If there’s one thing that Switzerland is famous for, it’s the magical train rides that offer the best views. Having lived in Switzerland for a short time, I’ve been on quite a few train rides myself and I have to say the hype justifies the experience.
While most regular train rides in Switzerland offer great views and a comfortable travel experience, there are also certain luxury train tours that really take it up a notch. Here are my picks for the top nine luxury train rides in Switzerland that you should definitely add to your bucket list!
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Understanding luxury train rides in Switzerland
Just a quick word before you book that unforgettable train ride in Switzerland: Get yourself a Swiss Travel Pass. Unlike a regular public transport pass, the Swiss Pass actually covers most, if not all, of the luxury train rides in this article!
While you can certainly purchase tickets for each experience individually, having the Swiss Pass certainly unlocks more experiences and, in my opinion, certainly makes it much easier to explore Switzerland by rail.
With that said, let’s kick off our wonderful train journey(s) in Switzerland!
1. Bernina Express
The Bernina Express is undoubtedly one of the most famous train rides in Switzerland. It promises an unforgettable luxury experience as you traverse the land and discover the natural beauty of Switzerland through the train’s panoramic windows on this four-hour journey along the highest railway tracks in Europe!
The Bernina Express travels from St. Moritz to Tirano, Italy via the Bernina Pass along the iconic Rhaetian Railway — a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once in Tirano, passengers have the option to transfer onto the Bernina Express Bus and extend their journey to Lake Como in Lugano.
Along the way, you’ll see picturesque sights like the glistening Morteratsch Glacier, Lago Bianco, a scenic lake 2,253 meters above sea level, and the serene Val Poschiavo Valley. These are in addition to the many romantic gorges, tunnels, and bridges you’ll pass by during the journey.
One particular highlight of this Swiss train tour is the Brusio Circular Viaduct which will likely remind Harry Potter fans of the scene where they see the Hogwarts Express chugging along the beautiful alpine countryside.
Things to know about the Bernina Express:
- Route: St. Moritz to Tirano (Italy) to Lugano (bus)
- Highlights: Morteratsch Glacier, Lago Bianco, Brusio Circular Viaduct, Val Poschiavo Valley, Lake Como (by bus).
- Total trip distance/duration: Four hours (144km by train); three hours (90km by bus)
- Dining options: Light refreshments and snacks on a mobile snack cart
- Best time to visit: The Bernina Express is a wonderful luxury train ride in Switzerland that’s fit for all seasons. That said, the route is exceptionally beautiful during winter
2. Gotthard Panorama Express
If you opted to go for the full Bernina Express experience and find yourself in Lugano, you’re in luck, because you can then hop aboard another one of the best luxury train rides in Switzerland, the Gotthard Panorama Express!
This particular Swiss train offers panoramic views of both the Swiss and Italian countryside as you make your way from Lugano to Lucerne via an epic journey that ends with a boat ride to Luzern! What makes the Gotthard Panorama Express different is that it only operates between April and October.
On the bright side, this means that whenever you board this famous Swiss train, you’ll get incredible spring and summer scenery right outside your windows! Along the way, you’ll also traverse the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest and deepest tunnel which lies beneath the Swiss Alps at a depth of roughly 2,300m!
Things to know about the Gotthard Panorama Express:
- Route: Lugano to Flüelen (Italy) by train and to Luzern by boat
- Highlights: Castles of Bellinzona, Chapel Bridge, Lake Luzern, Mount Rigi (excursion)
- Total trip distance/duration: Five hours and 30 minutes (182km)
- Dining options: Light snacks and refreshments on the train; a restaurant boasting a seasonal menu on the boat
- Best time to visit: The Gotthard Panorama Express only operates between April and October
3. Glacier Express
Equally as famous as the Bernina Express is the Glacier Express, one of the most beautiful luxury train rides in Switzerland.
Just imagine: You’re comfortably seated in your coach, complete with large panoramic windows. The Glacier Express departs its station and thus begins your eight-hour journey through the alpine regions of Valais, Uri, and Grisons.
