We will spend our first week in Paris then five nights in next location then home to Chicago. After a week of Paris city exploring we were thinking of a train to Switzerland, some outdoor activity and hitting some of the best spots for five days. We can move around alot when we get to Switzerland and will need a final destination in Switzerland to fly back to Chicago. How scenic is the train ride through France? Are we wasting valuable time or should we fly instead? We don't have a starting or ending point in Switzerland yet. Has anyone taken the train ride from Paris to Switzerland this way? Please help us pick a point to start in Siwtzerland, some suggested routes while there by train through Switzerland while hitting some great spots and a final train ride ending point to fly home. Your advice is always appreciated.
The fastest and cheapest way to travel between Paris and Switzerland is via the TGV high-speed train. Journey time to Basel is only 3 hours.
Check schedules and fares at the TGV-europe.com or rail.ch Get a copy of Rick's Switzerland guidebook and checkout his chapter on the Berner Oberland region of the Swiss Alps. Lots of great scenery, hiking and attractions. Assuming you will be flying back home via Zurich Airport, you can take the scenic Golden Pass train to Luzern, spend the day and night there, the next morning there are direct trains to Zurich Airport. Here's a taste: http://youtu.be/eJsl0GvLJEk http://youtu.be/8xbYCZNmY5k http://youtu.be/NYy_maSNnco
How scenic is the train ride through France? The most direct train from Paris to Basel (and onwards to Zurich) is from Gare de Lyon and is routed near or via Dijon and is just over 3 hours. The train moves so fast that much of the scenery goes past too fast to relish. There is a different route via Strasbourg, usually involving a change there, and again the TGV goes so fast that much of the scenery is a blur. The train is definitely the way to link the two places. Its just that when you are pushing 300 kph you find it difficult to focus on details of the scenery.
Trains within France are not open for booking until around 90 days before travel. You need to book at around that time to get the cheapest fares.
The TGV train from Paris Gare Lyon to Geneva takes about the same time (3' 5") as the one to Basel, but is more scenic. From Geneva it's about 2 ½ hrs to the Berner Oberland area (Interlaken) & you'll travel around the north side of Lake Geneva before heading inland via Bern and Lake Thun. From the Interlaken Ost station head to Lucerne for another great scenic route. Lucerne has trains that go direct to the Zurich airport for a return flight.
...but from Basel there direct trains to Interlaken that are just under 2 hours. From Geneva it's an extra 45 minutes and you have to change in Bern.
I suggest you take the direct train to Lausanne and spend the night there or in Montreux, enjoying Lac Leman area. Then take the scenice Golden Pass route to InterlakennOst and transfer to Lauterbrunnen for a couple of days of hiking in the Berner Oberland. You could also include a short detour to Kandersteg to hike at Oeschinensee and see the golden larch trees. From Lauterbrunnen/Interlaken Ost, continue east to Luzern for a final night or two before flying home from Zurich. That route would take you to some of the " best of the best" that you can cover in a short time in Switzerland.