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If you went one place in Switzerland...

Switzerland fans: I have the opportunity to join my husband in Montreaux for a work trip in mid-October and could use some help in guiding my research. We'd like to spend up to a week enjoying the outdoors (avid hikers but nothing intense).
I'd fly into Geneva or Zurich, head to Montreaux to join him for the end of his work trip, then aside from our outbound city, should we just stay in Montreaux, or do you suggest checking out another town on the train line? Everything looks gorgeous, but being a sea lover (and not made of money), it's not a place that has ever been high on my list. I appreciate your guidance--if you had this opportunity, what would you do?

Posted by
7126 posts

I think you will get quite a few suggestions for the Bernese Oberland. The Lauterbrunnen Valley and the towns up on the mountainsides (Murren) are lovely places with lots of opportunities and fabulous scenery.

Posted by
1651 posts

Ohhh, I'll be following this with interest. Switzerland hasn't really been too high on my list either until recently.

Posted by
700 posts

Yep, Lauterbrunnen Valley! Go up the mountains on one side (Schilthorn, etc.) and take the train to the Top of Europe on the other side. And hiking is available on the valley floor (Trammelback Falls) and on both sides of the valley. Its a wonderful place. Enjoy!

Posted by
5 posts

Bernese Oberland / Jungfrau region for sure! Make Lauterbrunnen your base camp and go up to the beautiful towns above.

Posted by
270 posts

Since you stated the month was October: the Alps in the Berner Oberland are more high alps "above the tree line" due to inclement weather October is low season and will have scheduled Maintenace taking place. The Berner Oberland is god's country and I can see why it is so popular. RS other pick of Appenzell is more low alps "below the tree line" and may be your best choice in October. What ever you decide to do just don't stay in a big city. J

Posted by
3598 posts

Thanks all--as Joanne mentioned, I am particularly concerned about the weather. It may veer into late October--does this change anyone else's recommendations?
I'd like to minimize train time also, and now that I see I could just drive to Aosta in less than two hours, I am torn...
I'll definitely pop back in once I have a better sense of the transport and timing, but this gets me started!

Posted by
736 posts

Bernese Oberland is fantastic.

If you're willing to consider a short detour into France, you could head to Chamonix on the train. A little less than 3 hours on a very scenic train.

Posted by
255 posts

I was recently researching the Montreux area for the tail end of a long trip and then decided, there is so much to do there, I'll save it for another trip so I can take my time and enjoy what it has to offer such as; Chillon Castle, Manoir de Ban (Charlie Chaplin museum), boat ride on Lake Geneva with a stop in Évian-les-Bains (France). Day trips by train - Lausanne, Zermatt (Matterhorn), Gruyere chocolate train, Zweisimmen to Montreux (or further along the Golden Pass route).

Edited to add this link to hikes in the Montreux area. I've not done any of these so not able to recommend but they sound nice. And if any interest in Queen, there is this.

Posted by
7733 posts

Anywhere in Switzerland is on the train line. I think Luzern is a good option, since it has a mix of urban, lake scenery, and, mountains and hiking all within reach.

Posted by
142 posts

Murren I would vote for Murren area it’s just the picture of Switzerland that I think most have in their minds when they think of Switzerland.. we are head back this summer on the My way Alpine tour. Been twice before.. my second vote would be for Luzern.. we started Best of Switzerland in Luzern .. we arrived three full days early met tourmates from a previous tour so with tour and extra days we spent 5 days there and absolutely loved it. We stayed at the Hotel Des Alpes I believe ..will look it up..we had a room overlooking the Chapel Bridge.. so many places to walk to for dinner or lunch. We filled everyday easily.
I don’t think you can go wrong in Switzerland 🇨🇭

Posted by
961 posts

Oh, how I wish Schweiz was doable time wise this year what with the Swiss franc at parity ( practically) with the US$.
Val, my experience with hiking is in the east at Swiss National Park, the Engadine, Alp Grum and the the Berner Oberland. But there is great hiking around Lac Leman.
I would plan on doing some searches for hiking around Gstaad, Lake Geneva or busing 90 minutes to Chamonix from Annecy for the Mt. Blanc area. The Euro is at $1.04 today making Chamonix hiking a bargain.
In my experience October is a very iffy month weatherwise. Usually winds come up and rain begins the second week of October. Make a couple itineraries so you can easily adjust your plan based on the weather.
Have a great Trip!

