Itinerary advice for 2 first time Aussies

Itinerary advice for 2 first time Aussies

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robinson
robinson
4 posts
new member
Sep 23, 2015 - 11:13 PM

Hi - my husband and I are travelling to Europe for the first time and have chosen Switzerland as our dream destination. We arrive in Zurich (late) on the 27th November and need to be in Venice by the 6 December. We are not skiers - just love to discover the towns and wonderful scenery. I was so disappointed to see that the Glacier Express does not run during this time - we will just have to come back. I would appreciate your advice on my draft itinerary.

27-29 Nov - Zurich

29-30 Nov Bern

30-2 Dec - Lucerne

2-4 Dec- Interlaken

4-5 - Montreux

5 Dec - travel from Montreux to Venice

From reading your forum it seems to be best for us to travel by train by using a Swiss Pass. I understand that the weather may not always be good but knowing there are so many little places to visit from each of the above cities by train and continuing to investigate and read the forums I hope to build up the intinerary further.

Many thanks

Lyn

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2655 posts
expert
Sep 23, 2015 - 11:50 PM in reply to robinson

<<" I was so disappointed to see that the Glacier Express does not run during this time - we will just have to come back.">>

G'day Lyn -

Nice to see you in the forum.

Re: Glacier Express -You can travel the same route on regular trains. The timetable, plus a map. will help you understand the route. The sights will be quite visible from the regular cars.

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

map.classic.search.ch/

Time at Interlaken will be better spent further south in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, although in early December, a lot of hotels and other services are shut down for maintenance or vacation before the winter season starts in late December. You already saw that regarding the Glacier Express. Spend some time with the timetable for "ski" lifts. Regular trains will run.

For Dec 2-4, I'd look at Wengen and Grindelwald, or Mürren. Interlaken by itself is not much of a destination.

For Zürich - how jet-lagged will you be?

Slowpoke

robinson
robinson
4 posts
new member
Sep 24, 2015 - 12:55 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Thanks so much for the quick reply. In relation to Zurich, we are flying in from Cyprus on the 27th November (plane departs at 10.50 and arrives 6.15 pm in Zurich) so recognise that is a wasted day. Thank you for the tip on the Glacier Express routes - I will have a look at that. I wasn't sure if 2 days in Interlaken might be too long - my thoughts were around having one day to do a Jungfraujoch tour depending of course on the weather. I keep trying to focus on not trying to see everything and actually not seeing anything but there is just so much to see!! I would have loved to see Zermatt and Geneva looks amazing but I thought if I just aimed for pretty much straight down the middle, we would be taking in some great sights. I've only just added Bern to the itinerary - my initial thought was 3 days in Lucerne but I've read some wonderful things about Bern that I thought it should be part of the trip. Any must do's you can suggest would be so appreciated.

Many thanks again

Lyn

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2655 posts
expert
Sep 24, 2015 - 8:03 AM in reply to robinson

<<"I wasn't sure if 2 days in Interlaken might be too long - my thoughts were around having one day to do a Jungfraujoch tour depending of courseon the weather. I keep trying to focus on not trying to see everything and actually not seeing anything but there is just so much to see!!">>

I can see that you have been planning carefully and thoughtfully. You have a sound approach and a good start. You are right about leaving time to allow for weather conditions at the Jungfrau.

If i were doing it, I would stay further in the valley, as noted before.

Here is something to consider. Bern is a short train ride from Luzern. Exactly one hour if you take the trains that run at xx00. An hour and 21 to 27 minutes if you take slower trains at xx04, 0034 or 0036 ( the latter is a local.)

Bern to Zürich is 56 minutes twice an hour at xx02 and xx32 plus others.

Zürich to Luzern is 46 minutes to one hour.

Bern to Interlaken Ost is 53 to 54 minutes.

Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen is 21 minutes + further time to Wengen or Mürren; Interlaken to Grindelwald is 35 minutes .

Luzern to Interlaken is one hour 50 minutes.

Thus, for me an alternate progression would be Zürich to Luzern to Bern to Interlaken to Montreux. And, with those relatively short train rides, you could visit Bern from one of the other cities, and/or Luzern from Zürich Time lost on the enjoyable train rides would be partly made up by avoiding the time consumed in checking in and out of hotels.

