This is a late post, meant to post it earlier but I got busy with Christmas period. Our family from Singapore with 2 teen boys (16 and 13) had returned from our holiday, mainly in Switzerland, from 19 Nov - 7 Dec). I started my research in June and mainly used this forum starting in July last year and received the most helpful tips and advices here! Many thanks especially to slowpoke who gave such wonderful tips as well as to Rockoyster and MySwissAlps moderators Steph, Annika, and Arno for their help which made our trip so wonderful and memorable.
My previous posts in this forum were mainly looking for advises on the portion of our trip using the 8 days Swiss Travel Pass. Please check here:
Just to give a complete picture and ideas for all, I'm writing our complete trip below including those that were not using the Swiss Travel Pass and several days we were outside of Switzerland. Due to limited file size of attachment, I can only attach very few photos here. Hopefully, it can help others who are planning a trip to beautiful Switzerland. I welcome any comment!
Day 1: Arrive in Zurich. Benefiting from the time difference, we arrived early in the morning. After getting our coffee (first of many wonderful Swiss coffee), we picked up our car rental with Sixt and we received a free upgrade from the staff when she learned that we had quite a lot of luggage. Our first good impression from Swiss hospitality! We drove straight the Rhine Falls with its powerful and majestic views! The Laufen castle and the autumn leaves added to the great feeling we had there. We then went back to Zurich and headed to the FIFA World Museum (me and my boys are football fans) and had a lot fun there.
Day 2 - 4: We drove to Salzburg and Hallstatt, I won't provide too many details here since it's outside Switzerland. We drove from Zurich and stop by Munich for lunch and had a couple of hours to walk around the old town hall then continue to Salzburg and reach before dinner. It's a 5 plus hours drive total to Salzburg but with the stop over in Munich, it's not too bad. One interesting observation: We didn't even realize when we cross the border as there was no inspection. Salzburg and Hallstatt are beautiful towns and great options if you have time as it's so near to Switzerland
Day 5: We drove back from Hallstatt to Lucerne via Innsbruck where we had lunch and we stop by Vaduz in the afternoon. The old town Vaduz is nice. We reached Lucerne for our dinner. We stayed at Hotel Balm at Meggen. The hotel is nice with free breakfast and it’s only 10 mins by direct bus to Luzerne station (bus stop just in front of the hotel). Price is reasonable and room is spacious for our family, good alternatives compared to more expensive, smaller rooms hotel at city center.
Day 6: Our first day of our 8 days Swiss Travel Pass period. We returned our car early in the morning, which is about 10 mins walk to Luzern station. Note that from this point, we used the excellent SBB journey planner via www.myswissalps.com/timetable to plan all our transport schedules. Then we took the bus and cable car to Mt Pilatus. We had to take the cable car as the Pilatus cogwheel train from Alpnachstad was closed when we were there. There was a nice short hike up (arnd 10 mins) from the bus stop to the Pilatus cable car station. It took less than 1 hr from Lucerne station all the way to the top at Pilatus Kulm (2,132m). The view is amazing. We had a clear sunny day and we could see very far with 360-degree view. We spent about 2 hours at the top and took many great photos. The cable car ride is discounted as we have STP.
We spent about 2+ hours at Pilatus Kulm (gave us plenty of time to take photos and explore the panoramic platform all the way to the top, but we didn't go to the cave) and left before noon as we wanted to catch the boat from Luzerne to Mt. Rigi. We reached Luzerne about 12:40 and still had time to buy our take away lunch and catch the boat at 13:12. The boat journey at Lake Luzerne was really nice as we had a clear day. We could see Luzern and the surrounding towns and mountains from the boat. We reached Vitznau around 2pm and the cogwheel train was just opposite of the boat landing. It took about 30 mins to reach the highest station Rigi Kulm (1,798m) and the boat and train journey gave a different experience. The views at Rigi Kulm were not as spectacular as at Pilatus Kulm but still very nice. And it's totally free with STP so it's worth it for us to go for the 2 mountains in 1 day. We spent about 1.30 hr at Rigi Kulm. We took the train back to Rigi Kaltbad station and changed to cable car to Weggis so we could have a different experience rather than going back all the way to Vitznau. There was a 15 mins hike down from Weggis cable car station to the boat landing and it was a nice walk down as we passed the quite town of Weggis during sunset. Nice scenery for photos! We took the boat at around 5pm back to Luzern and had our dinner at a Thai restaurant at Luzern old town.
