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Planning help please!

My husband and I are traveling mid May and this will be our first time visiting (and will actually be kid free!) so far this is our plan:

-Fly into Zürich early afternoon take train directly to Lucerne and spend night.
-Full day in Lucerne. Maybe mount rigi or Pilatus depending on weather? Any suggestions? Stay night in Lucerne.
-Get up early and go to Mürren. Spend day hiking and wandering around.
-full day in Mürren. Looking into paragliding depending on weather? Stay another night here.
-Get up and travel to Colmar. Explore.
-Full day in Colmar. Maybe rent bikes and go to nearby villages? Sleep here.
-Get up and travel to Freiburg. Looks like bus to Mulhouse then train to Germany is best way? Any advice? Spend day/night in Freiburg.
-Spend most of the day in Freiburg before checking out and taking train back to Zürich. Stay night near airport in Zürich.
-Early flight out of Zürich.

Does that look too insane? I wish we had more days but this was all we could do with small kids at home. We have hotels booked but still within the window to change.
Thinking about changing staying in Colmar and Freiburg to just staying in Basel and taking day trips but that seems like even more train travel than we already have. Thoughts?
Also I’m leaning towards the Swiss travel pass, as my calculations seem like the half fare card ends up being more expensive and we won’t be in the BO long enough. But since we are going to two other countries is there another option I’m unaware of that we should consider? Finally if there is a do not miss/must do at any of these places we are going please let me know! Thank you so much!

Posted by
29 posts

Even with the efficiency of the trains, I think you'd be spending way too much time travelling between destinations with this itinerary. Half of your days would be travelling. It looks like your holiday is only 8-9 nights? Try leaving one or two of the destinations out and staying 3 nights in the favourite locations.

Use the SBB train website to plan trains and while you do, find the maximum cost of each journey (e.g. no supersaver fares, no discounts). After you're happy with your itinerary, then see what discount passes would work best for it.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you so much for your reply! After discussing it over with my husband we are now thinking Luzern to Murren to Basel (8nights in total).
Then I’m hoping we will have the flexibility to do day trips to colmar and Freiburg if we are up for it, or just one or the other if we are tired (I have my heart set on Colmar for some reason).
Does that sound a little bit more reasonable?

Posted by
16133 posts

So 8 nights total, including the last night before the flight? How early is that? You may well be able to spend the last night in Bern: there are direct trains right into the airport terminal.

In mid-May, 2 nights in Mürren may be enough, as there is not a lot to do that early in the season. And if Colmar is calling to you, just go and spend 2 nights there. I wouldn’t try to work in visits to both Freiburg and Colmar, but one would be OK, even if it is just for 1 night. It is 2 hours back to Bern from Colmar, and as I said, one can easily reach the Zurich airport from there unless the flight out is 8 am or earlier.

I would much rather spend nights in Bern than Basel: it is a compact and very friendly city, with the old town area nestled in a horseshoe bend in the river, and easily walkable with luggage from the train station. On summer weekends (and maybe during the week), the main pedestrian street in the old town is filled with locals, their friends, and visitors, happily dining at outside tables that spill into the street from the restaurants that line both sides. It almost feels like Italy

Posted by
29 posts

I agree with Lola. Here's a Rick Steves article about when to visit Murren and that area: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/switzerland/best-time-to-go-to-switzerland#

FYI:
• I've read that the cogwheel up Mt. Pilatus at Lucerne doesn't open until mid May so check the opening date. Plan for 1 day (2 nights) in Lucerne and move on to the other places;
• If the Alsace is of interest, Lucerne to Colmar by train is only between 2 and 3 hours. Beautiful Eguisheim is not far. e-bikes can be rented. There are local buses to take you for part of a day to some of the wine region gingerbread villages to the north/northwest;
• Bern's museums are closed on Mondays in case seeing the Einstein exhibit in the museum interests you;
• In the Berner Oberland, maybe don't get a hotel as high as Murren (elevation 1650 meters). Alternately Wengen, lower down (1274 meters) and quicker to get to by transit, could also be a good base. (That's about 1000 feet difference!) And it's easier to get to Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken to find lower walking trails or explore if the weather's not great.

I'm no expert on Switzerland but have travelled independently a lot and, like you seem to do, enjoy putting variety into my holidays - so hope this perspective helps.

Posted by
4668 posts

I believe Mt Rigi (Lucerne) is open all year around.
And I agree with the comments above, reduce the number of locations, so you can actually enjoy where you are.
Have a wonderful time in this beautiful country.