For me there is no single optimum among those choices. Depends onyou, but there is at least a possibility to reduce the number ofdifferent hotels.

You can also consider Zürich Flughafen to be your airport for Luzern. Twice per hour - 1 hour two minutes direct; or one hour 12 minutes change in Zürich HB. The change is not too bad -you get of at track 16 and board at track 5, both on the main track level. There is a "mid-track" tunnel, so you don't have to trek all the way to the railhead. Here is a map from the SBB website.

www.sbb.ch/content/dam /infrastruktur/trafima ge/bahnhofplaene/plan-zuerich-hb-a4.pdf

www.sbb.ch/content/dam /infrastruktur/trafima ge/bahnhofplaene/plan-zuerich-hb-a4.pdf Luggagecarts are free (but you need a 2 CHF coin or a Euro coin (forget thedenomination) to free the cart from the queue which is returned when youfinish and plug the cart back into another queue or rack. Luggagecarts go up and down escalators.

My own "short tour of Bern" leaves out a lot, but consists of a half day walking from the main station to the Rosegarden via the arcaded old city, including a digression out onto the bridge by the casino for a nice view, return to the old city past the bear pits and a meal at some nearby good places to eat and then return to the main station. The Rosegarden is not very pretty in December, but the views over the city are wonderful. A cafe, of course.

If you don't feel like walking back there are frquent buses from in front of the Brasserie Bärengraben

www.brasseriebaerengra ben.ch/.

Very good menu, not cheap.

Another good place to eat, with easier acess to a table at crowded times is the old Tram Depotrestaurant across the street from the Brasserie.

www.bern.com/en/city-of-bern/dining/restaurant s/altes-tramdepot

Or there are buses with one change of bus from the back side of the Rosegarden. Tourist info in the main station (upper level) can help.

Montreux is a lovely city with a nice site on the lake and some beautiful nearby excursions. If it were earlier in the year I woud drop Montreux and spend the time hiking near the Jungfrau. However. many people would disagree, because Montreux is an excellent destination. So, that is just my liking for the Alps showing up. ;-) By December, hiking around the Jungfrau gets pretty cold, some trails and lifts are closed, and sunset is early. Montreux has a warmer setting on the lake and makes good sense.

Annika
Annika
4417 posts
expert &
moderator
Sep 24, 2015 - 8:11 AM

I second Slowpoke's suggestion to visit Bern from one of the other towns. You're more flexible if staying in less places: you can visit Bern on a bad weather day and head into the mountains on sunny days.

The Swiss Pass is now called Swiss Travel Pass (see here). With the amount of traveling you have in mind it's a good idea to buy one. Details like what's included and the best resellers can be found on myswissalps.com/ swisstravelpass.

All about the Glacier Express route can be found here: myswissalps.com/ glacierexpress.

robinson
robinson
4 posts
new member
Sep 27, 2015 - 11:48 PM in reply to Annika

Thank you both for your advice. Ok - here is itinerary number 25!

27th November - arrive Zurich at 6.15pm

28th November - Zurich to Chur

29th - Chur - do the Bernina Express trip (returning to Chur that evening)

30th November - Lucerne for 3 days

3 December - Lucerne to Montreux

4 December Montreux

5 December - Montreux to Venice

My concerns are if the weather is bad I am planning literally two days around the Bernina Express trip and to do this I have completely dropped Interlaken. I have looked at the Swiss Pass - cost is $588.00 (aus) for two passengers - 2nd class. I am assuming I will use these 3 days by the trip from Zurich to Chur, the Bernina Express trip (return) and the train from Chur to Lucerne - would that be correct. I will then need to purchase another Swiss Pass in Lucerne.

My thoughts around doing the Bernina Express trip is that if I never got back to Switzerland, would I regret not doing it - the problem is I might be missing the Jungfrau region.

Any advice would be appreciated.

thank you Lyn

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2655 posts
expert
Sep 28, 2015 - 12:21 AM in reply to robinson

Lyn- without in any way discounting the spectacular rail experience of the Bernina Express, I, personally would choose the Jungfrau region.

A s you know, personal opinions are truly personal. I recall that Arno (or maybe Annnika) are fans of the Bernina route. They have good reasons for that.

The limitation of low season services does reduce the appeal of the Jungfrau region, but I feel that there is more opportunity to get off the train and experience severaln aspects of the Alpine environment.

