Family vacations in Switzerland: tips from a mom
5 June 2018
Have you ever thought of spending a holiday or a long weekend in Switzerland with your family? If this is not the case, I hope that this will convince you to take the plunge and to discover this invigorating country. The communication services of Switzerland Tourism like to compare their country to a gigantic playground and they are right! With its breathtaking landscapes and breathtaking views, Switzerland offers the perfect backdrop for a soothing and energizing holiday with the family.
With us, Switzerland is one of our favorite family destinations. We have been packing our bags regularly for many years and we appreciate the warm welcome that we are always given. The country is safe, the people friendly and the gastronomy deliciously suited to a family getaway. Let’s go for a guided tour of my favorite activities and outings in the land of William Tell and also Annette (you know, the heroine of the cartoon that takes place in the pretty village of Rossinière). There will be something for all tastes and ages!
Some practical adviceS
Switzerland is not a vast country, but to take full advantage of its rich heritage, it is better to select one region per visit. First of all, I wanted to talk to you about a small part of the French-speaking region (also known as French-speaking Switzerland) stretching from Lausanne to Gstaad via the Montreux highlands where you can find the magnificent regions of La Gruyère and Pays d’Enhaut.
For the choice of the season, I have a soft spot for spring or summer when nature discovers its finery. To go to Switzerland, depending on your place of departure, choose the plane to Geneva or the TGV Lyria to Lausanne. Ultra fast and punctual, there are many attractive offers, especially during the summer season.
Where to stay in Switzerland
Gstaad or the pearl of the Alps
An essential stopover to stay in Switzerland with children, the legendary Gstaad Palace offers a chic welcome to the tribes with a rich and varied program of activities. Families are welcome, and it is one of the pride of the house. Games room, babysitting, outdoor playgrounds, bouncy castle, children’s clubs, treasure hunts and provision of all baby equipment, the hotel is working hard to welcome your kids as it should.
A special feature of the house is the Palace Kids Grand Prix in August. A thrilling race at the wheel of small cars specially chartered for the little ones makes for really festive times. In the rooms side, the decoration mixes traditional mountain style and contemporary influences. The interconnecting rooms and suites have been designed for families and all the restaurants offer a special menu for children. It truly has the unique atmosphere of a place steeped in history that was inaugurated in 1913 and has been managed by the same family for three generations.
Discover the sumptuous Simmental alpine valley
Located forty minutes away from Gstaad and its legendary ski runs, the Lenkerhof Gourmet Spa Resort is a prestigious 5-star resort which offers family-friendly services and equipment. Nestled in a valley between meadows, streams, lakes and forests, the hotel is a dreamy place for spa treatments lovers. Actually, it originates from the Balem spring which is 350 years old…
Each one of the 82 rooms and suites has been imagined and designed for their guest’s comfort. While Mum and Dad luxuriate among the 2,000 sqm dedicated to their wellness, the kids enjoy the mini club and the playground wholeheartedly. Thanks to its “Gourmet & Spa” concept, the Lenkerhof hotel makes it a point of honour to pamper its little guests during their stay. Happiness.
The above is Swiss Tourism’s leitmotiv – the slogan is perhaps a touch crude, I grant you, but it does summarize very accurately the true nature of this happy country. If you want to take advantage of all the treasures that nature offers you, do not forget to equip the whole family with good walking shoes and to provide you with a baby backpack for the youngest ones.
A great asset that allows children to rest regularly and move forward without dragging their feet! A few tips, I particularly like the altitude ride on the mountain of Gsaad, the Wispile, which is a true paradise for families. From Gstaad station, take the gondola and climb comfortably to the Wispile mountain restaurant at an altitude of 1900 m.
Children will discover a small zoo and pleasant playgrounds for their enjoyment. The panoramic walk leads to the legendary Lauenensee lake. For lunch, I advise you to reserve a 100% mountain-style fondue backpack the day before (order from Berghaus Wispile, Moosfangstrasse 46, 3780 Gstaad, Tel +41 33 748 96 32). You can pick it up at the Wispile restaurant upon arrival. It contains all the ingredients to enjoy a classic or aromatic truffle fondue while admiring the landscape. Crisp bread, fondue pot, spices, plates, cutlery, nothing has been forgotten for an original moment with the family that we love!
And, to perfect the time you spend together, you can reach the valley by riding solid 3-wheeled scooters that will make the descent much more exciting. All useful information for hiking in the Gstaad region can be found on the official website.
More generally, there are many other trails in the region suitable for family walks, some of which are even passable with strollers. The website can be a great help. Another curiosity not to be missed with young children is the marmot park Rochers de Naye that can be reached by borrowing an adorable little cogwheel train from Montreux. During the climb, the view is beautiful and the train, a bit retro, is full of charm.
In the vineyards
For a totally different atmosphere, here is another natural setting that I particularly like. Perched above the Vaud Riviera, the Lavaux region, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is definitely worth a look. It runs through terraced vineyards that offer many pleasant hiking trails at the end of the day when the sun begins to set. A small train even runs from village to village.
We never fail to visit a winemaker to discover his cellar and then improvise a family aperitif in the vineyards around a good bottle of wine, a few pieces of cheese and the famous Apfelschorle, the Swiss beverage based on sparkling mineral water and apple juice that is very popular with children.
