19 Day Trip - Include Switzerland or Germany (or both)?

HI! I am struggling with some trip specifics. My husband, myself and our 10 yr old son are heading to Europe for 19 days in June. We are a VERY active family and we would prefer to to hiking, mountain biking, outdoors stuff versus museums (within reason as we have a 10 yr old and I won't have him biking on city streets). I have much of the trip lined out, but still am struggling with the middle. I want to keep the travel days to a minimum and avoid 10 hr rail travel days if possible. Currently I have: Fly into Rome (4 nights) Direct train Rome to Venice (2 nights) Venice to Siena (1 night) Cinque Terre Monterosso (3 nights) Here is where I am struggling... From there I was planning to head to Muerren or Lauterbrunnen for 3 nights.
Would LOVE to see southern Germany for castles as such. End trip with 2-3 nights in Paris. I have 6 or so nights to play with between Italy (Cinque Terre) and Paris. Rail travel Cinque Terre into Muerren looks to be a full day (8-10 hrs). Looked at the possibility of a night train from Milan into Munich which would be great, but once there I suppose we rent a car? If we head into Munich, I am not seeing a great way to get into Switzerland's Bern Oberland without yet another 8-10 hr travel day. Suggestions???

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2275 posts

Since you are fishing for ideas, I'll suggest Alsace. Relatively easy trip from Interlaken, some very nice castles, as well as other sights and things to do. Or you could continue further down the Rhine and check out Rhine castles between Mainz and Koblenz. Both these spots are easy train connections to Paris via TGV and ICE trains.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

The Alps form a large arc that joins Italy to the rest of Europe. All major routes out of the country pass through them and continue on into the neighboring countries. The Berner Oberland might be a favorite of people on this website, but it's just one tiny area of a huge mountain range, and it's a long detour if you want to see Munich as well. So, don't fall into the Ricknik trap of thinking that you absolutely must see the Berner Oberland. My advice? Pick one Alpine area, either somewhere in Switzerland or south of Munich in the Bavarian/Tyrolian Alps. Stay there for the duration to maximize your chances of good weather. Although not nearly as many as Germany, Switzerland has a fair number of castles. And you can find castles everywhere in Germany.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

You are kind of backtracking with Venice between Rome and Siena. If you don't have hotel resizes yet, I suggests you go Rome to Siena to Cinque to Venice. That will shorten your train travel time overall. From Venice, you ould head either to Munich ( via Innsbruck) or into Switzerland (via Milan). With three days you do not have time for both. If you choose Munich/ castles, it will take you longer to get to Paris. You could break up the journey with an overnight stop in Strasbourg like Sam suggests. If you choose Switzerland, do not assume it has to be Mürren. It is nice but out of the way. You could go to Lucerne instead and visit Rigi for mountains. Then it is easy to get to Paris. Get out a big map of Europe and have a look to plan the most logical route. Too many times we see people cry "Help!" because their trip plan has them going from someplace in Italy like Rome or Cinque Terre to LMurren and finally took a look at trauma schedules and were dismayed. Plan smart to avoid that.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

Moving this thread up so people will respond here, not on the other one.

Posted by Julie
Edgewood, KY, USA
4 posts

Thank you Sasha! Great ideas! I have about 6 days to play with. Open to renting a car, but concerned about the high drop off fees. Where would you all suggest picking up and dropping off a car?

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

If you pick up and drop off in the same country you are generally OK. You can drive it into another country, as long as you return it in the original one (not necessaryily where you picket it up). So, you could train into Germany, pick up a car to tour, and then drop it off in Germany before you cross into France.

Posted by Julie
Edgewood, KY, USA
4 posts

Thank you so much for all of the comments. After really looking at the train schedules, I am thinking it may be best just to skip Switzerland all together and spend 5 days exploring Germany. Possibly night train from Milan to Munich, then renting a car and exploring everything from Fussen to the Rhine valley. Drop the car somewhere near the France/Germany border and taking a train into Paris. Does that sound reasonable? What would be suggestions on must see highlights that do not involve just big cities. At this point in the trip, I want it to be more about country side and nature than big cities. Ok, it can be about castles too :)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17776 posts

Julie, If you need a place to spend a few days between the Cinque Terre and Paris, the Berner Oberland would be a fantastic choice. I've travelled that same route and it worked well. Although it will mean an early morning departure from Monterosso, you could be in Lauterbrunnen by mid-afternoon. It's a bit of a long day, but not too bad (I travelled that route again last September). I'd suggest staying in Lauterbrunnen, as it's a great "home base" for touring both sides of the valley. That will also facilitate the ongoing trip to Paris. You won't need a car as transportation is excellent. Travel to Paris will also be fairly easy. Depending on which train you choose, you will likely only have two changes at Interlaken Ost and Basel, and then TGV to Paris (at 300 kMH). A departure from Lauterbrunnen at 10:03 would get you to Paris by 15:37 (that would allow time for breakfast at your hotel). You'll probably arrive at Gare de Lyon in Paris. You can easily get from there to the area of your hotel using the Metro or other public transit. IMO, Monterosso > Lauterbrunnen > Paris is an easy and logical route. Happy travels!