Geneva to Zurich itinerary help for May 2018

Geneva to Zurich itinerary help for May 2018

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sharon0213
sharon0213
11 posts
new member
Dec 3, 2017 - 1:20 AM

Hi All

Reading through these great forum posts has given us many ideas for our upcoming visit to Switzerland (thank you!), but I still have some basic questions I'd like to ask before continuing with our planning.

We will be flying into Geneva on May 18, 2018 and out of Zurich on May 28. I love travel photography and am looking forward to enjoying scenic vistas, wandering through small towns, and taking one (or more) Swiss train trips and boat rides. We are most interested in all the things that make Switzerland unique and are excited to experience them in this beautiful country.

Our initial itinerary is as follows: Montreux (1 night), Wengen (3 nights), Zermatt (2 nights), Lucerne (3 nights). Here are my questions:

1. Is this the best order to visit these areas? I chose to go to Wengen after Montreux to allow us to travel on the Golden Pass train, but now I'm wondering if is makes more sense time-wise to travel to Zermatt before Wengen.

2. A friend suggested we should make time to visit Annecy, France. We arrive at noon in Geneva and could travel to Annecy from the airport. Is it worth pushing everything in the trip up one day?

3. Would you recommend a different number of days at these locations, given the dates of our trip? Is three days too long to spend in Wengen at this time of year? I just read that the cableway from Wengen to Männlichen only begins service at the end of May (is there a set date?) and that sadly, the trail itself typically does not open until early to mid-June. Will the Grütschalp - Mürren trail be open yet or is it also closed this time of year? Is there another suggested easy hike we could take instead? What other closings should we take into account?

4. Is there a way to fit in another train trip (part of the Glacier Express?) and do a little rearranging of our schedule?

5. Are there better activities you would suggest for this time of year? Will vistas be that scenic at the end of May? Are we better to spend time in the small towns?

6. Our flight out of Zurich is at 10:15 am. Would you recommend spending the last night at an airport hotel, or would we be fine spending our last night in Lucerne and taking a very early train to the airport?

We've really enjoyed learning about the area so far on this website and would certainly appreciate any thoughts and suggestions about our itinerary.

Thanks!

Sharon

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4756 posts
expert
Dec 3, 2017 - 2:20 AM in reply to sharon0213

Hi Sharon-\

Welcome to My Swiss Alps! It is really nice to get a post from someone who has clearly done their homework and though a lot about what they a hope to do.

I suspect that your post will generate a a fair number of answers.

I am a bit short on time to compose the thoughtful answers that all of your questions require, but here is a start. I suspect that others will jump in. I'l try top get back with a bit more in the next few days.

#6 -

<<"Our flight out of Zurich is at 10:15 am. Would you recommend spending

the last night at an airport hotel, or would we be fine spending our

last night in Lucerne and taking a very early train to the airport?">>

I do that routinely ( Luzern to airport on the morning of departure- by the way, because the name you will see on signs around the German speaking region of Luzern is in the German spelling with a "z" , I use it out of habit) , but I prefer to be catching a plane a bit later. You'd be passing through the busy rail corridor from Luzern to Zürich during rush hour, and a few minutes delay (common near Walchwil and Zug) makes one nervous. If you do it, take the once per hour train that does not require a change at Zürich main station. That is the one leaving at 0710 ( or, xx10). if you do take the one at 0635, be prepared to understand exactly what your connection will be in Zürich main station. Use the timetable to learn what tracks the trains arrive and depart on, and take a look a the map of the terminal to get a feel for how complex the set of train platforms is both in and below the station.

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

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

One positive note - once you are at Zürich main station, if you do have to change trains there, and miss your connection, there are 5 to 10 trains per hour out to the airport. Some leave from "down under" while others leave on the main platform ( tracks 3-18). The signage is pretty clear, too.

A look at the map will help with that.

Personally, I'd stay in downtown Zürich, with your departure schedule.

Lots of good restaurants, and a nice place for a modest stroll before or after dinner.

Overall, Luzern offers more for the first time visitor, but Zürich has lot of cosmopolitan charms, and grows on you....slowly. Not worth a lot of time on the first trip; good for some time on each following trip as you learn the city.

<<"2. A friend suggested we should make time to visit Annecy, France. We

arrive at noon in Geneva and could travel to Annecy from the airport. Is

it worth pushing everything in the trip up one day?">>

What do you mean "is it worth it" ?

