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Home base options - Interlaken, Lucerne, Grindelwald, other?

Hello,
My husband and I plan to go to Switzerland this August and are having some difficulties planning a home base. It seems a lot of people stay in more than one place but my husband really does not like to change hotels partway through a trip so we need to find a balance between somewhere being an interesting place to stay itself and has a fair amount of things to do within about an hour of it. I was leaning toward staying somewhere like Interlaken (though it seems very few people on forums like it), Grindelwald, or Lauterbrunnen but am having a hard time getting a grasp on whether or not staying in one of those would make it too hard to travel out to Bern or somewhere else like Lucerne or Montreaux for a day. I also have seen a lot of people staying in Lucerne but would that make traveling to the BO area too far and miss out on some of the alps experience or is Mt Rigi and others near Lucerne enough to make it wirth just staying there? It does look very pretty and we like the idea of a boat ride but there are also two near Interlaken, which I assume we could get to reasonably from the other towns in that area. We plan to stay for 9 or 10 days and do some relaxing and hiking and go on the trains/cable cars up mountains but I'm worried staying in the mountains the entire time might get boring if it's too far to travel elsewhere. We haven't booked our flights yet and could fly into Geneva or Zurich so that at least isn't a limitation. I would very much appreciate any thoughts!! Thank you!

Posted by
16490 posts

You don't say if you are renting a car or using the train system. Which, may I ask?

Posted by
7205 posts

Lots of people talk about Interlaken because the name is associated with the Swiss Alps. Interlaken is the definitely the gateway but it’s also definitely not IN the alps. 20 minute train ride takes you from interlaken ost to Lauterbrunnen where you are surrounded by the towering alps.

Being in Lauterbrunnen puts you smack dab in the middle with Murren and Schilthorn on one side and Wengen/Jungfraujoch on the other. 20 minutes away you can catch the lake boats on Lakes Brienz and Thun.

Posted by
744 posts

If you were just touring the Berner Oberland, I would have said the best base is Lauterbrunnen.

But it seems you want to tour much of Switzerland from just one base. In that case, Interlaken is certainly central for the Berner Oberland and Bern, and to a lesser extent Lucerne; but would not be a good base for a day trip to Zurich or Geneva.

If you are going further afield than that (Zurich, Geneva), I would bite the bullet and change bases as you'll spend a lot of time sitting in trains if you want to see the whole country from one base.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for the quick replies!
Sam, we would be taking trains and other public transportation.

If Lauterbrunnen is only 20 mins from Interlaken that sounds like it could be about as reasonable as Interlaken for getting other places and maybe more pleasant to stay in. Do you know about how long it reasonably would take to go to Lucerne from the Interlaken area? Or does anyone love Lucerne and think a trip staying there would be better?

I sadly really don't think I could get a stay in a different town out of my husband but he did agree it would probably make sense to stay in the city we'd fly out of the last night so we would be able to see some of Geneva or Zurich but I don't think would have time to travel outside of either unless it was really close.

Thank you!!

Posted by
5 posts

Also, we're okay with accepting that we won't be able to see everything, just trying to find a spot that is pleasant to stay in but also reasonable to get to enough things to fill over a week.

Posted by
510 posts

Lucerne is a 2 hr. train ride from Interlaken, due to frequent stops. You can easily get from Interlaken to Zurich airport in 2.5 hrs because it runs more as an express. Lucerne is nice, my wife and I like it for a 2 day visit. I would think that making it as a base would just extend your travel times to other parts of the country that you want to visit.

Posted by
8889 posts

Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald are definitely better places to stay than Interlaken. For info and hotels for both, see here: https://jungfrauregion.swiss/en/summer/
Grindelwald is the larger, so more facilities. Lauterbrunnen is in a spectacular deep valley (see above website for photos), and has access to Wengen and Mürren.

To get to them you need to go via Interlaken, at the mouth of the valley. 20 minutes Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen by train.
See "map" here: https://i.imgur.com/nDiYkLj.jpg
So, you either take the 2 x 20 minutes time hit every day from Interlaken into the high mountains, or you stay in the mountains, and only take the time hit when you arrive and leave,and when you do day trips to (e.g.) Bern and Luzern.

Luzern is better for a boat ride. With 9-10 days, a good split is 2 nights Luzern on arrival, then on to Lauterbrunnen/Grindelwald (scenic train ride via Brünig Pass) for the rest of the time.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you for the links! I'm definitely leaning more toward Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald to stay in, they both look beautiful and it seems like there are some nice hikes and cute towns nearby to check out in the mountains.

If we flew into Geneva and could fit it in on our way back out is it worth doing a stop in one of the towns on the lake there? I saw some nice pictures of the Chateau de Chillon and Lausanne but didn't know if compared to Lucerne they aren't as nice? I don't think we could do both.

