Fifteen Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys

Having been lucky enough to make several visits to Switzerland in order to travel on its beautiful railways, ShowMeTheJourney has produced this list of 15 incredible Swiss train rides.

The Swiss railway network can seem overwhelming because there are dozens of scenic routes to choose from.
Hence the idea to showcase the ultimate routes that SMTJ has taken, so that you can hone in on the best journeys.

All of the images and videos were captured from the trains, so you can trust this guide to showcase the wonderful travel memories which await you.
The weather plays a significant role in how you will experience these journeys, but one key piece of advice plucked from the 10 tips for making the most of Swiss railway journeys is that cloudy days can enhance a Swiss train ride.
Dazzling sunshine can cast shadows across viewpoints and bounce the light around the train windows.

Though being both a railway fan and a landscape fan, some of my personal wow moments are triggered by the incredible feats of engineering - the bridges and tunnels, which have made these journeys possible.
I suspect I'm not alone in this, so whether a railway line includes some remarkable engineering has been factored in to producing this list.
(The SMTJ definition of a 'wow moment' is a fairly brief, but outstanding sight, which suddenly comes into view during a journey).

A journey on a Swiss Mountain Railway can also be enhanced by the type of bird's-eye view stretching off into the distance, similar to the vistas that can usually only be seen if you’ve made the effort to hike up a mountain.
And the greater the number of lovely lakes and rivers which can be seen, the better!

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Click on the names of the railway lines or routes within each route description, to access the practical information which will help with experiencing these journeys.

15: VISP <> ZERMATT

Lake:

 

Wow Moments:

River:

Bird’s Eye Views:

 

Impressive Engineering:

 

15 Most Beautiful Train Journeys in Switzerland Visp to Zermatt
What makes it special: 
The western end of the Mattherhorn-Gotthard Railway follows the River Vispa along the epic valley it has carved through the landscape and during the journey the best of the views switch to either side of the train.

Although the railway line stays close to the river bank, so it doesn’t ascend up the valley walls to provide exceptionally dramatic views when looking sideways out of the windows.
The sense of wonder on the train journey between Visp and Zermatt is mainly provided by looking up at the mountain slopes which tower above the train.

Taking the train is also the means of accessing the lovely, car-free resort of Zermatt.

What to look out for: 
The two key wow moments on this route happen when the railway crosses the river, making it possible to look directly out of the window back down the valley.
These occur before the station at Stalden (look left when heading to Zermatt) and  between St Niklaus and Herbriggen (on the right).
Also between St Niklaus and Herbriggen look out on the right, when heading to Zermatt, for the Tummigbahch Waterfall

However because of the valley location, the best of the views can be seen from a backwards facing window seat on the journey up from Visp (a forward facing seat when boarding in Zermatt) - which made it tricky for SMTJ’s photo skills to capture these scenes on a particularly bright day.

Connections:
Straightforward connections at Visp station are available with trains from Geneve via Lausanne and both Basel and Zurich via Bern.
The trains to Zermatt also call at Brig - so connect there if you'll be heading to Zermatt by taking an EC train from  Italy.

The Mattherhorn-Gotthard (MGB) Railway is the longest Swiss Mountain Railway line and the more spectacular eastern end of the route is also included on this list - though the the Glacier Express is the only direct train service along the entire length of the line.
So to travel the length of the MGB route between Zermatt and Disentis/Muster on its regular trains, you will have to change trains at the charming station in Andermatt.

In Zermatt, the station for the spectacular Gornergrat Bahn (GGB) railway is across the street from the MGB station - this line almost certainly also deserves a place on this list, and will be included once SMTJ has been able to experience the journey.

Though on arrival in Zermatt you can't be sure of being able to board the next GGB train, on beautiful days the trains on to Gornergrat can be very popular.

Good to know:
Tickets can be booked on the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn website, they won't be discounted if you book in advance, but you can follow the link to check the prices.
Swiss Travel Passes and both Eurail and InterRail passes can be used on the MGB trains - until a few years ago Eurail and InterRail pass users only provided for a discount.

There is a minimum of 1 x train per hour in each direction between Visp (Brig) and Zermatt and the journey time is a little over 1hr 15mins.


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14: ZURICH  <> SCHAFFHAUSEN

Lake:

 

Wow Moments:

River:

Bird’s Eye Views:

 

Impressive Engineering:

 


More than 95% of the 40 minute train journey between Zurich and Schaffhausen is very ordinary, with the only highlight of a journey between the outskirts of both cities, being the rather charming crossing of the River Thur.
15 Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys Zurich to Schaffhausen
However, towards journey’s end when heading north from Zurich, look out on the right for one of the most incredible sights that can be seen from a European train, the stunning view of the Rhine Falls!


So when setting off on in the opposite direction from Schaffhausen, look out on the left around three minutes into the journey - the video was captured from a train heading south towards Zurich.

This is a contender for the most epic wow moment that can be seen from a Swiss train - and it’s easily experienced if you happen to have a couple of hours to spare when spending time in Zurich - there is a minimum of 1 x train per hour to/from Schaffhausen during the day.
15 Most Beautiful Train Journeys in Switzerland Zurich to Schaffhausen
Though worth knowing is having looked at a map of the area around Schaffhausen, I initially mistakenly assumed that the view of the falls would be best seen from the railway line between Schaffhausen and Winterhur.
After all this route taken by trains on route S24 bridges the Rhine right by the falls.
However, that bridge is just to the north of the falls, so you can’t see them from those trains.

