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Week Paris + Week Switzerland - With 11 yr Old and No Car

We are traveling as a couple with an 11 year old from Sept 26-Oct 10th.

We would like to fit Switzerland into our travels but it seems overly complicated and expensive.

We will not have a car. The 11 year old is not very adventurous - doesn't like nature walks, biking, etc

First we have to fly into Paris and take another flight to Zurich from the US to make it worth our while with time and money.

We don't want to stay in two BIG cities (Paris and Zurich). Since we know Paris is for sure we wanted to make the second city not quite so big. We were considering Luzern. However, we only like to stay in vacation/holiday rentals and there appear to be very few of those in the city of Luzern. There is one in Bouchs we are considering but to get anywhere else we need a bus and a train to get there. We thought that Bern would be a good hub too but doesn't seem quite right for us.

I'm sorry this is so long but we're overwhelmed.

Here's what I think we want out of a possible Switzerland trip:

1) Alps/Alpine lakes
2) Vacation Rental Home/Apartment for a family of three
3) A town with easy access to train for travel to other areas for day trips
4) A town to keep us entertained enough on the days we don't travel far from home
5) Not such a small town that there isn't a food market within walking distance.
6) A town not as big as Zurich - I want it to feel homey.

Is that asking for too much?

Maybe we should just stay in Paris one week and another French city for the 2nd week with a day trip to the alps?


Posted by
7209 posts

First of all why in the world would you fly from Paris to Zurich? Take the high speed TGV train all the way from Paris Gare de Lyon to Interlaken Ost with only 1 change in Basel. From Interlaken Ost it's only 20 minutes on the little train to Lauterbrunnen and that's where your adventures will begin in Switzerland. Alps, Glaciers, towering waterfalls, glacier waterfalls inside the mountain, observatory on the highest train station in Europe (Jungfraujoch), snowboarding, skiing, etc. The list goes on and on. We've taken high school kids to this destination for several years now and there has never been a kid that said "I don't like it here". On the contrary after all of the sights in Paris and Rome and Venice and London - Lauterbrunnen Valley and surrounding mountain villages of Murren and Wengen are ALWAYS the favorites of the entire trip.

You can see and purchase your train tickets on

Posted by
33299 posts

Have you looked in Brienz?

I would have thought that Brienz has most of what you want. Woodcarvers in town, a supermarket, a very easy short train ride to Interlaken Ost which has the trains up into the mountains and a 2 story Coop supermarket with cafeteria type restaurant, and a slayground nearby; changing trains at Ost and then just 2 minutes further is Interlaken West with a model railway and a big Migros supermarket with a cafeteria.

Brienz is served by ships on the Brienzersee, including a steamboat where the steam engine is actually visible. The trains to Brienz are to Interlaken Ost and the other way via Meiringen (Sherlock Holmes and his battle with Moriarity on the Reichenbach Falls which can be climbed or ridden up) and over the Brunig Pass by cog railway to Luzern.

Across the Brienzersee from Brienz is a hotel at a boat stop with a waterfall above which you can walk up to and up.

And in Brienz is the Brienzer Rothornbahn which is a steam cog railway going up the mountain.

I would think a child would love all these, as well as the Ballenberg Open Air Museum and some of the attractions in and around Interlaken.

The area around Brienz is full of holiday apartments - Ferienwohnung, in German.

This meets your criteria numbered 1,2,3,4,5,6.

Good luck....

Posted by
7209 posts

Just keep in mind that Brienz is not in the alps but rather in the low lying lake area. I thought Brienz was nice, but maybe not enough to fill your days with activity (even going to Geissbach Falls). BTW, there are COOPS in Lauterbrunnen, Wengen and Murren - not as large as the 2-story in Interlaken. And you'll find lots of good affordable food items in COOP which will come in handy for snacks, drinks and picnics.

Posted by
168 posts

I agree with the Bernese Oberland area. You could stay in Lauterbrunnen. Or even the car free villages of Wengen or Murren. We stayed in the apartment at Chalet Fontana when our family visited. I can't imagine a 11 year old not enjoying the area. There's a lot to do including everything you mentioned. And many rental apartments as well.

