Switzerland panoramic trains

Top 5 Switzerland Panoramic Trains: Best Train Rides Through Swiss Alps

  • Post author:
  • Reading time:26 mins read

Top 5 Switzerland Panoramic Trains: The Best Swiss Scenic Trains You Cannot Miss On Your Itinerary

This article about Switzerland panoramic trains may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

There is no doubt that Switzerland has one of the most developed railway systems in the world. The trains are very punctual, comfortable and choosing them for your Switzerland itinerary is probably your best decision. However, there are a few train rides that stand out among all Swiss trains. This post will introduce you to Switzerland’s best train rides; the top 5 Switzerland panoramic trains you cannot miss while exploring Switzerland.

 

 

List of the Top 5 Switzerland Panoramic Trains

  1. Bernina Express
  2. Glacier Express
  3. GoldenPass Train
  4. Voralpen Express
  5. Gotthard Panorama Express

 

 

1. BERNINA EXPRESS

Is a picturesque train ride from the mountainous Grisons to the Mediterranean Ticino canton. The Bernina Express is known for passing through Europe’s highest-altitude railway. You can start your journey in Chur (the oldest Swiss city) and finish in the small Italian town of Tirano, or the other way around. Bernina Express has panoramic cars with floor-to-ceiling windows for a better sightseeing experience, just like the other Switzerland panoramic trains. And of course, there is incredibly beautiful Swiss scenery throughout the whole journey.

Bernina Express Switzerland Panoramic Trains
Bernina Express – Switzerland panoramic trains

Starting from Chur, you will be first amazed by the UNESCO heritage Rhaetian Railways trail with its Landwasser Viaduct. After, the train rolls through steep mountain cliffs down to Pontresina.  It then passes by picturesque Lago Bianco surrounded by stunning glaciers, the Bernina massif, and mountain peaks. This is the part for the best scenic photos on this route so have your camera ready. One of the most famous ones is Diavolezza, known for its great skiing resorts.

Bernina Express then stops next to the Alp Grüm Restaurant before it abandons enormous glaciers and mountains and descends to Brusio Circular Viaduct, eventually reaching the small Italian town, Tirano.

I highly recommend you sit on the right side of the train when you start in Chur. When your departure point is Tirano, then sit on the left side. You will be closer to all the highlights and impressive scenery.

Tirano Switzerland panoramic trains
Historical centre of Tirano, small Italian town on the Swiss-Italian border

 

QUICK FACTS ABOUT BERNINA EXPRESS:

Location:            Departure: Chur (Switzerland’s oldest city)

                  Destination: Tirano (Italian town on the Swiss-Italian border)

Duration:           4 hours and 13 minutes

Best views:        Sit on the right side of the train (from Chur to Tirano) and switch to the left side (from Tirano to Chur)

Travel pass:      Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Travel Pass Flex, SBB Day ticket

Reservation:     Seat reservation is required for this scenic train, in addition to your ticket/Swiss travel pass that you already have. From 1st March until 31st May + in October, the seat reservation costs 14 Swiss francs per seat. In summer season, from 1st June until 30th September, the seat reservation is 16 Swiss francs. In winter, from 1st November until 28th February, it is 10 Swiss francs per seat.

 

Timetable Bernina Express

DEPARTURE: from Chur at 8:32 am (all year round) / 1:30 pm (all year round)

ARRIVAL: in Tirano at 12:49 pm / 5:59 pm

DEPARTURE: from Tirano at 8:06 am (all year round) / 2:24 pm (all year round)

ARRIVAL: in Chur at 12:43 pm / 6:19 pm

 

Visit Bernina Express for more information and bookings.

 

Note

If the Bernina Express is not operating, the time does not fit your schedule, or maybe the seats for your chosen day are already fully booked, don’t be disappointed. There is also a regular train (operated by Rhaetian Railways) on the same route. So just check the SBB website for its schedule. All these Swiss scenic trains are equipped with the special floor-to-ceiling windows for a better sightseeing experience. However, you can have the same experience even with the regular train. So just go for it. The train route is spectacular, don’t let anything restricting you from seeing it. For me personally, it is the second most incredible train out of all Swtzerland panoramic trains.

Bernina Swiss scenic trains ...

TIP: I suggest you do the Bernina Express route as a day trip starting in Chur (or Pontresina), with short sightseeing of Tirano and in the afternoon, returning to Chur (or St. Moritz, from where you can hop on Glacier Express the next day). The section between Chur and Pontresina is the same as you would do with Glacier Express, so you can skip this route to save some time.

 

 

2. GLACIER EXPRESS

I don’t even hesitate to say that Swiss Glacier Express is the most popular and beloved Switzerland panoramic train. It is truly the most breath-taking train ride I have done so far in my life. Whether you are doing it in summer or winter, it will for sure not disappoint you. Just make sure you book a seat on the train’s right side (when departing from Zermatt) or left side (when starting in St. Moritz). Again, you will be closer to more highlights and stunning views.

