2 week trip - Germany and Switzerland by rail
Replies: 4 - Last Post: Oct 31, 2012 7:48 AM Last Post By: neckervd
Oct 29, 2012 7:46 AM
I’m planning a 2 week trip to central Europe (from the UK) next May with my boyfriend. He’s not a fan of flying so we’re going to do our travelling mostly by train. We’ve been doing our research and have come up with a loose itinerary and it would be good to get some feedback and suggestions.
Option A - Ferry Hull to Bruges, train to Cologne, few nights somewhere between Cologne and Switzerland (possibly Freiberg or Heidelberg, open to suggestions), Luzern (Switzerland), Ticino area of Switzerland (Lugano/Locarno/Belinzona), sleeper train to Paris (via Milan but not spending any time in Milan), Eurostar back to UK from Paris.
Option B – As above but travel from Luzern to Lausanne and then on to Paris from there. The sleeper from Milan to Paris is expensive; this might be a cheaper option but means we miss out on Ticino.
We’d like to spend 3 nights in most places so we have time to rest but will probably only spend 1 night in Bruges and 1 night in Paris. We want a mix of cities and scenery and a mixture of sightseeing and activities such as hiking and cycling. Do you think our route will achieve this, are there other places we should consider?
Our plan is to book all our trains and hotels in advance to take advantage of special offers so we need to decide on a fixed itinerary. We’ll probably stay in Ibis budget/ETAP style hotels or private rooms in hostels – any recommendations would be great.
Thanks in advance!
Oct 29, 2012 8:34 AM
1Firstly, the ferry goes to Zeebrugge - there is a connecting bus for ferry passengers to Brugge which I suggest you take. You can do Brugge - Brussels - Liege - Aachen - Cologne on local trains, though I think Liege - Aachen is not very frequent (every 2 hours?). Aacehn is worth a visit and the Ibis Marschiertor is just 200 metres from the station - I've used it several times. The Ibis in Cologne tend to be a bit suburban.
Given the time of year (it has already been cold enough for snow in Germany this year) Heidelberg and Freiburg are fine, but a bit small for 3 days unless the weather is suitable for day trips - have a look at Stuttgart too. I assume you've investigated the bahn.de website including regional tickets and Quer-Durchs Land tickets which can offer bargains if you're prepared to travel on slower regional trains instead of Intercitys
Finally a personal opinion, but I think Lugano and the Ticino has much more than Lausanne which to me is a bit bland. Have a good trip.
Oct 29, 2012 9:26 AM
2Places to visit between Cologne and Switzerland (google!):
Mosel Valley (Cochem, Bernkstel), Rhine Valley between Koblenz and Mainz, Mainz, Worms, Speyer, Strasbourg, Riquewihr, Colmar, Freiburg. If you travel via Stuttgart (city center rather deceiving, but often good exhibitions in the many museums, fine palace at Ludwigsburg...), stop over at Rottweil and Engen (both scenic medieval cities) and continue from Singen via Unteruhldingen (Celtic Lake dwellings) and the Gardens of Mainau Island,... or visit the Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen.
Ticino is fine in May: tons of wild flowers in the mountains, like white narcissus, broom, lilies of the valley ...
Visit the 3 castles of Bellinzona, Swissminiatur at Melide, the Last Supper at Capriasca, the churches of Lugano, the Sanctuaries of Madonna del Sasso and Re, the scenic Lake villages of Gandria, Morcote, Cannobio ..., hike from Alpe Foppa (Tamaro) gondola station to Monte Lema gondola station (with views from the Austrian to the French Alps, Ortles, Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso and Mont Blanc included, as well as over many lakes), take a boat from Locarno or Luino to the subtropical gardens of Isola Madre and Isola Bella.
Locarno - Domodossola - Brig - Montreux/Chillon Castle - Lausanne - Paris by train is very scenic and mega easy. You may stop over at Brig and spend half a day at Aletsch Glacier (longest glacier of Europe) or in the Zermatt/Matterhorn area.
Oct 31, 2012 3:09 AM
3Thanks both. Everywhere you mentioned looks really nice but we’re trying to be strict with ourselves as we always try to fit in too many places. I think between Cologne and Luzern we may spend 2 or 3nights in Heidelberg, the train will pass through the Middle Rhine Valley so perhaps we’ll get off at St Goar or Bacharach and spend the day there before continuing to Heidelberg. I’ll look into left luggage facilities at those stations to see whether that would work. We’ll probably have to miss Freiberg which is a shame, we’ll have to plan another trip for that!
Think we’ll also go to Locarno rather than Lausanne hopefully it will be warm if we make it that far south!
Oct 31, 2012 7:48 AM
4Rhine Valley: take the boat (tons of explanations (in english) through the boat loudspeakers) from Koblenz along the most scenic legs up to Ruedesheim or Mainz (very interesting medieval city center).
The 2013 boat timetable is not yet published. Last May, the boats left Koblenz at 9.00, 11.00 and 14.00
It would be easy to combine Locarno and Lausanne, as the train ride from Locarno via Lausanne to Paris (most scenic itinerary by far) is not longer than the itinerary via Arth-Goldau - Lucerne or Zurich - Basel.
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