day trips are a lot of train time for little time on the ground. I would skip Bern and spend more time in Luzern. Not enough time to include Lausanne, lake cruise there, The mountains in Luzern are very accessible and worth visiting. Bern is OK as a city, but it's not in the mountains, and thats what I go to Switzerland to see. I'd skip the morning in Zurich as well.

Posted by
1286 posts

I agree with posts above that you don’t have enough time to enjoy all those destinations. If you cannot add time, drop the single-night destinations. There may be a late-night direct train (1-hr +). from Zurich Airport to Lucerne. I would prioritize Lucerne and Murren or Lauterbrunnen and split 5-6 nights between the two.
If you visit Switzerland’s most beautiful city and Switzerland’s most beautiful mountain region, you’ll have seen the best, with no need to see much more.
You can stop off in Bern to see it’s Old Town in a couple hours on the way to Lausanne for the final night.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
3 posts

Wow- excellent information shared here already, thank you! Our time in Switzerland is limited to 7 days, unfortunately. We are squeezing this in after 8 days in Norway (already planned out) while my son is at camp in the UK for the week, hence the flight times and having only a week to explore- camp pick up and drop off times are very tight.

Posted by
8322 posts

TravelinTess, since you haven't been, one thing to know is that there is a rail station in the Zurich airport from which you can take direct or connecting trains to Luzern in 1.25 hours or so. And reverse on the way back. So you can plan your trip around staying in two locations - Luzern and Lauterbrunnen Valley (i.e., Mürren etc.) and see a lot. Thats what I would do with 7 days.

Posted by
32228 posts

not to pile on in any way, and I know you are trying to use points where you can to save your back pocket - nevertheless you are setting yourself up for failure due to weather by only planning near to none of day 3, all of day 4, and a short part of day 5 in the Berner Oberland. I have been there many times and have to say the mountains make their own weather and only dedicating one day in the mountains is really brave.

Posted by
3 posts

Here is my revised itinerary based on the excellent feedback received today:

Day 1- stay in Lucerne: Train from airport to Lucerne, arriving in the evening (eye on Hotel Central Lucerne)

Day 2- stay in Lucerne: Early walking tour of Lucerne, boat ride on Lake Luzern, Mt Rigi

Day 3- stay in Mürren: Morning departure to Mürren (Hotel Alpenruh, Hotel Alpenblick and Eiger Guesthouse are now my top contenders)

Day 4- stay in Mürren: Gondola to top of Schilthorn, hiking, and Pfingstegg activities

Day 5- stay in Mürren: Whatever we don't get to on day 4 :)

Day 6- stay in Lausanne: Train to Bern for a walking tour, then on to Lausanne. (room hold at Moxie Lausanne)

Day 7- stay in near ZRH: Cruise on Lake Geneva and a tour of Château de Chillon, then late train back to Zurich to catch an early flight the next morning (room hold on Leonardo Hotel Zurich Airport)

I hope this is a bit more doable. I really appreciate all of the feedback!

Posted by
4440 posts

For your last night in Zurich, you can stay in the old town area , as the airport is only about a 15 minute train ride from the old town. You don't need to stay at an airport hotel. Also, on the edge of the old town, there's a high rise Marriott right on the river with views in all directions. I bring this up since you spoke of using reward points, and many folks are part of the Marriott system.
Have a great trip and it's fun watching your plans evolve.
Safe travels!

Posted by
438 posts

We will not land in Zurich until quite late in the day (10:30pm) day 1

In your revised itinerary you stay in Luzern the first night. All things going very well, traveling from Zurich to Luzern upon arrival will work, but keep in mind the end of day train schedule:

The final, faster 1hr 10 min. train (with one change) leaves at 23:15

The final train of the night leaves at 23:45 and does not arrive in Luzern until 1:07am.

As long as your flight arrives on time you will be fine, but if you are delayed by long enough you could be stuck in Zurich until the first train of the morning (5:00 am).

Posted by
6740 posts

Chillon is cool for sure, but travelling to Lausanne and then back to Zürich just for Chillon castle is not ideal, in my opinion.
I would rather stay in lovely Bern, and visit Murten instead, or the Caillier chocolate factory. It's just a suggestion; your revised plan does work.

Posted by
1355 posts

The Leonardo Airport hotel is not within walking distance of the airport, but is easily reached. There are busses going there (and back) every couple of minutes. Use www.sbb.ch to plan your trip. The Trip planner can do door-to-door planning!

Posted by
763 posts

I would advise you to look for a Lucerne hotel that has air conditioning. It was definitely needed when we were there this past September. Our stay at Hotel Beau Sejour was great; wonderful staff; terrific breakfast; easy walk along the lake to the Old Town and portable air conditioners in the room. For what it's worth, have you considered staying in Wengen vs. Murren? We enjoyed the fact that there was no construction there, and it was easy to get to all of the mountain sites. Hotel Edelweiss was excellent. Switzerland is gorgeous, enjoy the trip!

Posted by
962 posts

Well speaking as a Swiss, you seem to be fixated on cities and while you are doing a lot of travelling you are not taking in any of the most scenic train routes. I'd suggest you at least consider taking the GoldenPass to get from Lucerne down to the French speaking part of the country.

I'm well aware that Switzerland is expensive and in that respect I'd suggest you move your hotel focus away from the big cities. Pretty much every town with a train station has a "Bahnhof Hotel", for instance I'm a little over half an hour from Bern by train and the local hotel charges 90 Francs for Halbpension - Bed, breakfast and set evening meal.

Posted by
11173 posts

Day 4- stay in Mürren: Gondola to top of Schilthorn, hiking, and Pfingstegg activities

This is a lot of territory to cover. Pfingstegg is in another valley and will take about 90 minutes to get from Mürren to the base station of the Pfingstegg gondola. I’d plan on that for the next day and stick with the Mürren side for the day. Nice hike is from Mürren to Grütschalp then descend to Lauterbrunnen and return through the valley whether on foot or by bus to return to Mürren via the Schilthornbahn.

Lausanne and Bern pale by comparison to the Lauterbrunnen Valley environs. I think once you are there you’ll wish you just stayed so you have time to explore and experience more. A day for the Mürren side, a day for the Wengen side, and a day to Grindelwald with 4 nights stay would still leave you wanting more.