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13: ZURICH <> CHUR

Lake:

Wow Moments:

  

River:

 

Bird’s Eye Views:

   

Impressive Engineering:

 


SMTJ is going to boldly assume that when most travellers imagine a beautiful Swiss railway journey, what they will have in mind is an image of a train ascending the slopes of a mountain.


But much of Switzerland is so breathtakingly beautiful that you don’t have to seek out its special mountain railways to experience a wonderful journey by train.
This route between Zurich and Chur is the most stunning end-to-end journey taken by regular (1 or 2 x departures per hour) InterCity express trains anywhere in Europe.

It lasts for 1hr 15mins, too short for our Most Epic Journeys list, but aside from the seven minutes of the journey closest to Zurich station, where the railway line is mainly in tunnel, the entire journey is delightful.

What makes it special: 
For more than 10 minutes the railway line is right by the shore of Lake Zurich,
15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys Zurich to Chur
but the highlight of the journey comes when the train travels as close to the stunning Wallensee.

The top two images above show the views over the Zurichsee, but the bottom image and the video showcase the incredible view of the Wallensee - which can be seen from the trains looking left when heading towards Chur (so are on right when travelling to Zurich).


Connections:
At Chur station simple as can be connections are available into trains heading on to St Moritz and for trains to Disentis/Muster, where other easy connections are available into the trains taking the stunning route on Andermatt - and beyond.

Some of the trains to Chur also depart from Basel.


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12: THUN <> INTERLAKEN

Lake:

Wow Moments:

River:

 

Bird’s Eye Views:

 

Impressive Engineering:

 


What makes it special: 
Romantic views over a crystal blue lake to mountains on the far shore, are what makes so many Swiss train journeys very wonderful - and this route taken by regular express trains, which depart at least hourly to and from the resort town of Interlaken, is one of the best of these.

Over on the left, for around thirty minutes when heading south from Thun station, there are stunning views of the Thunnersee - so look right when heading north from Interlaken.
15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys Thun to Interlaken
None of the special Swiss Mountain Railways offer stunning lake views sustained over this length of time.
 


What to look out for: 
What makes this journey particularly special is that between Thun and Leissigen the railway is at an upper level to the shore, which provides magical views down on to the lake.
The most spectacular of these is over the village of Faulensee, it is a wow moment which can be seen just to the south of Spiez station.
Looking down on Lake Thun on a beautiful Swiss train journey
Good to know:
The section of this journey between Spiez and Interlaken forms part of what is sometimes referred to as the full 'Golden Pass' route, which also includes two other journeys on this list, the Montreux <> Zweisimmen route and the Interlaken <> Luzern route.

If you will be travelling in Switzerland with a rail pass, you can make the stunning end-to-end journey across central Switzerland between Montreux and Luzern at no extra cost.
It makes for a spectacular day of travel, that's much easier than it seems - and to speed you back to your starting point, there are direct Geneve <> Luzern IR trains, which travel on the spectacular route via Lausanne

Connections:
From Interlaken Ost station, you can take the Luzern to Interlaken Express, or the Berner-Oberland-Bahn (BOB) trains to Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen and from both of those stations, there are easy as can be connections into the incredible Wengeralpbahn.

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11: LAUSANNE <> FRIBOURG

Lake:

Wow Moments:

 

River:

 

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:

 


As its route code of IC 1 implies, the railway line between Geneva and Zurich which travels through Lausanne and Bern, is Switzerland’s premier express train route, connecting four of the five largest cities in the country.

As far as ShowMeTheJourney is aware, it never appears on lists of Switzerland’s most beautiful railway journeys, so I wasn’t expecting this journey to be particularly special.
The train was boarded because it was a convenient link between travelling on the railway line along the shore of Lake Geneva (which just missed out on being included on this list) - and a hotel near Bern.

Those limited expectations were superseded within two minutes of departing from Lausanne station.

What makes it special: 
For more than 10 minutes the trains on this IC1 route make a remarkable ascent up from Lake Geneva.
As a result the views over the lake are some of the most fantastic vistas over water that can be seen from any Swiss train journey.
 


A minimum of 2 x trains per hour take this route, as in addition to those IC1 trains, the InterRegio service between Geneve/Lausanne and Luzern via Bern also comes this way.
15 Beautiful Swiss Journeys Lake Geneva
These incredible views can be seen on the right when heading east from Lausanne towards Fribourg.
So when travelling towards Lausanne, the lake comes into view on the left, around 12 minutes before trains are due to arrive there.
If you will be on a double-deck train, head to the upper deck.

Good to know:
Similar vistas over Lake Geneva are the highlight of the 'Golden Pass' route taken by MOB trains to/from Montreux.
Applying some rationality, these equally fabulous views on this journey also meet the wow factor criteria - and showcase that taking regular Swiss IC trains can often be as wonderful as travelling on the mountain railways.
 

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10: MARTIGNY <> VALLORCINE (and Chamonix)

Lake:

  

Wow Moments:

River:

   

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:

 


What makes it special: 
As the trains ascend from Martigny, the birds-eye view that can be seen on the right, down over the Rhone Valley, is the highlight of this journey.

