From the soaring Swiss Alps to gorgeous lakes, thriving cities to timeless villages, Switzerland is one great surprise after the next. Our Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is the best way to fully explore this amazing country! No hassles… just memorable train rides, fantastic destinations, charming hotels, and the best sights the Alps have to offer. This tour combines stays in 3 of Switzerland’s prettiest and most interesting cities – Lucerne, Lugano and Zurich – along with visits to 3 of the most incredible mountain areas anywhere – the Bernese Oberland, the Matterhorn region and the Engadine.
You’ll travel every 2nd day, and many days will include a scenic train ride between villages such as the Glacier Express and Bernina Express – all wonderful train rides that link distinct regions and help you get the most out of your time in the Swiss Alps. But we’ll also leave plenty of time to take in local sights at each stop. Unpack, relax and explore. There’s so much to do… visit Lucerne’s Chapel Bridge or Mount Pilatus, ride to Jungfraujoch – Switzerland’s highest train station, enjoy a gourmet lunch at a remote alpine restaurant in view of the Matterhorn. The choice is yours!
Lucerne – Arrive in Zurich, pull out your 1st class Swiss pass and hop on the train. In one hour you’ll be in Lucerne, perhaps Switzerland’s prettiest city, where your tour will begin. The seamless connections between the Zurich airport and Lucerne will make sure you get there stress-free.
You’ll be right in the heart of Lucerne’s historic Old Town center, with cobblestoned, car-free alleys presided over by ornate buildings and ringed by ancient city walls. See the famous Chapel Bridge, the Lion of Lucerne and local museums, or perhaps take the cable car and cogwheel train up to the views from Mount Pilatus. We’ll give you maps and lots of helpful suggestions, and you’re free to tour the city at your leisure.
Lucerne – After a filling breakfast buffet at your hotel, a second day in Lucerne gives you a chance to further explore, and there are many options.
Take a boat ride along Lake Luzern followed by a train to the nearby mountain village of Engelberg, with magnificent views of the Central Swiss Alps from the Titlis cable car. Or, sticking closer to Lucerne, you can take a walk along the lakeside promenade to the impressive Transport museum. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s really fun. Enjoy an open-air dinner in one of Lucerne’s fine restaurants, perhaps along the riverfront looking out at the Chapel bridge.
Grindelwald – Maybe you’ll get a chance to visit the Lucerne farmer’s market (held continuously by the river for over 800 years!), before catching the Goldenpass train on a beautiful 4 hour trip to the Bernese Oberland’s Jungfrau region, perhaps the most impressive region in the Swiss Alps, where you’ll stay in Grindelwald.
This stretch of the Goldenpass route is also called the Luzern-Interlaken Express, and reservations are optional, but not really necessary.
Grindelwald is nestled amid a fairly-tale landscape of huge mountains and waterfalls, flower-munching cows, and quaint villages. It’s the perfect place to unwind and slow down. Take a short hike or ride the cable car to the First ridge for the region’s best views. Dinner is included at your hotel tonight.
Grindelwald – A second day in Grindelwald gives you a chance to fully appreciate this incredible regiond. The area is surrounded by hiking trails, and has many cable cars and trains to viewpoints that are all stunning and worthwhile.
You might decide to ride the Jungfraujoch train up to the Aletsch glacier – Europe’s largest glacier, tunneling through the Eiger with viewpoints enroute. Your included rail pass will give valuable discounts on this ride, and we’ll give suggestions on how to combine the Jungfraujoch trip with some sightseeing around Kleine Scheidegg.
Or perhaps you’ll make the short trip to see the Yosemite-like Lauterbrunnen valley, surrounded by dozens of waterfalls, including the impressive Trummelbach falls, which have cut a canyon so narrow, they appear to be falling inside the mountain. Dinner included.
Zermatt – You’ll hop on another half-day train and head south to another of Switzerland’s prettiest mountain regions. A morning transfer through the Alps brings you to Zermatt, the atmospheric mountain village nestled up at the foot of the Matterhorn.
