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Ideas & Inspiration Where to stay to best explore Switzerland by train

Where to stay to best explore Switzerland by train

Discover your optimum location for a Swiss Holiday, so that you can travel on the railways on your wish-list as simply and cheaply as possible!

| Last Updated: 9 days ago
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It's clear from the questions asked by users of the travel planning service that the choice of wonderful rail experiences to be enjoyed on the railways of Switzerland can be overwhelming.

How best to experience them can also be confusing thanks to the multiple types of rail passes which are intended to enable visitors to Switzerland to save money compared to the costs of buying tickets.
The passes also have significant variations in price, but what matters more is the differences in how they can be used.
Some of the passes work out to be better value for money, only if specific routes are taken, while others are only valid in certain areas. Note that there isn't a Eurail pass solely for use in Switzerland, when Eurail is used in the guide it's referring to how 'global' types of Eurail passes can be used, when travelling through Switzerland.

Hence a choice of location for a Swiss holiday can matter, not only to the cost, but also how easy it will be to take the ultimate journeys on a wish list.
With trains departing at least hourly on every route, plus the connections between them designed to be as simple as possible, having easy access to any Swiss station opens up the possibility of experiencing the best of Switzerland by train.
However, it's best to avoid assuming that if because the charms of an Alpine village are irresistible, that it will also be the optimum location for exploring the routes you also want to take.
If you prioritize choosing a scenic location, you may then discover that taking more than one scenic journey from it can be tricky and comparatively expensive.

So this guide features eight locations which can be the optimum choice for a Swiss holiday:

  1. Basel = access to multiple locations and routes across Switzerland + easy trips into France and Germany.
  2. Chur = the Albula and Bernina routes + other long scenic journeys, with no additional costs for pass users.
  3. Interlaken = access to Europe's highest station + numerous cable cars, but they come at a cost.
  4. Lausanne = Five mountain railways within 50 minutes + easy access to Gruyères.
  5. Locarno = stay in a lakeside town + easy access to stunning experiences at three other lakes.
  6. Lucerne = three mountain top railways + multiple cable cars, funiculars and adventure parks within easy reach.
  7. Olten = Simple access to 11 mountain railways + room rates which tend to be comparatively inexpensive.
  8. Zurich = easy access by train + day trips to pretty much anywhere in Switzerland, from Tirano to Zermatt.

from Basel

With its location in the north west corner of Switzerland, Basel may not seem an obvious location from which to explore the Swiss mountains by train, after all the Alps are some distance away.
However, fast express trains fan out from Basel's main station on multiple routes across Switzerland.
Hence it makes a great base for those who want to experience scenic journeys in multiple different Swiss areas, without having to switch between overnight locations.
Basel is also a particularly good spot from which to put Swiss Travel Passes, which can be used across the Swiss rail network, to good use.

That's because Basel has direct trains to:

Travelling to Basel

When travelling to Basel there are hourly direct trains from Zurich airport, plus direct day trains from Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt (city centre and airport), Koln/Cologne, Milan and Paris; and night trains from Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague.

Using rail passes

Thanks to the many routes which can be taken to and from Basel, it can be a great idea to exploit the money saving potential of Swiss Travel, InterRail for Switzerland and Saver Day Passes, to spend beautiful days travelling on multiple scenic routes.
The logic being that because you'll need to travel some distance from Basel, you may as well make the most of it when you get there.

Multi-train itinerary ideas
All of these routes can be completed in a single day.

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

2: The Glacier Express route #1: Basel → Visp → Andermatt → Disentis/Muster → Chur → Zurich → Basel

3: The Glacier Express route #2: Basel (depart 09:33) → Chur → St Moritz (depart 15:37) → Landquart (via Klosters) → Zurich → Basel

4: The Centovali Express and The Gotthard Express route: Basel (depart 10:28) → Domodossola → Locarno → Basel

5: The Mount Rigi route: Basel → Luzern →** boat to Vitznau →** Rigi-Kulm →** Arth-Goldau → Fluelen → boat to Luzern** → Basel

6: The Bernese Oberland Railway: Basel → Interlaken Ost →* Grindelwald →* Kleine Scheidegg →* Jungfraujoch →* Kleine Scheidegg →* Lauterbrunnen →* Interlaken Ost → Basel

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

8: The Mont Blanc Express route and The Lotschberger route: Basel → Biel → Lausanne → Martigny → Le Châtelard → Martigny → Brig → Thun or Bern via Kandersteg → Basel

Journeys marked with an * are those on which Eurail, InterRail and Swiss Travel Pass users have to pay a discounted ticket price.
Plus users of Saver Day Passes don't qualify for the discount unless they also have the Half Fare Card.

Journeys marked with an ** are those on which only Eurail and InterRail users have to pay a discounted ticket price.

Thanks to its plethora of international rail connections, with direct trains from France, from Germany, from Italy and The Netherlands, Basel is a great base for exploring Switzerland while on a pan-European itinerary with a 'global' type of Eurail and InterRail pass.

A day trip or two to France

Another good reason for a holiday in Basel, is that you can combine exploration of Switzerland by train, with some easy day trips to France.

Frequent French TER trains link Basel SBB station to the charming town of Colmar and the beautiful city of Strasbourg – so it’s simple to combine both locations on one day of exploration.
The train journey to Strasbourg takes less than 90 minutes and on the way there the trains make stops in Mulhouse and Colmar.

For those with an interest in railways, one of the world’s greatest rail museums, the Cité Du Train is a very easy day trip from Basel thanks to the TER trains which depart at least hourly to Mulhouse.
From in front of its main station Tram line 3 departs every 10 – 15 minutes and the journey to the Musées stop – which is a 10 min walk from the museum entrance, takes around 15 – 20mins.

The end-to-end journey between Basel SBB station and the Cité Du Train will take around 1hr 15mins.
Or you could stop off to see the museum on the way to or from Colmar or Strasbourg.

Tickets for journeys by the TER trains won’t cost any more if you book them last minute at the station, but something to remember is that you have to stamp your ticket in the machines by the entrance to the platforms/tracks.
It’s easy to forget, because you don’t have to do this when boarding any other train at Basel’s main station.

