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Zermatt or Wengen ~ We only have one day!

I am traveling with my husband and his parents (78 and 80) from Rome to Paris by train in October. We will leave Rome on a Sunday and stop first in Milan where we will stay overnight. On Monday we will take a train into Switzerland. We would travel to either Zermatt or Wengen and stay just the one night. So on Tuesday afternoon, the plan is to hop a train and head to Paris so that we will be in Paris Tuesday evening until we leave on Sunday morning. Knowing that we will only have a short time, so nearness to other places to sight see is not an issue, and knowing that none of us will be skiing, which is the better town to stop in? The views from the train during the trip as well as the views from the town and the opportunity to go up the mountains by cable car for more beautiful views are the draw for us. Thank you for your input!!

Posted by
8067 posts

Skiing or not has nothing to do with it. It is not worth going all the way from Milan to Wengen for a night, Zermatt maybe since it is a little closer not requiring 3 or 4 train changes to reach. You never know what the weather is going to be like; it is possible to go when the weather is so you can not see anything. In sum you might be trying to see too much covering too much distance in too short of time. This may be too much for your inlaws. I once traveled like that with my 72 year old uncle and he was exhausted from all of the getting up checking out of the hotel to catch this and then checking into a hotel and then repeating that the next day and ended up in the hospital from dehydration.

Posted by
6 posts

I admit I am not an expert on using the train reservation system and may be doing it all wrong, but when I put in my destinations it shows me that it is a 3.5 hour ride to Zermatt and 7 hours to Paris from Zermatt. Wengen is a 4 to 4 1/2 hour journey from Milan and then a 6 hour ride to Paris from there. Each scenario will give us an afternoon and the next morning in town before heading to Paris. Is this really unrealistic?

Also, yes, I agree with you that I would not want to do this daily changing of where we are staying as an ongoing thing. We will be in Europe for 3 weeks. We start with 3 days in Rome, then a 10 day cruise to Greece. After the cruise we will have the train journey to Paris with (I was thinking!) 2 stops along the way. We end with 5 nights/4 days in Paris. So it is only the two nights that we will be moving each time. I am definitely trying to keep my in-laws health and enjoyment in my mind!

Posted by
11494 posts

We used to live in Rome and several times went right from Rome to Lauterbrunnen (near Wengen) without a stay in Milan.

If you leave Rome at 8 am, you get to Spiez, Switzerland, at 13:53 taking two trains, each very nice and comfortable. You change trains in Milan. Onward to Wengen is 3 short train rides, first to Interlaken OST, then Lauterbrunnen, then Wengen, about another hour. You could then spend two nights in Wengen.

We are seniors and have never found this too difficult. But Imabhor one night stays!

Posted by
20474 posts

A modest proposal: Take the train from Milano Centrale to Tirano, then either the Bernina Express or a regular train to St Moritz. Next day, train to Chur, then Zurich, then Paris.

Posted by
7082 posts

I would skip Milan and go straight to the Interlaken area (Wengen or other) from Rome. That way you have two nights.

Posted by
116 posts

Girl, skip Milan! If you want to do another Italian city, do florence. You cant do Swiss alps in the same day that you take to travel there - not enough time. We are going there again this October and planning to spend 3 to 4 days in swiss alps. We too will take train from Paris to interlaken, then drive the rest of the time. Later taking train to venice. Last time we were in swiss alps for 3 days and still couldnt do a lot of things

Posted by
6 posts

Great advice everyone! Sam, that route (Bernina Express) is one we are considering and actually what got me started! So, a beautiful train ride, but Zurich is kind of boring. So I started wondering if there might be a better town to stop in that might still have a beautiful train ride. Maybe not quite as nice as Bernina, but still nice! So then I discovered Zermatt and then Grindlewald, then Wengen and, Arggh! I want to see it all! This is my first trip to Europe so am completely ignorant.

