Myself and my wife are in our mid to late 50s from Aberdeenshire, Scotland and spent 11 nights in Switzerland in early September 2023. This was our first visit to Switzerland and since I got so much information from this site/forum I thought I would write a trip report. I bought the Half Fare Card and Berner Oberland pass for 4 days.
Our itinerary was as follows:
Fly Edinburgh to Basel on EasyJet.
4 nights in Zermatt.
4 nights in Grindelwald.
2 nights in Luzern.
1 night Basel.
Fly Basel to Edinburgh on EasyJet.
Day 1 Arrival
Our flight was early on a Saturday morning from Edinburgh and we arrived at Basel airport just slightly behind schedule. After a bus transfer from the plane we were quickly through immigration, collected bags and on our way to Basel railway station on the number 50 bus which was quite busy.
I had bought 1st class Saver Day Pass tickets in June for this day which was cheaper than the half fare 2nd class ticket and after picking up lunch at the Migros at Basel train station, we boarded the 12:56 train to Brig with a change at Visp to the train to Zermatt arriving at 16:14.
We were staying at Chalet Aeschhorn in a 1-bedroom apartment and were greeted on arrival by the owner who showed us to our room and advised we had to pay the tourist tax in cash. The apartment was spacious with a nice terrace shared with the adjoining apartment although unfortunately no sun after mid afternoon. Chalet Aeschhorn is a nice building, a short walk from the train station and in a good central location just off the main street but is mostly uphill from the train station so was quite a strenuous walk with a trolley case and bag.
We went to Migros to buy some supplies and then went for a wander around Zermatt village and ended up at the North Wall for pizza and beers which were very good. We headed up towards the Matterhorn Express cable car and then back through the village to our apartment.
Day 2 Gornergrat
We were up early and caught the 08:00 train to Gornergrat getting a seat on the right with the great views of the Matterhorn. We bought 2 singles to Gornergrat at a machine using the Half Fare Card.
Once we were at the top we went for a wander and did the short circular walk which still had snow in places. We got great views of the glacier and the surrounding mountains. We had a look in the shop and then did the 3D cinema and virtual reality experience which was very good.
After taking some more photos we started to walk back to Zermatt which was easy at first. Initially we headed to Riffelsee and got some nice photos of the Matterhorn reflected in both lakes. We had a picnic lunch down from Riffelsee with a view of the Matterhorn and waterfalls in the valley. We carried on and stopped to watch some marmots for a period before then heading to Furi down a very steep path which was extremely tough on the knees. From Furi we went to Restaurant Zum See for a couple of beers and some dessert which was very nice. We carried on down to Zermatt. Total distance of 14.1 km almost all downhill. We ate in the apartment for dinner.
Day 3 Matterhorn Glacier Paradise
Up early again and headed to the Matterhorn Express cable car station where we bought return tickets to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. There was quite a large queue of skiers, climbers and hikers for the cable car before it opened. There is currently a lot of construction going on around the cable car station and the ticket office is in a temporary location and no ticket machines.
The cable car goes from Zermatt to Furi to Schwarzee to Trockener Steg where we had to change to a very busy cable car to Klein Matterhorn.
Once at the top we headed immediately up the lift to the viewpoint to get amazing views all around including all the way to Mont Blanc and it wasn’t busy at all, there were less than 10 people initially. We could see groups of people heading up the snow covered Breithorn as well as skiers in Italy. We then headed to the shop and to the ice exhibition which was very nice. We went to watch the skiers and take in the views from outside the restaurant. We watched the film and then headed back up to the viewpoint which was now very busy.
On the way down from Klein Matterhorn to Trockener Steg we took a different/smaller cable car (the one we took up was no longer running) and got off at Trockener Steg and walked down to the lake for some Matterhorn reflection shots. The walk back up from the lake was quite tough I assume due to the altitude although our knees were sore from the previous day. We then caught the cable car back to Zermatt.
We had some lunch at our apartment and then headed on a circular walk from Zermatt to Zmutt which was 7km and 410m of elevation gain most of which is at the start as you climb up the hillside from Zermatt. We tried to get some drinks at one of the restaurants in Zmutt but couldn’t get a table and the other one wasn’t open. We walked back to Zermatt and had some drinks at a bar just off the main street in Zermatt and then we ate dinner in our apartment.
After dinner we headed up to the Zermatt Matterhorn viewpoint for sunset which was quite a strenuous walk up many steps. Sunset was slightly disappointing although there was some pink colour on the Matterhorn for a short period. The viewpoint was much busier than I had expected.