Along the way, you watch in awe as majestic mountains, scenic ravines, and breathtaking valleys pass by your window. No wonder the Glacier Express is known as one of the most scenic trains in Switzerland!
While the total distance between St. Mortiz and Zermatt, the two terminus stations of the ride, is only 290km, this luxury train ride in Switzerland takes a total of eight hours to complete, chugging along at a leisurely pace of just 38km per hour, making it (intentionally) the slowest express train in the world.
Things to know about the Glacier Express:
- Route: St. Moritz to Zermatt or vice versa
- Highlights: Matterhorn, Albula Valley, Rhine Gorge, Landwasser Viaduct, Chur (Switzerland’s oldest city), Zermatt
- Total trip distance/duration: Eight hours (290km)
- Dining options: On-board kitchen which serves both a-la-carte dining options and three-course meals
- Best time to visit: The Glacier Express is best experienced during winter when it snows
4. Luzern–Interlaken Express
The Luzern-Interlaken Express is arguably the shortest route among all the luxury train rides in Switzerland. Covering a distance of 98km, the journey on this Swiss train ride takes only about two hours to complete. And yet, those two hours may well be the most memorable experience on your trip to Switzerland!
As its name suggests, the Luzern-Interlaken Express connects the two cities of Luzern and Interlaken. But unlike a typical commute, this premium panoramic train turns the journey into an experience in and of itself, allowing passengers to gaze out at pristine mountain lakes, waterfalls, and majestic mountains throughout the short but scenic train ride.
Upon arrival at your destination, several excursions are available to further explore the beauty of Switzerland.
In particular, we recommend staying a few nights in Interlaken so that you have the chance to travel to iconic locations like Jungfraujoch, where you will find the tallest railway station in Europe; and upon it, Schilthorn Piz Gloria, a peak in the Bernese Alps complete with its own cable car ride and restaurant.
Things to know about the Luzern-Interlaken Express:
- Route: Luzern to Interlaken or vice versa
- Highlights: Jungfrau Region, Grindelwald, Lake Luzern
- Total trip distance/duration: Two hours (98km)
- Dining options: On-board bistro restaurant in the middle of the train
- Best time to visit: The Luzern-Interlaken Express runs daily but the scenery is best during the spring season
5. Golden Pass Express
If you had chosen to ride the Luzern-Interlaken Express to Interlaken, then you’re in luck, because you can then continue your journey with another one of the famous Switzerland luxury train tours — The Golden Pass Express.
This five-hour journey between Interlaken and Montreux is actually quite new, having commenced operation only in December 2022. It is basically a more premium and luxurious version of the famous Golden Pass Line which connects Luzern and Montreux.
On this new luxurious Swiss train ride, passengers get to enjoy the view of the Swiss Alps as they chug alongside the scenic Lake Thun, passing through the beautiful Simmen Valley and the alpine village of Zweisimmen, as well as fairytale-esque castles and lovely hillside meadows.
Then, as you approach your final destination, prepare to be amazed as the picturesque natural scenery outside your panoramic windows gradually fades into the Mediterranean flair of the resort town of Montreux.
Things to know about the Golden Pass Express
- Route: Luzern to Montreux or vice versa
- Highlights: Lake Thun, Jungfrau Region, The Lavaux Vineyards, Chillon Castle, Lake Geneva
- Total trip distance/duration: Five hours (191km)
- Dining options: On-board restaurant that serves local and international delicacies, and an exclusive menu for First Class and “Prestige Class” passengers
- Best time to visit: Spring season offers stunning views around Lake Geneva
6. Matterhorn Gotthard Express
From Montreux, it’s actually possible to catch the most beautiful leg of the journey on the Matterhorn Gotthard Express, another one of the best luxury train rides in Switzerland. Basically, from Montreux, you’ll want to take the train to Visp and from there, transfer to the Matterhorn Gotthard Express.
While your time on this scenic train ride in Switzerland is rather short — the trip from Visp to Zermatt takes only about an hour or so, the views you’ll see along the way are some of the most magical. After all, you’ll be traversing the Nikolai Valley, the deepest-incised valley in Switzerland.
Picture snow-capped alpine peaks, deep, verdant ravines, and stunning hillside villages passing by your panoramic window before the iconic Matterhorn emerges from underneath the horizon!