It's the first sight of this view looking left, when traveling east TO Martigny, which provides the wow moment on this route.
15 Beautiful Swiss Journeys The Mont Blanc Express route
At the top of this climb the railway line enters a valley, which it follows between Salvan station and Vallorcine- the journey between Martigny and Vallorcine is the Swiss section of the ‘Mont Blanc Express’ route

The valley has been carved by the River Le Trient, but it can rarely be seen from the train, as the railway line is embedded at an upper level on the valley wall - and this elevation allows for sweeping vistas across the valley over to the left, when heading west from Martigny.

The weather inevitably has a huge role to play in experiencing Switzerland’s most beautiful railway journeys at their best.

However, I made this journey in the morning and the sunlight was shining on the train and casting giant shadows across the mountains.
I therefore discovered that cloudless skies also don’t provide the optimum conditions for experiencing a journey on a Swiss Mountain Railway.


I suspect that with some clouds to bounce the light around, the views would be even more glorious, but the images and the video hopefully showcase how fabulous this journey could be at a different time on another day.

Connections:
There are 1 or 2 trains per hour from Geneva to Martigny which also call at Lausanne and Montreux - and at that station you can also connect with the MOB trains to and from Zwiesimmen.

Brig and Visp are also linked to Martigny by 1 or 2 x trains per hour, so if you will be using a rail pass to explore the best of western Switzerland by train, the train ride between Martigny and Vallorcine can be easily combined on a day trip with the Visp <> Zermatt journey.

At Vallorcine there are simple as can be connections into trains which travel on the French section of the Mont Blanc Express route on to Chamonix and beyond to St Gervais.

Some, but not all of the trains to and from Valllorcine, connect in St Gervais with trains between there and Annecy or Lyon - so connections have to be planned in advance of travel, but this is the most scenic option for a train journey between Switzerland and France.

Good to know:
The trains depart from Martigny hourly and the journey to Vallorcine takes just over 45 minutes and travelling on to Chamonix takes around 1hr 25 mins.

Tickets for the trains, which are operated by TMR, cannot be purchased at Martigny station, but the TMR ticket office is a 5 min walk away - and the TMR website doesn't sell tickets either.

So if you will be taking the train to Martigny and won't be using a rail pass, book the end-to-end journey on the SBB website.

Swiss Travel Pass users can travel for free between Martigny and Vallorcine, and can also use the pass for the French part of the route on to Chamonix.

Eurail Pass users can travel for free on the entire Mont Blanc Express route, but SMTJ had read that InterRail users had to pay 50% of the Martigny <> Vallorcine journey price, but this is worth checking at the station prior to boarding.
The conductor on the train said that my InterRail pass entitled me to travel for free, but the ticket machine at Vallorcine was selling the InterRail discount.

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9: INTERLAKEN <> LUZERN

Lake:

Wow Moments:

River:

 

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:

 


What makes it special: 
This Zentralbahn route, taken by the hourly Luzern – Interlaken Express trains doesn’t scale the heights of the other lines further down this list, but it does offer multiple wow moments, including charming and sweeping views over the villages of Lungern and Giswil.
Switzerland's 15 Most Beautiful Train Journeys


But what earns this Interlaken <> Luzern journey a place in the Top 10 on this list is the variety of its scenery.
It offers views over four lakes – and as you may have worked out by now, ShowMeTheJourney is rather fond of viewing lakes from the comfort of a train.
 

When heading east from Interlaken all of these lakes, the Brienserzee, the Lungernsee, the Sarnersee and the Luzernsee can be seen on the right - so they are on the left when heading away from Luzern/Lucerne.
Swiss Top 15 Beautiful Journeys The Luzern to Interlaken Express
What to look out for: 
It won't seem as though all of these lakes can be seen from the same side of the train when looking at a map, but the trains on this route reverse direction on departure from Meiringen station.


The part of the railway line between Brunig-Halisberg station and Kaiserstuhl station is higher than the rest of route so in order to climb up to it, the trains use the rack and pinion system.
That isn’t particularly unusual, but what provides a thrill when heading towards Luzern from Meiringen is the rate of the ascent, as the train races away from the station up the side of the valley.

Connections: 
Straightforward cross-platform connections are usually available at Interlaken Ost station with IC trains which have travelled from Basel via Olten and Bern.

There also four direct trains per day between Interlaken and Zweisimmen, which provide an easy connection with the Montreux <> Zweisimmen trains and simplify a journey along the full 'Golden Pass' route.
If you will be travelling in Switzerland with a rail pass, you can make this stunning end-to-end journey across central Switzerland between Montreux and Luzern at no extra cost.

At Interlaken Ost you can also connect into the Berner-Oberland-Bahn (BOB) trains to Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen and from both of those stations there are easy as can be connections into the incredible Wengeralpbahn.

Luzern station is served by direct trains from Basel, Bern, Bellinzona, Lugano and from Geneva and from Zurich.
Taking this journey is a particularly easy day trip by train if you will be staying in Basel, Bern or Zurich.

The Luzern <> Interlaken express trains also call at Brienz, where the station is adjacent to the starting point of the spectacular Brienz Rothorn Bahn with its service of steam trains.

However, if you want to take the Pilatus Bahn railway and will be travelling east from Interlaken, you will need to make an additional connection at Giswil.
The express trains live up to their name by skipping some stations and one which they don't call at is Alpnachstad, which is where the base station of the Pilatus Bahn is located.
 

