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Paris to Switzerland - which city to start in? 5 days to explore

We had been thinking Paris to Geneva, but are now wondering if we might plan a different route to see more of the higher Alps sights. We'll be traveling with our young adult and teen children, and still like the idea of ending in Lausanne and flying home from Geneva...but we've added a few days to our overall plan, and wonder about other suggestions.

We don't want to do too much hopping around, though, and are conscious of the cost of traveling with the five of us for hotels, trains, lifts, etc. One trip up to higher elevations for a hike and view is what we're seeking...and the rest can be more exploring areas local to the hotel.

We just watched Rick's travel talk on Switzerland, which got us thinking of some other options.

I appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks!
Laurie

Posted by
158 posts

Do your five days include both Paris and Switzerland or just Switzerland?

Posted by
307 posts

Ideally a little of both. Our biggest priority is relaxing and exploring new and beautiful areas. More emphasis on hiking and good food than shopping in big cities.

Posted by
650 posts

Ok..many others here will give you much more advice on the Alps. I spent 5 days in Paris last September and then visited Switzerland for an extra 5 nights. All my time was based in Luzern which in my opinion is the most beautiful city in Switzerland. We walked the Old Town with it's beautifully painted buildings, visited the awesome and heartbreaking Lion Monument (someone playing a sad tune on an Alphorn was the only sound), spent time hanging around the river with its wonderful covered bridges, etc.

Took a day trip to Mount Rigi which although not the Alps was awesome. Take a paddle steamer across the lake with awesome scenery to Weggis I think. It could be the reverse order. Then take the cog wheel train to the top for stunning views. Hang out and enjoy it. Then take the train part way down and take a thrilling cable car ride down to Vitznau (again I could have this in the wrong order). Get back on the boat and spend a leisurely hour back to Luzern. That was a full day but awesome.
Me and my friend also took a day out of Luzern to go paragliding over the mountains, lakes and villages outside of Luzern. What an awesome time we had in Switzerland.

Please be prepared though. It is the most expensive country I have ever visited as you will be told. Think $30 or more for a spaghetti dinner. $20-$30 for a pizza for 1 person to share. Please budget accordingly. No matter what you decide you will love it.

Posted by
307 posts

Steve, thanks for the information on Lucerne. How did you get there from Paris? Where did you stay?

Laurie

Posted by
650 posts

Hi Laurie.
I bought train tickets on line 3 months early and printed them at home..maybe $50.00 one way. We took the train from Gare de Lyon to Basel, Switzerland (about a 4 hour ride). Once in Basel station bought the tickets to Luzern..can't remember the price but not expensive. Waited for the next train, hopped on and was in Luzern in about a little over an hour. Stayed at Touristen (Tourist Hotel) right on the river with a balcony overlooking the river...3rd Floor.. No air conditioning which was a surprise but they gave us a fan. Big room and free breakfast included which is great because the food is so expensive. You can find the hotel on any of the websites. I used Booking.com and paid my last night before checking out.

Posted by
31471 posts

Laurie,

With only five nights, you might consider splitting your time between Lucerne and the Berner Oberland (Lauterbrunnen Valley), as that will provide a nice balance of city and alpine scenery. With only a very short five days, you might consider visiting the Berner Oberland first, then to Lucerne and fly home from Zürich (a very easy airport to access and lots of flight options). Lucerne is only about an hour from the Zürich airport so if you choose an afternoon flight, you'll be able to spend your last night in Lucerne.

Is there any possibility of adding a day or two? There's so much to see and do in those two places, and you could easily spend five days in either one. As someone else mentioned, Switzerland is expensive so be sure to budget accordingly.

Both France and Switzerland have excellent rail networks so getting about by train is absolutely the most efficient method. The segment from Paris to Basel will be via TGV at 300 kmH, so I'm sure that will be an experience. You can save money by pre-purchase of rail tickets online, but you'll have to be wiling to commit to specific trains, as the fast trains have compulsory reservations that are specific to train, date and departure time. Have a look at the rail sites in each country (SNCF, SBB) or the https://www.capitainetrain.com/en website. You'll have to do some number crunching to determine if one of the Swiss rail passes will be of any benefit.

Posted by
307 posts

Ken, thanks for your ideas. We are now debating between Luzern for 3 nights/4 days and time to explore the city as well as take a day to go up one of the mountains for some views and some easy hiking - city with some mountain activity...or your suggestion to go to Lauterbrunnen for 2 nights/3 days, then 1-2 nights in Luzern and home through Zurich. The comments about the costs in Switzerland are of concern as I am wondering about feeding our teen boys and how much the transport costs would be to get up into the mountains. I love the idea of going to Lauterbrunnen, but wonder if that might be too much at the end of this long trip. Maybe Luzern and the Pilatus or Rigi experiences would be a good intro to Switzerland for this trip? I'm the only one who has been there before - when I was 10 - and I remember it being awesome to be up in the mountains with the cows and cowbells, fields of flowers, and taking a cable car to a snowy peak in July. Bare feet and snow in my clogs made that especially memorable! That was in the Crans-Montana region.

I guess we just need to have a good idea of all costs as we decide. The activities available for our more active kids is also a big deciding factor.

I so appreciate everyone's feedback...thank you! Please keep them coming! :-)
Laurie

Posted by
307 posts

Okay, I think we've got it. We'll travel from Paris to Zurich by high speed train, then transfer to a train to Luzern, then take a train to Engelberg. We'll stay there for two nights and visit Mt. Titlus and hike around that beautiful area. We even found a family suite that will work for the 5 of us. My kids will get to see snow in the Alps in July! :-) Then back down the mountain to Luzern for a few days, and then home.

It was an added bonus to learn that Engelberg means "angel mountains." :0)

I'm excited! Thanks for the input!

Laurie