A fabulous day in Germany’s Black Forest

If you will be spending a holiday in Basel, then a trip to the The Black Forest by train is a must, as it's closer to the city than any Swiss mountain.

The easiest means of experiencing The Black Forest from Basel is to make the journey to the incredible Schauinslandbahn which can proudly claim to be Germany’s longest cable car ride.

The end-to-end journey from Basel city centre involves:
(1) Taking a Regio train from Basel Bad Bf station to Freiburg – cheaper and not much slower than taking the express trains.

(2) On arrival at Freiburg (Breisgau) hbf, don’t head to the main exit, instead head up to the bridge across the station, which will be located beyond the rear of the train – the tram stops are up on the bridge
Take tram line 2 (direction Gunterstal) to its final stop.

(3) At the Gunterstal tram stop you can transfer to bus line 21 (direction Horben).
Bus line 21 stops at the funicular base station – ‘Schauinslandbahn Talstation'.

This sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, all the connections run fairly frequently.

You can be tucking into a slice of the iconic gateaux and taking in the stunning views at the top of the mountain, one of the highest peaks in The Black Forest, within 2hr 30 mins of heading off from Basel.

from Chur

The station in Chur is an interchange between the Swiss national rail network and the network of routes operated by the Rhaetian Railway.

Chur may lack the chocolate box appeal of a Swiss Alpine village, but it's a city surrounded by mountains, so a very good reason for a holiday in the Chur is the easy access into those mountains which the railways provide.
It's the only city from which both the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express trains depart from.
A day return journey to Tirano by the Bernina Express in both directions is possible from Chur.

The routes taken by trains between Chur and...

...St Moritz, along the Albula route

...and Zurich

are among the most spectacular Swiss rail journeys.

Plus when taking the regular Rhaetian Railway trains, easy connections are available to two of what ShowMeTheJourney ranks in its Top 5 Swiss journeys.
Make transfers at Samedan at Pontresina to take the amazing route to Tirano through the Bernina Pass.

And/or take the route through the gorge to Disentis/Mustér

where minutes later a Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn train will head off on the incredible journey to Andermatt, and on towards Brig.

So Chur is a second to none location for those who want the focus of their Swiss holiday to be easy access to long scenic journeys by train.

The Rhaetian Railways routes are also included in multiple Swiss rail holiday packages on which ShowMeTheJourney users can obtain a 5% discount, including all of the Alpine Tours.

To Switzerland's longest mountain coaster ride

Riding the trains isn't the only incredible experience in the Chur area.
The Pradaschier Adventure Park, home to Switzerland's longest mountain coaster ride. is a 15 min journey on bus line/route 182, which departs every 30 mins from the bus station that's above Chur railway station.

Using rail passes

The railway loops around the village of Wassen The railway loops around the village of Wassen

Chur is also an exceptionally easy location in which to use rail passes as journeys by the regular Rhaetian Railway trains are fully covered by Eurail, InterRail, Swiss Travel and Saver Day Passes.
Users of Eurail, InterRail and Swiss Travel Passes only have to pay the reservation fees to travel by the Bernina and Glacier Express trains, which are less than a third of the total cost, which have to be paid by travellers without rail passes.
Window seats on these trains can sell out months in advance, but rail pass users can hop and off the regular trains along their routes and experience the same wonderful landscapes.

The access to multiple trains per with day also enables an easy and wonderful circular route to be taken on the Rhaetian Ralways; Chur → St Moritz → Klosters → Landquart → Chur.

The fact that Eurail, InterRail, Saver Day Passes and Swiss Travel Passes can also be used at no extra cost on the regular Mattherhorn Gotthard Bahn trains enables onward connections to its route at Disentis/Mustér station.
This opens up the possibility of all day journeys from Chur on incredible routes, which are fully covered by the rail passes.
It's possible to follow the western side of the Glacier Express route, by hopping on and off the regular trains between Chur and Zermatt.
Another fabulous idea is to experience the wonderful Gotthard route between Göschenen and Zug, pictured above, by taking spectacular circular route fully covered by the rail passes: Chur → Disentis/Mustér → Andermatt → Göschenen → Thalwil via Zug → Chur

To Chur by train

Chur has frequent direct trains from Basel, from Zurich and now from Bern.

There are hourly trains from the station at Zurich airport, though they take a roundabout route*, so making a connection at the main station in Zurich is a faster journey.
*=Though they aren't available until October 29th.
There are also two direct trains per day on Saturday and Sunday from Geneva airport.

Chur is also served by direct German ICE trains which typically take a Hamburg → Hannover → Frankfurt (Main) → Karlsruhe → Freiburg → Basel - Zurich → Chur route.
Though these services are altered until Dec 9th, with destinations in Germany switched from Hamburg and Hannover to Berlin and Leipzig.

There are also trains between Chur and Buchs which connect with trains on the Zurich - Buchs ↔ Innsbruck - Graz / Salzburg / Vienna / Budapest / Bratislava route.

Plus Tirano is an easy train journey from Milan and with the stations in Tirano steps away from each other, heading to Chur from northern Italy is both incredible and easily done.

from Interlaken

Interlaken is the gateway to the incredible Jungfrau Region thanks to the rail connections available at Interlaken Ost station.
The trains on the Bernese Oberland Railway give acccess through Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen to the rail route on to Europe's highest station at Jungfraujoch via Kleine Scheidegg - and to Mürren for the cable cars on to Schilthorn.
A network of cable car routes also lead off from Grindelwald:

Though the wonders of the Jungfrau Region come at a comparatively high cost, the routes beyond Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen are among the more expensive Swiss rail journeys, with the JB railway on from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch topping the price per kilometer in Switzerland list!
Though if you won't mind an early ascent, it's possible to save money with a Good Morning Ticket.
Most of the journey on from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch is in a tunnel, there are station stops carved into the mountain with windows, but the other journeys south of Interlaken are fantastic..

...between Grindelwald and Kleine Scheidegg...

