True The Ultimate Guide to Swiss Mountain Railways

The Ultimate Guide to Swiss Mountain Railways

Taking a train ride on a spectacular Swiss Tourist/Mountain Railway is one of the more accessible of those '100 Things You Must Do...' experiences.

All of the railway lines and trains featured below offer journeys with a wow factor and our guide to Swiss Mountain Railways shows you how to take these incredible trips.

However, the fact that so many different companies operate the Swiss Mountain Railways and that there are so many routes to choose from, can seem bewildering - hence the info we have provided below!
Eight fabulous views from Swiss Mountain Railways

Where these pictures were taken?

10 THINGS WORTH KNOWING

RAIL PASS ITINERARIES


THE MOST SCENIC TRAINS AND LINES:

Click on the name of the train or line below to access further information including - ticket booking links, using rail passes and tips for how to see the best of the views.

Special Trains:

What can make these trains special is:

(i) They can have particularly large windows to maximise the views

(ii) They can provide direct services on routes on which taking regular trains, would require multiple connections

(iii) They can still provide a local service on spectacular routes which have now been abandoned by express trains

1. The Bernina Express (large windows and a direct service)

2. The Glacier Express (large windows and a direct service)

3. The Gotthard Panorama Express (large windows in 1st class and a direct service)

4. The Lötschberger (local service)
Has access to the Adelboden, Saas Fee and Saas Grund skiing areas.

5. The Voralpen Express (direct service)

The Railways:

This is a list of the independent railways in Switzerland, which either serve a tourist resort or area, or are simply recommended because the routes they follow are stunning.
 

1. AB  (Gossau - Appenzell and St Gallen - Appenzell)
Eurail & InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
 
2. BAM (Morges - Apples -  L’isle-Mont-La-Ville)
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
 
3. BLM (Lauterbrunnen - Mürren) 
Access to the Schilthorn winter sports area
Eurail & InterRail - 25% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
 
4. BOB (Interlaken Ost - Wilderswill - Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen)
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 25% discount
 
5. BRB (Breinz - Rothorn Kulm)
Eurail & InterRail -  no discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 50% discount
 
6. CGB (Zermatt - Gornergrat)
Eurail & InterRail -  no discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 50% discount
 
7. FART (Locarno - Domodossola) Route of the 'Centovali Express'
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass//Saver Day Pass - free travel
 
8. JB (Kleine Scheidegg - Jungfraujoch)
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass - 25% discount
 
9. MG (Capolago - Generoso Vetta)
Eurail & InterRail -  no discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 50% discount
 
10. MGB (Zermatt - Täsch - Visp - Brig - Andermatt - Disentis/Muster and Göschenen) 
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

MGB trains give access to the following skiing/winter sports areas - Aletsch Arena and Andermatt - Gemsstock - Nätschen and  Disentis  and Saas Fee  and Saas Grund .
 
11. MOB (Montreux - Zweisimmen via Gstaad and Lenk - Zweisimmen) 
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
Access to the Lenk-Simmental  winter sports area.
 
12. MVR (Montreux - Rochers-De-Naye and Vevey -  Les Pleiades)
Eurail - no discount
InterRail -  25-50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
 
13. NTSCM  (Nyon - St-Cerque)
Eurail - free travel
InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

14. PB (Alpnachstad - Pilatus-Kulm)
Eurail & InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
 
15. RB (to Rigi-Kulm station on Mt. Rigi)
Eurail & InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
 
16. RhB (multiple routes in south east Switzerland connecting Chur, Davos, Arosa, Klosters, Landquart, St Moritz and Tirano)
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel

Access to the following winter sports areas - Corviglia and Disentis and Flims Laax Falera and  Obersaxen-Mundau and  Parsenn and 
Scuol Motta Naluns.
 
17. SOB (from/to St Gallen)
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
 
18. SPB  (Wilderswill - Schynige Platte)
Eurail - 25% discount
InterRail - no discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 25% discount
 
19. TMR (routes of The Mont Blanc Express and The St Bernard Express) 
Eurail - free travel
InterRail -  50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
Access to the Verbier/4 Vallées winter sports area.
 
