Guide of Swiss Railway Tourism

Travelling around Switzerland by train is a great option, the way of travelling that is as exciting as it is relaxing. Switzerland is the country in Europe where rail travel is the busiest, the whole of contury is covered by a frequent, punctual and efficient integrated train network that’s really easy to use. Swiss public transport carries travellers away to the most fascinating panoramic routes, the most beautiful mountain summits and the most romantic boat tours.

Switzerland has a fantastic transport system, swift and disturbingly punctual trains, clean buses, and half a dozen different kinds of mountain transport systems, all integrated into a coherent system. Bus and trains in Switzerland are complementary to each other. That way, almost all inhabited villages and towns in Switzerland can be reached by public transport. Even if there is no train or city transit available, the comprehensive PostBus Switzerland network gets you there.

Switzerland has a dense network of local, long-distance and S-Bahn trains. Switzerland was ranked first among national European rail systems in the Railway Performance Index for its intensity of use, quality of service and strong safety rating. Switzerland had excellent intensity of use, notably driven by passenger traffic, and a good rating for quality of service and a very good rating for safety.

The Swiss rail network is noteworthy for its density, its coordination between services, its integration with other modes of transport, timeliness and a thriving domestic and trans-alp freight system. With 5,200 kilometres (3,200 mi) network length, Switzerland has a dense railway network, and is the clear European leader in kilometres traveled: 2,505 km per inhabitant and year (2019).

Switzerland has a very dense rail network, both standard and narrow gauge. The overwhelming majority of railways, built between the mid-19th and early 20th century, are still in regular operation today and were electrified earlier than in the rest of Europe. The major exception is the Furka Steam Railway, the longest unelectrified line in the country. Numerous rail operators, notably SBB Historic, provide services with well-maintained historical rolling stock.

Mountain railways in operation in Switzerland, includes railways that overcome steep gradients (over 5%) or whose culminating point is over 800 m (2,600 ft) above sea level. Most of them are located in the Alps, which include the highest European railways, both dead-end railways, such as the Jungfrau and Gornergrat, and railway crossings, such as the Bernina and Furka. Many of these railways converge on mountain railway hubs, notably Lucerne, Interlaken, Montreux, Aigle, Brig and Chur.

Swiss Grand Train Tour
On the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, panoramic trains take you to all the highlights and sights in Switzerland. A train journey combining 1,280 kilometres of beauty and magnificent view in between, 11 large lakes, 4 official languages, 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Discover all sights and landmarks Switzerland has to offer from the comfort of the train. The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland merges the most beautiful panoramic lines into one unique route. There is no prescribed direction or duration. You can hop on and off wherever you please. Whether at Zermatt or St. Moritz, in the Canton of Ticino or the Lavaux, at the Rhine Falls or Lake Lucerne.

The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland merges the most scenic train rides into one breathtaking route. Year-round, this train journey of 1,280 kilometres leads from the most charming Swiss cities to Alpine hotspots, through UNESCO World Heritage Sites and past word-famous sights and landmarks.

Panorama train routes
Switzerland’s panorama train routes are among the most beautiful rail routes in the world. They are part of the country’s heritage and history. They pass through the most majestic mountain scenery, idyllic valleys and villages; along crystal-clear lakes and ice-blue glaciers. Their privileged passengers enjoy stunning scenic splendours and superior travel comfort.

Glacier Express
Known as the slowest express train in the world, the Glacier Express travels across the Alps and connects fashionable Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn with the equally sophisticated St. Moritz. On its eight-hour ride through the mountainous Cantons of Valais, Uri and Grisons, the train dives through 91 tunnels and balances over 291 bridges. Unobstructed views of an imposing mountainscape, deep ravines and picturesque valleys.

The “Glacier Express” had grown into Perhaps the most ultimate, impressive and romantic train journey in the world. For nearly 90 years, traveling on the “world’s slowest express train” has been one of the most thrilling – and comfortable – ways to discover the Alps, many tens of thousands from across the world make the journey. The route takes you through the three cantons of Valais, Uri and Graubünden, and offers breathtaking and varied panoramic views. Eight hours of sheer pleasure for your eyes and your palate, too.

The journey begins in chic St. Moritz, birthplace of the Alpine winter vacation. After pulling out of St. Moritz, the train travels through the Albula Tunnel. On the other side, the train rumbles down to Thusis on the Albula Line, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Harmoniously embedded in the landscape, the route is considered the showpiece of the railway era. Several spiral tunnels help the train manage the 1,000-meter hike in altitude. After that, the train passes the “most beautiful place in Switzerland”, the Lai de Palpuogna mountain lake. The Glacier Express then makes its way slowly towards the spa town Chur, via Switzerland’s most famous railway bridge, the Landwasser Viaduct.

