Switzerland is one of Europe’s most marvelous – and train-accessible – countries. With the towering Swiss Alps, deep blue lakes, and the most Instagrammable little towns, you can see it all with our recommendations for your Grand Train Tour of Switzerland!
All of the cities and quaint little towns we’re about to highlight for you can be reached using the Swiss Travel Pass, which grants you travel on trains, buses, boats, and access into over 500 museums!
Zurich may be known internationally as Europe’s financial capital, but there’s so much for travelers to enjoy. The city sits right on picturesque Lake Zurich (if you’re traveling in summer, taking a dip in the beautiful waters is a must!), flanked by the iconic guild houses of Old Town and some of the country’s best galleries and museums, including Kunsthaus. Zurich is best explored on foot, through winding cobblestone streets and up the tower of Grossmünster church to catch a glimpse of distant snow-capped mountains. The annual “Street Parade” in August is one of the world’s largest open-air raves.
Schaffhausen (Tip: this is a great day trip from Zurich, just 38 minutes travel time)
Jonesing for a waterfall? Take a day trip via train to Schaffhausen. The medieval town is a short hike to Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall. After your excursion, check out the Munot fortress, wander down elegant Vorstadt Street, and enjoy dinner at one of the many German-influenced cafes.
St. Gallen (Tip: this is another good day trip from Zurich, just over an hour travel time)
Like much of Switzerland, St. Gallen holds real old world charm through esoteric back alleys and medieval architecture. Unlike most Swiss towns, though, St. Gallen truly lives its history every day. Featuring the famed Abbey of Saint Gall and adjacent library – both dating back to the 8th century – St. Gallen is an intellectual adventure into the past that has made it a favorite home for philosophers, writers, and artists over the years. The Stadtlounge art installation is a massive outdoor living room where you can relax and be a part of the exhibit.
Lucerne (45 minutes by train from Zurich)
Lucerne is the heart of Switzerland and postcard-pretty year-round. The central Swiss town is surrounded by deep emerald mountains and the azure Reuss River, all overlooking the dramatic gullies of Lake Lucerne. It’s long served as the gateway to famed nearby attractions like Mounts Pilatus and Rigi, and Rütli Meadow. In town, the pedestrian-only thoroughfares are full of famous chocolate stores and the iconic lion statue. Don’t miss the incomparable Chapel Bridge, which is not only the oldest truss bridge in the world, but actually features rare priceless art painted right on the trusses! Lucerne is known for its proud musical heritage and the town comes alive with incredible acts across genre every night. Many travelers consider Lucerne to be the highlight of their grand train tour of Switzerland.
Interlaken (Nearby mountain peaks: Schynige Platte, Harder Kulm, Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn)
Interlaken is the quintessential Swiss outdoors town, where steep cliffs meet serene lakes (two of them!) and rivers, and waterfalls flow abundantly. You can spend a day wandering through the surreal landscape or weeks trekking up mountains, skiing, whitewater rafting, swimming, boating, base jumping, and mountain biking. It’s all in Interlaken.
Montreux (About 3 hours from Interlaken on the scenic GoldenPass Line, with 1 train change in Zweisimmen along the way)
Montreux offers one of Switzerland’s most dramatic views of the Alps on the banks of Lake Geneva in the French-speaking southwest corner of Switzerland. The stunning panorama has attracted renowned artists and writers to Montreux’s lakeside chalets, resorts, and cabins – including the grand Château de Chillon. The band Queen, which recorded seven albums in Montreux, is commemorated with a studio tour and a statue honoring their late singer Freddie Mercury. A lake cruise is highly recommended to fully take in Montreux’s glorious setting.
Zermatt (from Montreux, take the train about 1 hour to Brig; change trains and travel about 2.5 hours to Zermatt)
No grand train tour of Switzerland would be complete without a majestic mountain. The word on every travelers lips as the train pulls up to Zermatt is Matterhorn. The colossal mountain that towers over the small Swiss village has captured imaginations for thousands of years and still defines the town today. Surrounded by world-class ski resorts and climbing bases, Zermatt also offers Matterhorn Museum and the pensive Mountaineers’ Cemetery, commemorating the lives of those lost on the slopes of the mountain. For train lovers (yes, you!), the eight-hour Glacier Express rail trip up and down the magnificent mountain passes is a must. The scenery is simply beyond words.
Chur ( 5.5 hours from Zermatt on the scenic Glacier Express)
Cute, chic, and friendly, Chur is Switzerland’s oldest city, dating back an incredible 6,000 years (!) into prehistory. Today, Chur’s charm is found along the boutique- and cafe-filled streets of the Altstadt (Old Town), with the ever-present Alps standing guard around the city. A reverence for the past is found throughout Chur, including the Obertor gates to the Altstadt, Malteserturm munitions tower, and Rätisches Museum.
St. Moritz (via the Glacier Express)
St. Moritz is Swiss winter glam at its finest. St. Moritz isn’t cheap, but you’ll find a regal welcome everywhere you go. With an incredible 300 days of sunshine a year relaxing natural mineral springs like St. Mortiz Bader, there’s a reason why the small mountain town has been attracting the rich and famous for centuries. Unique events like the White Turf horse races on the frozen lake and natural bobsled runs, plus top designer boutiques and the glacier view from Diavolezza, make St. Moritz a worthy stop on every Swiss train journey.
So there you have it: our recommendations for a grand train tour of Switzerland! Did we miss anything important on this list?