First off, a huge thank you to all who contribute to this site as your information is so helpful for us novice Switzerland travelers. We enjoyed our time in Switzerland following a Rhine River cruise which ended in Basel. We would do some things differently now that we’ve had this experience, but overall, we had a wonderful time just touching but a few of the beautiful sites in Switzerland.
We started in Amsterdam prior to our River Cruise and were fortunate to hit the weather and season perfectly for the beautiful Keukenhof Gardens and tulips. After our River Cruise (with nearly perfect weather as well), we departed Basel for Lucerne via train. We were two couples traveling together for a portion of the trip.
Train passes: For convenience, and after much conversation, we decided to our chase the Swiss Travel Pass consecutive days. One couple purchased the four day Swiss Travel Pass second class, and my husband and I purchased the 8 day STP second class. We purchased prior to our trip via Happy Rail, which was extremely efficient. Just be aware if you purchase on a weekend, you may not receive your passes until the next “business day.” Both Couples actually needed one additional day for the train....but a Swiss Travel Pass Flex seemed more expensive and we opted just to add the additional fare needed on the extra travel day. I was able to purchase a Super Saver ticket for our additional ticket from Basel to Zürich at the end of our stay, so I think it all worked out. Second class tickets during our timeframe was totally fine. We never felt we needed to upgrade and there were plenty of seats. A must is the SBB Mobile App, which I was able to utilize often to find train schedules, tracks, and buy additional tickets for the end of our trip.
Travel: we spent two nights in Lucerne in an apartment in the Old Town. The apartment had a washer/dryer which was great after being on the cruise! There was a huge marathon race taking place, so it was very busy and noisy! But it added to the ambiance and buzz of the city. We were steps from the Chapel Bridge. We utilized our STPasses to take a Lake Lucerne boat ride and see some additional sites. Unfortunately, some of us were dealing with a respiratory illness so we weren’t feeling up to doing as much as we anticipated. I would have opted to stay a third night to have more time to explore. We ate at a Thai restaurant, a very small eat in and take out place right around the corner from our apartment, called Phanat Thai. It was the best meal for the money we had in Switzerland.
We checked our luggage (two bags each couple....four total) at the Lucerne train station the night before our departure via Golden Pass to Montreux. It was great to get the luggage out of the way. The next morning we headed to Montreux. I believe there were four changes on the train, plus a bus ride in the construction area so not having our luggage to tote was great. We stopped for lunch in Zweisimmen since there was a train change here. Ate at Braserie Zur Simme, a cute cafe with excellent food and service. We enjoyed the Golden Pass experience, and again had decent weather.
Montreux: we opted to spend a bit more on accommodations to stay at the Hotel Grand Suisse Majestic right across the street from the train station, which was so convenient for getting our luggage and for our friends who were leaving early to get to Geneva for their flight back to the US. We had rooms with a lake view and it was well worth it! We ate at two very good restaurants in Montreux: La Brasserie J5 and la Rouvenaz. As our travel companion needed Gluten free options, both of these restaurants had this covered. On day two, we traveled to Gruyeres to see the cheese making factory. It was a fun trip, though again, we would have like an additional day to explore more of Montreux. We walked along the lake where there were beautiful flower displays. We had nice weather here.
Our friends took an early train to Geneva airport from Montreux, and my husband and I headed to Wengen. We sent our luggage ahead. Upon arrival on Wengen, we checked into our hotel, the Pasta and More bed and breakfast. There wasn’t an elevator, so beware if you don’t want to climb three flights of stairs with luggage. The view from our room was amazing...the room clean but a bit dated. It was nice to have breakfast included. There were only three restaurants open in Wengen as we were between seasons, so we did eat at our hotel dining room one night and it was very good. Unfortunately, our bad weather day came in Wengen so on day two when we planned to visit Jungfraujoch or Schilthorn, we ended up going to Trummelbach Falls and exploring Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen. However, the magestic mountains were amazing to see when possible!
From Wengen, we headed back to Basel to visit with my nephew who is doing a PhD program there. We found a gem of a boutique hotel, Hotel Spalentor Basel, which was across the street from the gate to old town. The staff was excellent, room very nice and there was a small bar and outdoor area with tables. It was perfect for us. We enjoyed walking Basel with my nephew and, being there on a weekend, experiencing some outdoor events and activities going on in the city.
We purchased super saver train tickets for our Basel to Zürich train ride as our travel pass dates were over. We stayed at the Acasa Suites hotel at the Oerlikon train station. I booked the hotel directly with them and received a good rate and 10chf credit for their restaurant. We chose this location as it was just a five minute direct train ride to the Zurich airport, where we flew from our last morning. I purchased a train ticket for us and we walked the five minutes to the train station, got on our train and were at the airport quickly. It was a good location, though not in central Zurich.
We learned a lot and now know what we would do to make the next trip a bit better! We did find the food in Switzerland much more expensive than we expected (!) And, as I’ve mentioned, having an additional day built in would have been ideal at each city. Thank you all again for your help via this website! Thanks again!