16 days in Switzerland - April itinerary

16 days in Switzerland - April itinerary

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DD123
DD123
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Feb 26, 2017 - 1:23 PM

Hello all,

I would appropriate your thoughts and comments re my upcoming trip to Switzerland. I'll be traveling to Zurich on the evening of April 6 (as part of a ‘broaden’ family trip) and will be in area until April 12 (covering Zurich, Zug, Lucerne, etc., by way of day trips). From there, my wife and I will proceed using trains to Interlaken (4 nights), Zermatt (3 nights) and Montreux (3 nights) and than back to Zurich for our flight home.

1. Does that itinerary make sense (in terms of order, number of nights in each place, etc.)? I’m aware that weather is always unpredictable, especially in April. With that in mind, do you believe we’ll have enough to do and see in each location even if the weather turns out not to be our friend at such time?

2. I've read a lot about the wonderful scenic trains running through the country - is there any 'must-see' specific train that we should consider (and that can be combined with our different base locations)? How far in advance should such train tickets be reserved? Also, how convenient is this this travel with trains (including the exchanges of trains along the way) with luggage, etc.?

3. Any other recommendations will also be highly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

David

Lucas
Lucas
8881 posts
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Feb 26, 2017 - 5:36 PM in reply to DD123

Hi DD123 and welcome to MySwissAlps!

Its hard to say if they number of nights in each town is sufficient or makes sense for you as it depends on what you want to do in each town. If you are looking for mountain excursions then Interlaken is an area you should spend the most time. 3 nights in Montreux is good if you like to spend time on Lake Geneva, take the chocolate train, visit vineyards etc.

Take a look at our information pages for these towns as they will help you decide how many activities there are that may be interesting to you in that area: Zurich, Luzern, Interlaken, Zermatt, Montreux.

I might suggest a change on the order of towns visited if you would like to include one or more of the panoramic trains Switzerland is known for.

After Zurich, train to Chur and board the Glacier Express train to get to Zermatt.
From Zermatt head to Interlaken (or nearby town in the Bernese Oberland region) and after your stay there you can take the Golden Pass train to Montreux at the end of the trip.

Here is a link for the Swiss Travel Pass which will cover almost all your train and transit trips during your stay in Switzerland. Here is also a link for the Swiss railways timetable to help plan your trips. Trains are by far the most convenient way to travel around Switzerland - by far :).

Let me know what your thoughts and if you have specific activities/attractions you want to see and do and we can help to make sure you see them and from the best nearby town!

regards,
Lucas

DD123
DD123
20 posts
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Feb 27, 2017 - 9:03 AM in reply to Lucas

Thank you so much for your prompt and detailed reply, Lucas!

We actually want to do a little bit of everything sightseeing-wise (mountains, lakes,etc.; though no extreme sports as my wife is pregnant) and I tried building a balanced schedule accordingly.

Regarding the order, I was actually originally thinking of the one your suggested but than was told that the Jungfraujoch region pretty much closes off following Easter (i.e., as of April 17 this year) and that I should therefor visit that area first before proceeding - do you agree with that? Assuming so, is there still anyway to squeeze in a scenic train? Or are the trains which we'll use in any event (zurich -> Interlaken -> Zermatt -> Montreux -> Zurich via Bern) be scenic enough?

As for the specific activities/attractions in each place, I'm still working on that, but what I have at the moment (mostly as headlines, still need to figure out timing, routes, what to pass on / add, etc.) is as follows:

Interlaken: Jungfraujoch/Schilthorn, Meiringen, Lauterbrunnen, Aare Gorge/Gletscherschlucht, Trummelbach falls.

Zermatt: Sunnegga/Gornergrat, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.

Montreux: Gruyeres+Broc (Chocolate Train, Château de Gruyères, Maison Cailler), Fribourg, Lake Geneva+Chateu de chillion, and on the last day a trip in Bern on the way back to Zurich Airport.

