Visiting Switzerland

My family has been hosting a foreign exchange student from Switzerland. It was a great time and we loved having her as part of our family. As a way of thanking us, her mother is paying for us to fly to Switzerland in July for two weeks to visit the family and see the sights. They live near Zurich and we have scheduled a trip to Geneva to see CERN (my son and I are mega-nerds and will be dragging my wife and daughter to see it).

Any other suggestions? I heard Lucerne was beautiful so we’ll visit there. I heard it’s VERY expensive in Switzerland so any cheap/reasonable/inexpensive suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

Aw, man. I’ve always wanted to go there. My (very unusual) family name originated there, and there is apparently a whole valley full of us. I can’t imagine how nice it would be to go for a couple of weeks without having to explain how it’s pronounced.

If you have time, take the train from Geneva (or Zurich) to Zermatt and see the Matterhorn. Sit outside and have a fondue. There is also a cable car and train in Zermatt that will take you farther up where skiers do their glacier thing. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE TO ZERMATT. Cars are not allowed there and they will fine your ass immediately, regardless of your inability to speak or read the language.

My lottery winnings will go towards a place in Lucerne overlooking Lake Lucerne.
I used to to skiing every year about 15 miles from there near the Eiger. Kleine Schiedeggis across the valley from the Eiger, and the whole area is beautiful year-round.

The train system makes it super easy to get to Interlakenand then up the valleys to Wilderswil, Lauterbrunnen and more.

Out of Interlaken, there are two major attractions - the Jungfrauand the Schiltorn. A train takes you through the mountain to the top of the mountain and the highest train station in Europe. The views are amazing from the top of the Alps.

If you’re a James Bond fan, you’ll want to visit the Schilthornon top of Piz Gloria.
It’s the awesome mountain lair of Ernst Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
You’ll take 4 different cable cars from the valley floor up to the top. On the way is a mountainside village called Murrenwhere you can stop and shop or just take pictures.
I simply can’t express how beautiful the entire Bernese Oberlandarea is, but do some research on the area and I think you’ll want to head over there pronto!

If you are going to be driving in Switzerland, keep in mind that most of the vehicles will be standard transmission. When you park, always leave it in neutral.

I’m a huge fan of that area…Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria, it is all good and you’ll find lots to do. It isn’t cheap but neither is it ruinously expensive if you steer away from the obvious tourist attractions.

To the point above, I am a huge advocate of having a car wherever possible but in this area you would be well to consider the train. They are regular, efficient and reasonable cheap (Zurich to Lucerne is 45 minutes and about $10) and you have the benefit of enjoying the view and having a beer.

Here’s the Swiss rail site (in english) Which will enable you to plan and budget for any trips you fancy. If you are going to do a lot of travelling you can get railcards for a week or two starting at a couple of hundred dollars but I suspect if you let the family know your intentions they will be able to find the best travel options for you.

Above all, enjoy it. It is a beautiful country, get up high and drink it all in.

Here is one cheap thing I have enjoyed whenever I am in Zurich. You can buy one RT ticket for the whole thing and, as a bonus, get a 24 hour pass on all the Zurich trams. Take the Uetliberg train from Bhf Selnau to the Uetliberg, then walk on the ridge of the mountain to the Felsenegg Seilbahn (cable car) and take it down to the Sihl Valley, where you can catch the Sihltalbahn back to the city. A beautiful walk and don’t forget to see the large-scale solar system model on the way. My recollection is that Pluto appeared twice, once inside the orbit of Neptune, once outside. Most of the times I did it, Pluto was closer to the sun than Neptune but now it isn’t. On the other hand, they might have removed Pluto entirely. And think of me when you go to the Moevenpick on Paradeplatz and get a plate of Kalbsbratwurst with Roesti and then go next door to Lindt-Sprungli and buy a couple hundred grams of Tagestruffel.

Why? Does Switzerland have a law against parking the normal way?

Lugano is a beautiful area - nice large lake with boat rides or wind surfing or swimming, plenty of great shops and cafes, and you can practically walk to Italy (students at the school where I taught would ride their bikes to Italy for day trips. They speak mostly Italian in Lugano, and they even have palm trees and lush plants in that southern part of Switzerland.

Switzerland is indeed expensive, but you can have fun with even a tight budget if you just stay away from the big tourist trap areas and stick more to the smaller restaurants and smaller hotels.

You will love Switzerland - a real gem, and a fantastic place to visit. Having some locals there to show you around will make it even more fun!

Just a (probably too) subtle (not very funny) Switzerland joke. Trust me, leave it in neutral. :wink:

I lived in Lucerne for a while, and it certainly is beautiful–but whenever I had a long weekend off, I went to Lugano. Don’t think that because the country is so small, however, that you’ll be able to see everything in two weeks. I’d still suggest choosing just a few places.