I am a rail fan, of a low key sort, and have appreciated the various parts of the Bernina Express route while traveling them more than once. In the BO, the cograil to Kleine Scheidegg is also spectacular, but not in the same league as the Bernina Express route. But, the Berner Oberland overall is in a class by itself and at the top of the world (so to speak.).

My thought is...if you never get back to Switzerland, would you regret not seeing the Jungfrau?

;-)

Too much to see and not enough time....;-(

Slowpoke

Last modified on Sep 28, 2015 - 12:23 AM by Slowpoke
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Sep 28, 2015 - 5:28 AM in reply to robinson

Hi Lyn, We are two seniors in Perth. Have just returned from 3 weeks touring Switzerland. We had 1/2 fare cards on the railways, and they were great. Our favourite places were Lauterbrunnen, Lucerne (Mt Rigi day trip by boat and train). Montreux was great, did a side trip to Broc and Gruyeres. The trains run like clockwork are clean and you won't be cold on them. We started in Milan, took a train to Tirano and then a regional express over the Bernina Express route to St Moritz it was stunning. All the train journeys were scenic. We went by train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen cable car to Mannlichen and walked the trail to Kliene Scheidigg then came down by train back to Lauterbrunnen, absolutely fantastic. The trains run so frequently that you don't have to worry about missing them, you can have a coffee and catch the next one, The tickets are dated but not time specific.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2655 posts
expert
Sep 28, 2015 - 7:09 AM in reply to Removed user

Hi Travlebug-

<<"We went by train from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen cable car to Mannlichen and walked the trail to Kliene Scheidigg then came down by train back toLauterbrunnen, absolutely fantastic.">>

I could not agree more. That walk is high on the list of special scenic walks in Switzerland, and is not difficult.

Unfortunately, the cable car from Wengen to Männlichen will not be running while Lyn is there.

I checked 11-27 and 12-5.

The correct stations are "Wengenboden" and "Männlichen LWM."

I checked the alternative - the lifts up from Grindelwald Grund to Männlichen GGM.

They are not running either on those dates.

And, there is a reasonable chance that the trail would be closed by snow at that time of year. If it is open, one can take the cograil train to Kleine Scheidegg and walk the mildly uphill walk to Männlichen. (1 1/2 to 2 hours). Once there, the restaurant is likely closed, so (if true) all you can do that is easy is walk back the way you came (1 ad 1/2 hours) That is the best direction, any way, because the Eiger towers over you more and more as you approach Kleine Scheidegg.

Those lifts will open sometime later in December for the winter season.

I note that you mention the Bernina Route from Tirano only as far as St. Moritz. That is certainly a spectacular ride, and all the more impressive because it is all gravity traction. No cograils, in spite of the grades.

How did you proceed from St. Moritz?

Slowpoke

Last modified on Sep 28, 2015 - 7:10 AM by Slowpoke
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Sep 28, 2015 - 8:08 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Hi Slowpoke, We actually stayed in Celerina, then train to Lucerne, went to Mt Rigi for a day trip, from there to Lauterbrunnen for a few days, then to Kandersteig and walked to Oeschinensee, went for a day trip to Speiz, then on to Zermatt, (our only wet and snowy weather there) then to Montreux which was delightful and the last two days in Geneva. Transport throughout was a dream! We had free local transport passes in Celerina, Montreux and Geneva which we made good use of. The B & B's and two/three star hotels were all spotless and comfortable. Could recommend them to anyone!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2655 posts
expert
Sep 28, 2015 - 2:03 PM in reply to Removed user

<<"went for a day trip to Speiz">>

I always pass through Spiez and have never explored. What did you see?

"<<then on to Zermatt, (our only wet and snowy weather there)">>

Every fall when I am looking at plans for a trip, I forget that you can get snow in September at the higher elevations.

<<" The B & B's and two/three star hotels were all spotless and comfortable. Could recommend them to anyone!">>

That is my standard as well. Higher stars mean more amenities, (such as a swimming pool) not necessarily more comfortable. If you find a place that is not clean, at any star rating, it is a shock and a surprise. Happened to me once in 1993. ;-)

However, I usually choose inns rather than B&B's. After a few years I have found several inns with good kitchens that do not have high prices. Then, if I choose to have some wine with dinner, I don't have to worry about transportation afterward. Standards for blood alcohol levels are very strict for drivers. Of course using public transport helps with that. But, out in the countryside, where I try to stay, the public transport can thin out to once per hour or so after 8 PM, unless you are directly on a train line. In fact, many inns are restaurants which just have a few rooms as a sideline for people who want to stay over after a meal. Some have excellent wine cellars, too.

