Zürich / Zurich to Lugano by train

How to take the rail journey from Zurich to Lugano

Heading to the beautiful Swiss city on an Italian lake from Switzerland's largest city is fabulously simple, thanks to a fairly frequent service of comparatively comfortable express trains.



From Zürich HB / Zurich main station to Lugano

Travel Information

Final Destination: Lugano (IC trains on route IC 2), Milano or Venezia or Genova or Bologna (EC trains)

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

Taking the train from Zurich to Lugano:

There are two types of express train service on the Zurich to Lugano route:

(1) Swiss IC trains which will be heading to Lugano; a mix of trains is used on this route, with the new Twindexx double-deck trains appearing on some departures; though the same trains which are used for the international EC services are used on many IC departures.

(2) International EC trains, which will be heading to Milano or other destinations in Italy
(Some of EC train departures MAY will still be by the Astoro trains)

Swiss 'rules' apply to this journey, so whether you will be buying tickets or using a rail pass, it doesn't particularly matter which of these train services you choose to travel by; seat reservations aren't compulsory on Zurich to Lugano journeys by the EC trains.

The timetable is slightly eccentric because in most odd hours both an IC AND an EC train depart, but in most even hours there are no direct trains from Zurich to Lugano.

Though in most even hours there will be an IR train heading to Bellinzona on a more spectacular route, so if getting to Lugano in the fastest possible time isn't your primary criteria, take that train and connect there.

Or another option in the even hours, is to take that IR train as far as Arth-Goldau and connect there for an IC or EC train that takes the more direct and faster route

The IC and EC trains to Bellinzona and the IR trains to Arth-Goldau should all depart from the street level platforms/tracks in Zurich HB (gleis 3 - 18).

From Zurich Flughafen/Airport:

There are no direct trains between the station at Zurich Flughafen/Airport and Lugano.

You will have to change trains at Zurich HB station.

Making the transfer will be much easier if you take a train from Zurich Flughafen to Zurich HB which uses the same part of Zurich HB station (platforms/tracks/gleis 3 - 18) that the trains on to Bellinzona will depart from.

So when taking a train from the airport target either;

  • the trains on route S24 heading to Zug - every 30 mins.
  • the IR trains to Luzern - every 30 mins.
  • the IR train to Basel via via Brugg - 1 x train per hour.

10 x IC trains per day
8 x EC trains per day


The train service between Zurich and Lugano is split between:
1: IC trains - that are slightly slower, but also generally cheaper, than...
2: the EC trains that call at Lugano on route to Milano.

Book early and save: Yes - If you book Supersaver tickets (more info is available on the 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.

So try and be flexible with your departure and arrival times, book as near to 30 days ahead as possible and don't be overly concerned whether you will be taking an IC or EC train

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

If you will be making a return day trip to Lugano from Zurich, 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, so seats won't be assigned when booking online.

You can book reservations online for journeys by these IC trains, AFTER you have booked a ticket, by using the SBB (Swiss national railways) seat reservation service OR request 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

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.

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.

On this journey

Journey Features

Scenic - YesLake viewsLandscape (Hills / Mountains)

Good to Know

The alternative more scenic route:

If you will be travelling with a rail pass, you can still travel from Zurich to Lugano on the much more spectacular route via Biasca and the older Gotthard Tunnel.

Take an IR train to Bellinzona and make a straight forward connection there into regional trains 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 route with some wow moments.

The train will spend most of the first 10 mins of its journey travelling in a tunnel, but soon after it emerges into the daylight, the train will ascend upwards from the sure of Lake Zurich.

So from the left of the train (when facing the direction of travel) there are sweeping vistas to be enjoyed down over the lake.

Then, if the weather is behaving itself, after departure from Zug station comes the first highlight of the journey, the view over the Zuger See.
This lake with its mountain peaks on the far shore can be seen on the right for more than 15 mins between Zug and Arth-Goldau station.

The next beautiful vista to look out for comes after departure from Arth-Goldau station, when on the right, the train will pass by the Lauerzersee.

The train then travels through a dramatic landscape to the north of Schwyz, which used to be a preview of what was to come when the trains still used the older Gotthard route, to Bellinzona via Goschenen.

Just to the south of here, also look out on the right for glimpses of the Luzernsee.

South of Bellinzona these trains now travel through the new Ceneri Base Tunnel.

Looking down over Lake Zurich from the left of the train Looking down over Lake Zurich from the left of the train
Looking over the Zuger see to the south of Zug station Looking over the Zuger see to the south of Zug station
Between Zug and Arth-Goldau Lake Zug is on the right Between Zug and Arth-Goldau Lake Zug is on the right
To the south of Arth-Goldau, passing the Lauerzersee, which is on the right To the south of Arth-Goldau, passing the Lauerzersee, which is on the right
Then look out for glimpses of the Luzernsee also on the right Then look out for glimpses of the Luzernsee also on the right
Heading towards the Gotthard Base Tunnel Heading towards the Gotthard Base Tunnel
Between the Gotthard Base Tunnel and Bellinzona Between the Gotthard Base Tunnel and Bellinzona
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