Day 4 Five Lakes Walk Blauherd to Sunnegga
Up early and we bought the 5 Lakes Walk ticket at the machine and took the inclined railway from Zermatt to Sunnegga where we had a wander around before heading up on the gondola to Blauherd.
From there we walked to Stellisee which was quite busy and then headed away from the standard Five Lakes Walk up to Fluhalp and beyond into the mountains to see the glacier at the top of the valley which was clear had receded a lot.
We then walked back down the ridge and then down the hill back onto the standard walk to stopping for a short while on a bench with Matterhorn views and then onto Grindjisee and Grunsee lakes. We stopped for a while at Mossjesee which we had seen from up the hill and it was a beautiful blue colour. We then headed uphill to Leisee and back to Sunnegga where we had some beers and some food for a late lunch in the restaurant. Total walk was 10.5 km with 385m of elevation gain although most of the walk was downhill.
We returned on the inclined railway to Zermatt and headed to the Coop to buy more supplies and something for dinner.
Before dinner we packed up a case and took it to Zermatt train station to send it to Grindelwald which was very easy. We followed the luggage signs but you pay and drop off at the ticket office.
Day 5 Travel to Grindelwald via Kandersteg
Today was a 6 train day as I wanted to visit Lake Oeschinensee on the way to Grindelwald. We caught the 07:37 train from Zermatt to Visp and changed train for the short journey to Brig arriving at 09:02. Our train to Kandersteg was at 09:34 so we bought lunch in Brig train station at the bakery. This was the point where we started using the Berner Oberland pass.
The train to Kandersteg was very quiet and we arrived at 10:14. There are a few luggage lockers at Kandersteg but our bag was too big for them so we went to the ticket office and they kept the bag in the office for 6 CHF which is what the locker would have cost.
We then walked to the gondola station which was relatively straight-forward although along a road with no pavement for part of it and we walked straight onto a gondola up to Oeschinen.
It was very hot and quite hazy so unfortunately the lake views were not the best but we thoroughly enjoyed the circular walk which we did clockwise and it was quite hard for the first quarter of the walk and the last part is uphill from the lake. The walk was 9.6km with 548m of elevation gain. We had a picnic lunch at the far end of the walk just down from the first restaurant with beautiful views of the lake.
We returned to the gondola station and had an ice-cream before returning on the gondola and the 15 min walk back to Kandersteg train station via a path that we saw from the gondola. We collected our bag and had a bit of a wait for the 15:15 train to Spiez then onto Interlaken Ost and finally to Grindelwald arriving at 17:09. The first train from Kandersteg to Spiez was very busy with a couple of large groups of students and we were extremely lucky to get a seat right at the back of the train.
We were staying at Hotel Gletschergarten in Grindelwald and I had arranged pickup at the train station but with an airtag in our luggage I could see that it was already in Grindelwald train station so I was able to pick it up then rather than waiting for the next day.
Our room in Hotel Gletschergarten was quite small but was on a corner and had mountain views in both directions including of the Eiger. The hotel is away from the centre of the village and was very nice with friendly hard-working owners.
We had a walk back down into Grindelwald and ate at Golden India which was very nice.
Day 6 Mannlichen, Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Murren, Gimmelwald
We had breakfast at the hotel and then caught a bus outside the hotel to Grindelwald Terminal where we had to wait 15 mins for the Mannlichen gondola to open. We bought lunch at the Coop in the terminal.
We took the gondola up to Mannlichen then did the Royal Walk which was 1.6 km return but beautiful views.
We then rode the cable car from Mannlichen to Wengen paying the extra 5 CHF each to ride on top of the cable car which was a great experience.
In Wengen we walked up to the church for the view of Lauterbrunnen valley. After staying there for about 15 mins we headed to the train station and caught the train to Lauterbrunnen. We then took a very busy cable car up to Grütschalp and then the train to Murren. We had a wander around Murren and then took the cable car down to Gimmelwald where we headed for Hotel Pension for some Schwarz Mönk beer and lunch on the terrace with great views. We then had a short walk through Gimmelwald before returning and taking the cable car down to Stechelberg.
The plan was to take the bus to Trümmelbachfälle and then walk along the valley path back to Lauterbrunnen. We couldn’t find where to catch the bus so ended up walking into Stechelberg which was a mistake as the bus returned almost to the spot where we disembarked the cable car.
