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First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Virginia
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First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Hi all,

My husband and I will be flying into Zurich for a visit from April 11 - 15. We want to make the most of it, and are quite confused about where to set up base.

Being first timers we want to enjoy the Alps, but are not into skiing. Don't know if hiking is possible in the cold. I hear that small towns (Murren, Wengen etc) are dead during this time.

Some questions for the experts out here:

* Where should we set up our base? We would prefer to rent an apt for the stay.

* We are planning to rent a car. Is it safe to drive on the roads in the weather then ?

* Or, should we just go with the rail passes and ditch the car idea ?

* What are the must dos ? We are nature lovers and want to experience the best Switzerland has to offer.

We would be grateful for any itinerary suggestions.

This trip is such short notice, and so I look to you for any guidance.

Thanks!

Martigny...
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1. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Hi

First - April 11 - 15 is not "dead" season in the Alps. Easter is April 12, the Monday after is a major public holiday and the ski resorts will be packed. At that time of year they often insist on two week rentals for apartments...and the hotels will most likely be full since we have a lot of snow and the skiing has been very very good. I am dubious whether you will be able to find a room in a ski resort for just a few days at this time of year.

Second - take the trains. Do not rent a car. Car rental costs a lot here and so does parking. And there are lots of places that you can only get by train and if you are in a city you certainly do not want to be driving around. Our trains are frequent and quick, clean and comfortable. They will get you where you want to go and you will enjoy the experience too! For train information -

www.sbb.ch/en

I would suggest that you base yourselves somewhere on a lake. First decide which language area you would like to be in. Then choose a town and make your reservations now! As you are flying in to Zurich it makes sense perhaps to stay in the German part - Luzern (which will be very crowded at Easter), the Bernese Oberland etc. Bern itself while not on a lake is a lovely city and very central to all of Switzerland except the Grisons.

You say you are nature lovers - if this means you love stunning scenery, you are coming to the right place!

You ask about "must do's" - here would be mine:

Take a téléphérique or railway up to the top of a mountain for the stunning view -- Mt. Titlis, Pilatus, Jungfraujoch, Rochers de Naye.

Take a ride on a lake steamer. They are operating on very reduced schedules but you can still find one.

Do visit Bern (if you don't stay there) and if you like art make a point of going to the Paul Klee Centre.

Make sure to spend a day in Basel. It has around 40 or more museums, a truly beautiful old town, and pretty good food!

Spend a day in a ski resort without cars - Mürren, Wengen, Zermatt, Saas Fee

Have a fondue or a raclette

Take the Glacier Express - don't have to go all the way from zermatt to St Moritz. You can get on and off anywhere but you have to book it. For example if you were staying in the Zurich area you could take the train to Visp, get the GE there, and take it to Chur (worth an hour or more of exploration as well!¨) and then be back in Zurich in an hour!

Goldau, Switzerland
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for Lucerne, Zug, Brunnen
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2. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Four days is really short. You will not be able to get an overview over the whole country.

I would suggest, you go at www.myswitzerland.com and look around which area you would prefer.

A great base would maybe be the Lucerne area from where you can make excursions in Central Switzerland and to the Bernese Oberland.

In the valeys there will (at least we hope) nomore be any snow. Switzerland is a railway country! Nearly where ever you want to go, there is a train. and the trains are comfortable and run the day long at least every hour. For exemple there are direct trains to all major cities in Switzerland from the airport.

You posted your question in the Grindelwald Forum. If this means you would like to go to Grindelwald, you can also make a break there. It is a great place. It would also be a great excursion from Lucerne or Interlaken (which is much closer).

Hope this helps a little bit.

Pore

Paris, France
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3. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Hambagahle, I don't want to hijack this thread, but since you mentioned that visiting Bern would be on your "must do" list, can you please share some of your recommendations for Bern. I searched through some of your old posts, which are always extremely helpful, and couldn't find one specifically on Bern. And since Bern is a short train trip for me, I'm sure that I'll have plenty of occasions to use your advice in the future.

Paris, France
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4. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Rowdy Rummy,

Another way to enjoy the Alps at this time of the year is to go snowshoeing. Many of the ski resorts rent snowshoes and have designated snowshoeing trails. As a recent convert, I would highly recommend it as a way to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Switzerland, especially since you don't want to ski.

Martigny...
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5. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Hi Sojoh -

Bern is incredily lovely - take the train from Montreux to Bern (change in Lausanne) The Tourist Office is in the station. Go there and get a map.

Then walk out onto the Bahnhofplatz and turn left. The main street goes down to a bridge over the river Aar. This street (and many others in Bern) are arcades. So Bern is my favourite place for a rainy day sightseeing!!

You will come to the Kornhausplatz. The Kornhauskeller is a great place for lunch or dinner. Very vbery old but the restaurant is modern and (sadly!) Italian. Good food though.

If you go right you come to the Bundesplatz. The Federal Parliament is there, and so are fascinating fountains, 26- 1 for every canton - much loved by the young! Be careful!! There is a market there twice a week. I love the idea that there should be a market right outside the parliament building...

To the left of the Bundeshaus (Federal Parliament) is a terrace which on a clear day has a superb view of the Alps.

Back to the Zytglokke - be there at 12 noon and watch it! Great fun (and you will see lots of Japanese tourists too.)

Then on down the Kramgasse/gerichtikeitsgasse etc. On the right as you go down is Einstein's house with a museum - he lived there. Also the Heimatwerk - my husband used to "strand" me in Bern without money because I bought so much there when I was young!