Glacier Express Switzerland panoramic trains
Glacier Express, Swiss panoramic train with compulsory seat reservation

 

1st part of the Glacier Express route

After departing Zermatt, a car-free village with the famous Matterhorn, passing through Furka Pass, the Glacier Express reaches a small town surrounded by Swiss Alpine Passes called Andermatt. Situated at Switzerland’s heart, Andermatt is famous for its Devil’s Bridge, built by inhabitants with their own hands. It commemorates the hardest battle between Russians and Napoleon’s troops, where the Russians fell. Today, many tourists visit this gorgeous village offering hiking trails full of history.

Even Johann Wolfgang von Goethe described Andermatt with the following words: “Of all the places I know, Andermatt is the dearest and most interesting to me.” So there must be something about it. 

Glacier Express then rises again, passing through the Oberalp Pass, making it to the highest point of the whole journey (2034m).

Glacier Express Oberalp Pass Switzerland
Glacier Express at its highest point – Oberalp Pass

Once it starts descending, you can be looking forward to the stunning Swiss Grand Canyon. Suddenly, the beautiful Rhine Gorge, formed during a massive landslide around 10.000 years ago, opens up on the left side of the train. You can admire white rocks falling into the crystal-clear River Rhine.

 

2nd part of the Glacier Express route

As you pass by, the train reaches Switzerland’s oldest city – Chur, which takes us to another Swiss canton, Grisons. Afterwards, it passes through a valley of many castles and ruins until we get to one of the most stunning parts of the whole journey – the UNESCO World Heritage train ride. Slightly before getting to the next stop Fillisur, you will spot one of the most spectacular bridges you might ever see in your life, Landwasser Viaduct. Its pillars are 65 metres high, and the viaduct itself is 142 metres long, constructed from natural dolomite lime.

After Fillisur, the scenery keeps being as picturesque as it has been until you reach your final destination – St. Moritz. Congratulations, you have just passed 291 bridges and 91 tunnels, completing the Glacier Express route. St. Moritz is a smaller, tourist town full of luxury shopping opportunities. For those loving a bit more piece, take a beautiful walk alongside St. Moritz Lake.

swiss panoramic trains is swiss travel pass worth it
Glacier Express on the famous Landwasser Viaduct, Switzerland

 

QUICK FACTS ABOUT GLACIER EXPRESS:

Location:            Departure: Zermatt (Switzerland’s car-free village with the famous Matterhorn)

     Destination: St. Moritz (luxury shopping town with a beautiful lake and excellent skiing resort)

  •                          Or start in St. Moritz and finish in Zermatt (according to your itinerary)

Duration:           8 hours and 3 minutes

Best views:        Sit on the right side of the train (from Zermatt to St. Moritz) and pick the left side (from St. Moritz to Zermatt)

Travel pass:        Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Travel Pass Flex, SBB Day ticket

Reservation:      Seat reservation is compulsory, in addition to your ticket/Swiss travel pass that you already have. If you take the entire route, the seat reservation will cost you between 23 and 43 Swiss francs. The shorter distance will be somewhere between 13 and 30 Swiss francs.

Timetable:         Train runs twice a day in summer and once a day in winter.

 

Timetable Glacier Express

DEPARTURE: from Zermatt at 8:52 am (all year round)

ARRIVAL: in St. Moritz at 4:38 pm

DEPARTURE: from St. Moritz at 8:51 am (all year round)

ARRIVAL: in Zermatt at 5:10 pm

 

Check out the Glacier Express for the schedule and booking fees.

 

Note

Glacier Express is the only train covering the whole route and connects Grisons canton with Andermatt and Zermatt. When you take other trains, you will have to get off and get on a different train several times.  So unlike Bernina Express (where you can also take the regular train and do the same route with one train), make sure you make the entire journey with Glacier Express; it is much worth it with everything it offers. And you don’t have to bother yourself with changing trains all the time.

Glacier Swiss scenic trains ...

TIP: Remember that Bernina Express and Glacier Express share the same train route from Chur. So if you want, you can do the Glacier Express route to St. Moritz and then go to Pontresina, where you hop on the Bernina Express down to Tirano.

 

 

3. GOLDENPASS TRAIN

We are now going to the centre of Switzerland with slightly different, but equally fantastic scenery. If you are more into green meadows full of flowers and hills with mountains behind them, this Swiss panoramic train is going to be for you. Starting in the historic city Lucerne and finishing in Montreux, the Golden Pass train takes you through the breath-taking valleys of the canton Bernese Oberland. Highlights on the route start at the Brünig Pass before the train rolls down to one of the most visited Jungfrau region and adventurous capital, Interlaken.