...between Kleine Scheidegg and Lauterbrunnen...

...between Interlaken and Grindelwald.

An often-overlooked gem of a railway is the route up to lovely Schynige Platte.
Connect at Wilderswill, which is only a 4 minute ride from Interlaken on the Bernese Oberland Railway,

Interlaken is also included in multiple Swiss rail holiday packages on which ShowMeTheJourney users can obtain a 5% discount!

  • The Best Of Switzerland themed holiday
  • the Famous Mountain Peaks By Train themed holiday
  • the Classic Grand Tour Plus Jungfraujoch
  • the Golden Pass Holiday - Panoramic Round Trip
  • the Hidden Treasures Of The Grand Tour

To Interlaken by train

Interlaken Ost is a junction station, with two routes other than the Bernese Oberland Railway, which is why choosing accommodation in the town within easy walking distance of this station is the way to go.
Those two other railways which serve Interlaken are;

  1. the Zentralbahn which connects Interlaken with Luzern/Lucerne.
  2. the main line into the town from Spiez used by trains on the Basel → Bern → Interlaken route; some of which have commenced their journeys in Germany.
    So Interlaken typically has direct trains from Berlin and from Frankfurt (Main), Karlsruhe and Freiburg.
    There are also now direct trains from Zurich airport and the main station in Zurich to Interlaken.

Connections are available at Spiez with trains to and from:

  • Milano via Stresa and Domodossola
  • Visp - connect for Zermatt
  • Zweisimmen - connect for Montreux, though the new Golden Pass Express service offers a direct link between Interlaken and Montreux
  • Brig - taking the Lotschberger route via Kandersteg is the way to go.

Beyond the Jungfrau Region

There are multiple delightful railways and attractions which are strung along the the Zentralbahn which connects Interlaken with Luzern/Lucerne.

They are, west to east:

To Montreux

Interlaken is also on the 'Golden Pass route' taken by the new Golden Pass Express service.
If it is sold out, or if you want to avoid paying the more expensive charges to travel by it, hourly alternative connections are available by changing trains in Spiez and Zweisimmen.
The route on to Montreux from Zweisimmen by the MOB Railway is wonderful.

Also many of the trains operated by the MOB, which don't incur additional charges, are charmingly unconventional; its 'Belle-Epoque' trains resemble miniature versions of The Orient Express!

To Oeschinensee

Oeschinensee is a beautiful lake surrounding by multiple Alpine attractions including hiking trails and a mountain coaster ride.
As this guide to visiting Oeschinensee explains, it can be accessed by taking a funicular, which is around a kilometer walk from Kandersteg station.
The journey from Interlaken to Kandersteg only requires one change of train in Spiez and the journey on from Spiez happens to be rather lovely.

Using rail passes

If you will be planning a holiday in Interlaken take care with your choice of rail pass, because how Swiss Travel Passes can be used in the Jungfrau Region differs from how they can be used anywhere else in Switzerland.
They only provide for a 25% discount on:

  • the WAB railway beyond Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen on to Kleine Scheidegg and Wengen.
  • the JB railway up to Jungfraujoch station from Kleine Scheidegg
  • the SPB railway to Schynige Platte

How InterRail (and Eurail) passes can be used in the Jungfrau Region is even more restrictive, they also only give a 25% discount on those three railways, plus they only give a 50% discount on the trains between Interlaken and Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Mürren.
So if you will be panning on spending time in Switzerland on a multi-country itinerary with the 'Global' type of Eurail and InterRail pass, other locations in Switzerland will provide better value for money.
Though a somewhat odd feature of using Eurail, InterRail and Swiss Travel Passes from Interlaken is that they cover longer journeys to the likes of Luzern, Montreux and Zermatt.

The Berner-Oberland Pass

Interlaken is at the center of the area in which the Berner-Oberland Pass can be used, so it can be a great option when taking a holiday in Interlaken.
It covers the full cost of travel on many routes and services on which users of Eurail, InterRail and Swiss Travel Passes can only travel at a a discount, or by paying the full price.
These include:

  • the trains beyond Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen on to Kleine Scheidegg,
  • all of the cable car routes from Grindelwald, including the Eiger Express to Eigergletscher,
  • the trains between Eigergletscher and Kleine Scheidegg,
  • the trains between Wilderswill and Schynige Platte
  • the Brienz Rothorn Bahn
  • the funiculars in Beatenberg and Oeschinensee
  • the cable cars in Meiringen to the Alpen Tower

The railways fully covered by the Berner-Oberland Pass, which other rail passes* also include at no extra cost, include:

  • the route to Luzern
  • the Interlaken - Spiez - Thun - Bern route
  • the Lotschberger route between Spiez and Brig via Kandersteg
  • the Golden Pass route between Spiez and both Gstaad and Lenk
  • Lauterbrunnen <> Mürren *= also fully covered by Swiss Travel Passes.

The Berner-Oberland Pass and the Swiss Travel Pass both give a 50% discount on the cable car between Mürren and Schithorn.

Routes on which Berner-Oberland Pass users can travel at a 50% discount, but in contrast are fully covered by the Eurail, InterRail and Swiss Travel Passes, include:

  • Luzern <> Engelberg, (the Berner-Oberland Passes also cover 50% of the Mt Titlis cable cars)
  • Gstadd <> Montreux
  • Brig <> Andermatt

Berner Oberland Pass users can also travel between Eigergletscher and Jungfraujoch on tickets which are around 50% of the usual cost of the end-to-end journey from Interlaken.

The Jungfrau Travel Pass (summer)

Between Interlaken and Jungfraujoch, the Jungfrau Travel Pass is a match for how the Berner-Oberland Pass can be used between these two locations.
So the the Jungfrau Travel Pass covers;

  • the trains beyond Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen on to Kleine Scheidegg,
  • all of the cable car routes from Grindelwald, including the Eiger Express to Eigergletscher,
  • the trains between Eigergletscher and Kleine Scheidegg,
  • the trains between Wilderswill and Schynige Platte
  • Lauterbrunnen <> Mürren; and a 50% discount on the cable car on to Schilthorn

In line with the Berner-Oberland Pass, users of the Jungfrau Travel Pass can also travel between Eigergletscher and Jungfraujoch at a special price, but only during June to August.

