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4 Days in Switzerland starting in Lucerne

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3 posts
new member
Oct 20, 2015 - 10:01 PM


I am planning a trip to Switzerland for my Grandparents and cousin for 4 days (11/3-11/6). They are coming from France into Lucerne. I have booked a hotel for 2 nights in Lucerne. I have also booked them a Swiss travel pass for the 4 days ending the 11/7. On 11/7 they need to be in Chamonix, France where they will be picked up (which I am told that the Swiss Travel Pass includes).

Now here are where my questions begin...

  • They are very interested in the Panoramic Journeys and want to ride on them as much as possible. Do you need a reservation for them? Is the glacier pass the only train not operating?
  • Originally I was going to have them go from Lucerne to Interlaken to Zermatt and end in Geneva. After I found out they could get to Chamonix for free from Martigny I thought they should end down south. Does this utilize their time best? Or should I cut out Zermatt and just send them to Martigny.
  • I want to make sure that this trip is easy for them to hop on and off trains but also want to make sure they get too see as much as they can.

Any suggestions or corrections would be greatly appreciated!

7567 posts
Oct 21, 2015 - 6:11 PM in reply to csholder09

Hi csholder09 -

Looks like a good plan.

One thing that could help with suggestions is the time of day that you need to be in Chamonix on the 7th.

I was not aware that the Glacier Express is not running. Here is a link that might help:

www.myswissalps.com/gl acierexpress

Have you tried the timetable with start, finish and mid points ("via" ) indicated?

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

It might be helpful to know what region of France your relatives come from.....what kind of scenery do they live in every day. Is it alpine? A city that appeals to an American tourist might be boring to a family who loves Paris.

<<"Originally I was going to have them go from Lucerne to Interlaken to Zermatt and end in Geneva. After I found out they could get to Chamonix for free from Martigny I thought they should end down south. Does this utilize their time best? Or should I cut out Zermatt and just send them to Martigny">>

Geneva is an attractive town. To me, it looks French...but my French friends explain the difference. They say "In Geneva, there is a bank on every corner." That is a popular joke, based on a good deal of truth.Inany case, it might not be the first destination for french citizens.

Chamonix-Mt. Blanc station is just under 3 hours from Geneva; 2 changes, some walking at changes.

From Martigny - . 1 and a half hours from Martigny - 2 changes. A warning about some track repair and a substitute bus....in the timetable. I do not understand the implications.

How much do cost you save with the Martigny-Chamonix route, by skipping Zermatt? If you already have a Swiss Travel Pas, do you save anything? If I were taking a scenic trip and skipped Zermatt in order to save a few Franks - either kind - my wife would question my logic.


3 posts
new member
Oct 21, 2015 - 8:09 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Hi Slowpoke,

Thank you for your response. In regards to Zermatt I guess my question was more of is it worth it. Like I said it will be my grandparents who are almost 80 and my cousin who is in his mid 20s. They want to see the Alps and the countryside. They are not interested in cities as much. I also do not want to make this trip too intense for them. However they do want to see as much as possible and are very interested in the panoramic trains.

This is what I was thinking.

11/3-Arrive in Lucerne @ 3 pm

11/4-Spend day in Lucerne (would it be possible for them to take a panoramic train out of Lucerne and be back in time for dinner?)

11/5-Stay in Interlaken-Take the Jungfrau Railway.

11/6-Go to Zermatt (I checked for some reason Glacier Express is not running. Is there another panoramic train they could ride on?)

11/7- Take train to Chamonix. I would prefer for them to be there in afternoon-late afternoon.

Another option:

11/3-:Arrive in Lucerne @ 3pm

11/4 Stay In Lucerne-Day trip to Jungfrau Railway

11/5-Go to Basel and take train down to Geneva

11/6-Take Lauvon Simplex to Visp then on to Zermatt

I am not sure which is better. Do you have any suggestions?



7567 posts
Oct 21, 2015 - 8:31 PM in reply to csholder09

Did not have time to loo0k at those options carefully.

The first sounds better.

I'll have some time tomorrow; perhaps Arno or Annika can join in before then

Scenic boat ride from Luzern might work if the winter boat schedules allow it.

Even though cities are not of intrest, Luzern is very scenic by itself. Mountains near the city and a beautiful lake.

