Of all the countries we’ve visited and taken train rides, Switzerland is by far the most beautiful. It is an incredible country filled with scenic vistas packed into a very small area that you can cover in a week or two. We recently spent 8 days there, riding every scenic train we could find. Here is our list of the most scenic trains in Switzerland.
The Glacier Express is the most scenic train ride in Europe and one of the prettiest in the whole world. They’ve taken the time to get this right, with luxury rail cars, huge picture windows and gourmet food at your seat while you watch the Swiss Alps pass you by.
The Glacier Express is also the longest train ride you can embark on in Switzerland at around 8 hours. You can break it up into sections and just do one part, but we recommend going the whole way from Zermatt to St. Moritz.
Your day starts early, at 8 or 9 am and it’ll take until dinner to get to the other side of the country. Along the way you’ll see famous ski resorts, snow capped mountains, and the famous Landwasser Viaduct.
The route traverses 291 bridges and 91 tunnels over a stretch of just 181 miles. It is an incredible trip. The best section of the Glacier Express is from Andermatt to Disentis.
Ticket prices for the entire Glacier Express route are CHF 268 (USD $277) in 1st class and CHF 152 (USD $157) in 2nd class. You’ll also need a seat reservation, which costs CHF 49 in high season and CHF 39 in low season. Excellence class seat reservations are CHF 420 (USD $434).
We think the upgrade to 1st class is worth it on the Glacier Express, because in first class you can book seats that have a private window for just 2 people instead of 4. See our guide to getting the best seats on the Glacier Express.
February is the best time of year to ride the Glacier Express, factoring in cost, crowds and views. If it is your first time riding this wonderful train, check out our list of 12 things you need to know before riding the Glacier Express.
The Bernina Express is like the less famous version of the Glacier Express. The 2 routes share some of the same track and you’ll get the same great views from part of the ride. The Bernina Express however travels further south and ventures into Italy.
The Bernina Express is not marketed as well as the Glacier Express, isn’t a luxury train, and doesn’t have the same service standards of the more famous Glacier Express. It also doesn’t come with the high price tag, so if budget views are on your wish list, this is the train for you.
On the Bernina Express you’ll see the Landwasser Viaduct, the beautiful Alp Grum area and the Brusio Viaduct among other magnificent sights. If it is your first time on the train, we’ve written a complete guide to riding the Bernina Express.
To be clear, the Jungfrau Bahn is not as scenic as the Glacier Express or the Bernina Express, but it was still our favorite experience in Switzerland. Part of the ride is through the mountain, and while you can’t see much on that part of the ride, it is fascinating to be riding a train through the famous north face. When you get to the top of Jungfraujoch, there are so many interesting things to do, that we rate this as a can’t miss experience. The Jungfrau Bahn will take you to the top of Europe, the highest railway station on the continent.
Riding the Jungfrau Bahn will take some planning, as you’ll want to ride it on a clear day only so you’ll have visibility from the top. We recommend starting in Lauterbrunnen and riding trains the whole way up instead of using the cable cars.
The earlier in the season you go, the less you’ll have to deal with crowds and you’ll have more flexibility on your dates as last minutes reservations are possible. We went in February and there were only a few people on the train.
The Jungfrau Bahn is not cheap, and isn’t fully covered by the Swiss Pass. All of the options for riding can be confusing, so we written about 12 things you need to know before riding the Jungfrau Bahn. It also includes our hotel recommendation for Lauterbrunnen.
GoldenPass Belle Epoque
The next 2 trains are both the same route, but it runs different trains that provide a unique experience. The GoldenPass Belle Epoque travels from Zweisimmen to Montreux in 2 hours and 9 minutes. Trains leave every hour but only 2 trains per day are the Belle Epoque version, the rest are standard Golden Pass Panorama trains.
Riding on the Belle Epoque is like stepping back into time as you’ll be on board a vintage rail car like you’ve never seen before! The detail inside the car is stunning and a can’t miss experience in Switzerland. Both 1st and 2nd class cars have incredible interiors, but you’ll get more room in 1st class.
Belle Epoque tickets cost CHF 58 for 1st class and CHF 33 for 2nd class. This ride is also included in the Swiss Pass, if you have purchased it.
This is a luxury ride and is as romantic as it gets on a train. We haven’t even mentioned the views yet, which are also stunning. There is so much to take in on this short 2 hour ride that you might want to do it twice! In fact that is exactly what we did, we rode this route round trip. On the way back we recommend riding the VIP train, which is highlighted below.
The Golden Pass has a unique train between Zweisimmen and Montreux that features VIP seats which are below and in front of the engineer. These incredible seats look straight out the front of the train. They are the most amazing seats you’ll find on a train in Switzerland.
There are 2 rows of VIP seats arranged in a 3 x 1 formation. One seat is to the left side and three seats are on the right side. Only 8 VIP seats are available on each train and not every train has a VIP section. This is probably the best seat on any of the most scenic trains in Switzerland.
We think this is the most unique train ride we have ever done. The cost to ride in the VIP seats is just CHF 15, which is around USD $16 per person. At that price this is an incredible value and shouldn’t be missed. You’ll still need a train ticket on top of the VIP ticket, but it is included with the Swiss Pass if you have that.
