In the course of our trip planning, I spent many hours trawling through travel blogs and websites, trying to find the most helpful information I could, in order to plan the best trip possible. For the most part, that wasn’t too hard, but when it came to Switzerland, I honestly had no idea.
We wanted a good mix of places we’ve been to before that we wanted to re-visit, and some cities that we didn’t know a lot about, so we’d have something new to discover. I threw Bern into the mix, and husband said “yeah, why not?!” Great. We’re going. Now what?!
I picked Bern because it looked like a really pretty, charming Swiss city, but not as busy as Zurich or Geneva, and I figured it’d be the perfect city to slow down for a while in. I started Googling, and found that there’s actually a bit to do around there, if you want to, which led me to looking for rail information. After spending some time trawling the internet, I landed on MySwissAlps.com, a cornucopia of helpful information for someone with no idea past “it looks like a pretty place to visit” but still wanted to explore by train.
Aside from the rail help and the usual information about what to do, where to go, how to find accommodation etc, they have a few forums, which is where I found the most useful information:
1. Rail: the place to ask ALL questions about rail travel.
2. Accommodation: the place for all things accommodation, including the more niche spots (eg. where to base yourself if you’re going to hike).
3. Trip Reports: the place for travelers to post their itineraries and talk about how their trip went.
4. Miscellaneous: everything else!
While we already had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do, it was great to browse the forums and look at other ideas. It was also nice to see how helpful users were when someone asked for help with an itinerary! And when it came to finding information on specific cities, I found it easiest to just type the city name into the search box rather than hunt through the site. A good example was Thun – I’d seen some beautiful pictures of the place and that got my attentions, but I didn’t know what else there was to see or do there. A quick search showed me So, I typed “THUN” into the search box gave me options for boat trips, hiking paths and sightseeing options.
Arno and Annika who run the site actually aren’t native Swiss – they’re a couple from the Netherlands who fell in love with Switzerland and decided to create a hobby out of it, which then turned into a business! I liked their site because they’re independent operators who specialize in rail travel, and that’s what we needed; a company who could advise us on how to get around by train, but that wouldn’t try to sell us something they were being paid to sell. And when I emailed for help, they got right back to me and explained that I didn’t need to buy several different tickets for our day trip – I could just buy one return ticket Bern to Grindelwald and break my journey in Thun and Interlaken. Lucky I asked!! Also, just for the record, the trains are really very comfortable and spacious…
As for the day trip itself, it may seem like a lot of ground to cover in a day, but because the rail system is so efficient and simple to use, it was actually a really easy and stress-free day! Here’s what our itinerary looked like, in case you need some ideas…
How did we make this work by train?
It actually couldn’t have been easier; as I mentioned before, there’s no need to purchase multiple one way tickets, nor do you need to worry about booking tickets in advance. Just buy a Bern to Grindelwald return ticket at Bern’s main railway station (around CHF 80 per person) and you can break your journey at Interlaken in one direction and Thun in the other! Easy!
STOP 1: INTERLAKEN (55min from Bern, getting off at Interlaken Ost station)
Why go? Other than the fact that everyone’s photos looked really nice, the forums told me that Interlaken was the place to go for adventure sports and adrenaline experiences, and I’ve always wanted to go paragliding…
What did we do there?
– I went paragliding with Paragliding Interlaken, and couldn’t recommend them more highly – complete professionals and so much fun!
– If you’re a shopper, you’ll love Interlaken’s bounty of boutiques.
– And chocolate. Swiss chocolate. From the Swiss Chocolat Chalet; get a 200g bag of mixed chunks of chocolate (milk choc hazelnut, dark choc almond, that kinda thing) for CHF 12.80.
STOP 2: GRINDELWALD (35min from Interlaken Ost)
Why go to Grindelwald? It’s a good base for the snow bunnies, but for the rest of us, it’s an incredibly beautiful town sitting around 1000m above sea level and surrounded by mountains.
What did we do there?
– Walked around the village and stopped every few metres to admire the view!
– Lunch at Alte Post – think old-style, straight out of the movies wooden chalet with a cosy interior and homestyle cooking!
– You can also easily get to the ‘top of Europe’ at Jungfraujoch from here.
STOP 3: THUN (1hr 15min from Grindelwald with an easy change at Interlaken Ost)
Why go to Thun? Honestly, I saw a gorgeous photo of Thun’s perfect blue lake and thought it would be nice to see… Turns out it’s a much bigger town than I first thought and there’s quite a lot to do there! And the best view of the lake is from the window of the train as it passes…
What did we do there?
– This is another great place for shoppers, but less high end designers and more every day affordable stores! Get onto the islet in the centre of town and walk the main street Bälliz.
– For multi-cultural restaurants, cafes and a more personal shopping experience, try Obere Hauptgasse street; think hand crafter jewellery, second hand book shops, and small fashion boutiques.
– Thun Castle was beautiful – a bit of a climb with a view more than worth it! There’s a restaurant and shop in the castle walls which can be accessed by anyone, then it’s a CHF 10 fee for some extra access including the museum exhibits.
* Disclosure: This post was partially sponsored by MySwissAlps.com, however the opinions contained herein are completely my own based on my experience, as per usual 🙂 *