The scenic train then continues through green forests passing by some Swiss villages until the last 30 minutes of the ride, when you can start admiring beautiful Lake Geneva.

Altogether, you will see 8 Swiss lakes on this route. To have the most out of it, I suggest you sit on the right side (when starting in Lucerne) or the left side (if you start in Montreux). I recommend you to jump on the train in Lucerne though, the journey is more surprising.

Brunnig Pass Switzerland Panoramic trains GoldenPass Line
Train passing through Brünig Pass before entering into Bernese Oberland canton

 

QUICK FACTS ABOUT GOLDENPASS PANORAMIC TRAIN:

Location:            Departure: Lucerne (Swiss historical city famous for its wooden footbridge across the River Reuss)

      Destination: Montreux (Jazz festival, Château Chillon and Lavaux vineyards, Rochers-de-Naye)

Duration:            5 hours and 8 minutes

Best views:         Sit on the right side of the train (from Lucerne to Montreux for all three trains) and choose the left side (from Montreux to Lucerne for all three sections)

Travel pass:       Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Travel Pass Flex, SBB Day ticket

Reservation:     Good news, for GoldenPass, you don’t need a seat reservation, so you can travel without it, too. However, it is recommended to get a seat reservation during summer for the section from Zweisimmen to Montreux (as this is quite popular among tourists and the train might be full). The cost will be between 5 and 10 Swiss francs for this section. But it is not necessary to get the reservation if you don’t want to.

Timetable:         GoldenPass train runs eight times a day throughout the whole year. Check the GoldenPass timetable when planning your trip.

 

Note

Although the entire journey, from Lucerne to Montreux, is referred to as the GoldenPass route, it has three distinct sections. In each section, there is a different train operating. Note that the actual GoldenPass train only runs between Zweisimmen and Montreux. From Lucerne to Interlaken Ost, the train is called Lucerne-Interlaken Express (Zentralbahnen), and from Interlaken West to Zweisimmen, it is a regular train named as BLS RegioExpress. Check the photos and maps below (button down) for the three sections, so you know what I mean. The whole route is beautiful, and I recommend you plan more days to get off and explore the interesting places it offers.

Zentralbahnen Switzerland panoramic trains
Zentralbahnen – covering the first (GREEN) section of the GoldenPass Panoramic Train route – from Lucerne to Interlaken Ost

GoldenPass train map ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLS train GoldenPass swiss scenic train ...
BLS RegioExpress – covering the second (RED) section of the GoldenPass Panoramic Train route – from Interlaken Ost to Zweisimmen

GoldenPass train map ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GoldenPass train map ...

 

GoldenPass Panoramic Train, Switzerland
Actual GoldenPass Train – covering the third (YELLOW) section of the GoldenPass Panoramic Train route – from Zweisimmen to Montreux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIP: Check out my post aboutJungfrau region, to get more inspiration for trips and must to see places in this area.

Top 4 Excursions to do in Jungfrau Region

 

 

4. VORALPEN EXPRESS

We are now going further up to the northern part of Switzerland, where one of the less popular panoramic trains of Switzerland takes you on a ride with many bridges and valleys. Voralpen Express is not one of the most attractive Switzerland panoramic trains. Still, it is the best and fastest way to get from the Bodamsee region to central Switzerland. The journey starts in St. Gallen, a historical city with its Abbey declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After, the train rides through the highest railway viaduct, the 99 metres high Sitter Viaduct, and reaches another beautiful historical town, Lucerne. If you want to complete the full Grand Train Tour in Switzerland, then Voralpen Express is the scenic train that must be on your list. The scenery  is not as breath-taking as with the other Swiss panoramic trains, though. It is also less touristy. Regarding the seating, it doesn´t really matter. I was sitting on the left side and had pretty nice views.

Voralpen Express Switzerland panoramic trains
Voralpen Express – Switzerland panoramic trains

 

Short explanation

Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is a tour you can complete with your Swiss Travel Pass. It covers all these Swiss scenic train rides, thus enables you to visit every corner of Switzerland. Each city, section, or station has a stamp. You can collect many stamps into your Travel Stamp Booklet, which you will receive when you book your Swiss Travel Pass (together with a map of Switzerland). See the pictures below.

Learn more about Swiss Travel Pass, how it works and get your unlimited train travel in Switzerland now.

Swiss Travel Pass ...
Unlimited train travel in Switzerland with Swiss Travel Pass, Stamp Booklet and map of Switzerland with all train connections
Grand train tour Swiss scenic trains ...
Stamping my booklet on my Grand Train Tour through Switzerland with Swiss Travel Pass

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUICK FACTS ABOUT VORALPEN EXPRESS:

Location:            Departure: St. Gallen (Swiss city with a charming historical centre and UNESCO Heritage Abbey)

      Destination: Lucerne (Swiss historical city famous for its wooden footbridge across the River Reuss)

Duration:           2 hours and 16 minutes

Best views:         Sit on any side of the train you want; the views are nice from both sidels

Travel pass:       Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Travel Pass Flex, SBB Day ticket

Reservation:     Reservation is not mandatory for this ride.

