Gotthard Panorama Express
Transport

Gotthard Panorama Express | Fares, Info and Timetables [2024]

October 24, 2023 Last Updated on May 14, 2024

The Gotthard Panorama Express train is one of the most iconic Swiss rail journeys. Passengers who take this Lucerne to Lugano train – or travel in the opposite direction – travel over the famous Gotthard Pass in Switzerland. 

They also cross the sparkling waters of Lake Lucerne by boat, thus gaining a unique perspective of the picturesque city of Lucerne. There are various sights and stories to enjoy along the way, too. 

If you’re visiting Switzerland, a trip on the Gotthard Panorama Express is well worth considering. For many, it is a once-in-a-lifetime journey, taking visitors from swaying palm trees in the south to the snow-capped mountains in the north. 

A journey on the Gotthard Panorama Express is more than just about getting from A to B; rather it’s all about the adventure of the trip and the breathtaking sights you can see en route. 

This guide provides everything you need to know about this popular Swiss train trip, covering the route, timetable, services, tickets and prices.

If you’d like to join this most memorable journey, read on for all the details.

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Summary of Gotthard Panorama Express Ticket Prices

Lucerne to Lugano or v.v.
Boat and Train in 1st class
Lucerne to Lugano or v.v.
Boat 2nd class/train 1st class

With Saver Day Pass*
CHF 88.00CHF 52.00BUY NOW
Regular ticketCHF 164.00CHF 135.00BUY NOW
With Swiss Half Fare CardCHF 82.00CHF 67.50BUY PASS NOW
With Swiss Travel Pass (2nd class)CHF 31.50CHF 17.00BUY PASS NOW
With Swiss Travel Pass (1st class)CHF 0.00CHF 0.00BUY PASS NOW

Note: Prices are for the journey between Lucerne and Lugano or vice versa and do not include the mandatory supplement of CHF 24 per passenger. *Saver Day Pass tickets are valid on a nominated date of travel only and are non-refundable. Read more about the Saver Day Pass here.

The Gotthard Panorama Express Route

Gotthard Panorama Express map
Gotthard Panorama Express route map. © Travel Switzerland

The Gotthard Panorama Express is a journey with a difference.

This Lucerne to Lugano (or Lugano to Lucerne) scenic train offers a unique combination of train and boat journeys between central Switzerland and the Italian-speaking region of Ticino.

Below you will find details of the scenic highlights on both the boat and train sections of the journey.

Lucerne to Flüelen by boat

A couple eat lunch whilst cruising on Lake Lucerne.
The boat ride across Lake Lucerne is timed perfectly for lunch on board. © Travel Switzerland

The Gotthard Panorama Express journey starts in Lucerne with a modern motorboat or vintage steamer taking passengers over the soothing, scenic waters of Lake Lucerne.

The boat ride takes just under three hours and meals, snacks and beverages are available for purchase on board.

Lucerne City

The attractive city of Lucerne sits beside the shores of Lake Lucerne and is the gateway to central Switzerland.

Highlights include the Chapel Bridge, a well-preserved medieval Old Town and many grand hotels which date back to the 19th century.

Numerous mountain excursions can be taken from Lucerne including visits to Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Titlis and Mt. Rigi.

Mt. Rigi

For 150 years the Rigi Bahn (train) has transported passengers to the summit of Mt. Rigi.

The mountain sits between three lakes – Lucerne, Zug and Lauerz – and is the ideal destination for hikers.  Activities available at the summit include a toboggan run, hiking, skiing, a rope park and a thermal spa.

Mt Rigi cogwheel train
Mt. Rigi overlooks Lake Lucerne and makes a great day trip from Lucerne.

Rütli

It was at the Rütli Meadow in 1291 that representatives of Switzerland’s three founding cantons met to swear an oath of eternal alliance.  They agreed “never to part in danger nor distress”. 

From this original alliance, modern-day Switzerland was born.

Tell’s Chapel

According to legend, Wilhelm Tell, leapt from a boat at this very spot during a fierce storm over 700 years ago to escape his captors.  The chapel was built in 1880 to honour his memory.

Flüelen

At the southern end of the lake, Flüelen’s highlights include the 13th century Rudenz Castle and the ‘Old Church’, which was built in 1664. 

Transfer between the boat and train is seamless as the pier and station are adjacent.

Couple beside boat pier in Fluelen.
Transferring from the boat to train at Flüelen is simple. © Travel Switzerland

Flüelen to Lugano by train

The incredibly scenic Gotthard Express route transports passengers from the shores of Lake Lucerne to southern Switzerland.

