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Switzerland in December, not a skier, don't like big cities or crowds. PLEASE help!

I know you're thinking I should pick another Country especially in December, because I don't ski, big cities overwhelm me and because of the crowds, but I really want to see some of Switzerland and I only have time off in early December this year so this is my option and hoping for some quiet little town ("touristy" or not I don't care) just someplace where I can stay and walk around, talk to people and eat good food. I know the mountains are beautiful, but the towns and the people are more important to me. For example, when I went to Paris I had to escape within two nights and headed up to Senlis and subsequently down to Fontainebleau. PERFECT little towns!! I stayed longer in both places than I did in Paris. I need your help. Google is not helping. Thanks so much!!!

Posted by
7175 posts

Montreux or Lausanne

Places like Wengen, Murren, Lauterbrunnen, Zermatt are more mountain, but easily accessible and very picturesque. Given your December travel, it is probably wise to avoid the mountains.

Posted by
7209 posts

You're not a skier - why is that a problem? Do you think you will be required to ski if you visit the alps while snow is on the ground? I'm not a hiker - but I love my visits to the alps in the summer. I don't see a problem.

Posted by
631 posts

actually there may not be much snow in early December, it gets later each year.

The usual suspects of the Bernese Oberland have been mentioned but I would say in that area stick with Interlaken - if the weather is poor it's less depressing by the lake than in a dark valley, and you can get elsewhere faster than coming down the mountain first.

Or Kandersteg is a nice village with good scenery.

Chur is a nice little town for wandering around with many options for excursions into the mountains (and Heidiland)

Posted by
13 posts

Hi Guys,
Just wanted to say thanks a lot. I was deflated when I bought the Rick Steve's guide book on Switzerland and he states in the beginning, "This is a fair-weather book", so I am super appreciative of your help. :)

Posted by
368 posts

Try Lugano. You can take ferries on the lake and train to lake como if you should hanker for Italy.

Posted by
995 posts

Hi Susannah,

Given your requirements let me suggest a place not in the tourist guides: Burgdorf. It is the biggest town in the Emmental (ya, the place where the cheese with the holes comes from). It has got a very nice old town, but is not at all a tourist trap. The people are friendly, the food is good and in typical Bern style there is plenty of it. Also since it is off the tourist trail, so hotel prices are more reasonable.

There are lots of very nice low level walks in the countryside surrounding it, which should not be impacted by snow. Furthermore it is on the main Zurich - Bern line, so you are about 15/20 mins from Bern - gateway to the Oberland, if you want to do some day trips.

Posted by
13 posts

Okay thanks to everyone for helping. :) I used your advice and Rick's guide book to come up with this itinerary.

Zurich (2 days)
Bern (Maybe Murten) (2 days)
Interlaken (2 or 3 days) /// day trips to... (Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Gimmelwald or Grindelwald) and to the Peaks (Obviously)
Lausanne and/or Montreux (1 or 2 days) /// (Chateau De Chillon)
Chamoinix (2 days)
Lucern/Luzern (2 days)
QUESTION: The scenic trains are not running while I'm there, so I'm trying to take the same routes myself. I read in Ricks book that the best part of the Glacier Express is between Brig and Dissentis, but I was planning on Lucern from Chamoinix....SOOO should I stay on the train and go up to Chur and adjust my schedule OR.... am I just fine seeing the bit from Brig to where I transfer onto the "William Express Route" and stick to the below?
Appenzell (2 days)
Stein am Rhine (1 day)
Colmar (2 or 3 days)
Strasbourg (1 day)
Baden Baden (1 day)
Then up to Heidelberg to meet my family. :D

(I know Chamonix is out of the way but I've wanted to go there for a very....long....time)

Posted by
740 posts

I would skip Interlaken and continue a little further to Lauterbrunnen, if not Murren or Wengen.

Interlaken is nice, but Lauterbrunnen and above are stunning.

Posted by
13 posts

Yes I'll do my best to make it there. :) I just have to consider the weather, so I'll see. Thanks Eric.

Posted by
219 posts

Since big cities overwhelm you, on your itinerary skip Zurich and Bern. That gives you more time for the small villages.

Posted by
11294 posts

I agree with LindaL. If you don't like big cities, why are you spending any time at all in Zurich, which is not only Switzerland's largest city, but generally gets low marks even from city lovers (in other words, it's not Paris). Also, even by Swiss standards, I found hotels there very expensive.

