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10 - 12 nights Switzerland - which rail pass ?

We will be spending 2 months in Europe (Paris/Switzerland/Italy/French Riviera) traveling May/June and have planned to spend 10 - 12 nights in Switzerland and I would greatly appreciated any feedback, tips, advice, suggestions on the following itinerary....

Paris to Bern (rail)
5 or 6 nights in Bern with day trips to Lausanne, Montreux, Interlaken, Gruyeres - just to name a few.

Bern to Zurich (rail) & 2 nights Zurich
Zurich to Luzern (rail) & 2 nights Luzern
Luzern to Lugano via William Tell Express scenic train

Does this itinerary sound feasible ?
Any suggestions on what rail pass that I should buy ? We will also be spending 5 days in Paris, 40 days in Italy and 5 days on the French Riviera.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
6898 posts

I have two different passes for you to consider. First, is the Swiss Pass. Unlimited travel throughout Switzerland except for some high mountain tops (i.e. Jungfrau, Schilthorn) where you get a 50% discount. Full travel coverage includes travel to the mountain villages of the Lauterbrunnen Valley (Grindelwald, Wengen, Gimmelwald and Muerren). This pass is priced in 4, 8, 15, 22-day (and higher) variations. The 15-day per person price for two for the Swiss Saver pass is CHF387 (AUD401).

Second is the Swiss 1/2-fare card. It costs CHF99 (AUD103) and is good for 30 days. Very simply, it provides a 50% discount on all Swiss transportation. You might have to pay a reservation fee on the William Tell Express. With ours, we had to pay this fee for the Glacier Express.

Since you are traveling in May/June, some information on the Alps in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Most of the higher villages close in April/May for "shoulder season". This is when they are closing down winter and getting ready for summer. Who closes when and who doesn't varies. The closure dates vary as well. We were in the area in very early June. The snow was gone through 6,000' and the weather was great although this can vary as well. Muerren was quiet and just coming alive from their shutdown. You could easily travel to any of the villages.

A couple of suggestions for the Lauterbrunnen Valley in very early June. 1) we stayed at the Hotel Silberhorn in Lauterbrunnen. Muerren is smaller but stunning if you wish to stay there but we really enjoyed the Silberhorn. A tad more expensive but the best restaurant/food in the valley. 2) the wildflowers are in full bloom. Take the very easy downhill walk from Muerren to Gimmelwald. Wildflowers and fabulous views to whole way. 3) most every morning, farmers are walking their Swiss cows with those melodious Swiss cow bells through towns up to summer pasture. Just some ideas.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Larry,

Thanks for your tips and for taking the time to reply to my post. Do you think 5 nights is too long in Bern ? Is it worth doing 2 nights in Zurich or should I skip that ? The only part of my itinerary that I am definite on is the William Tell Express between Luzern and Lugano so the rest is entirely flexible.

Posted by
6898 posts

As an opinion, I tend to think that 5 nights in Bern may be too much unless you really have a lot to see in the city.

I'm putting a really off-the-wall suggestion in front of you. First, both the William Tell Express and the Golden Pass scenic train start in Luzern. My suggestion is to limit Zurich and Bern and get to Luzern. At Luzern take the train to Interlaken Ost. You'll be on the same tracks as the Golden Pass but the best part of that trip is farther west. Thus, it doesn't pay to step up to the scenic train. The other Swiss trains are great. It takes about 2.5hrs to get there. Next, spend a few days in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Muerren, it doesn't matter. Play a bit in the very scenic alps. Then, take the 2.5hrs trip back to Luzern to pick up the William Tell Express.

Please forgive my being forward with something that I would do. It's your trip. I just think that as long as you have some time, the alps are much better than extra days in Zurich or Bern. Just my opinion.

Posted by
29 posts

Larry that sounds fantastic and I think I'll take your suggestion onboard. I think I'd definitely like to spend a couple of nights in the Alps so I'll look at changing my itinerary a bit and I'll do another post and let you know what I come up with.

Thanks again.

Posted by
8 posts

Absolutely spend more time in the alps and Luzern and less in Bern or Zurich. We spent a week based in Murren 2 years ago and are returning again in September. We spent the second week based in Villars. We purchased the Swiss Saver Pass and it was perfect for our trip - particularly since the 2nd week only costs an additional $50-60 per person. I would spend at least 3-4 nights in Lauterbrunnen, Murren or Wengen - so incredibly much to see and do in the Bernese Oberland -and you will not find a more beautiful valley anywhere. We enjoyed the French side of Switzerland, but you can see most of what is worth seeing in 3-4 days. We did Lausanne, Montreaux and several other towns on Lake Geneva in one day by boat (included in Swiss Pass). Château de Chillon was amazing - don't miss it! Gruyeres very cute but train connections were not as good - took us the entire day. We also were able to squeeze in a day trip to Zermatt although it was a 3 hour train ride from Villars - but well worth it.