Things to know about the Matterhorn Gotthard Express:
- Route: Montreux to Visp to Zermatt
- Highlights: Matterhorn, Nikolai Valley, Zermatt
- Total trip distance/duration: Two hours and 30 minutes in total (140km)
- Dining options: Seasonal on-board menu for specific trips, check here for more info
- Best time to visit: Time your visit closer to winter for the best experience in Zermatt
The Voralpen-Express is easily one of the more underrated luxury train rides in Switzerland. After all, unlike many of the other rides on this list, this scenic Swiss train doesn’t take you through the snow-capped peaks of the Alps. Instead, it offers passengers an uninterrupted view of the Swiss countryside, punctuated by verdant hills and ambient villages.
The train runs between Luzern and St. Gallen where, upon departing against the backdrop of the idyllic Lake Luzern, takes passengers on a quiet journey through Central Switzerland.
It passes through Lake Zurich, the Sitter Viaduct (Switzerland’s highest railway bridge), and Rapperswil, a lovely town known as the City of Roses, before arriving in St. Gallen, where ou can find the famous Abbey Library, one of the oldest and most beautiful libraries in the world.
Things to know about the Voralpen-Express:
- Route: Luzern to St. Gallen or vice versa
- Highlights: Chapel Bridge, Abbey Library, Lake Zurich, Sitter Viaduct, Rapperswil
- Total trip distance/duration: Two hours and 30 minutes (125km)
- Dining options: There are two bistro zones with vending machines onboard the train
- Best time to visit: Summer is the best time to truly take in the hilly views outside your window
8. Thurbo Lake Line
Speaking of St. Gallen, after spending a few days in the city, there’s another luxury train ride in Switzerland you can catch if you’re planning to head to Zurich. The Thurbo Lake Line connects St. Gallen to Stein am Rhein, Schaffhausen, and Zurich along rolling hillside scenery and the shorelines of Lake Constance and the Rhine.
Along the way, apart from lovely natural scenery (which includes the Rhine Falls), you’ll also pass by iconic landmarks like Munot Fortress, and the imposing railway bridge of Eglisau.
While the Thurbo Lake Line isn’t always considered a scenic train route, it’s certainly an underrated luxury Swiss train ride that turns a regular commute to Zurich into an unforgettable treat for the senses!
Things to know about the Thurbo Lake Line:
- Route: St. Gallen to Zurich
- Highlights: Lake Constance, Rhine Falls, Munot Fortress
- Total trip distance/duration: Two hours and 30 minutes (around 130km)
- Dining options: There are no food or drink options on the train but passengers may bring their own food
- Best time to visit: Any time is a good time to board the Thurbo Lake Line
9. The Chocolate Train
While not always considered a luxury train ride in Switzerland, the Chocolate Train remains a must-try experience in the country and presents itself as a unique journey in its own right. To be more exact, it is a pre-booked tour experience with a set itinerary.
As the name suggests, The Chocolate Train is a Swiss train journey that will delight passengers with a sweet tooth, as those who travel along this route eventually make their way to the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory at Broc. I mean, Swiss chocolates are to die for, right?
While the train itself stops at Montbovon, passengers then change to the Chocolate Bus which brings them to Gruyeres and later to Broc. Though this may sound like a foodie’s dream road trip, the journey along the way is filled with scenic sights that will charm your heart. Think verdant valleys, rolling hills, and more!
Things to know about The Chocolate Train:
- Route: Montreux to Montbovon by train, then to Broc by bus
- Highlights: Gruyeres cheese factory, Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory
- Total trip distance/duration: The entire tour takes around seven hours
- Dining options: Light food and refreshments are available
- Best time to visit: At the time of writing, The Chocolate Train runs between May and September.
And there you have it: Nine luxury train rides in Switzerland that are definitely worth every penny! Apart from promising incredible views and experiences, these Swiss train rides are the epitome of the saying, “It is the journey, and not the destination, that counts”. So, which train will you be boarding first?
Thinking of exploring America this way too? Check out our list of luxury train rides in the USA!