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Holidays to Switzerland Travel Podcast Episode 68 Transcript

May 18, 2024 Last Updated on May 18, 2024

Where to stay in Switzerland

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.

Hello and welcome to Episode 68. Aside from airfares, accommodation is likely to take up the largest chunk of your vacation budget. So choosing where to stay can be an important part of your trip planning. I must admit, I spend hours and hours researching where I’m going to stay when I visit Switzerland. I’m quite particular when it comes to accommodation. And even though Switzerland can be an expensive destination to visit, I still don’t like to compromise when it comes to the amenities, location, and the standard of where I’m staying.

Fortunately, there are plenty of different styles of accommodation in Switzerland to choose from, as well as the go to options of hotels and vacation rentals, there are also hostels, B&Bs, camping options, and some quite unique accommodation experiences too. I’ll cover all of these options and some important things to consider when you’re choosing where to stay in this episode.

But before I give you all those details, I’d like to thank the folks from Switzerland Tourism for sponsoring the podcast. Their website, myswitzerland.com, has plenty of information about accommodation in Switzerland from cities to the great outdoors. If you need a natural trophy, you need Switzerland.

When it comes to choosing where to stay in Switzerland, there are so many options. Most people probably tend to think immediately of hotels or self catering apartments. But the beauty of staying in Switzerland is that you just have so many choices. And we’re going to cover all the most popular types of accommodation and perhaps some that you haven’t heard of before in this episode.

Now, before we get started, there’s a few things that you should consider when you’re deciding where you’re going to stay in Switzerland. First up, and probably most importantly, is the location. Now, depending on how you’re going to travel around Switzerland, there’s a few things you can do here to consider as well. If you’re traveling by public transport, how close is it to the nearest train station, or is there a bus stop nearby? If you’re traveling around by car, does it have parking facilities.

So these are a couple of things that can be quite important when you’re deciding on the hotel or the apartment or the hostel to stay in. Another thing to think about is whether or not it has air conditioning. If you’re traveling, particularly in July and August, temperatures, especially in the lowlands, can be very hot. So air conditioning isn’t common in Switzerland, and it’s very welcome if you do have it during those hotter months. So keep an eye out for that as well.

If you’re traveling with a family, you might be keen to have some accommodation where you have a separate bedroom for the children. So that’s another thing just to keep in mind as you’re looking through all the options as well. And we’ll cover those points in more detail as we discuss each of the different types of accommodation that you can choose from.

So in this episode, we’ll be covering hotels and apartments, but also hostels, camping, and some quite unique accommodation options.

We’ll start with hotels because they’re probably the most popular style of accommodation in Switzerland. And there’s just so many different standards and kinds of hotels that you can choose from. You’ve got international chains like Marriott and Movenpick but there are also some Swiss chains like Sunstar Hotels, Sorell Hotels, and the Swiss Quality Hotels chain. Hotels come in all types and there’s all different sorts of themes as well. There’s wellness hotels, historic hotels, luxury hotels, budget hotels, and even some castle hotels, which we’ll find out a bit more about as we go along also.

Now, I guess the benefits of staying in a hotel are the amenities that are there. Most of them will have a restaurant. It’s possible to have breakfast at the hotel before you set off for the day. Having a hearty breakfast can really set you up for a day of sightseeing. You’ve got the benefits of having the concierge or reception desk. If you need any assistance, they can call you a taxi or book a tour for you, that thing. Many hotels also have WiFi, which is great these days. We can’t get by without WiFi. And there’s also just the comfort, I guess, of knowing that there’s someone on hand should you need assistance for anything.

Some of the downsides of staying in a hotel are the lack of space and also the room capacity. If you’re traveling with a family, this can be particularly important because many hotels can only accommodate or have rooms that only accommodate three or sometimes four people. So if you’re a family of four or five, sometimes that means that you’ll need to book two rooms. So obviously the cost can increase quite quickly if that’s the case.

Lots of hotels in Switzerland offer rates, including breakfast, so that can be a great way to save some of your spending money because you’ve prepaid for at least one meal a day. And some hotels also include a half board option. This is quite popular amongst Europeans. So if it’s not something you’ve come across before, it’s definitely worth thinking about paying for the half board rate, which includes not only your breakfast, but also your evening meal as well. So it can actually work out to be quite good value.