There is a train station right in Zurich airport with direct trains to all kinds of places, so on arrival, it's very easy to head somewhere else right away. Similarly, when leaving, you don't need to spend your last night in Zurich. Bern and Luzern are less than 75 minutes away by direct trains from the airport, and I just stayed in Winterthur, only about 20 minutes away. All three are cities, but smaller ones, and none are "overwhelming."

I used Rough Guide Switzerland in addition to Rick's book, and it has all kinds of places Rick doesn't mention. For instance, it says that Thun is far nicer than Interlaken; I didn't get there so I can't confirm this. It also has descriptions of smaller towns in French Switzerland not near Lake Geneva, some of which sound right up your alley.

Posted by
219 posts

Harold mentioned Thun. I've visited Thun several times, and it's quite charming! It's old town is almost like a miniature version of Luzern's old town. It has a little wooden bridge full of blooming flowers along the side of the bridge. Outdoor cafes line the river. Walking through the open plaza, into the old shopping street, the ancient shops have pretty wrought iron and gold signs above their doors. (The shops seem to be only open in the afternoons, and are different from usual stores--for example, selling "mystical" crystals" or cat-themed merchandise, and not the established merchandise I see in other cities.) You can walk uphill, up and up and up the steps to the medieval church and castle which date to the 1100s. Some evenings the castle has a performance in its great hall. My husband and I once went to a classical guitar soloist concert there. We got tickets from the Tourist bureau in town. The castle has a museum inside, so is free during the day with a Swiss Travel Pass, which not only covers most transportation, but also most museums. The town is on Lake Thun, just south of Bern, and can be reached with public transit either by train on the way from Bern to Interlaken Ost (or vice versa) or by ship on Lake Thun (from Interlaken West).

Posted by
27357 posts

I liked Thun a lot, but I've hesitated to mention it since my visit was decades ago.

The thing about Switzerland is that you have to work hard to find an unattractive vista. One old guidebook stuck its neck out and said that one specific western city (not one I've ever seen mentioned here) was sort of ugly. One place in the whole country. And virtually any train or bus ride will take you through nice scenery. So it's really all about how much time you have, how far you're willing to range, and whether you want to see lakes and rolling hills or prefer to concentrate on mountains.

I liked Appenzell in the hilly dairy country, just as one example.

Posted by
13 posts

Thank you so much to everyone for your help. I take it to heart and now I'm certain I'll have a wonderful time. Very excited!! Thanks again!

Posted by
4554 posts

Rick waves people off from Geneva, if that's what you mean.

Susannah, have you watched Rick's videos about Switzerland? Best way to see what a place really looks like. On the train from Bern to Interlaken we passed lots of pretty looking areas that might not be that trammelled (like Thun as mentioned). Once you call up Rick's videos on Youtube you'll be linked to lots and lots of home videos that people have posted, some are almost broadcast quality. Mix and match.

And I think to clarify, yes Zurich airport has a major train station built in but I'm betting everything that's not going north goes through Zurich main station and/or requires a connection, Which is super easy in Switzerland.

Posted by
56 posts

Can I ask a question piggy backing on the OP's post? I'm planning a visit in December as well and want to visit scenic smaller towns and Christmas Markets. Rick recommends Appenzell but is it a good place in December or just in fair weather? TIA - I hope it's okay to ask.

Posted by
13 posts

Okay -- new Itinerary based on your advice. **** I'm skipping Bern, but I can't skip Zurich unfortunately because a friend is going out of their way to meet me there. :( She's worth it. A great friend. :)

  1. Zurich
  2. Luzern
  3. Interlaken (Maybe Lauterbrunnen if weather permits but will spend about 3 nights in this area exploring (Thur is not to be missed)
  4. Montreux (Probably will skip Lausanne)
  5. Chamonix
  6. Appenzell (Stein am Rhein, St Gallen, etc) ***A little nervous about how to make the "best" of the long route from [Chamonix to Appenzell], but you educated me on my options and you gave some good advice for making the best of it so I'll have to figure it out.
    Thanks so much to everyone!

///// (additional travel after Appenzell)
7. Colmar
8. Strausboug
9. Baden-Baden

Jim, I'm not really a savvy traveler, but I checked out lodging for Burgdorf on booking and it wasn't cheap (for my standards) unless I stay out of the town center. It does look beautiful though.

Harold, I'll order the book. It got great reviews on Amazon. Thank you.

Grace, I'm new - I don't know. I would think it is fine.