A little culture
While art is present in Switzerland through many museums and foundations, I prefer to select cultural activities that are more fun when I’m with my family and I keep museums for Paris or other major cities!
Head in the stars
In Switzerland, gaining height is not only about walks on the summits. You can also enjoy a visit to Pleiades. This large astronomical park offers a journey into the heart of the cosmos. Through a beautiful fun trip we discover the secrets of our solar system and our galaxy, with an exhilarating immersion into the world of astronauts and their instruments. Leaving Vevey on the shores of Lake Geneva, you climb aboard the star train that leads to the park.
To discover some samples of the most beautiful achievements of alpine architecture, you must go to the heart of the Pays d’Enhaut and walk on foot to the village of Rougemont rich in an admirable architectural heritage that is perfectly preserved. We admired centuries-old buildings whose magnificent facades made of logs aged by time bear witness to a rich agricultural past. The village is a living museum. Another village to discover without fail is Rossinière, which shelters in the Grand Chalet where Balthus, the famous French figurative painter and his family lived until 2001. A jewel of traditional Swiss architecture, it has no fewer than 113 windows and 60 pieces and is considered to be the largest wooden building in the country.
Gruyères and its castle
We all eat Gruyère cheese (which by the way does not have any holes, unlike Emmental!). But do you know that this delicious cheese takes its name from the small town of Gruyères perched on a hill near the Alps? This fortified city, where life is good, has at its summit an imposing castle which offers tours and events for all ages. Storytelling for the older ones, a visit to the bestiary of the castle for the youngest, a treasure hunt or beehives, each to their own.
Switzerland, Olympic country
If you only visit one museum with children, I recommend the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. Its collections are of an exceptional richness, it exposes objects which come from the 5 continents, from antiquity until today. The visit is very interactive and fun for children.
A relaxing little splash
Another 100% Swiss curiosity is the traditional thermal baths. In the canton of Vaud, a few kilometres from Montreux, are the Baths of Lavey. A perfect spot for a family outing, they include 3 huge indoor and outdoor pools of beneficial thermal water at 35°. The children will have a lot of fun with all the activities available to them such as bubble beds, swan necks from which hot water springs, bubbling benches, waterfalls and water games.
Discovering Swiss gastronomy
All about chocolate
Switzerland would not be Switzerland without its chocolate shops. In this modern factory located nea to Gruyères, the whole family will enjoy the sweet scents of good milk and chocolate from the Alps. From Aztec ceremonies dedicated to chocolate to contemporary chocolate innovations, you will learn everything about the cocoa bean. Workshops allow you to create your own chocolate artwork or personalize your chocolate bar. We treat ourselves to a visit every time.
History of cheese
Another Swiss speciality that is a must is cheese. Here are three good plans that will bring you really good value from this delicious inheritance. Let’s start with the origin of the cheese and go to meet the cows in the pastures. As soon as the snow melts and when the weather permits, the farmers go up to the alp with their herds and settle there until the end of the summer. If you want to attend the cheese making, you will have to get up early because it starts when the morning milk is harvested, that is to say from 5 o’clock in the morning. But the stroll is really worth the detour and enjoying the fresh double cream and watching the sunrise in the middle of nowhere is a delight.
I recommend the slopes of the Pays d’Enhaut, especially above Rougemont, where one of my favourite Swiss cheeses is produced, the Etivaz AOP. Its flavour is both powerful and subtle – a perfect summary of this exceptional terroir. My advice, take a visit in late August or early September, where you can attend a unique and colourful show, the Désalpe. It’s a party in the villages that resonates with the noisy chords of the cowbells, the heavy bells carried by the cows returning to the valley to spend the winter. A must see!
Going back down, you can stop at the Rougemont cheese factory, where Michel Béroud and his wife have been making a Tomme Fleurette with an incomparable taste and a wildflower flavoured milk for 30 years. And taste the Dzorette! Finally, to complete your experience, you can have lunch at the restaurant Le chalet in Chateaux d’Oex. In the dining room, there is a huge copper cauldron in which, during the meal, the different stages of cheese making are demonstrated.
Beautiful Swiss tables
For lovers of a sunny lunch ‘with a view’, do not hesitate, take the cogwheel train from Montreux to Caux. Overlooking Lake Geneva, awaiting you a pretty cottage built in the 50s which houses Le Coucou, a hotel restaurant that is great to visit, with everything that makes Swiss hospitality with the added bonus of a high-quality table.
Another very nice table recommended in Rougemont, that of the Hotel Rougemont. The gastronomy is declined in two ambiences, the Roc restaurant, an alpine chic brasserie which offers delicious dishes from a very talented French chef, while the Roc Workshop is a warm and friendly place that suits families with traditional gastronomy. Its beautiful fondue card is completed with some regional products of high quality, an excellent restaurant to visit.
To finish, a great idea from the Switzerland tourism board which has created, in 11 cities including Lausanne, culinary circuits that are bookable in advance, “Taste my Swiss City”. The opportunity to discover the gastronomic offer of a city through the eyes (or taste buds) of its inhabitants. Different stages punctuate the circuit with, each time, a tasting snack or a drink which, in the end, will make a complete menu.
And, if after this little trip you want to extend your stay in Switzerland, the site Little Guest Hotels Collection will give you some nice leads to discover other Swiss kids-friendly hotels.
Catherine, married, Justine’s mom, from Paris