Zurich, Lucerne, Basel, Lauterbrunnen 15 days

Hi,
We will be in Switzerland next August/September "08" for 15 days. We love art, modern architecture and nature. Flying in and out of Zurich, all public transportation.
I have some questions and would love opinions.
1) Buy the Swiss rail pass? Basic travel to each location will only cost about $180 but we will be going to a ton of museums, boat rides etc...
2)How to split up the days. Thought to split up nature and city with Lucerne/4 days, Basel 4 days, Lauterbrunnen 4 days and Zurich 3 days, fly home on the 4th day.
3)Moderate price hotel suggestions. I've read a lot on this helpline about the "L" area but not much for the others.
4) clothing suggestions for the weather in city and alps? Don't want to pack a lot of clothes.
Any ideas, comments, suggestions?
Thanks

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

Definitely you should buy the Swiss Pass its a great deal; free entry to most museums and discounts everywhere else. In terms of itinerary, I think you should consider spending most all of your time in the Alps; places like Lauterbrunnen. Luzern is a good place to stay to right after you arrive, in order to get over your jet lag, but two full days is enough. Zurich and Basel are worth a single day each at the most. I would do them as day trips in case of rainy weather. Both are only a two hour train journey from Interlaken. You should also consider visiting the Montreaux/Luscanne area.

Posted by Linda
Sandy Springs, GA, USA
28 posts

If your in Lucerne don't forget Mt. Plateus they have the best ride up and food on top of the Mt.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
1434 posts

Hi,
I kind of agree that 2 full days in Luzern is enough. Maybe stretch it to 3, with a lake cruise, Mt. Pilatus plus we liked the Swiss Transportation Museum also. I'd probably cut at least a day each in Luzern, Basel, Zurich and add days to the Berner Oberland and/or head to Zermatt and the Matterhorn for 2 or 3 days. We spent 4 nights in Wengen (B.O.) and could have stayed longer. It's an amazing area.

Paul

Posted by Beth
Birmingham, Mi
14 posts

Hi all,

Thanks for all the info. I'm rethinking thinking the days in each area.
Do you think staying longer in "BO" and day tripping around is a good idea? Any ideas on where to go? If we do stay longer in "BO" would it be better to stay in Interlaken for ease of train travel?

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

Even though your transportation options are better in Interlaken, in the summer months you better off staying in Lauterbrunnen or one of the other nearby mountain villages. Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken Ost station is only 20 minutes away by train and connections are always coordinated in Switzerland, so when you arrive in Interlaken there will always be an inter-city train waiting; its very time efficient. If you wanted to move around a bit more you can stay overnight in Basel/Zurich and enjoy relaxing day and night in those cities, but four days in each of those cities is excessive. Also, Gruyere makes a good day trip. Another benefit of the Swiss Pass I forgot to mention is that it also covers municipal transit systems; those costs can add up fast with out a pass. If you don't already have it, buy Rick's Switzerland Guidebook his recommendations are right on the money.

Posted by Paul
NYC area
1434 posts

Hi again,
My opinion...Stay "in" the mountains (Wengen, Murren, Lauterbrunnen, etc.), not in Interlaken. With the Jungfrau trip, Schilthorn, all the walks/hikes in the area, you could easily spend more days without leaving the BO. You could of course check into the lakes (Thun and Spiez) for day trips.
I second the idea of getting Rick Steves book. We've used it in the past and were happy with many of his recommendations.

www.thuntourismus.ch/en.html

www.thunersee.ch/en/the-resorts/spiez.html

I'll mention again that Zermatt and the Matterhorn are very worthwhile also, if you're cutting some of the city days.

Paul

Posted by Beth
Birmingham, Mi
14 posts

H again,

Thanks for all the advise. I think spending more time in the BO area with some added day trips sounds good. We will still go to Lucerne as well as Basel/Zurich but for a shorter number of days.
I do have Rick Steves book on Switzerland and Europe through the back door. Though I have not had the time to devour them yet. I'll get on that.

I agree it would be "cooler" to stay up the mountain in the BO area. Any good Medium priced hotel recommendations?

In late Aug early Sept will it be warm (60's-70's) but cold in the mountains?

Thanks
Beth

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Late August to early September it can be anything from pleasant 70 degrees to snowing. But it is likely to be nice most days. Our trips include a bit of city but mostly mountains, and I am able to pack light by taking one long skirt and one nice pair of pants in addition to the more casual hiking clothes for the mountains. For warmth, I have a plain black fleece jacket that is rugged enough for the mountains but dressy enough for the city.

Moderate hotels in the villages---we like Chalet Fontana in Mürren, Hotel Bären in Wengen, and Hotel Rsidence or Alte Post in Grindelwald.

Posted by Donald
Oil City, PA, U.S.A.
27 posts

Hi, If you haven't checked out Rick's book on Switzerland you should. We went for 16 days in summer 06. Rick's book had a 15 day trip listed. we did that trip with a couple small modifications. It was great. What we did is study up on the cities and picked out what we wanted to do there. There are lots of options everywhere. I would definitely get the Swiss rail pass. Between the train, bus, boat and discounts I don't think there was hardly a day that it didn't come in handy. You can pack light but make sure to take something warm. We saw snow several times on mountain tops. Throwing snow balls in July is fun. I took a longe sleve shirt, a flece vest and a wind breaker. This worked out fine but we were not in the cold long. For hotels we either used Rick's expensive or Fromers moderate priced rooms. They were all nice and not far from the train station.

Hope you have a nice trip.

