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Trip Report – 6 days in Switzerland

We have recently returned from another fabulous trip to Europe, this time spending 6 days in the Berner Oberland and then traveling to Venice, where we spent another 4 days. This trip report will cover the Switzerland portion, and I will do a separate report for Venice. Warning: I write very detailed trip reports, for my own record-keeping as well as for sharing, so if you're not interested in all of it, then skim away.

We traveled as a family of five: myself, my husband, daughter (14), son (13), and husband's mom. We are a fit, active group except for my son, who is mildly disabled. He walks, but slowly, and tires easily, so when we need to move fast or far we push him in a stroller – or, for this trip, a jogger because we needed the big wheels. Because of his physical limitations (and the difficulty of pushing an 85-pound kid in a jogger up rocky trails), I spent a lot of time researching walking paths before we left and had a list of ones that I thought would be manageable. We did great. My husband had a heck of a workout and dropped a belt size on the trip, but we made it to the endpoint of all of our daily destinations.

We traveled the last week of June and into early July, right smack in the middle of a heat wave. It was screaming hot at the lower elevations (90s), but the mountains were fantastic. A little warm for hiking (around 80), but bright sunny skies, low humidity, and usually a breeze. Nights dipped down into the 50s and low 60s, so very comfortable sleeping weather. It rained briefly at night once or twice and was a little cloudy our last day, but overall, there is no way we could have had a better weather week.

Air travel
We flew open jaw out of Montreal, direct to Zurich, and then directly back to Montreal from Venice. The outbound flight was on Swiss and the return was on Air Canada Rouge (codeshare). All flights were on time with no hiccups. I am still in awe over the wonderfulness of direct flights – a whole level of air travel stress that was gone, poof.

We stayed all 6 nights in Muerren, which we loved. We stayed at the Chalet Oberdorf, a 3-bedroom apartment that was lovely in every way, especially the views from the terrace. Jaw-dropping. My only slight disappointment was that the apartment listing indicated washer/dryer access; however, there was no washer/dryer to be found. I e-mailed the owner who apologized profusely, telling me that the shared appliances in the basement were no longer available to renters because of some misuse, and he thought the listing had been updated. By the time we left, the listing was corrected, so I am sure it was an honest mistake. But a washer is on my must-have list me when we travel, so it was an annoyance to me to have to walk down the road to the paid laundromat. Overall, however, the apartment was wonderful and very comfortable for our stay.

We liked being in Muerren for the week versus elsewhere in the region. The views were truly amazing, better I think than any of the other mountain villages. We liked how quiet the town is, especially in the evenings. The only potential downside for us was the length of time it took to cross over to the other side of the valley for hikes, but that didn't bother us – the travel was easy enough with great scenery, and we weren't in a hurry to get anywhere, so not a burden.


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We are carry-on travelers and followed our usual bag strategy: My husband has an eBags Weekender that he carries on his back, and he pushes my son in the stroller. I have a RS rolling backpack that I pull and I backpack or stack my son's eBags Weekender Jr. I also have a personal bag, a Tom Bihn Maker's Bag that has been everywhere and holds anything. I love this bag! My daughter and mom-in-law each had a roller and a small backpack as a personal item. For this trip, my husband also brought my RS Civita backpack, which carried my camera and a few small items on the plane, and then was carried as a day pack when hiking.

The All-Important Travel Pass Information
I have not done the math for every leg of every journey, but I am fairly sure that what we purchased was the most economical strategy. Just as important to me was convenience – I did not want to stop and purchase tickets for 5 people every time we got on a lift or a train, so I never considered just a Half Fare card. So even if we didn't max the cost savings, I am thrilled that we never had to stop for a ticket anywhere in the BO except for the Schilthorn lift, and we rode literally dozens of transportation legs.

