Train travel in Switzerland is always first-class

The Bernina Express

Switzerland boasts the best train travel in the world — but you didn’t hear it from us! We’re just sharing an opinion that writer Ed Perkins recently published in USA Today. While we wholeheartedly agree with him, we wanted our readers to know that we’re not the only ones who think highly of Swiss trains.

For a brief summary of the USA Today article, as well as additional photos and Alpenwild insights, read on. All aboard!

Train travel: the Glacier Express rounds a curve.
The Glacier Express rounds a corner. Photo by Tom Dempsey.

Glacier Express

When it comes to scenic train travel, the Glacier Express is absolutely iconic. The rail operator markets it as the world’s slowest express train, since it takes about eight hours to travel from Zermatt to St. Moritz. That’s a long ride, but the views are more than a match for the slow speed.

The elevation and scenery both change dramatically during those eight hours, so keep your eyes peeled for picture-perfect views. You’ll also spot incredible feats of engineering, such as the Landwasser Viaduct and Oberalp Pass. Bring your camera for the ride — your friends won’t believe their eyes when they see your photos!

Like all the other trains on this list, the cars on the Glacier Express have special panoramic windows. That way, the passengers can get a good look at the jaw-dropping scenery.

If you’re strapped for cash, don’t worry about booking a first-class ticket. In second class, you’ll enjoy all the same amenities, although you’ll have a little less legroom. Either way, you’ll ride in style and comfort!

Train travel: the Bernina Express rounds the circular viaduct.
The Bernina Express crawls up the circular viaduct near Brusio. Photo by swiss-image.ch/Christoph Benz

Bernina Express

Aboard this train too, you’ll spot gorgeous scenery through the window. (In fact, USA Today writer Ed Perkins cites the Bernina Express as his personal favorite train in Switzerland.)

The Bernina Express goes through 55 tunnels, thunders over 196 bridges, and reaches speeds of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour). The line’s highest point is roughly 7,392 feet (2,253 meters) above sea level.

For many passengers, the circular viaduct is the highlight on this train ride. Engineers built the 360-degree landmark to help the Bernina Express safely climb a steep section of the line. Located just outside of Brusio, Switzerland, the viaduct is nine stories tall at its highest point, and it has a 7% gradient.

A ride on the Bernina Express takes about four hours, and it’s another great option for rail enthusiasts in Switzerland.

The itinerary for the Gotthard Panorama Express includes a boat and a rail portion. Photo by swiss-image.ch/Alain Kalbermatten

Gotthard Panorama Express

This line connects centrally located Lucerne to Canton Ticino in southern Switzerland. It fuses both boat and train travel, making it a memorable outing for water lovers and rail enthusiasts.

On this route, you’ll catch a historic steamer and make your way across the lovely Lake Lucerne. When you disembark from the boat in Flüelen, you’ll take a panoramic train on the old, zigzagging, scenic Gotthard Line.

There’s now a faster train route going from Flüelen to Canton Ticino, but it relies on a 35-mile underground tunnel. This means that those passengers trade pretty views for speed — so if you want to enjoy the scenery, make sure you book your ticket on the Gotthard Panorama Express.

From Lucerne, the trip takes five hours total (two and a half on a boat, two and a half on a train).

Train travel: Golden Pass
The Golden Pass zips through the mountains between Zweisimmen and Montreux. Photo by swiss-image.ch/Oskar Enander.

Golden Pass

The Golden Pass differs from the options we’ve already discussed in this post. — for one thing, it’s a route instead of a train. The Golden Pass is divided into three separate sections, letting passengers choose to travel the entire line or cut their journey short partway through.

The Golden Pass trains begin in Lucerne, then make their first stop in Interlaken. From there, passengers can switch to another train if they’d like to continue down the line to Zweisimmen. When they arrive in Zweisimmen, they have the option of catching a third and final train to Montreux. Luckily, the train schedules are synced together, so no one has to wait very long between rides.

It takes five and a half hours to travel from Lucerne to Montreux, but passengers can also purchase tickets for any individual section of the line. This makes the Golden Pass an extremely convenient train trip, especially for travelers on a tight schedule.

Train travel with Alpenwild

There’s no better way to explore Switzerland than taking a train (just ask the good people at USA Today). Join us on a Scenic Alps by Rail tour — and if you’d like an unforgettable holiday season, opt for the Christmas Edition of our classic rail tour instead.

Choo choo!

Cover photo by swiss-image.ch/Mattias Nutt

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