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Swiss Itinerary - 2 Kids - 8-9 Days

Hello all, we are a family of four that will be traveling to Switzerland in June or July 2020. Yes, we like to plan early as we just got back from an amazing trip to Portugal. Our children, next year, will be 2 years old and 5 years old.

We want to keep our trip at two bases, and we want to rely on public transit (not rent a car). We will fly into and out of Zurich. We would like to stay in Lucerne the last four nights of the trip in order to be fairly close to Zurich Airport. Lucerne seems to be very scenic and close to other places for day trips (Lugano, Bern, Basel Titlis, etc.).

What other base do you recommend as we would love to experience the Swiss Alps, short hikes, local food, local culture, etc. A small town or village would be preferred. Would Zermatt, Visp, or somewhere in the Berner Oberland be appropriate for our family? We are open to staying in bed and breakfasts, AirBNBs, etc. too. We would take a train to one of these places from Zurich on day 1 too.

Thanks for your help.

Posted by
9500 posts

Lauterbrunnen or Mürren would be an excellent choice for your first location and well-worthy of 4 or 5 nights. Lauterbrunnen is about a 3 hour train ride from the Zurich airport. Mürren takes another two transfers to reach, which are easy enough but maybe too much with two little kids and in a jet lagged state. The area is magnificent for easy walks and the mountain hütte have playgrounds that the kids will love, (The one at Männlichen is particularly neat.)

Luzern has a transportation museum that is also a great destination with children.

Posted by
889 posts

Murren is great for kids. There’s a fabulous playground at the top of the funicular. There’s a rec center they can use with pool etc. we stayed in 2-room suite at Hotel Alpenblick and loved it - great for family of 4.

Posted by
9500 posts

BTW, the Rick Steves Switzerland guide book has excellent info and details on the area to make it easy to use the superb and fun transportation system.

Posted by
8889 posts

Michael.
With two locations, Berner Oberland followed by Luzern is perfect. For Berner Oberland, choose one of the 4 locations in the Jungfrau region: Mürren, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald. Mürren and Wengen are car-free and child-friendly.
For info see this website: https://jungfrauregion.swiss/en/summer/

Luzern has a lovely old town (car-free, toddler-friendly), a lake with boats on it and three different mountains you can get trains or cable cars up (Rigi, Pilatus and Titlis).

Train is the only way to go. All these places are accessible by train, Mürren and Wengen ONLY by train.
All rail routes in Switzerland have at least one train per hour, many have two an hour. Look up train times for this summer on the SBB website to get a feel for travel times (SBB = Swiss Federal Railways = https://www.sbb.ch/en )

Zürich airport has its own rail station, called Zürich Flughafen (Flughafen is German for airport). You can get trains direct from the airport to anywhere in Switzerland.

  • You don't say how many nights you have for this. I hope at least 3 nights in each of the 2 locations. If you have more, add to the Jungfrau region.

BTW:
1) I have no idea what a "Tar Heel Traveler" is
2) "2 Kids - 8-9", at first read I had that as their ages, then I saw the "Days". Me not paying attention its "2 years old and 5 years old"

Posted by
183 posts

Thanks for the information Chris. I am from North Carolina, and I went to school here, the Tar Heels.
We are thinking of spending four nights in each place.

Would it be realistic to take a day trip from Lucerne to Lugano, via train? We prefer to keep our bases limited to only two places, but Lugano looks amazing.

Thanks!

Posted by
8889 posts

Would it be realistic to take a day trip from Lucerne to Lugano, via train? We prefer to keep our bases limited to only two places, but Lugano looks amazing.

Yes, long day but possible. Takes ~2h10.
First train out of Luzern 06:18, arrive Lugano 08:16. Thereafter two or more trains per hour.

Take a boat trip on the lake, and make sure your boat visits Morcote (click for photo).

Look up trains on: https://www.sbb.ch/en

Posted by
183 posts

Thanks. I think the 2 hours on the train will be fine with our children. We are early risers too :)

Wow, Morcote is beautiful.

Do you recommend any other day trips from Lucern (Basel, Bern, etc.)? We plan to spend 4 or 5 nights in Lucern.

Thanks again.

Posted by
8889 posts

You probably already have it on your list, if not add Titlis.
It is the nearest mountain to Luzern with permanent snow cover. There is a cable car all the way to the top (spectacular) and lots of kids and grown-up things at the top. A small glacier you can walk on and in (ice cave).
See here: https://www.titlis.ch/en/adventure

Posted by
183 posts

Hello again. I am still researching my 2020 Swiss Family Trip.

Can you provide more information about train times, number of transfers, etc.?

For example, if we fly into Zurich in the morning, and we want to take the train to Wengen, Murren, or Lauterbrunnen for base #1, how long would the trip take, via train, from Zurich? How many transfers would their be? With luggage and two children (2 years and 4 years old), will taking trains be a realistic option? I do prefer not to drive, if possible, on this vacation.

Thanks for all your help.

Posted by
8889 posts

Can you provide more information about train times, number of transfers, etc.?