Posted by
7205 posts

Geneva is not the quintessential Swiss tourist destination. Montreux is nice as is Castle Chillion, but being in the Berner Oberland (Swiss Alp) region and trips to Bern and Lucerne - there’s plenty to do and see without venturing west toward Geneva.

Posted by
16490 posts

If it were me, I'd stay IN the mountains for your stay. That would be Wengen, it does add 30 minutes to the commute to Interlaken, but it is a different world in the car-free villages in the mountains. Hotels may be a bit more than Interlaken, but as the real estate agents say "Location, location, location". Wengen is on the side of the mountain and gets more sunlight than the valley towns like Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald.

Zurich airport is 1 hour closer than Geneva airport to Interlaken/Lauterbrunnen/Wengen. I'd start in this region from your arrival, then to Luzern. Luzern is a 70 minute direct train to Zurich airport.

Posted by
101 posts

We are staying in Thun for 4 nights this May. We have some family reasons for this, but I feel like it’s a good location as well to consider in your overall planning. We might have selected a bit differently a little later in the season, but I feel good about it. Thun is beautiful (we’ve visited before).

We stayed in Bern during our last visit, and loved it, but didn’t go further than Interlaken.

Posted by
10004 posts

We spend two weeks every year in Lauterbrunnen and never get tired of it. We have taken a day trip to Bern as well as to Thun and spots around Lake Brienz like the Aare Gorge and Ballenberg Museum. You will not get bored staying in Lauterbrunnen. There is so much hiking you can do!

Posted by
5 posts

Awesome, thank you all for your help!! Getting very excited and glad we found a good area!

Posted by
20868 posts

Swiss train tickets are very expensive--even with the half-fare card. If you decide you'd benefit from the Swiss Travel Pass, everything except the high-mountain transportation will be covered, so length of your day-trips may not be so much of a financial issue. But if the STP doesn't make sense for your itinerary, consider the cost of repetitive side-trips from a base up in the mountains.

If your husband is OK with shifting hotels the night before your flight home, he should be equally OK with doing that shift a day or two earlier. Many people seem to stay in Luzern the night before a flight from Zurich, so you could do something like 6 nights up in the mountains and 3 nights in Luzern, from which you could do a couple of side-trips to non-mountain destinations--maybe Bern?

If you're flying out of Geneva, a spot on or near the lake could be good. Something like 99% of Swiss towns are picturesque, so there would be no problem coming up with good day-trips.

Of course, if you want to spend as many days doing mountains walks/hikes as possible, it makes sense to spend all except the last night up in a place like Murren or Wengen.

Posted by
305 posts

We are staying for a week in Mürren, after extensive reading of the reviews on this forum! We will be arriving in Switzerland via Geneva (coming from southern France) and have chosen to spend two nights in Vevey, then take the train to Mürren for seven nights, then take the train to Zürich for our last night before flying home to the US that next morning. We want to maximize our mountain experiences, and we have already been to Lucerne. The last time we went to Switzerland, we stayed in Lucerne and took the train in the morning of our flight from Lucerne directly to the Zürich airport, which was very easy. (Just FYI)

We were just talking today about how nice it will be to be in one beautiful spot for an extended period of time. (Past trips have been packed with sights and frequent travel to new locales.) We chose Mürren instead of staying in Lauterbrunnen because we thought it would be a good starting point for hiking, but also be lovely to just stay and enjoy the beauty there. We added the short stay in Vevey so we could enjoy Lake Geneva and Montreux for a day and break up the long travel from our friends in France to the mountains in Switzerland. It took a lot of consideration, but this itinerary sounds just right for us. I thought I’d share another perspective as you’re making your decisions.

Have a great trip!
Laurie

Posted by
3256 posts

I’ll be in Switzerland in mid April and will be based in Lucerne. I plan on taking two day trips weather permitting to the Berner Oberland as well as day trips to Bern & perhaps Colmar. Maybe a 1/2 day at Mt Rigi. I certainly don’t find Lucerne too far away.

I’ll be flying in and out of Zürich.

Posted by
55 posts

Thank you for posting this question Asuitter. We are planning a similar type of trip next fall and still trying to figure it all out. We stayed in Wengen for 2 nights on our Best of Europe tour and it was just a teaser for us to want to come back for more. We are thinking of staying in Murren for a change this time 7-10 days so we have lots of time for hiking. Trying to figure out the best rail pass or if it might be better to just wing it when we get there. I will look forward to what others have to say here.

Posted by
10004 posts

Camy,
You might want to start your own thread so the answers come right to your inbox.

I highly recommend the Berner Oberland Regional Pass for longer stays (4 or more days) in the area. Invaluable for the lifts and trains you’ll need staying in Mürren. Be aware the Jungfrau Pass does not not cover lift down to Stechelberg. At least it did not do do last I looked. But the BO Pass covers it.

If you have other stops planned in Switzerland another pass may come in handy as well. Depends on your full itinerary.