Transport is easy. Visit Paris for a week. Take the 3hr train to Basel and switch to Interlaken and get to your base from there. Simple. Then fly out of Zurich or Geneva. If its Geneva, you could do five nights in the BO area and then two nights on Lake Geneva, maybe Vevey.

Posted by
1003 posts

Hi there,

I'd like to start by pointing out that by most standards Swiss cities are small, even Zurich has only got a population of about 360K compared to Paris's 2.25M! I travel into Zurich everyday for work and most of the coffee vendors at the main station know my brew and at what time I normally show up ("Oh your late today, was the train delayed?", "Have not seen you in a few days, did you take holidays", "The usually?") - so I don't really think it is very big.

I think it is not over stating it to say we have one of the best public transport systems going - rail, bus and boat all integrated. As a general rule most towns and villages are connected at least once an hour by some form of transport, so getting around really should not be an issue. After all the average Swiss resident travels almost 2,500 KM by rail each year!

When it comes to grocery shopping you will find that most towns and villages have a branch of the two main supermarket chains: Migros and Coop. Both companies also offer an internet service, with 24 hour delivery and the sites are in English: LeShop and Coop At Home. So no matter where you choose to stay you should be well covered.

When it comes to holiday rentals there are a lot of options, have a look here on MySwitzerland to start with, also check out sites such as airbnb and so on. I'm sure you will find something to suit you.

I would think that the Lucerne area might be a good choice if your 11 year old is not very adventurous nor into the big out doors. There are plenty of options there such as a trip to the Swiss Museum of Transport, A trip up the Rigi or the Pilatus and of course boats on the lake. Bern is also an easy trip away, where you could enjoy a walk around the old town, a visit to the bear pits, the post museum or the alpine museum. If your kid is interested in all things technical then Technorama in Winterthur is also just a short trip away.

Perhaps you could also persuade your kid to take a least one trip in to the mountains with the Luzern-Interlaken Express for instance or perhaps the Luzern-Engelberg Express.

And of course no kids trip to Switzerland could be complete without a trip to chocolate factory - in Lucerne you could try Max Chocolatier.

Well what ever you decide to do, I hope you enjoy your trip.


Posted by
3 posts

Funny that you should suggest Brienz - that's exactly one of the cities I am considering.
I've been scouring the internet looking at vacation rentals (, home away, vrbo, inter home, etc)

We're flying from California non-stop to Europe and our plan is to start in Switzerland for one week and then Paris for one week and depart back home from Paris. Unfortunately, United uses Swiss Air to get us to Zurich and we cannot make seat reservations until 24 hours before the flight. They cannot guarantee we'll sit together let alone have a choice of seating. So, we're not doing United. So, we've considered a few other options. We really just want to get to where we're staying over night as quickly as possible without too much extra travel after the long flight. We noticed that it's cheaper to fly Air France into Paris and then take another quick flight to Zurich vs taking the train. Alas, perhaps not saving time...but saving on all the hustle and bustle.

That was more than you needed to know :)

Those are some great ideas from the travelers on this forum. We are DEFINITELY taking a cool train ride into the mountains at some point. Yes, chocolate is high on her list for Switzerland.

Thank you also for the info on the grocery markets too.

Phew - this planning is exhausting!
- Jen

Posted by
33299 posts

Firstly, I'm sure it is a language thing - tricky language, English - but calling Brienz a city must be Californianish, I'd call it a large village or a small town.

Secondly, have a go at the websites used by locals, and particularly Germans who specialise in week long holidays at FeWos, an abbreviation of the word I gave you last time.

There is a really good website for that, Have a look at and mush around there for a while. Don't speak German, that's OK. Most of the terms are pretty easy to figure out, many of the words used will be in English, and there's always google translate or word lens.

I'm sure you will find something in all the places you are looking. Make the adventure fun. How's your 11 year old on computers? Can you give over some of the hunting to her?

Posted by
3 posts

Well, I found out that my husband and I had different ideas about Switzerland. I was looking for a quiet retreat and he was hoping for a city that had things to do in the evenings after dinner.

We are now focusing our search for vacation rentals in the Montreux area. A little fancy but seems like a nice location, train access, not too far from the mountains and on a lake!

We continue to have challenges in finding the right apartment rental for our family. We'll get there but it's not as easy as finding a rental through the usual VRBO we're familiar with in the US.

Thanks for all your assistance.