Free Time Activities
I'm crossing my finger that my Crown Jewels trip will be a GO in 2022. For those who have taken this trip in the past, what activities did you do during Free Time during the tour?
I'm starting to plan, but books and the internet are no match for the advice you can get from someone who has actually done the tour.
Thanks for your help!
If I recall, there wasn't much free time. It was absolutely one of my favorite trips in 2017. The tour offered everything from a boat ride to train rides and everything in between. Bring a pair of warm socks, gloves, jacket, hat when you're at the most highest elevation. I think it was around 12,000 ft. above sea level. You're not outside for very long; the views are simply majestic. I'm a browser, and while in one of the Italian cities, I did purchase olive oil in a shop, a sweater that I still wear. Our tour guide was Danny. I don't know if I was very helpful.
Hi Karenna, we took this tour last Sep (yes during covid). As Ourtravels said, there isn't a lot of free time once the tour starts. Very long days. Here is what I recall:
Lausanne - we arrived a day early but got to the hotel pretty late in the afternoon. Walked across the street to the 5 Guys Burger since we were all too tired to roam further. The next day we used the free transit pass the hotel gave us to take the metro down to D'Ouchy which is the waterfront on Lake Geneva. From there it's a short and pretty walk along the lake to the Olympics Museum. We then walked back towards the metro station and passed a bakery and a small convenience store to pick up some lunch items. Returned to the hotel to eat and rest a bit. We then took the metro up to the old town area getting off at Riponne Bejart and walked/climbed up to the cathedral. Lots of steps but great view of the city and the lake. Walking back down thru the city there are lots of shops but all were closed since it was Sunday.
Day 2 of the tour we went to Gruyeres and had about 2 hours to see the castle if we wanted (TD reimbursed our tickets) then had a fondue lunch. Was fairly late in the afternoon to arrive at Zermatt so we just went out to walk about and find some dinner. We had been given the option to move our hotel dinner to the next day.
Day 3 was the trip up to Gornergrat. We opted for the partial hike back down which took about 2 hours. The hotel will lend you walking sticks. The afternoon we went to the hotel's pool which has some nice jets for sore bodies. We also did some browsing around in the shops - Zermatt is very walkable with no cars. Before dinner we visited the Matterhorn Museum - again paid for by Tauck. Small but interesting.
Day 4 - a very busy day with little free time.
Day 5 - included the city walking tour, boat ride/wine tasting and lunch. There was some free time in the afternoon and dinner is on your own. We took the bus back towards the city to stroll around and pick up some food to eat on own private patio. There happened to be a car show in town that day with fancy cars parked in just about every free square they could find.
Day 6- again very busy. One item not on the itinerary was a boat ride across Lake Como to Bellagio. We had about 1 1/2 hours to stroll around mostly for shopping. Arrival in St Moritz again pretty late in the afternoon and the hotel is a bit isolated unless you just want a walk. Very pretty.
Day 7 - The Glacier Express day, then a long (but pretty) coach ride to Interlaken followed by the cogwheel up to Harder Kulm where we had dinner. Late arrival to the hotel.
Day 8 - the morning is spent going up to Jungfraujoch and back. Arrived back at the hotel mid-afternoon. There was a market with stalls in between the hotel and the park it faces. You could stroll around or just find a good spot to watch the hang gliders coming in to land in the park.
Day 9 - Bern tour and lunch. Arrived in Lucerne mid-afternoon. Lucerne is very walkable with interesting architecture plus the famous bridge to see. Lots of shops. There is also a small train that will drive you around the town and picks up close to the hotel.
Day 10 - Lucerne city tour. Lunch and the afternoon is on your own. Dinner that night is the farewell which is a boat ride across Lake Lucerne with dinner at a small hotel. If you want to have time to see some of the major attractions here like Mt PIlatus you really need an extra day.
Hope this helps. Let me know if I can answer anything else.
OurTravels and Claudia, thank you so much! It is very helpful to know that free time is limited and that I should probably consider that to be my shopping time or relaxing pool or spa time.
There is one silly thing I am interested in doing - a mountain coaster. I think I've watched too many YouTube videos and convinced myself I'm a teenager, but zooming down a mountain like that does have a certain appeal! I'm staying an extra day in Lucerne and that might be a good time to try it.
Karenina I share your interest in mountain coasters. If we'd added extra time in Lucerne I would have lobbied for it. You could skip the city tour on the last full day and go up Mt Pilatus instead. You could do the city walk on your own the prior day.
Claudia, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. Mt. Pilatus is also on my radar as something that I would like to do. I like city tours, but the mountains are really what I am more interested in. 13 days just won't be enough, I'm sure!
If you re staying an extra day in Lucerne and don't want to go up Mt. Pitatus or Mt. Titlis, there are a number of things to do in the city itself. It has a very good transportation museum along the lake. It's a decent walk or you can take public transportation. Lucerne is a walled city. You aay want go up to the walls and walk along them. You get a great view of the lake and the city.
