Since we did a combined Austria and Switzerland trip, we had only 5 nights in Switzerland. It was tough deciding where to split those days in beautiful Switzerland. Honestly a 9 or 10 night visit to Switzerland or Austria independently would have been wonderful too.
Our final itinerary included:-
Lucerne – 1night
Wengen – 3 nights (in the Bernese Oberland region of Swiss Alps)
Montreux – 1 night (near Geneva)
We could have based in Interlaken too for the Alps but we chose car free and scenic Wengen up in the mountains for a true Swiss mountain experience.
Our first stop in Switzerland was Zurich. We took an Austrian railjet from Salzburg to Zurich which leaves 8 am arrives at 2.25 pm (6 hrs 25 minutes). The 8 am train from Salzburg is direct with no stops to Zurich. The direct trains are cheaper and options can be seen on the austrian rail website. http://www.oebb.at/en/
We did not spend time in Zurich due to lack of time. But it is a charming city known as the banking and financial center of Switzerland.
If you have seen or read Heidi, you may be delighted to see that the lifestyle described in the book somewhat rings true even today at least in parts of Switzerland. We loved and enjoyed the Swiss scenery. Several times during a train ride we saw beautiful and peaceful meadows at times with gracious Swiss cows in truly idyllic countryside. Every single train journey in Switzerland was beautiful and comfortable.
Switzerland has four official Swiss languages: Swiss German, French, Italian, and Romansch. But you will find that English is spoken by all and you will not feel lost in Switzerland at all. We felt safe in Switzerland at all times and I loved the clockwork precision in all the train timings.
Before you travel, it’s not a bad idea to read the story of William Tell, remembered as the liberator of Switzerland. Switzerland remains a strong independent and neutral country in Europe.
Travel within Switzerland and The Swiss Pass:
Absolutely, get a Swiss Pass. Even on short trips, the Swiss pass cannot be beat for its convenience and value. If you are spending a month in Switzerland, there is a monthly pass which is a phenomenal value. There is enough beauty in Switzerland to savor for a month easily.
We found that buying the 4 day Swiss saver Second class pass for the family at Zurich train station was the best decision ever. Once you have the Swiss pass, then all your travel within Switzerland is covered, from trains, to bus and even boats. Ask about the Swiss Family card that comes free with the Swiss pass which allows a child younger than 15 to travel free with a parent.
On trains within Switzerland and Austria, we found that second class tickets were more than comfortable and adequate for our needs. Youth fares are also available for your children at a reduced cost.
Weather and Apparel
Even if you are visiting Switzerland in the summer, please do take fleece/wind jacket, gloves and hat – the top of the mountains can be quite brisk if it is windy.
Even if it’s really cold, your waterproof jacket over a fleece pullover over a long-sleeved shirt or a turtleneck should be more than enough when you go to the top of Schilthorn or the Jungfrau. Layering clothes and rain wear are useful even in the summer. We had sunshiny beautiful weather when we were in Wengen in July but sometimes you can get rain.
if you plan on serious hiking, please do bring quality hiking boots with good grip that are waterproof.
Lucerne or Luzern is a short 1 hour train ride from Zurich. You can pick up a free city guide from train station off track 3. Lucerne is a charming town and a nice starting point for the Alps.
Our accommodations: Lucerne Hotel Cascada
Hotel Cascada is a well maintained and excellent hotel with a convenient location walking distance to train station and old town. The room was spacious and on a higher floor very quiet. Rooms overlooking the courtyard would also be quiet. We has a very spacious Triple room with a comfortable sofa bed for the children in the same room which made it very convenient. Friendly Staff, complimentary water and fruits in the room. Highly recommend this hotel if staying in Luzern.
In Lucerne, there are good water fountains all over with free clean water. We walked around Lucerne the day we arrived and visited some of the sights in town. The next day we chose to do a 2 hour boat ride which is free with the Swiss pass, followed by checkout to go to Wengen.
In Lucerne, you can shop for swiss chocolates at the Manor department store. here. Manor Lucerne address: Weggisgasse 5 , 6002. The Manora cafeteria on 5th floor of Manor department store is a good option for lunch too.
Sites to visit in Lucerne:-
- Jesuitenkirche – church by chapel bridge.
- The Lake, boat tour ( 2hrs circle covered with swiss pass – across from train station)
- Town of Luzern and stroll on the lake promenade
- Chapel bridge – don’t miss the paintings on the ceiling
- Mill bridge (cross it for hug bakery), water spikes – dam
- Lion Monument, bourbaki panorama painting take bus 1 in the direction of Maihof to get to Lowenplatz