Palm trees are a common sight when travelling this sector – as they are in the Italian-style town of Lugano itself.

The journey between Flüelen and Lugano takes 2.5 hours, or 2 hours between Flüelen and Bellinzona. On the panoramic train, an in-seat service is provided for the purchase of drinks and snacks.

Wassen Church

The village of Wassen is home to a pretty Baroque church and passengers aboard the Gotthard Panorama Express train are able to see it three times, thanks to a series of loops in the track. 

These loops are necessary so that the train can climb a substantial height in a very short distance.

Gotthard Tunnel

The panoramic trains used on the Gotthard Panorama Express pass through the 15-kilometre long Gotthard Tunnel which opened in 1882. 

Regular trains travel via the Gotthard Base Tunnel – at 57-kilometres long – which was opened in 2016.  

By travelling through the older but shorter tunnel and crossing the St. Gotthard Pass, passengers on the Gotthard Panorama Express enjoy a much more scenic journey.

Loop Tunnels

Between RodiFiesso and Biasca, the train must descend 650 metres in altitude in just half an hour. To do this, the train passes through two loop tunnels.

Lugano Switzerland
The attractive city of Lugano has much to see and do.

Giornico

As the train passes Giornico, passengers have the chance to see three churches set in the attractive vineyards of the lower Leventina.

Bellinzona Castles

Bellinzona’s skyline is dominated by three castles built by the Dukes of Milan in the 15th century. Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro are now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lugano

A Mediterranean climate and Italian flair await you in Lugano, the largest city in Ticino. Grand piazzas, beautiful parks and a lakeside promenade are just a few of the many sights worth seeing in Lugano.

About the boat journey on Lake Lucerne

Travel across Lake Lucerne is aboard either one of the Lake Lucerne Navigation Company’s historic paddle steamers or motorboats. 

First class passengers can enjoy the views from the upper deck, whilst second class passengers travel on the lower deck. 

The cruise across the lakes takes place over lunchtime (in both directions) and with onboard catering available, this is the ideal time to enjoy a delicious lunch.

About the Gotthard Panorama Express train

A tour guide talks to passengers onboard the Gotthard Panorama Express.
Onboard tour guides point out important sights along the route of the Gotthard Panorama Express. © Travel Switzerland

All journeys on the Gotthard Panorama Express train include a reserved seat in a first-class panorama carriage and a multilingual travel guide who points out important sights along the route.

There are also loudspeaker announcements and visual displays showcasing the history of the Gotthard Railway, and an in-seat food and beverage service is available.

The train consists of four first class air-conditioned coaches with panoramic windows. Each coach has 54 seats. 

In addition to these coaches, a photography coach with windows that can open is located in the middle of the train.  Passengers can freely access the photography coach throughout the journey.

Unfortunately the Gotthard Panorama Express train is not wheelchair accessible and does not have a toilet suitable for wheelchairs.

Note: whilst many passengers include the boat cruise across Lake Lucerne in their journey, it is possible to travel only by train either between Flüelen and Lugano (or vice versa) or between Arth-Goldau and Lugano (or vice versa).


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Gotthard Panorama Express Timetable

The Gotthard Panorama Express season will recommence on 20 April 2024 and will run until 20 October 2024. The train runs daily except Mondays throughout the operating season. This includes public holidays.

One service per day operates in each direction with the following schedule:

  • Depart Lucerne at 11:12 | Arrive Flüelen at 13:55 | Depart Flüelen at 14:09 | Arrive Lugano at 16:41 – Train # PE 3093
  • Depart Lugano at 09:18 | Arrive Flüelen at 11:38 | Depart Flüelen at 12:00 | Arrive Lucerne at 14:47 – Train # PE 3092

The Gotthard Panorama Express in Switzerland is not in operation outside of the above dates, so those visiting the country during the winter season cannot travel this exact route.

Regular trains do however connect Lucerne with Bellinzona and Lugano at hourly intervals all year round. 

The entire Gotthard Panorama Express timetable between Lucerne and Lugano takes around 5.5 hours.  Lucerne -> Flüelen by boat – 2h45; Transfer time – 15 minutes; Flüelen -> Lugano – 2h30

See the latest timetable > here.

Connecting with the Gotthard Panorama Express

Paddle steamer on Lake Lucerne
Both historic paddle steamers and modern ships are used on the cruise across Lake Lucerne.

The beauty of the Gotthard Panorama Express timetable is that it connects seamlessly with services to other destinations in Switzerland. 

