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Ideas & Inspiration Twenty Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: part one
The 15 Most Beautiful Train Journeys in Switzerland

Twenty Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: part one

Part one of the guide to the 20 most spectacular train journeys in Switzerland, plus the tips and info needed to experience these Swiss train rides for yourself.

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Having been lucky enough to make several visits to Switzerland in order to travel on its beautiful railways, ShowMeTheJourney has produced this list of 20 incredible Swiss train rides.
It had been a Top 15 (hence the web address of the page) but expanding it to a Top 20 has been on the wish-list; so here is part two.

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 Top 20 Most Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys

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 actually 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.

What's also been taken into account are the 'wow moments' which make a traveller gasp with delight, those fairly brief, but outstanding sights which can 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!

1: St Moritz ↔ Tirano

Lake: Yes
Wow Moments: Yes
River: Yes
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: Yes

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 it's the only route on this list with a 'yes' against all the four criteria!

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 this part 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....

.... 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.
Ascending from Poschiavo to Cavaglia on the Tirano to St Moritz train journey

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; so 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 feasible from most cities in northern Switzerland including Basel, Zurich and Bern, though you'll need to set off by 08:00.

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.

2: Andermatt ↔ Disentis / Muster

Lake: Yes
Wow Moments: Yes
River: No
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: No

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 also 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 by connecting at Chur.

A short route operated by MGB links Andermatt with Goschenen station so by connecting there, this is another route which links both Basel and Zurich with Andermatt.
So if you will be staying in Zurich, a great day trip itinerary with a rail pass is to follow a Zurich > 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 via Visp.
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 operates 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.
If you have one of these passes you only have to pay the reservation fee to travel by The Glacier Express = a significant saving on the full price.

3. Grindelwald > Kleine Scheidegg > Lauterbrunnen

Lake: No
Wow Moments: Yes
River: Yes
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: Yes

The Wengeralpbahn doesn’t operate direct trains between Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, connections have to be made at Kleine Scheidegg station – so if you will be travelling up to Jungfraujoch by train, the best idea is to travel one direction via Grindelwald and then travel 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 that 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 below was taken looking to the left as the train FROM Kleine Schiedegg, travelling down the mountain, nearing 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 on this list 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.
Therefore 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 to make journeys such as this; and do something different, like a museum visit, on they days which aren't ideal for travelling.

4. Chur ↔ St Moritz

Lake: No
Wow Moments: Yes
River: No
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: Yes

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 as can be seen, 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.

Journey highlights:

When HEADING SOUTH, the best views are of;

  • 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.
    -

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 spiraling 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...

....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 (route 1:) 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 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 between Disentis/Muster and Andermatt (route 2) and between Visp and Zermatt (route 15).

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.

5. Zug ↔ Bellinzona via Goschenen:

Lake: No
Wow Moments: Yes
River: Yes
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: Yes

Take an IR train and not the express IC or EC trains from Zug (or Zurich) to Bellinzona to make the most of this stunning route, the journey by IR trains will be twice as long, but you won't regret an extra minute spent on the trains.
That’s because those direct express trains now dive into the epic Gotthard Base Tunnel, but the IR trains still travel over this incredible Gotthard Railway and through the older Gotthard Tunnel.

What makes it special:

If the IC trains between Zurich and Basel <> Bellinzona, Lugano and Milano still travelled via Goschenen 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 via Goschenen

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:

At Arth Goldau station a straightforward and step-free connection is available into theBlue Route up to the summit of Mt Rigi, then at Rigi-Kulm station you can make the simple change of trains into the red Rigi-Bahn route down to Vitznau (route 6).

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 on route 2 towards Disentis/Muster and west on route 15 towards Zermatt.

Good to know:

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

6: Alpnachstad ↔ Pilatus-Kulm

Lake: Yes
Wow Moments: Yes
River: No
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: Yes

What makes it special:

The longer journeys on this list have earned their places partially because of the variety of the scenery they pass through, but there are only two views available during the 30mins when these trains are ascending the world’s steepest railway; the views over the Luzernesee...
Looking down on the Luzernsee from the Pilatusbahn

...and the views across crags of Mount Pilatus...
The Pilatus Railway follows a route back and forth across the mountain
but as can be seen, they’re both among the very best sights which can be experienced on a Swiss rail journey.

