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Ideas & Inspiration Twenty Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: part two
Lake Geneva from a train heading to Bern from Lausanne

Twenty Beautiful Swiss Train Journeys: part two

There are so many incredible railway routes a Top 10 didn't feel adequate, hence the list of these stunning journeys has a part two.

| Last Updated: about 13 hours ago
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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 a list of 20 incredible Swiss train rides.
Here is part one.

11. Interlaken ↔ Luzern (Golden Pass route)

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

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 up 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 includes the route of the Luzern - Interlaken Express

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...

...and 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 includes 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 Zweisimmen <> Montreux trains (route 7) 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 (route 3).

Luzern station is served by direct trains from Basel, Bern, Bellinzona, Lugano and from Geneva and from Zurich.
So 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, Day 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.

12. Martigny ↔ Vallorcine (the Mont Blanc Express route):

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

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.
A highlight of the journey by the Mont Blanc Express

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.
15 Beautiful Swiss Journeys The Mont Blanc Express route

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.

13: Lausanne ↔ Fribourg

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

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:

After departure from Lausanne 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 including the view over 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 (route 10)

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.

14. Thun ↔ Interlaken

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

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.

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 7 and the Interlaken <> Luzern route 9.

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 11 journey.

Connections:

From Interlaken Ost station, you can take the Luzern to Interlaken Express (route 9) 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 (route 3).

15: Arth-Goldau ↔ Rigi Kulm

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

There are two railway routes which ascend Mt Rigi and if you only have time for one then the VRB red route between the summit station and Vitznau has the more spectacular and lengthier views over Lake Lucerne, hence most visitors make a return trip via Vitznau when travelling between Luzern and Rigi Kulm at the top of the mountain.

Though you’ll miss out if you do this because the VRB route between Arth-Goldau and Rigi-Kulm offers a different bids-eye perspective over the lake...

Looking down on Arth-Goldau from the blue route of the Rigibahn

...and some glorious distant vistas as the train nears the summit.

On the train ascending Mt Rigi from Arth-Goldau

If you will be making the journey from Luzern with any of the rail passes available for Swiss travel then Luzern → Arth-Goldau → Rig-Staffell → walk up to Rigi-Kulm → Vitznau (sit on the right) → boat to Luzern is an easily managed, but fabulous day trip.

Connections:

Arth-Goldau station has at least an hourly rail services from a swathe of other destinations including, Bellinzona; Goschenen (connect for Andermatt, route 2); Locarno (connect for Domodossola, route 19); Lugano, St Gallen and Zurich; in most hours there also trains to and from Basel.

In the station an elevator leads to a bridge which house the terminus of the Rigibahn's blue trains, so making the transfer is straightforward and comfortable.
This building houses the elevator which leads to the Rigibahn station
The smart waiting room for the Rigibahn trains in Arth-Goldau
The station used by the mainline trains is just below that used by the Rigi trains

Good to know:

If you will be travelling with Eurail, InterRail or Saver Day Passes and want to avoid paying the reduced rate to travel on the Lake Luzern cruise boat; you can access the summit of Mt Rigi by making this connection in Arth-Goldau, you don't have to travel via Luzern.

16: Zurich ↔ Chur

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

What makes it special:

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 including 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 (route 4) and for trains to Disentis/Muster, where other easy connections are available into the trains taking the stunning route 2 on to Andermatt and beyond.

Some of the trains to Chur also depart from Basel.

17: Zurich ↔ Schaffhausen

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

What makes it special:

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 Most Fabulous Swiss Trains including 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 Fabulous Swiss Trains including Zurich to Schaffhausen

Good to know

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.

18: Visp ↔ Zermatt

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

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.

Visp to Zermatt is on the list of Top 15 Swiss railway journeys

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 (Andermatt - Disentis) 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.

19: Locarno ↔ Domodossola

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

What makes it special:

As mentioned in the Top 10 Tips for making the most of a journey on a Swiss Mountain Railway, the weather inevitably often plays a leading role, but despite it being less than perfect day when SMTJ took this journey, it didn’t particularly matter.
And that’s because this railway doesn’t scale the heights attained by the mountain railways further up this list.
Travelling through an Italian valley on the Centovali railway

It’s Italian name of the Centovali railway, the five valleys railway, gives a good hint as to what to expect on this journey.
In those valleys the view is inevitably across to the other side, so this route doesn’t have many birds eye views into the distance.