How can anyone advise you on the "worth" of a place, not knowing your values and preferences in any detail? Perhaps if your friend could explain why Annecy appeals ( it is a very nice place, of course) then you could compare it with the options at your Swiss destinations, using the links on this page below as well as other sources, and make a decision:

www.myswissalps.com/wh eretogo

Personally, I think that the time is Switzerland is precious. Montreux has some nice options....mountainous, or on the lake. The variety available in Switzerland makes adding a day or more enticing. And, in the Jungfrau region in particular, weather is critical, changeable in May, and more likely to produce a sunny day for you if you have more time there. Taking away a day does not appeal to me. My opinion, for what it is worth.

#3-

Reading Number 3 makes me want to suggest that you travel approximately 3 weeks later. ;-)

#1-

The route from Zermatt to the Jungfrau region can be quite scenic if you avoid the tunnel between Visp and Spiez. For most, the best part of the Golden Pass route is the section up from Montreux to approximately Montbovon or Zweisimmen. Not sure if that would fit in, but I'll mention it.

Finally, in addition to the timetable linked above, this map is particularly useful:

map.search.ch/

If you zoom in far enough, you can see the rail lines, and the menus offer some useful information.

Perhaps you have already discovered it?

Slowpoke

rockoyster
rockoyster
3749 posts
expert
Dec 3, 2017 - 4:49 AM in reply to sharon0213

Hi Sharon,

The cable car from Wengen to Männlichen and the gondola from Grindelwald Grund to Männlichen recommence operation on 18 May 2018. The railway WIlderswil to Schynige Platte doesn't fire up until 26 May.

I was in Mürren on 19 May this year. The weather was glorious.

When do you arrive in Geneva? If the timing works I think I would go direct from Geneva Airport to Zermatt for 2 nights then 4 in Wengen and 3 in Luzern (or 2 Luzern and 1 Zurich if you don't want to catch a crack of dawn train from Lucerne to Zurich).

You don't have a lot of time so don't spread yourself too thin. I was there for over 3 weeks and only saw half of the bucket list.

Lucas
Lucas
7273 posts
expert &
moderator
Dec 3, 2017 - 9:24 AM in reply to sharon0213

HI Sharon,

I'd be tempted to travel Geneva to Zermatt then Wengen and skip Montreux (or if you have an early arrival in Geneva, spend the day in Montreux and have a late arrival in Zermatt maybe). Then after your stay in Zermatt you can take a part of the Glacier Express route (as far as Brig or Andermatt) and then switch to a train on to Wengen. I would take the Glacier Express route over the Golden Pass route if it was a matter of one or the other (just my preference).

As noted from other members, if you want to do much hiking in the Jungfrau Region, May isn't the best time - if you can come in late June you would have much more to do.

I'd also be tempted to stay in Zurich on your last night (downtown though, no need to stay at the airport as it only takes about 15 minutes on the train). Luzern to Zurich airport would normally be fine but who wants the risk?

Plus my wife and I (and Swiss in general) haven't been impressed with SBB on-time performance this past year or so - especially at rush hours. Although to be fair, when we grumble about on-time performance in Switzerland the train is 5 or 6 minutes late...

Last modified on Dec 3, 2017 - 9:24 AM by Lucas
Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4756 posts
expert
Dec 3, 2017 - 9:39 AM in reply to rockoyster

Hi Rockoyster -

They have 10 nights.

I agree with your routing, but they have the option to take their first night in Montreux. Or, perhaps adding it in Luzern and adding in a day trip to any of many accessible places that fit her description. In May, hotels will not be full, and it would not be difficult to put a flex day in at the end of Wengen to allow for weather.

If they stay in Montreux, a train ride from Montreux to Zweisimmen and return would be on the most scenic part of the Golden Pass route. The trains on the various legs of the Golden Pass route are scenic, involve mountain travel, and are much slower than the mainline trains.

www.myswissalps.com/go ldenpass Check it out on the map I linked before:

map.search.ch/?pos=612928,137600&z=4

www.myswissalps.com/go ldenpass

A nonstop on the section to Zweisimmen, where the MOB railroad starts the panoramic cars to/from Montreux takes 2 hours at 0853 or 0944....approximately once per hour all day long. 0853 arrives at 1052, and the return is at 1105, getting back to Montreux at 1303.

Break for lunch in Zweisimmen or Montreux.

Thence to Zermatt...twice per hour at (usually) xx53 and xx39 - taking two hours and 31 to 39 minutes.

Lots of train time... about 6 1/2 hours.........may not be the best idea.

