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Exploring Switzerland By Rail

By The Kirker Team, 18 November 2016

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I was very excited about my trip to Switzerland as I had been skiing there once before but I had never had the opportunity to explore the towns and countryside. We left early in the morning from London City Airport. This was my first time flying from City Airport so I arrived nice and early, expecting the chaos of London Heathrow and within 30 minutes I had checked my luggage in, gone through security and was waiting with coffee in hand. I highly recommend flying from City airport; although it can be a little more expensive, it takes away all the stress at the start of your holiday.

We arrived into Geneva Airport armed with our Swiss Travel Card. This is a must for anyone staying for an extended period of time in Switzerland. Once the card is signed and dated, you can board any train you wish just by showing your pass. Nearly all routes are covered by the card including various panoramic journeys. There are a small number of very scenic routes which require a reservation but seats can easily be reserved in advance and we can even pre-book meals on some of the longer journeys.  After visiting Geneva and Vevey, we travelled on to Montreux where the annual jazz festival was taking place. There are a number of stages and stalls set up along the shore of the lake and I highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in jazz music. I would also recommend the 4* Hotel Grand Suisse Majestic. This is a very grand building located within walking distance of the train station. All of the rooms have recently been renovated to a high standard and the views from the restaurant and bar are stunning.  We stayed the night at the Hotel Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne: a spectacular hotel perfectly positioned on the lake. It has a very grand entrance lobby and all the rooms are spacious with the majority offering lake views. Anne-Sophie Pic’s restaurant at the hotel is one of the best in the whole of Switzerland and has been awarded two Michelin stars – making a reservation in advance is essential.

The next morning we boarded the panoramic train with our Swiss Travel Card from Lausanne to Locarno, going via Domodossala. This was the first and only time our train was late during the whole week we were in Switzerland but our connecting train waited for our arrival before departing (the excellent service you would expect in Switzerland). I would highly recommend including at least one of the panoramic journeys in any Swiss itinerary. Many of the trains have floor-to-ceiling windows and it is a relaxing and comfortable way to see this verdant and picturesque country.

We were in Switzerland to revisit the 5* hotels we already feature but also to research several new 4* properties with charm… and we definitely found this in our next destination: Lucerne. The Hotel Des Balances is in a wonderful location with many rooms and all junior suites offering views towards the river and the old wooden Chapel Bridge. All of the rooms are beautifully appointed and there is an excellent restaurant and terrace on the lakeside. Lucerne has a picturesque old town and there are lot of excursions on the lake and some lovely walks into the mountains. I would highly recommend spending the day on The Golden Round Trip. This includes a boat trip on the lake, the cog train up the mountain, a cable car journey and then the train back to Lucerne station.

The next morning we took the train to Bern. Bern may be the capital and also the political centre of the country but it often passes under most travellers’ radars. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has so much to offer. According to legend. the name Bern originates from the city’s founder who vowed to name the city after the first animal he hunted. This turned out to be a bear which is now the emblem of the city. The bear has an inescapable presence throughout the city: from the city’s flag to the large number of fountains that line the old streets and the two famous residents in the newly modernised Bear Park. There is so much to see in Bern: over 100 decorated fountains, the famous clock tower, and the Einstein Museum, to name but a few. We had an excellent dinner at the Hotel Schweizerhof, a 5* hotel which has just reopened after a lengthy renovation and it has all been finished to a very high standard. I would definitely recommend this hotel. It is located next to the train station and just a short walk from the old town.

We stopped in Zurich before flying home. Zurich is the financial heart of Switzerland but the area around the lake and the opera house where our hotels are located is very pretty. The Hotel Opera is a very comfortable 4* hotel opposite the Opera house. Charlie, our concierge is able to book tickets for you and it would be a wonderful way to start or end an itinerary. Before leaving, we had just enough time to use our Swiss Travel Card one last time. The sun came out and we sat out on the deck of a ferry admiring the mountains and pretty houses lining the shores: a fitting way to end our trip.

 

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Our expert reservations team regularly travel to a wide range of destinations to explore new cities, visit hotels and to research museums, galleries and restaurants so that we can offer the most up-to-date advice and recommendations.

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