Best Scenic Train Rides in Switzerland (Views to Die For)

scenic train rides switzerland

Planning a trip through Switzerland by train and you want to know more about the many Swiss scenic trains? Then you’ve come to the right place because this detailed guide will tell you about the huge range of panoramic train rides available in this Alpine country! 

From St. Gallen to Lucerne, Lucerne to Lugano, and Lugano to Tirano, these panoramic trains can take you on a journey through the entire country. Combine a few different trips to create your own Grand Train Tour of Switzerland itinerary or stick to a classic one like the famous Glacier Express – either way, these scenic train rides in Switzerland are the best this country has to offer!

Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

Grand Train Tour
Grand Train Tour

The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is one of the most popular scenic train rides in Switzerland. It starts from Zurich and allows you to explore the most visited destinations in the country. The tour is usually around two weeks long, and it includes combines several panoramic trains into one big train trip through Switzerland. 

The standard Grand Train Tour itinerary begins and ends in Zurich, but there are many other versions of the journey so it’s easy to adjust it to fit your travel plans. You can make the journey longer or shorter, explore more or fewer places, and see as much of the country as you would like. 

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Grand Tour of Switzerland by Train (Map)
Grand Tour of Switzerland by Train (Map)

The main reason why the train tour starts in Zurich is that the city has the busiest airport in the country. Most travelers who fly to Switzerland from overseas land in Zurich, which makes it the ideal starting point for a train tour of the country. But, it’s worth noting that you can do the tour from wherever you want, so if you get a better deal on plane tickets to Basel or Geneva, don’t miss out!

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Glacier Express

Glacier Express
Glacier Express

The Glacier Express is the most famous train in Switzerland. It is a panoramic train that connects Zermatt and St. Moritz. It’s the world’s slowest express train because this journey takes around 8 hours – the only reason it’s an “express” train is that it makes fewer stops than the local trains. 

The train crosses 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels, during this epic Switzerland train journey of 291 kilometers. It’s undoubtedly one of the most scenic Swiss train rides, but also one of the best luxury train rides in Switzerland. Tickets for the entire 291-kilometer journey start at 152 CHF for second-class tickets, and that’s without a seat reservation. The reservation is an extra 39 or 49 CHF depending on the season, plus you must pay for any meals you wish to eat on board. 

First-class tickets are around 100 CHF more expensive, while the experience of riding in the Excellence Class of the train will set you back around 470 CHF. It’s definitely a journey for those with deeper pockets, but worth the money because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will always remember. 

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Gotthard Panorama Express

Gotthard Train
Gotthard Panorama Express

The Gotthard Panorama Express is a scenic journey from Arth/Lucerne to Lugano. It’s best to do this scenic journey in the summer when it includes a boat cruise on Lake Lucerne. Traveling by train only is possible from Arth to Lugano and vice versa. 

All seats on the train are first-class seats, so everyone gets the same treatment. Seat reservations are not obligatory, but there is an additional surcharge of 16 CHF that all passengers must pay. Also, you can still choose between first and second-class tickets. Second-class tickets are naturally a little more affordable, and you’re seated in second-class only on the Lake Lucerne boat cruise. 

The entire journey takes around 5.5 hours, and you’re treated to gorgeous panoramic views the entire time. It’s worth noting that the journey is a little shorter in the winter when it doesn’t include a boat cruise on the lake.

Bernina Express

Bernina Express on the Bernina Pass
Bernina Express on the Bernina Pass

The Bernina Express is one of the best scenic train rides in Switzerland. Transporting passengers from Switzerland to Italy and vice versa, this train takes you through some of the most impressive landscapes in the country. 

This panoramic train runs from Chur/St. Moritz to Tirano in Italy, connecting two very different regions and cultures. The Bernina Express train passes through incredibly beautiful scenery, and the best way to enjoy the views is to sit in a first-class train carriage, where the windows curve up to the roof. 

