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Paris to Lucerne to Cologne

I'm looking for advice for trains as well as advice about lodging in Lucerne in May.

Forty-five years ago I was in Lucerne and enjoyed a trip up the cog-wheel RR to the top of Mt. Pilatus. Even saw a nun playing her flute while sitting on a rock up there. Almost expected to see a group of children singing "The Sound of Music." So, I'd like to go again--this time with my wife. I have not been successful so far in figuring out train travel from Paris to Lucerne. I would delight in some good advice.

We'd like to go next to Cologne. (This is where we met those 45 years ago. We'll stay in the same hotel where we met. She's American--I won't bore you further with details: nothing that dramatic.) Again, I'd like some train advice. What's the best way to get to Cologne from Lucerne? (Last time I managed to get to Koblenz and took the boat to Cologne. Is that a good idea these days.)

Thanks in advance.

John

Posted by
31289 posts

becker,

The trip from Paris to Lucerne is VERY easy. There are numerous departures from Gare de Lyon with a travel time of ~4H:45M (one change at Basel). The first part of the journey will be via TGV at 300 kmH. You can either buy tickets online from the SNCF website or just buy at any SNCF Boutique in Paris. There are at least eight boutiques in various parts of the city.

The trip from Lucerne to Cologne is also very easy. That trip will be ~5H:15 with two changes at Basel and perhaps Mannheim. You can check all the rail travel options on the German Rail website, which displays information for travel all over Europe. Note that your destination station will likely be Köln Hbf. You should be able to buy your tickets for the trip to Cologne at the ticket office in the station in Lucerne.

For accommodations in Lucerne, I'd highly recommend Hotel Stern. It's in a very convenient location, and easily walkable from the rail station (although I'd recommend a Taxi when arriving with luggage). I found the rooms very comfortable, they provide a nice breakfast and the food in the restaurant is great!

One other point about Lucerne. As I recall, there's a tourist information office at the rail station and they should be able to help with arrangements for the trip to Mt. Pilatus, lake cruises or whatever you want to do.

Congratulations on this trip and the occasion that you're celebrating!

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you, Ken. That was very helpful.

We are now thinking of stopping for a day at Colmar on our way from Paris to Lucerne. We would then go from Colmar to Lucerne.

We are wondering about the meaning of "walk 10 min", as in this:

Station/Stop Date Time Platform Products

Colmar Tu, 13.05.14 dep 13:52 IC 91 Intercity Please reserve

Basel SBB Gl.30-35 Tu, 13.05.14 arr 14:38

walk 10 min.
Adjust the transfer time

Basel SBB Tu, 13.05.14 dep 15:04 6 IC 679 Intercity Neigezug

Luzern Tu, 13.05.14 arr 16:05 7

To me it looks as if we would leave Colmar at 13:53 and arrive in Basel at 14:38. Then, 26 minutes later, we would need to be on the train at Platform 6 and depart at 15:04, with an arrival in Lucern at 16:05.

Does that seem correct to you?

Thanks again.

Posted by
16045 posts

French trains that terminate in Basel discharge passengers on tracks 30 to 35. It is a short walk into the main station, then an up escalator to the upper cross walkway, then down the stairs or escalator to the platform for your train to Luzern. 10 minute walk is at a VERY slow pace. Its not that far. It hales back to the pre-Schengen days when you would have to clear Swiss customs before proceeding to your connection. Those days are long gone.

Posted by
25727 posts

That's exactly correct.

Lemme explain. Basel has 3 main train stations. There's one to serve German trains, called Basel Bad Bahnhof. There's one to serve Swiss trains and fast international ones like French TGVs and some German ICEs. And there's one to serve French trains, particularly those which terminate at Basel and all Regional French trains.

The French (SNCF) station and Swiss (SBB) are now actually one station with the French SNCF platforms being a group of 6 platforms offset by about 100 metres from the main station to the south, and to get from one area to the other you still have to walk across the border through the immigration and customs area, although all the windows are closed up with just cameras watching in case they want to pull someone. Since Switzerland joined Schengen there are not normally formal border procedures.

So your slow old-but-very-comfy Regional train from Colmar with the still opening windows and flapping curtains (can you tell I really like the trains they still run on that route?) will arrive at one of the platforms 30-35 in the old SNCF area, you will walk through the twisty corridor, through the frosted glass doors into the main SBB station, perhaps stop at the Migros supermarket on the station to grab a bite to stave off starvation and make your way to platform 6 to catch the train to Luzern.

Easy.... congratulations on the romantic trip ...

Posted by
31289 posts

becker,

The information provided by Sam and Nigel is spot on! To add to Nigel's post, it always seems strange to walk by the deserted Passport control booths when walking from the old part of the station to the newer SBB part. When you reach the main part of the station, turn to the right and go up the stairs. When you get to the top, walk along the long hallway until you reach the stairs that lead down to whichever platform you'll be using (the stairs will be on your left side as I recall).

One other point to mention is that last time I was through there, the only WC available was a pay-per-use facility operated by McClean. In the past, I've found that they ONLY accepted Swiss Francs (CHF 1 as I recall), so something to keep in mind. I always have coins on hand from previous trips, so it wasn't a problem for me (but a nuisance to have to dig the Swiss coins out of my Backpack).

Cheers!