Berlin to Zürich / Zurich by train

How to travel from Berlin to Zurich by train

The only direct train from Berlin to Zurich is the Nightjet service, but there are two options for making the journey by day with only one connection.
The fastest and easiest of which is travel via Basel, the tick in the box for this route as there a minimum of two trains per hour from Basel to Zurich and tickets will be valid on any onward train.

The other route with one connection involves travelling via Munich, but it is typically an hour longer, which is why it hasn't been included below.
But if you can find an exceptionally cheap price on the route via Munich then book it.
The journey from Munich on to Zurich is also more scenic than the route via Basel.

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Routes

Option 1: travel direct on an overnight train

Travel Information

This train is usually scheduled to depart from the upper level (tief) in Berlin Hbf nightly between 20:30 and 21:30,

Final Destination: Zurich - the train is usually scheduled to arrive there at 09:42.

This train is also scheduled to depart from Berlin Ostbanhof at 20:56. and unlike the daytime trains from Berlin to Basel, it also departs from Berlin Zoologischer Garten, the main station in West Berlin.

1 x train per night

Tickets

Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings open: 3 months ahead of the travel date on DB Bahn

The train conveys:

  • Compartment Seats (Sitzwagen)
  • Couchettes (Liegewagen); 4 berths AND 6 berths
  • Standard sleeping cars (Schlafwagen) with 3 bed, 2 bed and 1 cabins
  • Deluxe sleeping cars with showers (Schlafwagen) with 3 bed, 2 bed and 1 cabins

Using rail passes:

Rail pass users must reserve before boarding these trains

However, these rail pass reservations can NO longer be booked online the DB website, but you can now book rail pass reservations without paying booking fees on the OBB website (OBB operates these trains).
Though the process for doing so isn't particularly obvious, hence this step-by-step guide.

Or you can avoid the booking fees by arranging the reservations when you arrive in Germany, by purchasing them at a Reisezentrum travel desk, which you will find in any hauptbahnhof.
Though it's best to do this at the first hauptbahnhof (city centre station) that you will arrive at, the later you leave booking your accommodation, the more likely it is that your preferences will be sold out.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
OBB *

OBB Guide

OBB is the national rail operator and its booking service offers journeys by express trains within Austria, as well as international journeys which don't involve making a connection outside of Austria.

It pays off to book online, as the discounted 'Sparscheine' tickets are only ever made available on the website, and when making international journeys to and from Austria, these Sparscheine tickets tend to be cheaper.
OBB can offer particularly good value for money when travelling with children on international rail journeys, but something to watch out for when travelling between Austria and Germany on daytime trains, is that reservations are an optional extra; but if you book 1st class tickets with the Germany railways website DB, the reservations are complimentary.

OBB often takes a unique approach to its booking path, but a key thing to keep in mind is that the first price you will see for any journey is that of a Second Class seat.
The costs of upgrading to first class, a reservation, or a sleeping cabin etc, is then added to this price.

DB Bahn *

DB Bahn Guide

DB is the national railway operator in Germany, so its website can be used for booking journeys by German express trains; the ICE and IC trains and it doesn't charge booking fees.
It also sells tickets for journeys by direct trains on all international routes from Germany regardless of whether DB is operating the train service.

It also sells an extensive range of end-to-end journeys which involve making connections both within Germany and in neighboring countries, but journeys between Germany and Britain cannot be booked on DB.

A key feature of DB website worth keeping mind is that it offers 1st class ticket purchasers complimentary seat reservations on journeys both within and to/from Germany.

Seat reservations for daytime in both 1st and 2nd class can also be booked separately from tickets.

Option 2: travel during the day and connect in Basel

Travel Information

There are no direct daytime trains between Berlin and Zurich.

Look up this journey and you will see a multitude of options, but this routing, with a change of train at Basel SBB station, has the big advantage that tickets will be valid on any train on to Zurich from Basel.

So there won't be any actions required if the train from Berlin arrives in Basel SBB station too late to make the optimum 22min connection into the train on to Zurich.

There are minimum of two express trains per hour from Basel to Zurich.