Watch out for sunset times as winter is approaching; use the internet. Scenic train rides a\re not scenic in the dark.


7567 posts
Oct 22, 2015 - 7:29 PM in reply to csholder09

Hi csholder09 -

I looked more carefully at your first proposal, and I think it can meet your needs very well. Please remember than almost any train through the mountainous regions of Switzerland....or for that matter, much of the rest of Switzerland ....is quite scenic, even if it does not have panoramic windows.

I don't think the ride to Basel in your second proposal matches your goals.

You should be working wth the Swiss Rail Timetable and a map, if you are not doing so.

www.sbb.ch/en/home.htm l


www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

(same timetable, different link)



In the timetable, once you have selected a particular train, you can select to see a map of the route.

Building on your ideas -

November 3 (that is 3.11.2015) - Arrive Luzern. I think you mean November...are you using the US convention for date abbreviation...?

Explore Old City, Lion of Luzern, possibly the Bourbaki Panorama because of the French connection, etc.

4.11- Lake Luzern plus Mt. Rigi- first stage via boat (scenic) to Vitznau, at 0912, 1012 or 1112.

www.lakelucerne.ch/fil eadmin/lakelucerne/con tent/Dokumente_Downloa ds_PDF/01_Fahrplan-Preise/01_Fahrplan/Sai sonaler_Fahrplan/2015_ Fahplan_Winter_mit_Zei chenerkl%C3%A4hrung_A4 .pdf

Cograil to Rigi Kulm- very scenic. Lunch at Rigi Kulm. Great views if the weather is good. Return by same route, or, with more flexibilty, take the other cograil down to Arth-Goldau instead of Vitznau and catch a train back to Luzern.

Either go to Interlaken then or, early on the morning of 5.11 . The ride from Luzern through the Brunig pass is quite scenic, whether the "Golden Pass " train with panoramic cars is used, or, perhaps a regular train. When using the time table to chose that route, make sure to include Meiringen in the "via" box, or you get routed through Bern...the computer chooses the fastest route as a default.

5.11 - Jungfraujoch. Perhaps a stop at Wengen on the way down for the views of the valley and maybe a cup of coffee, depending on time

6.11 - Very scenic train ride over the Löstchberg Pass via the upper route to Brig, then to Zermat via Visp.

Enter Kandersteg in the "via" to see the "Lötschberger' train. If you don't, it will route through Bern.

Sit on the left [Correction - going toward Brig, sit on the RIGHT. Sorry for the error.]

7.11 - Zermatt to Chamonix. The ride along the Rhone Valley is not a mountain panorama, but it still has interesting views of the mountains and the vineyards.

The one thing that was trying to add but could not fit in easily is the stretch of rail from about Montbovon down to Montreux through the vineyards. You could do it from Interlaken on the way to Zermatt on 6.11 if you went on the Golden Pass route, via Zweisimmen and Montreux, then along the Rhone Valley, but it is a long haul, with 6 hours or more on the journey. It is a scenic ride, no question, and it is an option. However, going via the Lötschberg is about 3 1/2 hours, leaving more time for Zermatt, which has a lot of scenery.

And, the run from Visp tp Chamonix on 7.11 will repeat the part of the route from Montreux that is not as scenic as the Lötschberger.

My thoughts, for what they are worth.


7567 posts
Oct 23, 2015 - 5:48 PM in reply to Slowpoke

I corrected an error in the preceding post.


3 posts
new member
Oct 23, 2015 - 7:48 PM in reply to csholder09

Hopping on and off of trains with luggage is not going to be easy for 80 year olds. I guess with a younger person to assist them, it won't be so bad. We are going in May 2016 and opted for a car rental for that exact reason. We are in our 60s and none of us want to lug bags on and off of the train. Just a thought.

7567 posts
Oct 23, 2015 - 11:51 PM in reply to blooknup

<<"We are going in May 2016 and opted for a car rental for that exact reason. We are in our 60s and none of us want to lug bags on and off of the train. Just a thought.">>

Hi blooknup -

Welcome to the forum.

An excellent thought. It is certainly an issue. And, one car handles more than one person...rail passes are a cost per person.

