Suggestions for first timers to Switzerland

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joandphil
joandphil
4 posts
new member
Dec 19, 2017 - 3:50 PM

My husband and I scored a fabulous deal on DeltaOne for a trip to Switzerland in mid-April. We will have a week and aren't sure where to start! We went to Italy last spring and decided we had tried to pack too much into that week, so we don't want to make the same mistake in Switzerland. We're interested in any interesting villages (food? shops) that may be a "must see". 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! 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. Is it worth taking a train to, say, France or Germany for a night; or should we just concentrate our efforts in Switzerland? Suggestions are welcome! We're interested in B&Bs to amplify the experience, but have plenty of Marriott points which would give us cost-free stays, too; so if anyone has feedback to share on those options, it is also welcome. Is there a particular cuisine (besides the obvious cheese/chocolate) that is a must? If you are suggesting specific stops, are there any special restaurants we don't want to miss while we're there? Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts with us.

Removed user
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Dec 20, 2017 - 12:26 AM in reply to joandphil

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.

www.myswissalps.com/ju ngfraujoch

>> 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:

www.myswissalps.com/ti metable

There is also a wealth of information about scenic trips here:

www.myswissalps.com/ac tivities/scenictrips

>> 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:

www.myswitzerland.com/ en-au/typical-food.html

In Luzern, the Rathaus Brauerei, on the riverside promenade, is one of my favourites:

www.rathausbrauerei.ch /en

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.

Alpenrose

Last modified on Dec 20, 2017 - 7:50 AM by Chantal
Chantal
Chantal
944 posts
top member
Dec 20, 2017 - 8:02 AM in reply to joandphil

Thanks Alpenrose, and hello Jo and Phil,

There is a very informative thread about hiking options in the Wengen area in April: www.myswissalps.com/fo rum/topic/wengen-area-early-april

Taking the train is an excellent way to explore Switzerland. We have a lot of information on our website about the different train passes and their validity: www.myswissalps.com/tr ain/ticketspasses

joandphil
joandphil
4 posts
new member
Dec 20, 2017 - 1:58 PM

Thanks for the responses! Very helpful. Our trip is April 18-25

cam223
cam223
75 posts
active member
Dec 21, 2017 - 6:54 PM

Switzerland is absolutely beautiful. We've been there 3 times--the last a month ago.

The train is a must. Swiss trains run on time and are very efficient. The scenery is magnificent.

I totally understand that tired feeling from doing too much in too little time. I would skip trips to Germany and France since there's lot to do and see in Switzerland. We've been to Geneva, Basel, Zermatt, Zurich, Chur, St Gallen and Lucerne. Each region has lots to offer. I'd begin by taking a look at various regions and see what each one has to offer you. What are your interests? There's plenty to do even if some things aren't open.

One note however on the Zurich airport--allow plenty of time to get to the gate since it's a long walk between check-in and the departure gate.

Last modified on Dec 21, 2017 - 8:01 PM by Chantal
Removed user
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Dec 21, 2017 - 11:39 PM in reply to joandphil

Hi Jo,

>> Our trip is April 18-25

Here are some details about mountain transport, boats etc in Luzern, the Jungfrau Region, and the area around Interlaken during that time.

SCENIC TRAINS

Due to construction work between 19 Mar-1 Jun 2018, there will be substitute buses between Château-d’Oex and Montbovon, and it will not be possible to make a reservation for the sector between Zweisimmen and Montreux.

  • Golden Pass Belle-Époque train

These carriages are going to be renovated between 8 Jan and the end of July 2018, so trains with conventional carriages will operate at the scheduled times for the Belle-Époque train.

It won't be operating on the first few days you are there, but from 21 Apr 2018 it will operate Tuesday to Sunday (not Mondays).

LUZERN AREA

  • Gondola to Titlis - operating
  • Pilatus - the cogwheel train from Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm will not be operating, but you can go up and back on the cableway from Kriens.
  • Rigi - the cable car between Weggis and Rigi Kaltbad is not operating between 3–27 Apr 2018. However, you can still go up and back on the trains from Vitznau and Arth-Goldau.
  • Stanserhorn funicular and cable car - reopens on 14 Apr 2018 after winter closure
  • Boats on the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne) will be operating. The winter timetable is in force until 20 April 2018, then from 21 April the spring timetable kicks in, with more frequent services. You can find the timetables here:

www.lakelucerne.ch/en/ timetable-fares/timetable/

  • Kehrsiten–Bürgenstock funicular - operating
  • Hammetschwand Lift - I haven't seen dates for 2018 yet, but in 2017 it didn't reopen after the winter closure until the first Saturday in May, so I would expect it to be the same in 2018.
  • Schwyz–Stoos funicular (world's steepest funicular) - not operating 3–27 Apr 2018

JUNGFRAU REGION

Jungfraujoch

The train to the Jungfraujoch operates year-round.