So the area of validity is smaller than the Berner-Oberland Pass, but this is reflected in the cheaper cost of a Jungfrau Travel Pass.
Summer 2023 prices;

  • 3 days; Jungfrau = CHF = 190; Berner = 230
  • 4 days; Jungfrau = CHF = 215; Berner = 270
  • 6 days; Jungfrau = CHF = 270; Berner = 340
  • 8 days; Jungfrau = CHF = 310; Berner = 380

The Top of Europe Winter Pass

Travelling with a Top Of Europe rail pass Travelling with a Top Of Europe rail pass

The only rail pass which fully covers one return journey to Jungfraujoch is the Top of Europe Winter pass.

Aside from that it is valid on the same railways and cable cars as the Jungfrau Travel Passes.

A full price Adult pass valid for 3 days is priced at CHF 249 (around €245) which at face value seems expensive, but as a full price return ticket by train between Interlaken and Jungfraujoch will cost more than CHF 200, the pass is actually good value for money.
Using Top Of Europe passes for three day trips, for example to (1) Jungfraujoch, (2) Schynige Platt and (3) to ride the Grindelwald First cable car, will save more than CHF 200.

Though if you'll want to travel on other Swiss Mountain Railways or visit other areas of Switzerland you'll also save money if you combine the Top of Europe Winter Pass with other Passes/Cards.

from Lausanne

The Geneve - Lausanne ↔ Visp railway is one of the most scenic routes taken by fast Swiss trains.

It is also a necklace strung with jewels of scenic railways, which connect with it at multiple stations.

Most of these mountain railways are within a 50 minute train ride from Lausanne.
So the city is a great base for a holiday for those who want to experience multiple beautiful locations, without travelling long-distances.
Also the railway between Lausanne and Visp which provides the access to multiple scenic railways, doesn't have direct trains from Basel or Zurich, so it's easier to explore western Switzerland from the city.

To Lausanne

Lausanne has up to three trains per hour from the station at Genve-Aeroport and one or two trains per hour from Zurich airport.
The city also has direct international trains from Milan and from Paris.

Though a Basel to Lausanne journey requires a change of train in Biel/Bienne, so journeys from Germany to Lausanne by train are more complicated than travelling from Germany to the likes of Chur, Interlaken and Lucerne.

To the scenic railways on the Geneva to Brig route

A view from a Panoramic train operated by the MOB A view from a Panoramic train operated by the MOB

From west to east the following connections are available by direct trains from Lausanne which depart once or twice per hour.

At Nyon - 26 mins from Lausanne

The Nyon St Cerque Morez Railway goes up to the popular resort at St-Cerque

At Morges - 10 mins from Lausanne

There is a branch line operated by BAM between the main line station at Morges and the village of Apples.
At Apples connections are available to another BAM line which operates to the village of L’isle-Mont-La-Ville

At Montreux - 20 mins from Lausanne

The mainline trains share the station in Montreux with two other railways, the MOB and the MVR.

The MOB - Montreux Oberland Bernois Railway operates it's 'Golden Pass' route as far as Zweisimmen, which is included on the list of Switzerland's most beautiful rail journeys.

It provides multiple train services from Montreux including 'The Chocolate Train' and the new Golden Pass Express service which is direct between Montreux and Interlaken.

Three different types of train are used on its regular hourly service including Belle-Epoque trains, which resemble miniature versions of the Orient Express and the Panoramic trains, pictured above.

The MVR trains from Monteux travel up to the mountain summit at Rochers-De-Naye.

At Aigle - 32 mins from Lausanne

TPC operates trains on three routes from the station in Aigle to:

  • Champery
  • Les Diablerets
  • Leysin.
    All of them offer stunning scenery, which has presumably little changed since this video was captured in the 1960s!
    The journeys to the end of each line take less than an hour so all three of them can be explored on a memorable day trip from Lausanne - this is top of SMTJ's wish list on our return to Switzerland!

At Martigny - 49 mins from Lausanne

TMR operates two routes from the station at Martigny:
1, The St Bernard Express route, which provides the access to Verbier/4 Vallées
2. The route of 'The Mont Blanc Express' to Vallorcine in France, with connections on to Chamonix and St Gervais; the Swiss border station is the stop before Vallorcine at Le Châtelard-Frontière.

At Visp - 1hr 32 mins from Lausanne

Connect for MGB trains to Zermatt, where you can transfer to the GornergratBahn.

At Brig - 1hr 39 mins from Lausanne

Connect for the MGB trains to Andermatt and for the Lotschberger trains to Speiz via Kandersteg.

To Gruyères (and Luzern)

Gruyères/La Gruyère has a station served by trains operated by tpf.

Gruyères old town is on top of a hill, which is a 15 to 30 min walk up a fairly steep path from the station, but bus route/line 260 links the station with the car park towards the top of the hill, at least hourly.

Two trains per hour typically operate between Palézieux station and Gruyères and there are two or local trains per hour between Lausanne and Palézieux, which also offer an amazing view of Lake Geneva.

The end-to end journey between Lausanne and Gruyères typically takes between 1hr 20mins and 1hr 30mins.

Gruyères also has hourly trains which travel to and from Montbovon, which is also served by hourly trains, operated by MOB, on its Montreux - Gstaad - Zweisimmen route.
So an easy and beautiful round trip is Lausanne → Palézieux → Gruyères → Montbovon → Montreux → Lausanne

Palézieux is also a station call on the Lausanne - Fribourg - Bern - Luzern route taken by hourly IR trains.
So Luzern, and the scenic railways in its surrounding area within easy reach of Lausanne; the journey takes around 2hr 15mins.

Day trips to France

Lausanne has direct trains over the border to Annemasse in France and the trains which typically depart at 09:21 and 11:21 offer good connections on to charming Annecy.
The end to end journey will take around three hours and trains with good connections back to Lausanne typically depart from Annecy hourly between around 15:44 and 19:44.