The more modern hotels tend to provide tea and coffee making facilities, and sometimes a fridge in the rooms. But most older style hotels do not – always check all the hotel room amenities before you book just to know exactly what’s covered. Now, I mentioned earlier that air conditioning isn’t common and neither are elevators. Often you’ll find that hotels are now housed in quite historic buildings, so there’s just not the room and all the infrastructure wasn’t put there in place when they were built, so there’s no air conditioning and elevators. So if that is important to you, again, check in advance before you book so you won’t be disappointed.

There’s many different kinds of hotels, like I’ve mentioned before, and there’s some pretty special ones if you want to have a really special experience when you’re in Switzerland.

Infinity pools these days are quite the thing, and there’s some amazing looking ones in Switzerland. There’s plenty of five star hotels, as you’d imagine, with infinity pools. Some of these include the Riffelalp Resort, which has direct views from the pool to the Matterhorn, Hotel Villa Hönigg above Lake Lucerne, stunning views from up there, and at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof in Pontresina, the infinity pool is built in this big glass dome with views out to the mountains. It looks super luxurious.

But there are also four and three star options. The Belvedere Strand Hotel in Spiez is a fabulous four star hotel. I was lucky enough to stay there for a couple of nights last year. From the infinity pool, you look straight out to Spiez Castle, which sits on the shores of the lake. So it’s just magnificent. And there’s also a three star Park Hotel Brencino Brissago, which is on Lake Maggiore. So you don’t have to pay five star rates to stay in a hotel with an infinity pool.

Then we’ve got historic hotels. And there’s actually 61 properties that have been classified as historic hotels by Switzerland Tourism. And amongst these are the Belle Epoque-style Hotel Giessbach, which has Europe’s oldest funicular, and that takes guests from Lake Brienz up to the hotel.

And there’s the Grimsel Hospiz on the Grimsel Pass, which was Europe’s first electrically heated hotel when it opened in 1932. And you can even stay in the Hotel Stern in Chur, which dates back to 1677. So that’s pretty special.

Castle hotels, too, are also quite popular. And I must say, whenever I’m planning a trip to Europe and I ask my husband, What’s one thing you’d like to do on this trip? His answer, without a doubt, is always, stay in a castle. Luckily, there are some castle hotels in Switzerland as well. One of these is the Romantic Hotel Castello Seeschloss, which is quite a mouthful. That’s located in Ascona, right on the shores of Lake Maggiore. There’s the Schloss Schadau in Thun, just near the lake as well. And also you’ve got the luxurious Chateau d’Ouchy in Lausanne, which is a restored medieval castle.

So as you can see, there’s hotels really that suit everyone right across the country, from city stays to country stays to mountains, wherever you’ll find a hotel.

Another popular style of accommodation is a vacation rental. And often these days it’s referred to as an Airbnb. But there are a number of companies or platforms, I guess, that have listings of vacation rentals.

So as well as Airbnb, you’ve got Home Away, VRBO, and the Swiss company, Interhome. You’ll also find lots of vacation rentals these days on platforms like booking.com as well. Of course, the advantages of staying in a vacation rental is that typically they offer you more space than a traditional hotel. And that’s great if you’re traveling with a family or two couples, for example, or you just like to have that extra space where you can spread out a bit.

And depending on the location and the size of the property that you’re renting, it can often be more cost effective than staying in a hotel. Going back to the example I mentioned before in hotels, if families needed to rent two rooms, obviously, then that cost can be quite a lot. Staying in, for instance, a two bedroom apartment can work out to be a lot more cost effective. Vacation rentals also have the added bonus, in most cases, of having a kitchen and living areas. So you’ve got more space, you’ve got the option to prepare your own meals, so you can save quite a bit of money that way. And often they’ll have laundry facilities too, which is great if you’re on the road, you’re traveling for a week or so, it’s nice to have that option to be able to do some washing.

And vacation rentals also give you more privacy than hotels as they’re often standalone apartments or houses. Generally, only is even if you’re staying in an apartment block, you don’t have the coming and going all the time like you do in a hotel. They’re often more authentic, too, because you’re staying in a residential area or a little village rather than an actual tourist village. So you get more of that authentic Swiss culture and daily life experience.