For example, from Lucerne, connections are possible to all cities across Switzerland, as well as to Arth-Goldau where passengers can enjoy an excursion to Mt. Rigi.

The Voralpen-Express is also synchronised with the Gotthard Panorama Express timetable, meaning that connections to St. Gallen from Arth-Goldau are also possible with little wait time. 

Classes available on the Gotthard Panorama Express

Whilst both first and second class travel is possible on the ship/paddle steamer section of the journey, only first class travel is available on the Gotthard Panorama Express train. 

Second class bookings are therefore not possible when buying Gotthard Panorama Express tickets, so travellers holding a second class Swiss Travel Pass must pay to upgrade to first class for this sector. 

Read on for details of ticket prices.

Gotthard Panorama Express Cost

The Gotthard Panorama Express fare includes tickets for the rail and boat sectors, plus the necessary supplement for travel on this panoramic route. 

As an example, the current most expensive fare for the journey between Lucerne and Lugano is CHF 164. This is for first class travel on the train and boat.

For second class travel on the boat and first class on the train, the cost is CHF 135. 

Additionally, a mandatory Gotthard Express Supplement of CHF 24 per passenger applies.

Tickets on the Gotthard Panorama Express can be purchased from March for travel in the same year.

Fares are also available for the train journey only, either from Flüelen to Lugano (or vice versa) or Arth-Goldau to Lugano (or vice versa).

> You can check current Gotthard Panorama Express fares here

Gotthard Panorama Express Tickets and Swiss Rail Passes

The Gotthard Panorama Express enroute between Flüelen and Lugano.
The Gotthard Panorama Express enroute between Flüelen and Lugano. © Switzerland Tourism / Alain Kalbermatten

For holders of a Swiss Travel Pass, travel on the Gotthard Panorama Express is included, however a mandatory supplement applies and in some instances, an upgrade fee, as explained below. 

If you hold a first class Swiss Travel Pass, all travel on the Gotthard Panorama Express is included, however the mandatory supplement of CHF 24 per passenger applies.

Holders of a second class Swiss Travel Pass pay an upgrade fee of CHF 17 to travel in first class on the train, or CHF 31.50 to travel in first class on both the train and the boat. These charges apply because there are no second class seats on the train. 

Additionally, a mandatory fee of CHF 24 per passenger applies.

Purchasing a Half Fare Card is also an attractive option, as holders get a 50% discount on the ticket price. 

🇨🇭 You can find out more about the Swiss Travel Pass here and read this guide to the Half Fare Card.

Where to buy Gotthard Panorama Express tickets and class upgrades

Tickets for the Gotthard Panorama Express can be purchased on > this link. ​​

If you already hold a Swiss Travel Pass or plan to buy one (buy yours here), you will need to pre-book your mandatory supplement of CHF 24 per passenger. 

This can be done at www.gotthard-panorama-express.ch.

Use the image below as a guide to enter the information required to select your seat reservation if you have a 1st class Swiss Travel Pass. (Image shows 2023 booking system. We will update the images in March when seat reservations are open for 2024.)

Image showing process for booking seat reservation on Gotthard Panorama Express

(Note: Vorname = Christian name; Nachname = Surname; Geburstag = Date of birth – enter day // month // year)

As mentioned above, all passengers need a ticket that is valid in 1st class. If you have a 2nd class Swiss Travel Pass, you also need to purchase a ticket (class upgrade) for the train so you would check both ‘boxes’ in the example shown above.

Swiss Half Fare Card holders can purchase their discounted ticket and mandatory seat reservation > here.

Gotthard Panorama Express rail packages

If buying your own tickets, seat reservations and upgrades all sounds too hard, why not book a rail package that includes all the necessary tickets and accommodation?

There are numerous different rail packages available including the 3 day / 2 night Gotthard Panorama Express Classic and the 8 day / 9 night Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. As a bonus offer, our readers can get 5% off these packages – see below for more info.

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Final Thoughts

We hope this guide has been helpful in informing you all about the Gotthard Panorama Express, a glorious boat and train journey between the centrally located city of Lucerne and the Mediterranean-like south of Switzerland. 

From the breathtaking Gotthard railway tunnel to the sparkling waters of Lake Lucerne, this is a classic panoramic train journey that you won’t forget in a hurry.

Don’t forget, you can travel on the Gotthard Panorama Express for free* when you have a Swiss Travel Pass. > Get yours here.

*refer to exceptions mentioned above.


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