20. TPC (connections from Aigle and Bex stations)
Eurail & InterRail - 50% discount
Swiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
Acess to the ski resorts at Champery, Les Diablerets and Leysin.
 
21. WAB  (Lauterbrunnen - Kleine Scheidegg via Wengen and Grindelwald - Kleine Scheidegg)
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - 25% discount
 
22. ZB (route of the Luzern - Interlaken Express) 
Eurail; InterRailSwiss Travel Pass/Saver Day Pass - free travel
Access to these winter sports areas -  Meiringen - Hasliberg and  Engelberg Titlis

The 'Golden Pass' Route:

If you will be travelling with a rail pass or Saver Day Pass this route between Montreux and Luzern, is a fabulously scenic and useful connection between Lake Geneva and central Switzerland - a great alternative to the direct IR trains between Geneva and Luzern.

You can't take direct trains on this 'Golden Pass' route, but the required connections in Zweissimen and Interlaken Ost stations couldn't be more straightforward and the trains are timed to minimize the transfer time.

West to east the route is:

(1) MOB trains from Montreux to Zweissimen
(2) BLS (standard gauge trains) from Zweissimen to Interlaken Ost*
(3) The Luzern - Interlaken Express between Interlaken Ost and Luzern.

So reverse the combination when travelling east to west.

*In some hours an additional change of train is required in Spiez, but this can be avoided if you depart from:

Montreux at 09:44; 11:44; 13: and 15:44

Luzern at 07:05; 11:05; 13:05 and 15:05

What can be confusing is that MOB applies 'Golden Pass' branding to its trains, which only travel part of the route.


10 THINGS WORTH KNOWING:

These tips will add to your enjoyment of exploring these incredible railways.



RAIL PASS ITINERARIES:

Look at the Swiss Rail map, and the ‘Grand Tour of Switzerland' railway routes are marked.

However, our suggested itineraries includes the 'Grand Tour' rail routes, PLUS a few extra lines, which we think should also be on the 'must-do' list.

A Eurail or InterRail pass valid in Switzerland can be used on all of the suggested trains, so you don't have to use a Swiss Travel Pass.

A big plus of exploring Switzerland with a rail pass (Eurail, InterRail, Swiss Travel Pass or Saver Day Pass) is the easy connections between trains - all of the suggested routes can be completed in a day.

You shouldn't ever have to wait more than 30 mins for the next train to depart from any of the stations

To make your explorations as simple as possible, it can make sense to base yourself in one location, so that you can loop back to your accommodation at the end of each day.

Do that and you also won't have to cart your luggage around Switzerland.

Hence we've put together these suggested itineraries below, so that you can stay in one place while exploring Switzerland.

Journeys with red arrows are those when Eurail and InterRail pass users have to pay a reduced fee.

Journeys with green arrows are those on which ALL rail passes including Swiss Travel pass users have to pay a reduced fee.

FROM BASEL:

1: The Golden Pass route: Basel – Visp – Montreux – Zweisimmen – Spiez – Interlaken Ost – Luzern – Basel

2: The Glacier/Bernina Express  route #1: Basel – Chur – Samedan – Pontresina – Tirano – Pontresina – Samedan – Chur – Zurich – Basel

3: The Glacier Express route #2: Basel – Visp – Zermatt – Visp – Andermatt – Disentis/Muster – Chur – Zurich – Basel

4: The Centovali and The Gotthard Express route: Basel – Brig – Domodossola – Locarno – Bellinzona – Erstfeld – Basel

5: Mount Rigi and Wilhelm Tell Express route: Basel –  Luzern → boat to Viznau Rigi-Kulm Arth-Goldau – Fluelen boat to Luzern – Basel

6: The Bernese-Oberland: Basel – Interlaken Ost Grindelwald  Kleine Scheidegg Jungfaujoch Kleine Scheidegg Lauterbrunnen  Interlaken Ost – Basel