To the Mont Blanc Tramway

The Mont Blanc Tramway is the highest railway in the French Alps and it's an easy journey from Lausanne, though it's a good idea to buy your ticket(s) in advance, to ensure that you have a place(s) on the trains with the good connections.

The route is:
(1) Depart Lausanne for Martigny, typically at 09:50 or 10:50.
(2) At Martigny board 'Mont Blanc Express trains' to Vallorcince.

(3 At Vallorcine simple as can be connections will be available into a train on to St Gervais.
(4) These trains arrive in St Gervais at the same station that the Mont Blanc Tramway will depart from.

Using rail passes

The Léman - Alpes Pass covers a network of rail and bus routes in north-west Switzerland
The primary rail routes included are;

  • Geneve - Nyon - Morges - Lausanne - Vevey - Montreux - Villeneuve - Aigle - Bex - St Maurice
  • the routes between Lausanne and Gruyères
  • Montreux <> Rochers-De-Naye, operated by MVR
  • the Montreux - Montbovon - Gstaad - Zweisimmen - Lenk route, operated by MOB
  • the trains on the three separate routes between Aigle and the resorts of Champery, Les Diablerets and Leysin. operated by TPC
  • the BVB railway route between Bex and Bretaye via Villars-sur-Ollon, also operated by TPC.
    Also included are all the boat routes on Lake Geneva.

What's unusual about this pass is that with a 5 day pass you get 2 days of unlimited free travel, but on the other 3 days you pay 50% of the ticket prices.
Similarly with a 7 day pass, you get 3 days of free travel, but on the other 4 days you pay 50% of the ticket prices.

Travelling further with other rail passes

If while in Lausanne, you'll want to take multiple journeys beyond the area covered by the Léman - Alpes Pass, you can use other rail passes.
Both Swiss Travel Passes and InterRail Passes cover;

  • the full 'Golden Pass route' from Montreux and beyond Zweisimmen to Interlaken and Luzern; an idea is to travel to Luzern via Interlaken and then return to Lausanne on a fast train.
  • a return journey to Zermatt, or Andermatt
  • those three TPC routes from Aigle and the route from Bex
  • the routes to and from Gruyères
  • the mountain railways from Morges and Nyon
  • the Mont Blanc Express route as far as the border station at Le Châtelard-Frontière.

Though if you don't want to take advantage of the Swiss Museum Pass benefits included with the Swiss Travel Pass and meet the InterRail criteria, the balance tips towards the InterRail pass for Switzerland.
Particularly as the Montreux <> Rochers-De-Naye route is fully covered by InterRail, but Swiss Travel Passes only give a 50% discount on this line

Lausanne also makes for a great stopover location, while on a multi-country, Eurail or InterRail itinerary with a Global Pass.
All of the routes covered by the InterRail Pass for Switzerland will be available, plus the suggested journeys on to Annecy and St Gervais in France - though you'll need to book tickets to ride the Mont Blanc Tramway.

from Locarno

Locarno occupies a fabulous location on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore and 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.

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.

Locarmo is also included in multiple Swiss rail holiday packages on which ShowMeTheJourney users can obtain a 5% discount, including the Footsteps of James Bond and The Hidden Treasures packges.

Connect in Bellinzona

Frequent local trains shuttle between Locarno and the junction station at Bellinzona.

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.

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.

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.

The airport which does have a rail link with Bellinzona is Milano Malpensa, hourly trains complete the journey in around two hours.

A gateway to the Swiss and Italian lakes

To Lugano by train when taking a holiday in Locarno To Lugano by train when taking a holiday in 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

Three other stunning lakes, Como, Lugano, and Luzern, can be accessed by direct trains from Locarno.

To Luino

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.

To Lugano

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.

To Como

Como is another Italian lakeside destination which now has improved access to and from Locarno by train is
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.

To Luzern

Or take a direct train from Locarno to Luzern for Lake Lucerene on the stunning older Gotthard route via Goschenen.

To Mt Rigi

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

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.

To Monte Tamaro

Thanks to a connection at Giubiasco station it's an easy journey from Locarno to Rivera-Bironico station. which is within a 10 minute walk of the cable car which leads up to the Monte Tamaro adventure park where the multiple attractions include a mountain coaster.

Using rail passes from Locarno

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 these two national passes for Switzerland will only be worthwhile if you take the longer journeys from Locarno, such as those suggested below, or trips to Luzern and Mt Rigi.
The Swiss Travel Pass covers the railways on Mt Rigi and 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.

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 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.

A day trip to Zermatt

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.

A looping route which is wholly scenic

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

from Luzern / Lucerne

Switzerland has eight mountain railways which were solely constructed so that tourists can admire the views from their respective summits without strapping on climbing or hiking gear.

  1. The Gornergrat Bahn in Zermatt
  2. The Monte Generoso Railway near Lugano
  3. The Schynige Platte Bahn near Interlaken
  4. The Jungfrau Bahn
  5. The line between Montreux and Rochers-der-Naye
  6. The two routes of the Rigi Bahn
  7. The Pilatusbahn
  8. The Brienz Rothorn Bahn
    The latter three can all be easily accessed by direct trains from Luzern station in under 90 minutes.
  • to Arth-Goldau for the Rigi Bahn
  • to Alpnachstad for the Pilatus Bahn
  • to Brienz for the Brienz Rothorn Bahn
    No other Swiss town or city has direct trains to more than two of these railways.

There are also boats from the piers just outside Luzern station to Alpnachstad and to Vitznau and Weggis which give alternative access to the Rigi Bahn.

The boats on the Luzernsee, Lake Lucerne, also connect Luzern to:

  • the funicular up to the Burgenstock resort
  • Fuelen, which has a station on the Gotthard route to Göschenen (for Andermatt), Bellinzona and Locarno

So Luzern is a great base for a scenic Swiss holiday for those who would rather not spend all day travelling through epic landscapes.
Though as you'll see below, if that's your idea of heaven on earth, you can also take easy longer trips by train from Luzern.

