Culture

Springtime in Switzerland

4 to 11 April
Switzerland

Switzerland’s railway system is legendary for its punctuality and its integrated transport policy, where different forms of transport connect seamlessly and with little effort. Standard gauge federal railways connect with trams, trolleybuses, cable cars and lakeside ships.

Based in the single centre location of Luzern (Lucerne in French), this holiday offers a group itinerary each day but also allows the freedom to explore independently, or to simply relax and enjoy all that the picturesque lakeside town offers.

Highlights

  • No fly option
  • All seven nights at the same hotel
  • Rack railway from Vitznau to Mt Rigi
  • The world’s steepest railway to Mt Pilatus
  • Grindelwald for close-up views of the Eiger
  • The Chateau Chillon on Lake Geneva immortalised by Lord Byron
  • Bern and the bears
  • Lugano’s Italianate atmosphere

Tour manager is Jenny. For more information please feel free to email Jenny at jenny@ptg.co.uk 

Itinerary – Updated 25/10/2018

Day 1 Thursday 4 April (D) Overland travel from London St. Pancras via Eurostar or direct flights to Zürich are available from Luton, Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester. After collecting our luggage at baggage reclaim at Zürich airport, we simply take the lift to the platform.  There are hourly direct trains from Zürich Airport to Luzern. Trains are formed of double deck stock, and you are encouraged to sit on the upper deck for some great scenic vistas. Welcome dinner at the hotel.

Day 2 Friday 5 April (B) An introduction to Luzern this morning with a walking tour to include the Kapellbrücke (the wooden chapel bridge dating from 1333), across the end of Lake Luzern, and a walk along the town walls to admire the towers. Lucerne ranks amongst the world’s prettiest cities, and there is so much to see. We will visit the world-renowned Swiss Transport Museum, which has everything from trains, to road vehicles, planes and boats. In the afternoon we board a lake steamer for the town of Vitznau for the rack railway to Rigi Kaltbad with its mineral baths and a network of hiking paths as well as stunning views before we continue back to Lucerne via Arth-Goldau in the afternoon.

Day 3 Saturday 6 April (B) This morning we board the train to Switzerland’s capital city, Bern. Named after the bears (Bären) of Bern, the city, which dates back to the 12th century, retains much of its medieval architecture, including the Astronomical Clock or Zytglogge. Bern’s namesake bears can be shy, but we’ll sneak up on them. Not many cities have managed to retain their historic features quite as successfully as Bern, the capital of Switzerland. The old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thanks to its 6 kilometres of arcades – the locals refer to them as ‘Lauben’ – boasts on of the longest weather-sheltered shopping promenades in Europe. There is an operational steam tram in Bern that we might be hiring for the group – TBC.

Day 4 Sunday 7 April (B) A full day by train today to the mountain town of Grindelwald with its long mountaineering history. It affords unparalleled views of the Jungfrau range of the Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau.  We take the train to Interlaken and on to Grindelwald in the morning, returning via Kleine Scheidegg, where onlookers were able to spot the earliest climbers on the face of the Eiger through fixed telescopes.  We continue down to Wengen and on to Luzern via the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

Day 5 Monday 8 April (B) We will enjoy a journey on the Brunig railway system today as well as the world’s steepest railway to Mt Pilatus. This is just an introduction to the Brunig railway system and network of connecting trains.  The Brunig Line was built as a mainline metre gauge railway linking Luzern with another popular Swiss resort, that of Interlaken. The railway has to overcome the Brunig summit. Trains ascend using the rack system at a rate of 1 in 10 (think of it like a plane on take-off !). The train climbs in three stages to the summit, but descends in one (like off a cliff, only safely !). At Hergiswil, there is a highly scenic branch line to Engelberg, with its picture postcard Swiss Chalet buildings. At Alpnachsted, the Brunig line connects with one of the world’s steepest railways that climbs to Mt Pilatus at a rate of 1 in 2 !  Mt Pilatus is the mountain that overlooks Luzern, and it has another restaurant at its summit. After breakfast we will take a train to Alpnachstad, were we will board the steepest railway to Mt Pilatus Klum. We will return to Lucerne by taking cable car to Fräkmüstegg and then gondola list to Kriens, where we will board bus back to Lucerne.