Of course, there are some drawbacks, too. There’s no onsite restaurant, usually no housekeeping service. So you’ve got to make your own bed and wash your own dishes. And there’s no front desk or concierge service. So for some people, that can be a bit of a negative, but maybe not. It’s not for you. And vacation rentals can also sometimes be located in residential areas that are further away from the tourist attractions or the transport hub. So as I mentioned earlier, just be sure to check that carefully before booking, so you know exactly where your apartment or your or villa or whatever vacation rental it is you’re looking at, just so you know where the location is.

Hostels are also another accommodation option in Switzerland. Hostels have typically, over the years, attracted the backpacking traveler who’s prepared to share a dormitory and a communal kitchen and bathroom facilities. But these days, hostels are attracting a much broader clientele. Many of them also offer single, twin, and double rooms, and in some cases, even family rooms. So staying in a hotel no longer means that you have to share a room with multiple strangers if you don’t want to.

There are more than 50 Swiss youth hostels that are located across the country. Now, as I said, some of them have, or most of them have common areas such as kitchens and lounges and games rooms. But the old days of everyone sleeping in dormitories is not etc, is not the only option these days. There are the traditional youth hostels, but there’s also quite a number of boutique hostels that are offering a more stylish experience with the private rooms. Some have amenities like onsite bars, rooftop terraces, and have facilities like bike rentals and so on.

A couple of really interesting ones, the Burgdorf Castle youth hostel, and in Interlaken, right next to Interlaken Ost station, there’s a fabulous youth hostel, and it’s got a great restaurant and coffee shop there as well.

And if you’re interested in looking up the location of those youth hostels across Switzerland, the website is www.youthhostel.ch/en, for English. And you can search for hostels located in cities, villages, on mountains, etc. So it’s a really good option to consider.

Then we’ve got B&Bs. Now, these are accommodation styles generally in someone’s own home, and they typically offer a more personalized service and a cozier atmosphere, I guess. They can be a great way to connect with the local host and with other travelers who are staying at the B&B. Sometimes, again, there’s a communal lounge living area. So at the end of the day, guests might meet there and talk over what they did during the day and what their plans are for the next day. So it’s a good way to meet other travelers.

B&Bs are typically located in residential areas or smaller towns and villages. And they usually offer a range of accommodation, but from simple rooms with shared bathrooms to maybe a larger bedroom with your own private bathroom and living area. So depending on where you are and the size of the property and the number of rooms they have, sometimes there will be a choice.

Other times it’s just the one style of room that you can rent. Breakfast is usually included, the name obviously, Bed & Breakfast, so you’re paying for Bed & Breakfast. Sometimes the host will also give you the option to include other meals for an additional fee. B&B hosts are usually very passionate about their local area, so they can give you insider tips and recommendations for things to see and do. You can ask them for where’s your favorite restaurant? What should we do? We like hiking. Have you got any recommended hiking trails we should go on? That thing. So you get that more personalized service.The host is really interested in making sure that you have a fantastic stay and you fall in love with the area just as they have.

The cost of B&Bs can vary widely depending on what time of year you’re traveling, what amenities are offered, the location and so on. There’s often quite a range from a three star up to quite a luxe B&B stay. But the prices can be quite comparable to hotels, but as I said, giving you that more homely experience. The website for the Swiss B&B, where you’ll find lots of B&Bs in Switzerland, is bnb.ch. And that website gives you the option to select your language for English. So all the information will be shown to you in English.

Another option worth considering is camping. And I know you’re going to say, Oh, I don’t want to take all that stuff with me if I’m going camping. That’s, I guess, the image that camping conjures up, that you’ve got to take so much equipment with you. Well, the great thing is that with many of the campsites in Switzerland, you don’t actually have to take all that stuff. There’s facilities there, like onsite cabins and glamping and so forth, that you can rent and you can also hire all the equipment. So your bed linen, the crockery, the cutlery comes with it. So everything there is provided.

