The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

October 12, 2015 (Last Updated: December 4, 2021)
by Carolyn
Gotthard Panorama Express

If a Grand Tour of Switzerland (like I wrote about in this article) takes your fancy but you’re not keen on driving, why not discover this beautiful country by train?  

With some of the most spectacular train rides in the world, it’s easy to explore the very best of Switzerland by train.

There are plenty of stunning train routes covering the length and breadth of Switzerland and whilst you could cover them all in a week, my suggestion is to take your time and really immerse yourself in the beauty of Switzerland.

The official Grand Train Tour of Switzerland website offers plenty of great ideas about visiting Switzerland by train.

The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

I recommend at least seven day – and ideally fourteen days – for your visit, but if you’re pushed for time you can get a good look at the country on a 2 days in Switzerland itinerary.

Having had the opportunity to enjoy some of Switzerland’s scenic train rides, I can highly recommend them as a great way to see the amazing scenery from the comfort of your seat. And with huge panoramic windows on many of the trains, you’re guaranteed to get the best views possible.

To help you discover the best of Switzerland by rail, I’ve put together my ideal Swiss train itinerary.

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14 day Grand Train Tour of Switzerland itinerary

Day 1 – Zurich to St. Gallen

Travel time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Swiss train

Start your tour of Switzerland by train in the bustling city of Zurich. Zurich’s main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) is Europe’s busiest with over 3,000 trains arriving and departing each day – and they are nearly always exactly on time!

The journey to St. Gallen takes just over an hour so you may like to break your trip at Schaffhausen (more info below).

In St. Gallen, you’ll want to visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed Cathedral and see the half-timbered houses and oriel windows of the medieval town centre.

Suggested excursion: Travel via Schaffhausen to wander the pretty Old Town and visit the magnificent Rhine Falls.  (Read more about Schaffhausen in this article.) 

Where to stay in St. Gallen

> Click here to search accommodation in St. Gallen

Day 2 – St. Gallen to Lucerne aboard the Pre-Alpine Express

Travel time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Voralpen Express Voralpen Express. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

Hop aboard the Pre-Alpine Express (Voralpen Express) for a relaxing journey through gently rolling hills and picturesque villages.  

Enroute from St. Gallen to Lucerne you’ll pass over the 99-metre-high Sitter Viaduct, alongside Lake Zurich and the lovely town of Rapperswil, and the shores of Lake Lucerne. 

Suggested sights in Lucerne: the Chapel Bridge, a lake cruise, the Dying Lion monument, the Jesuit Church and Verkehrshaus (Swiss Museum of Transport) are just some of the sights worth visiting in Lucerne.

Where to stay in Lucerne

> Click here to browse accommodation in Lucerne

Further reading:
Things to do in Lucerne

Day 3 – Sightseeing in/around Lucerne

Spend the day seeing the sights of Lucerne that you didn’t have time for yesterday or enjoy a mountain excursion to one of the nearby alpine peaks.

Suggested excursions: Take the world’s steepest cog-wheel railway to Mt. Pilatus or enjoy a ride in the revolving gondola to Mt. Titlis – it rotates 360° to give you panoramic views.

Day 4 – Lucerne to Interlaken aboard the Luzern-Interlaken Express (GoldenPass Line)

Travel time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Luzern Interlaken Express Luzern Interlaken Express. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

Today’s journey aboard the Luzern-Interlaken Express (part of the GoldenPass Line) traverses some of the most scenic countryside in Switzerland. 

After leaving Lucerne, you’ll pass three smaller lakes – Alpnach, Sarnen and Lungern – before climbing over the Brunig Pass.  Keep an eye out for waterfalls tumbling down the cliff faces as you head towards Brienz and alongside the turquoise waters of Lake Brienz.

In Interlaken, a myriad of activities await you.

Suggested sights in Interlaken: For great views over Interlaken and its adjoining lakes, Thun and Brienz, take the funicular to Harder Kulm.

Where to stay in Interlaken

> Click here to search hotels and apartments in Interlaken

Further reading: Things to do in Interlaken

Day 5 – Sightseeing in/around Interlaken

The hardest decision you’ll have to make today is how to spend your day.  There are plenty of excellent mountain excursions to choose from, or you might prefer to partake in some of the sports on offer including paragliding, rafting and canyoning.

Recommended train excursions include the Jungfraujoch, Schnyige Platte or Brienz Rothorn Bahn.  If you have time, visit Lauterbrunnen – it’s quite possibly my favourite place in all of Europe.

Day 6 – Interlaken to Montreux aboard the GoldenPass Line

Travel time: 3 hours 5 minutes

Golden Pass Panoramic Golden Pass Panoramic. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

Your journey starts aboard the BLS RegioExpress to Zweisimmen where you change to either a Panoramic (modern) or Belle Epoque train for the final leg of the trip to Montreux.

You’ll be in awe of the views from the panoramic windows of the GoldenPass Line as you travel through mountains and valleys, including the famous alpine resort of Gstaad, before ending your journey in Montreux on Lake Geneva.

Known as the jewel of the Swiss Riviera, Montreux is home to a beautiful lakeside promenade, a statue to honour former Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury (Montreux was his second home), and Chillon Castle is just four kilometres away.  

Where to stay in Montreux

> Click here to search accommodation in Montreux

Day 7 – Sightseeing in/around Montreux/Lake Geneva

How will you spend your free day in Montreux? You might like to enjoy a lake cruise, explore the terraces of the Lavaux wine region or head to nearby Vevey to visit the Alimentarium, the first museum in the world dedicated entirely to food.