Good to know: 
Tickets for the Luzern <> Interlaken Express can be booked online (the website covers the full Golden Pass route) they won't be discounted if you book in advance, but your seats will be reserved.
Swiss Travel Passes and both Eurail and InterRail passes can also be used for travel on these trains.

There is a minimum of 1 x train per hour in each direction and the journey time is a little over 1hr 50mins.

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8: BRIG <> SPIEZ via Kandersteg

Lake:

   

Wow Moments:

River:

 

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:


What makes it special:
Before the epic Lotschberg Base Tunnel opened in 2007, the express trains between the cities of northern Switzerland and Italy via Brig used to take this stunning route, which provides beautiful vistas on either side of the older Lotschberg Tunnel.

The highlight of this journey is to the north of Brig station when the railway makes a dramatic ascent of the slopes of the Rhone Valley - look to the left when departing from Brig station.
Swizterland's 15 Most Beautiful Railway Journeys
For around 10 minutes the views over the town of Visp are very reminiscent of those that would be seen from a plane.
So this railway journey is ideal for those seeking a sense of ‘feels like flying’, while remaining on terra firma.
 


The wow moment is the first sight of this incredible view when heading south towards Brig - keep looking to the right once the train has exited the Lotschberg Tunnel.
 

North of the Lotschberg Tunnel, the scenery between Kandersteg and Spiez showcases the beauty of the lovely Kander Valley - look out for when the trains crosses the Kander Viaduct.
Switzerland's 15 Most Beautiful Train Journeys: The Lotschberger
If you will be travelling to/from Bern, then north of Spiez look out for the views over the Thunersee, they will be on the right when heading north, so will be on the left when heading south.

Good to know: 
The only passenger trains which now travel on this older line are the hourly local trains which are branded ‘Lotschberger’ - the journey between Brig and Spiez takes 1hr 10mins.

Some of these trains now travel between Domodossola in Italy and Bern - providing a cheaper and more scenic alternative to taking the EC express trains for those travelling travelling between Switzerland and Italy with Eurail and InterRail passes.

If you will be travelling between northern Switzerland and Brig with a rail pass, making the straightforward connections in Bern or Spiez so that you can travel on the Lotschberger trains, instead of taking the IC trains for the Bern <> Brig part of the journey is highly recommended.

Though something worth keeping in mind is that the Lotschberger trains don’t call at Visp.
 

Connections: 
At Brig station you can connect into the  Mattherhorn-Gotthard Railway which operates trains west to Zermatt and east towards Andermatt.

From Spiez you can take trains to Interlaken, where connections can be made with trains on to Luzern or the Bernese-Oberland, or head west to Zwiesimmen in order to take the spectacular route to Montreux - see below.


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7: MONTREUX <> ZWEISIMMEN

Lake:

Wow Moments:

River:

 

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:

 


What makes it special:
The most spectacular part of this journey taken by trains operated by MOB, the Montreux Oberland Bernois Railway, is the ascent when heading east from Montreux, up from Lake Geneva.
The railway has to snake as it climbs up to Chamby station, so there are spectacular views of this part of the route from both sides of the train.
Top 15 Swiss Journeys: The Golden Pass Line
The views over Lake Geneva are similar to those which can be enjoyed to the east of Lausanne from the trains between that city and Fribourg, but what earns this journey a higher ranking on this list is that those lake views aren’t the only spectacular sight to be seen from these trains.


The trains, which depart once per hour, typically take a little under two hours to travel the inland part of the route between Chamby and Zweisimmen and virtually the entire length of this part of the journey is delightful.
The 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys
When heading east from Montreux as far as Gstaad, the best of the views are on the right, but if spare seats are available, move over to the left hand side of the train at Gstaad station (so flip this, if you will be travelling towards Montreux).


As the trains depart from Gstaad station and head east towards Saanen, the railway line is elevated slightly, which provides for great views down the valleys - from the left when heading towards Zweisimmen.
Top 15 Swiss Train Journeys: Montreux to Zweisimmen
Then another highlight is just to the west of Zweisimmen station, as the railway descends/ascends to the village.
 


Good to know: 
MOB brands this journey between Montreux and Zweisimmen as its ‘Golden Pass’ Route’, but the full Golden Pass route is actually the end to end trip by train in either direction across central Switzerland between Montreux and Luzern via Zweisimmen and Interlaken.

A fabulous train ride across central Switzerland which also includes the journeys between Luzern and Interlaken and between Spiez and Interlaken, that are also on this list.

Tickets can be purchased online, you won't save money by booking in advance, but you will have a seat reservation on the trains - places in the observation cars can sell out in advance.

What's unusual is that MOB operates three different types of train on this route, though there is only one departure per hour and the type of train being used doesn't affect the ticket price -  rail passes allow for free travel on any train.

Connections 
Montreux is served by 2 x trains per hour from Geneva, which travel via Lausanne and from the south there are trains from Brig via Visp, most of which call at Martigny where connections are available to/from trains on the Mont Blanc Express route.

Zweisimmen has hourly trains to Spiez, where connections are available to the Lotschberger trains to Brig - so a wonderful and easy circular day trip route is available, if you will be staying in the Brig area.

