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3 week itinerary for France & Switzerland that starts and ends in Paris

My wife and I have tickets booked from Seattle to Paris roundtrips for mid-September to first week of October (3 weeks total). I know open jaw would have typically been better but we got a great deal on airfare. So assume that we need to start and end in Paris. We were originally undecided on our trip plans but have settled on wanting to do France and Switzerland. i have done a ton of searching online for suggested itineraries but all I can find are: 1. Crazy itineraries that try to do France, Switzerland and Italy 2. Same as #1 except another country added in like Austria 3. Cover France and Switzerland but are much shorter in duration eg. 14 days. 4. Separate itineraries for France vs Switzelrand and they don't merge well. The France ones will typically take you towards Normandy, away from switzerland. Some notes: - My wife and I don't want a crazy pace. - we prefer to explore both large and small cities (IOW not just the largest cities) - we don't mind doing combination of train, driving and flying if that's needed - we don't mind splitting up our Paris specific itinerary between the start and end of our trip - we don't want to do a crazy travel from Switzerland to Paris and immediately fly back to Seattle. Too tiring.
- we don't want to see Nice or Monaco I would love some tips from the experts on these forums on what you think would be best for us. Fire away!

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks for the replies so far everyone, keep the ideas coming! I love seeing the different opinions and thoughts. We have 3 different books already (Paris, France and Switzerland) and are digging into them as we speak. The only way I can see us going wrong is if we try to see too many cities and spend too much time in transit. I am a photographer (landscapes and urban scenes) and we both love wine. I don't think we need to necessarily optimize for either of those things as I think our 3 week time split across the countries will give us time to satisfy us.

Posted by
813 posts

My suggestion is to... 1. Read up on France and Switzerland in various travel books, this will help you decide where you want to go (wine towns, WWI/WWII battlefields, shoe shopping, etc.) 2. Decide which towns you want to go to, including figuring how many days you'd like to spend in each. 3. Break out a map of France and Switzerland and plan a logical, probably circular, route of the towns you want to go to. Literally get some sticky-arrows and put them on the towns you want to see on the map, it'll help, really. 4. Once 1,2, and 3 are decided.... Get online and get some hotels, quick. If you'll be in Europe only 4 weeks from now, your choices will be limited. That may sway where you stay and for how long. As for itinerary suggestions, here's my suggestion. I won't suggest numbers of days in each town, it's up to you and what you want to see..... 1. Fly into Paris, spend some time there. 2. Drive (or train) to Alsace, possibly stopping in Metz or WWI/WWII battlefield sites. Drive from Strasbourg south on the wine route, drinking wine and picking up Alsacian pottery along the way, through Basel, Zurich, to Lucerne, Switzerland. See some great castles. 3. Head through Interlaken area (since you're on the Rick Steves board, it's pretty much required by him), through Bern, Montreux jazz festival date?, maybe Chamonix, to Lyon. See ancient ruins, some really big mountains, etc. 4. From Lyon you can easily fly back to Paris or drive/train north and west through Beaune. Drink more wine, eat some great French cheese, see the countryside, etc. Or west and north on a variety of roads. If you drive, there's tolls, bring change.
5. End in Paris.

Posted by
837 posts

Trevin, I would suggest a fast trip to your favored book purchasing website and the purchase of Steves' France, Paris, and Switzerland books. Look for areas: Paris, Normandy, Provence, Dordogne, etc. in France and Berner Oberland in Switzerland. Also consider Lausanne and Lucerne in Switzerland. For hotels/b and bs, go to If you choose Normandy, drive to Bayeux. Also consider seeing Honfleur and Rouen. From Paris consider train/bus to Giverny and train to Chartres. Take TGV to Avignon and rent a car to explore Provence. In Provence: Pont du Gard, Avignon, Nimes, Isle-sur-la-sorgue, Orange, Rousillon, Lex Baux, St. Remy, Vaison la Romaine, Arles - all short drives from a central base in the area.

Posted by
14538 posts

I'll give it a try. Start with a car to explore France for a week. Lots of good suggestions above, particularly Alsace region. Aim generally for Basel, but turn in the car at Mulhouse, while you are still in France. Train from there to Luzern, via Basel. Spend 7-8 days working your way across Switzerland, onnthe Golden Pass route which passes through the Berner Oberland ( stay in Wengen or Mürren) on the way to Lac Leman ( aka Lake Geneva). Stay in a village on the lake such as Vevey and visit the castle at Chillon. Then take the fast train from Lausanne to Paris ( ( 4 hours) and spend the rest of your time in Paris.

Posted by
408 posts

My husband and I took three weeks and visited the following: Paris-Picked up leased car(cheaper and comes with insurance and the car is brand new). Spent one night in Paris. Loire Valley- 3 nights in Amboise. Mont St. Michael for one night arrived in late afternoon. Bayeaux and spent 4 nights. (Normandy) Honfluor- one night. Ghent, Belgium 2 nights Brussells- 2 nights Bastogne- 2 nights Reims- 2 nights
Paris-3 nights We enjoyed our trip and saw wonderful sights. Switzerland is one of my favorite countries but we were focused on World War Sights and history. We also had some of the best wines and champagnes we have ever tasted. The chateaus are beautiful and Paris is a special city too. Look into the leasing of the car, it is a great deal.