Great for kids (and adults) who enjoy a thrill ride
Mountain coasters which give similar thrills to a toboggan ride when there's no snow and ice, have appeared in multiple locations in Switzerland, not all of which can be easily accessed by train.
However, three of those which are reachable from a station, can be easily accessed from Luzern.

  1. Take trains from Luzern to Arth-Goldau and connect there for trains on to Sattel-Aegeri, from where the cable car leads up to the Sattel-Hockstuckli adventure park.
  2. The cable car up to the Brunni-Engelberg toboggan run, is within a 20 minute walk of Engelberg station, which can be accessed from Luzern on the hourly Engelberg Express trains.
  3. The Fräkigaudi toboggan is part of the Fräkmüntegg Experience adventure park on Mt Pilatus.
    Take Trolleybus Line 1 from the front of the station (direction Obernau Dorf).
    Then at the Linde Pilatus stop you can connect to bus line 15 which stops directly in front of the gondola station at Pilatus-Bahnen.
    Or travel the opposite direction and make the first stage of the journey, taking the train from Luzern to Alpnachstad and then take the Pilatisbahn to the summit, for the cable car down to Fräkmüntegg.

The cable cars and funiculars which can be most easily accessed from Lucerne are:

  • The boats from Luzern go to Weggis for the cable car route up Mt Rigi, though it's a fairly steep walk up from the boat pier
  • The cable cars from the base station in Engelberg, which gave access to the unique rotating cars up to the summit of Mt Titlis, are within a 20 minute walk of Engelberg station.
  • The Stoosbahn is the the world's steepest funicular railway and it can be accessed from Schwyz rail station by buses on route 501.
  • The Stanserhorn with its double-deck cable cars.

Lucerne / Luzern is also included in multiple Swiss rail holiday packages on which ShowMeTheJourney users can obtain a 5% discount!

  • The Best Of Switzerland themed holiday
  • the Magical Moments themed holiday
  • the Classic Grand Tour
  • the Classic Grand Tour Plus Jungfraujoch
  • the Hidden Treasures tour
  • the Grand Tour: Winter Edition
  • the Golden Pass Holidays

travelling further from Luzern by train

For those not averse to longer journeys, particularly when they happen to be stunning, another tick in the box for choosing Lucerne as a location for a Swiss Holiday, is the easy access by train to several of other locations on this guide.

The Luzern - Interlaken Express trains which depart hourly live up to their name, so by connecting at Interlaken Ost station, it's possible to spend most of a day in the Jungfrau Region on a day trip from Luzern.
The wonderful journey to and from Interlaken takes 1hr 50 minutes in each direction.

Or you can continue beyond Interlaken and make additional connections in Speiz and Zweisimmen to ride the entire 'Golden Pass route' to Montreux.

Then connect in Lausanne for a fast train back to Luzern.
You can leave Luzern after 10:00 and return at around 19:00.
And the journey from Lausanne back to Luzern also has a fantastic beginning.

Every other hour there are direct RE (Traverso) trains from Luzern which take a spectacular route to Locarno.
Or in most hours it's possible to be in Locarno in under two hours by taking a faster IC or EC train and connecting in Bellinzona.
The fast trains share some of the scenic sections of the route that the RE trains take.

Chur can be reached in under 2hr 15 mins by taking the trains which will be typically heading to Konstanz and connecting at Thalwil station for trains which take a wonderful route on to Chur.

Accessing Luzern by train

Luzern typically has two two trains per hour from the station at Zurich airport, with the journey only taking between 50 minutes and an hour, these trains also call at the main station in Zurich.
There are also hourly trains from Geneve-Aeroport station, which have a journey time of around 3hr 10min.

Those trains from Geneva also call in Lausanne and Bern, plus there are typically two trains per hour to Lucerne from Basel.

Luzern also has direct international trains, there are typically two trains per day to and from Milano and a daily train from Frankfurt (Main) which also calls in Karlsruhe and Freiburg.
Though this train takes a different route in the other direction, so connections are required in Basel when heading to Germany from Luzern by train.
Also connect in Basel when travelling to and from Amsterdam and Paris.

The Tell Pass

Looking down on Andermatt from a train heading to Oberalp Looking down on Andermatt from a train heading to Oberalp

The Tell Pass, named after William Tell, can be a great value pass if you will be spending an extended period of time in Lucerne / Luzern.
It covers 2nd class rail travel, buses, lake boats and the majority of the cable cars and funiculars in central Switzerland.
The prices are cheaper in winter because the heavy snow and ice causes some of the mountain railways to close for the season.
Hence there is a summer map of validity; and a winter map which show the validity of the routes covered by the pass.
They include:

The Tell Pass is available for unlimited travel, for 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 consecutive days in 2nd class, with children's passes a flat rate of 30CHF.
It can be booked online or at a travel desk in Swiss stations, or from tourist offices.
Prices are cheaper in winter, as some of the mountain railways will be closed.
As with the other passes for Switzerland, whether a Tell Pass will save you money depends on how it's used.
As a comparison a 2nd class Adult Tell Pass valid for 2 days, costs around 7CHF more than a Golden Round Trip on Mt Pilatus + a return rail trip to the summit of Mt Rigi.
So you would only need to take one more journey, such as the lake boat, for the Tell Pass to be cheaper than buying tickets.
Or if want to solely do the Golden Pass Trip + a return journey by train and cable cars between Luzern and Titlis, you will save with the Tell Pass compared to tickets.

Using other rail passes

Swiss Travel Passes can be a good option for a holiday in Luzern, particularly if you'll want to;

  • take longer journeys beyond the area covered by the Tell Pass, to locations such as Bern, Chur, Grindelwald, Locarno or Montreux
  • your wish list includes the lines and routes around Luzern that are also fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass.
    They include:
  • the Mt Rigi Railways and cable cars;
  • the boats on Lake Luzern;
  • the trains between Luzern and both Interlaken and Engelberg;
  • The Stanserhorn with its double-deck cable cars;
  • the Stoosbahn - the world's steepest funicular railway + the buses on route 501 between its base station and Schwyz rail station;
  • the railway between Luzern and Goschennen and on to Andermatt, Oberalp and Realp.