Here's what we bought:
Husband and mom-in-law: BO passes (350CHF each for 8-day pass)
Me: Half Fare card (120CHF) + BO pass (285CHF for 8-day pass with ½ fare card discount)
Kids: free Swiss Family pass with my ½ fare card + BO pass (30CHF each)

The Half Fare card for me gave me the discount on my BO pass, discount on my Zurich to Luzern fare, plus the free family pass for the kids, so they were free Zurich to Luzern plus free up to the Schilthorn. So all of those extras totaled more than the 120CHF cost of the Half Fare card. I purchased the additional BO passes for the kids because I knew we'd be doing a good bit of travel above the upper villages, and we saved quite a bit by using the BO passes for them (plus that convenience factor). So, basically, once we were in the BO, we used the BO passes for everything; the only exception was the lift from Muerren to Schilthorn.

I will note that I used the SBB Mobile app incessantly while we were in Switzerland. With the loveliness of the BO pass, we could just hop whatever transportation was available next, and the SBB app would tell me when it was coming and where we specifically needed to go (even with maps if we had to walk from one station to another), and then connect me to the next mode of transportation to get me to our destination. Everything we did in Switzerland was on-the-fly (no preplanned activities at all for this part of our trip), and the app let us wing it wherever we happened to wind up that day. Loved it.

I knew going into the trip that eating out was going to be expensive, so we planned to eat in the apartment for most dinners and grab sandwiches from the Coop for hiking. This worked well for us for a reasonable cost. We did go out for a couple of dinners, and holy cow, yes, they were expensive! My husband is still talking about the 18CHF Budweiser that he didn't order. The Coop sandwiches got very (VERY) old by day 4, but they got us through the day. Overall, Switzerland was not a food-oriented destination for us, but we knew that when we got there and it wasn't a disappointment. Plus, we were off to Venice afterwards and knew we'd be eating well for that part of the trip (which we did!).


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What we did
Day 1 -- We arrived Zurich at 06:30 (ugh). At the airport, we hit the ATM and stopped at the train station ticket office for our travel passes and the tickets from Zurich to Luzern (not covered by the BO passes). We then made our way leisurely down to catch the 8:15 direct train to Luzern. Since we couldn't check in to our Muerren apartment until 15:00, the plan was to stop in Luzern for a few hours, walk around, and have some breakfast.

We were a little nervous before the trip about the actual boarding process for the train and if we'd have trouble because my son moves so slowly, but we never had any trouble on any Swiss transport. For most trains, we rolled the stroller with my son in it right onto the train; there were a very few trains with a step so he had to get out and walk, but there was plenty of time to get him on and off.

We arrived Luzern around 09:30. I had received recommendations on this form to have brunch at the Manor department store cafeteria, so we headed there (after an overnight with airplane food, we were starving!!). What a great recommendation – this was the only bargain restaurant meal we had in Switzerland! 6CHF per person, and you choose 6 items from their extensive cafeteria brunch line, coffee/tea included. There is a patio with a nice view, but it was already way too hot to sit out in the sun, so we stayed indoors.

After brunch, we wandered our hot, tired selves back across the old wooden bridge, snapped a lot of pictures, and made our way back to the train station to collect our bags from the storage locker and grab the 12:06 train, which, 4 or 5 connections later, had us in Muerren at 14:58. Our 3-hour stay in Luzern was so short that I don't have an opinion on the town or its character, but for us, it was a nice stop along the way to our destination that worked really well logistically.

I would like to comment for anyone who has not yet been to Switzerland that when you ask the SBB app how to get from A to F and it tells you that you have to change transport at B,C,D and E, do not be afraid! I had read many comments from experienced travelers before our trip that this all works flawlessly, and I will vouch for that myself, even traveling with a really slow kid in a jogger. We never, ever had any trouble making a connection and once you catch on to the system, it is just super easy and a pleasure to experience.

So we eventually arrived in Muerren, after the gondola up to Grutschalp and then the cogwheel train up to Muerren. What a wonderful introduction – the scenery is so spectacular the moment you start ascending up the cliff. Stepping off the cogwheel train, we were relieved to find that the temperature was about 20 degrees cooler than the lower elevations had been.