Another choice is to take the Golden Pass route via Zweisimmen and on to Spiez, thence via Kandersteg on the scenic route to Brig, then Visp and Zermatt. Also, a an awful lot of train time. And, the later journey from Zermatt to Wengen might ( or might not) duplicate the scenic part of the route, since there is a fast tunnel from Visp to Spiez. The inside of the tunnel is not scenic.

A sample time: Depart Montreux at 0944, arrive Zermatt at 1551...just under 6 hours. Or, depart 0853, arrive Zermatt 1451. Not sure where to eat; light foods are available on the leg from Montreux to Zweisimmen only. Breaking the trip most likely would add an hour, because that is the approximmte frequency of trains on the routes.

In late May, Spring will be well advanced at lower altitudes, such as Luzern, easily accessible Bern, and, for non-touristy country, perhaps the Emmental. That is perhaps better with a car, because the time in any one town might be short.....unless hiking is in order. It is grand country for hiking. Check the pictures in this thread:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/langnau-in-may/page/2

The attached panorama was built from pictures taken in mid-April in the Emmental, during a very unusual 7-10 day period of dry sunny very warm weather. As you can see, Spring is just getting started, and there is a lot of snow on the Alps. The trees are flowering, but have not yet put out leaves.

There is plenty of easy to moderate hiking near Luzern. Do you know if Hammetschwand will be open by then? I'd expect it to be.

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/the-swiss-path-and-southern-lake-lucerne

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/walk-combining-trip-on-lake-lucerne

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/the-hammetschwand-lift

Slowpoke

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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4756 posts
expert
Dec 3, 2017 - 10:01 AM in reply to Lucas

<<"Plus my wife and I (and Swiss in general) haven't been impressed with

SBB on-time performance this past year or so - especially at rush hours.

Although to be fair, when we grumble about on-time performance in

Switzerland the train is 5 or 6 minutes late...">>

Hi Lucas-

I have run into that since 2009 on the sections coming into Zürich from the south in rush hours...partly because the "Pendolino" trains from Italy on that route tended to run quite late quite often. That may be fixed now, but a trip from Luzern is often affected at rush hours.

That is why I recommend the train that does not require a change at Zürich. You'll be a bit nervous, but you can expect to get to the airport on time or within only a few minutes late. Adding a change in Zürich main station complicates matters and raises the stress level.

Slowpoke

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4756 posts
expert
Dec 3, 2017 - 5:25 PM in reply to sharon0213

Hi Sharon-

<<"5. Are there better activities you would suggest for this time of year?

Will vistas be that scenic at the end of May? Are we better to spend

time in the small towns?">>

I partly answered these questions in my earlier posts.

There are scenic vistas everywhere, at any time of year. I've attached a few from different seasons, to add the panorama that I posted earlier.

When discussing "small towns" it is useful to have a perspective on "small"

May of the places you plan to visit are small towns. If your perspective is that of a citizen of the USA, there are no large cities in Switzerland.

There are certainly many attractive small (by any standard) villages throughout Switzerland. I try to stay in them for lower costs and interaction with the hosts at the inns. If you pick one on a train line, you can have quick access to cities.

Many are accessible by train and all are accessible by train+bus.

However, those services typically run once per hour in the countryside, sometimes with a break over the lunch lunch. So, if you wish to see many, a car is helpful.

I've attached a few random shots of villages and the old town by the river in Fribourg

Slowpoke

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rockoyster
rockoyster
3749 posts
expert
Dec 3, 2017 - 9:08 PM in reply to sharon0213

Hi Sharon,

I said earlier “The cable car from Wengen to Männlichen and the gondola from Grindelwald Grund to Männlichen recommence operation on 18 May 2018”. In fact they are closed until 18 May and restart 19 May. My apologies.

rockoyster
rockoyster
3749 posts
expert
Dec 3, 2017 - 9:20 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Hi Slowpoke,

They have 10 nights.”

Math! Not my strong suit.

Do you know if Hammetschwand will be open by then? I'd expect it to be.”

It opened 6 May in 2017 so I’d expect so too if that is typical.

sharon0213
sharon0213
11 posts
new member
Dec 4, 2017 - 10:01 PM

Wow! Such very helpful advice. Thank you! I've really enjoyed checking out the links and beautiful photos (that panoramic shot looks almost surreal!) and sincerely appreciate the information shared.

First, I have to apologize for my rookie mistake. We leave for Geneva on May 18 but don't actually arrive until 11:30 am on May 19. Sorry for the confusion. We'll have 9 nights in Switzerland.

