Across Switzerland by train: the most breathtaking railways

Guest contribution by Jordan Girardin, Mountains Team. As a railway enthusiast, I love trains because they are green, clean, quiet, comfortable, efficient. They take you seamlessly across beautiful landscapes. They allow you to relax, enjoy, connect with the places you visit. Travelling by train is a choice: a choice to say farewell to traffic, parking, petrol, stressful driving and wasted time. A choice to engage with the journey you are on. Switzerland, with the densest railway network in the world, embodies and justifies my love for trains.

“This is why I decided to embark on the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, from Zurich Airport to Zermatt.”

🚂 From Zurich to Lucerne

From Zurich and Geneva airport, you are already at the heart of Switzerland’s rail network. To fully enjoy the experience, download the Swiss Travel Guide app and purchase a Swiss Travel Pass, which will give you full access to Switzerland’s train, bus and boat network. From now on, Switzerland is your oyster. Hop on any train, bus or boat. The app lets you choose particularly nice itineraries, and you always have the freedom to just browse the timetable and make your own journey. From Zurich Airport, I decided to head towards Lucerne in the historical heart of Switzerland. I had to quickly say hi to the world-renowned Kapellbrücke and enjoy a stroll along the lake. However, many many more lakes awaited.

🚂 From Lucerne to Zermatt

From Lucerne to Zermatt via Interlaken, I kept going up and down mountains, crossing passes and discovering new valleys. In Brig, Oberwallis started to feel a tiny bit like Italy. For a small reservation fee, I decided to upgrade my experience and hopped on the legendary Glacier Express, coming from St. Moritz and making its way to Zermatt. Its gorgeous panoramic windows allow you to fully embrace the glorious valley leading to Zermatt.

Upon arriving in Zermatt, it may look like you have reached your final destination, as it is located at the very end of the Glacier Express. As one of the destination of the Grand Train Tour, I proudly took my Stamp Booklet from my bag in order to get my first stamp of my trip: the Zermatt stamp, depicting the train I had just left as well as the Matterhorn, which I was about to see for the first time.

🚂 From Zermatt to Gornergrat

I was wrong though: Zermatt is not a terminal stop. Just across the street, the Gornergrat railway awaits, and this one is going high. The Swiss Travel Pass even gives you a 50% discount on the ticket. This rack railway slowly runs between chalets before starting its ascent towards Gornergrat, the final stop standing at 3,089m altitude. The journey is a wonderful occasion to enjoy the many many views of the gigantic Matterhorn. Every stop announcement is introduced by an alphorn sound — I told you this trip featured the best of Switzerland. As the sun was setting, this might have been the best moment of my train-packed day.

Sleeping 2,500 metres above sea level felt surreal. My chalet-style room at the Riffelhaus 1853 hotel was perfect, the views over the Matterhorn made it a must-try experience. I could have slept like a baby until late morning, but I couldn’t help myself and decided to get up at sunrise to witness Matterhorn — again! — slowly getting lit up. What a memory. I kept doing this in the hotel’s breakfast area while enjoying some glorious local food.

🚠 From Zermatt to the Glacier Paradise

As I made my way down back to Zermatt, and waved at the groups of travellers heading up on the opposite train, I tried to compute what I had just achieved. I wasn’t quite done though: during my lovely stroll through town I decided to jump on my next transport adventure: the Glacier Paradise cable car. At that point, I thought I had seen all of Matterhorn, but this brought me closer and closer to the beloved mountain… until I started to see its other side, its Italian side.

At the top of the Glacier Paradise, standing proudly at 3,883 metres, it was difficult to compute my feelings. I spent three years of my life trying to write a history of travel in the Alps, and here they were, stretching from Mont Blanc to Monte Rosa. You can feel the altitude difference as you gaze upon the panorama, while skiers casually decide to make their way down in the middle of summer. I stopped at the altitude restaurant for some delicious Rösti. As I was scrolling through the app I discovered a voucher for a free Victorinox® knife and cheeseboard, which I claimed at the counter and later used for my picnics while on the go.

My train journey

What an incredible 48 hours I had just spent. Back in Zermatt I took some time to shop and relax in the sun for a while, before having to leave this amazing piece of land. Thankfully, my Swiss Travel Pass allowed me to continue my journey to other fantastic corners of Switzerland. Zermatt has it all though: famous mountains, world-class outdoor activities, a delightful car-free town. Zermatt challenges our visions of transport, mobility, and comfort. What makes us happy in life? What is the best way to move around? I think I’ve found a few answers here.

🎟 Find out more about the Swiss Travel Guide app on myswitzerland.com/swisstravelguide

🎟 Visit myswitzerland.com/tickets to book your passes and access Switzerland’s train, bus, and boat network

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1 Comment

  1. Catherine George 11. October 2018 at 14:35

    Very nice!
    Love Zermatt but have never been on the train only the cable cars; will need to to that next year.
    Also we were in Switzerland in September and rode on the Rothornbahn from Brienz to the top. Someone was filming with a drone and told us that it would be on your site very soon. Can you tell me when we would be able to see it.
    Thank you,
    Catherine George

    Reply

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