It can be confusing to book these seats ahead of time, so we’ve got a guide on how to book the GoldenPass VIP seats. You can also buy them right on the train if they are not already sold out. If you book ahead of time, they’ll put a VIP reserved sign on your seat.
Check out the video below to see exactly what you’ll see from this train. You can also use this video to see what the Belle Epoque route looks like as they are the same, just different trains and experiences.
The Gornergrat is a short train ride from Zermatt to see the Matterhorn. In 33 minutes, you’ll be up close and personal with one of the prettiest mountains in the world. This is not a long ride, but it really is one of the most scenic trains in Switzerland, if not the world.
When riding on the Gornergrat you’ll want to be on the right side going up the mountain.
The train runs 365 days a year from early morning until after sunset, unless there is really bad weather. Trans can be suspended or limited as to how far they can go up the mountain when there are storms in the area. For this reason we recommend a few extra days in your trip in case you miss something and have to try for it again.
It is natural to pair the Gornergrat train with the Glacier Express. The two trains leave from stations right across the street from each other. You can either ride the Gornergrat the day before you leave from Zermatt on the Glacier Express or the day after you arrive on the Glacier Express to Zermatt. You’ve got 2 of the most scenic trains in Switzerland in one place!
Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn
The Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn takes the same route as the Glacier Express form Visp to Zermatt. Unlike the Glacier Express though, the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn acts just like a regional train, even though it has a fancy name and very nice cars. It won’t be crowded and it’ll be cheap.
This isn’t our favorite section of the Glacier Express route, but it is still very scenic. If you just need to get back to Zermatt to ride the Gornergrat this is a good way to go.
Like all other Swiss trains you’ll have a choice of 1st or 2nd class. It looks just like one of the expensive scenic trains, but this ride is included if you have the Swiss Pass.
Confusingly, the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn does not take you to the Matterhorn. It takes you to Zermatt, which is where the Gornergrat train starts, which is the train that does take you to the Matterhorn.
Once per day you can ride a first class train with observation car windows from Innsbruck to Zurich. Like the Bernina Express, this train isn’t in Switzerland for its entire ride, but beautiful anyway. If you are planning to also visit Austria, this is a great way to move between the 2 countries.
Another option for getting back and forth between Switzerland and Austria is the OBB Nightjet. This is an overnight sleeper train that runs between Zurich and Vienna. You can go to bed in one country and wake up in another!
We recently did the ride from Zurich, Switzerland to Vienna, Austria one night and then Vienna to Venice, Italy the next night.
Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen
This one is easy because you’ll probably end up in Lauterbrunnen at some point. To get there you’ll go through Interlaken, and ride this beautiful route. It isn’t named, but you’ll wonder why it isn’t after riding this spectacular stretch of rail.
Lauterbrunnen might be the prettiest city in Switzerland, it is that magical. You really need to put this gem on your trip itinerary when planning out where to go!
We took this picture from our hotel balcony.
Mount Pilatus Cogwheel Train
Mount Pilatus is one of the finest overlooks anywhere, and you can take the steepest cogwheel train in the world to get to the top! How could you go wrong with this one? This is not for the faint of heart, as it is very steep!
It’ll take 30 minutes to get you to the top, but then you’ll be greeted by these views.
Thun To Interlaken
At some point on your scenic Switzerland train vacation you’ll just be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of views you have taken in. I think that happened to me on the Thun to Interlaken portion of our trip. The views were amazing, for any other country. But when passing these gorgeous alpine lakes I couldn’t even be bothered to move to the other side of the train for the picture! That’s how I knew I’d seen more than I could already process. So, yes, the views on this stretch are spectacular, I just viewed them from the other side of the train!
Rhine Gorge Experience Train
During summer months, from April 23rd until October 30th, you can ride this open air train through the spectacular Rhine Gorge!
During the special 75th anniversary of this train, the Rhaetian Railway is offering footplate rides where you sit next to the conductor as they drive the train!
The Wengeralpbahn is part of the ride to get you to the top of Jungfraujoch. It is a beautiful train ride that overlooks the Lauterbrunnen valley as you climb up the mountain. You could skip this part and take the cable car, which is faster, but this ride is worth your time.
If you decide you don’t want to go to the top of Jungfraujoch, you can ride this part way up, for much less cost and time. You’ll still be able to see the north face from where this train ends, you just won’t go to the top.
This is a pretty green and yellow train that starts in Lauterbrunnen. We shot this image while on the train.
When you get off the Wengeralpen, you’ll be standing in front of Eiger, the north face, as pictured below. The north face is the peak on the left. You can then get on the red Jungfrau Bahn train pictured to go to the top, or just view the north face and then go back down.
Brienz Rothorn Bahn
The Brienz Rothorn Bahn will take 1 hour to transport you 4.7 miles up an alpine mountain. With a little quick math, you guessed it, this train is going 4.7 miles per hour! As such, it is open air and the views are spectacular. Even better the train is going slow enough that you can get a picture.
On Wednesday and Saturday in the summer you can even be served sausages from the locomotive’s original steam kettle!
This is a really unknown train, but it can be easily reached from Interlaken, so plan to add it to your trip!