Hi Jo, and welcome to MySwissAlps!
>> My husband and I scored a fabulous deal on DeltaOne for a trip to Switzerland in mid-April.
Unfortunately, April can be an awkward time to visit Switzerland, in particular the alps, as it is between seasons, and a lot of cable cars, funiculars and mountain trains will not be operating. Most of those that operate only during the summer will not have recommenced operations, and many of those that operate year round will be closed for 4-6 weeks to undertake maintenance. This is because the ski season has finished, and the hiking season (at higher altitudes) hasn't started. The exact operating dates vary from place to place. Many hotels will also close during this time.
However, it will still be possible to find a hotel and have a good time. If you can provide exact dates, we can give more detailed advice.
>> We will have a week and aren't sure where to start!
For one week, I would suggest no more than two bases. For first-timers Luzern and the Jungfrau Region are usually recommended, as both offer stunning (but very different) alpine scenery and have beautiful lakes. But what you can do there will depend on the exact dates of your trip.
>> We're interested in any interesting villages (food? shops) that may be a "must see".
In the Jungfrau Region, Wengen, Mürren and Grindelwald are beautiful alpine villages, and would be worth a visit, although your activities there will be limited by what mountain transport is operating. The train to the Jungfraujoch operates all year round, and is a wonderful (but very expensive) trip.
>> We don't have a desire to do strenuous hiking, although we are relatively fit and so moderate hiking is fine if it takes us to amazing sights!
Hiking in April will be limited to low altitudes. Others here can give you good advice about suitable hikes for that time of the year.
>> We've heard "take the train", but we aren't sure what the best scenic route would be. We fly in/out of Zurich and are open to suggestions for a 6-night itinerary to maximize our time there.
If you plan on incorporating scenic train trips into your itinerary, your overnight stops should be chosen with those routes and travel times in mind. The following map of scenic routes in Switzerland might help with your planning:
www.sbb.ch/content/dam /sbb/de/pdf/bahnhof-services/am-bahnhof/infra_services -uebersicht-karten-uebersicht-sts-panorama-de.pdf
The Wilhelm Tell Express is now called the Gotthard Panorama Express.
Travel times for the scenic routes (one way) are as follows:
- Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz: 8 hours 06
- Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano: 4 hours 13
- Golden Pass line (full) from Luzern to Montreux: 5 hours 08
- Golden Pass Line (part) from Luzern to Interlaken Ost: 1 hour 50
- Golden Pass line (part) from Interlaken Ost to Montreux: 3 hours 05
- Gotthard Panorama Express (boat and train) from Luzern to Lugano: 5 hours 26
- Palm Express (PostBus) from Lugano to St Moritz: 3 hours 48
- Voralpen-Express from Luzern to St. Gallen: 2 hours 16
- RegioExpress Lötschberger (full) from Bern to Brig: 1 hour 41
- RegioExpress Lötschberger (part) from Spiez to Brig: 1 hour 08
- Centovalli Railway from Locarno to Domodossola: 1 hour 46
If you want to calculate travel time for short sectors along these routes, you can use the Swiss Timetable:
There is also a wealth of information about scenic trips here:
>> Is it worth taking a train to, say, France or Germany for a night; or should we just concentrate our efforts in Switzerland?
For such a short trip, I would just concentrate on Switzerland. Even in April, there will be so much to see.
>> We're interested in B&Bs to amplify the experience, but have plenty of Marriott points which would give us cost-free stays, too
The two Marriott hotels in Luzern are well located. On such a short trip, I wouldn't stay in Zürich, as other places have so much more to offer in the way of scenic beauty.
>> Is there a particular cuisine (besides the obvious cheese/chocolate) that is a must?
This might interest you:
In Luzern, the Rathaus Brauerei, on the riverside promenade, is one of my favourites:
Others will also give you suggestions I'm sure, especially once you have decided on an itinerary.
There is a lot of information on this site, so explore the "Where to go" and "What do do" tabs, as well as the "Getting started" tab. But first of all, please tell us the dates of your travel so we can see what activities will be available to you.