Any recommendations would of course be highly appreciated!

BTW, re the Swiss Travel Pass, does the half price pass grant a greater reduction for Jungfraujoch, for example (since the Swiss Travel Pass only grants 25% to my understanding (but couldn't figure out what the half price ticket grants there))? I'm still deliberating between the two...

Thank you again!

David

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Feb 27, 2017 - 9:29 AM in reply to DD123

Hi David -

April will be Spring at lower altitudes. Montreux gets a lot of sun and is in Spring earlier than the Jungfrau region.At higher altitudes, such as near the Jungfrau, you will be in the "low" season when the snow for skiing is not so good, but Spring is not really there...until early June.

Near the Jungfrau, for example, some but not all tourist services will be closed for holidays or for maintenance. Most cableways and some of the mountain railroads - such as Schynige Platte- begin to run in late May. The cograil to the Jungfrau and the series of lifts to Schilthorn will be running when you are there.

Some hotels in the Jungfrau region close in early April . My favorite, the Schönegg in Wengen closes on April 9 and reopens on June 8. Others will be open.

Check this link and the further links on that page:

www.myswissalps.com/ab outswitzerland/nature

Also - for your first days, you might consider Luzern rather than Zürich. More scenic.

Slowpoke

DD123
DD123
20 posts
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Mar 1, 2017 - 11:33 AM in reply to Slowpoke

Thanks, Slowpoke!

Yes, I'm (unfortunately) aware that April is not the best of times and this is why I switched the route to be in the Jungfrau area first , before the lapse of Easter - to my understanding most places will remain open there until after Easter (and in Zermatt and Montreux, places closing up after Easter is somewhat less of a concern) - do you agree with that?

Re the first 6 days, I agree with you but it's a part of a broaden family trip and they prefer staying in a big city (for medical reasons, among others) so I don't have not much to do with that...

Also, would love to hear your thoughts (as well as anyone else's :)) on the excursions I have planned (i.e., what to add, what to remove, feasibility due to time of year and timing, etc.):

Interlaken (4 nights):

1. Jungfraujoch/Schilthorn (depending on weather) - is there a specific recommended way to get there and back from Interlaken? For Schilthorn I'd probably want to go through Mürren, Birg and Lauterbrunnen as well as Trummelbach falls. Also, is it 'too much' to go to both Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn (especially given we'll be in Zermatt afterwards)?

2. Meiringen + Aareschlucht/Aare Gorge + perhaps Reichenbach Falls.

3. Perhaps Thun, Oberhofen,Speiz (and Interlaken itself and Harder kulm).

4. any other recommendations?

Zermatt (3 nights):

1. Sunnegga + Blauherd (5 lakes walk).

2. Matterhorn Glacier Paradise + Gornergrat + Riffelsee.

Montreux (3 nights):

1. Chocolate Train (Gruyeres, Château de Gruyères, Broc, Maison Cailler.

2. Lake Geneva+Chateu de chillion

3. Perhaps Fribourg.

4. Anything else?

On the last day maybe a trip in Bern on the way back to Zurich Airport.

Finally, would also appreciate any thoughts regarding panoramic/scenery trains which I can/should add to the itinerary (or are the trains between the different locations above are sufficient scenic-wise?

Thanks everyone again, I really appreciate your help!

David

Lucas
Lucas
8881 posts
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Mar 1, 2017 - 5:28 PM in reply to DD123

Hi David,

I'll put in my 2 cents where I can!

  1. I agree, I would choose only Jungfraujoch or Schilthorn, both pages I linked will explain the options to get to these attractions.
  2. I would spread out visiting Thun, Oberhofen, Spiez, Interlaken and Harder Kulm over two days.
  3. If you have time to stop in Bern I think it is worthwhile - very charming town to explore for lunch and couple hours of walking about.
  4. The Golden Pass panoramic train I mentioned in an earlier post is a great option. it travels between Luzern to Montreux via Interlaken

Your other itinerary points look quite nice to me.

