Travelling by train in Switzerland is both eco-friendly and eco-fantastic, boasting some of the most exhilarating train journeys in the world. It’s like the supermodel of train travel really. It also has one of the best reputations in the world for punctuality and efficiency, so there’s really no excuse for not travelling by train there. The icing on this Alpine cake is that the majority of our walking and cycling holidays are accessible by train. This is why we are sharing some of the best train journeys in Switzerland so that you can start or finish your Alpine adventures the slow and sustainable way.
Getting to Switzerland by train
Before we share some of our best train journeys in Switzerland, it’s worth pointing out that it’s very easy to get there from other European countries too. For example, you can get from Paris to Switzerland on the high-speed TGV Lyria at great value prices, with services between Paris and Geneva, Vallorbe, Lausanne, Basel or Zürich. The train from Paris to Geneva, takes 3h 12mins. Combine that with the Eurostar from London to Paris, you can have breakfast overlooking the Regent’s Canal and an aperitif on the shores of Lake Geneva just seven hours later. It doesn’t have to cost the earth either, as you can see in our blog, How to book cheap train tickets. For further onward travel within Switzerland, see here and SBB (Swiss Federal Railways), the national rail company. It’s also worth noting that, with the majority of cross-border train journeys in continental Europe, you have four days to complete them, allowing you to hop off en route. And there are a lot of hopping-off points on this journey.
Zermatt to St. Moritz by train (Glacier Express)
The Glacier Express is famously far from ‘express’, but it is certainly exquisite. A narrow-gauge tourist train between Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn to the iconic ski town of St. Moritz, this is a 7.5h journey of pure joy. You may need to take painkillers in advance just to cope with the aching jaw at the end of it all, with sights like the glacial peaks of the Matter Valley, picture-postcard wooden chalets peppering the Goms region and the beguiling wilderness of the Oberalp Pass. This train journey is perfect for our cycling holiday between St. Moritz and Innsbruck, or you could do it at the end of this walking holiday in the Engadine Valley, which finishes in Zernez, just 40mins by train to St. Moritz and you can do the Glacier Express in the reverse direction.
It’s worth noting that you can also take a normal SBB train between these two cities for a lot less money and a good few more changes. But you still get the views from the pews.
St. Moritz to Tirano (Bernina Express)
Another Swiss roller coaster of a train journey is the Bernina Express between St. Moritz in Switzerland and Tirano in Italy. A narrow-gauge train with panoramic viewing windows, its iconic colour has also given it the nickname ‘the red train’, which it acquired when it first started running in 1910. The service is considered by many to be one of the best train journeys in Switzerland, although that’s a bit like comparing sapphires with emeralds. It is run by Rhätische Bahn, and it sweeps past glaciers, icy blue lakes and infinitesimal wild mountain scenery. You follow part of this route on our walking holiday, which finishes in Tirano, so you could always treat yourself to the train journey back to St.Moritz at the end.
Geneva to Montreux, Lake Geneva
Travelling along the shores of Lake Geneva by train offers views of the iconic lake’s crisp, clear water as well as towering Alpine summits. It’s an hour by train between Geneva and Montreux, along the lake’s northern shore, which gives you plenty of time to take in the lake’s largesse. Plan stops at Lausanne on the Swiss bank or head to Evian-les-Bains and Thonon-les-Bains on the French side of the lake. The latter is the starting point for our Cycling the Alps holiday, otherwise known as The Grand Crossing. Another great way to see Lake Geneva by train is to take the Vevey Funicular railway from Vevey Funiculaire station, which zooms up through the Lavaux vineyards in 15mins.
Montreux to Zermatt
You can celebrate the end of this walking holiday along the Haute Route East not only by taking in the Matterhorn at Zermatt, but also by enjoying a train journey from Zermatt to Montreux. You do have one change in Visp but that’s not exactly a tough changeover, located in the foothills of the Alps, on the Rhone River, with views down to Lake Geneva. The whole journey to Montreux takes just over 2.5h if you don’t veer off in Visp, taking you through Chablais vineyards, the wild landscape of Kipfen Gorge and finally, Zermatt. This train also stops at Martigny, the start and end point of one of our Tour du Mont Blanc holidays. And what a way to start, or indeed finish.
Lucerne to Interlaken (GoldenPass route)
Another of Switzerland’s famous tourist trains is the GoldenPass Route between Lucerne and Interlaken. It boasts a chocolate box of train treats, with layer after layer of Swiss clichés, each one more delicious than the last. You can travel this line on the narrow-gauge GoldenPass Panoramic tourist train with views of no less than five lakes, including Lucerne, Thun and those of Interlaken, the Bernese Alps and the ski resort of Gstaad. You can also take this journey on a regular Swiss train, but make sure you opt for the less direct journey via Zweisimmen, which gives you the sumptuous slow option. You don’t want to eat this box of chocolates too quickly. Although you can walk it all off on our holidays along the Way of St James in Switzerland, with one route that starts in Interlaken and the other that finishes there.
Zürich to Vienna
Otherwise known as the Arlberg Route, which dates back to 1884, this is a superb Alpine journey which you can take at your leisure and one where you definitely want to book the slow train, rather than the speedy one. A top tip is to make sure you take the Euro City train from Zürich at 08.40, which follows a slow route, with one particularly heart-stopping section between Feldkirch in Switzerland and Innsbruck in Austria. You can also take a faster direct Railjet train, which does speed through some spectacular spots, but skims past others. Forget reading a book on this journey, you won’t want to stop staring out the window.
We value the importance of travelling within Europe and the UK by train, which is why we have plenty of other blogs on flight-free travel. If you want to slash your carbon footprint but also get to know Europe’s superb rail networks, check out our blogs on How to book cheap train tickets, French holidays by train, German holidays by train, and Top walking holidays accessible by train. For any other details on train travel to and from any of our natural adventures, don’t hesitate to contact us.