Best Train Trips in Switzerland
Travelling by train in Switzerland is one of those iconic, bucket-list experiences. You’ll truly be spoiled for choice. As you explore all the options in this beautiful country for travelling by rail, you’ll be forgiven for wanting to see and do everything all at once! But like with so many things in sustainable travel, it is best to take it slow.
Choose just one special part of the country to explore, then enjoy everything that is has to offer.
To help you narrow down your choices and decide which of Switzerland’s stunning train journeys to take, here is a list of four options that we consider to be amongst the very best train trips in Switzerland. Each one will take you through a truly breathtaking landscape. They also give access to some of Europe’s best spots for outdoors adventure.
The Golden Pass Line, Lucerne – Montreux
The Golden Pass Line is one of the popular tourist train routes in Switzerland. It begins in Lucerne, in the heart of the country, and makes its way on three separate sections to Montreux. Beautiful Lucerne is a mediaeval gem tucked away amidst fairytale scenery of lake and mountains.
The old town of Lucerne is a near-perfectly preserved mediaeval settlement. Its picturesque streets are charming and walking through them you feel like you have stepped back in time.
The first section takes you from Lucerne past the foot of the Pilatus Mountain, with glimpses of Lake Lucerne on early parts of the trip, and later passing by Sarnersee and Lungernsee. You will climb the Brünig Pass then descend to Meiringen on a cogwheel track to the valley floor. Next, you will head through the Hasli Valley, along Lake Brienz to Brienz. Finally, around 20 minutes later, you’ll reach Interlaken Ost (gateway to the Jungfrau railways described below).
The next section runs along the Aare river and on along Lake Thun to Spiez. There are views of pyramid-shaped Mount Niesen. You’ll head through the verdant Simmen Valley to Zweisimmen.
Finally, comes the most dramatic stretch of the route. You will climb to the highest point of the route then on to glorious Gstaad before heading into French speaking Switzerland. You will find your way through a stunning valley, through the tunnel to Les Avants. Then there is a steep descent with stunning views over Lake Geneva to reach Montreux.
The Jungfrau Railways, To Jungfraujoch
Interlaken is the gateway town for the Jungfrau region, which stretches out to the UNESCO listed Jungfrau Mountain range in the south. If you are here for stunning mountain peaks and breathtaking scenery then this part of the country certainly is hard to beat. There are a number of interlinking railways here – each one more scenic than the last. You can use these railways to reach a number of towns and resorts here – then head on to explore the soaring peaks and verdant valleys on foot.
Take the train from Interlaken Ost to Schynige Platte, to the Grindelwald valley, or to Lauterbrunnen. Around each, scenic trains lead you up into car-free mountain valleys and stunning vantage points looking out over the soaring Alps. Ascend to Kleine Scheidegg, however, and you can experience the awe-inspiring journey to Jungfraujoch – the Top of Europe. This is the highest railway station in Europe.
The Jungfrau-Aletsch Region was chosen as the very first Alpine UNESCO World Heritge Site in 2001. At its heart lie the mighty rock massif of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, and the breathtaking glacial landscape around the Aletsch Glacier. On this route you will pass through a long tunnel through the Eiger and Mönch, making a stop at Eismeer for astounding icy views before continuing on to reach the ‘Top of Europe’, with panoramic views from 3,454ft.
Glacier Express, Zermatt – St Moritz
The Glacier Express is another of the most stunning train trips in the country. The route is a feat of engineering that has made the UNESCO world heritage list. It travels from the Matterhorn to Piz Bernina mountains over 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels, linking two of the country’s most popular ski resorts and winding its way slowly through the Alps.
The route has four sections, each with its own unique scenery and charms. First, you will descend from Zermatt through the narrow Matter Valley to the town of Visp. The highest peaks of the Swiss Alps are found in this region. After Visp, a short flat stretch takes you on to Brig.
At Brig, you will continue east into the Upper Rhone Valley, again, very narrow at times. Ascending to Oberwald, you will then pass through a tunnel to reach Realp, then continue on to Andermatt.
At Andermatt, the Oberalp Pass begins. You will wind your way up to 2034m, the highest point in this journey, by the source of the Rhine. Next comes a long and stunning descent along the Rhine Valley to Chur, with dramatic sections in the Rhine Gorge – sometimes referred to as the ‘Swiss Grand Canyon’.
The final section of this route is also the first section of the Bernina line – read on to learn about this final stage, and the rest of the Bernina line that will take you south into Italy.
The Bernina Line – Chur – Tirano (Italy)
Starting in Chur, and continuing on to St Moritz, this train trip will allow you to cross the beautiful Graubunden canton from north to south. This route is an impressive piece of railway engineering. It climbs even higher than the Glacier Express as it climbs over the Bernina Pass. It does so without the aid of cogwheel track, and has plenty of spiral loops, 55 tunnels and 196 bridges along the way.
You’ll head to Reichenau, then south towards Thusis and Tiefencastel, through the Domleschg Valley. The valley is known for its many historic sights. Going south through a narrow valley you will cross the Landwasser Viaduct and reach Filisur, then spiral up to the Albula tunnel. The tunnel will take you to the high altitude Upper Engadine Valley and the town of Pontresina.
After Pontresina, you will begin the ascent up the Bernina Pass, crossing the treeline. You can admire the rugged Alpine landscape, and soon after passing the Lago Bianco, you will reach the highest point on the route – Ospizio Bernina, at 2253 m. This is a great start point for many hikes.
Finally, you will descend on a series of stunning curves into the Poschiavo Valley and on, across the Italian border, to Tirano.
There are, of course, many other amazing train trips in Switzerland to consider. But for sheer beauty, stunning views, because of where they take you and the opportunities for green travel and outdoor recreation to be found there, these are our top picks.
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By Ellie Cleary   |27th February 2020