Day 7: Our Titlis excursion. We left our hotel at 8:30 straight to Luzern station and took train to Engelberg (45 mins). From Engelberg station, we walked about 10 mins to Titlis station. Engelberg is a beautiful little town and we enjoyed the short walks a lot. We recommend walking to the station rather taking the shuttle bus. The cable car ride up to Titlis is stunning. The Titlis Rotair (revolving cable car) is huge. Again, we had discounted price with STP. We started by exploring the glacier cave then walked to the Titlis Cliff Walk. The views are stunning and you got some thrills walking along the Cliff Walk suspension bridge. At the end of the Cliff Walk is the Ice Flyer which brings you to the lower part of the mountain. You had to pay additional fees for the Ice Flyer. I think it’s ok just for the experience, but don’t think is a must. After the Ice Flyer, we went back across the Cliff Walk to the main building to the panoramic platform. The views there again were stunning and our boys had fund playing with snow. We had our lunch in the restaurant. We sat by the window and had great views of the mountain. The food was ok but a bit pricey as expected. We spent more than 1 hour just relaxing in the restaurant and enjoying our lunch. We left around 3pm and reached Luzern around 4pm plus and walked around town for the rest of the day until dinner. We had a quick dinner at a burger joint called Holy Cow at the station. Nice burger if want alternative cheaper food from the usual expensive Swiss restaurant 😊 .
Comparing Titlis, Pilatus, and Rigi, in my opinion from scenery point of views, Pilatus was the best for us. But Titlis had more things to do and you had more thrills and adrenaline rush. Of course, Titlis has more snow that added to the fun. We enjoyed Rigi as the journey via boat, cogwheel train, and cable car gave different experience and views. Plus, Weggis at sunset was beautiful. But overall, all of them were beautiful and gave different experience. We were blessed with clear sunny days for all and could enjoy the breathtaking sceneries. It’s worth to visit all 3 if you have the time and if the weather is good. I’ve seen pictures taken where it was foggy and clouds covered most of the views. See some of the pictures attached.
Day 8: We left our hotel early and took the 8:30am bus to Luzern station. We had quite a lot of luggage (2 big, 2 medium, 2 small), so initially we’re quite worried if taking the bus would be a problem. But we managed to get the luggage in all our bus and train journeys so I would say it’s not a big problem for those who bring many luggage.
We booked our seats for our train to Interlaken the night before as we understood that the morning train could be crowded (the SBB website will give you the information). In Interlaken, we changed to bus to go to Lauterbrunnen. Apparently, there was a rail construction between Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen so everyone had to take bus. The bus journey only took around 20 minutes so it was fine to take bus with all of our luggage! Lauterbrunnen was a beautiful village in the valley. It was very quiet as it was an off season and many restaurants were closed. We found a nice little bar who served lunch and the food was still nice! We hiked a bit passed the beautiful Staubbach Fall (unfortunately we can’t enter as it was closed, but it was close enough for great pictures), and continued the route to Stechelberg but did finish. We went back halfway since we wanted to catch the Golden Pass route train (via Interlaken and Zweisimmen) before dark on the way to Montreux. The journey was really nice and beautiful as we passed the mountains, villages and lakes. We reached Montreux by 6pm, had our dinner and head took train to Sonzier (1o mins) where our Airbnb was located. The view was breathtaking from our Airbnb, as it’s up a hill and you can see Montreux and Lake Geneva from the patio of the unit.
Day 9: We left Sonzier using train to Montreux at 9:30am. We had time for coffee at one of the café near the station before we left to Rivaz (15 min train ride) where we booked the Lavaux Vinorama wine tour. The tour started with wine tasting of 3 white varieties (apparently white wines are the main produce of the region). We then watched a movie about wine making which features a real wine maker of the region. Very educational and interesting movie which gave us insight knowledge about history of the region and wine making. We then had a tour, exploring the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Lavaux vineyards. The walk up the terraces was quite high, but it was really enjoyable with the amazing view of the Lake Geneva and the surrounding vineyards. Our guide was very knowledgeable and explained a lot interesting facts about the Lavaux vineyards. After passing the terraces, we walk through the village town of Rivaz where a lot of the residence are winemakers. It was a lovely village with colorful houses. We reached our destination of one of the winemaker’s house where our guide gave us a tasting of another nice refreshing white wine and detailed explanation of what’s happening on winemaking process inside the house. It’s small scale, but that’s what makes Lavaux unique as the winemakers are not producing mass-production types of wine we usually find in a typical winery elsewhere. We bought a couple bottle of wines when we were back at Lavaux Vinorama and left satisfied. We then returned to Montreux from Rivaz via train. One thing to note is the train schedule is only every 45 mins and we did not check the schedule earlier. We just missed the train by 5 mins and had to wait until the next train and reached Montreux pretty late for our lunch (nothing around Rivaz to have lunch). After our (very) late lunch, we went straight to explore the Montreux Christmas Market with its many interesting stalls and food. We bought some souvenirs, cheese, and tried some food there. The atmosphere was lovely, and we enjoyed our time there.
