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Switzerland is just perfect for a break with a toddler

Sugar-topped mountains, turquoise lakes and the crisp smell of pine needles should be available on prescription for stressed-out parents.

While many think of the Swiss Alps as a winter destination for shredding the slopes and eating fatal doses of fondue, it is in fact a year-round travel option that puts even Italy to shame in terms of being family-friendly.

Perfection, pictured: Interlaken is endlessly beautiful – and ideal for a family holiday

It takes less than two hours to fly to Zurich from London, a time-frame that I decided should be tolerable for our ‘spirited’ toddler (and hopefully those who had to sit near her) and then another couple of hours on the train to get to Interlaken.

Don’t stop reading here – Swiss trains are an absolute delight. They are clean enough to eat your Toblerone off, and the ‘family carriages’ have built-in playgrounds.

With our daughter Violet occupied on the slide, my husband and I are free to gaze blissfully out of the window at Heidi’s homeland as lakes, cows and pretty wooden houses with red geraniums on the sills whizz by. Our summer holiday is under way.

The live cameras show cloud at the top of Interlaken’s famous peaks, so we spend our first day in her cleavage.

Up in the high country: Switzerland offers a genteel pace of life which suits a toddler

Up in the high country: Switzerland offers a genteel pace of life which suits a toddler

Justis Valley, a sickle-shaped depression splattered with yellow buttercups, dandelions and arnica is just a short drive from town and well worth a visit.

There are no steep inclines or drops so you can let your children off the leash as herds of dancing goats with bells around their necks provide a uniquely Swiss soundtrack to your walk.

Refreshments are provided by small farms, which serve delights such as bread, nutty alpine cheese and ice-cold glasses of milk with flecks of yellow cream on the surface.

You sit right next to the animals who produced your meal, which feels rather like the bovine equivalent of the chef’s table. It is a great place to eat if your children are particularly feral, as there are rarely other human diners to disturb.

The following morning we set off to the open-air museum in Ballenberg to take in some culture – and in Violet’s case, feed chickens and ride the carousel.

At the exit, their chocolaterie – which features two constantly undulating vats of molten chocolate – beckons us inside. With sticky fingers and mouths, we catch the famous Paddle Steamer back to Interlaken.

The SS Lotschberg is an historic vessel that has been spoiled rotten, and is just as beautiful as she was in 1914. We discover that you can also spend all day sitting on the upper deck enjoying a glass of wine as your little one enjoys the spiel kajuete – or ‘play cabin – featuring the holy grail of perks, free babysitting.

The final day of our trip promises perfect weather, so it’s time for some hiking and our Julie Andrews impersonations.

A little luxury to finish: Alice and her family had a night at the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel and Spa

A little luxury to finish: Alice and her family had a night at the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel and Spa

An old-fashioned cog railway chugs us up to the Schynige Platte, past elegantly decaying wooden barns and grass thickly tangled with wildflowers.

At the top we find a restaurant where we revive Violet with her new favourites, rosti and hot chocolate, as the local Alphorn players honk a solemn serenade.

We stay at the Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof for most of our trip, which is scrupulously clean and surprisingly quiet. Then treat ourselves to one night at the deliciously luxurious Victoria Jungfrau Hotel and Spa.

Both places are unfazed when we roll up with a grubby toddler. The Victoria-Jungfrau even provides a wooden cot with freshly pressed sheets and allow her both into their very grand restaurant and the beautiful Roman-style swimming pool.

Spoiling? Absolutely. 


Swiss ( flies to Zurich from £84 return. Buy a Swiss Travel Pass ( for an all-in-one ticket for train, bus and boat, for three to 15 days, from £176.

Doubles at the Victoria-Jungfrau from £379 B&B and at the Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof from £85 B&B.

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