Lucas

Last modified on Mar 1, 2017 - 6:58 PM by Arno
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Mar 1, 2017 - 10:12 PM in reply to DD123

Hi David,

You already have some great suggestions and advice from Lucas and Slowpoke. I have a few suggestions and comments for you to consider as well.

>> From there, my wife and I will proceed using trains to Interlaken (4 nights), Zermatt (3 nights) and Montreux (3 nights) and than back to Zurich for our flight home. … Does that itinerary make sense (in terms of order

As Lucas mentioned, visiting these towns in the order proposed does not really make the most of opportunities for scenic transfers from town to town. I note your preference to visit the Jungfrau region first, so what about doing things in this order:

Zürich-Interlaken - Golden Pass scenic route via Luzern (not via Bern)

www.myswissalps.com/go ldenpass/gettingthere

Interlaken-Montreux - Golden Pass scenic route (second leg)

www.myswissalps.com/go ldenpass/gettingthere

Montreux-Zermatt

Apart from the sector from Visp to Zermatt, which is part of the Glacier Express route, it lacks the rural and traditional character of the classic scenic routes and has larger towns and cities with modern buildings and commercial and industrial activity featuring fairly prominently.

Zermatt-Zürich

Glacier Express route via Andermatt and Chur

www.myswissalps.com/gl acierexpress/gettingth ere

If you prefer to stick with your original plan:

Zürich-Interlaken (see above)

Interlaken-Zermatt

Most scenic route: Lötschberg scenic route (not via the Lötschberg-Basistunnel)

You will get the scenic route if you put “via Kandersteg” into the timetable.

Zermatt-Montreux (see above)

Montreux-Zürich

Fastest and less scenic route: via Lausanne. Some connections also go through Bern. The sector from Montreux to Lausanne (about 20 minutes) goes along the Lavaux vineyards and Lake Geneva and is lovely. The rest is comparatively flat and uninteresting in comparison with alternatives - in my opinion ;-)

Most scenic route: Golden Pass

Doing the whole route (Montreux-Zweisimmen-Spiez-Interlaken Ost-Luzern-Zürich) would take about 6 hours 16 minutes. However, if you have already done the Luzern-Interlaken sector, you could shorten this by just doing the Golden Pass sector from Montreux to Spiez, then taking a faster route from there to Zürich via Bern.

>> How far in advance should such train tickets be reserved?

Glacier Express – if you are travelling in April – now. This is a very popular service and reservations for this train are compulsory. Other trains on your itinerary don’t need reservations. If you are just doing the sector between Visp and Zermatt, you won’t need a reservation: although travelling along a sector of the Glacier Express route, the timetable will generate an itinerary using a regional train rather than the official Glacier Express train.

>> Also, how convenient is this this travel with trains (including the exchanges of trains along the way) with luggage, etc.?

Very easy in my experience. Most trains have carriages where at least some carriage entrances have floors level with the platform. Look for the wheelchair sign on doors. Most platforms have stair-free access via ramps and/or lifts. (Whenever you see stairs down to a subway, walk past them and there will usually be a ramp going down to the subway further along the platform). There are plenty of options for storing luggage inside carriages, although when it is crowded, I prefer to travel first class to ensure I can store my luggage conveniently. If you can lift your luggage onto overhead racks, that is sometimes an option.

>> Or are the trains which we'll use in any event (zurich -> Interlaken -> Zermatt -> Montreux -> Zurich via Bern) be scenic enough?

I would prefer more scenic options (see above).

>> As for the specific activities/attractions in each place, I'm still working on that, but what I have at the moment … Interlaken: Jungfraujoch/Schilthorn, Meiringen, Lauterbrunnen, Aare Gorge/Gletscherschlucht, Trummelbach falls.

