Day 7 - We left Murren and took the train to Bern. We put our luggage in a luggage locker and got back on the train for Murten. The town looked a lot like I imagine it looked when the castle and walls were built. It is a small town with a beautiful view of Lake Murten and some interesting history. We got on the nearby boat to take the 3 Lakes Cruise. It was lovely and relaxing, but we felt the scenery was more interesting after we left Neuchatel (castles and churches along the sides of the canal and lake). We arrived in Biel, took the bus to the train station and took the train back to Bern where we spent the next 2 nights.
Day 8 - We spent the day exploring Bern - the cathedral, clock tower, bears, Einstein's house, river walk, and rose garden. We also went to the train station and made reservations for parts of the Golden Pass, Glacier Express, and Bernina Express routes. We had to upgrade to 1st class for the Golden Pass Line as 2nd class was sold out.
Day 9 - We took the train back to Speiz, so we could take the rest of the Golden Pass Line to Montreux. There were nice views, but felt we would have enjoyed the local train as much as the panoramic. After arriving in Montreux, we stored our luggage and got on the boat for Chateau Chillion.It was a short ride and we had nice views of Mt Blanc and the Chateau.We toured the Chateau, caught the next boat back towards Montreux, picked up our luggage, and took the bus and train to Bulle. Bulle was having a jazz festival, so we got to enjoy some great jazz music in the park the two nights that we were there .
Day 10 - We went to the Gruyere Cheese Factory, the Gruyere Castle, the Callier Chocolate Factory, and the Bulle Museum. Loved all of them. They were all pretty close together, so if you could rent a bike, I think that would be a fun way to get around. The cheese making was very interesting and the walk up to the castle was steep (we found out later we could have taken a bus). Even though it was Saturday, we only had a 10 minute wait for the Chocolate Tour - it reminded us of Disneyland, but was really well done and there were so many chocolate samples!!! We stayed in Bulle, because it was less expensive than anywhere else in the area, but really liked the town. You know it isn't a big tourist town when your waiter asks, "So why are you staying here?"
Day 11 - Made good use of the rain coat this day! We left Bulle and stopped in Lausanne to attend church in the cathedral. We were a little late as we were following the loud bells, but they weren't the cathedral bells! But we did hear some magnificent organ music and tried to follow along with the service in French.After the service we took the Metro down to the waterfront and went to the Olympic Museum. We really enjoy watching the Olympics, so it was very interesting to us. We then took the metro up to the train station and headed to Zermatt.
Day 12 - We were so fortunate to have a cloudless day to see the Matterhorn. We took the gondola up to Blauherd and did the 5 lakes hike. My husband doesn't really like to hike, but he was so impressed with the views, he thought it was a great choice for the day. We took the Sunnegga cogwheel back down. It was still a beautiful day, so we thought we would try to go up to Klein Matterhorn or Schwarz See, but it was too late in the day and they weren't letting people on anymore. So check those lift schedules to see which ones stay open later. Instead I did a short hike up to the Ricola demonstration garden and saw the herbs they put in my favorite cough drop.
Day 13 - It was another beautiful day in Zermatt, so we would have enjoyed more time there, but we had reservations on the 9:00 train, so off we went towards Lugano.We did parts of the Glacier Express and the Gotthard Panoramic. We were going to stop in Bellizona and explore the 3 castles, but it was hot and we were tired, so continued on to Lugano, checked into our hotel, and took a boat ride to Gandria, where we had a lovely dinner in a grotto overlooking the lake, and then took the next boat back to Lugano. Gotta love the Swiss Travel Pass for the ease of making last minute changes to an itinerary.
Day 14 - Using our Ticino Pass from our hotel, we decided to go to Bellizona and explore the castles. We bought the castle pass for the little blue train that takes you up to the 2nd and 3rd castle and gives you admission to all 3 castle museums. We really enjoyed the castles and the local history. There were so many other fun things to do in Lugano, but it was hot and the hotel pool was very refreshing, so that's where we ended the afternoon! We had another wonderful lake front dinner.
