Is Switzerland by train worthwhile?
Yes, Switzerland is the ideal country to visit by train. And thanks to our Switzerland train itinerary and the Swiss Travel Pass, your travels will be budget-friendly and convenient. The travel pass covers most trains, buses, mountain railways, and boats in Switzerland.
With so many destinations to choose from, it is no easy feat to come up with the perfect Switzerland train itinerary. Nevertheless, we tried our best.
We are taking you from the airport in Geneva or Zurich straight to Lausanne, a charming town with lots of French influences. From there, you will have the opportunity to visit Chillon Castle and take a boat ride on Lake Geneva.
The next stop is Zermatt, a picturesque mountain village at the base of the Matterhorn. Here you will be chasing the most Instagram-worthy photo spots of the Toblerone mountain. Our train itinerary continues to St. Moritz, a posh resort town known for its luxury shopping and world-class restaurants.
And finally, we have included some other popular destinations such as Zurich, Lucerne, and the Rhine Falls, giving you a comprehensive experience of Switzerland. With this Switzerland train itinerary, you'll be able to experience the best of what the country has to offer in just one week, all while enjoying the comfort and convenience of traveling by train.
Why visit Switzerland by train?
There are many reasons why Switzerland is best visited by train. Here are a few of them:
Switzerland has a sophisticated and highly efficient train network that connects the majority of major cities and towns. Connections between trains, buses, and boats are orchestrated so that transfers are a breeze and no time is lost waiting. The Swiss Travel System makes it simple to travel throughout the country without the need for a car.
By choosing trains as your main mode of transport, you can easily change your plans and adapt to the weather (or your mood.) This allows you to be spontaneous and make the most of your trip, without the stress of having to stick to a strict schedule.
Switzerland is a safe country to travel to, and trains are considered one of the safest means of transport.
Swiss trains are known for their comfort and cleanliness, with many trains featuring comfortable seating, panoramic windows, onboard restaurants, wheelchair access, family coaches, and clean bathrooms.
Traveling by train is a more environmentally friendly option compared to other forms of transportation. We are dedicating a separate blog post to this important aspect.
Switzerland can be an expensive country to visit, but traveling by train can help keep costs down. With a Swiss Travel Pass, you can travel on most trains, buses, and boats throughout the country for a fixed (and fair) price.
Many of the train routes in Switzerland offer breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps, rivers, lakes, and cutesy towns. In short, trains are more than a means of transport in Switzerland - they are an experience in and of itself.
Switzerland offers several notable world records for its unique and exciting rail systems. The Stoosbahn is the steepest funicular railway in the world with a gradient of 110%. The Jungfraujoch at an altitude of 3454 meters above the sea is the highest railway station in Europe. And finally, the Bernina Express between Chur in Switzerland and Tirano in Italy holds the record for the highest railway crossing the Alps. On top of the Bernina Pass, the iconic red train passes a staggering altitude of 2253 meters above sea level!
One-Week Switzerland Train Itinerary
If you want to make the most of your time, simply copy/paste this!
From the Geneva or Zurich airport to Lausanne
Upon arrival at either the Geneva or Zurich airport, take an intercity train to Lausanne. These trains are operated by Swiss Federal Railways and depart straight from the airport train terminal.
Lausanne is a charming city located on the shores of Lake Geneva, and it's the perfect place to start your Swiss adventure. Once you've checked into your hotel, take a stroll around the city center to explore the local sights and sounds.
One of the most striking features of Lausanne is its stunning architecture. The city is home to many beautiful buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, including the iconic Cathedral of Notre-Dame, which offers striking views of the city and the lake. Make sure to admire the ornate facades of the many medieval buildings that line the streets of the "Ouchy" area.
Beyond its architectural heritage, Lausanne is also known for its rich cultural scene. The city is home to numerous museums and art galleries, including the Olympic Museum and the Collection de l'Art Brut. And you might get lucky to stumble upon one of the many festivals and events that take place there throughout the year, including the Lausanne Underground Film and Music Festival, the Fêtes de Genève, and the Festival de la Cité.
Where to stay in Lausanne
For the first night in Lausanne, we recommend Hotel Royal Savoy Lausanne. This five-star hotel is located in the heart of Lausanne and offers stunning views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps. It features an indoor pool and a lovely spa, among other amenities.
Hotel Alpha Palmiers by Fassbind is a solid four-star alternative located in the city center of Lausanne. It offers easy access to local attractions and the train station. The hotel features a garden terrace, a bar, and a continental breakfast.
