As a thank you to MySwissAlps forum, I wanted to write a trip report that would enlighten and possibly address the very questions I used to ask….
Overview: Our trip to Switzerland began on September 12 and ended on September 26. After much handwringing and over thinking everything, this is how I organized our trip. We stayed in three different locations which I nicknamed our “base camps.”
We bought a 15-day Swiss Travel Pass (SP).
5 nights in Luzern
5 nights in Wengen
3 nights in Lausanne
Getting There: My husband and I (both 61) left Houston on British Airways on September 12 to Zurich, via Heathrow. We paid extra for “premium economy” primarily so we could pick our seats in advance on the big 787 (Dreamliner). While the seats were better than Economy, they had sub-par food and the USB ports never worked (in either direction). Nice staff. Seat Tip: do not sit in row 17 because you are over the engines, and it is warm, and you cannot control the air. Unfortunately, we had a 5-hour layover (announced last minute) at Heathrow before getting our flight to Zurich. Getting through Zurich was easy and as suggested by forum, we immediately got on the train to Luzern. Train tip: Definitely buy your Swiss Pass in advance and add to your I-Phone Wallet. I also kept two copies in our luggage.
Hotel: Cascadia Boutique Hotel (7 min walk max from Luzern train station). This was a GREAT hotel. Our room was quiet and large. Room Tip: All rooms named after a waterfall. Choose Pochtenfall (412) if you have a chance. Coffee machine in the room! Have dinner in their restaurant Bolero at least once. Breakfast is great but 30 CHF. The commercial coffee machines at the hotels were amazing!!!
1st full day: Walked to the boat dock (right in front of the train station) and went to Vitznau to visit Mt. Rigi. Took the train up to Rigi Kulm. We had planned to walk all the way down to Weggis, but a lovely Swiss lady overheard us and talked us out of it. Turns out she was right. The weather turned at 2 p.m. as she said so we took the cable car down to Weggis. We boarded the boat again and continued to Fluelen. It was a lovely trip. Took train from Fluelen back to Luzern. SP covered it all.
Dinner was at Mr. Pickwick’s Pub, a great location across from the Kapellbrücke Bridge. The fish and chips were amazing, as was the view. The weather turned out very nice for an evening stroll.
2nd Day: As suggested on this site, we used the weather app extensively. Unfortunately, the weather was not good for any of the mountain tops near Luzern, so we went in search of sun. Using the Swiss timetable app, we decided to hop on a train and head to Lugano. It is a beautiful Riviera-inspired town. It was much warmer than we expected but skies were a beautiful blue. Took the boat to Cassarate and then rode the Monte Bré funicular to summit. First half was covered by SP, but the longer funicular was 25% off. The view from the Ristorante Vetta Monte Bré is stunning! We ate a light lunch there.
3rd Day: Again, weather not cooperating for trips to the mountains near Luzern. So, we went to explore Bern. What a lovely town. We really enjoyed walking around admiring the painted buildings and beautiful columns. We even came across the resident bears. A wedding was about to take place, so we were treated to the church bells ringing loud and proud for what seemed like ages. It added great ambience to our visit. We ate lunch at Kramer’s which has the best poke bowl with beef and mango I’ve ever had! The Espresso Martini was a great starter. Had dinner at Bolero’s that at our hotel. Food tip: Forget counting carbs or calories in Switzerland. Also, forget about worrying about food prices.
4th Day: On our last day in Luzern, we decided to go to the Bürgenstock Resort overlooking Lake Luzern. Took the boat with SP and then the funicular up to the top was ½ off with SP. It was overcast but cool, so we walked more than 4 miles around the resort. It had a bit empty feeling as if everyone had already gone home. The famous elevator lift and trail was closed due to “weather.” It would be a cool place to stay though.