The city of Geneva can be easily reached by train (journey time 75 minutes) if you’d like to explore its many delights. Alternatively there are some interesting day trips available to Rochers de Naye and Gruyeres.

Suggested train excursion: Why not take a ride on the Belle Epoque Pullman ‘Chocolate Train’ from Montreux to Gruyeres where you can sample the famous cheese of the same name and visit the Cailler-Nestle factory at Broc to learn how chocolate is made?

Further reading:
Things to do in Gruyeres

Day 8 – Montreux to Zermatt

Travel time: 2.5 hours

Swiss Railways Swiss Railways operates the length and breadth of the country. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

Catch an early train from Montreux as you’ll want to be in Zermatt by lunchtime to make the most of your day.  

There are plenty of ways to fill your afternoon in this lovely mountain resort town that is dominated by the Matterhorn – shopping and soaking in a spa spring to mind – but I highly recommend getting even closer to this iconic Swiss mountain.

Enjoy an excursion on the Gornergratbahn or catch the cable car to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise to see the Matterhorn up close and personal.

Where to stay in Zermatt

I stayed at the beautiful Hotel Mirabeau, just two minutes’ walk from the main train station.  > Click here to check current prices.

Further reading: Zermatt, the perfect luxury getaway destination

Day 9 – Zermatt to St. Moritz aboard the Glacier Express

Travel time: 8 hours

Glacier Express Switzerland

Today could well be the highlight of your Switzerland by train itinerary.

Your scenic train ride aboard the Glacier Express will pass through 91 tunnels and cross 291 bridges and the 2033 metre high Oberalp Pass. You’ll also get the most amazing views of mountains, forests, burbling streams and pretty villages.

Known as ‘the world’s slowest express train’, the Glacier Express, with its oversized panoramic windows, offers the most incredible views of an ever-changing landscape.

Where to stay in St. Moritz

> Click here to browse hotels in St. Moritz  

Day 10 – Sightseeing in St. Moritz

Spend your day enjoying the crisp mountain air in glitzy St. Moritz, one of Europe’s first ski resorts. 

Alpine hikes and lake activities are popular in spring and summer or just while away your time sipping a coffee and admiring the views.

Tip: Make sure you visit St. Moritz’s very own Leaning Tower, part of the old Church of St. Mauritius, which was destroyed in 1893.

Day 11 – St. Moritz to Lugano aboard the Bernina Express

Travel time: 5 hours 52 minutes

Bernina Express Bernina Express. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

Today’s journey on the Bernina Express includes breath-taking views as you make your way through numerous switchback tunnels, past lakes and glaciers and an alpine garden.

Reaching a height of 2253 metres at the top of the Bernina Pass, you’ll then descend to the Mediterranean climate of Lugano.

Where to stay in Lugano

> Click here to search hotels in Lugano

Day 12 – Sightseeing in Lugano

With its pretty location right on the lake of the same name, Lugano is a popular lakeside resort and the perfect place to spend a day relaxing.

Wander the palm-fringed promenades alongside the lake, stroll the Old Town with its Italianate character or jump onboard a boat for a gentle cruise around the lake.

Day 13 – Lugano to Lucerne via the Gotthard Panorama Express (scenic train and boat route)

Travel time: 2 hours 14 minutes by train then 3 hours by boat

Gotthard Panorama Express Gotthard Panorama Express. Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

Sit back and relax as you travel in comfort from the Canton of Ticino to Lucerne in Central Switzerland.

After a panoramic train ride from Lugano to Fluelen across impressive bridges and through various tunnels, you’ll board an historic paddle steamer or a modern motor boat for a relaxing three hour cruise to Lucerne.

Your journey on the Gotthard Panorama Express includes views of the three castles of Bellinzona, the church of San Nicolao in Giornico, the baroque church of Wassen and Tell’s Chapel on the Tellsplatte.

NOTE: The Gotthard Panorama Express operates daily except Mondays from mid-April to mid-October. During the winter season, the Gotthard Panorama Express does not operate but you can still make the journey on the Gotthard Panoramic route by changing trains at Erstfeld.

Tip: If you prefer to reach Lucerne sooner, you can take a train all the way from Lugano (via Arth Goldau) – journey time is around 2.5 hours.

Day 14 – Lucerne to Zurich

Travel time: 50 minutes

It’s a quick trip back to Zurich, a beautiful city that is often overlooked by travellers.

Make sure you allow plenty of time to discover Zurich’s many charms which include the Old Town and Lake Zurich, before your call an end to your Grand Train Tour of Switzerland.

Where to stay in Zurich

I stayed at Hotel Sorell Zurichberg and loved it.  > Click here to check current prices.

 To start planning your holiday in Switzerland, visit the interactive Grand Tour of Switzerland website.

Grand Train Tour of Switzerland map Grand Train Tour of Switzerland map courtesy Switzerland Tourism.

The Swiss Travel Pass is ideal for exploring Switzerland by rail. Covering almost 26,000 kilometres of rail, bus and boat routes in Switzerland, the Pass is the most economical way to see the country.  The Swiss Travel Pass can be purchased in two variations:

Logo Grand Train red CMYK

Join the Switzerland Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join my Switzerland Travel Planning Facebook group where you can ask questions about your upcoming trip to Switzerland.  Click here to join!

Switzerland Travel Planning Facebook Group

General information about the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland supplied by Switzerland Tourism. The itinerary has been designed by me.