Interlaken – good for shopping and transport connections, but not particularly interesting or scenic in itself. Wengen, Grindelwald or Mürren are in the mountains and have spectacular scenery.

Meiringen – pleasant enough, but not particularly interesting in itself. It provides good access via train to the Aareschlucht, which is very impressive. It also has a great café (Frutal Tea Room) where you can try the local specialty – meringues.

>> BTW, re the Swiss Travel Pass, does the half price pass grant a greater reduction for Jungfraujoch, for example (since the Swiss Travel Pass only grants 25% to my understanding (but couldn't figure out what the half price ticket grants there))? I'm still deliberating between the two...

Half-fare card gives you 50% discount on the fare Interlaken to Jungfraujoch.

Swiss Travel Pass gives you free travel from Interlaken to Wengen or Grindelwald and 25% discount from there to Jungfraujoch.

>> Yes, I'm (unfortunately) aware that April is not the best of times and this is why I switched the route to be in the Jungfrau area first , before the lapse of Easter - to my understanding most places will remain open there until after Easter (and in Zermatt and Montreux, places closing up after Easter is somewhat less of a concern) - do you agree with that?

The main thing in my opinion is whether the mountain transport that you hope to use is operating or not (i.e. cable cars, gondolas and funiculars). Accommodation and restaurant options will be more limited, but they won’t all be closed. The train up to the Jungfraujoch operates all year.

>> Jungfraujoch/Schilthorn (depending on weather) - is there a specific recommended way to get there and back from Interlaken?

There are two options for getting to Jungfraujoch (from Interlaken Ost) and Schilthorn (from Lauterbrunnen). Most people go up one way and down the other. That is a good option if all modes of transport are operating when you are there.

Jungfraujoch (all by train, operates all year)

Option 1 – Interlaken Ost-Grindelwald-Kleine Scheidegg-Jungfraujoch

Option 2 – Interlaken Ost-Lauterbrunnen-Wengen-Kleine Scheidegg-Jungfraujoch

Schilthorn

Option 1 – bus or walk from Lauterbrunnen to Stechelberg-cable car to Schilthorn via Gimmelwald, Mürren and Birg.

Option 2 - Cable car Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp-train to Mürren-cable car to Schilthorn via Birg.

>> Also, is it 'too much' to go to both Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn (especially given we'll be in Zermatt afterwards)?

They are both very different, both in the trip up and the scenery at the top. If you have the time and the money, and the Schilthorn mountain transport is operating, I would do both. I have attached some photos of each. The Schilthorn photos date from August last year. The Jungfraujoch photos were taken in December last year (hence the Christmas tree!)

>> On the last day maybe a trip in Bern on the way back to Zurich Airport.

If you can visit Bern from Zürich at the beginning of your trip, that would leave you with better options for experiencing scenic train trips. Most routes via Bern are not the most scenic, and during commuter travel times they can be very crowded.

Alpenrose

Last modified on Mar 2, 2017 - 8:20 AM by Lucas
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Mar 1, 2017 - 10:23 PM in reply to DD123

Schilthorn photos.

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Mar 1, 2017 - 10:43 PM in reply to DD123

Meringue dessert Frutal Tea Room in Meiringen :-)

Last modified on Mar 1, 2017 - 10:43 PM by Removed user
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Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
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Mar 1, 2017 - 11:46 PM in reply to DD123

Hi David-

Things are a bit busy around here at the moment, so Alpenrose beat me to it. Good thing!

That is a wonderfully complete and well reasoned reply.

I'll only emphasize the comments about the Jungfrau region...there is enough to do, even if some things are closed... The closures do not only depend on Easter, they depend on deteriorating skiing conditions.

So, . I'd suggest that you plan on going there no matter what the dates....you don't intend to ski, and just don't plan any high altitude hikes or the use of some of the cable ways that go to good ski places. They might not be available. For what you want to do, there is plenty of choice and availability. That includes Jungfrau and Schilthorn.

