Dreaming of exploring Switzerland by train? So am I, which is precisely why I prepared this detailed guide to the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland!
One travel pass gives you access to all the country’s trains, including those panoramic trains with massive windows that pass through surreally beautiful sceneries. The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is a bucket-list travel experience that covers 1,280 kilometers of the country on an epic 11-day journey, and here’s everything else you need to know about it!
Table of Contents
8 Sections of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland
The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is divided into eight sections, according to the specific routes that are operated by panoramic trains. We’ll tell you about all the different sections and trains right here, so you can create your own personal Grand Train Tour of the Alpine country!
And if you want to check out the map before you start, I have added it below for easy reference.
Zürich – Luzern – Interlaken
Zürich is usually the starting point for traveling through the country because it’s got the largest and busiest international airport in Switzerland. Most travelers who fly to the country arrive at this airport, so it makes perfect sense to begin your journey in this beautiful city.
The first leg of the journey takes you to three cities, and four lakes, and treats you to some fantastic scenery during the train journey. At Luzern, you board a panoramic train to Interlaken, and that ride is easily the highlight of this entire journey. The Luzern-Interlaken express train passes through beautiful mountain landscapes, featuring waterfalls, turquoise lakes, and mesmerizing scenery before it arrives at Interlaken, the beautiful town nestled between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
Distance: 131 kilometers
Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
Interlaken – Zweisimmen – Montreux
The second section of the train journey through Switzerland takes you from the beautiful town of Interlaken to Zweisimmen, where you can ride trains on the panoramic GoldenPass line to Montreux. The train passes next to castles, through pastures, and hills, for a wonderfully scenic journey full of marvelous sights.
You can choose to ride one of the two Golden Pass trains – the Panoramic or the Belle Epoque. The Panoramic train is the better option if you want to admire the scenery during the ride because it features huge windows, with windows on the roof in 1st class. The Belle Epoque train is decorated in Belle Epoque style and it feels like traveling back in time, and it’s great for travelers who want to discover a unique way to travel in Switzerland.
Distance: 120 kilometers
Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
Montreux – Visp – Zermatt
When you’re done exploring the beautiful city on the shore of Lake Geneva, board a train to Visp. The train journey through southern Switzerland passes through several valleys, and it is incredibly scenic. Visp is one of the sunniest places in Switzerland, and after a quick exploration of the town, you can board the train to Zermatt.
The car-free village of Zermatt is a popular ski resort, but also just a magical Swiss destination overall. During the train ride, you’re treated to beautiful views of the Rhone River valley along the way, and when you can see the iconic Matterhorn, you’ll know that you’re getting pretty close to Zermatt.
The village is also popular among mountain climbers who wish to conquer this peak, and there’s even a museum in town dedicated to ascents on the Matterhorn.
Distance: 148 kilometers
Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Zermatt – St. Moritz
The slowest express train in Switzerland takes you from the beautiful car-free village of Zermatt to cosmopolitan St. Moritz. You’ll ride the Glacier Express, a panoramic train that crosses over 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels.
The entire journey is around 8 hours long, and it’s by far the longest train journey of the entire Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. Time flies on the train if you keep your eyes peeled on the magical scenery, making the long journey easily enjoyable.
Chur is an optional stop along this route. The beautiful town is about halfway between Zermatt and St. Moritz, and it’s worth checking out if you have enough time in Switzerland.
Distance: 291 kilometers
Time: 7 hours 45 minutes
St. Moritz – Tirano – Lugano
From the glacial landscapes of St. Moritz to palm trees in Lugano – the Bernina Express panoramic train takes passengers on a ride through southern Switzerland and northern Italy, in an epic 7-hour journey.
The panoramic train takes you from St. Moritz to Tirano in Italy, allowing you to discover some truly magical landscapes along the way. UNESCO World Heritage Sites, mountain passes, tall peaks, and mesmerizing lakes are just some of the highlights you’ll get to see during the journey.
At Tirano, you can board the Bernina Express Bus towards Lugano via Como. Situated on the shore of Lake Lugano, the beautiful city offers a plethora of fun and exciting things to do to its visitors, from decadent restaurants to fabulous hiking trails.
Distance: 154 kilometers
Time: 6 hours 45 minutes
Lugano – Bellinzona – Flüelen – Luzern
The Lugano-Luzern section of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is the main reason why you should plan to do this tour in the summer months if you want to experience all the highlights of the journey. The Gotthard Panorama Express operates only between April and October, and it’s another panoramic train that offers stunning views during the journey.
