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14 days starting and ending in Switzerland


We're planning a trip for Europe next June. I have a friend in Switzerland who will show us around there and give us a good local flavor. So then it's a matter of how many different countries/cities should we try to see in the 11 days we have left? We will have our 12 year old daughter with us who has shown on previous vacations the ability to handle an aggressive walking/traveling regimen. She has shown quite a gift for writing so, on the advice of several teachers, we are trying to expose her a wide breadth of experiences and cultures. With this in mind, we want to meet lots of people, eat local foods, and participate in local customs whenever possible; and, of course, see some iconic sites.

Some cities that interest us and seem to be in range are Venice, Milan, Nice, Paris, Caen, Frankfurt, and Innsbruck. Since we don't know when (or if) we'll get back to Europe, we probably don't want to spend more than a couple days at any one place (breadth over depth). An alternative may be to spend a long time (maybe 4 or 5 days) in one place for some depth and then bounce around the rest of the time for a little taste of the rest.

At this point, we're at the level of "Where do we go"...not worried about logistical questions yet until we've had a chance to digest Rick's site.

Thank you for any and all input!!


Posted by
12040 posts

Your list of proposed cities to visit are fairly dispersed. As the last poster mentioned, I would pick a general region and focus on it- ie, NW France, SW Germany, etc. Otherwise, you'll spend too much time in transit between Switzerland, Italy, SE France, NW France, and SW Germany. That's a lot of time wasted in trains/airports.

Unless your Swiss base is one of the eastern cantons, I wouldn't go out of my way to visit Innsbruck in June. Great winter sports city in a beautiful setting, but the city itself is a little on the industrial side. You'll have more than enough Alpine splendour more easily acessible in Switzerland.

Posted by
16690 posts

If you could fly into Zürich and out of Paris, you could start by visiting 2 places in northern Italy (maybe Venice and Milan, but Milan and the Lakes region would be easier, and Venice is way crowded with cruiseships in June).

From MIlan, head toward Nice via Genoa and the route along the Riviera. From Nice, head to paris to finish your trip.

Keep in mind that in general, meeting people and experiencing local culture are easier in smaller towns than large cities like Paris and Milan.

Posted by
4 posts

@Steve: I can't see narrowing it down quite that much but your point is well taken. We don't expect to visit all the places...that was just the list of what we felt was in range of Switzerland.

@Tom: Thank you! That's a good reason to take Innsbruck off the list...that helps!

@Lola: That sounds like a happy medium. We were thinking of renting a car rather than take the train just because of the ability to stop in the smaller towns (maybe you can do that from the trains as well...?) The cities are the destinations...not the journey. I should check flights to see if there is a big difference in leaving from a different city than you arrive.

One thing we need to find out is if there are any special festivals or celebrations that time of year...that may dictate where we want to head.

Anyone want to speak up for Germany? Seems most of the consensus is to stay South and West...

Thank you!


Posted by
34 posts

I have never spent time in Frankfurt because there really isn't anything that caught my attention over other cities like Berlin and Munich. Another smaller city which has a great castle is Heidelberg.

So I would suggest those 3, especially Munich and Heidelberg given that you are in Switzerland

Posted by
16690 posts

There are few places that trains don't go, and they work far better than cars in the larger cities, where you face parking problems, traffic headaches, and fines for entering traffic-free zones without the proper credentials.

Cars isolate you from the local culture. Also, every youngster we have taken to Europe, ranging in age from 11 through teens, has loved riding the trains. It's partly the novelty, partly the fun of figuring out how to find your train and your destination.

As for how many places to see---keep in mind that moving from place to place takes time--often considerable time if you go very far. I always like to keep to a "compact" trip. I think 3 countries would be max for your 11 days. So either Switzerland, southern Germany and France; or Switzerland, northern Italy, and France might work well.

You could have your daughter participate in the planning by teaching her to use a train website to figure out travel times and routes. This would be educational and fun even if you end up renting a car. The Swiss train site, (or to go directly to English) has schedules for all the different countries and is, I think, the most user-friendly.

Posted by
1449 posts

You'll have a better chance of meeting some locals if you take the train than if you drive; we've struck up some nice conversations with people sitting by us.

As for how many places to see in 11 days, I'd recommend staying 3 days in larger cities and 2 in smaller ones. Travel takes up more time than you think; even if you're just going to someplace that's a 2 hour drive or train ride away by the time you pack and check out, get the car loaded or to the train station, get to the new place, check in, get a few things for the day it is often early afternoon.

A common thing people new to travel do is try to "see it all". While you can spend a brief amount of time in a bunch of places, I've found I enjoy it more if I spend more time in fewer places and have a chance for unexpected discoveries, to linger longer in places I like, and just in general not to feel rushed around. On the other hand your 1st post says your D has shown she can handle lots of walking, so perhaps it is a style you enjoy.

Lastly, I'd suggest looking into open-jaw tickets. Unless there is some compelling reason that requires you to arrive and depart via Switzerland, for a little extra you can arrive in Switzerland and leave from someplace else that doesn't require doubling back.

Posted by
4 posts

@Owen: Thank you! Heidelberg looks really nice but looking at the other may be too far North. Munich looks to be in the wheelhouse though...

@Lola: SOLD! As long as the trains are affordable...that's what we'll do! I think we will involve our daughter in the planning this time as well...