Go on down - great kitchen shop on the other side! - and finally over the bridge, looking down at the area that floods a lot when the Aar is high, and over to the Bear pits. I feel sorry for the bears, but I think they are used to being there and like the carrots they get from the tourists.

Other things - not meant to be secondary! Kunstmusem, Paul Klee Centrum, Munster - and a haunted house...

Bern is a seriously wonderful place!! And the food is good too...and then there are Globus and Lowe. Here in the VS we don't have shops like those.

Go to Bern! If you drive, park at the Rathaus parking - follow the signs. But the train is best...

Virginia
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6. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Thanks Hambagahle, pore, and sojoh for your replies.

Based on your suggestions, my itinerary looks like this:

* Arrive Sat noon from Zurich and Set up base in Lauterbrunnen

Then go see the Staubbach & Trummelbach Falls.

* Sunday - Jungfraujoch

I would really like your advise on this. The website is confusing about possible routes. Is it possible to go up by train, and come back a different way (a gondola ?). Also what are the places to stop by and visit. How best to spend the day doing this.

* Monday - Cruise

Cruise on Lake Thun & Visit Castles. Again we are flexible. Are there towns that are more worth visiting ? It is Easter Monday- not sure about what will be open

* Tuesday - Goldenpass Rail - Scenic route from Interlaken to Lake Geneva

Here, where should we stop in between ? Is Lake Geneva a better option to go cruising ? Are there chocolate factories/ cheese-speciality towns on the way.

Please advise, and I will make changes to this itinerary accordingly.

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

Garmisch-Partenkirch...
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7. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Hi rowdy rummy,

I've been enjoying your thread and all the good advice you're getting! Until Hambagahle and pore and sojoh come back, here are my thoughts --

I'm not sure which website you're using that is causing confusion about the routes up to the Jungfraujoch. Just to help you clear it up, here's a link to a map of the region:

www.myjungfrau.ch/de/page.cfm/pano_jrm_wi

So you can see that one nice route is Lauterbrunnen - Wengen - Kleine Scheidegg - Jungfraujoch - Kleine Scheidegg - Grindelwald - Lauterbrunnen. I beleive that the cable car from Grindelwald to Männlichen to Wengen will be closed from 13 April - 30 May, so if you want to take that one, you'll have to do this in your first day or so. Otherwise, you can just take the train from Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen.

I would definitely stop in Wengen.

For your trip on the Golden Pass, I love the town of Gstaad, where you can easily spend an hour or two window shopping or eating lunch in one of their very many gourmet restaurants.

There is a cheese-making factory and tour in the village of Gruyeres, but that will require a change (in Montbovon) from the GP route.

There is a chocolate factory in Broc, but you need to take a bus from Gruyeres to get to it.

Many people enjoy taking the Chocolate Train, which leaves from Montreux and includes both the chocolate factory in Broc and the cheese tour in Gruyeres. But it only runs from May-October.

You can get all your train schedules at the Swiss rail site,

www.rail.ch

Just remember to use the European format for the date and the time.

Have fun!

s

Paris, France
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8. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Hambagahle,

Thanks for all of the information on Bern! I used to go there every year for the big Onion Market in November but have not visited when the streets aren't full of people, stands selling all things having to do with onions, and confetti. It's time for another trip!

Paris, France
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9. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Rowdy Rummy,

I agree with Swandav about combining Gruyere with the cheese and chocolate factory.

Links:

cheese factory - www.lamaisondugruyere.ch/index.php…

Chocolate factory -

http://main.cailler.ch/caillerflash.asp

Gruyere Castle -

chateau-gruyeres.ch/e/…histoire.html

Also, if you take the train, as suggested by Swandav, to Montreux, you can do a lake cruise and visit Chillon Castle from there.

I hope that you have good weather during your trip. We're going to be in Interlaken for the Easter holiday and are in the process of developing two different plans - one for sunny and one for rainy weather. We found what looks to be a very nice B&B that still had a room by looking at this site:

www.bnb.ch/index.php…

Martigny...
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for Switzerland
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10. Re: First Time Visit - short notice - Advise needed!

Hi Rowdy Rummy -

Bern is a Protestant canton but anyway Easter Monday is a big deal here and shops etc in the towns are likely to be closed. In the resorts they stay open, even on Christmas Day! But their hours are different. Sightseeing - like the castles you mention - is most likely open that day. Their closing is more restrictive but it would be good to check before you go.

For the Lake cruise, please check the shipping company's website for their winter schedule.

thunersee.ch/en/…ships-lake-thun.html

I know they are operating (I saw one a couple of weeks ago!) but the schedule will not be as frequent as in the summer.

For the Jungfraujoch - you need to take the train. I know it looks confusing, since there are ski lifts all over the mountain and you will see télécabines etc on the map. But it is the train that goes right to the top. From Lauterbrunnen you may have to change at Kleine Scheidegg for the last bit. the trains will connect. The last bit is amazing - the train goes into a tunnel inside the Eiger mountain and then there is a stop and you get out and walk 50m to a window - right in the face of the mountain. Truly incredible! At the very top there is a restaurant, you can walk inside a glacier, take husky sled rides etc etc. You are on the largest glacier in all of Europe at this point - 25km long. (When I was young it was 27km -- quite a difference)

here is the SBB web site for trains, post busses etc:

www.sbb.ch/en

Let us know if we can help with something else...

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