So, we had 4 days time and decided we wanted to spend them in Switzerland, mostly because we have direct flights from Hanover (which is the closest airport to our home) to Zurich. We got quite a good price deal, so we gave it a go. Our main goal was to spend some time in Zürich (where I also have some family living, but never took the time for a visit) and then head to the snowy Alps. As I knew there were many awesome train rides possible in Switzerland we booked the famous Glacier Express train from Zermatt to St. Moritz and the rest of the trip was made around this plan. 4 days does not sound much, but it was just enough to pull this off!
When: January 2016
Visited: Zürich, Zermatt, St. Moritz
Stayed in: hotels
DRIVING & TRANSPORT
Of course, the easiest/cheapest way would be to just go there with our car. You do need to buy a VIGNETTE if you drive into the country. We chose to fly and then TRAVEL ITH TRAINS, after all Switzerland is very famous for its punctual trains.
We reserved all of our train tickets online prior to departure because we didn´t want to lose additional time by standing in lines at the train stations. It turned out very easy – Lu travelled free of charge at all trains (KIDS UNDER 6 TRAVEL FOR FREE!) and you can buy a ticket which is valid for the whole day and not specific times. You just have to put in the stations and then you can decide later at which times you want to leave – which is very convenient while travelling with kids, you know that it can sometimes take a bit longer in the morning before everyone is dressed. We also booked the Glacier Express train 2 months in advance and considering the number of tourists travelling with it, this was a wise thing to do. We thought about renting a car for 1 day so that we could make a bigger circle and stop somewhere along the way between Zürich and Zermatt – but you can just forget about this, it´s waaaay to expensive.
What to say here, well, it´s freaking expensive! Good thing was that we had a reasonable price for the flights and since Lu didn´t have to pay for the trains and could sleep in our bed for free, which made everything a bit better ;). We paid 150€ for the Glacier Express train (Zermatt – St. Moritz) per person, the other train connections were also NOT REALLY CHEAP. A dinner for 2 with 2 beers in a Zermatt restaurant will be around 100-120€, buying just some snacks in a supermarket is easily 40€ and it looks similar with 2 cappuccinos + small sandwiches at a train station in St.Moritz. Zürich doesn´t look much better, but you can eat a crepe or similar at some “street” restaurants for a bit less. A double room in small hotels was around 150€ (breakfast included), the cable car ticket from Zermatt village to the top of the Klein Matterhorn with the Glacier paradise cable car was 80 CHF. You can see now, it´s not exactly cheap – but hey, for 4 days it´s doable.
WHAT WE SAW & DID
Coming in to Zürich city centre from the airport is a piece of cake. There is a very convenient TRAIN CONNECTION which takes a good 10 minutes and the main train station is located in the very centre of the city. Since we had Lu with us we decided to book a hotel as close to the station as possible, so that we would have a short way to walk the next morning when we were leaving to Zermatt. So, only about a 5min walk and we were in a cosy small HOTEL BY THE LIMAT RIVER which also had a cafe in the ground floor. Our flight was a morning one, meaning we were early in the town and had the rest of the day to explore the town.
Honestly, we didn´t have much time to read about Zürich´s attractions before we left so we just took a touristic map at the reception and followed the CIRCLE WALKING PATH down to the ZÜRICH LAKE, passing by a few churches and a pedestrian zone with lots of wonderful small cafes and shops. We walked around 7 km that day. It looked very peaceful somehow and not hectic at all! Must be very nice in the summer months when you can swim & do water sports on the lake.
I was very happy to see a certain person after a very loooong time and glad to have spent the afternoon & evening with her! So our visit to Zürich was extremely SHORT but enough t get an impression and based on what we saw, I can say I want to come again in the spring or summer one day!
FROM ZÜRICH TO ZERMATT
Next morning it was already time to leave Zürich and we were headed to the train station directly after breakfast. It was pretty easy to find the right platform, the stations are REALLY GOOD ORGANISED and clean and guess what – the train left very punctual, so don´t be late otherwise you will miss it! We had to switch trains in Visp and we only had 7 minutes to do that. I was already wondering how this will work out but there were no problems, since there are no delays. Alltogether it took us amost 4 hrs before we reached the train station in Zermatt.
The second best thing about Swiss trains? They have FAMILY CARIAGES! (In case you have forgotten, the first best thing is that kids under 6 travel for free). When you wait for the train make sure to check the digital boards where it is shown in which part of the train the family carriage is located – just search for the sign “FA”. The whole carriage is painted from outside and inside so you really cannot miss it. Upstairs there are the usual seats and then there is the PLAYROOM, with a slide, climbing things, a boat and much more. It´s not a huge place but enough for your little ones to have fun for a couple of hours. It´s also good because you will be surrounded with other families and all those other passengers complaining about loud children will not give you annoyed looks, because they will sit safely in another carriage far away from you ;).
I´ve heard only good things about this FAMOUS SKIING RESORT/VILLAGE before coming here and I can only say now – it´s all true! There are NO CARS ALLOWED inside the village which makes the whole place a huge walking zone – perfect if you have running kids. There are mini taxis allowed which can take you from one side to the other and if you are there for skiing, you can use the ski bus which brings you to the lowest station of the cable car, which is about a 15 min walk from the town centre. The most recognisable feature of Zermatt is the world known MATTERHORN MOUNTAIN (4.478 m) and you can see it nicely if you walk to the end of the village, to where the cable car station is. Really impressive!
We checked into our SMALL BUT COSY HOTEL around 1pm and since the day was really sunny and nice I decided to head up to the cable car station and try to get up to the highest station to get the views. I wished we had more time and I could ski at least for one day, but well.. that was not the case now.