Slowpoke

DD123
DD123
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Mar 2, 2017 - 9:25 AM in reply to Removed user

Wow, thank you so much for your detailed response! Amazing!

I definitely think that your (and the others') comments make much sense and I believe that I'll indeed switch up Zermatt and Montreux (i.e., Zurich -> Interlaken -> Montreux -> Zermatt -> Zurich) to make the most out of the scenic trains.

Quick questions, though - I've been playing around with SBB's website trying to figure out timing and lanes. When i search for a train from Zurich to Interlaken Ost via Luzern, for example, I get (for the second leg) the LUZERN-INTERLAKEN EXPRESS - is this the Goldenpass train? If not, how can I search specifically for this line (embarrassing question, usually I'm pretty intuitive with this type of things... :D)? And same for the trip from Interlaken Ost to Montreux (via Zweisimmen, to my understanding) and from Zermatt to Zurich (Glacier Express) - I do I know which trains to take (I don't see anywhere trains specified by such names - are they just nicknames?)?

And I understand that no reservations for trains are required (even for the Goldenpass ) other than for the Glacier Express? For the Glacier Express, do I need to book in advance only for journey from Zermatt to Chur (and than board a regular train to Zurich on the spot)? How does this advance reservation work with me getting a Swiss pass/half price pass later on?

Thank everyone again for all of your assistance - you're amazing!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Mar 2, 2017 - 9:41 AM in reply to DD123

Hi David -

<<"When i search for a train from Zurich to Interlaken Ost via Luzern, for example, I get (for the second leg) the LUZERN-INTERLAKEN EXPRESS - is this the Goldenpass train?">>

Yes. However, to be precise, it is one of the several trains that comprise the golden Pass Route. This may help:

www.myswissalps.com/go ldenpass

In general, the only time reservations are needed is when you choose one of the special cars that provide enhanced visibility. There are two or three named variations for the trains with special cars on the leg from Zweisimmen to Montreux. Study that link.

Slowpoke

Lucas
Lucas
8881 posts
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moderator
Mar 2, 2017 - 1:57 PM in reply to DD123

Hi DD123,

Yes, the Luzern - Interlaken Express is the Golden Pass train for that route. It is easiest to find searching for Luzern to Montreux via Zweisimmen. When you see a list of trains for this route click the + sign and make sure you are on a train with MOB listed as that is the panoramic train (other regional trains also travel this route).

Reservations are recommended on the Golden Pass (especially between Zweisimmen and Montreux) and required on the Glacier Express and Bernina Express trains. Here is another link with timetable information on the Golden Pass.

Lucas

DD123
DD123
20 posts
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Mar 3, 2017 - 3:47 PM in reply to Lucas

Thank you all so much!

I'm still trying to figure out the scenic trains matter, though (sorry for being so hard on that...) -

1. Is there a difference between reserving sits on the Glacier Express' website and on SBB's website (or is the reservation only done on the Glacier Express 's website and SBB is only for actually purchasing tickets, which is not required if we have online reservations + Swiss Pass)?

2. just to make sure, we'll be traveling from Zermatt to Zurich on that day, so I assume we'll need to take the Glacier Express until Chur and from them a regular train to Zurich?

3. apparently there are no more sits available by the windows on the train we'll be taking (April 22; though the days before and after do have window-sits left, very odd…)... – is it still worthwhile taking that train (since it's quite early in the morning...; and how are there so few sits on that train…?!)? Or should we just take the regular trains? Is it possible that something open up later on?

4. Lucas, you mentioned that reservations are also recommended for the Golden Pass – is that done the same way (on their website and then no purchasing is required for Swiss Pass)? I'm trying to make sense of the timetable you linked to, there seem to be many trains on that line daily – do they tend to fill up as well (even off season)?

Thanks again!

