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Planning the Switzerland leg of Europe Trip

I need help planning the Switzerland leg of a Paris-Switzerland-Italy trip with my husband. We will be taking the train from Paris after spending four nights there. The train from Paris to Zurich would be more direct but I have had suggestions to go through Geneva instead. What are people's opinions on this? Ultimately, I would like to end up taking the Bernina Express to Milan and end up in Venice eventually. Here's the general plan for my 5 nights in Switzerland:

2 days - Lucerne (see Chapel Bridge, lion monument, Mt. Pilatus, Transport Museum)

3 days - Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen

My questions are:

1) Should I train from Paris to Zurich or to Geneva?

2) Would it make more sense to start in Lucerne and then go to Lauterbrunnen for an easier route onto the Benina Express?

3) Should I buy a Swiss travel pass or a half fare pass? Or would it be more economical to buy tickets in advance?

4) Is it worthwhile to spend a night in Interlaken or just go straight to Lauterbrunnen?

5) Would Lauterbrunnen be ideal to enjoy a few days cycling, hiking and just relaxing?

Posted by
32244 posts

dz,

A few thoughts on your questions.....

  1. I wouldn't suggest going to either Zürich or Geneva, unless you're planning to visit there. Go directly to either Lucerne or the Berner Oberland.
  2. I'd probably go to the Berner Oberland first, then Lucerne. From there you can travel to Chur and connect with the Bernina Express. The B.E. terminates in Tirano, and it's an easy trip from there to Milano.
  3. One of the Passes would be a good idea, but which one to get will depend on exactly which sights you'll be visiting, and which mountain lifts you'll be using. I'd have to do some number crunching so will leave that question to one of the others.
  4. NO, do not spend a night in Interlaken. Go directly to the Berner Oberland (it's only another 20 minutes from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen).
  5. YES. You can do as much or as little as you want there in terms of hiking, sightseeing or whatever.

When is this trip taking place?

Posted by
7400 posts

1 & 2) Take the train from Paris, through Dijon to Basel, Interlaken, to Lauterbrunnen. But, I wouldn't stop there. Pick either Murren or Wengen for the ultimate in hiking & relaxing. Wengen is a quick 18-minute train up.

3) I'll let others comment.

4) Absolutely do not stop in Interlaken. Compare it to going to Disneyland and spending the first day outside the park entrance.

5) The area is so beautiful - we were exploring & hiking most of the day and relaxed on our balcony at sunset. Hotel Alpenrose in Wengen has great views overlooking the mountains & valley.

Posted by
12 posts

One of the Passes would be a good idea, but which one to get will
depend on exactly which sights you'll be visiting, and which mountain
lifts you'll be using. I'd have to do some number crunching so will
leave that question to one of the others.

I am thinking of skipping Mt. Pilatus while in Lucerne and just enjoy exploring the city after Berner Oberland. So we'll probably just go up Schilthorn if staying in Murren and Trummelbach falls if rainy. I'm thinking of skipping Jungfraujoch, though it sounds amazing, as it takes too long to get there and would like to spend time relaxing instead. Are there any sights I should see while in this area? Our trip will be early May.

I'd probably go to the Berner Oberland first, then Lucerne. From there you can travel to Chur and connect with the Bernina Express. The B.E. terminates in Tirano, and it's an easy trip from there to Milano.

I read somewhere that the trip to Tirano takes around 4 hours. Where would be the ideal place to spend the night before continuing onto Venice?

1 & 2) Take the train from Paris, through Dijon to Basel, Interlaken,
to Lauterbrunnen. But, I wouldn't stop there. Pick either Murren or
Wengen for the ultimate in hiking & relaxing. Wengen is a quick
18-minute train up.

I see that there is one daily train from Paris Gare de Lyon - Bern & Interlaken. Would this be faster than going through Basel? Murren sounds lovely. Can you recommend any accommodations here?

Posted by
32244 posts

dz,

Further thoughts.....

  • You could also travel to the Schilthorn if staying anywhere in that area, as it's very easy trip. I've made that trip from Lauterbrunnen and it's easy. You could consider getting the Half Fare Pass, as that will provide a 50% discount on all of your transportation. You may find it helpful to read THIS page on the website. It doesn't really take all that long to get to the Jungfraujoch from Lauterbrunnen, but that's an expensive trip so not one that everyone finds attractive because of the cost. When visiting the Jungfraujoch or other mountaintop locations, it's a good idea to check the weather as they won't be as pleasant if shrouded in fog.

