The Glacier Express route is part of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland
Transport

Grand Train Tour of Switzerland

May 26, 2021 Last Updated on May 26, 2021

The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland offers visitors to this incredibly beautiful country a unique way to see all the highlights.  The self-guided ‘tour’ combines Switzerland’s most scenic train rides with all the key sights. 

The Swiss Grand Train Tour comprises eight different legs, covering 1,280 kilometres, and visitors can choose to take as few or many of these trips as they like to create a bespoke itinerary reflecting their interests. In this way, individual train tours in Switzerland can be designed just as the visitor pleases.

While all eight sections can be completed in eight days, it is wise to take a little longer to complete the route. This is because taking the tour in eight days means travelling every day, leaving you short of time for seeing the sights and enjoying some time in each destination. 

Ideally, a duration of 14 to 15 days is recommended for those who want to get the very best out of their trip through Switzerland. 

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Grand Train Tour of Switzerland map

The entire Grand Train Tour of Switzerland visits ten destinations, passes by eleven lakes, and incorporates journeys on all five premium panoramic trains.

The Swiss Travel Pass is the perfect companion for anyone wanting to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience that is the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. There’s no need to purchase individual train tickets in Switzerland for each leg of the journey, as this single rail pass allows you to hop on and off each train in Switzerland.

The Swiss Travel Pass incorporates all of the premium panoramic trains that run throughout the country, including the Luzern-Interlaken Express, Glacier Express, GoldenPass Line, Bernina Express and Gotthard Panorama Express.  > Click here to buy your Swiss Travel Pass


The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland Sectors

There is no official start and finish point as visitors can choose to commence their journey wherever is most convenient.  As we have already mentioned, the entire Grand Tour of Switzerland by train comprises eight sectors, which we have detailed below:

Zurich – Lucerne – Interlaken

Luzern Interlaken Express beside Lake Lungern
Lake Lungern is one of many highlights on the train journey between Lucerne and Interlaken.

Premium Panoramic Trains used: Luzern-Interlaken Express

Distance/Journey time:131km /2.75hrs

Highlights of the journey:

After travelling from Zurich to Lucerne by a regular intercity train, passengers join the Luzern to Interlaken Express which connects two of Switzerland’s most desirable destinations. En route, visitors pass glistening lakes, tumbling waterfalls and enjoy alpine vistas, as well as travelling over the Brunig Pass. 

This scenic train in Switzerland journeys into the breathtaking Jungfrau region, and forms the first part of the GoldenPass Line that travels on to Montreux.

What to do in Interlaken

There are plenty of activities to enjoy in and around Interlaken, such as rafting, paragliding and canyoning. For the best views over the city and lakes Brienz and Thun, a funicular ride to Harder Kulm is highly recommended. 

Visitors can also take trips to Schnyige Platte, the Jungfraujoch or Brienz Rothorn, or take a train ride to gorgeous Lauterbrunnen.

Where to stay in Interlaken


Interlaken – Zweisimmen – Montreux

GoldenPass Line train near Schonried
The GoldenPass Line connects the Bernese Oberland with Lake Geneva. Photo © Switzerland Tourism

Premium Panoramic Trains used: GoldenPass Line

Distance/Journey time: 120km/3hrs

Highlights of the journey

As it departs Interlaken, the GoldenPass Line glides past Lake Thun before continuing to Zweisimmen in the Bernese Oberland, via the Simmen Valley. 

Along the way, this panoramic train in Switzerland passes a range of rivers, clear mountain lakes and waterfalls. Travellers can also see pastures where cattle graze and majestic castles. 

The glitzy resort village of Gstaad is an ideal place to stop off for a stroll and a meal, before reboarding for the final part of the journey.

The trip comes to an end when the train arrives in Montreux, on the shores of Lake Geneva.

What to do in Montreux

Popular activities in Montreux include lake cruises and visiting Chillon Castle, while some like to explore the nearby Lavaux vineyards. 

Other day trips from the city include the Alimentarium in Vevey, the world’s first museum dedicated solely to food, as well as excursions to Rochers de Naye, Geneva and Gruyeres. The latter is where the famous Swiss cheese originated. 