Though there are not especially beautiful views to the south of Domodossola, as the trains either ascend or descend between the town and the valleys through the mountains.
The railway is mainly constructed into the sloping valley walls, but rarely at an upper elevation, so this route isn’t above the tree line.
A typical view of an Italian village on the Centovalli Railway

On departing Domodossola the train will initially head across the floor of the valley, but from the right there are some nice views over the valley back towards the town as the railway ascends to Trontano.
Between there and the station at Gagnone-Orecesco, the railway travels through a valley with the views over to the left.

Then after departing that station and until Malesco, the train will travel across a plateau dotted with the charming villages that the line was built to serve.

On to Intragna comes the most scenic part of the trip as the railway threads through another valley, but on this part of the journey when heading east, the views switch to being over on the right.

However, this journey isn’t above the tree line, so the copious amounts of foliage near the track, can make taking pictures particularly tricky, it is a journey best enjoyed on a crisp, sunny winter's day when the leaves will have fallen from the trees and snow will be on the ground.

Though fortunately one location where the vegetation doesn't block the views is by the Lago Palagnedra between Borgnone Cadanza and Palagnedra stations; this highlight of the journey can be seen on the right when heading towards Locarno.
Passing by Lago Palagnedra on the Domodossola to Locarno train

So taking this route adds up to very pleasant, but not jaw-dropping journey, totally worth doing if you happen to be in the area on a sunny day; there are videos on YouTube taken in fine weather, which showcase an utterly charming experience.

However, in SMTJ’s opinion if you will be holidaying in the northern Swiss cities such as Basel or Zurich; think twice before heading off on the fairly long journey to make a day trip to this railway.
There are other railways which are not only more easily accessible from those cities, they’re more spectacular too.

Good to know:

Most of this route is within Italy so why is on a list of Switzerland's most beautiful railway journeys? Well the Swiss tourist departments make the most of the fact that around a third of the route is on the Swiss side of the border, because most guides you can pick up in Switzerland for its railways include this entire end-to-end route.
Hence Swiss Travel Passes and Saver Day Passes can be used on cross-border trains to Domodossola, which is at the Italian end of the route.
In Domodossola the part of the station used by the Centovali trains is beneath the mainline tracks/platforms.

Connections:

Domodossola station has trains from Milano and Brig; and some of those trains commence their journeys in Bern and also call at Thun and Spiez (connect for Interlaken).
One or two Swiss IC trains per day from Basel have their journeys extended to Domodossola.
The EC trains on the Basel/Geneve to Milano routes also call in Domodossola; though taking these trains will incur a fairly expensive reservation fee if you will be using rail passes.

Locarno has benefitted from improved rail connections in recent years; it now has mostly hourly trains from Milano, so a Milano > Locarno > Domodossola > Milano loop is an easy day trip.
Locarno also has direct trains from Basel and from Zurich; as well as frequent local trains from Bellinzona and Lugano.

20: Lausanne ↔ Visp

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

What makes it special:

The railways to the east of Lausanne offer two contrasting views over Lake Geneva / Lac Leman, the line towards Fribourg (route 3) ascends through the vineyards and offers more distant and therefore more spectacular views (see above), but the line taken by the trains heading to and from Brig via Visp runs closer to the shore.
For most of the sections of the journey between Lausanne and Vevey and then between Montreux and Villeneuve, the railway is right beside the shore line; and provides Switzerland with its closest equivalent of coastal train journey.
By the shore of Lake Geneva south of Montreux
Though some of the most loveliest scenery comes when the trains pass through the lakeside towns.
Approaching Vevey station, looking right
When heading south from Montreux, look out on the right for the view of the Chataeau de Chillon.

However, the highlights of the journey aren’t over once the train leaves the lake behind, as the railway follows a similar path to the River Rhone through the massive glacial valley across the Valais.
Crossing the River Rhone to the north of Sion

This is the warmest area of Switzerland therefore the railway threads through numerous vineyards.
Travelling through the vineyards between Sion and Visp

Future additions:

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 30 list of the country's Most Beautiful Train Journeys.
From what can be seen on YouTube and Instagram it's highly likely that the steam-powered Brienz Rothorn Bahn will merit an inclusion and the railway up Monte Generoso is also on the next trip wish-list.

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.

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Author

Simon Harper

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

ShowMeTheJourney

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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This second version of ShowMeTheJourney is exciting and new, so we are genuinely thrilled that you are here and reading this, but we also need your help.

We’re striving not to let anything get in the way of providing the most useful service possible, hence a facility has been set up with DonorBox which can be used to support the running costs and make improvements.

Instead of advertising or paywalls, your financial support will make a positive difference to delivering an enhanced service, as there’s a lot of ideas which we want to make happen.

So if you have found the info provided here to be useful, please consider saying thank you.