Posted by
19933 posts

Yes, I was just at Rigi Kulm a month ago. And Pilatus Kulm is open year round, but there are 2 ways to get there. The cable car runs year round, but the cogwheel train does not operate in the winter or early spring.

Posted by
4 posts

Ok sorry for such a big delay in response. Thank you all for so many great suggestions! We discussed everything in length and did lots of research. This Country is just too beautiful! Also found out i misunderstood my husband and our early morning flight is actually an afternoon flight so no need to stay in Zurich. Yay! Also realized I was trying to squeeze in Germany just to say we went. So many better Swiss locations for us so going to remove that. Lola’s suggestion for a base in Bern instead of Basel really got us thinking. New plan:

2 nights Lucerne

2 nights Mürren

4 nights Bern

My next question is we are planning our day trips from Bern. Colmar is still a must but looking at other options for the other 2 days dependent on weather and our energy levels. We’ve narrowed it down to either Montreux, Gruyères, or maybe even Zermatt.
Any thoughts or opinions on these? I checked train times on SBB app. Looks like 1.5 hours to Montreux, 2 hours to Colmar, 2 hour 7 min to Zermatt (?!) and 1.5-2 hours to Gruyères.

1: Zürich > Lucerne explore city

2: Lucerne- boat ride, Rigi or Pilatus

3: Lucerne > Mürren-explore town, walk down to Gimmelwald

4: Mürren- Shilthorn to Birg thrill walk hike back down. Lauterbrunnen waterfalls

5: Mürren- early morning quick hike before leaving > Thun for lunch and castle > Bern-check into hotel, dinner and wander old town and see bears

6: Colmar- day trip, wander city, eat crepes, maybe canal ride or bike to nearby town, dinner here

7: open

8: open

9: Bern> Zürich fly home

If it matters the two open days are a Sunday and Monday

Posted by
19933 posts

Suggest adding a day to Muerren and taking one away from Bern.

Posted by
16133 posts

I agree on adding a night to Mürren; there is lots to see and do in the area, even if the higher trails are still covered in sons.

If you need another day trip from Bern, consider Neuchâtel, only 50 minutes away.

https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/destinations/neuchatel/

But with your time there reduced to 3 nights, Colmar and Montreux may be your your best options. Zermatt will duplicate your Mürren experience in many ways, apart from the Matterhorn which is unique. But the chances of seeing the mountain unshrouded by clouds on a daytrip are not great.

Posted by
399 posts

I don't think you'll be able to hike down from Birg in mid May. It's a beautiful hike (one of our favorites!) but it's over 3,000 ft of loss in elevation to get from Birg to Murren and the first part is very loose scree and my guess is that in mid May there is still going to be some snow on the trail making that portion really treacherous. You can keep it as a possibility, but I wouldn't hold my breath. There is a decent chance you can do the North Face hike in mid May. There may still be some snow but there aren't any dangerous parts to that hike, so it's fine if you're crossing some bits of snow.

Also note that the cable car/train connection via Grutschalp to Murren is going to be closed this May 6-31 as they are installing the new train cars, so you will be taking the bus fromo Lauterubrunnen to Stechelberg and then cable car up via Gimmelwald to get to Murren. Not a huge deal, just good to know.

I also think you could benefit from an additional night in Murren. Only having 1 full day means that if you get unlucky with weather that day you're going to miss out on all that it has to offer. With 8 days you really just have to resign yourself to the fact that you can't see it all and if you try to jam pack your plans you end up missing some of the best things.

Posted by
4 posts

Ok clearly the consensus is to extend in Mürren! I just checked with our hotel and thankfully they were able to extend our stay the additional night! Really excited because we were able to get a hotel room with a balcony over looking the mountains.

I’m sad to hear the hike from Birg won’t be doable but I knew going during this time of year we could run into that. The north face trail was my second favorite option so I’m glad to hear that one might still be feasible! Thank you for letting me know about the construction work going on in Mürren also.

So that leaves us with 2 full days in Bern. Does anybody know if going to Colmar on Sunday or Monday would be better? I’m worried about shops being closed because I do want to get souvenirs and pastries while we are there!

Neuchâtel looks absolutely dreamy! Plus i love how close it will be. Definitely going onto the list of options for a possible day trip. I’m going to go ahead and leave Zermatt for another trip because I agree with weather changing it would be super disappointing to go all the way there and not be able to see the Matterhorn.
Now to try and decide between Montreaux, Gruyère, or Neuchâtel! If anyone has a preference please weigh in!