A family trip to Switzerland
by José Murillo
(Juiz de Fora - MG, Brazil)
My name is Jose Murillo and I'm from Brazil. I'll be visiting Switzerland next May with my wife and two girls (6 and 8). We'll be arriving in Zurich on May 5th at night and we will have a few free days (until May 9) to travel around. We plan to visit the Interlaken/Grindenwald region during these days.
I have to be back in Zurich on May 9 at night to participate in a Congress till May 11. Than, I'll have about a week free, until May 17 at night. This second part of the trip we are planning to go to the Valais region, to see the Matterhorn.
We like mountains, outdoors and want to do some trekking and bike rides. My girls and my wife have never seen snow and they want to do some skiing as well. The girls are very excited about seeing snow and they also love dogs and want to see some Saint Bernard’s.
From all the research I've done so far, I found that there is a lot to see in Switzerland, especially for those like us that love nature and outdoor sports. But we usually like to travel easy with no rush, spending more time in the places we visit, rather than jumping from one place to another.
I would like to ask you for some tips for the trip. Which cities to visit, where to spend the nights (we like small and typical towns and don't want to spend lots of money on hotels). We are doing more like a budget trip.
We also want suggestions on what to do with the kids there.
We have rented a car for the whole trip.
Thank you for your attention,
Family Trip to Switzerland
Weather wise, May is a bit on the moody side. The ski season ends mid to end April, and lots of hotels in ski areas are closed until beginning of June.
The good side though is that you don’t have to worry about finding a hotel if you keep out of town centres. Hotels in smaller towns offer prices that are more economical anyway.
Summer skiing is offered on Glacier 3000 (Les Diablerets), Jungfrau and Zermatt. However, glacier skiing is not recommended for novice skiers. There are no lifts for true beginners as there are in winter closer to resorts. I can’t recommend it. But if you really (really) want to try it, Zermatt would be the best bet. Have a chat with the ski school though.
Following a few attractions to choose from: Bern and Bernese OberlandMay 6 Bern
- Bärengraben (baer pit)
- Walk up-town "under the arcades".
- Zytglogge - Bern’s astronomical clock tower starts its spectacle four minutes before the full hour.
- Federal Building (Bundeshaus). Great view from the terrace behind the Bundeshaus.
- If good weather, climb the Berner Münster tower, Switzerland’s oldest and most important Gothic Cathedral. Stunning views to city, Bernese Alps and Jura mountains.
- If time and weather permit, the Gurten, Bern’s house mountain and car free recreational area, offers excellent views, strolling path, hiking trails, a restaurant and children’s play ground. The Gurtenbahn (electric train - parking available) will bring you up to the top.
Rather than staying in Interlaken (very touristy), I’d recommend choosing a hotel/motel along Lake Thun’s northern shore in one of the typical Swiss villages.
- Hotel Panorama in Aeschlen. Simple rooms but stunning views, good breakfast buffet.
- The hillside village of Beatenberg.
- St. Beatus-Höhlen (Caves) between Merligen and Interlaken.
Other points of interest before you continue your journey to Grindelwald, unless you prefer to spend more time there:
- Ballenberg Open Air Museum in Brienz.
- Reichenbach falls in Meiringen
May 8 Grindelwald
Thinking of visiting Jungfraujoch? Keep an eye on the weather forecast.
Weather changes quickly in spring. I only recommend a trip to the Jungfrau if the weather cooperates. You’d be very disappointed to arrive at the top and not be able to see anything (especially considering the cost). You can save a little by buying a “Good Morning Ticket”. Start before 8am at Kleine Scheidegg and return before noon.
Trottibiking is a lot of fun for children of all ages. First cableway and Isenfluh-Sulwald cable car take you to the departure point.
May 9 Return to Zürich:
Interlaken – Brünigpass (check the road condition before you leave) - Standstaad, then continue all around the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne) – Beckenried – Flüelen – Brunnen – Vitznau – Weggis – Küssnacht and then via Autobahn (Motorway) to Zürich.
A few stops of interest along the way:
- Glasi Hergiswil: Continue from Alpnach to Hergiswil (and later backtrack to Standstaad) to visit the Glasi Hergiswil where glass is manually shaped and blown and children can blow their own glass ball. Home to the only Glass Labyrinth in Switzerland.
- Beckenried (Rütenen and Risleten Gorge: Easy hiking trail along the lake. Drive to Rütenen, bring your own picnic, then continue to the Risleten Gorge and back (pick up a map at the tourist office in Beckenried).
- Weggis – according to Mark Twain "The most charming place". If time permits, take the aerial cable car up to Rigi Kaltbad for lunch.