For 80 CHF I bought the so-called GLACIER PARADISE ticket which took me first with a very long cable car (more stations, it took a good half an hour) and then an additional cable car which takes you to the HIGHEST CABLE CAR STATION IN THE ALPS, at 3,883 m. Even though I did not have much time it was well worth going up there! Lu & Gin stayed in the village and made a longer walk down there, as we were a bit time limited and I´m not sure how a 4-year-old would react to reaching almost 4000 m in such short time.
Once on the top of the “KLEIN MATTERHORN” (little Matterhorn) you have more options: you can just ski down, you can walk a few stairs more to the amazing viewing deck, you can visit the ICE GALLERY and watch a couple of short movies, there is also a bar. I did the deck, one short movie and the ice gallery thing, but then it was soon time to go back down since it was getting late.
There is much going on in the evenings and as we could hear it in the night then, the PARTY in Zermatt is on! We just went for a dinner and a half an hour walk and then back to the room. Dinner was great but yes, again, very expensive. Unfortunately we had to skip ordering the fondue because we thought it is not the best idea to place a hot pot in front of a toddler, so we will have to come back for this, I even saw on the menu they had a beer fondue, I wonder how that looks like ;). We did eat lots of CHEESE at breakfasts though, and if you are a chocolate fanatic, Switzerland will be like a paradise! Oh and watches of course, all the shops are very tempting 😉
GLACIER EXPRESS TRAIN TO ST. MORITZ
Might sound funny to some but this train ride was actually the MAIN REASON WE DECIDED TO GO TO SWITZERLAND for such a short time. I guess this is one of those things which you just “have to do” once in a lifetime 😉
The Glacier Express is ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS RAILWAY JOURNEYS IN THE WORLD. It runs since 1930, between Zermatt and Davos or St. Moritz (you can choose the end station, but you can also get on/off somewhere in the middle). The word express is quite deceiving though and it is said the train is the slowest express train in the world! On its way through SWISS ALPS it crosses 291 BRIDGES and runs through 91 TUNNELS. It reaches the highest point at 2,033 m at the OBERALP PASS. The whole line is a NARROW GAUGE RAILWAY with large portions of rack-and-pinion system both for ascending and descending steep slopes. The train has HUGE WINDOWS (also on the roof) so that you really get great views of the mountains! There is a restaurant carriage, but if you preorder your meals they will bring it to your seats. Throughout the train there is the same seat order – 4 seats around 1 table. We were 3 and had one extra seat which was very convenient. We booked our lunches already when we booked the train tickets. Don´t forget you need to make a seat reservation, which will cost you extra 30 CHF, in the winter only 13CHF.
We knew the trip will take almost 8hrs and that doing it with a CHILD is maybe not the best idea for many parents when they think of “family holidays”, but we thought, why not? After all there were no extra expenses except the extra plane ticket and some food money (Lu eats a lot ha ha), but in general, I believe he liked the trains very much. In trains KIDS CAN RUN AROUND and stretch the legs, on this train there was also a huge glass window at the back of the last carriage, there were lunches served and we had books with us, and pens and board games and yes, this time also a tablet. The tablet served more as an emergency thing which we used for a shorter period of time. Overall this ride was nothing a child could not handle and therefore a very nice experience!
The views through the window are amazing! Unfortunately this year there is not much snow anywhere in Europe and so we could often see green grassy spots also here, but on the other side we can be extremely thankful for the nice sunny weather! I´m not sure how this train ride looks like if it rains,snows or is foggy.
I´m not sure if we would necessarily come here if it wasn´t for the Glacier Express route which ended up in St. Moritz, but at the end we are happy to have seen it, because it truly was interesting. But I think we can also say now: we´ve seen it and don´t have the need to come back again any time soon! It´s like A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD with POSH SHOPS and FAST CARS and people in fur coats and everything seems to be turning around the MONEY and GLAMOUR.
Compared to Zermatt this was really a town – a quite big one actually. The city is divided into parts, we slept a bit outside the most expensive zone and got a reasonable prise for the night (still it was 160€). It was very easy to get a bus from the train station and after a 8 minutes drive we were sitting in our hotel room. The next day (which was also the last day of our short trip) we took the bus back to the train station where we LOCKED OUR LUGGAGE IN A LOCKER and went of to explore the most famous part of the town, where all those expensive shops, hotels and restaurants are. Despite all those glamorous shop windows and all, for me the town was missing some charm ;).
We had no idea that exactly this weekend there was a SNOW POLO WORLD CUP organised on the frozen lake in St. Moritz. After we´ve walked around the town we still had enough time to go down to the lake and we stumbled upon this event, really by accident. We were there just 15 minutes before it started and we got the chance to watch a bit of the match. Even though one has no clue about Polo you can still just observe people 😉 Not to mention all those MASERATIS! Crazy 😉
ST. MORITZ – ZÜRICH – HOME
Sooner or later we had to leave St. Moritz and hop on the train to LANDQUART, where we switched the train and drove further to Zürich. We drove a fair part of the last leg along the Zürich lake which is huge! Well actually, it´s long. Again, it looked like a cool area to visit in the summer. In Zürich´s main station we had to switch the train for the last time and 10 minutes later we were at the airport. We were good in time (for a change) and have splurged on one last ridiculously expensive large beer in a nice bar, before flying back to Hanover. We were back home around 10pm and off to work/kindergarten the next day ;). Our time in Switzerland was SHORT, BUT SWEET! And expensive :P.
PIN FOR LATER