Posted by
3598 posts

I’m back with specific dates (late October) and unfortunately no further clarity on where to go. (I swear, I could plan 100 different trips in the Mediterranean in minutes, but I’m just flummoxed by cold weather I guess.)
I now know I’ll have five days. I’ll spend two days in Montreaux first and we fly out of Zurich, so anticipating one night there. We’re thinking five nights in Zermatt, or possible breaking in into two and three. Would that be a better course?

Posted by
5623 posts

5 nights in Zermatt is too long - it is good for 3 nights, in my opinion.
I would spend 4-5 nights in the Berner Oberland instead. Or if you move fast, you could visit both Zermatt and the Berner Oberland in 5 nights, but that's not ideal - I would not recommend it.
As for your last night, if your flight out of Zurich is later than 10 AM or so, you could stay in Luzern instead! And if you do so, then consider spending 2 nights in Luzern rather than 1.

Posted by
2995 posts

iMHo, you should skip Zermatt and spend the time actually in the Alps : Murren or Wengen, and a night or two in beautiful Lucerne, which has great train access to the Zurich airport.
Safe travels!

Posted by
938 posts

Just toured many fabulous non-Lauterbrunnen places all over Switzerland.

Go to the Lauterbrunnen area. It's combination of superb high alpine and below tree line scenery can't be beat.

Posted by
247 posts

due to inclement weather October is low season and will have scheduled Maintenance taking place

You might indeed have cloudy, rainy weather, but the maintenance for Schilthorn Bahn is from Nov. 14 - Dec. 12 as seen here (under Services on the Mürren – Schilthorn in the fine print beside the schedule). You can check any mountain gondola closures by googling the name of the mountain and maintenance. Some, Schynige Platte for example, close for the season before the end of October (23rd for that route).

Here is a link to the top hikes in Switzerland for autumn

Posted by
9629 posts

I would return to Grindelwald and rent the same chalet again. Heaven!

Posted by
3598 posts

Okay you all have definitely convinced me I can stay in Lucerne last (conforming ease of access to Zurich airport), so that will be 2-3 nights, leaving me 3-4 for the mountains. But it is also dawning on me how late I have left this, and many places in Murren, Wengen, and Lauterbrennan are booked or closed. However--I am determined to leave it late due to the weather issue!
I am fairly picky about hotels (a view is the most important factor, obvs, but also prefer something small that is not dreary in the decor dept, quiet, and comfy bed) and want walking access to good restaurants. Am I just barking up the wrong tree here in terms of hotel options? We had ruled out Interlaken. Are there other places that would give us the ease of access and view that I am overlooking? I even checked Grindelwald, which people seem to have mixed opinions on. I am still considering Zermatt because hotel and restaurant options look better.

Posted by
938 posts

Maybe rent a small apartment? There's a ton of them because these are ski villages. They are comfortable and can be quite high end, and most are in pretty chalets with views.

It's pretty nice to be able to cook for yourself if you want to, particularly given how pricey Swiss restaurants can be, and how very good quality Swiss supermarket foods are.

A good way to find apartments is to check the tourist office websites for the towns you might want to stay in. In the Alps there are still a lot of apartments that mainly advertise through their local tourist office, not VRBO, Airbnb or Booking.

For example

https://wengen.swiss/en/summer/eat-and-stay/apartments/

Posted by
3598 posts

Thanks so much Hank, that is just what I need. Now I need to cross reference that with the closings (thank you, my swiss life), and I think I can cobble this together.
Thank you everyone for offering your feedback on this post--I admit I find these types of questions maddening (just decide already), but now I can empathize with people who just have trouble wrapping their mind around a place!

Posted by
938 posts

Delighted to help. Do pay attention to specific location, consider whether you want to be right in the village center, or if a pretty 10 minute walk is okay.

Last little bit, the Lauterbrunnen area is spectacular for all of the major reasons people cite it as spectacular, but it also has a lot of charming working agriculture, and little local walking trails around the villages. There are for instance local trails in the woods that go to nearby little park areas with wood fired cook out grills, seasoned firewood supplied for free, stacked neatly in charming wood sheds. On a nice evening my family walked 15 minutes out to one of these municipal barbecue zones with sausages (easy) and the picnic stuff to surround them and had a lovely meal hot off the grill in a pretty location gazing at woods, rolling fields with cows, beautiful cliffs in the valley below, etc.

On these local trails people have set up little gnome world dioramas or miniature figurines engage in all sorts of fantasy village life. It's really too charming for words.

Villages also participate in local fundraisers where in you pay something like $5 for a wooden ball, and then all over the village and in its outlying areas are Rube Goldberg like contraptions where you drop the ball in and it rolls through a bunch of crazy pathways etc.