The Schweizerhof is a a very nice hotel ideally located on the lakefront. Make sure you go out at night to look at it lit up. The rooms are different and are dedicated to people who have stayed there. We stayed there twice with Tauck (on the Switzerland tour and on the Alps and Dolomites tour). In both cases the rooms overlooked the lakefront. The second time our room was dedicated to astronauts especially Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins along with a Swiss astronaut. The room contained a small display case with mementos of them. In all instances there's a quote on the wall by the person to whom the room is decimated along with a book detailing all of the dedications.
If you enjoy visiting churches to see the statues and architecture, there are many worth seeing. We enjoyed the Jesuit and Franciscan churches which are across the river from the hotel.
I would suggest you go on the tour with the guide. The second time we planned on skipping it but ran into the tour where we learned things that we did not know even from our previous tour.
Enjoy yourself. Switzerland is beautiful. Remember to dress warmly in layers when you go up the Jungfrau. (Gloves and a hat or hood are worth having.) The day we went in August it was snowing at the top of the mountain. You also go into an ice cave where you get to try your hand at throwing a curling rock.
Kathy, thank you for the Lucerne tips. It looks like a fascinating city and I love visiting old churches for the architecture and art, so I will definitely try to work that in.
Kathy you were lucky on your Schweizerhof rooms. Most of our group had disappointing view of the grocery store/parking garage behind the hotel. We'd been spoiled for most of the tour with great view rooms in Lausanne and Lugano especially.
Karenna, the Rick Steves Switzerland guide book has an excellent Lucerne self guided walk plus info on other sites there. It is a lovely city that's very nice for strolling around. Probably my favorite Swiss city.
Mountain coasters!!! Yes!
We stopped in Oberammergau during Ultimate Alps & Dolomites, then again a few years later during Romantic Germany. Since the activities there for both tours were lunch and a visit to the Passion Play theater, the second time we ate lunch and went off on our own. Within walking distance away (up hill) was the local ski area and the Kolbensattel alpine coaster- the longest all-weather toboggan run in the world with magnetic brakes. The two-seater comfort toboggans snake around 73 curves, many of them hairpin, at a top speed of 40 km/h during the almost 5 min. long run! You sit comfortably in high back seat buckets and a three-point safety belt. Anyone who finds 40 km/h too fast can control the speed of the Alpine Coaster using the 2 brake handles. The G force through the curves was unbelievable (and I flew in military jets.)
What a blast!!! I tried but failed to do the entire run without using the brakes. Our only regret was that we only had enough time for one run!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pg7_g766PM
On the subject of dressing warm, I'm not sure what to do about the coat situation. I have a windbreaker and coordinating fleece that could be used for layering and I have a packable puffer jacket. Which would you recommend? I'm going in late June, so I imagine the lower elevations will be warm to hot and the only possible need for a coat at that elevation would be in case of rain. So which would you recommend?
PS Thanks for indulging me in taking my own thread off topic! :-)
Alan, that's what I'm talking about! If you got bugs in your teeth, you know you had a great time! Thank you for sharing the video.
Claudia, I've got my Rick Steve's book and I'm highlighting and tabbing the things that look interesting. By the time I'm ready to go, it will be truly worn. I'm also going to read the book Swiss Watching which I've seen some recommend.
Are there any other books or movies (On Her Majesty's Secret Service is on the list) you have enjoyed that feature Switzerland?
Karenna, I'd take all 3 you mentioned. You might also add a thin base layer long sleeve Tshirt (32 Degrees, Cuddle Duds, etc). A hat and gloves for sure. Definitely bring some warmer weather options. We went in Sep. Italy and Lugano was warm then. Also the boat ride to/from the farewell dinner were a bit chilly if you wanted to be on the top deck.
Claudia, that is what I was afraid of. So much for packing light. Those poor bellmen and bus drivers who will be handling my luggage for this trip!
The Lion Monument in Lucerne is a short walk from the wooden bridge and is a truly poignant sight to behold. The monument commemorates the massacre of hundreds of Swiss Guards during the French Revolution while protecting King Louis XVI. If you do go, it is best to read up on the monument and its significance beforehand in order to fully appreciate it.
There are several food markets in Lucerne which are great places to wander through, grab a bite to eat, sit and people watch. The operating hours may be shortened, however, due to COVID.
Enjoy and safe travels.
I remembered a bit more after looking at my slideshow. We arrived a day early in Geneva (I live in the SF Bay Area and it's a long flight) and I should have made a reservation in advance to tour the United Nations Building. In hindsight, that could have been educational and interesting. At the end of the trip, I also learned that some people made a reservation (again in advance) to take a class in Swiss chocolate making. I would have loved that as well since I'm a huge chocolate fan. I believe this was in Lucerne. I am also recalling that another couple or family made a reservation somewhere an hour away to make their own Swiss Army knife. Who thinks of these things? That would be interesting too but really not on my radar. As far as clothing up on Jungfrau. Yes, it was cold. I wore a turtleneck, scarf, wool sweater, ski hat, warm gloves, good wool socks, and a long puffer coat. If you take alot of pictures like I do, you're fingers are in and out of gloves often. I like the puffer coat concept because it squishes and collapses into nothing in a suitcase in a airtight bag. You'll be very warm in the trams going up and down from the mountain and I remember peeling off my layers inside the trams. Again, the views are beautiful.
kfnknfzk and OurTravels, thank you for the recommendations! The Lion Monument is definitely on the list and I love to wander through markets. I'll do some research to see if any are open on the days I'll be in Lucerne. A lesson in chocolate making could be a lot of fun. I've done some cooking type excursions from cruise ships and they are always very social and fun...and with chocolate as the end product, what could possibly go wrong?