WENGEN (aka Heaven on Earth):
Oh my, oh my, how we loved Wengen (pronounced Vengen). There is a lot of debate on this forum about whether Wengen or Murren is the best little village but hands-down, IMHO, Wengen is the best. It is laid out very nicely and the view from our hotel was simply breathtaking. We were lucky to have 5 nights in THE VERY BEST hotel, The Alpenrose. Our room had a balcony, and the view was a marvel to look at each morning (see photo). We sat on the balcony each evening and enjoyed our wine discussing the day’s highlights. Breakfast and dinner were included in the rate. It was such a pleasure to walk down to dinner every night knowing you were going to have a lovely meal. Breakfast was sumptuous. Again, their coffee machine was so cool. It could make any kind of coffee you wanted, and it was excellent. We were also treated to a parade of cows walking right past our hotel.
½ Day: Upon arrival, we dropped off our luggage and immediately went to the Mannlichen gondola “in town” to walk from Mannilichen to Klein Scheidegg (see photo). Wow, this was a great first walk (vs. hike) to do upon arrival. Beautiful and easy. Cable car was 50% off with SP. We did not realize that the SP did not cover the train back to Wengen, so we paid an additional CHF 20 each which we paid on the train to a very stern ticket taker.
First Full Day: Took the train from Wengen to Mürren. Hiked from Grütschalp to Mürren. It was a lovely, easy walk. Once in Mürren we had a wander around and decided to eat lunch. Our hope was to sign up for paragliding, but they were all full for the next three days as the weather was beautiful. Mürren vs Wengen: I don’t know what it was, but I just didn’t like the vibe. I was spoiled by Wengen. Mürren certainly has beautiful views but the new gondola construction is a bit of a nuisance for hotels nearby but supposedly, this is going to be a big project that will make the trip up to the Jungfrau quicker and easier. We then went to Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken in hopes of finding a paragliding opportunity but to no avail. Adventure Tip: Book this adventure in advance.
2nd Day: Took the train to Grindelwald to see what First (pronounced feerst) was all about. Bought our First gondola ticket at Wengen, which saved us a lot of time once we arrived in First. The ride up was glorious and took around 25 minutes or so. We wanted to do some of the extras, but the wait time were well over 120 minutes for each. So, we walked to Baschalpse, but I have to say there were just too many people on the trail for our liking.
3rd Day: “Let’s go mountain biking….” Have you ever seen the horror movie, “Wrong Turn?” Well, this was the theme in our particularly scary movie. You see, we decided to rent e-bikes (we cycle at home all the time on manual bikes) and cycle around the “Wengen-loop” which was meant to be a day biking the loop. However, at the one place where you can go wrong, we did. Instead of going right at Allmend towards Wengernalp we (attempted) went straight up to Wengernalp which was what we later learned was a path not meant for bikes. After about the 10th time of failing to get the bikes up, even in turbo mode, and when my heart rate maxed out at 170, we knew we were on the wrong path. It was rocky and we couldn’t get a good footing with our bike, and it was UP. I knew we had to reevaluate this situation. We turned around and went back down to Wengen and to the bike store. They were closed for lunch, but we were able to juice up the bikes, since we were in turbo mode most of the time. So, the second wrong decision that day was to cycle from Wengen down to Lauterbrunnen. Again, something was OFF. The trail was rocky, very steep with hair pin turns, to us at least. The bike was heavy, and I braked the entire time only stopping at the turns so that I could manually position the bike in the direction going straight down rather than trying to make the turns while cycling. Another thought crossed our minds. “What if the cows came down the path”? This was the path they took earlier in the day, apparently. I ended the day with lots of bruises from the bike, but we did manage to make a funny video once we knew we would survive. Arrived in Lauterbrunnen and enjoyed it even more since we were happy to be off the bikes. Adventure tip: Write down instructions from the bike guy if at all unsure of what was just said.
Lauterbrunnen was a delight. We had the best summer salad at a place called Flavours. Awesome carrot cake too! Hey, I deserved those calories!!! Earlier we met a couple on the train who stated they didn’t think the stairs up the Staubbach Falls was worth the effort because there wasn’t much water coming down the mountain. So, we gave that a miss plus we had bikes to contend with.