Day 10: Today, we went to chocolate factory at Maison Cailler in Broc. It took about 1.5 hr to reach Broc, but the journey was wonderful. We rode a very classic style Golden Pass train and passed the beautiful villages around the region to Broc. Maison Cailler is a short walk from the train station. The chocolate factory tour was very interesting as it explained the history of cacao and the Cailler chocolate, one of Swiss’ oldest chocolate maker. We could taste the raw cacao, almond, hazelnut which are used to make the chocolate. At the end, we could sample so many chocolates with different flavors until we’re so full. It was another wonderful experience and we bought a lot of chocolates home. We left satisfied and full!
Once we arrived at Montreux, we had another late lunch since we were still full of the chocolate. Montreux was a lovely city to stroll around, but many of the small restaurants/café stop serving lunch after 2 or 2:30pm hence our choice was rather limited. Something to take note of. We continued our journey to Chillon Castle and reached there by 5pm which is the last admission for the castle. It’s an interesting castle if you like history and has a clear and interesting explanation of each section of the castle. We spent 1 hour in the castle until it closed at 6pm. You would need more than 1 hour if you want to explore every exhibits and different places of the castle. It doesn’t look so big from the outside, but there were so many rooms and different sections inside. Our family was not so much into history, hence 1 hour is more than enough for us. We went back to city center and decided to buy our dinner from Migros supermarket. Dinner at our Airbnb was lovely and homey and a good change from eating in restaurants every day!
Day 11: We enjoyed breakfast and last day in our Airbnb and take it slow to leave. We took the 10:30 train from Sonzier to Zermatt. Again, the 3 hrs 20 mins train journey was full of beautiful scenery especially when we were at the Glacier Express route. We reached Zermatt before 2pm and visited the tourist info as we wanted to check about the Peak2Peak ticket (Klein Matterhorn and Gornergrat). Unfortunately, the young guy at the tourist info was not very helpful and offer little information to us even when we asked about the town. He was not enthusiastic at all and told us to check with the Gornergrat Bahn the next morning. It’s the first unpleasant experience we had from the usually great customer service in Switzerland. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant near the station. Price is higher here compared to Montreux and Lucerne, that’s the general comments we heard about Zermatt, understandable given the nature of the town. We then took an electric cab to our Airbnb. Cost CHF 20 for 4 of us and all our luggage. It was foggy and cold that afternoon so we could not really see the village. But we were really glad once we entered our Airbnb. Even though the apartment was much smaller compared to our unit at Montreux, it was really lovely with all the little touches with Christmas themes! After we settled down, took some rest, and chose our restaurant for dinner, we walked through the beautiful Zermatt village and took some beautiful photos along the way. This was our Thanksgiving dinner and we chose Restaurant Julen (at Hotel Julen) which has great reviews at TripAdvisor. And we were not disappointed. The food, atmosphere, and service were excellent especially the lamb shank! And surprisingly, the price was really reasonable compared to the menu of similar restaurant that we passed by. We had a lovely time there and thoroughly enjoyed our dinner. Highly recommended!
Day 12: In the morning when we were getting ready, we opened the curtains of our apartment windows and was greeted with amazing views of the Matterhorn! It was bright and sunny day and the Matterhorn looked so majestic with some yellowish sun rays beaming at its top. What a view to greet our morning. We took times to take pictures and can’t help to spend a bit more time at the apartment before we left to the village center to buy our Peak2Peak tickets at the Gornergrat Bahn. There was a bit of confusion when we bought the tickets as initially, we didn’t get the discount with Swiss Travel Pass. Good thing we clarified, and the girl did apologise for not giving us the discount earlier. So always check the ticket price and make sure you get the discount if you have Swiss Travel Pass. We then walked to the other end of the village and passed some beautify spots for photos, especially in a bridge to cross a small river with the Matterhorn in the background. We arrived at the cable car station which was full with skiers and snowboarders and went up all the way to Klein Matterhorn, the world’s highest cable car station at 3,838m. The views were amazing. We could see the Matterhorn closer and closer. But the views at the top were really breathtaking. It was really cold though, it was -9 deg C with RealFeel of -12. But it’s really worth it for the view! After taking some amazing photos, we went to the café to have coffees and dessert before going down to one of the intermediate stations to change to the cogwheel train and go up to the Gornergrat. Gornergrat offers different views of the Matterhorn and we had a different experience there. I think it’s worth it to experience both peaks at least once if you had never done it before. We had lunch in the restaurant then went back to Zermatt. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around, bought some famous Laderach chocolate and had afternoon coffees and desert at Petit Royal which again had good reviews. They are famous for their CIOCCOLATA DENSA (a very thick hot chocolate with cream topping). We also had their lemon tart which was also nice and coffee. We decided to have dinner in our lovely apartment tonight as our host gave us spaghetti and sauce as part of Welcome Basket. We bought a few other dishes from the supermarket and went back to the apartment for our dinner.