Chillon Castle and Lake Geneva
Take a train ride to Chillon Castle, one of Switzerland's most famous castles from the 13th century. The castle is situated on an island on Lake Geneva and has been beautifully preserved.
Chillon Castle has a rich Medieval history and has been home to many famous people throughout the years. For one, the castle served as inspiration for Lord Byron and his poem The Prisoner of Chillon.
To learn more about this interesting backstory and get the most out of your visit, pick up an audio guide in English. The museum offers a glimpse into the history of the region. And if you allocate about two hours for the entire visit, you will have seen it all.
Zermatt and the Matterhorn
Today, you are taking a train ride from Lausanne to Zermatt, the charming mountain village located at the base of the Matterhorn. Once you've checked into your hotel, it’s time to decide where you will want to see the Matterhorn.
The first option is to take a gondola ride up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at the foot of the Matterhorn.
Another option is by taking a train from Zermatt to Gornergrat at an altitude of 3089 meters above the sea. Since the train ride is slow-paced, it is the perfect way to soak in the stunning views of the Matterhorn from a distance. In our humble opinion, this is one of the most beautiful train rides in Switzerland. It takes around 30 minutes and is included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
There are several things to do and see once you reach the top. If the weather is fair, climb to the Gornergrat viewpoint for views of the Gorner glacier and the Matterhorn. But during inclement weather, step inside the Zooom the Matterhorn exhibit.
Different interactive stations allow you to experience the Matterhorn up close and personal. This museum is included in the train ticket or Swiss Travel Pass.
The search for the black-nosed sheep is another popular activity on Gornergrat. These sheep are a unique breed found only in the Valais region. They are cuddly, fuzzy, and undeniably cute with their distinctive black noses. Since their alpine grazing meadows are quite vast, it helps that each sheep wears a GPS tracker. This live map allows you to easily locate the black nose sheep to meet them up close.
Where to stay in Zermatt
In Zermatt, we can wholeheartedly recommend The Omnia. This 5-star hotel is located in the heart of Zermatt and offers easy access to hiking paths and cable cars. It features a spa, an indoor pool, an outdoor hot tub with Matterhorn views, and a fine-dining restaurant.
Hotel Carina is a design and lifestyle boutique hotel within easy walking distance from the train station. The location is ideal for those wanting to access Sunnegga by funicular. From this side of Zermatt, you will gain an entirely new perspective of the Matterhorn.
Transfer from Zermatt to St. Moritz
On your fourth day in Switzerland, it is time to say goodbye to the Matterhorn. Today, you will be boarding the Glacier Express headed for St. Moritz.
The Glacier Express is a bucket list train line for several reasons. For one, the train line showcases the most beautiful sides of Switzerland. As it travels across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels, and passes the Oberalp Pass, the Glacier Express offers panoramic views through its large windows. This happens to be the longest train trip possible in Switzerland at 8 hours and 20 minutes!
The Glacier Express has been in operation since 1930 and is considered a piece of Swiss rail history. It's a living reminder of the country's railway heritage and the engineering feat of building a train line through the mountains.
The Glacier Express is included in the Swiss Travel Pass, making it a convenient and cost-effective way to travel from one resort town to the next. Since it is a very popular train line, however, reservations are mandatory and come at an extra charge.
Welcome to St. Moritz, a ritzy resort town in the Upper Engadin valley. Popular for its high-end shopping, world-class dining, and winter sports, St. Moritz is regarded as one of the world's most exclusive and upscale winter resorts.
St. Moritz became a popular destination for the rich and famous in the late 19th century when European royalty, celebrities, and business tycoons would flock there. This reputation has persisted to the present day, with St. Moritz known as a playground for the wealthy and elite.
Now, St. Moritz's opulent atmosphere and high-end shops and restaurants can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. But beyond the glitz and glamour, there are numerous opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty and outdoor activities of the surrounding mountains.
After checking into your hotel, take some time to stroll around and visit a local museum or art gallery. If you are lucky, you will see the sunset reflected onto a snow-capped peak. In fact, the view of the surrounding mountains is one of St. Moritz's most notable features.
You might see the 3000-meter-high Piz Corvatsch, Piz Nair, and Piz Surlej from the town. At 4049 meters, the Piz Bernina is the highest peak in the area, but it can only be seen from some sections of St. Moritz.
Where to stay in St. Moritz
St. Moritz is world-renowned for its luxury hotels. For the full experience and if your budget allows, stay at Badrutt's Palace Hotel. This five-star hotel is among the most prestigious in St. Moritz, offering stunning views of the mountainscape. The Badrutt’s Palace features a spa, an indoor pool, and a restaurant that serves traditional Swiss cuisine.