The panoramic train will take you from Lugano to Flüelen, where you board a boat that transports you across Lake Lucerne to the city. It’s an amazing experience and without a doubt one of the highlights of the entire tour, so it’s worth it to plan your trip around it.
Treno Gottardo is an alternative for travelers who can’t make the trip between April and October. It transports passengers between Lugano and Lucerne on the Gotthard route, and the train is in operation year-round. This train is also two hours quicker than the panoramic route, but the views along the way aren’t quite as amazing.
Distance: 182 kilometers
Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Luzern – St. Gallen
Board the Voralpen Express train from Luzern to St. Gallen to experience one of the most beautiful railway lines in Switzerland. During the two-hour train journey, you are treated to panoramic views of the surrounding alpine peaks, the Rapperswil damn and its castle, and the highest railway bridge in the country, the Sitter Viaduct.
And that’s all before you arrive at St. Gallen, the beautiful town near Lake Constance. The attractions in the town include UNESCO World Heritage Sites, an excellent museum, and breathtaking nature in the city’s immediate surroundings.
Distance: 125 kilometers
Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
St. Gallen – Schaffhausen – Zürich
The final leg of this epic journey has travelers returning to Zürich from St. Gallen. The train ride offers travelers a glimpse of maritime Switzerland because the train travels next to a body of water for the majority of the ride. First, you’ll ride along the shore of Lake Constance for about 40 kilometers, and then the train follows the Rhine river downstream.
Schaffhausen is an optional stop along this route and is entirely worth it if you want to see the largest cascades in Europe. The Rhine Falls are absolutely stunning and definitely worth a quick detour on the final leg of your Switzerland tour.
Board the train back to Zürich at Schaffhausen and you can be in the financial metropolis in 30-50 minutes. Use the time you have left in Switzerland to explore the city – walk along Bahnhofstrasse, see Lake Zurich, and climb the Karlsturm tower at Grossmünster for fabulous panoramic views before it’s time to head to the airport.
Length: 133 kilometers
Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Grand Train Tour Suggested Itineraries
If the idea of traveling by train for more than 1,000 kilometers is a bit overwhelming, consider doing one of the suggested itineraries. These cover certain parts of the Grand Train Tour, so they’re shorter and more affordable than doing the entire journey. Also, you can book pre-arranged packages for each of these itineraries, which will include train tickets, accommodation, meals, and even tickets to select tourist attractions!
The Original Tour allows you to discover most highlights of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland during one week of traveling. Your journey starts in Lucerne and ends in St. Gallen, so it differs from the full-length tour in that it bypasses Zurich entirely.
The cities you will visit during the 8 days of the Original Tour are Lucerne, Interlaken, Montreux, Zermatt, St. Moritz, Tirano, Lugano, and St. Gallen, and you get to ride on all the panoramic trains.
Existing packages for this itinerary start at CHF 1280, and they include accommodation with breakfast in all the cities and seat reservations for the panoramic trains.
Duration: 8 days / 7 nights
The Classic Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is a 7-day itinerary that allows passengers to discover 7 different cities in the country. Your journey begins and ends in Lucerne, and during the week of traveling, you get to discover most highlights of southern Switzerland.
Zurich and St. Gallen aren’t included in this itinerary, but all the other places visited on the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland are. You’ll travel to Lucerne, Interlaken, Montreux, Zermatt, St. Moritz, Tirano, Lugano, and back to Lucerne, all the while riding on the country’s iconic panoramic trains.
The prices for pre-arranged Classic Tour packages start at CHF 1140, which includes train travel, seat reservations, accommodation with breakfast, and even a 1st class upgrade on the Gotthard Panorama Express train.
Duration: 7 days / 6 nights
Top Attractions Tour
If you can’t spare the two weeks necessary to complete the full Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, consider doing a shorter version of it. That’s exactly what the Top Attractions Tour itinerary is, which takes you to five different cities in just five days.
Your journey begins in Lucerne and it includes access to two panoramic trains – the Golden Pass train and the Glacier Express. The places visited during this five-day itinerary are Lucerne, Interlaken, Montreux, Zermatt, and Chur, so you can experience all the most famous attractions in southern Switzerland.
Packages for this itinerary start at CHF 650, which includes accommodation with breakfast, seat reservations, and public transport to a place of your choosing from Chur.
Duration: 5 days / 4 nights
Glacier & Palm Trees Tour
The Glacier & Palm Trees Tour is the best itinerary for people who just want to ride on the panoramic trains. This four-day adventure includes two of the best panoramic trains in Switzerland – the Bernina Express and the Gotthard Panorama Express.
