The view over Lake Maggiore

Milano / Milan / Mailand to Basel / Bâle by train

How to take the rail journey from Milano to Basel

Travelling between Milan and north-west Switzerland by train is not only straightforward thanks to the direct rail services, it's also a lovely journey.

Connect in Basel for trains to destinations without direct services from Milan including Cologne/Koln, Mainz, Koblenz and Strasbourg.

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Routes

From Milano Centrale to Basel SBB/Bâle CFF

Travel Information

Final Destination: Basel or Frankfurt (Main)

All trains also call at: Spiez (change for Interlaken), Thun, Bern and Olten (connect for Biel and Neuchatel)

3 x trains per day on this faster route
1 x train per day on an alternative route via Luzern, which is around 35 mins slower and departs Milano only around 40 mins after the departure of a faster train.

Tickets

Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings usually open: 4 months ahead of the travel date; though this period of time can be shorter, particularly when searching for journeys more than three months ahead during October and March.

Reservations will automatically be assigned when booking tickets (but rail pass users will need to make reservations prior to boarding at a ticket office; they're not available from the Trenitalia ticket machines)

Trains departing at different times can be cheaper than others leaving on the same day - so you may need to look through the day's departures to find the cheapest fares.

Check that you're booking for the direct trains, using the journey time to guide you.

Via Luzern:

There is also a daily direct train which travels via Luzern, it has a longer journey time (4hr 40 min) and departs from Milano at around 08:1-0.

That train can be worth taking if it's cheaper, or if you have previously travelled this route via Brig and Bern, but you have yet to travel that alternative route via Lugano and Luzern.

Rail Pass Users:

If you will be travelling with a valid Eurail or InterRail pass, you will have a choice of

(1) paying the reservation fees to travel on these direct trains - our guide to using using rail passes to travel from Italy has all the info you'll need, including fees and step-by-step instructions on how to book.

(2) avoiding all reservation fees by taking a regional train from Milano to Lugano and making a simple connection there into a train on to Basel.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
Trenitalia from €39

Trenitalia Guide

Trenitlalia is the national rail operator in Italy and in addition to its cheaper types of ticket; it also typically offers other discounts available to non-Italians, which include:

  • Group Offers, provides for a discount of up to 50% when 3-5 Adults travel together.
  • Family Offer for when groups of 2 - 5 people are travelling together and at least one of the party is a aged 11 and under.
  • The Children Free Offer is available for journeys by Frecce trains, when groups of 2 - 5 people are travelling together and at least one of the party is a aged 15 and under.
    Those aged 15 and under travel for free, but the Adults will need to purchase full price 'Base' tickets.
Trainline from €39

Trainline Guide

Saveatrain from €39

Saveatrain Guide

Italiarail from €39

Italiarail Guide

ItaliaRail lives up to its name by selling tickets for rail journeys within Italy and the core feature of its service is that it is primarily designed to be used by international visitors to Italy.
So the English translations of place names are used when looking up journeys and the terms and conditions for using each type of ticket are clearly explained.
It also clearly points out the additional costs of upgrading to other classes and types of tickets while spelling out the additional benefits of doing so.

Users of InterRail and Eurail passes can also book seat reservations on the Frecce and InterCity trains without paying a booking fee,

Omio from €39

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 - YesMountain viewsLake viewsNot High Speed

Good to Know

The train will reverse direction on departure from Bern.

The view over Lake Maggiore The view over Lake Maggiore
North of Stresa North of Stresa
The ascent from Domodossola The ascent from Domodossola
Approaching The Simplon Tunnel Approaching The Simplon Tunnel
Between Thun and Spiez Between Thun and Spiez

If you're a fan of engineering achievements then this is an awe-inspiring journey.

After Domodossola  the train travels through The Simplon Tunnel and after Visp it will travel through The Lötschberg Base Tunnel - both of which were previous holders of world's longest railway tunnel honors.

If your reserved seat is on the right of the train (when facing the direction of travel) the first highlight from a scenic point of view are the fabulous views over Lake Maggiore.
They can be seen north of Arona, but what's worth looking out for is when the train departs from Stresa.

This video was taken when travelling in the opposite direction...

...and shows the beautiful islands in the lake - and it also showcases why ShowMeTheJourney has tried and failed to photograph these islands, they can only be glimpsed through the trees.

The part of the journey between Domodossola and The Simplon Tunnel is also fabulous, as the train will thread through a valley as it approaches the tunnel.

The other scenic highlight is the part of the journey between exiting the Lotschberg Base Tunnel and arriving in Thun station.
The beautiful Thunersee comes into view on the right as the train arrives in Spiez.

Between Speiz and Thun the train travels by the shore of Lake Thun.

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