@Mike: It looks as though the train just has too many advantages...:) We've done a bit of traveling...just not to Europe. You certainly do lose some time on "moving days" but if there are things to do/see on the way, it's part of the fun. Oh...and we are BIG fans of not over-planning! Moving days are especially good for deciding you want to stay a few extra hours in one place or get moving early to the next. If everything is too mapped out, you can't even rest a few hours without "missing" something on the agenda...bad idea!! Point well taken on the double-backing...if we can't work out a good "loop" then open-jaw will likely net us an extra location or longer times at each; certainly worth it I would think.

Is there a two week Euro rail pass we should be looking into?

Thank everyone for the comments...this is starting to take a little shape now...


Posted by
837 posts

Darren, given your statement that you don't know when or if you will return to Europe and that logistics are the least of your concerns, I would take a very different view. I would pick the 2 to 3 top destinations and if they are far flung, fly. Given this view, of the cities you mention, I would narrow to Paris and Venice. I would add Rome. Caen don't know if you mean Caen or Cannes), Nice, Milan, Innsbruck, and Frankfurt ore nice, but none would be anywhere near the top of any list of "must see" destinations in Europe. Check trains as it may be just as fast as flying at least for Switzerland/Italy.

Posted by
38 posts

As a mom, I would suggest depth over breadth. Stamps on the passport (which really, you don't get any more) won't mean as much a getting to know the area and the people.

As for trains - Your best bet is to narrow down where you are going and then spend some time figuring out train vs. plane, rail pass vs. point to point, etc.

Whatever you decide, have fun! Europe is an amazing place!

Posted by
4 posts

What a wonderful experience for you and your daughter. It's great to spend time with friends. Good thinking to start planning now. To get a wonderful mix of cultures, you could take the William Tell scenic train from Lucerne to Ticino-- you start with a cruise on Lake Lucerne, and then the train to Ticino and on to Bellinzona and can go on then to Locarno, Switzerland or Lugano, Italy. You have the option to spend some time at Lake Como or go on to Milan or Venice.
If you want to go to Frankfort, you can go north along the Rhine to Koblenz, then on the Mosel and follow that into Luxembourg, or come back to the Rhine and go north to Koln. You are very close to The Netherlands, and can take a day trip or travel on through The Netherlands. Maastricht is wonderful, and the corner area between Germany and Belgium. Arnhem and its surroundings also offer a variety of things to see and do. Close to Arnhem is Apeldoorn and Het Loo Palace and also the Hoge Veluwe National Park with it's Kroller-Muller Art Museum and it's free white bikes to go through the park. Arnhem was a famous battleground in WWII. Germany and Austria are very beautiful as well, and some of my favorite places. There is a lot of offer by Lake Konstanz, and you are not too far from Innsbruck or Munich. Neuschwanstein and Linderhoff are great castles to visit. And there are charming villages all along the way into Munich. There is much to do and see on Munich and in the surrounding area. If you include your daughter in the planning, she will learn a lot about the places you decide to visit as well as many other places you choose not to see at this time. I always had my children check out the places we wanted to visit and select the things or places they didn't want to miss. I didn't want to spend all that time and money going somewhere to come home and have them say, "I wish we had done/see........" Happy planning.

Posted by
18 posts

Italy- Lake Como-stay in Tremezzo ro Bellagio do not stay in Como. Stay in Verbenna-Rick's suggestion ,very beautiful
Austria- Salzburgthe best place to stay small compact historical great hiking great hotels and B and B, skip Innsbruck,
consider the Wachau Valley-Melk close to Vienna
Skip Paris to big, expensive,
Skip Frankfurt, stay in Rothenburg -90 minute away beautiful walled preserved town.

Posted by
4 posts

@Roger: Wow! A lot to digest! I will look into all those. Paris is tough to miss's Paris. I agree with too big but don't you just HAVE to see some things?

We are still debating with ending the trip in Paris or Rome...basically the debate is over to spend time discovering more of France or Italy. We can't seem to find any quality that creates a clear winner...


Posted by
16690 posts


I think you mean Varenna, on Lake Como. It is indeed one of Rick's favorite places---and ours. We and our daughters loved the town and really enjoyed the cooking class offered at Il Caminetto.

Or maybe you mean Verbania, on Lago Maggiore?

Posted by
109 posts

I'll speak up for Germany! The Alps region is just WAY to beautiful to pass up. Not to mention, what 12 year old girl wouldn't want to see Neuschwanstein castle?

You can also go to Zugspitze (the highest point in Germany) and Munich all in an easy 3 days. In a pinch you might fit more into fewer days (my husband and I do it all the time with our limited time - we tend to return to places more than once).

We're going to the Alps area for the 4th time and we haven't run out of new things to see.

I think you could do the Alps for 3 days, fly from Munich to Rome on an early morning flight and drop your bags at the hotel in their luggage room, sight see all day, sleep, see it another day, leave either late that nice or early the next morning for Venice, sight see for a 3rd day, sleep, head to Paris, spend the remaining time there and fly out.

A lot of people will disagree with me about keeping that pace. I think it depends on your personality and ability to handle that sort of pace. My husband and I do it frequently because we rarely get vacation and what we get isn't much. So we make a semi flexible plan, sleep on the train/plane/or alternate sleeping in the car, and go a bit short of sleep sometimes. We also pack our lunches and sometimes dinners. Our breaks are usually an hour in the afternoon for a coffee and rest.

I hope that gives you another perspective.

Posted by
15644 posts

I agree with Krista. If you want to learn about a place, you need to spend time with the locals. I don't know how you would arrange that.

Spending a day or two in a place, and seeing the "iconic sites" doesn't leave you time to experience the culture, and the people you meet will be tourists like you.

Seeing many different places in a short time can leave you with nothing more than a kaleidoscope memory rather than lasting impressions.