And that’s excellent if you’re traveling from abroad, obviously, because you don’t want to take anything that you possibly don’t have to. Some of the popular camping grounds in Switzerland is… Well, there’s quite a number of camping grounds, but one in particular is Camping Jungfrau in Lautebrunnen. I’ve stayed there many times. We first visited there, oh, wow, probably 20 years ago with our children, and we stayed in a mobile home.

Like I said, all the equipment was provided. We just had to show up and buy our food. Just a great way for the kids to have plenty of space to run around. We were close to nature because you’re camping and that’s what it’s like. But we also had the convenience of having our own facility. So the mobile home had its own shower and toilet. But you’ve got all the facilities of the camping ground as well. There’s a games room, TV room, playground for the children, space to kick around a ball. Absolutely fantastic.

There’s also a Camping Manor Farm in Interlaken is another popular site. Down on Lake Maggiore, near Locarno, the Campo Felice Camping Village is a really popular spot. And on Lake Brienz, there’s Familia Camping R. E. G, which is another popular and well equipped camping ground. So that’s a great option as well. You can find many of those places listed on booking.com as well. And I’ll include a link in the show notes to an article on holidays to Switzerland about some of the camping and glamping options that are worth considering.

Now, do keep in mind that some of the campsites are seasonal and they may only be open for bookings for you to stay between April and October, thereabouts.

But that’s not all. There’s even more options for where to stay in Switzerland. You can sleep in a wine barrel, you can hire a yurt, there are glamping pods, you can sleep on straw, you can stay in a former prison in Lucerne, which is now a hotel, you can stay in a circus wagon near Stein am Rhein, or in the old toll booth on the main bridge in Bern. And you can even stay on a hotel on stilts over Lake Neuchatel.

So as you can see, there are plenty of options when it comes to where to stay in Switzerland. A few other things to keep in mind before you’re booking your accommodation. Across Switzerland, nearly every locale or city council has its own city tax. And this is a small amount charged on a per night basis per adult. In some cases, there’s a cost for children as well, but let’s just assume it’s for adults only. It usually depends on the star rating of the accommodation. And like I said, it’s a per night per adult cost. It’s usually added to the final hotel bill. But if you’re staying in an apartment or a vacation rental, for example, you might need to pay that separately to the landlord.

In some cases, in return for paying the city tax, the local council or the local tourist office gives you a guest card, which gives you discounts or free travel on public transport, might be reduced entry fees to some of the local museums and that thing. So the city tax is additional. Like I said, it may be added to your bill at the end of your stay, or you may need to have some money at hand separately to pay the landlord of an apartment for that.

It’s typical when you’re checking into a hotel or accommodation in Switzerland that a copy will be taken of your passport. This is a legal requirement, so don’t be surprised about that. They will just take a photocopy of your passport and keep it on file whilst you’re staying at the hotel. You might also be asked to give your credit card and a block will be placed on the card, which is like a security deposit, and that usually is held on your card for until you check out. Then if there’s been no damage or you haven’t used anything from the minibar that you haven’t disclosed, for example, then the block on your card will be released.

Another thing that I’d like to remind you about is booking your accommodation ahead, particularly if you’ve got particular interests or needs, or there’s a hotel or some style of accommodation that you really want to stay in. This year, particularly, Switzerland is going to be very busy over the summer. I think I mentioned in an earlier episode that I’ve noticed that hotels and apartments are booking up very quickly. Even before the pandemic, a couple of times I considered staying at the Hotel Villa Hönegg. That’s that beautiful hotel with the infinity pool overlooking Lake Lucerne. That’s a hotel that’s on my bucket list. I really want to stay there one day. But even before the pandemic, it was booked out 12 months in advance. So if there’s somewhere in particular that you really want to stay, book as far ahead as you can.

Now, in the show notes for this episode, I’ll include links to a number of articles that I have on holidaystoswitzerland about some of these different accommodation options. There’s articles on castle hotels, hotels with infinity pools, and glamping and camping, and some of those unique places to stay that I mentioned.

You’ll find the show notes for this episode at holidaystoswitzerland.com/episode68.

I hope this has given you a great overview of the different styles of accommodation in Switzerland. Whichever style of accommodation you choose, I hope you have a fantastic time when you visit Switzerland. Until next episode, take care and tchüss.

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.