Heading towards Bellinzona

Basel / Bâle to Lugano by train

How to take the rail journey from Basel to Lugano

Thanks to railway engineering wonders, the Gotthard Base Tunnel and the Ceneri Base tunnel, it has never been so easy and fast, to make the journey by train across Switzerland from Basel to Lugano.



From Basel SBB/Bâle CFF to Lugano

Travel Information

Final Destination: Lugano or Chiasso - the IC trains; Milano - the EC trains

All trains also call at: Arth-Goldau and Bellinzona (connect for Locarno)

Note that a mix of trains is used for these services, most common are the new Giruno trains, which on this route are used on many departures which don't cross the border to Italy.
The Swiss ICN trains used to dominate this route and they are still used for some departures, but up two one or two departures per day are now handled by the brand new Twindexx trains.
While the older types of EC train are used for the daily train which has travelled from Frankfurt.

6 x IC trains per day
2 x EC trains per day


Book early and save: Yes - If you book Supersaver tickets (more info is available on the SBB ticket guide below)

You may need to search through the departures to find them using the ‘earlier’ and ‘later’ buttons; the Supersaver tickets tend to sell out particularly quickly on this route.

Online bookings open: up to two months ahead of the travel date

Try and be flexible with your departure and arrival times, book as near to 60 days ahead as possible and don't be overly concerned whether you will be taking an IC or EC train (though on this route the IC trains tend to cheaper than the EC trains.

If you will be making a day trip to Lugano from Basel, be open to the possibility that Saver Day Passes are likely to be a cheaper option than booking return tickets.

Seat reservations:

Seat reservations are optional on Swiss IC trains; and for the journey by EC trains as it's wholly within Switzerland, so seats won't be automatically assigned when booking online.
You can book reservations online, AFTER you have booked a ticket, by using the SBB (Swiss national railways) seat reservation service OR request and pay for a reservation when booking at a station ticket office.

Travelling with a rail pass:

Rail pass users can jump on any train, without having to make reservations.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost

SBB Guide

SBB is the main national rail operator in Switzerland, but tickets for journeys by the other significant operators including BLS and SOB can be be booked on the SBB website.

SBB also sells tickets for journeys to many destinations which involve a combination of SBB trains and services provided by the many independent operators who serve the Alpine resort towns.
However, if you will be making a long-distance return day trip, look out for he possibility of SaverDay passes being cheaper than tickets.

Though if you download the SBB app, booking tickets on SBB's mobile services can be simper than using the website.
Also watch out for the fact that booking international tickets can be comparatively quirky.

Trainline *

Trainline Guide

Happy rail *

Happy rail Guide

Happy Rail is a Netherlands rail ticket agency which sells tickets for both national and international journeys within a range of countries including Belgium France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland.

HappyRail doesn't charge booking fees in the conventional sense, but if you're not Dutch you can expect to pay additional transaction fees, which will be added to the total cost.
That's because the most common form of online payment used in The Netherlands is 'iDEAL' and HappyRail doesn't charge a transaction fee for 'iDEAL' payments, but only Dutch residents can sign up to 'iDEAL'.
Other forms of payment include Visa debit cards will incur a fee.

Omio *

Omio Guide

Omio is an online ticket agency which offers tickets for rail journeys in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain.

The three key advantages of using Omio are

  • it offers prices in multiple currencies
  • it usually offers price comparison with other modes of travel including flights and buses
  • when visiting Europe, you can book journeys in multiple countries in one transaction.

The disadvantage of booking with Omio is that it often adds a booking fee to the final price; therefore when it does so without offering a price advantage, SMTJ doesn't tend to offer Omio as a booking option.

On this journey

Journey Features

Scenic - YesLake views

Good to Know

The alternative more scenic route:

If you have a rail pass, or are happy to book separate tickets per train, it's still possible to travel over the much more scenic old Gotthard Line, when taking a train from Basel to Lugano

Take one of the IR trains from Basel to Bellinzona station (that usually depart in even hours) and connect there for a train on to Lugano.

Journey description:

Now that these trains travel through the epic Gotthard Base Tunnel, these journeys are now less scenic than they used to be.
But this still a journey with some wow moments, from either side of the train.

These scenic highlights are all south of Luzern where the train will reverse direction.

Between Luzern and Arth-Goldau station there are views over Lake Zug on the left.

After departure from Arth-Goldau, on the right, the train passes the Lauerzersee...

...and then further south, there are glimpses of Lake Luzern.

South of Bellinzona the trains on this route now use the new Ceneri Base Tunnel.

Passing by the Sempachersee north of Luzern Passing by the Sempachersee north of Luzern
Travelling by Lake Zug on a grey day Travelling by Lake Zug on a grey day
Passing the Lauerzersee on the right Passing the Lauerzersee on the right
Look out for the glimpses of Lake Luzern Look out for the glimpses of Lake Luzern
To the north of the Gotthard Basel Tunnel To the north of the Gotthard Basel Tunnel
Heading towards Bellinzona Heading towards Bellinzona
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