The mountain resort Zermatt dominated by the distinctive peak of the Matterhorn. Admire the spectacular panoramic views from the top of the Gornergrat before joining the train for the ride along the scenic BVZ line to the Rhone valley. Take the opportunity to visit the Stockalper palace at Brig, before journeying along the spectacular FO line through the lush countryside of the Goms region. Visit the magnificent Aletsch Glacier, and the picturesque village of Ernen.

With the Gornergrat Bahn and Glacier Paradise, get close to the global mountain icon par excellence, the Toblerone mountain, the Matterhorn near Zermatt. I’ll show you the most beautiful part of the original route of the Glacier Express, namely the journey over the Furka Pass. There, past the Rhone Glacier. But it would be one of the most beautiful moments on the track. The area of the Albula route, where the Rhaetian Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is particularly fascinating because of the spectacular route, which rattles over dizzying viaducts almost every minute, or disappears into mysterious spiral tunnels.

The Glacier Express offers a journey for the senses, the Glacier Express delights travellers with scenic attractions and technical state-of-the-art achievements. With its overhight panoramic windows, the Glacier Express opens up unobstructed views of unique landscapes. Further along the route through the Furka Tunnel to emerge into the wild Urseren valley. diversion along the formidable Schöllenen Gorge at Andermatt as the track snakes up the mountainside. Continue the expedition at the Oberalp pass, the summit of the line.

Traveling on board the Glacier Express is comfortable. Both 1st and 2nd class coaches have panoramic sealed windows all the way to the roof. The train is air conditioned. Free power sockets and wifi are available and you’ll have access to the infotainment system using your smartphone or tablet. It provides information about the route. The 1st class seats are more spacious as there are only three seats across, versus four in 2nd class.

Enjoy the premium “Excellence Class” from Glacier Express. With comfortable, guaranteed window seats for the passengers, a dedicated check in desk and a VIP in-carriage bar, this is a fabulous way to enjoy the alpine journey during a special anniversary or birthday celebration. There are no more than 20 passengers in Excellence Class, and they all have window seats. There is a bar area, personal travel guidance, and a premium 7-course lunch. The exclusive carriage has its own concierge, as well as tablets loaded with the Glacier Express “Bordinfotainment”.

Bernina Express
This panoramic train connects the north of Europe to its south – right through the UNESCO World Heritage site of Rhaetian Railway, passing by glaciers on its way down to palm trees. From glaciers to palm trees, the Bernina Express inspires a sense of delight and bridges language regions as well as cultures.

The Bernina Express is a train connecting Chur (or Davos) in Switzerland to Poschiavo in Switzerland and Tirano in Italy by crossing the Swiss Engadin Alps. The Albula line and the Bernina line on the Bernina Express’s route were jointly declared a World Heritage Site in 2008. The trip on the Bernina Express through this World Heritage Site is a four-hour railway journey across 196 bridges, through 55 tunnels and across the Bernina Pass at 2,253 metres above sea.

The Bernina Express is operated by the Rhaetian Railway company for the purpose of sightseeing. The Bernina Express is popular with tourists and connects in Tirano with the Post Bus service via Lake Como in Italy to Lugano in Switzerland. For most of its journey, the train also runs along the World Heritage Site known as the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes.

It is a mountain railway starting from a region with an alpine climate and serving at its end the town of Tirano located on the border between Switzerland and Italy at 429 meters above sea level with a Mediterranean climate. The journey, made up of 196 bridges and 55 tunnels1,2, takes about 4 hours. For this, he must overcome impressive ramps, especially in the Bernina Pass where they reach 7% without a cog. It also has helical loops, one of which, unique in the world, in the form of a helical viaduct near the village of Brusio.

Crossing the Alps in the Bernina Express certainly is one of the most spectacular ways to do it. Along the way, the Bernina Express rolls over the 65-metre-high Landwasser Viaduct, the signature structure of the Rhaetian Railway and the UNESCO World Heritage site. Altogether the train passes through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges on its way from Chur to Tirano. Travellers are treated to marvellous sights during their journey, like the Montebello curve with a view of the Bernina massif, the Morteratsch glacier, the three lakes Lej Pitschen, Lej Nair and Lago Bianco, the Alp Grüm and the Brusio Circular Viaduct.