This is one of the pricier panoramic trains in Switzerland. Second-class tickets for a return trip between Tirano and Chur are 92 CHF; the price includes two (mandatory) seat reservations that are 20 CHF in each direction. If you’re traveling one way and maybe doing a shorter route, consider a first-class ticket, but stick to second-class if you’re on a tight budget. 

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Rigi Cogwheel Railway

Rigi Cogwheel Train
Rigi Cogwheel Train

Rigi Cogwheel Railway is a great option for a short and scenic train ride high above Lake Lucerne. There are multiple lines on this cogwheel railway, and they all take you from the villages at the foot of Mt. Rigi to the Rigi Kulm summit. Not only is Rigi a popular weekend getaway in summer for hikers, skiers and snowboarders also enjoy the pistes here in the winter.

That’s why the cogwheel train has an option of a daily ticket which allows you to board the train as many times as you like. The daily ticket costs as much as a return ticket from Vitznau to Rigi Kulm (72 CHF) without any discounts. 

The good news is that there are a bunch of discounts you can try to get for this route. If you have the Swiss Travel Pass or the SBB Day Pass, you can ride the train for free. Also, if you’re staying in the area and you have the Rigi Guest Card (provided by your accommodation), you get a 50% discount. In any case, here’s a list of all the discounts for the Rigi Cogwheel Railway. 

GoldenPass Line

golden pass train
Golden Pass Train

The Golden Pass Line offers one of the most scenic train rides in the entire country. The trains travel between Montreux and Lucerne, stopping in Interlaken along the way. One of the great things about this train ride is that it connects the spectacular Lake Geneva with central Switzerland, allowing you to enjoy both regions during your visit..

There are three classes on the Golden Pass Line trains – 1st, 2nd, and Prestige. The Prestige class is the most luxurious option, with heated seats, huge panoramic windows, and a floor raised 40cm for the absolute best views. It’s also the priciest option out of the bunch, with a 35 CHF fee just for the seat reservation and an additional 93 CHF fee for the (one-way) ticket. 

The Prestige class is a luxurious way of experiencing one of the scenic train rides from Interlaken, but it’s not the only one. 2nd class tickets also include panoramic views, and they’re about 40 CHF cheaper. However, it’s worth noting that the difference between 1st and Prestige tickets is just 15 CHF, so you might as well go all out if you want to splurge on this train ride.  

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Jungfraujoch

jungfrau pass trains
Jungfrau Pass Train

Jungfraujoch is home to the highest railway station (and post office) in Europe. It’s a place you absolutely have to visit if you enjoy discovering unique attractions and landmarks, especially if you’re a fan of the panoramic train rides that lead to them. 

Top of Europe is the highlight of all trips to Jungfraujoch. The venue boasts a restaurant, shops, an ice palace, and a few other interesting attractions that will keep you busy while you’re there. Also, don’t miss out on the Sphinx observation deck, which offers incredible panoramic views of the 4000-meter peaks surrounding you, and the Aletsch Glacier below.

 It’s possible to travel to Jungfraujoch by train alone or combine it with a gondola. The train travels from Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg, where you switch trains and continue on to Jungfraujoch. The alternative is to ride the Eiger Express gondola from Grindelwald and then connect with the train from the top. This is a fairly new addition, and it’s currently the cheaper and faster way of reaching the Top of Europe.

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Brienzer Rothorn

Brienzer Rothorn Bahn
Brienzer Rothorn Bahn

The Brienzer Rothorn Bahn is a unique opportunity to ride in a cogwheel steam train that’s more than a hundred years old. There are currently eight steam locomotives that run on this route, and they’ve all been in operation since 1892. 

Rothorn Kulm is the final stop on this train route, which is only accessible by train between June and October. Trains don’t run there in the winter months, so if you want the full Brienzer Rothorn Bahn experience, plan a summer visit. The trains run only on weekends, and a return ticket for a 2nd class seat will set you back around 50 CHF. 

