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Murren, Zermatt, and .....?? 10 days in Switzerland w Teenage Boys

In the midst of planning a late summer trip to Switzerland w my family (husband and teenage boys ages 15 & 17). We arrive into Zurich early on August 17. We will spend 3 nights in Murren (8/17, 18, 19) @ Eiger Swiss Quality Hotel, then move on to Zermatt for 3 nights (8/20, 21, 22) staying at what looks like a great chalet, right in town w views of the Matterhorn, rented through airbnb.

My question is where to spend our last 3 nights?? I am thinking we might like to explore some of the countryside and local cheese production areas - L'Etivas, Gruyeres, Emmental and perhaps chocolate factory (maybe too touristy?). I think we would also like to see some castles (if there are any in this region we could work into our travels) and my husband has a desire to visit the Stockli ski factory (in Malters, I believe, outside of Lucerne) if possible. We depart Zurich 5:30pm August 26.

In addition to determining what would be a best area to base ourselves in for 3 nights (if that makes sense) and I am also wondering what is best mode of transportation overall. Train for entire trip? Train + car? Car? And which train pass makes most sense?

We like hiking & exploring; active vacations that involve good food!

Thanks in advance for any and all help!!

Posted by
1353 posts

With boys that age I would recommend you spend more than 3 nights in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Especially if you enjoy outdoor activities. You might consider spending 3 nights in Murren then 2 or 3 nights on the other side of the valley in Wengen. I've taken teenage boys to this area, and the most memorable activites for them were mountain biking above Murren, and renting bike/scooter things from the station between First and Grindlewald and riding them back down into Grindlewald. There are so many wonderful hikes in the area you could easily stay busy for 6 days.

Posted by
2219 posts

You could go to Lake Geneva and stay in Montreux, Vevey it Lausanne. I recommend Vevey, but not they are all close and connected by frequent short train rides. There is s fabulous castle on the lake near Montreux - Chateau Chillon. You can take a short and scenic train ride to Gruyeres, which is cute though a little touristy. There is also a chocolate factory in the area, although I have not been there.

However, I agree with Jill - you should stay longer in Murren.

Posted by
262 posts

As the prior poster mentioned, Chateau Chillon is a very popular tourist attraction in Switzerland and this area is quite beautiful. If you like hiking, you'll likely enjoy the Unesco Vineyards. The views are breathtaking and you walk though some very charming villages along the way. Also consider visiting some of the weekly markets, festivals and events.
There are many things to see depending on your interests. Since you have a late in the day flight from Zurich, you can take the train to the airport the last day and still easily make your flight. Pubic transport is easiest way to travel in Switzerland.

Here's a link to the local tourism info.

http://www.region-du-leman.ch/en/P742/chillon-castle?group=75

Posted by
1400 posts

Since you fly out of Zurich, spend your last 3 nights in Lucerne. It has an easy direct rail link to the airport (2 per hour, 70 mins).

Lucerne has the Swiss Transportation museum which the boys might like, but they might really like the lakeside park adjacent to it which seems to be a hang-out for the local teens on a sunny day.

The nearby Mt. Pilatus excursion is cool in its own right, but there is a summer luge course up there that is a blast. Mt. Rigi is also an easy 1/2 day trip and involves a pleasant lake cruise.

Fortress Furigen is also nearby. It was a hidden fortress constructed for WW2 and the cold war, now open for tours on the weekend.

And Lucerne is a cute town to explore on foot, it has a Picasso/modern art museum, and decent food for Switzerland.

You can do the whole trip by rail. You won't need a car unless you get the urge to do some real exploring. Usually, the cheapest rail pass option is a Half-Fare Card, but the Swiss Pass may be your best value since you have a child in your group (the 17 yo is an adult for purposes of the rail pass). You can list your 15 yo on your own SP and he travels free as long as he is with a parent; no extra pass needed for the 15 yo, but I don't think this applies with the HFC (I'm not sure).

The HFC is a good value but the SP is so much more convenient and worth paying a little more for. While the HFC gets you a discount on your tickets, you still have to buy the tickets at a window, kiosk, or online. The SP on the other hand is your ticket. Both passes cover nearly all trains, cable cars, busses, trams, and boats you would want to ride. The SP also gets you into all museums free of charge.

Posted by
692 posts

I agree that trains are the way to go, particularly since the 15 year old should be next to free if you can get Swiss Family Card with the Swiss Transfer Ticket. However, you must buy it in advance, before you get to Switz. I've often used the Swiss Transfer ticket which gives a free trip in and out of your destination, and half price in between. I believe it is around $140 each, which is pretty much the price of Zurich to Murren and back, so the half price in between those dates will save a LOT on cable cars and trains.
I've taken my teens to Lucerne, Zermatt, and Lauterbrunnen areas many times, and hiking/walking is something the whole family will enjoy together.
One thing they liked in Lucerne was to go in the mirror maze at the Glacier Garden. If you find the "Dying Lion" monument, look to your left and there is the entrance.
As for Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt areas, here are my recommendations (see next entry):