Some of those trains on from Zweisimmen continue beyond Spiez to Interlaken, but others are direct to Bern and from Bern there are hourly trains to Lausanne and Geneva.
So if you will be staying in either of these cities, taking a Geneve/Lausanne > Montreux > Zweisimmen  > Bern > Geneve/Lausanne route makes for a comparatively easy day trip by train.

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6: VITZNAU <> RIGI-KULM

Lake:

Wow Moments:

River:

 

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:

 


Good to know: 
The Rigi Bahnen operates two railway lines to the spectacular summit of Mount Rigi.

Its ARB line has a useful connection at Arth-Goldau station, which is served by trains from Basel, Bellinzona, Erstfeld, Lugano, Luzern and Zurich.

The ARB route is lovely, but its views are eclipsed by those which can be seen from this VRB route to/from Vitznau station.
By Boat from Luzern to the Rigibahn

The station at Vitznau can be accessed by Lake cruiser boats that depart from a pier located in front of Luzern station – Swiss Travel Pass and Saver Day Pass users can travel on these boats free of charge, while Eurail and InterRail pass users can obtain a 50% discount.
 

What makes it special: 
This train journey between Vitznau and Mt-Rigi only offers two different perspectives, both of which are of Lake Lucerne.
However, those two vistas are so wonderful, that they earned this line its place in the top half of these rankings.

Though ShowMeTheJourney is attempting not to show favouritism because the stunning sunbursts, which I was lucky to experience on my most recent journey, obviously can’t be guaranteed.
The 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: The Rigibahn

The majestic views down over the Luzernsee can only be fully appreciated from the left when departing from Vitznau.
Taking the Rigi Bahn from Vitznau

So if there are no seats on that side of the train available when boarding in Vitznau, the advice is to hang back for 30 minutes, so that you can be among the first to board the next train.
And don’t make the mistake I made when first taking this journey, of moving over to the right to allow more latecomers to squeeze on to the train – this is a route when being a tad selfish pays dividends.


The views over Lake Lucerne are in two phases, when ascending up the mountain for the initial 20 minutes of the ride, as far as Rigi Staffelhohe station, you’ll be looking south towards Burgenstock.
Switzerland's Most Beautiful Train Rides: Vitznau to Rigi-Kulm

Then as the train approaches Rig-Staffel station the perspective changes to an incredible view over a different branch over Lake Luzern, looking north-west towards Meggen and Luzern - it is the first sight of this view which is the wow moment on this journey.
Top 15 Swiss Train Journeys: The Rigi Bahn
 


If the visibility is good, it can be worth walking down from Rigi-Kulm, so that you can join the trains heading back down to Vitznau, or Arth-Goldau, at Rigi-Staffel station.
(The video was taken from a train descending down the mountain towards Vitznau).


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5: ZUG <> BELLINZONA via Erstfeld

Lake:

Wow Moments:

River:

 

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:


Take a DIRECT train from Zug (or Zurich) to Bellinzona and you’ll enjoy a fabulous train ride, but you will miss out on experiencing the most spectacular part of this route - the part of the journey which has merited a Top 5 spot on this list of Switzerland’s most wonderful train journeys.

That’s because those direct express trains now dive into the epic Gotthard Base Tunnel, but there are still hourly, often over-looked regular passenger trains, which travel over this incredible Gotthard Railway and through the older Gotthard Tunnel.


What makes it special: 
If the direct trains between Zurich and Basel <> Bellinzona, Lugano and Milano still travelled via Erstfeld and the older Gotthard Tunnel, this route would be near the top of a list of Europe's most beautiful journeys by express trains.

There are views over three lakes, with the most beautiful of these being the Zugersee - hence the suggestion to travel to/from Zug, plus there are multiple wow moments to be experienced as the trains ascend and descend to the older Gotthard Tunnel.

The part of this journey on the usual route between Zug and Arth-Goldau, showcases how Swiss railways can surprise, according to the weather.
The first two journeys I took by the Zugersee were pleasant, but unremarkable, however I hadn’t realised that on both occasions the mist across the lake was obscuring the view of the distant shore, but when I made this journey in perfect weather, the experience was revelatory.
15 Of the Best Swiss Train Journeys: Zug to Bellinzona

When trains are on the usual route south of Zug, the views of the lake are on the right.

Then to the south of Arth-Goldau station, two other lakes can also be seen from that side of the train when heading south, first comes the Lauerzersee and then there are glimpses of the Luzernsee.

What to look out for: 
The entire journey between Zug and Bellinzona is a scenic wonder, but the two most special wow moments of this journey on the older Gotthard Line, now by-passed by the express trains, are:

(1) the multiple views over the village Wassen between Erstfeld and Goschenen station.


When the railway is by the village, it uses spirals to gain height, so the white church can be seen from the left and then right of the train.
The 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: The Gotthard Line
and (2) the vistas down the valley as the railway spirals down (and up) between Airolo and Faido stations.
The Top 15 Swiss Journeys: Zug to Bellinzona via Erstfeld

Because the railway uses circular spirals cut into the mountain sides to gain height, these views above can be seen from both sides of the train, though when travelling south from Erstfeld towards Bellinzona, the best of the views are on the left.

