With its clean, safe cities, ample green space and outdoor activities, Switzerland is a great country to take the kids. Large cities like Geneva and Zurich might quickly overwhelm youngsters, so we’ve included just 1 night at each of those, with more time for mountain exploration in Interlaken and Lucerne.
Day 1: Zurich: Your Arrival Point
On Day 1, arrive as early as you can in order to do justice to Switzerland’s largest city. The most kid-friendly way to explore is to walk the famous waterside promenades, along the Limmat and Lake Zurich. In some places, they open onto beautiful gardens where the entire family can rest their feet or even take a swim. End your walk at Blatterwiese, with its playground and Chinese garden, then hop on a ferry from Zürichhorn back into town. The rest of the afternoon can be spent wandering Zurich’s Altstadt and drinking from some of its 1,200 free water fountains, ducking into the Toy Museum on your way to the Lindenhof city park, which provides great views and plenty of space for running around.
Days 2 & 3: Lucerne: Mountains & Lakes
On Day 2, leave Zurich and head 50km (31 miles) south to Lake Lucerne and its “queen,” the city of Lucerne itself. Check in to a hotel for 2 nights, and take the whole family on our walking tour, which will take you by the big attractions. Our favorite museum in Lucerne is one that the whole family will enjoy: the Swiss Transport Museum, featuring everything from spaceships to planes to an adventure ride simulating the work of a train driver. In the afternoon, take a ride on one of the lake steamers plying across Lake Lucerne. Some summer boat excursions last 4 hours, and there is a cafeteria onboard.
On Day 3, while still based in Lucerne, take your family on one of the most famous mountain excursions in Switzerland, either Mount Pilatus or Rigi (see Day 11 under “Switzerland in 2 Weeks,” earlier in this chapter). The cog railways and cable cars that get you there are part of the fun.
Day 4: Bern: Capital of Switzerland
On Day 4, leave Lucerne heading for the capital city of Bern, 111km (69 miles) to the west. Swiss politics will hold little interest for children, but the BearPark is a surefire winner. These pampered bears are the best fed in Europe, carrots being their favorite food. Families may also enjoy the Zytglogge (Clock Tower), which, 4 minutes before the hour, stages a spectacular horological puppet show, mechanical bears included. Later, an excursion to Mount Gurten at 844m (2,768 ft.) is in order. Not only do you get a panoramic view, but there’s also a children’s playground and a mini-train on-site. After a final stroll along Marktgasse, the main street of the Old Town, you can call it a day.
Days 5 & 6: Interlaken: The Bernese Oberland
On Day 5, drive 54km (34 miles) southeast of Bern to reach Interlaken, the tourist capital of the Bernese Oberland. This will be your launchpad for exploring the mighty Jungfraujoch at 3,400m (11,152 ft.), home to the highest railway station in Europe.
Arriving in the morning in Interlaken, check in to a hotel for 2 nights and spend the rest of the morning exploring parklike Höheweg, covering 14 hectares (35 acres) in the center of town. All ages can admire the view of Jungfrau mountain and the famous flower clock. In the afternoon, take an excursion to the Wilderswil/Schynige Platte at 1,936m (6,350 ft.), where you’ll find an alpine garden. Alternatively, you could try to fit in a trip to Giessbach Falls, accessible by boat and funicular, allowing about 2 hours. Return to Interlaken for the night.
On the morning of Day 6, set out for a day’s excursion to the aforementioned Jungfraujoch —save money on the trip by purchasing a Family Card for the whole brood. Attractions at the top include the famous Eispalast (Ice Palace), the Snow Fun Park, and various food options. Departures from Interlaken are daily from 6:35am, with returns till nearly 7pm. Overnight once again in Interlaken.
Day 7: Geneva
On Day 7, leave Interlaken in the morning and drive 218km (135 miles) southwest across some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, both lake and mountain, until you come to Geneva. After checking in to a hotel, set out to discover one of Europe’s most regal cities. Kids delight in seeing the famous fountain, Jet d’Eau and the Flower Clock in the Jardin Anglais. A walk through the Old Town, or Vieille Ville, might be a highlight of the trip. Depending where you are, you can hop onto a mouette boat to the other side of the lake, to the Perle du Lac. Wind down in the Parc Mon-Repos, perhaps securing picnic fixings on the way. Older children might also be interested in the adventure movie and exhibitions at the Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge, devoted to the Red Cross. Overnight in Geneva before making your way home or to your next destination.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.