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7 Best Scenic Train Rides in Switzerland (2024)

The most beautiful panorama rail journeys in Switzerland with convenient rail packages that include seat reservations, excursions, and hotels.

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Switzerland has some of the most scenic rail journeys in the world, passing by majestic mountains, serene lakes, and charming villages.

On the most beautiful routes, the Swiss rail system offers special “panorama” trains with large windows and extra services to make the journey more enjoyable.

The easiest way to include these routes in your Switzerland itinerary is to book a scenic rail package. Instead of booking elements separately, these multi-day packages include your train tickets, seat reservations, and hotels at each destination, all in one transaction.

During booking, you can customize the trip, adding mountain excursions, upgrading or downgrading hotels, or staying longer in certain destinations.

To help you decide which scenic train tour is right for you, below we’ve highlighted our favorite Switzerland rail journeys with tips for booking and suggested activities in each destination.

Special offer! Get a 5% discount on your rail package with our discount code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN.

          

Why book a Scenic Rail Journey package

For each of the rail journey I describe below, you can book all elements separately: train tickets, seat reservations, hotels and excursions.

But it can be time-consuming, with an overwhelming route options, confusing train timetables, and complicated seat reservation systems.

Many travelers, especially those planning last minute, find that rail packages make the planning and booking process easier and faster. Then you can focus on the fun things you will do at each destination.

What rail packages include

The rail packages I’ve highlighted here include:

  • A suggested itinerary, which can be customized.
  • Train tickets to each Swiss destination in your itinerary
  • Seat reservations on the panorama trains
  • Accommodation at each destination with breakfast

We like the booking tool from Switzerland Travel Centre, which has access to hotel rooms and seat reservations with their preferred partners that you don’t necessarily see on other platforms.

Customizing the suggested itinerary

Each rail package has a suggested itinerary. But you can use the planning tool to customize the following elements to better suit your needs:

  • Add excursions to mountains and other attractions
  • Upgrade or downgrade hotels
  • Extend your stay at some destinations
  • Upgrade to 1st class/Excellence Class on panorama trains
  • Book luggage transfer on some hiking itineraries
  • Add the FLEX OPTION so you can cancel for free up to 3 days before departure

1. Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

The most comprehensive rail journey is the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. Starting and ending in Lucerne, this tour links the five best scenic rail routes described below into one big efficient loop.

starting the Grand Train Tour on the Lucerne-Interlaken Express. © Photo Zentralbahn Mediaportal.

The Grand Train Tour visits the most famous Swiss destinations including Lucerne, Interlaken, Montreux, Zermatt, St Mortiz and Lugano. If you want the see the most of Switzerland quickly, the Grand Train Tour is the easiest way to do it.

The classic itinerary is a minimum 7 days, with a long scenic train ride each day.

  • Day 1 – Panorama train from Lucerne to Interlaken
  • Day 2 – GoldenPass Line panorama train from Interlaken to Montreux
  • Day 3 – Train from Montreux to Zermatt
  • Day 4 – Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Mortiz
  • Day 5 – Bernina Express from St Moritz to Tirano, then bus to Lugano.
  • Day 6 – Train from Lugano to Flüelen, then boat cruise to Lucerne
  • Day 7 – return by train to your airport or starting point

If you prefer to spend most of your time on the trains, land cruise style, the Grand Train Tour is a perfect option just as it is.

Use our promo code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN to save 5% on the Grand Train Tour Classic rail package

But if you want to spend more time exploring these destinations, simply customize the tour to add a couple nights at each destination so you can explore the area before moving on. We would suggest adding an extra day in Lucerne, Interlaken, and Zermatt. See suggested activities below.

2. Lucerne-Interlaken Express

The “Best of Switzerland” rail package includes the Lucerne-Interlaken Express scenic train journey, connecting two of our favorite destinations in Switzerland. It’s a beautiful ride, passing alpine lakes, cute villages, with many mountains in view.

Lucerne-Interlaken Express route along Lake Lungern / Photo © Die Zentralbahn Download Centre

The base tour is 5 days with 2 nights in Lucerne, a half-day on the Lucerne-Interlaken Express train, and 2 nights in Interlaken. It also includes a visit to Jungfraujoch glacier viewpoint. The map below shows the train route as an orange line.

