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Our Magical Trip to Switzerland

My husband and I traveled to Switzerland in October and spent 3 amazing weeks touring this fabulous country. We went in October because it’s not as busy and the weather was excellent. We traveled by train (the Swiss Rail Pass) and I highly recommend it, however learn their system first and once you do it is very easy.

Zurich our first stop which we used as a way to acclimate the higher altitude - I highly recommend. Zurich is rich in culture and a great place to explore. I would recommend staying at the Hotel Bristol (a Rick Steve’s recommendation) it is close to everything including the train station. Great breakfast but the rooms are small as are most in Switzerland. For a good fondue eat at Adlers Swiss Church Restaurant and for good sausage and beer try the Zeughausteller but get reservations first, it is very popular.

Next, we took the train to Pontresina in the Upper Engadine area (southwest Switzerland). We stayed at Hotel Muller a nice quiet hotel with a great breakfast. In beautiful Pontresina we hiked Muottas Muragl which is a nice easy and beautiful hike high in the mountains and had lunch on St. Moritz which I recommend. This area is a bit more touristy but the hiking is great.

Next stop was Menaggio, Italy on Lake Como. We took a train and then a ferry to this quiet little village. We just loved this side trip to Italy and stayed a couple of days. One of our favorite restaurants of the trip was Osteria il Pozzo a small very authentic Italian place with wonderful food.

From Menaggio we took the train to Zermatt home of the Matterhorn. This was our longest day changing trains several times but the scenery was unforgettable. I highly recommend staying at the Brunnmatt Holiday Apartments. We had a large apartment with a balcony that looked out over the Matterhorn. The cost was no higher than staying at a hotel. Zermatt is a bit touristy but not crowded and the hiking and beauty of the alps was well worth the time we spent there. .

Zermatt to Lausanne another beautiful train ride. A fun city with lots of places to walk along Lake Geneva. We stayed at another Rick Steve’s recommendation the Hotel Elite. A nice room with a balcony that looked out over Lake Geneva. We took a boat ride on Lake Geneva to the Chateau de Chillon which was worth the trip along the shores of Lake Geneva. Our choice of restaurant was another Rick Steve’s choices Café du Vieil-Ouchy quaint and excellent food.

From Lausanne we took the Golden Pass Scenic Rail to Interlaken. We stayed at Hotel Edelweiss in Wegen which is up the mountain via train/cogwheel, no cars allowed! A wonderful little village with our room looking out over the alps. Wegen was probably our favorite place because it is in the Berner Oberland region and the charm of this majestic area is unbeatable. We did a lot of easy hiking and spent a wonderful day taking the cable car from Lauterbrunnen up to Murren where we ate lunch looking out over the alps and then a walk to Gimmelwald past cows with bells and beautiful green hills with mountains in the background. It was magical. This is an area I recommend spending more than 3 days which we did and we still didn’t get enough of this place.

From Wegen we went to Luzern where we spent a couple days but could probably spend more time exploring this charming city. Great place to walk, take a boat ride, eat and drink beer.

Our last stop was Basel and we fell in love with this old but interesting city that has much to offer. We spent one day at the ATP Men’s Professional Tennis Tournament but we also found it to be a fun city to explore our last few days in Switzerland. We stayed at Hotel Spalentor right next to the entrance of Old Town another excellent hotel.

There is so much to love about Switzerland and it's magical beauty, it's yummy chocolate and cheese, good wine and beer and wonderful people. I could easily write another page full about this amazing country.

Posted by
48 posts

Well we didn't. I bought the passes on line through their website. Thinking I knew how to use them but didn't when we arrived in Zurich we the Tourist InformationOffice and then to the SSB Ticket office to figure out how to use the passes which you can only use through your mobile phone. By the time we went to Zermatt we had finally figured it out on our own and it was easy to do. I'd suggest if you buy them on-line you can ask questions via their website. Other wise once you get to Switzerland go to the SSB Ticket Office which most cities/towns have and purchase your passes there. I highly recommend the Swiss Rail Pass. Rick Steve's Switzerland Travel book has information in it about the SRP.

Posted by
78 posts

Sounds like you had a great trip! We recently spent 2+ weeks in Switzerland extensively using the rail system hitting several of the places you enjoyed. It was fabulous! Totally agree with you about Wengen. We spent a week based there

The rail system is awesome and the SBB mobile app is very well done. I suggest downloading it prior to your trip, setting up your account and profile - adding what travel cards you have, co passengers and their travel cards etc. You can then start looking at the routes you plan to take to see the schedules/changes etc. You can plan and save a journey without doing anything about buying tickets. Once the journey starts you will see the kind of messages the app sends you about when/were to depart, when you are arriving at a station and what platform your next train will leave from. For many stations you can even pull up a map of the station where you can see how you need to get from one platform to another. It’s a great way to be comfortable using the app prior to you actually start using it. We had the half fare card so we had to buy tickets for all our routes.. I assume with the Swiss Rail Pass - you just get on whatever train you want and then show your pass if requested. You only buy tickets (usually discounted) for routes that are not fully covered - such as some cable cars/trains in the Berner Oberland region.

Posted by
4440 posts

Jsletten, did you have STP ( Swiss Travel Pass) or the Half-Fare card? We usually buy STP in advance, so we have both an electronic and paper copy. I agree, the Swiss rail system is a model of efficiency and is so user-friendly.
Glad you enjoyed my favorite country in Europe, and discovered Pontresina, which many folks don't know much about.
Thanks for sharing, and safe future travels!

Posted by
48 posts

Both Kim and Pat are absolutely right about the Swiss Rail. My mistake was that I didn't register once I got the tickets on line. Pat gave a great overview on using the Swiss Rail Passes. We had the full pass and were able to use it for cable cars, trams, buses etc.

Pontresina was outrageously beautiful. I would most definitely go there again and do more hiking.

Posted by
381 posts

Thanks for the trip report! I will be in Basel and Zurich in a few weeks. We stayed at the Hotel Bristol in 2014, and I am staying there again when I go. I'm glad to hear it's still good. I looked at other places and compared prices and it is a great value and great location. I am staying in an Air BnB in Basel.

I'm not buying a travel pass, but I used The Man in Seat 61 (seat61.com) to do some reading about taking the train from Basel to Colmar. His website is a fantastic resource for all thing train.

Posted by
48 posts

Enjoy your trip to Basel Kayla. We spent most of our time in Old Town. We did a lot of walking and took a boat ride. Fun city. Just a couple of places I'll mention if you are in Old Town.

We really enjoyed this restaurant - it is a pub but the food was so good and it was nothing fancy but the people were so nice.
Restaurant Fischerstube
www.restaurant-fischerstube.ch

This was another place right in Old Town that we like and again a pub like atmosphere but the food and people were really good.
Gifthuttli
https://gifthuettli.ch

If you like to pick up locally made items this store was right inside Old Town if entering by the Old Town Tower. They had some very nice and fun items all from people who are local. A very interesting store.
https://www.fachl.at/en-gb/Stores/Switzerland/s-Fachl-Basel

Posted by
381 posts

Thank you for the recs, jsletten! That shop looks like a great place for gifts to bring home.