Check-in for the apartment was fast and easy. We headed to the Coop a couple of blocks away to grab supplies, had a snack in the apartment, and then headed up the very lower part of the North Face trail as it leaves from Muerren. A nice 30/45 minute walk for us on mostly paved walkways, although very steep uphill and then back down, which was a bit challenging for the stroller (well, it was challenging for the stroller pusher, not the actual stroller). Got to see our first cows along the way; we could hear them and their cowbells from our apartment all week – what a great sound. Dinner in the apartment and then early bedtime; a great first day of vacation.


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Day 2 -- We traveled across the valley to Wengen, hit the Coop for premade sandwiches, and took the lift up to Mannlichen. Had fun at the playground for a while, then took off down the trail to Kleine Scheidegg. What an amazing hike! Simply stunning views the whole way. We were on the trail for about 2 ½ or 3 hours. Most of the trail was reasonable for the stroller, but there were a few short, steep parts that my son had to walk.

We arrived back in Muerren around 17:00, picked up some food from the Coop, and then headed out around 19:00 to walk to Gimmelwald. This was a very easy, paved path to walk, but it was a bit challenging for the stroller pusher because it is a fairly good downhill the whole way. So on this walk, the stroller pusher was the stroller hang-on-for-dear-life puller. On the way down, we crossed paths with a herd of cows coming in for milking. We arrived in Gimmelwald in time to catch the 20:00 lift back up to Muerren.

Day 3 – We got up in time to catch the 8:40 lift up to the Schilthorn. It wasn't as crowded as it would be later in the day, but it was still a pretty tight squeeze in the gondola. We did find throughout our trip that the large, Chinese tour groups could be a challenge for our family. I'm making the guess that because China is so crowded, it is a cultural norm to push and shove just to be able to get anywhere, and we experienced a lot of that every time we got on a train or gondola with a big tour group. Unfortunately, there was so much forceful pushing and shoving that had we not intervened, my son would have been literally run over. So each time we formed a circle around him and pushed back against the crowd, and we'd run interference when exiting or entering the gondola – otherwise, he'd never have gotten off or on. I'd say this was the only thing we found really problematic on our whole trip. For any of the rest of us, it would have been annoyance, but for someone like my son who is fairly unstable with a lot of motor weakness, it was a real hazard.

We really enjoyed being at the top of the Schilthorn. It was kind of cheesy, but in a fun way. We did the brunch, which was good, and we enjoyed a full rotation of the restaurant. The views were of course amazing. And we had fun in the James Bond museum, which had some good, interactive exhibits for the kids.

We caught the 12:00 lift back down and stopped at Birg so that the more adventurous of us (e.g., not me) could do the cliff walk. My husband, daughter, and MIL really liked this cliff walk (better than the one at First that they did later in the week). My son and I hung out on the patio cafeteria with a soda and some chatty Brits, so we had a good time, too.

Just an aside that pretty much every time we got on a lift or a train, we found chatty people; seemed like everyone was in a good mood (well, except the big Chinese tour groups, but that's another story....). I'm a navy brat who's lived lots of places, and it seemed like every time we'd talk to someone, they lived somewhere where I had lived. By the end of the trip, my daughter's eyes would start rolling when the conversation progressed to... oh, yes, I lived there for a few years..... But there were lots of really nice folks traveling around, and everyone having a good time.

We stopped for more sandwiches at the Muerren Coop, then back to the apartment for lunch. Then went for a quick swim at the SportsCenter.


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Day 3 continued:

Around 16:30, we headed down to Lauterbrunnen and had dinner at the restaurant in the Hotel Jungfrau. We shared rosti, fondue, schnitzel, and a shepherd's salad. Dinner was good, but, as expected, expensive (CHF 151 for 4 plates plus drinks).

After dinner, we walked the path from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg. This was a really nice stroll, especially in the evening as the sun was going down and the light was hitting the higher peaks. Really pretty, and a very easy , peaceful walk. We saw almost no one else along the way. We caught the 20:55 lift back up to Muerren.

