Munich to Lauterbrunnen to Chamonix?

Hello Friends. First time poster. Bought Rick's video series. Got motivated. Now We (family of 4, kids 7 & 9), are flying into Berlin July 22 and departing out of Zurich Aug 8. Plan is: Rent car. 2 nights in Berlin, 2 nights in Jena/Leipzig (Napoleon junkie), 4 nights in Munich/Fussen (Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Zugspitze, Neuchwanstein, Berchtesgaden). Drop off car at border. Buy Swiss family rail pass. Cut thru Switzerland from NE to SW. 3-4 nights in Lauterbrunnen, then SW to Chamonix (2 nights/Mont Blanc). It seems though that train connections from Lauterbrunnen area to Chamonix area are challenging, not efficient. Or we can forget Chamonix, spend more time in Bavaria, or go east to Hallstatt Salzburg, or South to Bolzano/Dolomites.

The German half of our trip seems clear cut and doable. With Munich as a hub we can go in any direction. The Swiss back half though not as clear, no car, must depend on rail lines/train schedules. Maybe my plan is too complicated?
Your thoughts or better itinerary alternatives would be welcomed. Only Plans made thus far: airfare and Lauterbrunnen accomodations (Hotel Staubbach). Thanks!

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2359 posts

They are reconstructing the railway between the Swiss border and Chamonix.

Have you considered staying in Zermatt, if you want another Alpine destination, instead of Chamonix? Check it out www.zermat.ch

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
163 posts

If you are interested in Napoleon, you may consider seeing the Grand St.Bernard pass used by Napoleon and his army (40,000 men + heavy artillery) to fight the Austrians in Montebello.
There is a museum at the monastery. Your kids would probably appreciate seeing the St.Bernard dogs.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
7117 posts

Yes, it is taking about 4 hours and 5 train connections to get between these two mountain towns, Lauterbrunnen and Chamonix. That route to Chamonix is covered by Swiss passes. Connections within Switzerland usually go very smoothly and you can check your luggage through using their baggage transfer system, but will have to confirm whether same-day timing works for delivery across the border to Chamonix. Or, trains to Zermatt are under 3 hours with 3 connections. I also really like Appenzell (4.5 hours, with 3 connections), which is closer to Zurich for your flight home.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
1258 posts

You say that you must do all of this by train but if you rent a car for the Lauterbrunnen/Chamonix portion it will save you oodles of time. If you can drive around from Lauterbrunnen to Kandersteg, there is a car train that takes you through the mountain (22 CHF) and drops you in Valais. From there you just head down the E62 highway down to Martigny and then over the mountains - about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to drive to Chamonix from where the train drops you off. The way is extremely well-marked. Half of it is a four-lane highway and the rest is a lovely, curvy mountain road into Chamonix. Getting to Chamonix by public transport from Switzerland is a little difficult. It will eat up an entire day at best if you're coming all the way from Lauterbrunnen.
I think that the Zermatt suggestion is a good one. MUCH easier to get to from Lauterbrunnen - incredibly expensive but much more convenient considering your time. The scenery is equally dramatic but if you hit it on a cloudy day it's not worth going. I usually recommend at least two days there to allow for inclement weather - you'd be taking a chance for just one day but it might pay off.
Just food for thought!

Posted by jbarreto
5 posts

Thank you friends for taking the time to help. I am considering all of your advice. Big decisions, but so exciting. Please add more suggestions, I am learning more daily. Great forum.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1909 posts

The track work near Chamonix that Larry mentioned will be finished soon and the regular train schedule will resume around mid-May on the route that is covered by the Swiss Pass. Interlaken--Spiez---Visp--Martigny-Vallorcine (border stop)--Chamonix. Five changes and a trip of 4:37. We have done that route several times and it is fun and very scenic, especially the part after Martigny. At the border you just walk across the platform from one train to the other. I suggest you go that way rather than the Golden Pass/Geneva bus route as suggested by Larry as that will take all day. ( and Swiss pass does not cover the bus from Geneva to Chamonix).

I would not use the baggage transfer service suggested by Laura. It may not even work for going to Chamonix, but even if it did, it adds extra cost and a layer of complication to your schedule. Changing trains in Switzerland with baggage is no harder than changing trains without. Min both cases it is easy.

Getting back to Zurich from Chamonix will take 5 hours but there may be as few as 3 changes. FWIW, we did that ourselves for an afternoon flight from Zurich. Left Chamonix around 9 and were at the airport by 2:30, in plenty of time for our 5:30 flight. The only complication was that we were unaware that our travel day was the day of the Zurich Street Parade ( first Saturday in August) when half a million people dressed in feather, tinfoil, and body paint converge on Zurich. The train between Bern and Zurichnwas so crowded we did not find seats, but it was only one hour. Now the train comes directly from Visp via the new Lötschberg Basistunnel. If you happened to be traveling on that day, you could reserve seats so you would keep them all the way to Zurich, even if tons of people board at Bern.