Grindelwald

  • Gondola Grindelwald-First - operating
  • Gondola Grindelwald Grund-Männlichen - not operating 3 Apr-18 May 2018

Lauterbrunnen

  • Cable car Lauterbrunnen-Grütschalp - operating
  • Trümmelbach Falls - open

Wengen

  • Cable car Wengen-Männlichen - not operating 3 Apr-31 May 2018

Mürren

  • Funicular Mürren-Allmendhubel - not operating 9 Apr-22 Jun 2018
  • Cable car Mürren-Schilthorn - operating until 22 Apr 2018, then closed for maintenance 23-27 Apr

Wilderswil

  • Train Wilderswill-Schynige Platte - not operating; reopens after winter closure on 26 May 2018

INTERLAKEN AREA

  • Funicular to Harder Kulm - reopens on 14 April 2018 after winter break.
  • Boats on Thunersee (Lake Thun) - operating on a spring timetable, with 2 departures daily in each direction for the full length of the lake, plus an additional service on weekends. There are also a few additional departures that just travel part of the lake.
  • Boats on Brienzersee (Lake Brienz) - operating on a spring timetable, with 4 departures daily in each direction.
  • Brienzer Rothorn - neither the train from Brienz nor the cable car from Sörenberg recommence operations until 2 Jun 2018
  • Giessbach funicular - I have not seen 2018 dates for this, but I think it is coordinated with the operation of boats on the Brienzersee, so it should be operating.
  • Gondola Beatenberg-Niederhorn - reopens after maintenance period on 21 Apr 2018.

If you do decide to spend your time in these areas (which I would highly recommend), I hope these details will assist you to arrange your activities to make the most of the attractions that will be operating during your stay.

Alpenrose

Last modified on Dec 22, 2017 - 8:20 AM by Chantal
Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5085 posts
expert
Dec 23, 2017 - 3:00 AM in reply to joandphil

Hi JoandPhil-

I always fly Delta, so I envy you your flights. In Delta One, you are likely to get enough sleep to ease the jet lag.

You have had the very good luck to get detailed information from Alpenrose. There is no better way to get a detailed discussion about what is available when you are there.

However, you can see that a lot of Switzerland is between seasons, which might be why you got a good deal on your flights?

I'd try to stay in villages or locally run hotels. I too have a lot of Marriott points, but I would never dream of using them in Switzerland because I try to stay "local."

As Alpenrose notes, April is generally not a good time for many the major and famous Alpine sights, although the availability of the Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn (Schilthorn during part of your visit) means that you can see some spectacular things in that area.

Harder Kulm would be nice.

For perspective on weather, altitude means a lot in Switzerland.

www.myswissalps.com/ab outswitzerland/nature

In laet April, you will be getting Spring weather in the lower altitudes ( Luzern) and late Winter at high altitudes ( Jungfraujoch). (The local German spelling of Lucerne is Luzern).

Interlaken and Luzern are at about 560 and 400 meters above sea level.

Lauterbrunnen, on the valley floor, is at about 800 meters. Snow might be off the valley floor by then, although it does not get much sun, but Wengen (at 1274 meters) will still have snow on the trails (unless it is a very warm Spring) but skiing will not be great and Kleine Scheidegg at 2000 meters or so will still have lots of snow. Not good snow for skiing, but good for blocking trails with deep drifts of late winter snow.

map.search.ch/?pos=648800,160608&z=8

Zoom in and out of that map to see those towns.

The cableway from Wengen to Männlichen, noted by Alpenrose, stops Winter ski service on April 3. There will be snow at Männlichen ( 2300 meters) but it won't be good for skiing.

For a pictorial perspective, in the middle of April 2014, there was a very very unusual period of about 7-10 days throughout much of Switzerland with few Spring rains, and sunny , warm and dry weather. Very unusual.

I was staying in the Emmental - farm country between Bern and Luzern - and went up on the ridge overlooking the village of Sumiswald ( at 700 meters) . The clear air allowed me to shoot pictures of Schloss Trachselwald ( Schloss means castle) , the villages, and the Alps beyond, quite a distance away. I built a panorama from several shots, with considerable help from Photoshop. Attached..

The relevant parts of the picture, taken on approximately April 15th, show lots of snow on the Alps, and the barest beginning of Spring in the village. The grass is only starting to green up in the lowest areas. The deciduous trees do not have their leaves; they are flowering or showing buds. Fields are being plowed for planting.

The nice thing about April is that that, generally, there are no hordes of tourists. The hotels and restaurants that are open will welcome guests to fill there rooms or tables.

Although I prefer to go in May, in 2014 I went in mid-April had had a wonderful trip. You never know.

Slowpoke

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