Day 4 – We had a leisurely breakfast and then caught the 11:00 Almendhubel funicular. We spent some time at the playground and walking around the flower trail, and then set off to hike to Winteregg. Again, this was a spectacularly scenic hike; just beautiful, with very few other people. There were quite a few steep parts for my son to walk, especially at the beginning of the hike, but they were manageable for him. And we really loved seeing lots of cows up close.

From Winteregg, we took the train back up to Muerren and had lunch and some chill time in the apartment. Our plan was to head to the Coop and pick up dinner supplies, but we didn't realize that it closed at 18:00 on Saturdays, and we got there at 18:10. So, plan B – we went to Stagerstubli for dinner, which was very good. We shared rosti, raclette, a grilled veggie plate, and a plate of cold cuts, just water to drink. Total bill was about 100CHF.

Day 5 – We left the apartment at 09:00 and traveled across the valley to Grindelwald, picked up sandwiches at the Coop there, and headed up the First lift to the top. Then hiked to Bachalpsee, which was yet another spectacular hike. Again, a bit steep, especially at the beginning, so my son did quite a bit of walking for this one, and my husband was pretty tired by the time we got back, but it was still manageable. We ate lunch at the lake, which is so pretty on a crystal clear day.

Back at the top of the First lift, my son and I watched while the others went on the cliff walk. They didn't like it as much as the one at Birg station, and they found it to be annoyingly crowded.

We took the gondola back down and headed back across the valley, stopping at the coop in Lauterbrunnen for dinner supplies since the one in Muerren had already closed for the day (Sunday hours). Didn't get back to the apartment until 18:30, so it had been a long day of hiking and traveling.

Day 6 – Storms were forecasted for the day, so we decided to head to the Ballenberg museum instead of doing any mountain hikes. We took the cogwheel train to Grutschalp, the lift to Lauterbrunnen, the train to Interlaken, and then the boat to Brienz, where we picked up the bus to the museum. Whew! The boat ride on the lake was lovely, but as soon as we got off the boat we started to regret our decision to come down out of the mountains – it was steamy hot and very uncomfortable in Brienz. Unfortunately, the weather probably affected our impression of the Ballenberg museum, because we didn't love it. We walked through and spent about three hours on the grounds, but it was so hot, both inside and outside the buildings, that we mostly just wanted to be done. So we learned a little, the kids made a woodcarving craft (that was fun), walked through some older buildings, but didn't have the energy to spend the time really reading through what was there. Had the temperature been not so blazlingly hot, I'm sure we would have had a better time lingering over the buildings and exhibits.

We left the museum around 16:00 and headed back to Muerren (no boat on the way back), picked up dinner from the Coop, and spent the evening packing up to get ready for our 06:36 departure in the morning. It was a nice evening to spend in the apartment, since there were a bunch of storms rolling through – really spectacular to watch from our terrace and windows.

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We loved, loved our week in the BO. As I look over my dozens and dozens of pictures, I am reminded that they just can't capture how in-your-face spectacular the mountains are when you are there.

-- We liked staying in Muerren and would choose to stay there again.
-- We loved not having any pre-made plans for the week; it was nice to be able to do whatever the weather, mood, energy level dictated on each individual day. No stress, no rushing around.
-- The BO passes were just perfect for our activities – get on the train, gondola, whatever, and go, no messing with tickets or purchases.
-- Our hikes were picked largely around our ability to get the stroller from point A to point B, but there were plenty of viable options, and I had more on my list that we didn't get to. So we never felt limited in our ability to get out onto the walking paths, away from the villages, and into the beautiful mountains.
-- Restaurants were expensive, as we expected. We didn't expect to eat as cheaply as we did from the grocery store. Overall, we spent less than 30CHF per person per day for food. But I don't think we would say that we ate "well" – no splurges, no super delicious, memorable meals like we have had at other destinations. We loved Switzerland, but we didn't love it for the food :-)

We hope to return to Muerren again – although as my son continues to grow, his days of being pushed up mountain paths in a jogger are limited. So we'll have to come up with some alternate plans when we go back.