Day 15 - The one transportation reservation I had made from home was for the bus from Lugano to Tirano. So we got on the bus at 10:00 and had nice views of Lake Como along the way. We arrived in Tirano with time for lunch before our train left and enjoyed an Italian priced meal. The train from Tirano to Pontresina was our favorite train ride of the trip, amazing scenery and engineering. We really liked the town of Pontresina, it was very walkable and quaint.
Day 16 - We received a pass from our hotel that made all of the lifts in the area free. So not wanting to miss anything we headed to Diavolezza first and had some amazing views of the mountains and glaciers. After soaking in the views we took the cable car back down and took the bus and then the funicular to Muottas Muragl. We had a great hike on the Panoramic Way with tremendous views of the mountains, glaciers, lakes, and St Moritz. We took the Alp Languard chairlift back down and we were back in Pontresina where we had started in the morning.
Day 17 - This was our train changing day. We made 7 easy changes and got to our boat right on time.We left Pontresina at 9:00 and took the rest of the Bernina Express and Glacier Express train routes to Andermatt. Then we took the rest of the Gotthard Express to Fluelen, where we had plenty of time to catch our boat to Lucerne. It was a beautiful boat ride and we highly recommend it. We started in sunny skies and ended in thunder and lightening, but the storm passed quickly and we were able to attend part of Saturday night mass at St. Pete's Chapel, hear their beautiful organ, and explore some of the town before dark.
Day 18 - We took the TI tour of the city, it was 2 for 1 with the Swiss Coupon Pass. It was interesting and informative. Then we headed up to Mt. Pilatus. We took the train and then the cogwheel up. The clouds were in and out around the mountain and there was a light drizzle. We could imagine how beautiful it would be on a nice day, but we could see Luzern and the lake, so it was worth the trip. We took the cable car/gondola back down and then the bus back into Luzern. We then went to the Bourbaki Panorama and the Lion monument, both worth doing. We ended the day with climbing the walls and towers of the city.
Day 19 - We left Luzern in the morning for St. Gallen. We explored the library (amazing!) and the cathedral. We got on the boat at Kruezlingen heading down the Rhine River. We really liked the scenery of old towns and castles along the way. We got off at Stein am Rhein, but would have enjoyed the ride all the way to Schaffhausen if we had had the time.
Day 20 - We did a walking tour of Stein am Rhein (very cute town)and then took a walk to Werd Island. The castle was calling, but we decided not to do the mile walk up hill in the sun. We then headed to the Rhein Fall by train. We got off at the Neuhausen Rheinfall stop. It was hard to figure out which stop to get off at because there are so many options. I went in and talked to a SBB person at Stein am Rhein and this is the one she recommended. Once we were there, we saw that there were several good stations you can get off at. We really liked the Rhein Fall! We explored Schloss Laufen and took the boat across the river and then to the rock in the middle of the river. We enjoyed a snack outside with a good view of the falls. Then it was off to our hotel near the Zurich Airport for our last night in Switzerland.
Ways we tried to make it a budget friendly trip and things we learned along the way:
We averaged $100 a night for our accommodations. We stayed in an equal mix of budget hotels and Airbnbs, with shared bathrooms. If a hotel came with a good transportation pass, we usually went with the hotel, which helped us stretch our STP 15 day Flex to 20 days.
We averaged $50 a day for food, by eating mostly one meal at a restaurant each day and using the Coop stores that were everywhere. We also looked for accommodations that provided breakfast. We also learned that most restaurants charged for tap water, so we often opted for wine and sparkling water which were often about the same price as tap water. The price of tap water varied greatly, from one time free to more than 4SF. Also the no automatic tipping took a few days to get used to.
The SBB app was amazing and very helpful. It helped guide our journeys and was an easy way to buy a train ticket on our last day.When we had a lot of train changes to make I would bring up the route and take screen shots of each page so I had a back up if I needed it. I used my Ipad nightly to plan routes and activities for the next day. Every place we stayed had really good free wifi. We have T-mobile in the states for our phones, so didn't need to change cards in my phone. It was nice to be able to text and use the internet without charge.
A big thanks to all who answer questions here! This site was so helpful in our planning along with the Rick Steves Switzerland book. (We are from the Seattle area, so we had to bring him along!)