Your itinerary seems like an excellent one. You really picked a nice way to come in from Italy. Personally, I prefer the Gotthard pass route, but I tend to by pass the St. Moritz area. Been there. ;-)

Did you walk all the way up to Oeschinensee, or take the lift?

Slowpoke

Last modified on Sep 28, 2015 - 2:05 PM by Slowpoke
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Sep 29, 2015 - 4:54 AM in reply to Slowpoke

We went up by cablecar to Oeschinensee as we had done a lot of walking the day before, but it was a nice easy walk when we got up there. In Spiez we went for a walk along the lake, and played a few games of table tennis at the area by the swimming pool. It was good to find TT tables in the parks in Kandersteg and Lucerne too. You have to keep fit to get old!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2655 posts
expert
Sep 29, 2015 - 2:59 PM in reply to robinson

Lyn - I did little more checking on the Wengen to Männlichen cable car discussed by Travlbug.

I have a copy of the paper timetable book (das Kursbuch) and looked in it.

All the information for each lift is in one place for all dates.

It is closed from October 19th until December 13th. It is then open from Dec 14th onward to Apr 6. Ski season.HOWEVER - It may beopen for some kind of limited service on 14/15 November, 21-22November, 28/29 November, 5/6 December, and 12 December.I do not completely understand those entries in the "Kursbuch" and they would require further checking. They have an asterisk and I can't find out what the asterisk means.

[Added in edit - Ooops - I just found the fine print. Those dates have service only if there are "favorable snow conditions."]

Bring your skis. ;-(

The online timetable says no service on December 5th, just to confuse things.

Perhaps Arno has more detailed knowledge....or knows how to get it. That is what I can find so far..

Even if the lift is running, I suspect that the trail to Kleine Scheidegg discussed with Travlbug will be closed due to snow. I'd be surprised if it were open. Don't know about the restaurant.

Up to date information on that is posted near the most of region's train stations on a big signboard indicating trail status and is available from the clerks at ticket counters.

The cograil will be running.Slowpoke.

Last modified on Sep 29, 2015 - 3:11 PM by Slowpoke
robinson
robinson
4 posts
new member
Sep 29, 2015 - 11:17 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Thanks so much Slowpoke and Travlbug for all of your information. I have just gone onto the Rail Europe site to look at the cost/seating/time of the Bernina Express train on the 28th November and there is an issue - either more than two connections or no availability. That's probably made my mind up to drop the trip to Chur and just go from Zurich to Lucerne and then onto................the smaller towns as you suggested Slowpoke around Interlaken look amazing and also Lauterbrunnen (what a picture!) but here is my concern. I understand that the time of year we are travelling, it gets dark quite early (4pm in the afternoon?) - we have always liked to go out and wander around so if everything in the smaller villages close down, I'm not sure I want to sit in a hotel room for the evening. That's probably why I thought Interlaken might be a better option - a bit bigger and we can travel out from there. I'm grabbing my map to work out where all of these towns are - going from your information above Slowpoke, does that mean we can't do the trip to the top of the mountain? And lastly here's the stupidest question on the forum I'm sure ..............Switzerland is the last leg of a trip where we start in Rome, do a Mediterranean cruise, visit my brother who has been working in Cyprus this year and then fly on to Zurich. We have never experienced snow (Travlbug will understand when I say I am born and bred in Brisbane) and I am looking at the temperatures!! We will only be packing joggers/sneakers/walking type shoes but nothing like hiking boots - will they be sufficient?

Thanks again - your advice is invaluable

Lyn

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2655 posts
expert
Sep 29, 2015 - 11:33 PM in reply to robinson

Lynn -

Read your comments but have not digested them all.

However, your comment about seat availabilty caught my eye.

Usually you can take the same routes as the named trains, without reserrvations inside Switzerland.

Unless you have a tonne (or ton) of luggage to manhandle, connections are not a problem. The Swiss manage them well.