Arno
Arno
11155 posts
expert &
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Mar 3, 2017 - 5:06 PM

Hi David,

1. There are many websites selling reservations. It does not matter where you buy from. The Glacier Express page Lucas linked to offers various links under Tickets and under Packages. By the way, a Swiss Pass is for Swiss residents, tourists can buy a Swiss Travel Pass.

2. Yes, if you prefer to take the Glacier Express, that is the route.

3. Sorry, I don't know the answer to that one. It's a Saturday, so it might be busier because of Swiss residents traveling too, and tourists often arrive and depart on Saturdays. Sure, you can take regular trains if you don't mind switching trains along the way. You would save some money because you don't need a reservation.

4. For the Zweisimmen to Montreux section it is recommended in high season/weekends, but not required. You can always board. The panoramic trains (marked "D" in the timetable) are more popular among tourists than the local trains (marked "R").

Last modified on Mar 3, 2017 - 5:07 PM by Arno
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Mar 4, 2017 - 12:08 AM in reply to DD123

>> 3. apparently there are no more sits available by the windows on the train we'll be taking (April 22; though the days before and after do have window-sits left, very odd…)... – is it still worthwhile taking that train (since it's quite early in the morning...; and how are there so few sits on that train…?!)? Or should we just take the regular trains? Is it possible that something open up later on?

If I were in your position, this is what I would do:

---Consider doing the trip in the reverse direction. If I understand your plans correctly, this would mean travelling from Zürich to Zermatt via Chur on 12 April. As I write this, there are still 10 window seats available in second class for this service.

In relation to your Interlaken excursions, from 18 to 21 April, all the Schilthorn mountain transport options and boats on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz will be operating. However the gondola from Grindelwald to First and the funicular from Mürren to Allmendhubel both close on 18 April, so you would miss them.

If you prefer not to change the direction of your trip:

---I would prefer to take the local trains rather than reserve a seat that wasn't next to the window.

---However, I would keep checking the Glacier Express reservation page regularly to see if more seats become available. Once there are only two or three left, I would check several times a day. This is only guesswork on my part, but it may be that they just book one carriage at a time, and do not release seats for another carriage until the current one is filled up. There are currently 11 unbooked seats in second class.

---Consider upgrading to first class for the Glacier Express. Yesterday there were two window seats still available, but today there is only one. There are only 6 unreserved seats left, so I would keep an eye on this to see if an additional carriage becomes available shortly for booking.

Alpenrose

DD123
DD123
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Mar 4, 2017 - 6:21 PM in reply to Removed user

Thank you both!

I ended up reserving sits on the first class for that train. Thanks!

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Mar 6, 2017 - 5:19 AM in reply to DD123

>> I ended up reserving sits on the first class for that train.

Glad you found some seats that suited you!

Have you decided what sort of pass you will get yet? If you decide to get a second-class Swiss Travel Pass, what you need to do to upgrade your second class pass to travel first class on a particular sector is explained here:

www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/glacier-express-upgrade-to-1st-class

Alpenrose

Last modified on Mar 6, 2017 - 4:55 PM by Arno
DD123
DD123
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Mar 7, 2017 - 2:53 PM in reply to Removed user

Yes, that's probably what I'll do (no need to book the Swiss Travel Pass much in advance, right?). Can the upgrade be purchased via the SBB app/website as well, BTW, or only at a train station?

Thank you so much everyone for all of your assistance - you're doing an amazing job! truly appropriated.

Lucas
Lucas
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Mar 7, 2017 - 4:34 PM in reply to DD123

Hi DD123,

Yes you can upgrade on the app or website or at a station. Here is a step-by-step guide when using the app - provided by Alpenrose666 in fact!

You just need to buy the Swiss Travel Pass far enough in advance to get it mailed to you (or e-mailed and printed out) before you travel. Swiss railways won't "run out" of STP's.

Lucas

Last modified on Mar 7, 2017 - 4:34 PM by Lucas

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