Here’s the suggested itinerary, which you can customize:

  • Day 1: Train to Lucerne. Activity near Lucerne. Overnight in Lucerne
  • Day 2: Free day for activity near Lucerne. Overnight in Lucerne
  • Day 3: Luzern-Interlaken Express scenic train to Interlaken. Half-day activity near Interlaken. Overnight in Interlaken.
  • Day 4: Mountain excursion to Jungfraujoch. Overnight in Interlaken.
  • Day 5: Activity near Interlaken. Train to your next destination or airport.

In this itinerary, the scenic train journey is relatively short, just two hours, but it packs in a lot of beauty into that time. It’s a great choice for those that want the scenic train experience, but prefer more time actively exploring the alps with hiking or other fun activities.

Use our promo code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN to save 5% on the “Best of Switzerland” rail package

Suggested activities

On Day 4 in Interlaken, the tour already includes an excursion to the Jungfraujoch glacier viewpoint, which takes about 4 hours. If you get an early start, you could fit in more activities into the afternoon.

on the Jungfraujoch Glacier Plateau

For example, visit the Jungfraujoch in the early morning. Just after lunch, ride down the mountain to Wengen and Lauterbrunnen, stopping to enjoy those villages and the Staubbach waterfall before returning to your hotel.

Lauterbrunnen valley

If you have more time, we suggest adding at least 1 more night in Lucerne and 2-3 nights in Interlaken. See below for more activity ideas for these destinations.

3. Glacier Express Classic (Zermatt to St Moritz)

The Glacier Express is the most famous scenic train ride in Switzerland, starting in Zermatt and passing through many beautiful landscapes before arriving in St Moritz.

It travels through many beautiful landscapes, including over the Oberalp mountain pass and through the Rhine river gorge.

Glacier Express going over the Oberalp pass. Photo via RhB.ch (c) Gex AG, Stefan Schlumpf.

The base Glacier Express Classic itinerary is 3 days, with one night in Zermatt, one day on the scenic train, and one night St Moritz. The black line on map below is the Glacier Express. 

  • Day 1: Train to Zermatt. Optional half-day activity in Zermatt. Overnight in Zermatt.
  • Day 2: Glacier Express scenic train journey to St Moritz, 8 hours. Overnight in St Moritz.
  • Day 3: Regular train from St Moritz to another Swiss destination.

The full journey is quite long at over 8 hours. So, it’s best suited for those who like a relaxing day with a view, rather than those who prefer a more active day like hiking.

Use our promo code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN to save 5% on the Glacier Express rail package

Suggested activities

In Zermatt, we suggest adding an excursion to the Gornergrat viewpoint, where you can visit the Riffelsee lake and optionally do a short hike. If you can, I would add one more night in Zermatt so you can do more activities (jump to ideas).

In St Moritz, you can easily fit in an easy stroll around the lakes immediately adjacent to the St Moritz train station (see walking route). If you add more nights to St Moritz, we suggest the Piz Nair mountain viewpoint, easy Morteratsch glacier path, or Corvatsch panorama trail. See more St Moritz ideas.

4. Golden Pass Tour (Montreux + Interlaken + Lucerne)

The GoldenPass Line is a beautiful train journey through the idyllic Swiss alps between Montreux and Interlaken. This tour also includes the Lucerne-Interlaken Express train, which adds more beautiful lakes and mountains to the experience.

GoldenPass Express train near Gstaad. Photo ©Tobias Ryser

The base Golden Pass Tour itinerary is 4 days, one day on the GoldenPass Express scenic train and another day on the Lucerne-Interlaken Express scenic train. This rail journey is a good choice for those wanting to spend a few days in each of these destinations: Montreux, Interlaken and Lucerne.

  • Day 1: Regular train to Montreux. Half-day activity near Montreux. Overnight in Montreux.
  • Day 2: GoldenPass Express scenic train from Montreux to Interlaken (3h). Possible half-day activity near Interlaken. Overnight in Interlaken.
  • Day 3: Lucerne-Interlaken scenic train (2h). You can do a half-day activity either in Interlaken before the train or in Lucerne after the train.
  • Day 4: Optional mountain excursion near Lucerne then regular train to another Swiss destination.

Use our promo code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN to save 5% on this GoldenPass Tour

GoldenPassExpress approaching Montreux. Photo ©David Bochud

Suggested activities

Here are a few activities we suggest in each location. We suggest adding 1-2 nights in each of the cities so you have more time to explore and hike in each area.

  • In Montreux, we suggest Chillon Castle or Rocher de Naye mountain viewpoint.
  • In Interlaken, Harder Kulm viewpoint or cruise on Lake Brienz for short half-day activity. Or Jungfraujoch or Schilthorn mountain viewpoints if you have at least 5 hours.
  • In Lucerne, our top pick is the Pilatus Golden Round Trip.
Chillon Castle near Montreux

Jump to more activity suggestions below.