From April 1st to December 9th

During this period of time multiple routes taken by ICE trains are being altered due to maintenance work closing the main north <> south high-speed line.
So that Germany and Zurich can remain linked by trains which won't have to be diverted on to slower, alternative routes, which risks delays, the trains which normally travel between Berlin and Bern are being diverted in Switzerland, so that they can head to Zurich.
So between April 1st and December 9th there will be 5 x direct ICE trains per day from Berlin to Zurich.

5 - 6 x optimum connections per day

Change trains in: Basel

Tickets

Book in advance and save: YES

Online bookings usually open: 6 months ahead of the travel date

On the DB (German) national railways booking site  look for the journeys which have:

  • a journey time of 8hr 30mins
  • a '1' in the chg. column
  • 'ICE' in the Product column
Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
DB Bahn from  €34.90

DB Bahn Guide

DB is the national railway operator in Germany, so its website can be used for booking journeys by German express trains; the ICE and IC trains and it doesn't charge booking fees.
It also sells tickets for journeys by direct trains on all international routes from Germany regardless of whether DB is operating the train service.

It also sells an extensive range of end-to-end journeys which involve making connections both within Germany and in neighboring countries, but journeys between Germany and Britain cannot be booked on DB.

A key feature of DB website worth keeping mind is that it offers 1st class ticket purchasers complimentary seat reservations on journeys both within and to/from Germany.

Seat reservations for daytime in both 1st and 2nd class can also be booked separately from tickets.

Journey Features

Scenic - NoHigh Speed (partial journey)

Good to Know

Departing from Berlin:

Final Destination: Basel SBB or Interlaken Ost.

These trains commence their journey at Berlin Ostbanhof and they usually depart from the upper level (tief) in Berlin Hbf.

*If your journey is commencing in West Berlin, the quickest option is to take a Regio or S-Bahn train from Berlin Zoologischer Garten station to Berlin-Spandau station and join these trains to Basel there.

Journey description:

It's an interesting rather than beautiful train journey from Berlin to Basel, but it does give straightforward access to Switzerland, when travelling from the German capital.
So you won't be missing out on wonderful travel experience if you opt to take the night train instead of these daytime trains.

The train will travel on no less than three high speed lines during the course of its journey and during these sections of the trip the speeds should reach more than 250 km, but most of the journey is on conventional railway lines.

It is a journey of seven distinct phases:

  1. One of the highlights of the journey comes right at the beginning of the trip when the train travels on a viaduct across Berlin with great views over the city centre
  2. Then between Berlin-Spandau until around 10 mins before arrival in Braunschweig the train will be on a high speed line across dull farmland.
  3. Shortly after Hildeshiem until Fulda, the train will make use of Germany's first high speed line; this is the part of the journey with a wow factor as the trains will travel across dozens of viaducts and bridges, which occur as flashes between numerous tunnels.
  4. The train will reverse direction on departure from Frankfurt (Main) Hbf.
  5. Between Frankfurt (Main) and Karlrsruhe the train will race through a string of towns.
  6. Then from Karlsruhe to Offenburg a high speed line has been constructed right beside the conventional route, which will be on the left.
  7. From Offenburg to the suburbs of Basel, the railway travels through a rolling landscape.

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Good to Know

Final Destination: Zurich or Chur

The DAYTIME train service between Basel and Zurich is unusual because along with the Swiss IC trains, OTHER international trains share this route.

Those international trains include EC trains from various cities in Germany, ICE trains from Hamburg and TGV/Lyria trains from Paris.

Those international trains tend to be incorporated into the regular timetable, so an ICE or Lyria train takes the place of the usual Swiss IC train

What's also unusual is that it doesn't particularly matter what of these trains you travel by, the ticketing terms and conditions are generally the same - reservations aren't compulsory on the Lyria services when travelling between Basel and Zurich.

Between Olten and Zurich Between Olten and Zurich

By Swiss standards the journey between Basel and Zurich is unexceptional, but there are some fleeting views over the landscape to be enjoyed, which anywhere else in Europe would be exceptional; particularly around 20 minutes into the journey when the train has passed through Sissach.

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