Alternative Route to Zürich:
From Grindelwald via Thun - Steffisburg – Schallenberg – Marbach (through Biosphere Reserve Entlebuch) – Wolhusen, Luzern, Zug to Zürich.
Stop in Thun at the Schadau Castle for tea and visit the oldest surviving panorama painting, the Wocher Panorama.
Lucerne: Leave your car at the Bahnhofplatz Parking (train station parking), walk down Bahnhofstrasse and cross the lake via Kappellbrücke (the famous wooden bridge) for an open-air lunch in one of the Restaurants along Rathausquai.
Visit the Verkehrsmuseum (Transport Museum) and/or
Glacier Garden with Mirror Labyrinth "Alhambra"
Express route back to Zürich
If you are in a hurry, you always can use the Autobahn (Motorway) back from Grindelwald to Zürich via Thun and Bern.
May 10/11 in Zürich
- Cruise Lake Zürich and visit Knie’s Children Zoo in Rapperswil (back by train): www.knieskinderzoo.ch
- Lindt & Sprüngli, Paradeplatz for chocolate lovers.
- Lunch at Restaurant Blinde Kuh (if you can get a seat - booked for weeks). People with impaired vision run it and you eat and drink in total darkness.
- A stroll through the Niederdorfstrasse, Marktgasse, Münstergasse and side streets to Grossmünster, then cross Münsterbrücke and stroll back via Schipfe.
Tip: Meinrad’s Puppen & Teddybären has the cutest teddies and dolls in town, Neumarkt 12
- The Langstrasse area (Kreis 4) and Zürich West (Kreis 5), are known for its multicultural scene, artsy community and eclectic stores.
- Zürich’s Zoo is considered one of the best in Europe.
Bad weather options:
- The Planta Magic offers an indoor playground for children up to 12 years of age: www.planetamagic.ch
- Technorama in Winterthur: www.technorama.ch
- Planetarium Zürich: www.urania-sternwarte.ch
Best views to the City:
- Sonnnenberg. Fabulous restaurant (Jacky Donatz, Hitzigweg 15) or just sit on the terrasse and enjoy the view. Especially atmospheric at sundown.
May 12 – 17 Swiss Riviera and Valais
May 12 Fribourg to Vevey.
- University City of Fribourg, also called the city of bridges, and its attractive medieval old town, a well-kept secret.
- Stop at the motorway restaurant (Autobahn Raststätte) Bulle for a fondue (Fondue Fribourgoise – moitié-moitié).
Activities at the Swiss Riviera:
- With the Star Train from Vevey to Les Pléiades: Astropléiades Path
- Lavaux Express: www.lavauxexpress.ch
- Lavaux Panoramic Train : www.lavaux-panoramic.ch
- Rhône Skate: Skate part of the trail, for ex.along the shores of Lake Geneva. Vevey toward Montreux.
Bex: Salt Mines History Museum – exhibition and audiovisual presentation, a small train and/or path leads down to the core of the mountain to a maze of 50 km of galleries: www.mines.ch
Evionnaz: Labyrinth Adventure Park: www.labyrinthes.ch
Martigny: The Bernhardiner dogs are still in their winter quarter (they move to the Grand Saint Bernard Pass in summer). You meet Barry at the Musée et Chiens du Saint-Bernard: www.musee-saint-bernard.ch
Tip for Overnight:
Valais is known for its healing waters. Close to Martigny are three thermal baths equipped with all the goodies, even vino- and chocolate therapy.
- Bain de Sallion
- Thermalp Ovronnaz
- Bain de Lavey
Lac Souterrain St-Léonard and hike the Wine Trail
Leave the car at the train station in Sion. Take the train to St-Léonard to the largest underground Lake in Europe. Open daily. Tour takes approx. 45 min: www.lac-souterrain.com
Then hike the wine trail that follows the irrigation system for the vineyards back to Sion. Start right at the bakery on the little river that separates the villages St-Léonard and Uvrier (first hiking trail sign). The actual wine path is a 74 km long hiking trail from Martigny to Leuk, and this section from St-Léonard to Sion is called “Biss de Clavau” (water channels). Approx. 2,5 hours.
May 16 Zermatt
Zermatt is car free. You can leave your vehicle in Täsch.
Only the glacier ski area Klein Matterhorn remains open year round.
May 17 Back to Zürich
The fastest way back to Zürich is via Autoverlad (car train) between Goppenstein and Kandersteg. Continue via Thun, Bern to Zürich.
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. May you and your family have a wonderful holiday!