Though these tend to be fairly quiet trains, so shuttling across the train from one side to the other, without disturbing your fellow travellers shouldn't be a problem

Connections: 
I have cheated slightly because there are no longer any direct trains between Zug and Bellinzona which travel on this older Gotthard route, but the connections at Erstfeld station are timed to make the end-to-end journey as simple as possible (though in some hours a second, equally straightforward connection is required at Arth-Goldau station).

Erstfeld is served by trains which travel from Zurich via Zug and from Basel via Luzern, while the trains which travel between Erstfeld and the south commence or complete their journeys in Bellinzona or Lugano - there is also a daily direct train from Milano to Erstfeld.

The trains between Erstfeld and Bellinzona call at Goschenen station where there is a connection with the short route railway operated by the Mattherhorn-Gotthard (MGB) Railway to Andermatt.
From there, trains operated by MGB travel east towards Disentis/Muster and west towards Zermatt.

Good to know: 
The direct railway line between Zug and Arth-Goldau station, along the eastern shore of Lake Zug has been closed until the end of 2020, so that it can be double-tracked.
Until then the trains are travelling around the western shore, which is still fairly fabulous.


Fluelen station on the shore of the Luzernsee is where the Gotthard Panoramic Express can be boarded and that train follows this route from there to Bellinzona – and on to Locarno.
So if you will be using a rail pass, you can follow the same route taken by that fairly expensive train
.

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4: CHUR <> ST MORITZ

Lake:

 

Wow Moments:

River:

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:


What makes it special: 
I suspect that this route has inspired people to capture more pictures than any other Swiss Mountain Railway, both from the trains windows - as well as images of the Glacier Express and regular Rhaetian Railway (RhB) trains travelling along this route.

That's because this line provides multiple spectacular vistas from the windows over rivers, valleys and villages, some of which are even more wonderful due to how the railway has been engineered.
The spectacular Landwasser Viaduct is a moth to a flame for photographers - and ShowMeTheJourney is no exception!
The 15 Most Scenic Swiss Railways: Chur to St Moritz


Although the blink and you'll miss it view down the valley, as the trains travel across the viaduct (on the right when heading south to St Moritz and on the left when travelling towards Chur), is eclipsed by some of the other incredible views that can be seen from trains travelling along this Albula Railway.

When HEADING SOUTH, the best of the views;
the River Rhine between Chur and Reichenau-Tamins,
the Lake Alora north of Tiefencastel,
the views looking down on that village and the village named Surava
the valley to the north of the Landwasser Viaduct AND the viaduct itself, are all over on THE RIGHT.
The 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: St Moritz to Chur

So if you will be heading north from St Moritz try to find seats on the left-  and if you want to see the viaduct, then occupy backwards facing seats.
 

What to look out for: 
The two other wow moments on this journey are a result of the railway using spiralling loops cut into the mountain side to gain height, as the trains ascend or descend there are spectacular views looking back down the valley.

These spirals are located just to the south of Filisur station...
The 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys; The Albula Railway
....and between Bergun station and Preda station, to the north of the Albula Tunnel.
The 15 Best Swiss Train Journeys: Chur to St Moritz

Connections: 
If you will be joining one of the regular hourly trains heading towards St Moritz at Chur station, there should be a simple as can be cross-platform connection with the IC train from Zurich, take a seat on the right-hand side when facing the direction of travel.
Some of these trains to Chur commence their journeys in Basel.


When heading south you can make an easy connection in Samedan for a short hop train ride to Pontresina, where the connection into trains on to Tirano is also as simple as can be.

If you will be using a rail pass to travel around Switzerland then a day trip by train to St Moritz or Tirano from Basel, Zurich and other northern Swiss cities is actually straightforward.


Good to know: 
Tickets for the regular and special trains* can be purchased online, but you won't save money by booking in advance.
*The Glacier Express travels over this route - and the Disentis/Muster <> Andermatt route and the Visp <> Zermatt route.


During the winter special observation cars can be attached to the regular trains, rail pass users have to pay a supplement to travel in them, but if you'll be using a pass you can take a seat in the regular trains.
The journey between Chur and St Moritz is scheduled to take exactly two hours.

This is a popular route and at Chur station second class can become very busy prior to departure, so as the best of the views are on the right when heading south from there, it can be a good idea to hang back and take the next departure.

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3: GRINDELWALD <> LAUTERBRUNNEN via Kleine Scheidegg and Wengen

Lake:

  

Wow Moments:

River:

   

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:


The Wengeralpbahn doesn’t operate direct trains between Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, connections have to be made at Kleine Scheidegg station – if you will be travelling up to Jungfraujoch by train, the best idea is to travel one direction via direction via Grindelwald and the other via Lauterbrunnen

What makes it special: 
This route operated by WAB – the Wengernalpbahn is the world's longest rack and pinion railway and trains have to use this technology when making particularly steep ascents of mountains.

Climbing mountains inevitably makes for fantastic views, so for those not minded to be attached to ropes and crampons, this Grindelwald <> Lauterbrunen route offers those type of birds-eye perspectives for a greater percentage of the train ride, than any other journey on this list.

And because the line ascends and descends up to Kleine-Scheidegg station by two different routes, the end-to-end journey by these trains offers multiple long-distance vistas over the stunning landscape of the Bernese-Oberland.


When joining trains at the main station in Grindelwald, take a forward facing seat on the right, because the train will reverse direction at the next station, Grindelwald-Grund.
Between that station and Kleine-Scheidegg the best of the views are over on the left, looking back down the mountain side.


