We spent 1 week in Switzerland this July, followed by another week in Italy.
Zurich Airport From previous experience,we knew that a flight from NYC would put us in Europe early in the morning,before our hotel room was ready, and that we would not have slept very well onthe train. Therefore, we decided to fly into Zurich and immediately get on the train to Lucerne, killing some time so that we could get into our hotel room.
The trip through the Zurich Airport went amazingly quickly. Our plane landed earlier than scheduled (9:10), there were very few people in the airport, we proceeded very quickly though passport control and onto baggage claim. There we used a credit card to get cash and to get our train tickets. We went right out to the train station and were on the 9:45 train. We knew that this was a shockingly good start to our vacation.
Luzern We used sbb.ch to figure out ahead of time which train we wanted to take that went the scenic route via Brienz Lake, rather than the fast route through Bern, and which train went direct from the Zurich airport, without a transfer in Zurich.
We stayed 2 nights in Lucerne, in a hotel near the train station, which was great due to its location, considering that we were pulling along our luggage. We chose the Renaissance hotel, but there are also others in the area. Our hotel did offer breakfast for an additional cost, but we opted to get pastries at the Bachman’s at the corner. Our hotel did have a Nespresso maker, which was a fun new way to make coffee.
It was very easy to walk to all the sights in Luzern, which were largely across the river from our hotel. Twice we ate dinner at the restaurants that line the river. They seemed pretty much the same and were well adapted to serving tourists, without feeling too much like tourist-traps at all. We chose ?? and La Theresa, which both turned out to be very good. We just walked in, caught the eye of a server, and asked for a table for 2. You can just hold up 2 fingers to get the idea across. You can even indicate which table location you would prefer. We were always able to just walk up and get a table, even thou this was the height of tourist season.
We went on the 3 major churches in the area and enjoyed them all. We walked the short way up to the Lion sculpture, which was actually much closer to town than we expected. Sometime you can’t judge distances very well from a map.
Lauterbrunnen We used Hotel Silberhorn, which was very close to the train station, and hadbreakfast included. We also enjoyed 2 dinners there. We used the Laundromat down the street for 5 CHF to wash and 5 CHF to dry. We got a map from the local Tourist Information booth which was helpful regarding the local trails. Alas, since it rained every day, we did not get to hike as much as we wanted. We replaced this with trains rides all over the place, and a boat ride to Spiez.
Jungfraujoch- Getting up to this mountain top was a main goal of our trip, having been inspired by “Where in the World is Matt Lauer”. Be sure to stay in the area several days to account for possible bad weather. Our BO pass got us up as far as Kleine Scheidegg, then we needed a half fare ticket to the top. We bought this ticket at the train station in Lauterbrunnen which was easy to do. We left on the first 7:07 am train out of Lauterbrunnen, and it was already starting to get crowded. It takes an hour to get to KS from Lauterbrunnen, and another hour from KS to the top. If you stay 2 hours at the top, and then spend 2 hours getting back down, you whole day is used up.
Be sure to take a bottle of water with you on this train trip. You do get very dehydrated in the altitude. You can refill the bottle at K.S., but we found it difficult to actually buy a fresh bottle of water there. There is a restaurant at K.S., which was crowded, but the service was actually very good.
There is indeed snow a the top of the mountain, and the temperature is near frezing, so dress appropriately. We packed extra fleece and wore extra layers for the experience. Packing thicker fleece jackets in space bags saves room in your suitcase. We used socks as mittens, and did indeed need those sunglasses. We were not outside long enough to require sunscreen.
This trip up to the top was indeed one of the highlights of any of our travels anywhere in the world.