As a budget alternative, try Hotel Nira Alpina in Silvaplana. This four-star superior design hotel is located a bit outside of St. Moritz beside the Corvatsch cable car station. It features a top-floor restaurant and a spa - everything you could ask for after a day on the rails.
St. Moritz and the Engadin valley
Start your day in the Engadin by trying a typical Swiss breakfast dish. Either your hotel or a local café will surely serve Bircher muesli, a healthy oats porridge.
Since you will be spending the entire day in St. Moritz, you have ample time to go on a day hike. The Engadine valley is known for its picturesque landscapes and offers a variety of hiking trails for all levels of hikers.
Alternatively, you could simply take a stroll along the lakeside promenade. While marveling at the majestic peaks, try to imagine that every winter, the lake is frozen over. This is when the famous White Turf horse races take place on the frozen lake.
St. Moritz is home to a number of museums and art galleries that showcase the history and culture of the region. One must-visit option is the Segantini Museum, a great destination for art lovers and history enthusiasts.
The art museum showcases the work of one of the most important painters of the late 19th and early 20th century, Giovanni Segantini. The Italian painter had claimed the Engadine as his home, and this museum offers a perfect stage to learn about Segantini's life and work, and the significance of his art. Although the museum admission is not included in the Swiss Travel Pass, it's worth considering as an add-on to any visit to St. Moritz.
Spend the day in Zurich
Later on today, you will be switching from mountain gear to city looks. But first, you have to hop on a train from St. Moritz to Chur and on to Zurich. Insider tip: find a seat on the upper deck right-hand side of the intercity train to Zurich. That way, you will get to see Lake Walen and Lake Zurich from an elevated perspective.
Once in Zurich, drop your bags at the hotel and hit the streets of the largest city in Switzerland. Take some time to explore the lake promenade and the Bahnhofstrasse shopping mile. Then, stroll through the charming cobblestone streets and admire the historical buildings that line the streets. And surely, you will notice the city's most important landmarks and historical sites, such as the Grossmünster, Fraumünster, and St. Peter's Church.
During rainy days, retreat into one of the numerous museums - many of which are included in the Swiss Travel Pass. We have dedicated an entire post to free things to do in Zurich, and there’s a nod to botanical gardens with free admission.
Lindt Home of Chocolate in Zurich is a must-see for chocolate enthusiasts. The museum provides an interactive experience that highlights the history and production of Lindt chocolate. Visitors can also watch chocolate being made and sample some for free. It's a delicious and enjoyable way to learn about the art of chocolate making.
Where to stay in Zurich
For your last two nights in Zurich, we recommend Hotel Widder. This 5-star hotel is located in the heart of Zurich and offers easy access to the city's many shops and restaurants.
As a budget-friendly option, there is the new Boutique Hotel Seidenhof just down the street. We really like their timeless design and the thoughtful extras in the rooms, including rental umbrellas.
Lucerne or the Rhine Falls
On your second to last day, it’s all up to you as to whether you take a train to Lucerne or to the Rhine Falls near the German border. Both are legitimate ways to round up your Switzerland itinerary.
Lucerne is a charming town located on the shores of Lake Lucerne and is known for its beautiful Old Town and Chapel Bridge. If you decide on Lucerne, this could be your chance to eat one more typical Swiss dish for lunch or dinner: Rösti is traditionally made from grated potatoes that are fried until crispy and golden brown, and it is usually served with bacon, cheese, or eggs.
The Rhine Falls is the largest waterfall in Europe and is sort of a must-see destination. Visit a local winery or brewery for a tour and tasting. Since you will be at the water, try a popular (and delicious) Swiss dish featuring local white fish. Fischknusperli quite literally means “crunchy fish” and is made from small fish that are breaded and deep-fried. The fish is often served with a variety of dipping sauces.
Return to Zurich for your last overnight stay.
Departure from Zurich
Spend the day in Zurich before departing from Zurich Airport. Be sure to visit the Bahnhofstrasse, the city's main shopping street, to feel the hustle and bustle. On Tuesdays and Fridays, there is a farmers market at Bürkliplatz by the lake.
This is also your chance to indulge in some last-minute shopping. For bulk chocolate souvenirs, we recommend hitting a Swiss grocery store for the best deals: Coop or Migros. Of course, find a boutique chocolatier instead for high-end or artisanal chocolate souvenirs.