Zurich To Lugano Travel Options (Train, Car & Bus)

Monte San Salvatore in Lugano

How do you get from Zurich to Lugano in the fastest, cheapest, or easiest way?

Lugano, Switzerland is a great place to get away from the dreary autumn and winter days in Zurich, in the north of Switzerland. So, it is no surprise that many people choose to make the Zurich to Lugano journey. Especially on weekends.

With its Mediterranean vibe on the lakes of Lago Lugano, heading to Lugano is like a break in Italy while still being in Switzerland. You can often eat outside, the lake views are jaw-dropping and the dolce vita is in full swing in this Swiss city.

But Let’s find out!

Zurich to Lugano by Train

sbb train in zurich
SBB Train in Zurich HB

For most people living in Zurich, the train is the simplest and most relaxing way of traveling to far-away destinations like Lugano. Taking the Zurich to Lugano train is a very scenic train ride indeed!

From Zurich HB Main Train Station

Train options from Zurich HB - Lugano
Train options from Zurich HB – Lugano

There are a few options to get to Zurich HB to Lugano. There is a direct train from Zurich HB to Lugano every hour at 33 past. And there is another slightly faster route with a change in Arth-Goldau at 5 past the hour.

The price for a train from Zurich HB to Lugano is 65 for second class, full-fare, one way. Return for the same full fare, second class is 130 CHF. A half-fare card gets you 50% off both of those.

Travel TimeFull Price 2nd class (CHF)
Zurich – Arth-Goldau Lugano1 hr 53 min65 one-way, 130 return
Zurich – Lugano (Direct)1 hr 57 min65 one-way, 130 return
Train connections from Zurich HB – Lugano

Note: The direct Zurich HB – Lugano train is often very full early on Saturdays. So, if you are planning on taking such a train, perhaps book a seat, take a slightly later train or take the connecting train via Arth-Goldau instead.

Zurich Airport to Lugano

If you are traveling from Zurich Airport to Lugano, your best options are via Zurich HB. You simply have to catch any train to Zurich HB and then connect with either of the two main route options listed above.

Zurich to Lugano by Car

Driving from Zurich to Lugano may seem more convenient, but it is actually longer. It takes a minimum of 2 hours 20 minutes to get from Zurich to Lugano by car. However, using this route on the A2 and A4 means you will have to pass through the Gotthard Tunnel which is rarely without traffic jams.

The Gotthard Tunnel is notorious for long traffic jams, especially on weekends on summer holidays. However, in my experience, it is rare for there to be none. You have to travel very late at night and not on a weekend to have a great run through the tunnel. And that is also not in summer.

The Old Gotthard Pass (Newer one is easier) – image via Wikimedia

One way to avoid the Gotthard Tunnel if you take this route is to drive over the Gotthard Pass instead. It is slower but far more relaxing and scenic. The pass drive is wide and easygoing compared to many in Switzerland, and you can take a break on the top to enjoy the views.

San Bernadino Pass
San Bernadino Pass – image via Wikimedia

It is usually far more relaxing to go via the San Bernardino Pass on the A3 towards Chur and then head south on the A13. This is the route I always take to avoid the traffic jams on the Gotthard. It takes at least 30 minutes longer, however, it is rarely full of traffic, and even if it is, it rarely stops. So, you drive non-stop the whole way.

Which Route Is More Scenic?

Both routes from Zurich to Lugano by car are very scenic. The busier and shorter route via the Gotthard takes you straight down through the Alps via the Gotthard Tunnel and the valley from Airolo via Bellinzona to Lugano. There are mountains all around you most of the way, with deep gorges and rivers on the side in some parts.

The route via the San Bernadino is no less stunning, although different because you are passing through the Eastern Alps of Switzerland. The A13 road is not as large, so the driving is slower and you will perhaps have more time to take in the scenery as you drive. Take a break on the pass itself, or enjoy the tight turns through the Rhine Gorge as you start heading south not long after Chur. It’s a great drive.

Zurich to Lugano by Bus

If you wish to travel from Zurich to Lugano by bus, you are out of luck. There are no direct services from either Flixbus or Omio to get there.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a direct train from Zurich to Lugano?

Yes, there is a direct train from Zurich to Lugano. It usually leaves from Zurich HB at 33 minutes past every hour, with some exceptions, and takes 1 hour 57 minutes to reach Lugano.

How long does it take from Zurich to Lugano?

To get from Zurich to Lugano takes just under 2 hours by train, and anywhere from 2 hours 20 to 3 and a half hours by car, depending on your route and traffic.

What Is The Distance From Zurich To Lugano?

The distance from Zurich to Lugano is 207 km via the A4 and A2 highways when you are driving by car.

Is the Train Route From Zurich to Lugano Scenic?

Yes, there the train from Zurich to Lugano has a lot of scenic parts to it. The train ride along Lake Zurich is always scenic, as is the train ride that approaches the Gotthard tunnel where you are surrounded by the high peaks of the Alps.

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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