5. Bernina Express (Chur/St Mortiz to Tirano, IT)

The Bernina Express is a scenic rail journey in southeast Switzerland, near St Moritz and the border of Italy. We prefer to the version that starts from Chur, which includes the famous Landwasser Viadukt, the Alp Grüm viewpoint of Palü Glacier, the Brusio Circular Viaduct and 196 bridges and 55 tunnels along the way.

Bernina Express train crossing Landwasser Viaduct / Photo (c) RhB, Andrea Badrutt

The “classic” route goes from Chur or St Moritz to Tirano, Italy, then a 3h bus to Lugano. We prefer to skip the bus ride and instead take a train back to St Moritz. But if you want to continue to Lugano, book Bernina Class Route here.

Here is the base itinerary for the Bernina Express route without the bus:

  • Day 1: Train to Chur. Bernina Express scenic train to Tirano (4.5h). Overnight in Tirano.
  • Day 2: Regular train to St Moritz or other Swiss destination. We suggest going to St Moritz (about 2h30) and spending a couple nights there exploring the region more.

Use our promo code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN to save 5% on this Bernina Express tour

Suggested activities

In most cases, you’ll want to overnight in Chur before the Bernina Express the next day, especially if you are on the early Bernina Express train at 8:28.

After your overnight in Tirano, you can ride a regular train to St Moritz, which is included in the package. On your way, I’d suggest stopping at Morteratsch to visit the glacier. Then continue riding the regular train the rest of the way to St Moritz.

Morteratsch glacier in mid October with golden larch trees

After the rail journey, we suggest spending 1-3 nights in the St Moritz area to explore the region more. At a minimum, you can walk around the beautiful lakes right in front of the city. Jump to more activity ideas for St Moritz.

easy walking path around St Moritz lake

6. Gotthard Panorama Express (Lugano to Lucerne)

This scenic route combines a boat ride along Lake Lucerne and a scenic train ride to Lugano in southern Switzerland, near the Italy border.

This journey is a great option if you are traveling from Italy into Switzerland (or vice versa), perhaps flying in or out of Milan. Otherwise, Lugano is so far from other popular Swiss destinations that it doesn’t make sense to add it unless you really want to visit the Ticino region.

Boat cruise on Lake Lucerne

The base tour is 3 days / 2 nights, with one full day of travel between Lucerne and Lugano.

  • Day 1: Regular train to Lucerne. Optional half-day activity near Lucerne. Overnight in Lucerne.
  • Day 2: Boat trip Lucerne to Flüelen (2 hour). Transfer to scenic train to Lugano . total 5 hours
  • Day 3: Free day in Lugano and regular train to another destination in Switzerland.

The journey is only offered once per day in each direction.

Use our promo code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN to save 5% on the Gotthard Panorama Express rail package

Suggested activities

If you arrive early in Lucerne on day one, you could have time for a walking tour and perhaps a mountain excursion to Stanserhorn. I would definitely recommend adding 1-2 nights in Lucerne so you have time for more activities, especially if you like hiking or have kids that would enjoy an alpine playground. Jump to Lucerne activity ideas.

In Lugano, I’d suggest a cruise on Lake Lucerne to the lakeside villages Gandria or Morcote. Or perhaps an excursion to San Salvatore, a no-hike mountain viewpoint over the lake and Lugano city. See more Lugano ideas.

7. Jungfraubahn Mountain Railway

The shortest ride on my list is the Jungfraubahn, a cogwheel mountain train that travels up Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe at 3454m. 

Starting in Grindelwald, you ride the Eiger Express cable car up to the Eigergletscher station, a beautiful ride over alpine meadows with the Eiger peak in view.

Then you transfer to the red Jungfraubahn mountain train, which travels about 30 mins through a long tunnel carved through the mountain peak. 

Jungfraubahn mountrain train headed to Jungfraujoch / Photo © Jungfraubahnen 2019

The train drops you at an underground station, where you ride an elevator up to indoor and outdoor viewing areas. You can walk on the glacier snow, explore a tunnel carved into the glacier ice, and even sled in summer. Learn more about visiting Jungfraujoch.

Some of the above rail packages include the Jungfraubahn or offer it as an add-on activity. If you want to book it separately, we suggest booking via Get Your Guide, which has a flexible cancellation policy.

