A Guide to the Most Scenic Trains in Switzerland and Italy
It doesn’t matter where you plan on traveling to in Switzerland or Italy, taking the train makes the journey just as memorable as the destination.
This quick guide to train travel in Switzerland and Italy covers all the basics of the most popular, scenic trains and routes you can experience.
The route: Chur to Lugano via Tirano (Italy)
Distance: 76 miles
Duration: 4 hours
Highlights: 55 tunnels, 196 bridges, the Landwasser Viaduct, Upper Engadine Valley, Graubünden, Bernina Pass, Palü Glacier, the famous Brusio spiral viaduct
The Bernina Express runs in both directions, from Chur, Davos, or St. Moritz in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy. There are 25 stops along the breathtaking route. To enjoy all the exciting twists, turns, and landscapes, we recommend experiencing the Bernina Express route from start to finish.
The route: Zermatt to St. Moritz (or vice versa)
Distance: 180 miles
Duration: 8 hours
Highlights: Panoramic views of the Oberalp Pass, Rheinschlucht, alpine landscapes, travels through 91 tunnels, and across 291 bridges
Known as the ‘slowest express train in the world,’ the Glacier Express is a direct train from Zermatt to St. Moritz (or vice versa). The journey takes about eight hours and travels through the stunning Alps, through narrow valleys, around tight curves, through 91 tunnels and across 291 bridges. The route consists of four section, each showcasing their own scenery. The Glacier Express reaches its highest point of 6,670ft then descends back down to the Domleschg Valley.
The route: Lucerne to Lugano
Duration: 5 hour journey by boat and train
Highlights: Tell’s Chapel, Gotthard Tunnel, Church of Wassen, Lake Lucerne cruise,
Rütli Meadow, Bellinzona’s castles
The Gotthard Panorama Express takes travelers from Lucerne by steamboat to Flüelen then to Göschenen by panoramic train on the historical Gotthard before switching trains to Lugano. Enjoy views of Central Switzerland and Ticino’s incredible mountain landscapes. Onboard, learn all about the history, myths and legends surrounding the train.
The route: Locarno (Switzerland) – Domodossola (Italy)
Distance: 32.37 mi
Duration: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Highlights: 83 bridges, 31 tunnels, numerous waterfalls, the Centovalli (100 valleys)
The Domodossola-Locarno railway, also known as the Centovalli (meaning 100 valleys in Italian), runs between the town of Domodossola, Italy, to the canton of Ticino in Switzerland. During the journey, the train crosses 83 bridges, travel through 31 tunnels, and passes numerous waterfalls as it winds its way through the gorgeous valleys of the region. It’s the shortest and most scenic connection between Lake Maggiore and Bern.
The route: Luzern to Interlaken to Zweisimmen to Montreux
Distance: 118 miles
Duration: 5.5 hours
Highlights: Panoramic views of the passing landscapes, eight lakes, six cantons, three mountain passes
The GoldenPass line is not a direct train. It’s an extraordinary journey on three different trains, with panoramic views of the passing scenery. See the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, gorgeous Lake Geneva and Brienz, the Brünig Pass.
The route: Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza to Corniglia to Manarola to Riomaggiore
Levanto to Monterosso: 5 minutes
Monterosso to Vernazza: 3 minutes
Vernazza to Corniglia: 3 minutes
Corniglia to Manarola: 2 minutes
Manarola to Riomaggiore: 2 minutes
Highlights: Quaint, cobbled streets, picturesque harbors, sweeping vistas, winding cliff pathways, terraced vineyards, pastel-colored houses
Cinque Terre is as every bit breathtaking as you’d imagine. No photos or postcards could do this place justice. Comprised of five distinct fishing villages—Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore—Cinque Terre is one of the most famous coastal landscapes not just in Europe, but in the world. And guess what? The best way to discover its beauty is by train!