By Ron Stern | Travel
For travelers seeking the ultimate luxurious European getaway, look no further than Switzerland. Follow a circular train route from Bern to Geneva for an effortless journey, sure to please the most discriminating traveler.
Swiss International Airlines offers several flights from the U.S. to Geneva and is voted the best in Europe by travel professionals. After arriving in Geneva Airport, you will want to head downstairs to the train station to purchase The Swiss Travel Pass Flex, which includes benefits such as free travel by bus and boat, access to around 500 museums throughout the country, and free use of public transportation in certain urban areas.
Geneva to Bern
Taking the train from Geneva to the five-star Swiss Deluxe property, the Schweizerhof Hotel & Spa in Bern, only takes a couple of hours. The hotel is located within walking distance of the late-Gothic Münster St. Vinzenz Cathedral, the Zeitglockenturm historic clock tower, and the Bear Pit.
The old town also offers unique shopping and restaurants. Inside the Hotel Schweizerhof is Jack’s Brasserie — the perfect place for an evening meal of French, market-fresh cuisine or their local specialty, Wienerschnitzel.
Bern to Pontresina
The next leg to Pontresina will involve several train connections. You will be met on arrival by the staff of your next Swiss Deluxe property, the five-star superior Grand Hotel Kronenhof. The Kronenhof won multiple awards and has breathtaking views of the Upper Engadin Valley; rooms facing the south or southwest can also see the distant Roseg Glacier. After breakfast, take time to walk around the lovely village with boutiques, clothing shops, and a confectionary called Gianottis.
With the entire Engadin Valley as your playground, you could spend weeks here hiking, biking, skiing and golfing. If you just have a couple of days, make sure to visit St. Moritz, a town about five miles from Pontresina. Take a bike to the Alpine dairy of Morteratsch and ride the funicular (circa 1907) from Punt Muragi in Samedan to the summit of Muottas Muragl.
Pontresina to Zermatt
Hotel staff will take you to the St. Moritz railway station for your segment to Zermatt on the legendary Glacier Express. Referred to as “the slowest, fast train in the world,” this is no ordinary Swiss train. You will travel 180 miles across 291 bridges and through approximately 91 tunnels, ascending to a height of 6,706 feet at Oberalp Pass to a low of 2,067 feet in the Rhine Gorge.
Staff from the fabulous Mont Cervin Palace will pick you up in either a little electric vehicle or by what they call a “two-horsepower Ferrari” in this mostly car-free, pedestrian-friendly town. With a motto of “Hospitality by Heart,” the hotel was opened in 1852 and has a history and longstanding tradition in Zermatt.
The village is like something out of a storybook with timbered houses, flower-laden window sills, a Matterhorn museum, retail shops, and more than 100 restaurants. If you like chocolate, Lindt is here, as well as a local Swiss favorite Läderach.
However, the mountains are the main attraction. There are 38 of them — reaching 13,000 feet — and 250 miles of hiking trails. The Matterhorn Express cable car can take you up to various points on the mountain, including Schwarzsee, where you will have grand views of the Matterhorn. Follow one of the trails back down by foot from Furi to the restaurant for lunch in a traditional Swiss mountain eatery.
A recent mammoth construction project — 3S Cable Car — has also just been completed, which transports 2,000 passengers per hour to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
Zermatt to Geneva
The train to Geneva will take you past some of the most beautiful sections of the Lake Geneva region. Miles of terraced hills with vineyards line one side, while the other showcases Lake Geneva — a moving postcard of beauty.
A driver from the Beau-Rivage will bring you to this iconic property on the promenade of Lake Geneva with grand views of the Jet d’Eau and the French Alps. Founded in 1865, the property boasts 11 generations of hoteliers. Epitomizing refinement, elegance and service, the Beau-Rivage has been host to notable celebrities and politicians over the years.
Geneva is the world’s smallest metropolis. This capital city is the birthplace of the International Red Cross as well as the home to many United Nations offices. The International Red Cross and Crescent Museum is particularly impressive, featuring moving displays of humanity in the face of decades of world wars.
Geneva also played a pivotal role in the Reformation when John Calvin preached at the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre. The International Museum of the Reformation is a modern addition to the city and traces the history of this movement and its influence on modern civilization.
The Rhône River flows through Lake Geneva, creating scenic opportunities for a walk along the waterfront. At dusk, the city takes on a new look as the sky turns dark blue and the lights of the many shops reflect off of the water.
With an impressive height of 131 feet, Jet d’Eau fountain is one focal point of Lake Geneva. At night, colored lights illuminate this water feature, making it a convenient landmark for finding your way around the city.
As in most Swiss cities, trams are everywhere and will transport you anywhere you need to go. Schedules are printed at the stops, and many people speak English. The Swiss people are friendly and willing to help travelers needing directions.
Culminate your circular tour of Switzerland with a fine dining experience in one of the hotel’s restaurants. The Michelin-starred Le Chat-Botté offers Mediterranean cuisine using locally sourced ingredients while still respecting classical Swiss traditions.
While Switzerland is a fairly small country — approximately the combined size of Vermont and New Hampshire — its natural beauty and cultural traditions are timeless and undeniable. The Swiss excel at providing the world’s best luxury accommodations, hospitality services and international cuisine. If you’re looking for the ultimate in an indulgent vacation or holiday, Switzerland is calling.
—Contact Ron Stern at email@example.com or visit his blog at globalgumshoe.com. This was a sponsored visit; however, all opinions herein are the author’s.