The walk through the valley was nice although there was not much water in the waterfalls so we headed into Lauterbrunnen and caught the train to Kleinne Scheidegg. After a wander around there we took the train to Eigergletscher and then took the Eiger Express cable car back to Grindelwald. We took the bus from Grindelwald Terminal back to our hotel.
We had dinner at our hotel which was a nice 4 course set meal. We watched the sunset from our balcony with beautiful views of the mountains.
Day 7 Panorama Trail, Schynige Platte, Harder Kulm
We had breakfast at the hotel and then caught a bus to Grindelwald Terminal where we took the Eiger Express cable car to Eigergletscher. We then walked down to Kleinne Scheidegg catching great reflections of the Eiger in a lake and walked the Panorama Trail to Mannlichen which was a very nice walk. In total it was 7.4km with 220m of elevation gain on an easy trail. At Mannlichen there were lots of students so we didn’t stay long and took the gondola down to Grindelewald Terminal where we picked up lunch at the Coop. We then caught a train from Grindelewald Terminal to Wilderswil and crossed the railway tracks to take the cogwheel train to Schynige Platte. We did a circular Panorama Trail walk in a counter-clockwise direction of 6.4 km with 325m of elevation gain which had some amazing views in all directions even down to Lake Brienz.
After the walk we took the next train down to Wilderswil and then took the short journey to Interlaken Ost where we headed across the river to Harder Kulm. We had the longest wait of the trip here even though it was around 17:30. At the top the views were not great due to the haze and there wasn’t much else to see or do apart from watch paragliders. Also with the marathon taking place the next day there was a run up the hill which finished near the viewpoint. We probably spent less than 20 mins there and took the train back down and headed across the river and had fondue and beers on the terrace at Chalet Beizli.
We then caught the train from Interlaken Ost back to Grindelwald and walked back to our hotel because most of the buses had stopped running by this time.
Day 8 First
We had breakfast at the hotel and then walked to the Coop to pickup lunch and headed to First gondola where there was a queue waiting for it to open but it moved quickly once it opened.
Once we reached the top of First we headed straight to the cliff walk where we managed to get some photos with minimal waiting but is was a very hazy day again looking towards the Eiger. We then went on the hike to Bachalpsee which was quite busy and then onto Faulhorn where we had beers and ate our lunch on seats above the restaurant with great views.
The clouds were coming and going here and at times we were above the clouds which was very atmospheric.
We then headed down to Bussalp where we managed to just catch the 13:20 bus back to Grindelwald. The total walk from First to Bussalp via Faulhorn was 10.5 km with 605m of elevation gain.
We just missed a train so decided to walk to Grindelwald Terminal rather than wait 30 mins and that took about 15 mins. Terminal was busy due to the marathon. We decided to take the Eiger Express up to Eigergletscher which was a mistake as the marathon was still going on and it was very busy with a big queue to go down to Grindelwald. We took the next train to Kleinne Scheidegg and then the train back to Grindelwald. In hindsight we knew that the marathon was on and should have gone to Mannlichen or done a short walk from Grindelwald.
We walked to our hotel and called into the sister hotel Fiescherblick which is next door to make a reservation for dinner. We then sat on our balcony for a couple of hours until our dinner reservation. Dinner was very nice and service was friendly.
Day 9 Luzern
After breakfast and checking out of the hotel we caught the bus to Grindelwald bus station and walked over to the train station where a train to Interlaken Ost was about to depart. We jumped on this one which meant we had 30 mins longer to wait at Interlaken Ost but also meant that we were one of the first to board the Luzern – Interlaken Express. I had been expecting seats to be reserved but none were reserved and we managed to get 2 window seats on the right hand side of the train. The train filled up and by the time we left there were no spare seats in our carriage. We arrived in Luzern at 11:55 and it felt much hotter in Luzern compared with Grindelwald and Zermatt.
We were staying for 2 nights in a HITrental apartment in the old town at the Weinmarkt so it took about 10 mins to walk to the apartment where we were able to drop off our bags and went exploring Luzern for 3 hours until we could check-in.
I had the Luzern app and after walking along the promenade for a fair distance we returned and looked for somewhere to eat ending up having salad at the Coop restaurant in Lowenplatz from where we then walked the short distance to the Lion monument. We then headed to the old city walls and climbed one of the towers and walked along the walls as far as we could go before heading down to the river to see the various bridges.
We returned to our apartment and checked in and then headed to explore more of Luzern. It was a Sunday so almost all of the shops were closed. We headed across the bridges and explored the area to the south of the Reuss river and headed all the way along to Inseli Park including a stop for drinks at Bistro Krienbrüggli. We went to the tourist office but found it was closed but there was a small Migros next door which was open so we picked up some breakfast items.