Day 13: This morning the village was covered with low fog and we could not see the Matterhorn anymore. We were so blessed with a sunny weather yesterday when we had our excursion. We walked around town bought some souvenirs. Then we went back and left our lovely apartment using electric cab again to the train station. Initially, we planned to go to Grindelwald to go to First before going to Basel. But we decided that we had enough mountain excursion and changed our plan to go straight to Basel as we will be flying to London the next day. We bought our take away pizza lunch at the same Italian restaurant near the station and took the 12:15 train via Visp and arrived at Basel around 3:30pm. We checked in at our hotel opposite of the train station and walked around old town and along the Rhine River. The old town is beautiful, and we visited the Christmas Market and had our dinner there. The Christmas Market here was more crowded and lively compared to the one at Montreux and also had more choices of interesting food. We left after our dinner back to the hotel for an early rest.
Day 14-16: We took the bus to the Basel airport (free with Basel card as our Swiss Travel Pass expired on Day 13). The airport was technically in France, but there was no border at all. We flew to London Luton airport and took bus to Heathrow to collect our rental car as there was limited choice at Luton and we would fly out from Heathrow. Just wanted to comment how different the practice of car rental staff in London Heathrow compared to Zurich Airport, even though we rented from the same rental company. The rental car staff in Heathrow immediately asked if how many luggage we had and tried to up sale us with bigger cars with much higher rates and gradually offer smaller ones but still with higher rates saying the one we booked would not fit our luggage. We were caught by surprise and I could not think properly to counter argue and finally settled for the one with slightly higher rate than the one we booked. It was a very average car and did not feel like an upgrade at all!! This was so much different than our experience in Zurich where we were offered free upgrade! The more we thought about it the more we believe that we had been con by the Heathrow staff. The next day we tour around London and the next day we flew to Manchester to watch Manchester United game at Old Trafford. It was a great experienced for me and the boys as we are all Manchester United fans. We spent the night at Manchester and left very early in the morning back to London to catch our flight to Zurich.
Day 17: We arrived at Zurich in the afternoon and picked up another rental car. Again, we had a free upgrade to a brand new car. How different the service was with London! Talking about Swiss hospitality and service! We drove to Davos and had our dinner on the way. The drive actually took about 2 hours, but since we had dinner first, we arrived at our Airbnb around 8:30pm. Our host stays at the same house so checking in was not a problem. The house was about 10 mins outside of Davos and surrounded by mountain. It was a lovely 3 story house and we had the whole 3rd floor for ourselves!
Day 18: Snowboarding day for the boys. We drove and parked near the Jakobshorn station and get the boys to gear up at a rental shop. Service was great and the staff was really helpful. We went up with the cable car and had great views again of the surrounding and Davos town as we went up. We arrived at the top station where there was a little café. The boys left to start their snowboarding and we had our coffees and cakes at the café’s outdoor sitting. It was again a bright sunny day and the sun was strong enough to make sitting outdoor enjoyable especially with our cups of coffee. The views were really breathtaking and unobstructed. We had lunch at the same café and the boys continued with the snowboarding. One lesson for us was that the slope/pistes in Jakobshorn were not clearly marked in terms of beginner, intermediate, etc. Our boys had difficulty identifying which ones were which and went to some intermediate slopes which were a little bit too difficult for their skill level. My younger one, who has better skills and more adventurous, still managed to go a few rounds and finally snowboarded all the way down to Davos, but my elder one had enough after a while as he fell down too often. Both of them had quite a few knows and had some stiff muscles afterwards, but it was still a fun day. Again, we opted to buy dinner and ate at our lovely Airbnb. We had to pack and get ready as we had to leave early the next day.
Day 19: We left at 6am as we our flight from Zurich was at 10:35am. Our host was there to say goodbye. We kind of regretted that we had to rush this time and could not really enjoy our beautiful Airbnb with its surrounding mountain. But we flew back to Singapore we so much wonderful memories and great photos with us. Thank you Switzerland, for giving us such a beautiful holiday!