After reading the information here, I think we will spend the last night in Zurich, although in the downtown and not by the airport - thanks for that suggestion, slowpoke. And the routing ideas were very helpful. It sounds like we'd be smart to head down to Zermatt first and then go to Wengen and on to Luzern.

1. Still not sure what to do about Montreux. I enjoy visiting castles and picturesque lakes, so this town really appeals to me for that reason. Would there be time to stop at Chillon Castle following our arrival at 11:30 am and still get to Zermatt that evening? If we spent the night in Montreux, I suppose we could leave first thing the next morning for Zermatt.

2. As both of us are interested in riding a scenic Swiss train, I really appreciated the suggestions of ways to do that. The Glacier Express option that Lucas recommended particularly appealed to me, as I was more familiar with that train. Looks like the trip to Wengen via Brig is less than half the time of the trip via Andermatt. Would you recommend the longer or shorter routing?

3. Because we need to return home by the end of May, I worried we would miss out on much of what makes the Bernese Oberland region so popular, but it seems the general consensus is that there will be enough for us to do for three nights in Wengen. Am I reading that right? I gather we can travel up to the Schilthorn Observation Deck (is it really free with a Swiss Rail pass in 2018?) and/or to Jungfraujoch if the weather is right.

From what I could see, it looks like the gondola to Männlichen only opens up for the weekend of Pentecost if the weather is good, and then closes again for a few days until May 26. Could that be correct?

Also, I think that the Schynige Platte cogwheel train begins that same day. Would these two experiences (and the possibility of doing the Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg hike if the weather cooperates - still not willing to completely let go of that one! :)) make it worth heading to Wengen at the end of our trip instead of the middle? Or perhaps making Schynige Platte or Männlichen a day trip from Luzern?

From what I've been reading, it sounds like the key to our Swiss adventure is flexibility. Other than our arrival and departure dates and locations, nothing else is written in stone, and it might be worth getting the Swiss Pass if for no other reason than it would allow us to be completely flexible in our travel plans.

Thanks again for your assistance in our planning.

rockoyster
rockoyster
3749 posts
expert
Dec 4, 2017 - 10:09 PM in reply to sharon0213

Hi Sharon,

Your Q2 - personally I found the Brig to Andermatt leg of the Glacier Express a bit ordinary compared to the Oberalp Pass which you only get to beyond Andermatt. The Brig to Spiez via Kandersteg ride is better IMHO. And much quicker.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4756 posts
expert
Dec 5, 2017 - 12:47 AM in reply to rockoyster

G'Day (?) Rockoyster -

I see that your count of nights in Switzerland turned out to be correct. I am considering chopping off one finger.

I agree about the nice journey via Kandersteg.

<<"The Brig to Spiez via Kandersteg ride is better IMHO. And much quicker.">>

However, I am biased. There is a rail trail that parallels the train line. It is a residue from the construction of the line, and is wonderful walk...with a beer garden along the way, of course. So, when I ride the train, I wish that I were on the trail.

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/bls-sudrampe-trail

That one has a lot of pictures.

www.myswissalps.com/hi king/hohtenn-lalden

Slowpoke

rockoyster
rockoyster
3749 posts
expert
Dec 5, 2017 - 3:17 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Hi Slowpoke,

"I am considering chopping off one finger."

Don't do it! 9? 10? What's a mere 1 between friends.

That sounds like a great hike. Thanks for the links and especially photos.

Also somewhere else I have on my bucket list next time I pass through Kandersteg is Oeschinensee (www.myswitzerland.com/ en-au/summer-toboggan-run-in-oeschinen.html). Not sure if it will be open when you are passing Sharon but if it is might be worth a side detour.

sharon0213
sharon0213
11 posts
new member
Dec 11, 2017 - 5:46 AM

Sounds like Zermatt to Brig to Spiez via Kandersteg would be the best way to get to Wengen and still ride some of the Glacier Express. Thanks for the suggestions.

I'd be very interested in your thoughts about walking the Männlichen – Kleine Scheidegg Panorama Trail. While we realize our late May timing doesn't allow for much hiking in the Bernese Oberland, this trail seems to allow is to get a taste of the area, weather permitting, and has really appealed to me. And it looks like the gondola from Wengen to Männlichen opens for good for the summer on May 26, two days before we fly home from Switzerland, but not exactly fitting into our current itinerary. I realize that much of this planning depends on the winter and spring weather, but I want to leave open the possibility of walking this trail if we can arrange it.