Though if you want to travel on some other routes around Luzern, the balance tips towards the Tell Pass because of the greater discount it provides:

InterRail passes for Switzerland can be good value for money for a stay in Luzern if you want to take longer journeys fully covered by the pass, such as day trips to Chur, Locarno on Montreux.
They only give a 50% discount on the routes closer to Luzern such as Mt Pilatus, Mt Rigi and the lake boats; and no discount at all on other routes fully covered by the Tell Pass including the steam railway up Mt Brienz, the Mt Tilis cable cars and the Stoosbahn.

If you'll be using multi-country 'Global' Eurail and InterRail passes, Luzern can be a value for money location on an itinerary.
The 50% of the costs you'll have to spend to ascend Rigi or Pilatus, won't be more expensive than the overall travel savings you'll make on the entire trip.

Epic day trip circular routes

For those not averse to spending a whole day riding incredibly scenic railways, Swiss Travel Passes, InterRail passes for Switzerland and global Eurail and InteRail passes fully cover these itineraries:

1: Luzern → Göschenen → Andermatt → Disentis/Mustér → Chur → Thalwil → Luzern; 7 hours approx

2: Luzern, depart 10:06 → Interlaken Ost* → Spiez → Brig via Kandersteg → Andermatt → Göschenen → Luzern; 8hr 30mins approx

3: Luzern → Interlaken Ost* → Spiez → Zweisimmen → Montreux → Lausanne → Luzern; 9 hours approx
*= you will be connecting into an express train in Interlaken which will be travelling on towards Bern and Basel

from Olten

Three very good reasons for choosing Olten as a location for a holiday dedicated to exploring Switzerland by train:

  1. It has a charming old town area in which to relax after a day of travelling.
  2. It's not a tourist hotspot, so it's room rates tend to be comparatively cheap.
  3. It's the epicentre of the Swiss railway network.
    So it's the meeting point of no less than six of the premier railway routes in Switzerland.
    As a result the trains on all of these routes call at Olten station:
  • Zurich – Olten - Biel – Neuchatel – Lausanne
  • Rorschach - St Gallen - Zurich – Olten - Biel – Neuchatel – Geneve
  • Chur - Landquart - Zurich - Olten - Bern
  • Basel – Olten - Bern – Spiez - Interlaken
  • Basel – Olten - Bern – Spiez - Visp – Brig
  • Basel - Olten - Luzern – Arth-Goldau - Bellinzona – Lugano

A particularly fabulous journey is to head to Locarno on the newly restored service of direct IR trains, which take the amazing slower Gotthard route via Goschenen

You can then rush back to Olten by connecting in Bellinzona for an IC or EC train that will race through the epic Gotthard Base Tunnel.

But most of those other routes from Olten also have multiple scenic highlights...

...the ride to Lausanne or Geneva...

...on the journey to and from Interlaken, Visp and Brig...

...on the journey to and from Interlaken...

...on the journey to and from Visp and Brig...

...on the journey to and from Chur and Landquart.

Easy access to multiple mountain railways

Olten may be located some distance from any of the Swiss mountain railways, but most of them are easily accessed by train

By direct trains from Olten:

(1) to Arth Goldau for the RigiBhan

(2) to Luzern for the Zentralbahn

(3) to Visp for the MGB routes to Zermatt and to Andermatt and beyond.

(4) to Interlaken Ost for transfers to the Zentralbahn

(5) and the trains on to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, for connections on to Jungfraujoch, Kleine Scheidegg, Murren, Schynige Platte and Wengen.

(6) Head to Chur or Landquart to access the Rhaetian Railways on to Arosa, Davos, Disentis (connect for Andermatt) Klosters and St Moritz.

(7) to Bern or Spiez for the Lotschberger trains on their incredible journey to Brig via Kandersteg.

By making one connection:

Only one straightforward connection is required when accessing virtually many of the other Swiss Mountain railways from Olten:

(1) Head to Martigny via Visp or Lausanne so that you can take a ride on the Mont Blanc Express.

(2) Take a ride on the MOB Railway to Montreux by heading to Zweisimmen via Bern or Spiez.

You can then return to Olten by connecting in Lausanne.

(3) Connect in Luzern for Alpnachstad to ride the Pilatusbahn

(4) Connect in Interlaken for Brienz to ride the Brienz Rothorn Bahn

Using rail passes

Using a rail pass can also be great value of money from Olten.
The InterRail pass for Switzerland is the cheapest national rail pass and it can be used at no extra cost to travel long distances from Olten to locations such as Locarno, St Moritz and Zermatt
These stunning round trips are also covered by an InterRail Pass for Switzerland; also by 'Global' Eurail and InterRail passes if you stopover in Olten while on a multi country itinerary:

  • Olten → Göschenen → Andermatt → Disentis/Mustér → Chur → Olten
  • Olten → Luzern → Interlaken Ost → Spiez → Zweisimmen → Montreux → Lausanne → Olten
  • Olten → Bern → Spiez → Zweisimmen → Montreux → Lausanne → Olten
  • Olten → Bern → Spiez → Zweisimmen → Montreux → Brig → Spiez via Kandersteg → Olten

Though if you want to travel on these railways to mountain summits

  • to Rigi from Arth-Goldau and the lake boats from Luzern
  • to Gornergrat from Zermatt
  • to Rothorn from Brienz (on the route between Interlaken and Luzern)
    the additional discounts you'll obtain by using Swiss Travel Passes tips the balance in their favor.

Olten is only a 35 minute train ride from Luzern so if you want to use a Tell Pass and can find a good room rate in Olten, staying there instead of Luzern can be a money saver, despite Tell Passes not being valid on the trains between Olten and Luzern.

Epic Circular Day Trip Ideas:

All of the routes below can be accomplished in a day.
The schedules may seem daunting, but virtually all the connections are as simple as possible.