7: The Voralpen Express and Schaffhausen Falls: Basel – Zurich – Schaffhausen – St Galllen - Luzern - Basel

8: Mont Blanc  and The Lotschberger: Basel – Biel – Lausanne – Martigny – Vallorcine – Chamonix-Mont Blanc – Vallorcine – Martigny – Brig – Thun/Bern via Kandersteg - Basel


FROM ZURICH:

1: The Golden Pass route: Zurich – Visp – Montreux – Zweisimmen – Spiez – Interlaken Ost – Luzern – Zurich

2: The Glacier/Bernina Express  route #1: Zurich – Chur – Samedan – Pontresina – Tirano – Pontresina – Samedan – Chur – Zurich

3: The Glacier Express route #2: Zurich – Visp – Zermatt – Visp – Andermatt – Disentis/Muster – Chur – Zurich

4: The Centovali and The Gotthard Express route: Zurich – Brig – Domodossola – Locarno – Bellinzona – Erstfeld – Zurich

5: Mount Rigi and Wilhelm Tell Express route: Zurich – Luzern boat to Viznau Rigi-Kulm Arth-Goldau – Fluelen boat to Luzern – Zurich

6: The Bernese-Oberland: Zurich - Spiez – Interlaken Ost Lauterbrunnen Kleine Scheidegg Jungfaujoch Kleine Scheidegg Grindelwald Interlaken Ost – Bern - Zurich

7: The Voralpen Express and Schaffhausen Falls: Zurich – Schaffhausen – St Galllen - Luzern - Zurich

8: Mont Blanc  and The Lotschberger: Zurich – Lausanne – Martigny – Vallorcine – Chamonix-Mont Blanc – Vallorcine – Martigny – Brig – Thun/Bern via Kandersteg - Zurich

FROM OLTEN*:

1: The Golden Pass route: Olten – Visp – Montreux – Zweisimmen – Spiez – Interlaken Ost – Luzern – Olten

2: The Glacier/Bernina Express  route #1: Olten - Zurich – Chur – Samedan – Pontresina – Tirano – Pontresina – Samedan – Chur – Zurich – Olten

3: The Glacier Express route #2: Olten – Visp – Zermatt – Visp – Andermatt – Disentis/Muster – Chur – Zurich – Olten

4: The Centovali and The Gotthard Express route: Olten – Brig – Domodossola – Locarno – Bellinzona – Erstfeld – Olten

5: Mount Rigi and Wilhelm Tell Express route: Olten – Luzern boat to Viznau Rigi-Kulm Arth-Goldau – Fluelen boat to Luzern – Olten

6: The Bernese-Oberland: Olten – Interlaken Ost Lauterbrunnen  Kleine Scheidegg  Jungfaujoch Kleine Scheidegg Grindelwald Interlaken Ost – Olten

7: The Voralpen Express and Schaffhausen Falls: Olten – Zurich – Schaffhausen – St Galllen - Luzern - Olten

8: Mont Blanc  and The Lotschberger: Olten - Visp – Martigny – Vallorcine – Chamonix-Mont Blanc – Vallorcine – Martigny – Brig – Thun/Bern via Kandersteg - Olten

*Olten is the central hub of the Swiss rail system so it makes a great base for exploring Switzerland by train and its room rates tend to much lower than staying in Basel or Zurich.
It also has a charming old town in which to have a meal/drink after your day of travels.

WHERE WERE THE PICTURES TAKEN?

Clockwise from top left:
1 - From an MGB train between Andermatt and Disentis
2 - On the RhB line between St Moritz and Chur
3 - From an RB train between Rigi-Kulm at Vitznau
4 - On the Luzern-Interlaken Express between Meiringen and Luzern
5 - From a MOB train ascending from Montreux
6 -
On an MGB train between Andermatt and Disentis
7 - From a WAB train between Wengen and Lauterbrunnen
8 - On the RhB line Tirano and St Moritz