My husband, our 19 year old son and I took our first trip to Switzerland earlier this month (September, 2022.) We’ve been fortunate to travel in Europe a number of times, but we hadn’t been back since 2019. Our typical European adventure either involves us spending a number of nights at an airbnb and taking day trips from the home base, or cruising. This was our first trip where we moved hotels every few days. Our son coined the term “truising” (cruising by train) midway through our journey.
We live in a small town in northern Michigan and therefore had to take three planes on our journey to Zurich. I was very doubtful that in the summer of terrible airline experiences, we’d actually make it in one day, but American Airlines came through and got us to Zurich as scheduled. Miracle of miracles!
Largely because of the mess airline travel has been this year, and also to make train travel easier, we decided to do carry-on only. After some research, I settled on buying us all Solgaard carry-on closets and Biaggi underseat bags. They both worked well and we all agreed we’d travel carry-on only again.
After arriving in Zurich and clearing customs (very easy,) we stopped by the currency exchange in baggage claim and exchanged some USD for CHFs and headed out the door to the train station across the street. I purchased Swiss Travel Passes (and splurged on first class) for us all before leaving home and everyone had the SBB app on their phone. We were still a little uncertain about which train to take so we went into the well marked SBB info office and asked. The young man was quick to sort us out and told us to take a picture of our route that he had displayed on his iPad. We had to switch trains twice on our trek to St. Moritz and were really glad that we had taken that picture. After this initial experience, the train system was intuitive and easy to use. My husband is still raving about the SBB.
St. Moritz was our first stop on our Swiss adventure. As per their suggestion, we emailed Hotel Hauser about an hour before our arrival and were greeted at the train station by their driver (and the hotel’s very clean and comfortable electric Mercedes van.) It was a five minute drive from the station to the hotel where we were greeted by a friendly, informative receptionist who spoke English and quickly checked us in. She provided us with our free Engadine passes to use area cable cars and funiculars for our length of stay and suggested that after we had a chance to settle in and rest, we stop back for directions to anywhere we’d like to go. Hotel Hauser is a moderately priced family run business and the pride of ownership shows in everything they do. The rooms are simply designed with eco friendly and local materials and are very clean, comfortable and functional. We had a top floor family triple with a balcony with a partial view of the lake and surrounding mountains. We ate both nights at the hotel’s cozy restaurant and enjoyed our meals. The hotel also has a confiserie (loved their chocolates!) and a large outdoor dining patio and bar. The included breakfast was our favorite meal at the hotel…they offered a variety of pastry, meat, cheeses, eggs, fruit, yogurts and the coffees. And the woman who runs the breakfast service is a real gem…friendly, efficient and warm. Reception was very helpful in providing us directions to the lake escalator and the Piz Nair funicular/cable cars. Also, the COOP grocery store is just down the street and a great alternative to restaurants (everywhere in Switzerland) for a quick lunch or snack. My family enjoyed our two nights at Hotel Hauser, would stay there again and are very happy to highly recommend them for your stay in St. Moritz.
During our one full day in St. Moritz, we hiked around the lake (beautiful views, easy hike) and took the funicular and two cable cars up to Piz Nair. We had planned to hike at least part of the way down, but it started to drizzle, so we cut our losses and took the transportation back to St. Moritz. We feasted back in our room on bread, cheese, meats, wine and chocolate that we picked up at COOP while we waited out the rain for the afternoon.
Next up, we boarded the Glacier Express for our first class trip to Zermatt. It was a nice experience…we’re all glad we did it, but we all agreed that we wouldn’t do it again or even necessarily recommend it. We traveled on a beautiful day and by the 4th or 5th hour we were ready to be off the train and out exploring. Switzerland is beautiful and this beauty is certainly highlighted on the train, but we would have preferred to spend more time hiking than simply sitting and viewing. The train cars are gorgeous and everyone works hard to provide nice service, but honestly, we found the same on most of the regular trains, as well.
We arrived in Zermatt from St. Moritz in the early evening. Hotel Pollux is a short walk from the main train station (turn right when you exit the station and walk down the main street about 3 minutes, the hotel will be on your right.) We were greeted by a friendly receptionist who took our information and promptly handed us our key and free welcome drink coupons! We had a family room which had two sleeping areas (one a bunk room) two bathrooms and a streetside balcony. The room was spotlessly clean…the decor rustic modern ski chalet. In the evening, one of our two tvs displayed a crackling fire which was a nice touch. There were robes and slippers available for our use, a small fridge, a bowl of chocolates and plenty of storage. Perfect for our two night stay. Also, in the hallway outside our room there was an open skylight with a ladder…we checked it out and it offered a view of the Matterhorn. Fun! We also had them do a bag of laundry for us. Dropped it at the front desk in the morning and it was delivered washed and folded that evening for 25chf. We were happy with the service. Breakfast was included in our rate and it was fine…freshly squeezed oj, coffee, mimosa, cereal, breads, yogurt and fruit. We ate dinner onsite at Pinte one night and it was lovely. We enjoyed a cozy corner booth and had a fondue feast paired with a lovely Swiss wine. Our server was very friendly and knowledgeable…we really enjoyed the experience. Zermatt itself is a charming walkable lively village with lots to offer…a trip to Gornergrat on a sunny day should be top of your list. If, like us, you’re looking for a convenient well priced clean hotel with loads of charm, I highly recommend you give Hotel Pollux a try.
