Our Swiss Family Adventure included two families with five kids ranging in age from 6 to 15. Every year, we go on a summer trip and now, they’re seasoned travelers. We, the parents, have learned three key ingredients to a great family vacation: daily outdoor activity with green space, castles are popular and say “yes” to all ice cream shops! Here’s a quick overview of our adventure for parents looking to plan a fun family trip abroad.
Indulge in a Trip to a Relaxing Spa in Geneva
Our entrance to Switzerland was via Geneva. The city straddles Lake Geneva with its crystal clear water and charming swans swimming amid pleasure boats of all sizes. After a spin through the main sights, and a selfie in front of the Jet d’Eau, we went off the beaten path to Bain-Bleu Hammam & Spa. It’s really not for kids, but we traipsed into the indoor/outdoor pool and enjoyed the warm waters along with the more romantic patrons there. Clearly, Europeans aren’t bothered by PDA!
Walk of the Wild Side in Bern
We arrived in the busy capital of Switzerland by train and paused to ogle the chocolate shops in the station stocked with freshly-made sheets of milk, dark and almond-studded chocolate along with pralines filled with nougats and nuts. But I digress – medieval Bern is chock full of cultural sites so we set off to check them off the list. Our stroll through the UNESCO-listed Old City was a walk on the wild side as we dodged the city bus, blew bubbles with street performers, witnessed a demonstration by a vegan group, tried to make sense of the fantastic, yet bizarre statues and gargoyles found every few feet, and contemplated yet another gelato stop.
... medieval Bern is chock full of cultural sites so we set off to check them off the list.
As we crossed over the Nydeggbrücke bridge, the bright blue glacier water flowing in the Aare river below provided a great photo op. And the culmination of our city walk was the Barengraben – the spacious modern enclosure that houses Bern’s three brown bears.
Commune with Nature in the Alps
In case you didn’t know it, the Swiss pioneered modern tourism by building gondolas and trains to make the Alps accessible to travelers. In addition to modern changes, they built some very comfortable and welcoming lodges that provide families a base from which to explore the area. There are several manageable hikes where kids can see waterfalls, collect snails and interact with the ubiquitous dairy cows. We found a couple of alpine playgrounds where the kids burned off some energy nearly oblivious to the magnificent view of Eiger mountain.
A mountaintop museum commemorates the James Bond film, 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service, filmed here in 1968.
A highlight was the gondola trip up to the summit of Schilthorn mountain, Piz Gloria at just under 10,000 feet. A mountaintop museum commemorates the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, filmed here in 1968. Our trek around the thrill walk built into the side of the mountain offered an alpine adventure tempered with typical Swiss safety.
Experience the Joy of Making Chocolate and Cheese
With kids in tow, a visit to a chocolate factory is a no-brainer. The Cailler factory in the tiny town of Broc welcomes kids with a very cool vertical playground. The tour is very informative and ends with a generous tasting room that offers a sample of everything that they produce. Is it possible to eat too much chocolate?! Onward to the nearby town of Gruyere where a couple of factories educate visitors on cheese-making and offer samples of the namesake cheese. This is where we first tried fondue. Our set of kids gave it a shot, but didn’t love it, so we felt obligated to finish off the pot! The upside of traveling with picky eaters.
We gave our Swiss Family Adventure an "A" because of the winning combination of historic castles, alpine exploits and amazing food.
We gave our Swiss Family Adventure an “A” because of the winning combination of historic castles, alpine exploits and amazing food. We used the Swiss Pass for much more than train travel, which ended up being one of our best planning moves pre-trip. The Swiss Pass got us into the chocolate and cheese factories, inside the gondolas that stretch across the Alps, and onto the lovely boats meandering Lake Thun – all included and kids were free! Switzerland has been welcoming tourists since the mid-1800s - they definitely have the whole hospitality thing figured out!
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