For perspective, I am in my late 70's and have two arthritic knees. I pack semi-dressy clothes for the Tonhalle in Zürich, and hiking boots for hiking... of a very large size. Plus, more than one camera. and lenses.

I deal with that issue in several ways:

1.- Follow Rick Steve's suggestions and travel light with rolling luggage. Sometimes leave the dressier clothes at home. Rarely leave my boots.

2.- Take advantage of the forethought the Swiss have built into the Travel System and use the various mechanisms for getting luggage to where I want it without hauling it on and off trains. -

www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/services/bagg age.html

3.- Do laundry on a long trip, or have it done.

4.- As you suggest, rent a car. The car is for convenience in getting to trailheads and out of the way villages, at times that do not easily match the public transport schedules. It is, indeed, handy for luggage.

However, getting on and off trains is not a big deal with small bags. And, I don't hop. I move sedately, and people often help my luggage leave the train.

A rented car is a major expense and a nuisance if you wish to:

1.- Drive/park in major cities. Very expensive. At Luzern Hauptbahnhof, about 45 CHF per 24 hours. And, the driving is not simple...complex street plans, organized to discourage automobile traffic and encourage public transport.

2.- Have enough luggage that you cannot rent an inexpensive car. It does not take much, most inexpensive rentals have limited luggage space. And, you have to (or someone has to) haul luggage in and out of the car that you rent.

If I rent a car, I travel mostly by train to major destinations and leave the car in the parking lot. However, if I wish to go to (for example) Mettlenalp (way back in the countryside), in order to walk up the the Napf, I drive, because the bus schedule has thinned out.

3.- And, you need to rember that the Jungfrau region and Zermatt are car-free. Park your car and pay for parking while you use public transport.

Just my perspective. ;-)


7184 posts
expert &
Oct 24, 2015 - 8:04 AM

Hi csholder09!

I think you did a good job getting your parents a 4 day Swiss Travel Pass. This allows them to just get on and off trains, buses and boats as they like. They won't be tied to specific trains and they don't need additional tickets for most trips, so they can take it easy. In terms of ease of use, this is certainly a very comfortable solution for elderly traveling by train.

You asked about the Glacier Express. This train indeed has a pause in Fall, from late October until mid December. The same route could be traveld by regular regional trains too. However, it wouldn't fit comfortably in the itinerary you're thinking about now. The Golden Pass, the Jungfraujoch trip and the Lötschberg train towards Zermatt mentioned by Slowpoke will certainly allow you parents to fully enjoy scenic rides though!

Blooknup, thanks for your input! Car traveling is an alternative indeed, and I understand you opted for this. It does have disadvantages for travelers who want to explore car free areas and enjoy scenic train trips. Moreover, traveling in November may mean that passes are closed down or snow chains are needed, and that requires special driving skills. That will probably be less of a problem for your stay next May. I hope you'll be enjoying your Spring visit! Please feel welcome to share your plans and ask any questions you may have.

3 posts
new member
Oct 24, 2015 - 10:51 PM in reply to Annika

Hello Everyone,

It looks like I am late to the party!

Hi Slowpoke---Thank you for the wealth of information you have provided me. I after looking at yours suggestions I agree that the first option is better. They will still get to see a lot and it will be a more smooth transition to the other cities. Thank you for pointing out all the activities in Luzern after reading your suggestions it would be a shame for them to miss them! I will let you know how it goes on here! Thanks again.

Hello Blooknup----Yes I have thought about them hopping on and off trains...However they are leaving most of their belonging at my parents house so they will be packing light!! I would be more worried about them driving around the Swiss Alps in a rental car, not to mention parking and city driving! Thank you for reminding me to tell them to pack VERY light!!

Hello Annika----Yes I feel like flexibility is best when planning for someone else. I am guessing even if they miss a train they will be able to catch the next one...right? I am really excited for them to experience the mountains! I hope they have a wonderful time! Thank you for your help!

7567 posts
Oct 24, 2015 - 11:11 PM in reply to csholder09

<<"I am guessing even if they miss a train they will be able to catch the next one...right?">>

That is the beauty of the Swiss Travel System. Within limits, you are correct. Especially for the popular stations.

I depend on it when I travel there...up till about 8 PM...;-) From then on, the schedule thins out



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