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Driving vs. train in Switzerland

Our family of 5 adults is spending four full days in Switzerland as part of a summer holiday. Our intent is to spend one day in the Luzern area, one at Montreux jazz fest, and two in the Murren/Interlaken area.
At first I thought we'd establish a home base and venture out daily.
Someone has suggested to me that it might be better for us to move accommodations nightly to avoid a lot of extra transit time.
I'm wondering if it would be advisable to rent a car, or if the rail system is a better bet.
Does anyone have any advice on the transportation part, or the itinerary?
Thanks,
Donna

Posted by
31465 posts

Donna,

The rail system in Switzerland is extensive, efficient and extremely punctual. That's the method I'd choose, as it will be the quickest means to get to many places and no concerns about parking, high fuel costs, CDW, etc.

A car is about as useful as a boat anchor in Mürren, as there are no cars there. The rental would be gathering dust during your time there, and you'd have to pay for parking in Stechelberg or Lauterbrunnen.

Is there any way you could add a day or two to that part of your trip? Luzern is worth more than a day, and you'll also have to include transportation times between locations.

Happy travels!

Posted by
6898 posts

Donna, Switzerland has more miles of train track per citizen than most any other country. Plus, they have the postal bus system that is closely coordinated with the trains. The system is simply magnificent and easy to use. As a note, tourist cars are not permitted in Muerren. You would need to park the car in either Lauterbrunnen or at Stechelberg. One nice alternative is to take the Golden Pass scenic train from Montreux to Interlaken Ost. From Interlaken Ost, you take the 22-minute ride on the Jungfraubahn train to Lauterbrunnen and then up you go on the gondola to Muerren.

Posted by
7205 posts

All of the places your itinerary are beautiful with the exception of Murren which is totally magnificent. Most people visiting Murren for the 1st time say they wished they had planned more time there.

And most DEFINITELY take the train. Not taking the train in Switzerland is kind of like not eating CHOCOLATE while in Switzerland!

Posted by
27709 posts

The train ride over the Brunig Pass between Luzern and Interlaken is not as highly advertised as many (although it does form part of the Golden Pass) but is one of the most scenic mile for mile. It is all narrow gauge and includes lake side views, cog railway experiences, waterfall views, beautiful tall forest, alpine views, and it turns around at Meiringen where meringue was named for and just a few hundred metres from Meiringen Falls where famously Sherlock Holmes and Moriarity had their famous and fatal (or not so) battle. You can either walk up a staircase adjacent to the Falls, take a Postbus up the road next to the Falls, or perhaps best of all take a funicular railway right up the Falls. There are even photo cutouts so that you can have appropriate photos of yourself at the top of the funicular.

I've driven it too, in my own car, and it is nowhere as impressive driving over the Brunig. Too busy looking at the switchbacks and loops on the road to look at the scenery. The train line also has unobstructed views which the car doesn't.

Posted by
12040 posts

You didn't ask, but I can't help myself. I would recommend staying no less than 3 nights in each Alpine location. A two night stay gives you only one full day. What happens if a weather system moves in and rains out that one day? This happens quite often. The Alps are primarily an outdoor destination, and there's few things more depressing than spending your one Alpine day sitting in a hotel staring out a wall of rain and fog. Two full days gives you a better chance of avoiding a complete wash out.

And I agree with the others... no need for a car with this itinerary in the summer.

Posted by
3336 posts

I can speak to the area around Montreux...the town is the first of several that lie around the north side of Lake Geneva. The town hugs the lake below the E62 highway that hangs above it. The town is tight but parking with your own car is possible though pricey. We went to Montreux during the jazz festival and had no problem parking our car. That said, if you come in by train it is easy to get to the main part of town because it is not a very big place! Having a car in this part of Switzerland is recommended if you want to see mountain villages and the beautiful vineyards that ring the north part of the lake and continue east up into Valais.
I personally don't like to move accommodation every night...it eats up a great deal of time, can be exhausting, and doesn't allow you time to settle in to a place and get to know it. If you only have four days though maybe it can't be avoided?

Posted by
759 posts

While the train system in Switzerland is excellent, there are some things it just can't do. While you are in the Interlaken - Murren area get a car and since you are short on time by all means don't stay in Murren, base out of Lauterbrunnen. On one day you can go up to the Schilthorn and stop in Murren on the way back down. On the second you have your choice of the Jungfraujoch, the Ballenburg Open Air Museum, Trummelbach Falls, a steamer ride around the Brienzersee or just touring around some of the most magnificent scenery in Switzerland. The problem with Murren is that once you are there, you are there and aside from taking a hike or going on up to the Schilthorn everything starts with an aerial tram ride down to the valley. That tram ride for 5 will cost far more than the cost of parking 1 car that everyone whines about.

Save staying in Murren for your next trip, we did it on our third. It was only one night but a valley side room on the edge of the valley is the only way to stay, you won't forget it.

Posted by
18297 posts

"Switzerland has more miles of train track per citizen than most any other country."

I fail to see the importance to a tourist of the miles of track per citizen (or more properly, per inhabitant). Switzerland has 380 miles per million inhabitants; the US has 440 miles per million inhabitants. I wouldn't say the US has a better rail system.

But, Switzerland has the most dense system (7.57 miles of track per 100 sq miles of land) in continental Western Europe, and that is important because you are rarely far away from a train station. Germany has 99% of that density (Italy 57%, UK 56%, France 38%, Spain 25%, US 20%).

Posted by
655 posts

If you only experience Switzerland from inside a train you will miss an awful lot of the possibilities available to you. On the other hand, you will probably be more comfortable.

Posted by
13 posts

It all depends on what you like to do. If you like to hike and incredible mountain/valley vistas with hyper clean air, staying at Murren for three days would be the ticket and maybe one day at Montreau with Luzern the least interesting touristy city as it is very busy with less to see (this was my third visit there). I was in each of these places 2 months ago. I had a car and that was ok since Germany was the other part of the trip and next time I will just do the train in Switzerland. Tom above is very knowledgeable and I agree with what he offers. You are really shortchanging yourself though to be there for such a short time since it is truly magnificent and I would encourage you to cut time off from some other location. I could go there every year. Just hope you have good weather since no place is much fun in the rain. Ballenberg was a half day well spent, well worth the visit.