You can get a round trip ticket from Grindelwald Terminal. If you don’t want to worry about the logistics and seat reservations, book a guided tour from Interlaken:

 

 
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Exclusive Discount Offer for Rail Packages

Our readers can geta 5% discount when they book a Scenic Rail Journey through Switzerland Travel Centre. This discount can be applied to all the rail packages highlighted above, as well as others on the STC website.

Promo Code for 5% discount

Simply use the code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN in the Promo Code box when making your booking, as shown below. When you click Redeem, it will apply the discount to your total.

  • Note: To qualify for the discount, you must add the code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN during the booking process. It cannot be added after the completion of the booking.

Flexible cancellation

The STC general cancellation policy includes free cancellation until 31 day before departure. Afterwards, cancellation fees apply.

If you want a more flexible cancellation policy, you can add the FLEX OPTION insurance during booking (CHF 49 per person), which allows you to cancel free of charge up to 3 days before your trip. (This does not apply to Glacier Express Excellence Class).

Activities at each stopover

You can customize your Scenic Rail Journey packages to add activities like mountain excursion or city tours. You can also add more nights at each destination along the route so you can fit in more activities.

Here are our suggested activities at each destination. Some can be booked through with the package. Others can be done on your own.

Lucerne activities

The Lucerne region has many beautiful and fun activities, including mountain and lake excursions, city tours and museums.

Pilatus Julm observation deck overlooking Lake Lucerne in fall
Mt Pilatus Observation Deck, part of the “Golden Round Trip”

Here are a few of our favorites that work well with rail journeys.

  • For a shorter half-day activity, our first choice is a walking tour of the city, either self-guided or guided. If you have kids, perhaps the Aeschbach Chocolate factory or Swiss Museum of Transport.
  • If you have about 5 hours, our top pick is the Pilatus Golden Round trip with boat ride, cogwheel train, and cable car ride. Also great with kids as it has a summer toboggan, ropes park and playground with a view.
  • If you like hiking, we suggest the Rigi Round Trip, which has spectacular views and an easy panorama trail and cliff walk. Of you could add the Wellness Rigi activity, which includes time at the thermal baths with an infinity pool overlooking the lake.
  • With kids, we suggest Titlis Engelberg, which visits the glacier with an ice tunnel and suspension bridge. Then families can ride down to the middle station to visit the big playground and fun activity trail around the Trübsee alpine lake.

See more Lucerne activities.

Interlaken / Jungfrau Region activities

In Interlaken, we suggest adding 1-3 nights so you can visit the beautiful mountains in the Jungfrau Region and optionally hike.

Grindelwald First Cliff Walk
  • For the most spectacular no-hike viewpoint, either Jungfraujoch or Schilthorn.
  • With kids under 10, visiting Mürren alpine village and the Allmendhubel Flower Park
  • With kids 10+, ride gondola to Grindelwald First with the cliff walk, zip lines, and mountain scooters
  • For hikers, ride the mountain train to Schynige Platte and do spectacular ridge trail (about 2h, moderate difficulty).
  • For a short activity, ride the funicular train from Interlaken to the Harder Kulm viewpoint and have a traditional Swiss meal at their restaurant.

See more activities near Interlaken.

Zermatt activities

Our top pick in Zermatt is the Gornergrat viewpoint, which is already included in some itineraries like??? As part of this outing, you can visit the Riffelsee lake and optionally do a short hike on the Riffelseeweg trail.

Riffelsee lake below the Gornergrat viewpoint

If you love hiking, you could visit do the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, about 2 hours walking time.

With kids, we suggest the Sunnegga mountain, which has a big playground with a Matterhorn view. You can optionally add on the Flower Trail or Marmot activity trail. Older kids can do the go-carts and kick scooters.

St Moritz activities

If you only have one evening in St Moritz, you still fit in an easy stroll around the lakes immediately adjacent to the St Moritz train station (see walking route).

St Moritz and lake with easy walking path

If you have more time:

  • No hike viewpoint – Piz Nair reached by a funicular that leaves directly from St Moritz, then a cable car
  • Easy hike – Morteratsch glacier path – 1h train from St Mortiz and easy walking path to view the glacier ice
  • For hikers, Furtschellas water trail visiting 5 alpine lakes.

See more St Moritz activity ideas.