That's easy to look up yourself. Got to the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways): https://www.sbb.ch/en
and put in your "from" and "to" locations, and date and time.
The thing to remember is that each rail route in Switzerland has at least one train per hour, often 2 (every 30 minutes). You just turn up at any of the 1838 stations in Switzerland, and there will be a train. If you miss one, there will be another one.

For example, if we fly into Zurich in the morning, and we want to take the train to Wengen, Murren, or Lauterbrunnen for base #1, how long would the trip take, via train, from Zurich? How many transfers would their be?

SBB site as above, from: Zürich Flughafen (the station at the airport), to: Wengen, etc. and you see departures at 18 and 48 minutes past every hour, and it take 3 hours 3 minutes.
There are a number of changes, these are towards the end as you keep having to change as you get the small trains up the mountain. The changes are easy, get of one train and follow the signs to the other, 30 seconds to 4 minutes walk.

With luggage and two children (2 years and 4 years old), will taking trains be a realistic option?

  • It is the only option, as you can't drive to Wengen or Mürren, trains or hiking to get there only.
  • Trains are kid friendly. They are not tied down. They can get up, walk around, go to the toilet, eat food, make faces at the other passengers and talk to you.
  • With luggage, you carry it all yourself. So you must be able to carry it up and down stairs and stow it yourself on the train. One wheely case and one backpack absolute maximum per adult.

And yes, a day in Basel is good for young and old, but it is probably too far out of your way.

Posted by
208 posts

I will echo what others have said about Murren or Lauterbrunnen as a great base for several days. You might research possible day trips to cities such as Bern as back-ups for rainy days. Use the good weather days to get out in the mountains and enjoy the views. Use the rainy/cloudy days to do activities in the valley or in a nearby city.

Here’s a link to a discussion of rainy day options:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/switzerland/rainy-day-cloudy-day-things-to-do-in-jungfrau-region

Also, the smaller city of Thun is on the opposite end of the lake from Interlaken and just over an hour by train from Lauterbrunnen. There are several castles, a nice trail along the lake, and on Saturday mornings a nice public market with a few kid friendly activities (nothing major, but something for the local kids to do when they are there with their parents). You can also ride a boat around the lake (or part of the lake).

All the best,

Raymond

Posted by
183 posts

Thanks again for the replies and useful information! I greatly appreciate the input.

So here is my tentative itinerary. Please let me know if this is realistic or too ambitious (with two small age children).

Zurich Airport (arrive 830 a.m.) / Lauterbrunnen (Night 1 Lauterbrunnen)
Lauterbrunnen / Schilthorn (Night 2 Lauterbrunnen)
Zermatt (Night 3 Lauterbrunnen)
Jungfraujoch (Night 4 Lauterbrunnen)
Lauterbrunnen / Lucerne (Night 5 Lucerne)
Gruyere (Cheese & Maison Cailler Chocolaterie) (Night 6 Lucerne)
Lucerne / Titlis (Night 7 Lucerne)
Lugano (Night 8 Lucerne)
Lucerne (Night 9 Lucerne)
Lucerne / Zurich Airport (11:30 a.m. Flight)

Posted by
9500 posts

Regarding your latest itinerary, Zermatt is a long day trip from Lauterbrunnen. Only attempt it if you are 100% certain it is a spectacular clear day and you can see the Matterhorn. Stay flexible as you might find hanging out in the Lauterbrunnen Valley (inclusive of Mürren and Wengen) would be more fun, relaxing. Don’t miss the playground at Allmendhubel above Mürren!

Posted by
11203 posts

Laurel's points are so important, I want to reiterate them.

Before even thinking of taking the long and expensive day trip to Zermatt, make SURE the weather is good! Check webcams. But I'd be inclined just to spend more time in the Lauterbrunnen valley - particularly if the weather is good there. Weather makes or breaks the mountains, and mountain weather is both unpredictable and rapidly changeable. If the visibility is good for Zermatt when you set out, but lousy when you actually get there, you've wasted the day. Whereas, if you're seeing places close to where you're staying, it's easier to pivot if the weather changes.

The playground area at the top of the Allmendhubelbahn is wonderful - and I'm way older than the playground stage! You get good views of all three peak (Eiger, Moench, Jungfrau) for relatively little money.

And I'll add a third point: while there's nothing wrong with having specific activities for specific days, in the Lauterbrunnen valley it's very important to be flexible. Always check webcams before doing anything, particularly anything expensive like the Jungfraujoch. if the weather isn't great, you can take a valley floor walk, go to the Trummelbach Falls, see the Talmuseum just outside Lauterbrunnen (I found this more interesting than I expected), or go to the Ballenberg Open Air Museum. Conversely, if the weather is good, take advantage right away.

Details of all the things I mentioned are in Rick's Switzerland book. Other than his over-emphasis on Gimmelwald, it's one of his very best. (Rick has been going to Gimmelwald for decades and has gotten to know local families. Those of us without such a personal connection are often puzzled by his ecstatic reaction to it,. particularly the way he seems to find it so superior to the other Lauterbrunnen valley villages).