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Swiss Alps from a Train

Our family of 4 (2 adults & 2 children) will be flying into Switzerland (city undecided) from London in June 2019. We'd like to take a scenic train to see the Swiss alps. We're setting aside 3 days, including travel to & from Switzerland. We'll be flying to Rome thereafter.

I'd really appreciate suggestions as to:
1. Which city to fly into?
2. Which scenic train route (Glacier Express vs. Bernina)?
3. Full route length or partial (allowing time to explore a town/city)?
4. If partial route, between which stations?
5. Town/city to explore and stay overnight?
6. Depending on the route terminating point, what town/city has the nearest airport?

Again, thank you in advance for your suggestions! We're attempting to fit in a lot in 15 days:
Fly into Paris. Stay 3 days.
Take train to London. Stay 1 night.
Fly to Switzerland. (This is the segment we need help with)
Fly to Rome. Stay 2 days.
Board 8-night cruise.
Arrive & depart from Barcelona.

Posted by
16941 posts

I am trying to figure this out. You are flying into Barcelona, and I take it spending time there, then flying to Paris (3 days and 2 nights?) then Eurostar to London for 1 night, then flying to Switzerland (3 days and 2 nights again?) then flying to Rome (2 days and 1 night?), then going to Civitavecchia and taking an 8-night cruise to Barcelona.

Count nights, not days.
Fly into Paris and home from Barcelona and save a lot of time and money. Spend time in Barcelona after the cruise, then fly home.
Skip London. Hardly worth the time to spend an afternoon and an evening there, then head to the airport for another flight. Spend an extra night in Paris, then a train to Switzerland. You might find it faster to take a train to Rome from Switzerland than going to the trouble to go to an airport and fly to Rome.
Are you saying you have 7 nights on the ground and 8 at sea for this adventure?
And what are the ages of the children?
This is not until next year, so there is still time to do a serious rethink of the whole plan.

Posted by
2 posts

Hi Sam! Good questions and good advice.

We'll fly into Paris (CDG), probably in the late afternoon. Stay in Paris 2 nights. (1st time in Paris.)
Thought we could take the Eurostar from Paris to London (1st time in London), spend the day taking in a few key sites then leaving the next morning. We are torn between going to Brussels or seeing the Alps; the kids really want to see the Alps via train. (Kids will be 13 and 8 yrs.)

We thought it might be easier to take either Glacier Express or Bernini south (generally), then take a flight to Rome (2nd visit there). We wanted to spend at least 1 full day on Rome, preferably 2.

Our cruise leaves out of Rome (Civitavecchia), stopping in Naples, Livorno, Genoa, Cannes, Toulon, and ends in Barcelona (2nd time there). We'll fly from Barcelona to Paris to catch our return flight.

You're absolutely right - we have time to adjust our itinerary. Maybe we should skip London and go to Brussels AND Switzerland?

Posted by
7205 posts

You've got too much in this itinerary and it's too jumbled up with wasted time going in opposite directions.

Skip London, Skip Belgium.

Don't worry about taking a "scenic" train to see the Swiss Alps...just get to the Swiss Alps and get a hotel room and be OUT and ABOUT in the alps. Train directly Paris -> Basel -> Lucerne and maybe spend a night there. Stunning medieval city center on the River Ruess and boats for your travel destinations around the lakes and maybe to Pilatus.

From Lucerne train directly to Murren and get a hotel room. Stunning Stunning Stunning and words can't even begin to do this place justice.

If you're kids are < 16 then they'll travel all over Switzerland with you 100% free if you have the free Swiss Family Card.

Posted by
5494 posts

Everyone has different travel styles, but your itinerary is one of the most time in transit ones I have seen. You will spend more time going to places than the places themselves.

I agree with going straight from Paris to Switzerland. Everyone will love Murren. You should focus time here as a family exploring the Alps.

Posted by
16941 posts

I will concur that it will be better to spend a couple of nights IN the Alps rather than spend time riding by and looking out the window to see them. Muerren is about as spectacular as they come.

Now, how to get from there to Rome. From Muerren it will take about 3 1/4 hours to get to Zurich airport. You should arrive at least 2 hours before your flight. Flight time is 1 1/2 hours. After landing, you will collect your luggage then take a train into Rome. That will take 1 1/2 hours in the best circumstances. So it will take 8 1/4 hours to get there. The alternative is to go by train all the way, and that will take 7 1/2 to 8 hours. So you get there quicker that way than by flying.

To get the fee Family Card, at least one you will need to buy a either a Swiss Travel Pass or a 30-day Half Fare Card. Even though it won't "pay" for just as short time in Switzerland, it may be worth it just to get the Family Card. The Half Fare card is 120 CHF and then all the tickets for that person are 50% off.