Day 6 Tuesday 9 April (B) We cross into the French speaking part of Switzerland today: to Lake Geneva and Montreux to visit the medieval fortress of the Château de Chillon.  Lord Byron stayed in the Château in 1816 and took inspiration from the fact that the Château was once a prison to write his narrative poem ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’.  The earliest mention of the chateau dates from 1005, but there have been numerous renovations since then.  It has been described as ‘the jewel of Switzerland’ both for its idyllic position and the artefacts on display. After breakfast we will take an early train to Lausanne located at the Lake Geneva, where we will board the train to Montreux. After some time at leisure we will take a bus to Veytaux, Château de Chillon. Take part in a 50-minute guided tour of the Château de Chillon and learn about its wonderful history. After visit we will return to Montreux and board the train back to Lucerne via Lausanne.

Day 7 Wednesday 10 April (B) An introduction to the Italian speaking part of Switzerland today, the Ticino. Lugano is a charming lakeside resort, with Italianate architecture, excellent restaurants and lakeside walks. A funicular railway connects the town with the station. Lugano lies in a bay on the northern side of Lake Lugano, surrounded by numerous mountains offering splendid viewpoints. The traffic-free historic town centre, the numerous buildings in Italianate Lombardy style, the exclusive museums, the mountains and lake.

The town centre with its Mediterranean-style squares and arcades, and numerous parks with sub-tropical plants such as the Parco Civico on the shores of the lake invite you to laze around, enjoying the atmosphere. By the lakeside promenade are the Belvedere Gardens, where the parkland boasts not only camellias and magnolias but also countless sub-tropical plants and modern works of art.

Today we board the train from Lucerne to Lugano. The journey will take the group from the heart of Switzerland through the Gotthard base tunnel, to the south of the country. Upon arrival, enjoy free time at this world-class city. The town centre, with its Mediterranean style squares and arcades, invites you to take a walk and enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants. We will catch the train back to Lucerne later in the afternoon via the original, highly scenic route, via the spirals.

Day 8 Thursday 11 April (B) Return home by air or Eurostar.

Overland via Eurostar

10.24 St. Pancras to Paris Nord
14.55 Paris Est to Strasbourg
16.51 Strasbourg to Basel
18.17 Basel to Luzern (arr 19.30)

Flights (based on 2018 schedules)

Swiss 08.40 Birmingham to Zürich (arr 11.30)
Swiss 08.45 Manchester to Zürich (arr 11.45)

For: Train at 12.47 from Zürich Airport to Luzern (arr 13.49)

Easyjet 13.10 Luton to Zürich (arr 16.00)
Easyjet 13.45 Heathrow to Zürich (arr 16.30)

For: Train at 17.47 from Zürich Airport to Luzern (arr 18.49)

Hotel

Hotel Waldstätterhof, Luzern

Place(s) available

Updated 06/11/2018

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • 8-day holiday including flights: from £1,350
  • 8-day holiday from London St Pancras: £1,450
  • Own travel to/from Luzern: £1,150

Options

  • Upgrade to half board (all dinners) for just £150 (excludes drinks). This is exceptionally good value as eating out in Switzerland is expensive.
  • No fly from London St Pancras: supplement confirmed at time of booking
  • Single room supplement: £180
  • Bern Steam Tram: TBC

Deposit

  • £500 (with flights or Eurostar) or £300 (if making own travel arrangements)

Price includes

  • Swiss Pass. Giving you 50% off all the trains, boats and buses not included in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals: Breakfast daily plus three course welcome dinner at the hotel (with one drink per person)
  • Services of our Tour Manager (tour is fully escorted from London)
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