One highlight follows hot on the heels of the next: the sparkling Morteratsch glacier and, at 2,253 metres altitude, the Lago Bianco. Embedded in the Alpine landscape, the vibrant turquoise of the lake stands out beautifully. From the UNESCO World Heritage route of Rhaetian Railways, the train winds its way over the Bernina Pass and down through the scenic Val Poschiavo towards Tirano in Italy. The journey continues on the Bernina Express Bus through the Valtellina Valley via Lake Como to Lugano.

Get off at the upscale resort of Saint-Moritz, discovers the oldest natural ice bobsleigh track in the world, before stopping off in the Vallée de Joux to meet a watchmaking specialist. Then head for the peak of the Jungfrau, where an incredible train climbs up to 3454 meters above sea level. The journey ends in Lausanne.

Like the Glacier Express, this train is equipped with very modern tourist panoramic cars in 1st and 2nd class. It takes the form of an enhanced regional service between Tirano and Chur or Davos: panoramic coaches with enlarged windows and multi-lingual (English, Italian and German) audio guide on board.

GoldenPass Panoramic
The GoldenPass Panoramic is part of the panoramic GoldenPass Line and therefore also part of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. Switzerland’s four language and cultural regions are one of the country’s best-known peculiarities. The journey with the GoldenPass Panoramic train links German-speaking and French-speaking Switzerland, making it possible to experience the change from one culture to another as a gradual process.

Starting from Interlaken, guests first glide along Lake Thun and then through the Simmen Valley to Zweisimmen. Here, the GoldenPass Panoramic takes over. This premium panoramic train starts its journey in Zweisimmen, and travels towards Montreux. One picturesque view follows the next, as if the passing landscape had been specially designed for the panoramic journey: cows grazing on lush green meadows, traditional wooden chalets and the tall peaks of the Alps in the background.

But the best is saved until last. Shortly before reaching Montreux, you get a fantastic view of glittering Lake Geneva. As the train meanders down the hill at a leisurely pace, you will already start to feel the Mediterranean flair of the Lake Geneva region. It runs past magnificent castles as well as peacefully grazing cattle and finally passes the German-French language border. On the last leg, it winds down through the hills and with the arrival at Montreux, engrossed in the Mediterranean flair of the region.

Gotthard Panorama Express
A great experience of history come alive: The journey leads from Ticino along the historic Gotthard panoramic route to Lucerne. Welcome to the original Switzerland. The panoramic journey by train and boa, guests can board the Gotthard Panorama Express from the Mediterranean-style Ticino along the world-famous Gotthard panorama route. Apart from the many sights, passengers enjoy special presentations about history, myths and legends around Gotthard during this historic journey through time.The culinary aspect will not be neglected: Guests may indulge in warm meals on the steamboat or enjoy snacks and beverages on the train.

Starting in Lugano or Bellinzona, the journey takes you from the Mediterranean south right through the heart of Switzerland – and the Gotthard tunnel built in 1882 – over die Alps towards the north. En route, the church of Wassen can be seen from three different angles; thanks to the bold railway layout with its many loop tunnels it has become world-famous.

In Flüelen, travellers change from the panoramic train, with personal travel guidance, to a boat. In a leisurely fashion, the boat then glides over Lake Lucerne through the traditional Swiss heartland surrounded by imposing mountains to Lucerne. Many locations steeped in history such as the Rütliwiese, the Schillerstein and Tell Chapel greet guests with their original Swiss charms. In the evening, Lucerne harbour – located right next to the famous Chapel Bridge – welcomes the travellers. And by the way: The journey can easily be travelled in the opposite direction, too.

Luzern–Interlaken Express
The Brünig railway line is a Swiss narrow gauge railway line that links Lucerne, in central Switzerland, with Interlaken, in the Bernese Oberland. The line is 74 kilometres long, as the only metre gauge line of the Swiss Federal Railways, which runs from Interlaken to Luzern. The line runs via Alpnachstad, Giswil, Meiringen and Brienz, and passes over the Brünig Pass, using sections of rack railway to overcome the gradients, but with most of the line operated by normal adhesion methods.

On the ride from the urban centre of Switzerland to Lucerne, a gentler mountain- and hillscape dominates the scenery, with sparkling lakes in between. In Lucerne, you can conveniently transfer to the Luzern–Interlaken-Express. The ride on this premium panoramic train connects two world-famous destinations, enjoy mountain scenery, turquoise lakes and numerous waterfalls.

The Brünig railway begins at the famous resort of Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland, and takes us on the journey along Lake Brienz from interlaken to Meiringen. look around this lovely town before travelling along the northern shoreline of Lake Brienz. Along the way we pause to look at the fleet of boats which operate along the lake, one of which, the Lötschberg, is an historic paddle steamer.

