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transportation/itinerary advice

Hello,

I'm planning on visiting Switzerland next summer. I will be flying in to Paris and out of Amsterdam and staying 32 nights (May 27 - June 28). I'm planning on Paris for 6 nights at the beginning and Amsterdam for around 4 at the end - it's the 'middle' I need help with.

Two ideas I have:

  1. after 6 nights in Paris, pick up rental car and visit Strasbourg-Colmar-Lauterbrunnen-Annecy-Lyon and return car in Paris (approx. 2 weeks). Take high speed train to Brussels and continue my trip.

or

  1. after 6 nights in Paris, rely only on train travel (train to Strasbourg-Lauterbrunnen-Lyon-Paris) or reverse direction and go from Paris to Lyon-Lauterbrunnen-Strasbourg-Brussels?

I will be traveling with 2 kids - 12 and 15. If I stay in Lauterbrunnen, will a car be a hinderance? Is there any reason why I should not rent a car and should take the train instead? If I don't have a train pass for Switzerland, will travel on other routes i.e. up to Wengen, cost a lot for my kids? Or should I buy cards for them - will they travel free with me if I buy point-to-point tickets? The main question I have is will I be spending a lot on kids transportation in the Lauterbrunnen area if I don't buy a pass?

Thank you!

Posted by
27447 posts

I don't know about rail costs for children in France or Switzerland, but I feel as if two weeks is barely enough time to see Strasbourg, Colmar, the Lauterbrunnen area, Annecy and Lyon by the time you include the drives to and from Paris. You really won't have much time for venturing off that path except in the Lauterbrunnen area, where I assume you'll plan at least four days to be reasonably sure of having some good days for hiking/walking. When just traveling point-to-point, a car will be slower than the train for at least some legs of your trip, and traveling by car will put more pressure on the driver without--in this case, because of the packed itinerary--the benefit of being able to wander around a lot off the direct path, which is the reason many travelers give for wanting to travel by car rather than by train.

Paris-Strasbourg by train is as short as 1 hr. 45 min. ViaMichelin.com estimates the driving time (without stops, getting lost, looking for parking, etc.) at 4 hr. 39 min.

Lyon-Paris by train is about 2 hr. ViaMichelin's driving-time estimate is 4 hr. 30 min.

Those two driving times are long enough that you'd probably want to take a break. On the train there would be no break, and you could pack a picnic, which would save additional time.

I didn't do time comparisons for the other legs of your trip. It's possible that the car will save time as you travel between Colmar and Lauterbrunnen and between Lauterbrunnen and Annecy (or even all the way to Lyon). If so, you could look into renting a car in Strasbourg or Colmar and returning it in Annecy or Lyon.

I don't know how much you'll pay to park a car while it sits, probably unused, for four days in or near Lauterbrunnen. Parking at a centrally located hotel in Strasbourg or Lyon may also be pricey.

Posted by
61 posts

Thank you - you've definitely given me some things to consider! I think I'll stick to a car as I prefer the flexibility it offers for the price ($250 for 2 weeks compared to that price for a 4-day Swiss pass.) Fortunately, hotels usually offer free parking.

The one thing I need to research more is whether I should take a fast train from Paris to Strasbourg, pick up/return a car there and travel from Strasbourg to Belgium. That would give me more time in Switzerland (skipping Annecy and Lyon and the return to Paris.

If you were going to do this, where would you add time? I'm planning 4 nights in the Lauterbrunnen area - should I extend this time or add a couple nights to another city in Switzerland like Lucerne?

I'm very flexible as this will be my 6th visit to Paris (3rd for my kids), so we can shorten Paris by a night or two and extend time in Switzerland.

Thanks!

Posted by
5697 posts

You stated "hotels usually offer free parking" -- have you investigated the hotels in the areas you will visit ? This spring we had free parking at a gite in St Remy and a B&B in Gengenbach, but payment was required at hotels in Strasbourg, Baden Baden, Beaune and Lyon (€20 per night in Lyon) Plus parking at all the sights. Plus gasoline and tolls.

Not trying to talk you out of the car -- we have enjoyed having a car in rural France and Italy -- but it always seems to cost more than we expected.

Posted by
27447 posts

I haven't been to Switzerland recently. Pre-climate change, I had an awful lot of chilly, rainy June days in Switzerland. I imagine they're less common now. Still, I'd be tempted to plan more time in the Lauterbrunnen area as weather insurance. Although Luzern might be a bit far for a rainy-day day-trip, Bern is somewhat closer, and it has a lot of arcaded streets. Days not suitable for rural walking might also be spent in Thun or elsewhere on Lake Thun or Lake Brienz.

I really like Alsace. There are many picturesque wine villages in that area, and I think Colmar is lovely (though most definitely discovered by all manner of tourists). Colmar also has the very nice Unterlinden Museum. There's a lot to see in Lyon as well. Brussels gets tepid reviews; just about everyone seems to have some other preference in Belgium.

Posted by
33339 posts

Parking at the central multi storey car park in Lauterbrunnen (very safe, very easy, very convenient, really the only game in town) is CHF 54 for 4 days, CHF 66 for 5. That's about US$ 55, or $67 at today's rates.

Posted by
61 posts

Thanks everyone! I’ve mixed up the itinerary a little more - thoughts...

Train from Paris to Lyon (stay 1-2 nights) pick up car drive to Annecy (stay 1-2 nights) drive to Wengen (car park) stay 4-6 nights - depending on weather.. will book 4 nights in Wengen and 2 in a hotel in Lucerne that can be cancelled in case I want to stay longer I. Wengen), drive to Strasbourg area and stay a few nights, return car in Metz...

Any advice?

Posted by
33339 posts

drive to Wengen (car park) stay 4-6 nights - depending on weather.. will book 4 nights in Wengen and 2 in a hotel in Lucerne that can be cancelled in case I want to stay longer I. Wengen

Be careful with that plan in summer.

Hotel rooms fill up fairly completely in Wengen, Lauterbrunnen and Mürren - and Grindelwald too, I'd wager - so you may find that you can't extend your Wengen rooms.