It’s also possible to do shorter rides on this route, but you won’t get to soak up the incredible panoramic view of the 693 summits that surround the Rothorn. On top of that, it’s also worth noting that you’re not guaranteed a seat in an actual steam locomotive – in case of technical failures or unusually high demand, diesel locomotives can be used in place of steam-powered ones. 

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Gornergrat Cog Railway

Gornergrat Railway Zermatt
Gornergrat Railway Zermatt

Gornergrat is one of the popular day trip destinations from Zermatt because it is easily accessible by the cogwheel railway. The ride is about half an hour long, and you get to enjoy a fabulous view of the Matterhorn the entire time. When you arrive at the mountaintop village, you are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains. 

The only problem is that the train tickets are very expensive, especially for such a short ride. One-way tickets are 44 CHF and return trip tickets are 88 CHF, and those are prices during the off-season. The tickets are most expensive between June and August, going up to as much as 126 CHF for a return ticket from Zermatt to Gorgengratt. 

The good news is that they accept all sorts of discounts, so if you have any of the popular tourist cards, you most likely won’t pay full price for this experience. Also, Swiss Travel Pass holders get to ride on this train for free. 

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Voralpen Express

The Voralpen Express is a panoramic train that takes you from St. Gallen in Eastern Switzerland to Lucerne in Central Switzerland. The journey is 125 kilometers long, and it usually takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes to cover that distance. 

From one historic city to the next, this train ride is great for traveling the lesser-known routes in Switzerland. Sure, everyone and their mothers have heard of the Bernina Express and the Glacier Express by now, but the Voralpen Express has managed to stay under the radar for quite a while.

One-way tickets for a 2nd class seat on the Voralpen Express start at 48 CHF, but it’s pretty easy to get a discount. One thing I will point out is that it’s not the easiest thing in the world to purchase tickets for this specific train. Make sure that it’s indicated you’re traveling on the Voralpen Express on the ticket, otherwise you might end up paying for a ticket on a regular passenger train from Luzern to St. Gallen.  

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Erlebniszug Rheinschlucht

Rhine Gorge Train
Rhine Gorge Train

Erlebniszug Rheinschlucht is a panoramic train ride through the so-called Swiss Grand Canyon. This is more of a sarcastic nickname for the locals, so just refer to it as the Rhine Gorge if you don’t want to get any weird looks. 

This adventure train through the gorge runs on the weekends in the summer season, between June and late October. It boasts open observation cars that offer the best views of the area, as well as closed passenger cars. The train runs from Landquart to Ilanz with several stops in between and is a great way to explore the valley that is home to the start of the mighty Rhine river. 

Tickets for this scenic train ride are around 40 CHF if you want to depart from Chur and 26 CHF for departures from Flims. It’s important to note that Ruinaulta tickets allow you to get on and off the train as many times as you like during the day, so you’re free to go hiking in the area and explore as much of the gorge as you like. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to ride a panoramic train in Switzerland?

Ticket prices are different for each of the panoramic trains, so a scenic train ride in Switzerland can cost from 20 CHF up to several hundred francs. It depends on whether you get first or second-class tickets, which station you board and get off the train at, and whether you travel in the high or low season. 

Is Glacier Express considered a luxury train?

Yes, the Glacier Express is considered a luxury train. Even a second-class seat sets you back some 200 CHF, but the train’s Excellence Class is truly the epitome of a luxury train ride in Switzerland. 

Is it possible to do both Glacier Express & Bernina Express in one day?

It’s possible if you get off the train in Chur and board the Bernina Express immediately after, but I don’t recommend this. This is like a speed run through Switzerland – sure, you’ll see a good chunk of the country, but you’ll be glued to your train seat for 10-12 hours without the ability to get out and explore. It’s best to plan at least two days for this journey, so you have enough time to rest and discover the attractions in the cities you stop in. 

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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