The Brünig railway pause at the charming village of Brienz to look at examples of the local wood-carving industry, and make a diversion into the mountains along the winding route of the Brienz-Rothorn Railway, which is mainly steam operated. The views along the journey are spectacular, while the locomotives are a piece of living history. The journey continues take us over the Brünig pass to the lakes of Lungern and Sarnen before arriving at the popular destination of Luzern, with its magnificent architecture and painted bridges.

The next stops at Meiringen, famous in literature as a holiday destination for the detective Sherlock Holmes, who plunged to his death in the waters of the Reichenbach falls nearby. Rejoin the ride at Meiringen, famous for its Sherlock Holmes connection, and the location of the Brünig line depot. The tracks now leave the plain and begin the steep climb up to Hasliberg, with rack assistance being utilised.

Once over the pass we descend into the lake-land country of central Switzerland. We skirt Lakes Lungern and Sarnen, pausing to visit the home of Switzerland’s own Saint, Bruder Klaus. We also look at the magnificent baroque church at Sarnen and see archive film of the open air parliament held here. This is the heart of the original Swiss Confederation founded over 700 years ago.

The end of journey is at Luzern, a popular holiday destination, whose lovely streets and painted bridges are the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. We look at the famous carving of the “dying lion”, before paying a visit to the railway section of the Swiss Transport Museum, located on the shores of the Vierwaldstättersee.

Theme routes

Cheese train
Since 2013, the Cheese train has been looking into the secrets of Switzerland’s most popular dairy product. In wintertime, a special coach of the Montreux-Berner Oberland railway sets course for the Pays-d’Enhaut in the Lake Geneva region. On the way from either Montreux or Zweisimmen to Château-d’Oex, delicious cheese and a glass of regional wine are served while the train rolls past lovely, varied landscapes.

In the cosy restaurant with an integrated show dairy, a cheese with the same name is produced in the traditional manner on a wood fire. Visitors experience up close how the tasty hard cheese is made from 200 litres of organic milk. Then convince themselves of how delicious the cheese tastes by enjoying an organic fondue. After lunch, the “Vieux Pays-d’Enhaut” museum is well worth a visit.

Chocolate train
The Chocolate train runs between Montreux and the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory at Broc and is a real “must” for the true “sweet tooth” and railway enthusiasts. Montreux-Berner Oberland railway has dedicated a whole train to the world’s most delicate temptation. The stately, 1st class style only, “Belle Époque”-Pullman 1915 vintage coaches, offers witzerland’s most famous speciality – Swiss chocolate.

Globi Express
The ride on the Globi-Express from Lucerne to Engelberg makes children’s hearts beat faster. The specially designed carriage takes the little guests into a Globi-world, with coloured walls, Globi-books and much more. Globi experiences all kinds of adventures with his friends on the journey. Look out of the train window on the way, solve the exciting Globi-riddle and, with a bit of luck, win a great surprise.

Cookie Train
The scenic Kambly Cookie Train connects the cities of Bern and Lucerne. Along the way, stop at the show confectionary where Switzerland’s favorite cookies are produced: the Kambly Experience in Trubschachen. During a single day, visitors get to experience magnificent views of snow-covered summits while traveling along deep blue, pristine lakes, lush green meadows and picturesque farms and discover famous Swiss boutique cities. All those highlights are linked together on a scenic train ride rich in variety.

On the Luzern–Interlaken Express of the Zentralbahn, guests enjoy a ride over Brünig pass, travel along five lakes and pass by a multitude of waterfalls and characteristic, quaint Swiss villages. The BLS Regional Express connects Berne and Lucerne, traversing the typical, rolling landscape of Emmental and passing the UNESCO biosphere Entlebuch. At the heart of idyllic Emmental, the train stops right in front of the Kambly Experience, where secrets of the art of patisserie are revealed. On the way there is the possibility to explore the interesting cities of Bern, Lucerne and Interlaken.

Other railway routes

Interlaken – Zweisimmen – Montreux:
Starting from Interlaken, guests first glide along Lake Thun and then through the Simmen Valley to Zweisimmen. Here, the GoldenPass Panoramic takes over. It runs past magnificent castles as well as peacefully grazing cattle and finally passes the German-French language border. On the last leg, it winds down through the hills and with the arrival at Montreux, engrossed in the Mediterranean flair of the region.

Montreux – Visp – Zermatt:
From Montreux to Visp, the journey continues through the Nikolai Valley, the deepest-incised valley of Switzerland, to Zermatt. Before the “mountain of mountains” – the Matterhorn – comes into view, the train has to overcome more than 900 metres in altitude, partly with the help of cogwheel technology.

