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A couple of hours’ stroll east from Weggis is the small village of VITZNAU, base station for Europe’s oldest rack railway (inaugurated in 1871) running up to the Rigi-Kulm. Whereas Weggis can seem a trifle twee or over pretty, tranquil Vitznau – set in a sheltered west-facing bay close to the narrowest strait of the lake – has plenty of character, despite the hordes of day-trippers in the village centre. The train station for the Rigi is right opposite the boat station, with the tourist office beside it (Mon–Fri 8am–noon & 1–6.30pm, Sat 9am–noon; 041/398 00 35, www.vitznau.ch). The best-value accommodation is the Schiff, 300m west of the centre in a quiet location (041/397 13 57, fax 397 24 98; a; closed Nov), with six plain, old-style rooms above the most pleasant of lakeside restaurants. A few hundred metres beyond is Vitznau’s landmark Park Hotel (041/399 60 60, fax 399 60 70; h–i), a palatial Belle Epoque vision, with vast rooms, two gourmet restaurants, sauna, tennis courts and more. In the village itself, the Rigi (041/397 21 21, fax 397 18 25; b–c) is an attractive shuttered old house with renovated rooms.

Less than two hours’ walk east from Vitznau is tiny GERSAU, a patch of sloping meadow that was, from 1390 until the French invasion of 1798, the smallest independent free republic in Europe, with all of two thousand inhabitants. Midway between Gersau and Vitznau there’s a handy HI hostel at Rotschuo (041/828 12 77, fax 828 12 63; a; closed Dec–Feb). Hourly buses connect Weggis, Vitznau and Gersau, while different buses run from Gersau on to Brunnen and Schwyz.

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