Family Vacations in Switzerland: Our top 4 tips.
I was asked by Karlien from the Dutch blog “Reise tips met kids” to share some kid-tested, mum-approved fun that you can have in Switzerland. I was so excited that she asked me because Switzerland is such a perfect place to visit with your family. Let me share some of our family’s favorite places with you!
Why should you bring your kids to Switzerland?
It’s a good question. With the world so much more accessible to us through the miracle of air travel leaving us with so many choices for our holidays, what makes Switzerland special? While we’re famous for cows, chocolate and cheese (and most kids won’t say no to at least one of those!) there is so much more that is special, and sometimes hidden, to love. Have you vowed to get your kids off electronics and out into the fresh air? Maybe you’re tired of being behind the computer too! If so, Switzerland is the place for you. With stunning scenery and adventure around every corner. Switzerland is a nature lover’s paradise. The air, water, and mountains are clean and beautiful and even on a cloudy day you can probably find sunshine up on the berg (mountain). So grab your rucksacks, put on your hat (or ski jackets), and let’s go!
Tip 1: Family friendly hiking trails
Switzerland is a hikers paradise. Do you have kids? Some folks may think that hiking isn’t a child friendly activity, but think again! Everyone can enjoy hiking on trails that span from extremely easy to devilishly difficult. In Switzerland, hiking (like skiing) is a national family pastime. Swiss kids love to hike: they not only hike on the weekends but hiking trips with school is a regular event from the very early classes. Some regions have been clever and introduced fun (and motivating!) activities along hiking routes which most kids really love.
Why not visit Liselotte the cow on the Männlichen Mountain, or explore dwarf houses along the hike in Muggestutz. For the more adventurous hikers, be sure to read the book Heidi by Johanna Spyri before you arrive and then follow in Heidi’s footsteps and explore the beautiful area of Maienfeld. You can easily find a hike that suits your families fitness level.
A big favourite around our home is the Härzlisee above the village of Engelberg. You can take the Brunni gondola up to the trail and then hike (or take the chair lift) up to Härzlisee - a heart shaped lake. Around the lake is a Kitzelpfad or “tickel trail” —an experience unique to Switzerland where you walk barefoot around the lake on trails specifically designed for you to be able to experience different textures on your soles of your feet. Have I tempted you yet?
For more family friendly hiking destinations, I recommend the Swiss tourism website where you’ll find a list full of suggested hikes for you to try.
Tip 2: Train Travel
Traveling by train in Switzerland is easy, clean, efficient, and designed with both the single traveler as well as the family in mind. For example, on cross country trains you can find family carriages with playgrounds on the upper decks, activity stations, and plenty of room to park your pram or leave your suitcases. The Swiss Train network is vast and the scenery stunning. Imagine being able to travel all over the country, through mountains, over glaciers, and past lakes in a comfortable seat with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine!) all the meanwhile leaving the navigation to the experts.
Every major attraction is reachable by train, and where the trains don’t go the busses, trams, and gondolas do! Does train travel appeal to you? You might want to inquire about The Swiss Travel Pass. This transportation pass is a cost effective option for those exploring Switzerland by train and the even better news is that with this ticket, your kids (under 16) will travel for free thanks to the Swiss Family card. The Swiss Travel pass also includes entry into museums (for the kids, too, with the Family Card) If you are not using the Swiss Travel Pass, you can still take advantage o f many other options. For example, check out the Junior card that normally costs CHF 30 (currently on sale for 15chf till 31. January 2018) which enables children to travel with a paying parent for free. Another option can be a half-fare card which you can purchase for CHF 120. It’s good for a month and enables you to travel for half-fare on trains, busses, boats, and mountain railways.
Check out the international visitors page of the SBB (Swiss Travel System) for the various options.
Tip 3: Outdoor Activities
In addition to hiking there are so many other outdoor activities to enjoy in Switzerland. Are you interested in natural history? Try the open air museum Ballenberg and see how the Swiss lived 200 years ago. A wonderful animal sanctuary can be found at the Tierpark in Goldau.
Not to be missed is the Transport Museum in Luzern (also home to the IMAX theatre and the Lindt Chocolate experience) which is always a huge hit with kids and adults alike. Get to see the evolution of the trains with actual carriages and engines you can explore, or climb aboard on of the first Swiss International Airlines airplane. Not only are there wonderful hands on exhibits inside, but there is a huge area outside where kids can ride scooters and drive cars. (Good luck getting the kids away from the construction areas!) And if you’re really warm after running around at the Transportation Museum, a hop skip and a jump across the road is the Strandbad -Lido.
Tip 4: It’s Badi (lake swimming) Time!
If you are traveling though Switzerland in the summer, don’t miss a swim in one of our many lakes. Nearly every town or village that is based on a lake will have a Badi - a place to slow down and relax and swim in the lake and lap up the gorgeous Swiss summer scenery. Most will also have a self serve restaurant and bar, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the lake. The badi is the place for locals to be in the summer.
Our favorite badi is the Strandbad in the town of Zug. It’s a little beach on the lake with a great restaurant. No matter which badi you try, you’re certain to come across “Fish Knsuperli” (fried fish from the local lake). Don’t miss this classic badi dish which can be served with salad or if you’re feeling especially hungry after all that swimming, with some pommes (French fries). Ice cream, prosecco, and Aperol Spritzes are all staples during that time of year, so pull up a lawn chair and stay awhile!