I need to add a special thank you for everyone who has posted information on the Switzerland forum here. I did extensive research before our trip, asked a few questions when I couldn't find answers, and was so prepared for this trip. No surprises, no negatives that could have been avoided, and we had a wonderful vacation. Thanks so much to all of you!

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13299 posts

Thanks for the excellent report, Deb. It was like re-living our last trip. We stayed in Chalet Oberdorf for 6 nights last August and loved the location and the apartment.

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416 posts

Fantastic trip report! I sent you a private message.

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10242 posts

What a fun time you had making family memories. I appreciate your sharing how things worked with the jogger.

I've done the Mannlichen to Kleine Sheidegg hike a couple of times and it is just jaw-dropping to me. I'm so very glad this one worked for you all! Also loved the valley walk as well!

Thanks for taking the time to post - looking forward to reading about Venice.

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389 posts

Great report, especially since we are planning to go to the Berner Oberland next year.

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7302 posts

Yep yep yep you can never go wrong in the Berner Oberland.
I was there last May and encounter the large enthusiastic tour groups.
One group got in line at the grocery store and did not separate their groceries and the cashier rang them all up together frustrated not understanding it was suppose to be separate purchases.

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869 posts

Thanks, Deb. Saving this one. Great to see how your six days played out. I like your pacing. Think it's similar to how my friends and I like to travel. Very helpful.

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11294 posts

Great report.

My experience with Swiss supermarket prices was the same as yours (and something I hadn't heard before I went). While Swiss restaurants are expensive, Swiss supermarkets are not.

If you want to plan future trips around nonstop flights from Montreal, it does appear that there is lots of service to various European destinations. Here's the list:

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Thanks so much, DebVT for the trip report. I may have to copy some of your days. We head to Grindelwald tomorrow for one night, and then to Mürren for 3 nights. Couldn’t find one hotel at a price I was willing to pay for all 4 nights.

We just spent the last few days in central Switzerland, doing a very low key vacation. We stayed in Weggis at the Wanderlust Guesthouse, which we liked. Not quite a hostel, but there is a communal kitchen. Only private rooms, mixture of with bath and without, and reasonably priced for the Area, particularly given the opportunity to cook meals. My only complaint- no AC and with the weather this week, rooms were uncomfortably hot.

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Thank you for all the nice comments.

Harold, yes, we will definitely keep Montréal on our radar as we plan future trips. Thank you for the link.

ginger_harris, I’m sure you’ll be much happier up in the mountains. We did find that Grindelwald felt hotter than Wengen or Muerren, probably because of more pavement. But still better than the valley floor, and Mürren was delightful. I hope you are having a great trip!

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8356 posts

We spent five nights in a chalet in Grindelwald and loved it. We felt like we could reach out and touch the Eiger! I totally agree with you about the food in Switzerland! Thanks for this report as well as the one you wrote for Venice.
Yoir reseraxh reaulted in wonderful experiences for you and your family.

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  1. No rain during the day, only at night, and dry trails by the next morning. Everything is very sandy/rocky, so I doubt there’d be slippery mud if wet. Just some loose scree here and there.

  2. Yes, that is the Birg cliff walk

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2089 posts

I loved all the details you included. Thanks for taking the time! You have just added to the wealth of knowledge that resides here. :) AND made me want to go back soon!

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26 posts

Thanks for all of your details -- definitely helps planning my own trip. Glad y'all had such a great time !

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60 posts

I am so glad you posted this! I've only read the first couple posts, but I'm pretty sure my entire trip is now planned ( will be once I finish reading this report tomorrow, ha!) We're also going for 6 days, at the end of June. Everything you did on the first 2 days is also on my list, so I i'm basically going to just do exactly what you did (extra thanks for listing the times, lol.)

We only have a day and half in Venice (and maybe an evening depending what time our train gets there from Wengen), so I'll be stealing some of your tips from that report as well!