Where to stay in Montreux


Montreux – Visp – Zermatt

Swiss train
A picturesque journey awaits as you travel from Montreux to Zermatt.

Distance/Journey time: 148km/2.5hours

Highlights of the journey

This leg of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland takes visitors through the magnificent Rhone Valley. The destination is Zermatt, but before arriving in the home of the mighty Matterhorn visitors will pass through Visp. 

The Matterhorn Gotthard Railway then travels through the Nikolai Valley, climbing over 900 metres in altitude with the assistance of cogwheel technology.

What to do in Zermatt

Zermatt is famous for its car-free centre – as well as the majesty of the Matterhorn. There are spa springs and plenty of shopping to enjoy in the pretty resort of Zermatt. 

To see the Matterhorn more closely, visitors can take a cable car ride to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Alternatively, spending time on the Gornergratbahn is also popular. 

Hiking and skiing – which is available all year round – are also popular activities in Zermatt.

Where to stay in Zermatt


Zermatt – Chur – St. Moritz

Glacier Express premium panoramic train
A journey aboard the world’s slowest express train, the Glacier Express, is a once in a lifetime experience. Photo © Glacier Express

Premium Panoramic Trains used: Glacier Express

Distance/Journey time: 291km/7.75hrs

Highlights of the journey

Train rides in Switzerland don’t come much more iconic – or scenic – than the Glacier Express. This is surely the most dramatic of all train journeys in Switzerland, not least because it’s the longest sector. 

En route, travellers can marvel at typically Swiss panoramas including deep ravines, pretty villages, vast forests, 91 tunnels, 291 bridges, and the breathtaking Landwasser Viaduct. 

The slowest express train in the world – as it is often known – also crosses the Oberalp Pass.

What to do in St. Moritz

St. Moritz is an elegant ski resort where visitors can take to the slopes in winter or hike in summer.  Trips and activities on the lake are also popular.

It’s also a great place to take in the fresh mountain air while admiring sweeping views over the Swiss landscape. St Moritz also has a leaning tower that’s well worth a visit. 

Where to stay in St. Moritz


St. Moritz – Tirano – Lugano

Bernina Express
The Bernina Express route is a scenic link between the glaciers of Graubünden and the palm trees of Ticino. Photo © Swiss Travel System AG STS

 Premium Panoramic Trains used: Bernina Express

Distance/Journey time: 183km/6.5hrs

Highlights of the journey

Travel by train in Switzerland between St. Moritz and Lugano, and the journey will take you from the ski slopes of St. Moritz to the palm trees of Lugano, via Tirano in Italy and the 2253 metre high Bernina Pass. 

The Rhaetian railway line, on which the Bernina Express runs, is one of only three in the world that have been classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Lakes, switchback tunnels, and even an alpine garden can also be glimpsed along the way. 

The Morteratsch Glacier is also a highlight. 

What to do in Lugano

Lugano is a pretty Italian-influenced resort with an interesting Old Town and an enviable lakeside position. With something of a Mediterranean air, Lugano has a lovely palm-lined promenade. 

Visitors can take a lake cruise, or sample some Italian-style Swiss dishes at the town’s fine selection of cafes and restaurants. Mountain excursions to Monte Brè or Monte San Salvatore are also popular. 

Where to stay in Lugano


Lugano – Flüelen – Lucerne

With a combination of both a panoramic train and lake cruise, the Gotthard Panorama Express is a leisurely way to experience some of Switzerland’s spectacular scenery. Photo © Switzerland Tourism

Premium Panoramic Trains used:  Gotthard Panorama Express

Distance/Journey time: 182km/5.5hours

Highlights of the journey

Train tours of Switzerland don’t come much more diverse than the sector between Lugano and Lucerne. As the train rolls through the scenic landscape, visitors pass through the famed Gotthard panoramic route, then the impressive Reuss Valley. 

At  Flüelen, travellers board a modern motor boat or historic paddle steamer to glide across the waters of Lake Lucerne before reaching the city of Lucerne.

What to do in Lucerne

Lucerne is a city very much at the heart of Swiss history, so there’s lots to see and do in Lucerne. Many visitors like to take a boat cruise across Lake Lucerne. 