Posted by Amy
Zurich, Switzerland
54 posts

Something to consider also is where you will be on Sundays and what is open. Most businesses throughout Switzerland are closed on Sunday. While Zurich is a great place to live, I think that 2 days in Zurich as a tourist are plenty. I recommend Rick's walking tour. The Kunsthaus museum is great also. Sprungli has the best chocolate in town. Zueghaskeller is a great place for typical Swiss german food. Here are a few websites that I have found to be helpful.

http://www.zuerich.com - Zurich tourism website
http://www.bauschaenzli.ch - beer garden in Rick's book. Great place for a reasonable lunch right on the Lake.

http://www.swissinfo.org - swiss website
http://www.myswitzerland.com - Swiss tourism website

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6726 posts

The Berner Oberland is the place. Interestingly, all trains and access to higher villages, the Jungfrau and the Shilthorn mountain tops is centered out of the Lauterbrunnen train station. But, for the most beautiful impact, it's Murren or Wengen higher up. To get to both sides of the valley and both mountain tops, you will have to train down to Lauterbrunnen for transfer. Still, it's worth it. Note that if you want to go to the two mountain tops, your Swiss pass will only cover 50% of the cost. Full price up to the Jungfraujoch is about $140. It's about $90 to the top of the Shilthorn. We did both and it was well worth it.

Posted by Beth
Birmingham, Mi
14 posts

WOW,
Thanks everyone for all the great information.
Amy, thanks for the local slant. Can you recommend a contemporary hotel in a great location? How about Basel or Lucern? We will day trip to Bern from one of our locations to see some modern architecture. My husband is an Architect so it's a must do and to see some art.
I have read Rick's Switzerland book it's great. Waiting to see the 2008 version.
Donald, we will stay at Rick's high end Frommers med range as well where did you stay? I'm trying to decide where. I think you guys a right about the BO experience. Wengen will most likely be the place.
Lola and Larry thanks for the clothing tips, very helpful. We will be doing both mountains in BO for sure. What about the Glacier and the falls? I'm trying to decide if a day trip down to Montreaux is wroth it.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

Part of what makes a day trip to Montreux so rewarding is the very scenic train ride called the "Golden Pass".
It runs from Luzern, Interlaken and Speiz to Montreux. The highlight is when the train reaches the hills overlooking Montreux and the Lake Geneva, the train winds its way down to the city, the views are spectacular. Once you arrive there is lots to do: the Castle Chillon, a boat ride on the lake, a walk on the lakeside promenade, and a short train ride away is Lausanne with it's official Olympics Museum.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6726 posts

Since you mentioned the word "glacier", the largest in Europe is right out the window of the Jungfraujoch (visitor center near the top of the Jungfrau). For planning, the cog train from Lauterbrunnen takes 2hrs to get to the Jungfraujoch and 2hrs to get back down. It's the highest rail station in Europe. Those crazy Swiss have bored right through the famous Eiger. The Jungfraujoch is huge. The restuarants can seat up to 500 people. Also there is the world famous ice palace. HERE'S A LINK. </ a>

Posted by Beth
Birmingham, Mi
14 posts

Thanks Michael and Larry,

Michael, will take 2-2 1/2 hrs to get to Montreux from Interlaken? Can you do all that you mentioned in a day? Or better to stay over night?

Posted by Beth
Birmingham, Mi
14 posts

Has anyone leased/rented a cell phone for Switzerland use? Mine won't work there. I would like to be able to call within Switzerland as well as back to the USA.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6839 posts

The boats rides on the lake will take up a chunk of time, so it might be best to stay overnight. Hotels are very expensive in Montreux, you will probably find some better deals in Lausanne. On the way back you can take also take the trains to Interlaken from Lausanne, its not as scenic, but it's a little bit faster as the route uses the regular inter-city higher speed trains.

Posted by Donald
Oil City, PA, U.S.A.
27 posts

Hi,

You asked where we stayed on our trip. Below is a list.

Luzern - Hotel des Alpes, Lugano - Hotel San Carlo, Pontresina - Hotel Garni Chesa Mulin, Zermatt - Hotel Antika, Lausanne - Minotel AlaGare, Murren - Hotel Bellevue and Zurich - Hotel Bristol

They all were nice. If we were going back I wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.

Posted by Terry
Rochelle, IL
262 posts

We were in Switzerland last summer. We bought a half price rail pass, available at train stations. The pass was good for a month and worked on boats, most trains, and some bus routes. In addition, they were running special "day passes" for 59 francs....you could go anywhere for a day for the 59 franc. Wife and I went from Montreux to Lugano basically to ride the trains and spend a day in that amazing part of Switzerland. In a nutshell...ask at the train station for special passes and deals. By the way, we have "cruised" Lake Geneva and have really enjoyed just watching the shoreline.
Enjoy your trip.
Terry

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Beth---you don't need to rent or buy a cell phone in Switzerland. The Swisscom phone booths are the best deal around. You can buy a phone card, or just use your VISA card. The display on the phone will show you exactly what you are being charged, and it is accurate (I checked my VISA bill carefully). I was calling to the west coast of the USA. The initial connect charge was, I think, 0.60 CHF; the meter went up slowly and my calls were never more than 2.40 CHF (which then was less than $2.00). It was so inexpensive we even let our teenage daughter use the credit card to call her boyfriend---and you can imagine how long those calls were.

The only disadvantage of the phone booths is that you have to find them. Now that everyone has cell phones, the booths are not as common. But you can always find them at the post office, train station, etc.

Posted by Beth
Birmingham, Mi
14 posts

Thanks Lola ,Terry, Donald and Michael for all the great the information.

This forum has been such a great help in refining our trip.