You'll note from the video and the images that the weather wasn't absolutely ideal when I made this journey, but it didn't stop it being a fabulous experience.
I guessed right that the clouds would only be partially obscuring the mountain tops.
The Top 15 Swiss Train Journeys: Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen

When travelling between Lauterbrunnen and Kleine Scheidegg there are some fabulous views from both sides of the trains, but the best of the vistas, shortly after departure from Lauterbrunnen and Wengen stations are on the right when ascending up the mountain.

Though the video was taken looking to the left as the train FROM Kleine Schiedegg, travelling down the mountain, neared Lauterbrunnen.

 


What to look out for: 
The two outstanding wow moments occur on the part of the journey between Lauterbrunnen and Kleine-Scheidegg - you won't miss them because the conductor on the train will point them out - though to make the most of them you need to be sat on the right when boarding at Lauterbrunnen, or on the left when descending from Kleine-Scheidegg.

When heading down to Lauterbrunnen the first of these particularly special vistas is the view looking towards Wengen....
The 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Rides: the Wengeralpbahn

.... and the second is the view down the Lauterbrunnen valley, as seen in the middle image above - the railway will travel towards the waterfall on the outskirts of the village.


Connections:
If you want to make the epic journey from Interlaken to Europe’s highest railway station at Jungfraujoch you will need to take these trains, making connections at either Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen stations and at Kleine Scheidegg station.

The route taken by the JB Railway trains up to Jungfraujoch, doesn’t make this list of Switzerland’s most beautiful railway journeys, because all but the first five minutes of that journey is in tunnels.
The charming routes taken by the BOB (Bernese-Oberland-Bahn) trains between Interlaken Ost station and both Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen are also eclipsed by this Grindelwald <> Lauterbrunnen journey.

At Lauterbrunnen connections are also available with the BLM cable car and railway to Muren.


Good to know:
In common with users of Swiss Travel Passes, if you will be travelling with a Eurail or InterRail pass, you have to pay 75% of ticket price to travel on this route operated by WAB – the Wengernalpbahn.

But if you will be using Swiss Travel Passes to see Switzerland by train, you can travel on all of the other routes on this list without paying any of the 'ticket costs'.
For InterRail and Eurail users, the only other line which incurs a percentage of the ticket price is the Vitznau <> Rigi-Kulm route.


On the advice to using Eurail and InterRail passes in Switzerland it’s suggested that it’s not worth travelling on the lines on which users of those passes can’t travel for free, because it’s possible to travel on so many fabulous routes without incurring extra costs.
But this journey between Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen is so fabulous that it justifies being an exception!


Though two previous attempts at making this journey were thwarted by rain and mist back down in Interlaken, so try and plan your Swiss rail journey itinerary so that you're not committed to travelling every day, then you can take advantage of when the weather conditions are right - and do something different, like a museum visit, on they days that aren't ideal.

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2: ANDERMATT <> DISENTIS/MUSTER

Lake:

Wow Moments:

River:

 

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:

 


What makes it special: 
The heights attained by a mountain railway inevitably impacts on the journey experience, the views from the train windows will stretch further into the distance, but what matters more is that at higher altitudes, there is less vegetation by the railway line, so there are fewer trees etc to block the views.

On departure from Andermatt the train, the train which leaves hourly, will immediately begin to ascend up to the highest point on the Mattherhorn-Gotthard (MGB) Railway, which passes through the Oberalp Pass.
Switzerland's Most Beautiful Train Rides: Andermatt to Disentis


The views back down the valley over Andermatt are breath-taking and because the railway between Andermatt and Natschen station, loops like a snake in order to climb the mountain side, the glorious vista can be appreciated from both sides of the train.
The view from Natschen station looking down towards Andermatt

However, when boarding in Andermatt, or at a station further west, try to sit on the right, because between Natschen and Disentis/Muster the best of the views can all be seen from that side of the train – so sit on the left when boarding at Disentis/Muster.
The Top 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: The Oberalp Pass
The Oberalp Pass is so high that the railway is above the tree-line for this part of the journey, so nothing gets in the way of taking in the dramatic scenery.
As the railway approaches Oberalppass station, a lake, the Oberalpsee, can be seen on the right.
The Top 15 Swiss Train Rides: The Oberalp Pass

Immediately to the east of Oberalppass station the trains will pass through a tunnel and between the tunnel and Disentis/Muster station, the railway follows a valley.

What makes this section of the MGB line special is that the railway is located high up on the side of the valley, the trains very gradually descend or ascend as they head to or from Disentis/Muster - and this elevation allows for stunning views.
The 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: Andermatt to Disentis/Muster

Connections:
At Disentis/Muster station there are easy connections to/from Rhaetian Railway (Rhb) trains which call at Reichenau-Tamins, which is on the Chur <> St Moritz route.
Those Rhb trains connect Disentis/Muster with Chur, so if you will be travelling with a rail pass, this route is easily accessible from Basel and Zurich.


A short route operated by MGB links Andermatt with Goschenen station so by connecting there and in Erstfeld, on the Gotthard Railway, this is another route which links both Basel and Zurich with Andermatt

So if you wil be staying in Zurich, a great day trip itinerary with a rail pass is to follow a Zurich > Ertsfeld > Goschenen > Andermatt > Disentis/Muster > Chur > Zurich route.
 

The Mattherhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB) operates the longest Swiss Mountain Railway route and it stretches from Disentis/Muster in the east to Zermatt in the west.
Though if you will be taking the regular MGB trains, Andermatt is the station where connections have to be made with trains which travel between Andermatt and Disentis/Muster and trains that travel between Andermatt and Visp via Brig.

Good to know:
The Glaicer Express travels this route during its epic journey, because it is the only service which operate direct along the full length of the MGB railway and it also uses the RhB railways beyond Disentis/Muster, so that it can travel to and from St Moritz.

Tickets for the train journey between Andermatt and Disentis/Muster can be booked on the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn website, they won't be discounted if you book in advance, but you can follow the link to check the prices.

Swiss Travel Passes and both Eurail and InterRail passes can be used on the MGB trains - until a few years ago Eurail and InterRail pass users only provided for a discount..

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1: St Moritz <> Tirano

Lake:

Wow Moments:

River:

Bird’s Eye Views:

Impressive Engineering:


What makes it special: 

This train ride on the Bernina Route of the Rhateian (RhB) Railway is a journey of six distinct phases
1: St Moritz <> Bernina Suot via Pontresina
2: Bernina Suot <> Alp Grum
3: Alp Grum <> Cavaglia
4: Cavaglia <> Poschiavo
5: Poschiavo <> Miralago
6: Miralogo <> Tirano
What makes this train ride so special is that each of those parts of the journey have distinct highlights - note how all of the five boxes above have been ticked!


As you head south from St Moritz and Pontresina, the best of the journey will be ahead of you
The train ride as far as Bernina Suot station is delightful, but it doesn’t have the wow factor of the second phase of the journey between there and on to Alp-Grum station.

Between those two stations the trains travel through the stunning Bernina Pass, which due to its elevation and lack of vegetation, has an other-worldly quality in the height of summer....
Travelling through the Bernina Pass
.... but a snow covered landscape is pretty-much guaranteed between November and April.
The number 1 on a list of 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys

As the train traverses the Bernina Pass, it passes by some small lakes, these can be seen on the right when heading south, so are on the left when travelling north from Tirano - the snowy scenes were captured by SMTJ on the second weekend in May.
The 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: The Bernina Railway
The 15 Most Amazing Swiss Train Rides: St Moritz to Tirano

The third phase of the journey comes when the train exits the pass just to the north of Alp-Grum station – the on-board commentary available on all of the trains which follow this route, will point out the view of the glacier on the other side of Lago Palu.

The fourth phase of a southbound journey commences at Cavaglia station, between there and Poschiavo station the railway loops like a snake on the mountain side - and on this part of the route, at the top of this summit, there are second-to-none views from a train to revel in.
The 15 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Rides: St Moritz to Tirano
Because the railway loops across the mountain side, so that the trains can descend and ascend between Cavaglia and Poschiavo, there are incredible views back down the valley, from both sides of the train.


The highlight of the fifth phase of the journey between Poschiavo and Miralago station, are the beautiful views of the lake, the Lago di Poschiavo, along with the river to the south Poschiavo station, they are both on the left when heading south towards Tirano (so are on the right when heading north).
Travelling by Lago Poschiavo on the Bernina Railway

Between Miralago and Tirano the railway follows a valley and here the best of the views switch to the right when travelling south.
At the foot of this valley, just to the north of Tirano, is the uniquely fabulous Brusio Spiral Viaduct.
Travelling over the Brusio Spiral Viaduct on the Bernina Railway

Good to know: 
This video was taken from a train travelling from Tirano to St Moritz and it showcases the weather extremes, which can be experienced on this trip.

The section of the route through the Bernina Pass had experienced a heavy snow fall on the previous day, but just a five minute train ride away to the south of the pass, there was no snow to be seen at all - quite the wow moment, but sadly not guaranteed on every journey!

Connections:
Don’t assume that because of its location in the south-east corner of Switzerland that the Bernina Railway is awkward to access.

The Bernina Express is the only service to operate direct between Chur and Tirano, but if want to travel between those two locations on the regular Rheatian Railway trains, very straightforward connections are available in every hour during the day at Samedan and Pontresina stations – easier than travelling via St Moritz and you won’t miss out on any scenic highlights.

If you will be using a rail pass, a day return trip to Tirano by train is very feasible from most cities in northern Switzerland including Basel, Zurich and Bern.

Tirano also has trains from Milano, so if you will be travelling with an InterRail or Eurail Pass, you can make the ultimate day trip by train from Milano.
Head to Zurich from Milano via Tirano, Pontresina, Samedan and Chur and then return to Milano from Zurich on the EuroCity train.


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Despite multiple Swiss rail adventures, ShowMeTheJourney has yet to experience all of the best routes that can be taken by train in Switzerland, so in time it's likely that this will eventually become a Top 20 list of the country's Most Beautiful Train Journeys.

From what can be seen on YouTube and Instagram it's highly likely that the Brienz Rothorn Bahn and the GornegratBahn will merit an inclusion - and the route between Geneva and Visp is also rather fabulous!

If you would like some advice and help with planning a trip on any of these railways, or with working out a fabulous itinerary including multiple journeys that have been featured above, take a look at the Concierge Service.