The ascent begins in Alpnachstad on the shore of central Switzerland’s largest and most beautiful lake, hence a popular means of accessing the Pilatusbahn is by taking a lake cruise boat from the piers in front of Luzern station.
It is the glorious views down to the Luzernsee which are one of two highlights of this journey with the other being the final third of the trip when the railway snakes across the mountain above the tree line.
The other worldly views as the train nears the summit of Mt Pilatus

It is this sense of climbing the mountain which makes this journey a wonder, the only other means of enjoying the same vistas is to be a committed hill-walker.
A train descends down Mt Pilatus on the world's steepest rack railway
As you look up towards the summit station, you can see the trains which are on the descent.

Good to know:

The Pilatusbahn station in Alpnachstad is steps away from the station on the ZB Railway, which is served by trains which depart Luzern every 30mins.
But the Luzern to Interlaken Express trains live up to their name and pass through Alpmachstad without stopping calling there.
So if you'll be heading to the Pilatusbahn from Interlaken and other stations to the west, you will need to make a simple connection in Giswill.

7: Vitznau ↔ Rigi Kulm

Lake: Yes
Wow Moments: Yes
River: No
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: Yes

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 (route 5), Lugano, Luzern and Zurich.
That 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 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.

8. Zermatt ↔ Gornegrat

Lake: No
Wow Moments: Yes
River: No
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: No

What makes it special:

It is the variety of the scenery which can be enjoyed during the rides which earned most of these Top 10 journeys their places, but on the Gornegrat Railway there are only four vistas to be experienced; all of which can be seen on the right when ascending from Zermatt.

The first is the view over the village as the train begins its climb, because from forward seats the view is towards the Matterhorn.
Ascending through Zermatt on the Gornegratbahn

Then as the railway ascends above the trees it turns to the left which gives a view down the distant valleys towards the Matterhorn glacier.
Looking towards the Matterhorn glacier on the Gornergrat railway

The highlights of the journey are the vistas which can be experienced either side of Riffelberg station because after Riffelalp station the line turns to the right enabling un-impeded views towards the Matterhorn; though the mountain is still somewhat distant.
Looking towards the Matterhorn on the train heading up to Gornergrat railway

The final section of the journey between Rotenboden and Gornegrat stations is Europe’s highest railway line in the open air, but the railway has turned again to travel through a crag in the mountain, so the views here aren’t quite so distant; but as can be seen they are still incredible.
Heading towards Gornergrat station on train from Zermatt

Connections:

The GGB Railway's station in Zermatt is across the street from the station used by the MGB trains which link Zermatt to mainline trains in Visp and Brig.

Good to know:

If you are planning on making a day trip to Zermatt in order to take a ride on the Gornergratbahn allow plenty of time, particularly if you will be making the trip on a sunny day, or at a weekend.
I had planned to make the journey as part of a somewhat ambitious one-day itinerary which also included the railway to Vallorcine.
However, when I arrived in Zermatt there was a lengthy queue at the ticket office for the GGB trains, I was told that I'd be taki the third train to depart as the next two departures would be full!
Which meant that I didn't have time to make the trip.

9: Brig ↔ Spiez via Kandersteg:

Lake: No
Wow Moments: Yes
River: No
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: Yes

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 includes Brig to Thun via Kandersteg

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 includes a ride on 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, thereby 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 (route 15) to Zermatt and east (route 2) towards Andermatt.

From Spiez you can take trains on route 12 to Interlaken, where connections can be made with trains on to Luzern (route 9) or up to the Berner-Oberand (route 3), or head west to Zwiesimmen in order to take the spectacular route to Montreux (route 7).

10. Montreux ↔ Zweisimmen (Golden Pass):

Lake: Yes
Wow Moments: Yes
River: No
Bird’s Eye Views: Yes
Impressive Engineering: No

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 on the Lausanne <> Fribourg journey (route 11), 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.
Top 15 Swiss Journeys: The Golden Pass Line

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 which also includes the journeys between Luzern and Interlaken (route 9) and between Spiez and Interlaken (route 12) 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 (route 10).

Zweisimmen has hourly trains to Spiez, where connections are available to the Lotschberger trains to Brig (route 8) - so a wonderful and easy circular day trip route is available, if you will be staying in the Brig area.
Take a Brig > Montreux > Zweisimmen > Spiez > Brig via Kandersteg route.

Some of those trains on from Zweisimmen continue beyond Spiez to Interlaken, but others are direct to and from Bern.
Plus there are hourly trains from Lausanne and Geneva to Montreux.
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.

Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

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