Montreux Activities

In Montreux, we suggest at least 1 night so you have time for a full day activity:

  • For a short activity, visit Chillon Castle and do the walking tour of Montreux.
  • With kids, you could do the chocolate train to the Cailler chocolate factory and Gruyere cheese dairy.
  • For mountain viewpoints, we suggest either Rocher de Naye (3h) or Glacier 3000 (6h).
  • For wine lovers, ride the boat to the Lavaux Terraces and do a vineyard tour by shuttle, eBike or foot.
view from Rocher de Naye mountain above Montreux

See more ideas near Montreux.

Lugano Activities

For a short activity, I would choose the San Salvatore mountain viewpoint or walking tour of the city, guided or self-guided.

view of Lake Lugano from San Salvatore viewpoint

If you have more time, we love cruising on Lake Lucerne to visit lakeside villages like Gandria or Morcote. If you have the Swiss Travel Pass, the boats are included.

If you stay a few days in Lugano region, you could more nature excursions like the famous Verzasca river, Maggia valley with its spectacular waterfalls, or mountain viewpoints like Cardada or Generoso.

See more Lugano ideas.

Rail Packages for Families

If you are traveling with children, I would choose a rail package with shorter train rides (2-3 hours) and spend more days in each destination doing mountain excursions and other fun activities.

My top choices for families would be the Best of Switzerland (Lucerne + Interlaken) or Famous Mountain Peaks (Interlaken + Zermatt).

I wouldn’t choose the Glacier Express Classic, since the train ride is 8 hours. If you really want to do the Glacier Express, I would choose a shorter segment, like Zermatt to Andermatt or Chur to St Moritz and spend a few days in the destinations on each end.

Booking for children

Children age 6-15 require a train ticket, which is usually half fare, and a seat reservation.

Children under age 6 do not need a train ticket. But they do need a seat reservation if you want them to have a seat.

During the booking process, you select the age of each child, which then applies the appropriate discount.

Using Travel Passes with Rail Packages

If you plan to get the Swiss Travel Pass or Swiss Half Card, these will reduce your rail package cost.

Swiss Travel Pass

If you are spending at least 5 days in Switzerland, it’s usually best to get the Swiss Travel Pass, which includes unlimited train travel all over Switzerland, including scenic rail journeys.

When booking a rail package, select the “Swiss Travel Pass” for each traveler as shown below.

 

Then the train ticket cost is deducted from the package fee. You only pay for the seat reservation and hotels and activities in each destination.

Purchase your Swiss Travel Pass separately and make sure it covers the days of your scenic rail journey. We suggest buying this pass on Get Your Guide, which has a flexible cancellation policy.

Buy Swiss Travel Pass here.

The Swiss Travel Pass also includes entrance to over 500 museums and discounts on some activities.

Half Fare Card

The Swiss Half Fare Card is another discount travel card that gives you a 50% discount on all public transport and most mountain railways throughout Switzerland, including scenic rail journeys.

Some travelers find that the Swiss Half Fare Card is a better fit than the Swiss Travel Pass, particularly if they are renting a car for most of the trip.

If you plan to have a Swiss Half Fare Card (or are a local and already have one), choose that option for each traveler as shown below. The discount will be applied in the last step.

Customizing your itinerary

During the booking process, you can customize the itinerary in several ways.

Add nights

On most itineraries, you can add extra nights at each destination. When you are viewing the itinerary, simply click the + button next to the destination. The suggested hotel may change based on availability.

Add activities

Most itineraries allow you to add bookable activities like mountain excursions, paragliding or city tours. When you click the Add Activity button, it will display activities that can be booked through the tool.

Of course, there are many other activities that aren’t bookable through the tool, which you can do on your won. Note that some itineraries already include some activities, which may be fixed.

Edit route

If you want to add a destination to the suggested itinerary, simply click the Edit Route button as shown here.

This opens the following trip planning screen, where you can add other stops and overnights to the trip.

Browse scenic rail journeys and save 5% with our promo code AFFSWISSFAMILYFUN

About Switzerland Travel Centre

We are delighted to partner with Switzerland Travel Centre, the official and largest tour operator for holidays in Switzerland.

Their company is a subsidiary of Switzerland Tourism, Swiss Railways SBB, HotellerieSuisse, and various Swiss regional railway companies. They work with over 2,000 Swiss hotels and all the major railway and mountain railway companies to bring you the best package options.

They are headquartered in Zurich, with offices in London, Stuttgart and Hong Kong.

Note: We are an affiliate partner of Switzerland Travel Centre. If you use our promo code to book rail packages, we may receive a small commission. See our disclosure policy for more info.

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Hi! I’m Tanya and our family has been living & hiking in Switzerland since 2005, collecting dozens of fun hikes and activities for all ages and abilities. More about us…

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