To be honest, dinner that night was difficult as I was pretty stressed out over our exertion and my heart rate scare. However, “more wine please” solved that anxiety.
4th & Last day in Wengen: Decided to take the train to Interlaken OST to take boat to Brienz. Covered by the SP. Walked from Brienz to Interlaken West. Ate lunch at a little gastro named Spatz, located on the river side. We enjoyed the very best caprese salad I have ever had. The macchiato went down nicely beforehand. Took the train back to Wengen to enjoy our last meal at the hotel. All train/boat covered by SP.
Our final three nights were spent in the beautiful city of Lausanne. We took the train from Wengen to Lausanne which took about 3.5 hours with the multiple train changes but super easy. At Lausanne, took the urban regional train for two stops.
Stayed 3 nights at the Carlton Hotel which was nice and very convenient to this urban train station. The room was an executive double, but it was small, and the very small balcony overlooked the street. It was quiet, however.
½ day: We dropped off the bags and immediately went to Ouchy to take the boat to see the Chillon Castle. It was beautiful and very interesting. Both the boat and the castle visit were covered by SP. We had intended to walk to Montreaux to have dinner, but we decided we were too scruffy from the day and needed to freshen up. Took train back to Lausanne. Decided to walk to Ouchy again for dinner. We had a lovely Vietnamese meal at Hoi An BBQ on Chemin des Pecheurs 7. One of the best we’ve had. Lausanne tip: Lausanne is very quiet even on a Friday and Saturday night.
Saturday: It was a rainy start to the day, but we still went on to Gruyeres. What a lovely place to stroll, even in the rain. As the weather app predicted, the rain stopped at 11 so we roamed all around the castle, eating at one of the local restaurants. Took the train back. Castle and train covered by SP. Had dinner at a wonderful Pizza Bar near the center of town. Again, wonderful food and wine. BTW, the wine is a great bargain in Switzerland.
Sunday: On our last day decided to focus on Lausanne’s old town. We walked to the Cathedral (under lots of construction). Decided to walk to the Hermitage stopping to have brunch at L’Esquisse, located next to the Hermitage. Food was so-so.
Unfortunately, our trip had to end and more unfortunately we had to stay up the rest of the day and into the early morning hours of Monday because our train to Geneva was at 3:45 a.m. This was a tough day. However, the check in process is so easy at Geneva. We arrived in London and fortunately no long delays. As expected, the flight home seemed to last for days…. Seemed like the longest 10 hours of our lives and I travel a lot!
To sum all of this up:
Flew into Zurich and out of Geneva.
The 3 bases worked great because it was easy to do multiple day trips from Luzern, Wengen, and Lausanne. Loved all three locations.
The Swiss Pass was fab and so easy to use. I haven’t calculated what we would have spent but the ease of use is worth every franc.
The food was great, and the Swiss wine was even better.
I packed a flat bag from home for purchases, so we took a few bottles home.
We did buy chocolate and tried the Paprika chips everyone talks about. The CO-OP and Migra stores are fantastic!
We had small carry-ons, but each checked a bag. No lost luggage in Heathrow and not that difficult to manage on trains.
Meteo and Wetter weather apps were great. I wish our weather apps were as accurate.
The SBB train app was simply fantastic!
The Swiss have it right. Everyone was friendly. They have their priorities right about nature and respect for other people. In fact, we have been reenergized to move out of the big city and into nature.
We spent about what we thought we would. Expect to pay an average of $25-45 on main courses, even hamburgers and about $7-10 on a glass of wine (slightly smaller pours). Indulge, indulge, indulge. Life is too short NOT to have croissants and chocolate every day.
We did suffer from the post-vacation blues but seeing our three dogs soon cured us. And the Swiss like dogs, even in restaurants.
Thanks again to MySwissAlps which made planning this trip fun.