The Matterhorn is Switzerland’s most recognizable monument, a massive and distinctive mountain surrounded by dozens of fine, glacier-clad peaks. Ride a cable car up to stunning viewpoints, take a memorable mountain walk, or just enjoy the ambiance of the village with great restaurants and hotels and a lively shopping district.
We stay in a beautiful 4-star hotel in Zermatt, with great food, Matterhorn views, and always a friendly reception. Dinner is included.
Zermatt – You’ll have a second day in Zermatt to take in the sights, and again, there are no shortage of options. The historic cogwheel train ride up the ridge to Gornergrat is a must, with gorgeous views of Monte Rosa (Switzerland’s highest mountain), the Gorner glacier, Matterhorn and more.
If you want to get out on the trails, there are many walks from easy strolls to challenging hikes to choose from, including the high, steep hike up to Hornli hut, a sort of Matterhorn base camp high on a ridge. Back in town, check out the fine Matterhorn museum, and be sure to leave time for the spa at your hotel! Dinner is included again tonight.
Pontresina – Ride the famous Glacier Express train, a comfortable and scenic 8 hr journey across the Swiss Alps to the eastern border region, the Engadine. The ride features numerous thrilling tunnels and bridges, and is comfortable and relaxing throughout. The ride is supremely comfortable, with big seats, picture windows, A/C and a concierge to bring whatever you need. You’ll enjoy a delicious lunch on the ride as well.
We like to stay in Pontresina, a quieter, mellow alternative to nearby St Moritz, and our favorite hotel here is the traditional Hotel Steinbock. The Steinbock shares a fabulous pool/spa with their sister hotel next door and is a comfortable base for you nights here. After a big lunch on the train, we’ll leave dinner free so you can explore on your own.
Pontresina – A second day in Pontresina gives you a chance to explore this beautiful and peaceful region, home to a number of pretty lakes, huge mountains, beautiful villages, as well as Switzerland’s only National Park.
There are hikes from your hotel, cable cars and cogwheel trains to speed you to great viewpoints of the surrounding Alps, or quaint villages straight out of another century, such as Guarda and Soglio, to be explored throughout the valley. Dinner will be at your hotel tonight.
Lugano – All aboard! The Bernina Express route is one of Switzerland’s prettiest rides and brings you by train down, down, down to Italy, then by bus along the shores of lake Como to Lugano, Switzerland’s sun-drenched, lakeside pearl.
This Italian-speaking region brings a distinctly Mediterranean feel, very similar to the neighboring Italian lake district, with charming outdoor markets on narrow, cobblestoned streets. Lugano is a tidy and vibrant city, and our hotel sits just across from the lake in the pedestrian-only core of the city.
Lugano – The options for our 2nd day in Lugano include boat rides along the lake, walks from nearby fishing villages, or a more adventurous journey to the valleys above Locarno. The Vercazca valley is particularly nice, with a dreamy, timeless quality and the picturesque Ponte dei Salti bridge.
Return to Lugano for a 2nd night, and enjoy dinner and la dolce vita in one of the many fine open-air restaurants that dot the old town. Take a stroll along the palm-tree lined lakefront.
Zurich – Zurich is a quick 2 hour train ride from Lugano, and you can get there early with plenty of time to sightsee. Zurich also has a very walkable Old Town, many museums, and a very nice lake. Perhaps a visit to a chocolate factory is on the todo list? Maestrani’s Chocolarium in nearby Flawil will definitely do the trick.
If you feel the journey is most of the fun, the Gotthard Panorama Express is longer, scenic option today. A panoramic train ride followed by a boat trip to Lucerne, where you would transfer to Zurich. Be sure to ask if you are interested in adding this.
We like to stay downtown in Zurich, since the airport is so close and easy to get to, but airport hotels are an option tonight also.
depart – Uf wiederluege! All good things must end. After breakfast at your hotel, the Zurich airport is a quick 10 minute train ride away. Or your rail pass will be good for travel to any Swiss destination or border.
If you only have time for a quick trip to Switzerland, our Best of Switzerland self-guided tour may be just the tour for you!Learn more ›