Karenna...I was on this tour w/Claudia and it was great. It's such a beautiful country. I arrived 2 days early and took 2 trains and a bus to go to the Maison Callier chocolate factory and did a chocolate workshop that I enjoyed.
Also on Jungfrau remember sunglasses, too! Everyone covered everything else. I wore a puffer jacket, ear muffs and gloves.
I did the city walk in Lucerne w/the guide and gave us an option to continue with her to the Lion Statue. Some had already been there so they just went either their own way or into the hotel which she walked us all back to before going to the Lion Statue.
Also, the answer to everything in Switzerland is chocolate! That's my kind of country!
Have the best time!
Yes, the Maison Callier chocolate factory is a must in the town of Broc. Loved it. They offer free chocolate on the tour and I'm sure I tasted every kind. Buy your chocolate to take home at the airport at the very end of your trip and allow yourself enough time. There's nothing like dragging chocolate around and having it melt in the beginning of a trip. That has happened also.
We bought a bunch of chocolate - mostly at a Coop and Migros grocery stores - which have plenty of choices which are all good. Coop's store brand is actually excellent for the price but they also carry Callier, Lindt, Toblerone, etc. Would have bought more but had to schlep it thru 2 more weeks in France. Thankfully not too hot. Just opened a bag of Callier minis last night. Still good.
Kathy and her mom also took the little mini train in Lucerne.
What you need for the Jungfrau depends upon where you live and what you are used to. We are from New England and in August were fine with a long sleeve shirt, a sweater and fleecy covered by a windbreaker with a hood. (And this was on a day when it snowed at the top of the Jungfraujoch.) I found the gloves invaluable.
The boat ride on the final night was beautiful. It must have been a hot day because the dining room was too hot even with all of the windows and doors open. We all kept going outside to cool off. Don't go overboard with the heavy clothes on that night. On the ride back you will see the Schweizerhof illuminated. It's quite impressive. If you do get a lakeside room, you will have darkening shades to keep the colored light out of your room.
Kathy, OurTravels, Claudia and Kathy M, thank you for your replies. The chocolate tips are much appreciated and I'm going to do some research on the Maison Callier chocolate factory. I hadn't really given that much thought as to when to buy the bulk of my chocolate, but taking the weather into account is a smart idea...so it is buy it and eat it as you go until it is time to go home, then load by carryon with all the chocolate! That is a plan I can get behind.
Since I am always cold, I'll be taking that layering advice to heart. Time to start shopping the end of season sales for a couple of lightweight wool sweaters.
Claudia, what is the "little mini train" in Lucerne?
The train is called the City Train Luzern. It starts at the Schweizerhof, costs 15 swiss francs and takes about 40 minutes. Here's a website about it:
On the chocolate buying, there is a Migros right behind the hotel which is actually a decent spot for a cheap lunch. It has take out and a mini cafeteria. The Coop is between the hotel and the Lion statue. It's store brand is Prix Garantie and costs under a swiss franc compared to Lindt and Cailler which can be 2-4 swiss francs for the same size bar. The store brand though only has 2-3 flavors compared to the other which have loads.
The is also a chocolate store called Laderach in Lucerne and a couple of museums. One - the Chocolate Adventure - is next to the Transport Museum and the other is Aeschbach Chocolatier but you'd need to take a bus to that one.
Of course there's always the duty free at the airport. Good way to use up those swiss francs.
Oh, the little city train is cute.
And thank you for the heads up about the Migros and Coop locations. I always try to figure out if there is a supermarket within a reasonable walk from the hotels. It's nice to know where you can go pick up a snack, meal or other necessity.
Hi all. I just thought of something this Sunday afternoon. Tauck tour directors hand out maps, maps and more maps in different sizes. The same on a river cruise. When gifting little items to friends and family that I bring back from a trip, I use the map as wrapping paper for the chocolate bars, etc or any other small gift I purchase i.e. paprika from Hungary. It's just a fun and nice way of presenting something from somewhere you've been.
What a great tip, OurTravels34. I love it. Thank you!
Nice idea. I’ve found that they don’t give out maps like they used to.
We got them for both our tours last year. One of Switzerland and the other of France. Smart phones and GPS are all fine and good but I love paper maps too.
OurTravels, I love this idea!
One thing I did different on our tours last year was to bring post cards from where I live to write thank you notes that I included with the tips to the TD and driver. In the past I've just used generic thank you notes or hotel stationery but thought sharing a little bit of where I live might be nice.