Gorgenat is a must do experience, especially if you get a sunny blue sky day. The train ride departs from a station across the street from the main train station and offers spectacular views of Zermatt and the Matterhorn and when you reach the top…wowza! The views! The glacier! Just breathtaking. We did the relatively easy hike to Riffelsee and Riffelburg for more stunning views of the Matterhorn, before catching the train back to town. There are a few peak passes available in Zermatt, but we chose not to purchase one. Our Swiss Travel Pass did provide us with a discount.
We also did the funicular to Sunegga and the cable car to blauherd for the Five Lakes Trail hike. Stellissee was pretty, but we definitely preferred our Riffelsee hike.
Also, there’s a lot of debate about where you get the “best” view of the Matterhorn. For us, the best view was the easiest one to reach. We simply walked down the main street…near the center of town, turn left at the church and walk to the bridge. There are several benches and we sat on one and watched the sunset one evening and it was perfect.
Next stop was Wengen and we arrived by train around noon. We walked the mostly downhill 10 minutes to Hotel Baren on our own, but I believe the Hotel will pick you up if requested. We were greeted by a friendly staff member and very pleased to discover that our room was ready...we grabbed our keys and settled in early. We booked a Brilliant Family Room with a mountain view for our three night stay and we were not disappointed. The room is really two rooms, two bathrooms and a balcony on the top floor of the hotel. It was very bright, quiet and clean and filled with fun touches like a little stuffed bear holding gummy bears and chocolate bars for us to enjoy. The ceilings slope, so beware if (like my husband) you are tall…he bumped his head more than a few times. But sloping ceilings aside, we’d book here again in a heartbeat. Breakfast was included and lovely…freshly squeezed juice and mimosa, coffee, pastry, yogurt, granola, fruit, eggs, bacon and cereal were available each morning. We also enjoyed dinner at the hotel one evening. The setting, service and meal were all impeccable…definitely worth the splurge (and I’d consider including half board if we were in Wengen, again.) Wengen itself is a great spot to explore the Berner Oberland. We took the cable car to Mannlichen and hiked the Panorama Trail, the Jungfraubahn to Jungfraujoch (and hiked part of the way back to Wengen) and we hiked in Lauterbrunnen to Trummelbach Falls and we trained over to Grindelwald and took a cable car up to Pfingstegg to enjoy their alpine toboggans during our visit. We even were fortunate to be there the day the farmer’s marched through town with their cows taking them from the mountains to the valley for the winter. If you’re looking for a well priced, comfortable, clean and charming hotel in Wengen, I highly recommend that you try Hotel Baren.
And finally, we arrived in Zurich from Wengen by train. It was about a 12 minute walk from the main train station, across the river to the heart of old town and Hotel Adler. We were greeted by a friendly receptionist who quickly checked us in and gave us each a toblerone and bottle of water…great way to start our stay! We were booked in the Grand Family Room (the St. Peters Suite) on the top floor of the hotel. It was a large clean well designed room with three sky lights, plenty of storage and a well appointed bathroom. Every room at Hotel Adler has its own mural which depicts a place in Zurich...a really unique touch, especially for a mid priced hotel. Breakfast was included with our room and was plentiful…eggs, pastry, coffee, juice and cereal. We booked a table (a must to get a reservation…there were lines out the door both days of our stay) at the hotel’s “famous” fondue restaurant (Swiss Chuchi) for one night of our stay and we were not disappointed (bonus: hotel guests who book directly get 10% off dinner) We were seated in a corner booth of the rustic wood paneled restaurant and had a friendly, knowledgeable server. My son and I enjoyed the fondue and a bottle of Swiss wine while my husband ordered the raclette and a Swiss beer. We all loved our meals, but my husband LOVED his meal and is still raving a week plus later. We were in Zurich two nights at the end of our 10 day vacation and enjoyed a visit to the Swiss National Museum, the Fraumunster Church and just wandering around the charming walkable city. I recommend a stop at Confiserie Sprungli for their truffles and cookies…delish! If you’re looking for a charming, convenient, clean moderately priced accommodation with a fantastic fondue restaurant, I highly recommend Hotel Adler. I won’t hesitate to book it again for future stays in Zurich.
We again had three flights on American Airlines for our flight home and again were fortunate that everything went smoothly. Even customs when we landed in Philadelphia was painless!
Switzerland was a wonderful surprise for all three of us. I admit that planning the trip was a little overwhelming at times, but thanks to people on this forum and a few other online resources, it all came together. All four hotels were exactly as promised…the Swiss rail system is amazing and our travel pass (I know, I know!) made getting around very easy for first timers. The views are beyond what we imagined beforehand, and the warm people and delicious food and drink were the cherry on top. We feel like we got a good sample of what a Swiss holiday can offer and we are hooked. We spent our final evening in Zurich beginning to plan our next trip (sadly not until December 2023.) Thanks for reading my recap and for helping me plan my holiday…both are much appreciated!