1. So my itinerary question is this: would the possibility of taking the gondola from Wengen to Männlichen and walking the Panorama Trail make it worth heading to Wengen at the END of our trip instead of the middle, taking the train to Zurich on May 27th, the night before we leave Switzerland? Would it be odd to visit Luzern before Wengen? Or is there another town that you would recommend as a good base at the end of our trip, allowing us to visit both Luzern and Männlichen on day trips? Or should we just head to Luzern after Wengen as planned and return if the weather looks promising?

2. Also, if we spend 3 nights in Wengen during our trip, and can't really do much hiking that time of year, would day trips to Bern and/or Thun be good options for things to do in May, in addition to Schilthorn and/or Jungfraujoch, weather permitting? Would biking near Wengen or Murren be a possiblity?

Thanks!

Sharon

rockoyster
rockoyster
3749 posts
expert
Dec 11, 2017 - 5:57 AM in reply to sharon0213

Hi Sharon,

Actually, looking at this (www.maennlichen.ch/en/ summer-timetable.html) it looks like the Wengen–Männlichen Aerial Cableway only operates from 1 June! It's the Grindelwald–Männlichen Gondola Cableway that operates 19-21 May (subject to weather) and then from 26 May.

sharon0213
sharon0213
11 posts
new member
Dec 11, 2017 - 6:12 AM in reply to rockoyster

Thanks for correcting that, Rockoyster. So not quite as convenient. I'm guessing they start in two different places but take us to the same location that would allow us to walk the Panorama Trail?

Last modified on Dec 11, 2017 - 6:13 AM by sharon0213
rockoyster
rockoyster
3749 posts
expert
Dec 11, 2017 - 6:25 AM in reply to sharon0213

Yep, www.myswissalps.com/hi king/maennlichen-kleinescheidegg/route I've never done the hike so can't say what it would be like late May. Although around 19 May this year we were in Mürren and it was certainly beautiful weather and no snow in the village. Only much higher up.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4756 posts
expert
Dec 11, 2017 - 6:38 AM in reply to sharon0213

Hi Sharon 0213

<<"I'm guessing they start in two different places but take us to the same location that would allow us to walk the Panorama Trail?">>

Rockoyster used the correct words when he mentioned "high up."

Männlichen is about a 1000 meters higher than Mürren or Wengen. Altitude counts.

That trail is only rarely open before mid -June.

The first stretch, as far as Tschuggen, may be open earlier. But, the trail is in the shade where it passes Tschuggen and the snow will linger. Snow slides are not uncommon there.

Check this map, please, and turn on "mountain transport" under "Traffic" in the menu for Points of Interest.

map.search.ch/?poi=bergbahn&pos=63881 6,162648&z=32

Many of the ski lifts shown are seasonal, just for skiing, by the way.

Th e icons show the different kinds of lifts. Most common are chair lifts.

Slowpoke

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sharon0213
sharon0213
11 posts
new member
Dec 14, 2017 - 8:41 PM

Got it! And thank you for the helpful map. I really appreciate all the detailed information shared.

So, from Wengen, it seems like our best bets at the end of May are to visit Schilthorn and/or Jungfraujoch, weather permitting, as well as day trips to Mürren, Gimmelwald, Bern and possibly Thun. And because biking from Wengen or Murren would involve heading to lower altitudes (and then taking a train of some sort back up?), I'm hoping that's a possibility too.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4756 posts
expert
Dec 14, 2017 - 9:42 PM in reply to sharon0213

Hi Sharon - can't really comment on the bicycling. I don't know the trails well enough. I'd think they might be too steep, and, if in the shade, still have a some snow on them.

There might be something in this rather complete report:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/tips-about-wengen-and-the-jungfrau-region-by-kim

Another source for biking information is Switzerland Mobility:

map.wanderland.ch/?lang=de&route=all&bgLa yer=pk&resolution=50&s eason=summer&layers=Ve loland&E=2632258&N=116 6244

The blue lines are marked bike trails. Click on one, then on the text box that pops up to see quite a lot of detail.

Also, the green ones are major hiking routes. Same procedure, click on them and go from there.

Your summary of options is correct, except that in general, train travel could get you quite far in 2 hours from Interlaken so wider travel would be possible.

I was going to suggest that you might consider the Brienzer Rothorn, but the trains only start to run on June 2.

www.myswissalps.com/br ienzerrothorn

brienz-rothorn-bahn.ch/timetable-prices/?lang=en

Also, Schynige Platte:

www.myswissalps.com/sc hynigeplatte

www.jungfrau.ch/en-gb/schynige-platte/

It starts on May 28.

Slowpoke

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