Yes, but why?
I was there in the 90’s, it was expensive but not ridiculous or anything.

It is stupid expensive now - I work for a Swiss company and have to travel out to the mother-ship in Zurich regularly.

If you are going to use the railways it is worth checking out in advance the various options - it is a comprehensive system with connecting buses rurally but there are ways of getting great deals with various travel cards etc. The system is so slick that unless you know in advance what your bus connection is and where (it is all on the internet if you look carefully enough) then it will have left without you and there will be a long wait until the next train (and hence another bus).

Some alpine rail routes are essentially pre-book only due to demand.

Some recommended pre-reading is Swiss Watching

Ooohhhhh, **now **I get it! :smack:

I was rather underwhelmed by Lucerne, but I was only there for two full days and it was really gloomy and rainy (the only particularly gloomy and rainy part of my trip) AND the hostel I was staying in was the worst one of the trip AND I had a couple of random bad/awkward experiences there too. So my personal feelings about Lucerne are more due to bad luck while there than the merits of the city itself. I did at least get some good photos of the bridge, the lion monument, and some cool public art.

If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan then it’s possible to visit the Reichenbach Falls (near Meiringen) as a day trip from Lucerne or Bern. There is a tiny Holmes museum there that’s not worth going out of your way for, but IIRC you can get a combination ticket for the museum and the tram up to the falls for about the same price as the tram ticket alone.

I had good experiences with the Swiss Backpacker’s hostels, with the exception of Backpacker’s Lucerne – and again that was partially due to the miserable weather. All of the ones I stayed at, including Backpacker’s Lucerne, were cheap, clean, safe, and had kitchen and laundry facilities. All of them but Backpacker’s Lucerne were also reasonably quiet and located near the main train stations. Since you’re traveling as a family you might be more comfortable in a hotel (in a hostel you might well end up having to take a room with two sets of bunk beds), but I did meet married couples and even families with kids staying in hostels – it wasn’t all gap year backpackers or anything.

Restaurant food is VERY expensive in Switzerland, often 2-3 times what I’d have expected to pay in the US, so buying food from a grocery store is a good way to save money. The Manor chain of department stores also often have a cafeteria style restaurant called Manora that’s relatively inexpensive.

Thanks everyone. I’ll let you know how my trip goes.

I’ve been to Murren and it is ridiculously gorgeous. I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

Well, I just got back from Switzerland. My God, that is the most beautiful country but it is horribly expensive. $12 for a Big Mac meal? (I didn’t get it, just saw the price)

OK, places I went:

St. Moritz: spectacular, gorgeous, lavish. The freaking Palace Hotel has a Rolls that can pick you up at the Bahnhof.

Lucerne: See the Lion. When you know the story of why it was carved and then look at the expression of pain and grief on the lion’s face, you will be moved. The bridge is very pretty.

Zurich: everything along the water is beautiful. Seriously. I mean it.

Zermatt: Sitting in the heart of the Alps, it is such a small town. I liked that cars are not allowed (all vehicles are electric). Riding the gondola to the top of the mountain literally takes your breath away (you’re over 14,000 feet up and get light-headed if you are not used to it). Went inside the glacier as well. Only two downsides:

  1. It is all uphill. When you get off the train you walk uphill through the main street. Then the majority of the lodging is up a series of stairways along the streets. Not being a Stair Master, I had a hard time, especially since the town is already a mile up. Need to work on my thighs before I go back.
  2. EXPENSIVE!!! We stayed in a hostel, thinking it would be cheaper. HAH! Two rooms with two twin beds, each with a bathroom but no TV, phone or Wi-Fi cost over $400. The room was maybe 10x10. Next time I’m bringing a butt load of cash.

Geneva: The lake, the Calvinist cathedral, the fountain. Amazing. And CERN was too cool for nerds like me and my son. They were running an experiment at the time so we couldn’t go underground into the ring but we were able to look in on the ATLAS control room. We were grinning from ear to ear.

A little advice: if you can get by just riding trains or trams then do it. They are clean, comfortable and quick. If you must rent a car, you better be able to drive stick and handle a car like Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity. The divers are nuts.

The bridge is very pretty? That’s all you took from that? :eek:

Knowing that it burned is at least as heartbreaking as the lion! :smiley:

Take a few weeks to sort the thousands of pictures you took, then share a few!
Willkommen zu hause!

Lucerne, the lion was moving but the whole town and area were beautiful. The lake, the mountains, the medieval wall, the bridge. Wonderful area.

Zermatt was very rustic and expensive at the same time. I dont remember it being that steep. What really stood out to me were the old log buildings with the stone discs in their footings, I guess that was to keep mice out. I sort of got the impression that much of the town was just there for the tourists. The mountain climbers cemetary was very interesting. We only saw the Matterhorn briefly, it was shrouded by clouds the rest of the time.