Posted by
692 posts

As for what to do in the area, yes, you can do the Jungfraujoch trip, but many many days the top of the mountain is in the clouds or might be once you get up there. I'd recommend instead to do the wonderful trails, all easy, but fantastic.
If you have 3 days in Murren, here are the 3 "classic" hikes in the area.
The first goes from Grutschalp to Murren. In your case, you want to hike Toward the mountains, so you should take the train to Grutschalp and hike back. From Murren, you can go down to Gimmelwald or you
can hike uphill on a diagonal from the Murren cablecar station, and eventually end up at the restaurant at
Spielbodalp. There you can get a drink and sit at a picnic table and watch the
cows. You can also get to Spielbodenalp via the Sprutz Falls route. About a third of the way up the trail branches near a hut. Take the upper one, you go to Spielbodenalp. The lower one goes fairly level into the woods and eventually to Sprutz Falls, which you cross under, climb up the trail on the opposite side, and end up in Spielbodenalp. Map here:
http://www.gimmelwald.com/pics/gimmelwald/hikemap.jpg

The second goes from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. The walk itself is
about 2 hours, and we save this for the sunniest day, because of the panoramic
views. (Leave in the morning--most afternoons the peaks cloud up!) Take the
train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, then a 5 min walk to the cable car
station, where you take the cable car up to Mannlichen. Once up, you can look
left at a 30 min up and back trail to a lookout point. If you look right
there is the main trail that leads toward the Jungfrau mountain, which takes
1.5 hrs and you end up in Kleine Scheidegg, where you can catch a train down
to Wengen and finally Lauterbrunnen. Great panoramic views all along the
route. This trail is almost level and easy.
It takes about 20 min train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen, another 20 min cable car to Mannlichen, 1 and 1/2 hr hike to Kleine Scheidegg, 40 min train down to Lauterbrunnen.
The 3rd classic trail is from First to Bachalpsee. Take the Lauterbrunnen
train down to Zweilutschinen. Get off to switch to the train going up to
Grindelwald. Once in Grindelwald, walk about 20 min further into town to get
to the cablecar station, where you take it all the way up to First. From there
walk to Bachalpsee. There are trail signs, and it is about 45 min each
way. On a sunny day, you can get great pictures of the mountains reflected in
Bachalpsee, which is a small lake. Just Google image "Bachalpsee" and you'll
see what I mean.
If you want to turn this hike into a 6 hr hike (and this will be more strenuous than the rest), start at Wilderswil, take train up to Schynige Platte, and walk toward the Jungfrau mountains. There's a refreshment hut half way, then finally get to Bachalpsee, then 45 min more to First. Start early or you'll miss the 5:30 or so last cable car down from First to Grindelwald.
Finally, if you get a foggy or misty day, you can walk from Lauterbrunnen to Trummelbach Falls, which is about an hour each way (or take the PostBus). Google image it to see why Trummelbach Falls are worth seeing, and the nice thing is you can actually see them just fine on a dreary and foggy day.

In the Zermatt area, there are two good hikes, and you can see them here: http://www.mappery.com/map-of/Zermatt-Switzerland-summer-map

  1. Take the train up Sunnegga, hike over Grindjisee and see if you can get the Matterhorn reflected in the lake. Then circle around on the trail to Riffelalp, where you can take a different train back down to town.
  2. Take the train up to Gornergrat. That station is pretty much across the street from the main train station where you arrived. Get out at Gornergrat, look at the view, then walk down the hill toward Riffelsee. Again, see if you can get a great pic of the Matterhorn reflected in that lake. (Hope it's sunny!) Then walk to Riffelberg and can catch the train back down. Allen
Posted by
304 posts

Wow, thanks for the great ideas, shoe! My next trip to Switzerland will be in this exact region. You've described the hikes so well - I hope to be able to explore the Lauterbrunnen Valley area with our family. We loved Engelberg and Luzern, but know that if we get a chance to go back to Switzerland that we want to see the areas you've described.

Laurie

Posted by
12926 posts

I agree with the others that with kids that age you might want more time in the Berner Oberland--- especially after you have seen the list of hikes listed in Shoe's helpful post.

But since you already have a chalet rented in Zermatt for nights 4-6, you cannot simply add nights onto your stay in Mürren on nights 1-3. You could add them on your way back to Zurich for your flight, perhaps staying in a different village, such as Wengen or Lauterbrunnen. Or be a bit more adventurous and hike to one of the rustic mountain inns in the upper valley area, past Stechelberg. These are farms and may give you and opportunity to see cheesemaking ( maybe that at Gimmelwald as well). If you do this, leave most of your luggage in lockers at the Lauterbrunnen station. I can find links to the inns ( or similar mountain inns elsewhere) if you are interested.

Two nights in this area would position you for the Golden Pass route to Luzern for your last night before flying out of Zurich.

Note that the Transfer Ticket mentioned above is probably not a good value for your travel. You can get a Family Card for free travel for your younger child by request with a Half Fare Card, which may work out well, especially if you plan to ride high mountain lifts or trains.

Posted by
7205 posts

With the free Swiss Family Card your 15 year travels absolutely free all over Switzerland - even to the expensive Jungfrau. By choosing Lucerne for your last nights in Switzerland you can travel everywhere you need to go on public transport. And you probably already know that Murren, Wengen, Zermatt - no cars allowed in those villages so cars are rather useless.