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

2: The Glacier Express route #1: Olten → Visp → Andermatt → Disentis/Muster → Chur → Olten

3: The Glacier Express route #2: Olten (depart 09:30) → Chur → St Moritz (depart 15:37) → Landquart (via Klosters) → Zurich → Olten

4: The Centovali Express and The Gotthard Express route: Olten (depart 10:55) → Domodossola → Locarno → Olten

5: The Mount Rigi and Gotthard Express route: Olten → Luzern →** boat to Vitznau →** Rigi-Kulm →** Arth-Goldau → Bellinzona → Olten

6: The Bernese Oberland Railways: Olten → Interlaken Ost →* Grindelwald →* Kleine Scheidegg →* Jungfaujoch →* Kleine Scheidegg →* Lauterbrunnen →* Interlaken Ost → Olten

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

8: The Mont Blanc Express route and The Lotschberger: Olten - Visp → Martigny → Le Châtelard → Martigny → Brig → Thun or Bern via Kandersteg → Olten

Journeys with a single * are those which Eurail/InterRail users have to pay a reduced fee.
Journeys with a double ** are those on which all rail pass users have to pay a reduced fee.
Users of Saver Day Passes don't qualify for the discount on the Berner Oberland routes unless they also have the Half Fare Card.

By train to Olten

Olten has hourly direct fast trains from the stations at the airports in Geneva and Zurich.

Up to five trains per day link Milano Centrale station with Olten
Olten also typically has direct ICE trains to/from Berlin, Frankfurt (Main), Hamburg, Hannover and Karlsruhe.

from Zurich

Six good reasons for choosing Zurich as an ideal location for a holiday dedicated to seeing the best of Switzerland by train.

1: It's main station has the most trains to other Swiss destinations.
Chur, Luzern, Locarno and now Interlaken all have direct trains from Zurich, so if exploring on the trains on more than one of these locations is on your wish-list, you can tick them off by taking day trips from Zurich

2: It's possible to take epic day trips to the extremities of the Swiss national network and beyond from Zurich:

  • to Tirano, typically depart Zurich at 09:38, returning at 21:22.
  • to Gornergrat; typically depart Zurich at 10:02 (or earlier), returning at 20:58 (or earlier),
  • to Jungfraujoch; departing Zurich at 11:02 on a direct train to Interlaken, going there via Grindelwald and returning via Lauterbrunnen.

3: So if you'll want to have experiences of a lifetime in multiple areas across Switzerland, you can save the bother of transferring your accommodation between multiple locations by spending your entire holiday in Zurich.

4: Zurich is blessed with more international trains than any other Swiss city, so getting to and from it by train is straightforward - and it's also often a wonderful experience.
The daytime trains which travel between Zurich and Bologna, Budapest Bratislava, Genova, Linz, Milano, Salzburg, Stuttgart, Verona, Venice and Vienna all take some of the most scenic rail routes in Europe.
There are also direct daytime high speed trains between Zurich and Amsterdam, Dijon, Paris, Utrecht and a swathe of German cities including Frankfurt (Main) - though the locations in Germany which currently have direct trains to/from Zurich is altered until December 9th.
The number of night trains serving Zurich has also significantly increased in recent years - it now has overnight links with Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, Hamburg, Ljubljana, Prague and Zagreb.

5: Up to 10 x trains per hour connect Zurich airport to the city centre.

6: Two trains per hour typically link Zurich to Schaffhausen and the journey, which takes less than 40 minutes, features arguably the most stunning view which can be seen from a train in Switzerland.

Using rail passes

If you take journeys from Zurich to comparatively distant locations such as Grindelwald, Locarno, Lugano, St Moritz, Tirano and Zermatt, it's highly likely that you'll save money by using rail passes.
If the extra benefits of the Swiss Travel Pass such as the inclusion of the Swiss Museum Pass don't matter to you; and destinations such as:

  • the summits of Mt Generoso, Mt Rigi, Mt Rothorn and Mt Titlis
  • the Gornergrat Railway
  • Grindelwald
    aren't on your wish-list then you'll likely save money by using InterRail passes for Switzerland compared to Swiss Travel Passes.
    (There isn't a Eurail Pass solely for use in Switzerland).
    Though if these destinations are on the itinerary, you can obtain discounts / cheaper prices with Swiss Travel Passes, that aren't available to InterRail users

When choosing between passes also keep in mind that Swiss Travel Passes and InterRail Passes for Switzerland have the same inclusions and discounts on these routes and railways that can be easily accessed from Zurich:

  • the journeys beyond Chur to Arosa, St Moritz, Davos, Klosters, Tirano and Dizentis - and on towards Andermatt and Brig
  • to Zermatt
  • the Pilatusbahn
  • Luzern ↔ Interlaken
  • the Centovali Railway

Taking epic looping day trips:

All of the routes below can be accomplished in a day.
The schedules may seem daunting, but virtually all the connections are as simple as possible.

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

2: The 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 Express and The Gotthard Express route: Zurich → Brig → Domodossola → Locarno → Zurich

5: The Mount Rigi route: Zurich → Luzern boat to Vitznau Rigi-Kulm Arth-Goldau → Fluelen boat to Luzern → Zurich

6: The Voralpen Express and Schaffhausen Falls: Zurich → Schaffhausen → St Galllen → Luzern → Interlaken Ost → (Bern) → Zurich

7: The Mont Blanc Express route and The Lotschberger: Zurich → Lausanne → Martigny → Le Châtelard → Martigny → Brig → Thun or Bern via Kandersteg → Zurich

8: The Bernese Oberland Railways: Zurich → Spiez → Interlaken Ost →* Grindelwald →* Kleine Scheidegg →* Jungfaujoch →* Kleine Scheidegg →* Lauterbrunnen →* Interlaken Ost → Zurich

Journeys with a single * are those which Eurail/InterRail users have to pay a reduced fee.
Journeys with a double ** are those on which all rail pass users have to pay a reduced fee.
Users of Saver Day Passes don't qualify for the discount on the Berner Oberland routes unless they also have the Half Fare Card.

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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