  • The idea place to spend the night (IMO) after leaving Tirano would be Varenna on Lago di Como. Two nights would be better. From there it's only an hour to Milano Centrale where you can connect with the high speed train to Venezia Santa Lucia.

  • Only one train per day??? I don't think so!!! Where are you getting your rail information? Using the bahn.de website (German Rail), I see at least at least a dozen departures from Paris to Interlaken Ost. I'd probably use the departure from Gare de Lyon at 10:23, arriving Interlaken at 15:28 (time 5H:05M, one change at Basel SBB, reservations compulsory on first segment).

  • Check the Switzerland guidebook for accommodation listings in all the towns in that area. I'm not as familiar with lodgings in Mürren, but I'm sure one of the others will be able to help with that. I prefer to stay in Lauterbrunnen as it's the transportation hub so easy to get to both sides of the valley, and I'd highly recommend Hotel Oberland.

Posted by
12 posts

Only one train per day??? I don't think so!!! Where are you getting
your rail information? Using the bahn.de website (German Rail), I see
at least at least a dozen departures from Paris to Interlaken Ost. I'd
probably use the departure from Gare de Lyon at 10:23, arriving
Interlaken at 15:28 (time 5H:05M, one change at Basel SBB,
reservations compulsory on first segment).

http://www.interlaken.ch/en/information-and-journey-to-interlaken/travel-tips-interlaken/tgv-line-paris-to-interlaken.html

Posted by
32244 posts

dz,

That website only has limited information and is not as accurate as using either the bahn.de website or the official Swiss Rail websites. The German rail website provides information on trains throughout Europe, but only sells tickets for trains originating in Germany (AFAIK).

You can buy tickets for the France portion of the trip at www.capitainetrain.com (I don't believe they sell tickets for Swiss trains yet, but that may be coming in future).

Posted by
12 posts

Are there any discounts offered for booking in advanced online for the Swiss trains? I know that you can save a lot by buying ahead of time for the Italian trains.

Posted by
33133 posts

it is true that only about one TGV goes all the way from Paris to Interlaken Ost, however it is super easy to make a simple change at Basel from the TGV from Paris (continues to Zurich) onto the SBB train from there to Interlaken Ost.

The journey is very straightforward.

Posted by
8889 posts

Are there any discounts offered for booking in advanced online for the Swiss trains?

No, Swiss Railways are one of the countries where there is a fixed price for tickets. It is the same price from A to B whenever you book, so you can just buy tickets on the day.
But, French Railways is otherwise. Buying your ticket from Paris to Interlaken in advance you get a big discount, because most of the journey (up to Basel) is in France and French rules apply.
Look up times and Prices for Paris to Interlaken, and buy your tickets on: www.tgv-lyria.com/
This is the company that actually runs the trains on this route.

Posted by
544 posts

I really liked Hotel Jungfrau in Mürren. I feel like one of the owners is Scotish if I remember correctly. Very friendly people and good food too.

I highly recommend staying at least 3 nights in Mürren or Lauterbrunnen.

Posted by
544 posts

Check out seat61.com for really good info about train travel.

Also rome2rio.com is a good place to start exploring connection options that include trains, boats, buses and airplanes as well.

Posted by
12 posts

I have looked at a few hotels and it seems many are closed during end of April/early May. My first choice hotel was Hotel Eiger - any alternatives to this one as it is closed?

Posted by
32244 posts

dz,

If you decide to stay in Lauterbrunnen, you could look at Hotel Oberland or Hotel Silberhorn. There's also a Hostel there, but you'll have to check each of them to determine whether they'll be open or closed at that time of year.

Posted by
12 posts

Is it true that the weather can be unpredictable in early May? Would it make more sense to stay in Lauterbrunnen than Murren for more temperate weather?

Posted by
32244 posts

dz,

The weather is going to be about the same in both Lauterbrunnen and Mürren, as the two towns are not far apart. Lauterbrunnen is in the valley floor so it can be a bit cooler at times, but when the sun is out not much difference. There are no guarantees with the weather at any time of the year anywhere in Europe, so I tend to just pack appropriate clothing and deal with whatever situation I encounter. I've experienced torrential rainstorms in Italy and Sicily in September, so inclement weather can occur anywhere and any time.