We got a takeaway from Biryani House which we ate that the apartment and then went out to walk the promenade again to catch the sunset which was quite nice. The promenade was very busy with lots of people strolling along on a Sunday evening.
Day 10 Mount Pilatus
I was not sure whether to do Mount Pilatus or Rigi and decided on Pilatus as it looked “more interesting/rugged”. We got some pastries from Bäckerei-Konditorei Merz across the square from our apartment for breakfast and then headed to the tourist office to buy a Golden Round Ticket to Mount Pilatus. After picking up some lunch from the Migros in the shopping centre we headed to the bus station but initially were at stance B but saw no buses to Kriens and realised that we had to be across the street at stance A. We caught the next bus to Kriens at around 09:30, crossed the road and walked up the hill with several others to the gondola station. The tourist office had advised that we had to go to the ticket office here to get tickets for the gondola and inclined railway and this was a simple process. There was a bit of a queue for the gondola due to a school party ahead of us and each gondola only taking 4 people. We got off for a short time at Fräkmüntegg and then took the cable car up to Mount Pilatus.
We probably spent close to 3 hours at the top enjoying the views and walking to the top of all peaks. There were some lovely views and it was not quite so hazy as it had been on previous days.
Around 13:15 we decided to head down the inclined railway to Alpnachstad which took about 35 mins and unfortunately this meant that we missed a boat by about 10 mins so had a wait of 1h15m for the next one which was at approximately 15:15. We had some drinks and snacks at the café just across from the inclined railway station and then headed through the underpass to the boat dock around 15:00. There were lots of of people trying to go up to Mount Pilatus from Alpnachstad and 2 trains were running in each direction.
The boat back was initially not too busy, but at one of the stops lots of people boarded including a group of noisy students and it was then busy all the way to Luzern but there were lovely views of the mountains.
It was around 16:30 when we docked so we had a wander around the river before picking up a takeaway from Oh Wow! Thai which we ate at the apartment. We then went for a walk along the promenade stopping for ice cream at Confiseur Bachmann which was very nice. We enjoyed the sunset from a bench on the promenade watching the boats coming and going on the lake before heading back to the apartment.
Day 11 Basel
Picked up pastries at the Merz bakery and then packed to catch the train to Basel. I had booked a Supersaver ticket for this journey at a good discount to the half fare price and we caught the 10:30 train to Basel which was direct. We arrived in Basel at 11:45 and headed to the Ibis hotel near the train station where we were able to drop off our bags and collect a Basel pass.
We walked into the city just wandering the streets of Basel, we crossed the Mittlere Brücke bridge and sat down by the river in the sun for about 1 hour watching people floating by in the river and boats heading up and down the river. Then we went to Palatinate (Pfalz) Viewing Platform and into the minster for a quick visit. We then headed back to our hotel for a short sleep before going for a few drinks at Café Bar Royal and then we went to the Markthalle for a quick dinner. We had visited here at lunchtime, when it was busy and we had decided where we would go for dinner but unfortunately the food outlet we had selected was closed as were about half of the outlets. The food we had was ok but I expect not fresh by that point in the day.
We had an early start the next day to catch a 07:00 flight so headed back to the hotel for an early night.
Day 12 Home
Alarm was set for 04:00 and we caught the 04:35 bus 50 to the airport which was too early as check-in and security were very efficient. Our flight arrived in Edinburgh on time and we caught the bus to the park & ride and drove the 2 hours home.
We had a busy but excellent holiday and Switzerland is a very beautiful country. I am not sure why we have not visited before since we live relatively close and enjoy the outdoors/hillwalking.
It was hot (for us) when we visited especially in Luzern and Basel and hazy conditions were a bit of an issue but it only rained once and that was overnight in Basel before our departure.
Switzerland was more expensive than Scotland but we were expecting that. Beer in bars was probably the only thing that was a similar price. We purchased ibuprofen in a pharmacy in Zermatt which was the equivalent of 8 GBP and that would have been 0.50 GBP at home.
Trains were very clean, efficient and mostly on time. Sometimes travelling with luggage was slightly difficult as certain trains had limited space for luggage.
Use of the half fare card and Berner Oberland pass was very easy on our iPhones.
We don’t speak German but most people spoke English and even when they didn’t it was possible to understand each other.
There were very few negatives, one which we are not used to as it is banned in Scotland was smoking in restaurants and bars which was a bit irritating at times. Large groups were sometimes an issue.