More tomorrow, after I have digested your message.

Arno and Annika will have chance to comment before I get back on line. ;-)

Slowpoke

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2655 posts
expert
Sep 29, 2015 - 11:37 PM in reply to robinson

<<"does that mean we can't do the trip to the top of the mountain? ">>

No way! The cograils run all year, as noted before. No problem.

Slowpoke

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Sep 30, 2015 - 1:56 AM in reply to robinson

Hi Lyn, Your itinerary is going to make packing difficult with a cruise and touring. It will be cold! and possibly snowy and wet. Joggers will not be enough, if your feet are cold the rest of you will be too. Even in September, on some days we wore polar fleece, below hip length Goretex jackets, lined leather gloves, and good thermal socks and underwear. The Goretex jackets breathe and keep out the wind, so you can wear layers underneath them and be warm. Target stores have thermal long johns which are easy to wash and dry, but be quick they will be off the shelves for summer soon.

Look at the SBB web site and price all your train journeys. Do the maths! cost of journey plus the 5 or 8 day rail pass. Then cost the journeys using the half price card plus the $120 for that card. We found that the half price card worked out cheaper. It's virtually two for the price of one.

Food will be your biggest expense in Switzerland....eating out is at least double the price in Oz. We ate good hotel breakfasts, and sometimes had lunch at Migros Supermarket restaurants where the hot food you select is weighed and you pay accordingly. It's a bit like IKEA but tasty hot food. The Swiss Dept Store "Manor" also have a hot food hall too.

Re the trains! we didn't book any seats, travelled 2nd Class, always had plenty of room, lots of trains are just roll aboard with luggage. You will enjoy the journeys as much as the towns and cities. I don't think you will find much night life in places like Lauterbrunnen in Dec. but you will be so tired after your walks you won't miss the night life!

Arno
Arno
7718 posts
expert &
moderator
Sep 30, 2015 - 8:27 AM in reply to robinson

Hi Lynn,

I'd recommend not to use a Rail Europe site to check train schedules. They're good at tickets and passes, but not (yet?) at timetables. Just use the Swiss timetable. Once you know which exact train to take, then go to a Rail Europe site (www.raileurope.com.au in your case) and look for that specific train to book seats. If Rail Europe runs out of seats, you can also try the other websites listed on the reservation page, like www.acprail.com/train-reservations. I'm sure it should be possible to get a seat for November 28.

The Bernina Express runs as normal on November 28. There's a direct train from Chur to Tirano, departing 8:32 AM. In the opposite direction it departs 2:26 PM. There are many more options, but they require one or two changes, and seat reservations are not required.

I hope this helps!

Last modified on Sep 30, 2015 - 8:29 AM by Arno
Slowpoke
Slowpoke
2655 posts
expert
Oct 1, 2015 - 11:48 PM in reply to robinson

Lyn -

I have spent quite bit of time recently looking at what is running in the Jungfrau region and what is not while you are in Switzerland.

I now feel that I must temper my enthusiasm for the region a bit at the time that you might be there, because so much is closed until mid December , the beginning of ski season. I was seriously looking into a visit there on December 5-6-7 and have decided to choose another time. A lot of what I like will not be accessible.

The cograil will be running, and you can definitely go up the Jungfrau to Jungfraujoch. The Lauterbrunnen Valley will be walkable (or bus). You can get to Wengen, Grindelwald, Mürren.

Those villages are not so pretty in early December, as what you might have seen on the internet, unless you happen to have sparklingly clear day. And, a lot of hotels (not all) are closed.

It appears the the series of cable cars from Mürren or Stechelbergh to Schilthorn will not be running.

It will be cold.

If you do try any of the trails, you should have leather shoes (or boots) with lugged soles. Travlbug has explained that. (personally, I always take my hiking boots when I go to Switzerland, even if I am hiking in the Mitteland).

Finally, when you do come back to Switzerland the next time, with a better idea of weather conditions, it will be easier to get to the Jungfrau region from Zürich or Geneva than to access the Bernina route.

So, I still recommend the Jungfrau region, but have switched my preference to the Bernina Route. Especially since Arno has explained how to pick your train routes. ;-)

Slowpoke

Last modified on Oct 1, 2015 - 11:49 PM by Slowpoke

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