Laurel, as someone who lives in Rome and has made the trip I am contemplating: what is the best way to book the trains? I have been using Loco2.com to test different routes. Would that be good? Or should I used Italiarail.com and sbc.ch separately? Since we are arriving in port (actually Civitevecchia) from our cruise on Sunday morning, I dont think we can catch the 8am train from Rome. It will have to be a later train and will be a very long day! That was why I had thought to break it up with a stop in Milan. I was worried that that long on the trains would be stressful and exhausting.

If we spent all of Sunday on the train and went to either Zermatt or Wengen so that we would have all of Monday in whichever town and then left on Tuesday, which town would you pick?

Please! Keep the advice and opinions coming! I have one shot at making this perfect and need all the input I can get!

Posted by
20474 posts

So, a beautiful train ride, but Zurich is kind of boring.

Key is that you are not stopping in Zurich, you are just changing trains there. My suggestion is to stop in St Moritz. Offhand, I don't know if cable cars will be running in October, but it will probably impress the folks.

You can leave St Moritz at 8 am the following day and be in Paris by 3:38 pm. Or at 10 am and get to Paris by 5:38 pm.

Posted by
116 posts

Some nuggets of wisdom I have gathered from past visits and advice I have received for my upcoming Swiss alps trip - Stay in Lauterbrunnen, this way you will have easy access to trains to go on either side of the valley. Wengen closes early so you will be stuck in the evening with nothing to do, its a short train ride from Lauterbrunnen so no point in staying there, you can visit it in the daytime. On one day, go all the way up to jungfraujoch early in the morning, consider hiking mannlichen to kleine scheidegg portion, and visit wengen on the way down if you still have time. On another day, go to the other side of the valley and visit Murren, Gimmelwald. If you have a Day 3, consider taking a boat ride around Lake Thun or a toboggan in grindelwald

Almost everybody I know enjoyed Venice and Florence more than Rome. If this is your first time in Europe, you will enjoy Venice more.

Also if you want to experience the alps without taking a long train ride, you could go to the alps above Venice, known as dolomites. As a huge fan of european alpine areas, my favorite are southern austria (zell aam see area with grossglockner highway), northern italy (dolomites) and swiss alps. If you are pressed for time, consider doing Venice (instead of Rome) and dolomites. No point in wasting an entire day taking trains and travelling.

Posted by
11494 posts

deejuliet13, If you cannot get the 8 am train, it becomes a more complex trip with more train changes. You would not arrive in Spiez until about 6 pm and still need an hour to get to Lauterbrunnen.

Sbb.ch is the best place to research anything related to Swiss trains although Trenitalia (not Italiarail) is good for any points in Italy.

Posted by
6 posts

Sam ~ that is a great idea that I had not considered! Thank you!
forshamina ~ That is not really an option. We will be heading out from Rome since we will be disembarking a cruise ship in Civitevecchia. And since we are heading to Paris, that means a trip through the Alps, not the Dolomites. We want to be in Paris by Tuesday afternoon/evening, which means we have only one full day, 2 nights, to spend somewhere. I think your ideas will have to be saved for another trip.
Laurel ~ Yes, constraints put on us because we are disembarking the cruise mean we cant catch the earlier train. In that case, I think Zermatt might be better as it appears to be an easier train trip. Using Loco2 it shows a route that goes Milan/Chur/Visp/Zermatt where the route to Wengen has 7 train changes!

So, Sam and Laurel (and anyone else!) now, thanks to Sam, I am considering Zermatt vs St Moritz. I keep reading about the famous, especially scenic Bernina route. But wouldnt any route through the Alps be beautiful and scenic with lots of mountains and such? We woud get to go on the Bernina route if we choose to takes Sams suggestion and stay in St. Moritz for 2 nights before heading to Zurich, via Chur, and then on to Paris. Alternatively, if we go to Zermatt, because the Glacier Express is closed in late October, we would take a route that goes Milan/Chur/Visp/Zermatt and not get to go on the scenic Glacier or Bernina routes. Is the Bernina route really that much more beautiful than the route I would take to get to Zermatt?