Luzern – St. Gallen:
Over gentle hills with a view of the Alps, the green hillscape and mountain scenery that spread out before the high-Alpine mountain chain are full of charms. Here’s where the Voralpen-Express runs between Lucerne and St. Gallen. It starts at Lake Lucerne against the backdrop of the prominent Alpine panorama of Central Switzerland. The Voralpen-Express crosses Lake Zurich and passes Rapperswil, the city of roses. Shortly before arriving at St. Gallen, the Sitter Viaduct, with 99 metres Switzerland’s highest railway bridge.

St. Gallen – Schaffhausen – Zürich:
From the history-steeped city of St. Gallen, the train winds through a pastoral hillscape towards Lake Constance and then rolls along its shoreline for 40 kilometres. Afterwards, it follows the Rhine downstream to Schaffhausen, where the Munot Fortress towers as the town’s landmark. Schaffhausen is also famous for harbouring Europe’s largest waterfalls: the Rhine Falls. After crossing the imposing railway bridge of Eglisau, the train soon arrives at Zurich, financial metropolis of Switzerland.

Chur – Zürich:
Taking the direct connection from Chur back to Zurich rewards travellers with magnificent views of the Bündner Herrschaft (dominion of the Grisons), the Churfirsten, and Lake Walensee as well as Lake Zurich.

Spiez – Domodossola – Locarno:
The RegioExpress Lötschberger and the Vigezzina-Centovalli Railway take travellers to fabulous views. While the Kander Viaduct and the view of the Rhone Valley on the Lötschberg mountain route, the Centovalli (“100 valleys”) offers stunning vistas of deep ravines and rugged mountain ranges.

St. Moritz – Lugano:
The Palm Express is an alternative connection from the Engadin to the Ticino. In contrast to the Bernina Express Bus, this connection operates year-round. On the stretch from St. Moritz to Lugano, the famous yellow PostBus tackles the Maloja Pass and then winds its way down through the Bregaglia Valley to Italy. It’s a journey that includes glaciers as well as palm trees.

Services on the Swiss railway are integrated with each other and with other forms of public transport, such as local railways, postal buses, boats and cable transports. The Swiss rail network functions as the core of a wider public transport network, swift and disturbingly punctual trains, clean buses, and half a dozen different kinds of mountain transport systems, all integrated into a coherent system, to minimise transfer times.

Information, routes, fares, policies and schedules for almost all public transport can be found online on the Swiss Federal Railways’ (SBB CFF FFS) website. The discount options and variety of tickets can be bewildering, from half fare cards to multi-day, multi-use tickets good for buses, boats, trains, and even bike rentals. In general, there’s at least one train or bus per hour on every route. On many routes there are trains and buses running every 30 or even 15 minutes, with city transit services running every 5-7 minutes during rush hours.

The most convenient way to travel with public transport in Switzerland is GA travel card, or for visitors only a Swiss Travel Pass. The GA card grants you access to all national buses, including PostBus Switzerland, and railways, many boats, all city transit systems, and offers travellers a hefty discount on privately operated cable cars, funiculars, and some ski lifts.

For trips with transfers it is often easier to use online timetable information, as it will pick transfers for you. You need not fear transfers of five minutes or less. On departure and arrival posters you can consult the standard platform, indicated by a track number. Departure/Arrival screens and boards, as well as SBB’s online timetable and smart phone app provide you with eventually updated information. Online you can also track the current location of a train, as well as other real-time information.

1st class coaches offer a higher level of convenience such as more spacious seats, more legroom and power outlets. Additionally, travellers in 1st class benefit from quiet and business zones. Passengers can choose to travel 1st class aboard Swiss boats as well. The 1st class is usually located on the upper deck, offering a great view of the passing landscape.

Small luggage, coats and jackets can be stowed above your seat. For larger luggage you often find a rack at the end of the coach. During busy periods, people often stow large luggage (or skis) in the entrance area in between coaches. Further, SBB provides a totally safe and effective nation-wide luggage delivery service to any manned railway station, or Post office reachable by PostBus destination.

Enjoy beverages, meals and snacks in a relaxed setting – in onboard SBB restaurants and bistros. All InterCity (IC) train compositions include a dining car. Whether a drink, a snack or a delicious menu, SBB restaurants offer everything the heart desires. Other trains (including international trains) also include dining cars. They are indicated with the symbol O on the timetable. SBB restaurants and SBB bistros are open from 06.30 to 21.00 hrs.