Timetable:         The Voralpen Express departs from St. Gallen every hour, all year round.

Voralpen Switzerland panoramic trains ...

 

5. GOTTHARD PANORAMA EXPRESS

Going back to Ticino Canton (close to Italy), Gotthard Panorama Express is our last from the top 5 Switzerland panoramic trains. At the same time, it is a fast connection from Lucerne down south to Lugano. You will enjoy this journey right from the beginning when a steamboat takes you from Lucerne across the lake to Füelen.

After hopping on the train again, you will be passing through the Gotthard Basistunnel, the world’s longest tunnel (57 kilometres long/35 miles long). Once you come out, you will be reaching Bellinzona, the only Swiss town hosting a medieval military complex with three fortifications.

The train ride ends in Lugano, referred to as Monte Carlo of Switzerland. Although the scenery of this scenic train ride is not as spectacular as with Glacier Express and Bernina, it is definitely worth doing. Mainly because of its great sightseeing points – the steamboat to Füelen, Bellinzona, and Lugano, all places worth a visit. Check out my Ultimate 8 day Switzerland itinerary for more inspiration about what to do and see in Bellinzona and Lugano.

Fuellen Lucerne steam boat Switzerland
Steamboat from Füellen to Lucerne on the Gotthard Panoramic Route

 

QUICK FACTS ABOUT GOTTHARD PANORAMA EXPRESS:

Location:            Departure: Lucerne (Swiss historical city famous for its wooden footbridge across the River Reuss)

     Destination: Lugano (Monte Carlo of Switzerland with Mediterranean feeling)

Duration:          2 hours and 40 minutes (steamboat from Lucerne to Füelen) + 2 hours and 28minutes (from Füelen to Lugano by train)

Best views:        Sit on the right side of the train (from Lucerne to Montreux for all three trains) and choose the left side (from Montreux to Lucerne for all three sections)

Travel pass:       Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Travel Pass Flex, SBB Day ticket

Reservation:     The reservation fee for Gotthard Panorama Express is 16 Swiss francs, but again, you can do this route with a regular train as well, for which you don’t need a seat reservation.

Timetable:         The Gotthard Panorama Express operates once a day from Tuesday to Sunday, from 1st May until 24th October.

 

LUCERNE ⇒ FLÜELEN ⇒ LUGANO

1. hop on the boat from Lucerne to Flüelen

DEPARTURE: from Lucerne (boat ride) at 11:12 am

ARRIVAL: in Flüelen (by boat) at 1:55 pm

2. change to the Gotthard Panoramic Train from Flüelen to Lugano

DEPARTURE: from Flüelen (train ride) at 2:09 am

ARRIVAL: in Lugano (train ride) at 4:45 pm

 

LUGANO ⇒ FLÜELEN ⇒ LUCERNE

1. hop on the Gotthard Panoramic Train from Lugano to Flüelen

DEPARTURE: from Lugano (train ride) at 9:22 am

ARRIVAL: in Flüelen (train ride) at 11:40 pm

2. change to the boat from Flüelen to Lucerne

DEPARTURE: from Flüelen (boat ride) at 12:00 pm

ARRIVAL: in Lucerne (by boat) at 2:47 pm

 

Check additional information about Gotthard Panorama Express on their website.

Gotthard Switzerland panoramic trains ...

Note

If you have a hard time fitting Gotthard Panorama Express into your schedule, check regular trains, covering this whole section so that you don’t miss it.

As you can see, all of these Switzerland panoramic trains are somehow interconnected. So once you reach one location or a city, you can easily switch to another scenic train ride if you still do not have enough breath-taking views and sitting.

 

 

Personal suggestion for you regarding Switzerland panoramic trains

My suggestion regarding Switzerland panoramic trains is to definitely do the whole Glacier Express route and the Bernina Express route. It is worth paying an extra fee for the seat reservation with these two scenic trains and sit in the unique train car with huge sightseeing windows. As for the other panoramic trains, you can do the routes even with regular trains. The journey is spectacular on its own, and you can avoid paying the seat reservation fee. They are all the highlights of the Switzerland rail tours and show you the most out of scenic Switzerland. So if you cover these Swiss railway routes, you can say that you saw most of Switzerland.

 

 

switzerland packing list mountains in switzerland

Get my Switzerland Packing List

You’ll get detailed descriptions of clothes and materials, best backpacks, and necessary things to pack for your Swiss itinerary. Personal photos of what I brought to my Swiss trip so you can pack according to my strategy:

Get my Switzerland Packing List