The itinerary begins with an overnight stay in St. Moritz, the cosmopolitan village known for luxury and glamour. On day two, you ride the Bernina Express train to Tirano and then the Bernina Express bus to Lugano, and enjoy views of beautiful lakes and palm trees.
On day three, passengers will board the Gotthard Panorama Express train to Lucerne, where they will spend the rest of their time in Switzerland. Packages with accommodation, breakfast, and seat reservations for this quick Swiss excursion start at CHF 660.
Duration: 4 days / 3 nights
Stunning Waters Tour
The Stunning Water Tour is a short and affordable itinerary that beings in Zurich. You’re only traveling for three days and two nights, discovering the cities on the shores of Switzerland’s most impressive lakes.
Zurich, Lucerne, and St. Gallen are included in this short itinerary. Packages for this route start at just CHF 300, and they include overnight stays in Zurich and St. Gallen. This itinerary includes a ride on the panoramic Voralpen Express train, which allows you to discover spectacular scenery and UNESCO World Heritage Sites from the comfort of your train seat.
The last day of the journey includes a ride from St. Gallen to Schaffhausen. You’re riding along the shore of Lake Constance for some 40 kilometers, and then you get to tour Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe.
Duration: 3 days / 2 nights
Hidden Treasures Tour
The Hidden Treasures Tour is another short three-day itinerary suitable for budget travelers. The itinerary includes visits to four cities – Interlaken, Lucerne, Domodossola, and Locarno – with overnight stays in Interlaken and Locarno.
On the third and final day of the tour, you get to ride in 1st class on the Gotthard Panorama Express train and enjoy stunning scenic views while traveling back to Lucerne. Packages for this itinerary start at CHF 240, which includes two overnight stays with breakfast, train tickets, and seat reservations.
Duration: 3 days / 2 nights
Winter Magic Tour
The Winter Magic Tour is the perfect train trip through Switzerland for people who want to discover the country in the winter. Rolling hills and turquoise lake waters give way to glaciers, frozen lakes, and snow-capped mountains in this epic 7-day journey through central Switzerland.
The tour explores four towns – Lucerne, Interlaken, Zermatt, and St. Moritz – with multiple overnight stays in the same locations. This allows you to thoroughly explore these beautiful towns and gives you enough time to explore all the mountains you want in the Alps.
The itinerary includes a ride on the Glacier Express train and an optional ride on the Bernina Panorama Winter train. Packages for this itinerary start at CHF 940, which includes overnight stays with breakfast and a seat reservation for the Glacier Express.
Duration: 7 days / 6 nights
The Swiss Rail Pass And Packages
The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland can cost you anywhere from a few hundred Swiss francs to a few thousand, depending on the type of ticket/package you purchase.
A Swiss Travel Pass is all you need to be able to travel on the Swiss trains, and the prices start at 232 CHF for a three-day pass. The longer the validity of the pass, the more it’s going to cost. Also, keep in mind that the Swiss Travel Pass only covers the cost of the train rides – accommodation, meals, and tickets to attractions are all coming out of your budget. Read this guide for more info about the Swiss Travel Pass.
That’s precisely why many people choose to book package deals, which include all of the above, as well as train travel. You can purchase a package that covers any of the suggested itineraries, and even the full Grand Train Tour that covers the entire 1280 kilometers of the route.
Additionally, you will need to spend extra money on the seat reservation for the panoramic trains. Reservations are necessary, and they’re usually around 20 CHF per seat, regardless of the class.
Finally, I would encourage you to pay extra for a 1st class travel pass, if you can afford it. The panoramic trains have windows that are either on the roof or curve over the roof in 1st class, for truly spectacular views the entire time. It will bring the train journey experience to a whole new level, and it’s worth the extra money.
Grand Train Tour of Switzerland App
If you’re going to tour Switzerland by train, the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland app is a great travel companion. It contains information on all the legs of the journey, as well as the highlights and top tourist attractions of all the cities and towns that you can visit during the tour.
The travel app also offers coupons that can get you anything from free drinks to first-class upgrades on trains and boats, plus you can collect points for every new place you visit. Travelers are encouraged to visit tourist information offices in each of the cities they visit to redeem unique prizes and collect codes, which they can then use to collect stamps within the app.
The app is free and it costs nothing to install it on your phone, but it has lots of benefits. In addition to all the extra features, this app can track your location and display the nearby attractions in all towns. It’s a great way to ensure you don’t get lost while discovering Switzerland, as well as a detailed journey of your entire trip.