Few locations in Europe have benefitted from improved railway links in recent years to the extent that Locarno has.
New connections to the recently opened Ceneri Base Tunnel have enabled Locarno to be connected by direct trains to destinations to the south including Lugano and Como - as these trains are direct between Locarno and Milano.
Now that the associated works on the railways in the area, prompted by the construction of the tunnel, have been completed, Locarno is also once again the terminus of the most scenic journey taken by regular Swiss mainline trains; from Basel via Luzern and from Zurich via Zug.
Plus frequent local trains shuttle between the junction station at Bellinzona. and Locarno.
Bellinzona has faster trains from Basel and from Zurich which travel through the epic Gotthard Basel Tunnel, so miss out on the most scenic part of the older route.
For some years now Bellinzona has had a daily direct rail link to and from Venice/Venezia via Verona, but it also now has daily direct trains to and from Bologna and Genova.
Also thanks to easy connections at Basel SBB station it’s possible to make a daytime journey to Locarno from a swathe of locations including Amsterdam, Berlin, Koln, London and Paris.
**Airport rail links
Locarno doesn’t have direct trains from the station at Zurich Airport, but easy connections are available at Zurich HB station, particularly if you take a train that calls at the same part of Zurich’s main station that the trains on to Locarno will depart from.
These include the RE services heading to Luzern or the local trains on line S24 heading to Zug.
There are typically hourly trains, which complete the journey in around two hours, from Milano Malpensa airport to Bellinzona where easy connections are available on to Locarno.
If having something to eat and drink while taking in a gorgeous lakeside view is your idea of heaven then Locarno is pretty much a dream destination.
The Locarno funicular provides fabulous views over Lake Maggiore and also gives access to the pilgrimage site of the Madonna del Sasso sanctuary.
The summit station of the funicular also enables an easy transfer to the cable car gondola which can transport travellers to beautiful Cardada
The train journey between Bellinzona and Locarno only offers fleeting glimpses of Lake Maggiore, but the railway which runs along the lake’s eastern shore provides some of the most spectacular views over water (as seen in the first 20 mins of the video) which can be enjoyed from a European train.
Those trains which travel between Locarno and Bellinzona call at Cadenazzo station from where easy connections are available into trains to and from the Italian lake shore town of Luino.
Though plan a journey with care, because unlike every other train service in the area, the trains between Cadenazzo and Luino aren’t particularly frequent.
Sit on the right when boarding in Cadenazzo to make the most of the lovely views over Lake Maggiore.
Also it’s a good idea to make this trip on a Wednesday as that happens to be market day in Luino, hence it also being the day of the week when there are opportunities to take a ferry across the lake to Stresa.
Image of Luino by Cassinam and downloaded from Wikicommons
Lugano is under 30 mins from Locarno on trains that typically depart twice per hour.
One stop south from the main Lugano station is Lugano-Paradiso and the trains from Locarno will also call at this station.
The reason for heading to Lugano-Paradiso station is that it's less than a five minute walk from the base station of the Monte San Salvatore funicular which offers fabulous views over Lake Lugano.
And / or connect in Lugano for local trains on route /line S10 which call at Capolago-Riva S. Vitale station, as this station offers an easy interchange with the wonderful Monte Generoso Railway.
The only mountain top railway in the canton of Ticino.
Como is another Italian lakeside destination which now has improved access to and from Locarno by train.
Regional trains provide an hourly direct link during the day and they take a spectacular route once they have passed through Lugano.
Fast ferries can be taken across Lake Como to from Colico; the main station in Como is around a 10 minute walk to the pier
A particularly fabulous adventure is to head north from Locarno for a fabulous journey on one of the hourly RE (Traverso) trains to Arth-Goldau,
Because these trains, which will be heading on to Basel and Zurich, still take the wonderful older Gotthard railway which the express trains now avoid.
At Arth-Goldau easy transfers are available to one of the Rigi Bahn routes which will take you up to the summit of the namesake mountain – sit on the right for the best views.
Then once you have had your fill of the views from the mountain top, you can take the other Rigi-Bahn route down to the shore of the Luzernsee at Vitznau – one of SMTJ’s Top 10 Swiss Train Journeys.
From there you can take one of the regular boats across the lake to Luzern/Luzern.
Then you’ll have a choice of routes back to Locarno:
(1) take the direct regional train, or
(2) take the faster option of an EC or IC train to Bellinzona and connect there for Locarno
The Centovali Railway commences in Locarno and twists its way through the wonderful valleys and gorges in the mountains on route to Domodossola in Italy.
Save 5% on the price of the holiday by entering the exclusive promo code AFF_SMTJSWISS on the booking page.
These holidays include overnight stays in Locarno along with other towns, plus all rail travel
The difference between how InterRail Passes for Switzerland and Swiss Travel Passes can be used around Locarno, is that the latter give a 50% discount on two routes not covered by Interrail for Switzerland - the Monte Generoso Railway and the route to Luino.
So if these two routes aren't on your must do list, the InterRail pass for Switzerland will be cheaper.
Though those two national passes for Switzerland (Swiss Travel Pass or InterRail) will only be value for money if you take the longer journeys from Locarno, such as those suggested below- or trips to Luzern and Mt Rigi.
The railways on Mt Rigi can be accessed by taking trains from Locarno to Arth-Goldau - the Swiss Travel Pass covers the Rigi Bahn routesand InterRail gives a 50% discount.
Both the Swiss Travel Pass and InterRail give a 50% discount if you want to travel on to the summit of Mt Pilatus from Luzern.
The multi-country 'Global' Eurail and InterRail passes have the same access on the Swiss railways as the InterRail pass solely for Switzerland, but in addition they can be used over the Italian border to journeys to Luino and Como.
So Locarno can be a fabulous location in which to spend a few days exploring when on a multi country Eurail or InterRail itinerary.
On Mondays to Fridays it's possible to travel to and from Zermatt on a scenic route fully covered by Eurail, InterRail and Swiss Travel Passes, as they can be used to and from Domodossola, despite it's Italian location.
Depart Locarno at 09:49 and with connections in Domodossola and Brig, you will arrive in Zermatt shortly before 15:00.
Leave Zermatt at 16:37 and with connection in Visp, Brig and Domodossola, you should return to Locarno before 21:00.
Another epic journey fully covered by Eurail, InterRail and Swiss Travel Passes, which is scenic for pretty much every minute of the entire day trip, is to depart Locarno at 09:49 and travel Locarno → Domodossola → Brig → Spiez via Kandersteg* → Luzern → Locarno arriving at 20:25.
*= the connection in Brig is 4 minutes, so if you don't want to rush take the next train, and then when you get to Luzern take the IC train to Bellinzona and connect there for Locarno
I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.
This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.
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