I'm talking about Wengen specifically here, which on balance has a lot of local woodsy trails and farms/animals, and as a local municipality provides quality infrastructure for its townsfolk. But the Lauterbrunnen villages are all good, splitting hairs really picking favorites.

Posted by
247 posts

Hank, It’s fun to read that you took advantage of the BBQ area, they are all over Switzerland, if you ever come again, here is how you can find one near you.

Valadelphia, hope your hunt for a suitable place to stay is working out. Yesterday I was in Zermatt for some hiking (and to get away from the rain in our area). Although cloudy/foggy at first, within an hour I had stunning Matterhorn views. The day was crisp and clear, the larch trees are starting to turn yellow giving a great contrast to the blue sky and white mountain peaks.

The streets were not as busy as in summer, but still enough of a buzz that it feels exciting to be there. Lots of restaurants had their outdoor seating open and people were enjoying sitting in the sunshine.

There are a lot of hiking trails (400 km), you could easily spend days hiking here and not get bored! I did a pretty simple one, going from the town centre to Blatten, around to Zum See, where there is a charming family run restaurant, and back down to Zermatt. Some forest areas, river, mountain views (including the Matterhorn), a field with several spycher buildings that looked great with the mountains behind them, and enough of an uphill climb to feel like I actually did something.

The landscape in this area is more rugged than in the Berner Oberland, less green fields and more rock and stone, but still impressive.

Posted by
30290 posts

Aarau and Baden. Lovely. Solothurn.

Sorry, that's 3.

Posted by
10669 posts

Hi valadelphia. We are in Lauterbrunnen now and the weather is great this week. Not so great last week. HOWEVER, if you want to roll the dice that all will be good here, and if you want to go the apartment route, check out https://www.vrbo.com/1207898ha. Across from a bus stop that take you to the Bahnhof in 5 minutes (or a 10 minute walk slightly uphill to the Bahnhof) with a killer view of Staubbach Falls. Even if you eat your meals out, this is a great place to stay.

We leave here next Thursday and the tentative forecast is for rain to come back Tuesday. Hope not, but there are still places to go and things to see and it rarely rains all day. We’ve only had one really wet day in 3 weeks here so far and we spent it joy-riding on the lifts which was fun and cost us nothing extra as we had the Berner Oberland Regional Pass. You might take a look at that. We always get one because then we can go anywhere in the entire BO (with the exception of the Jungfraujoch and the Schilthornbahn) on a whim at no additional cost. The pass season ends October 31, by the way.

Posted by
3598 posts

I continue to take my sweet time, but I have leads on several apartments--one I should have jumped on and didn't, wouldn't ya know it, it was booked the next day. Thanks again for all who have chimed in!
I'm trying to get a handle on the train ticket/pass situation now. With so many highly experienced Swiss travel experts here, so I'll throw this out there:
I am in country 9 days, but there is an 8 day pass. On arrival day, I travel Zurich-Montreaux, two days later Montreaux to Murren, four days later Murren to Lucerne, last day Lucerne to Zurich airport. Plus, we'll have day trips. It sounds like unlike in other places, a pass is better than point to point.
Do I need the Swiss travel pass Flex AND the Bernese Oberland Regional-Pass (will be there only three full days)? How should I work the extra day minus the 8 day pass? I'd certainly like to have a pass for my arrival day when I'll be a jeetlagged zombie with three connections, but the last day morning trail to airport is also one that I'll have nerves about.
Thanks again for any guidance, and wish me dry weather (I've stocked up on merino wool base layers)

Posted by
10669 posts

The advantage of a BO Regional Pass is that you pay NOTHING extra unless you do one of the mountain tops, Jungfraujoch or Schilthornbahn. I like the combo of a Half Fare Card and a BORP. Do Lucerne or Montreux have any local passes you could consider? With a STP you pay half for the cable cars.

Posted by
3598 posts

I think the BO regional pass is a no-brainer since we'll be there four days and want max flexibility. I am not sure we'll be in Lucerne or Montreaux long enough for any regional passes. I am still confused about the other passes. I think I can rule out the Swiss Travel Pass because I will not be traveling on consecutive days, so I should go with the Half Fare car OR the Flex. With the Flex, you have to activate each day and that honestly sounds annoying. So, I guess Half Fare it is--Am I still missing anything?
Yeah, I have read through https://shop.swiss-pass.ch/#/en/overview but this is like taking a test. And people go on and on about how hard driving in Italy is, lol

Posted by
10669 posts

You really cannot go wrong with a Half Fare Card and a BO Regional Pass. Where there are no other passes, you pay half fare. You can get the HFC on your mobile phone with the SBB app and then buy tickets for places on the app as well. Unfortunately the BORP is only hard copy. You can buy and print at home or you can just get one at the first stop in the Berner Oberland. (Except at Brig. They didn’t sell the BORP but the nice woman there let me buy them on my mobile and email the link to her to print.)