As well as exploring the town on the shores of the lake, travellers can see Chapel Bridge or take a mountain excursion to Rigi, Titlis, Pilatus or Stanserhorn.

Where to stay in Lucerne


Lucerne – St. Gallen

Voralpen Express
Lucerne and St. Gallen are connected by the Voralpen Express. Photo © Swiss Travel System AG

Distance/Journey time: 125km/2.25hours

Highlights of the journey

The Voralpen Express (Pre-Alps Express) takes travellers past some of the mightiest mountains of the Swiss Alps – including the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. 

This panorama train in Switzerland begins at Lake Lucerne, passing gentle rolling green hills as well as majestic peaks en route. 

It also passes Rapperswil and the Rothenthurmer upland moors, before crossing Lake Zurich and the 99-metre high Sitter Viaduct.

What to do in St. Gallen

The UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Abbey Library and District are a particular highlight of St. Gallen. Situated between Lake Constance and the Appenzeller region, St Gallen is a compact town that’s easy to explore on foot. 

The biggest draws include the open-air, art nouveau pool, the baroque cathedral and the library’s Rococo Hall.

Where to stay in St. Gallen


St. Gallen – Schaffhausen – Zurich

Swiss Train
The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland combines the country’s top highlights with its premium panoramic trains.

Distance/Journey time: 133km/2.5hours

Highlights of the journey

Your train journey through Switzerland will reveal an interesting truth – the fact that this landlocked European nation has a real maritime heritage. Lake Constance in particular has played a leading role. 

The journey between St. Gallen and Zurich travels along the lake’s shore for 40 kilometres. After that, it traces the route of the Rhine past Schaffhausen, home of the Rhine Falls and Munot Fortress. The falls are the largest in Europe.

Should time allow, a side trip to the pretty medieval town of Stein am Rhein is highly recommended.

What to do in Zurich

Zurich is the financial and industrial hub of Switzerland, and as such is sometimes overlooked by visitors. However, it also boasts a fascinating Old Town – the Altstadt – that dates back to pre-medieval times. 

The Old Town is bisected by the Limmat River, and this has waterside promenades. The Rathaus dates back to the 1600s, and a stroll along Bahnhofstrasse – one of Europe’s most expensive shopping strips – is a must. The city is built on Lake Zurich which is popular with boat trippers. 

Where to stay in Zurich



Travel all year round

The Grand Tour of Switzerland can be taken all year round, and during the colder months visitors also have the option of following the itinerary of the ‘Winter Magic Tour’. This self-guided tour takes in all the seasonal highlights of Switzerland, including pure white snow, frozen lakes and glaciers. 

No matter what season you travel, touring Switzerland by train makes for the most memorable of holidays.


The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland App

Train at Alp Grum, Switzerland
With frequent rail services available, the Grand Train Tour offers the flexibility to travel at your own pace.

Ready to plan your own Grand Train Tour of Switzerland? It is highly recommended that anyone undertaking this rail journey downloads the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland app. The free app is available in seven languages, including English, German and Chinese. 

Using the app gives travellers access to exclusive offers via digital coupons and helps to make sure you get the best from all the key sights. 

The app will guide each user as they make the journey, taking in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, lakes, alpine panoramas, glaciers and Swiss cities. Fun facts and top tips are given throughout, and visitors can tick off where they’ve been via the ‘been there’ function. 

Users can also play by collecting rewards and stamps, which they can then share via social media. Those who become a ‘Master of Grand Train Tour of Switzerland’ will even receive a surprise reward at the end of the journey!


Final Thoughts

Following the suggested eight sectors of the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is a convenient way to see all the highlights the country has to offer – from north to south and east to west.

Should you not have time to cover the whole route, simply choose the sectors that connect the destinations you wish to visit and tailor your Swiss rail itinerary to suit.

With a Swiss Travel Pass in your hand (buy yours here), you can simply hop on* and hop off the trains as you wish. There is no more convenient way to explore Switzerland.

(*Note: seat reservations – which are an additional cost – are compulsory for the Glacier Express and Bernina Express and are recommended for the GoldenPass Line.) 


Grand Train Tour of Switzerland Podcast Episode

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