I just analyzed how the combo of passes worked for us with 5 nights in the Valais and 25 in the Berner Oberland. We spent a lot on transportation but that is our entertainment. We ride to nice places and we hike. We SAVED $439 per person with the HFC and a series of Berner Oberland Regional Passes and an Aletsch Arena Pass in the Valais. (We cook and eat “at home” in an apartment we get a great rate on for a long stay to make up for our transportation excesses.)

As Wengen_K said in this post

The advantage of a pass is that it removes the threshold to take a cable car, to just go somewhere.

We went “joy-riding” on a recent day of inclement weather. The full price of the lifts and trains we took would have been CHF 134.00. It was CHF 00.00 with the pass. Beats sitting in your lodging looking at rain.

Posted by
938 posts

Let me underscore WengenK and others.

It was wonderful to have and all you can ride pass for the lift systems in the Berner Oberland. It's joyful fun riding the lifts all over that beautiful mountain landscapes. And planning becomes a relaxing, enthused exercise in maximizing your good times, not working to conserve funds. You gain much latitude to move spontaneously, which is not overrated in the mountains where conditions change quickly. Maybe your kid is tired? Maybe you need to buy some new socks? Maybe you just feel like counting some cows and marmots from above? A pass is the magic bullet.

Posted by
3598 posts

Thanks again for the input, Half Fare it is! Just as that gets settled, I start waffling about the forecast--I know they are not reliable this far out, but I'm spiraling.
I actually usually plan outdoor-focused trips, but they take place in May in the Mediterranean, when there is just not the same level of uncertainty, and a city is often close by in case of rain. Leaving things last minute is out of my wheelhouse entirely, but given that I detest cold weather, I'm holding out.
I am a seaside girl, so I'm also having anxiety about altitude sickness--any reassurances or horror stories to share? I went to Colorado for work briefly once and felt pretty off, with a headache. Is going from Montreaux straight to Murren a problem?

Posted by
961 posts

Shouldn’t be a problem— Montreaux is 1300’ altitude and Murren is 5,450. The effects of altitude likely would be felt at the Jungfraujoch with an altitude above 11,000 feet which is when it hits lots of people.
Even at 9,000 feet, some will be feeling it ( the Schilthorn is at 9,700 feet) Stay hydrated, eat carbs and be rested if you’re planning on going up to the mountain tops and you’ll have it covered so you can enjoy!

Posted by
3598 posts

Thanks Kenko, that helps with my anxiety (have I mentioned I'm not a mountain person, lol).
I'm looking very forward to seeing this beautiful country and playing it by ear as far as rain goes. Wish me luck!

Posted by
3598 posts

THANK YOU to all who shared their enthusiasm for Switzerland and patiently offered up advice. It was a successful trip!

Montreaux was gorgeous and I greatly enjoyed château de Chillon. Exhaustion and rain kept me from much more than leisure there, but it was nearly 70 degrees and fabulous (apparently age 49 is when red eye flights became untenable for me!).

Mürren was the picture-perfect mountain experience we craved. We rented a chalet with view and sauna, which came in handy our one day of rain--weather for late October was otherwise perfect, so we really lucked out. We enjoyed hikes in both directions--even with the Allmendhubel funicular closed (it made the hikes much more challenging, but I made it!). We also visited Schilthorn twice--once in snow and once with clear visibility. Things were winding down for the season, but it was perfect for us. We would probably not have liked it nearly as much in crowded summer. Hotel Edelweiss was our favorite dinner out, but Hotel Alpenruh was solid, as was Piz Gloria.

Luzern is gobsmackingly beautiful and I look forward to passing through again. We enjoyed a day at Pilatus and a nice meal at Rathaus Brauerei (oh that cheese pie!), but the meal of the trip was actually Chinese, at the excellent Li Tai Pei.

Thanks again and happy travels--I'm available to answer questions, especially for the Swiss newbies who perhaps feel as overwhelmed as I did. There were some slight travel hiccups, but I have a better sense of the logistics now. I still don't know how you are supposed to know when to change trains, but a ticket agent gave us a little slip of paper at one point that delineated transfers with platforms and times--if every ticket contained this info, it would be a breeze!