Explore Switzerland Mountains by Train
Non-drivers can still enjoy striking panoramas on the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland. The route encompasses an impressive 91 tunnels and 291 bridges. Take the Wilhelm Tell Express via the Magadino Plain, and admire the three grand medieval castles of Bellinzona which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pass through the medieval town of Schaffhausen and the 400-year-old Fortress of Munot, and look out for the 13th-century Hohenklingen Castle at Stien am Rhein.
Best for breathing – Glacier Express
Embrace slow travel on this leisurely journey, gently rising to snowy heights for some of the most photogenic views in Switzerland. The route encompasses an impressive 91 tunnels and 291 bridges, starting in Zermatt and ending in St Moritz.
Admire views of the mighty Matterhorn as you head towards the 17th century Stockalper Castle, and cross the retreating Rhone Glacier, which once reached the village of Gletsch. Continue along the vast green valley slopes below the Oberalp Pass, witness raging waters and forest-claid, jagged slate rocks at the 400 metres deep Rhine Gorge and test nerves on the single-track Landwasser Viaduct.
Admire the grand castles the Domleschg region, and sample modern day glamour at chic resort St Moritz (Journey time: 8 hours).
Best of variety – Montreux-Zermatt
The first key sight on this short trip is the Chillon Castle, the most-visited historic building in Switzerland, which appears to float on Lake Geneva. The train then continues to the Chablais Vineyards and the world’s oldest Abbey in Saint-Maurice. In Sion, capital of the Valais region, look out for the ramparts of Castle Tourbillon, and admire bridges from different eras at Stalden, once an important hub for transporting goods.
One of the route’s most scenic sections lies along the rugged Hipfen Gorge, where the raging River Vespa runs parallel to the tracks. The line then winds towards Zermatt, passing the Bies glacier, before reaching the famous mountain resort surrounded by 38 4,000 metre peaks (Journey time: 2 hours 15 minutes).
Best for nostalgia – Wilhelm Tell Express
Combine train and boat travel on this luxurious trip through central Switzerland and Italian-speaking Ticino, starting in Lugano and travelling to Lucerne.
Emerge from the Ceneri tunnel to witness the vast agricultural Magadino Plain, and admire the three grand medieval castles of Bellinzona which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Possibly the most impressive stage of the journey is a series of spiralling tunnels along the Gotthard Line, including the 15km Gotthard Tunnel which opened in 1882. At Fluelen, disembark to take a paddle steamer across the fjord-like Lake Uri, passing Tell’s Chapel, where William Tell supposedly leapt from a boat trying to escape his Hasburg enemies (Journey time: 5 hours 20 minutes).
Best for waterways – Zurich-St Gallen
After leaving Zurich, zoom across the Eglisau railway viaduct, above the River Rhine, and continue along the iron bridge which spans nine limestone arches across the valley. Just before arriving in Neuhausen, make sure you grab a window seat to view Europe’s largest waterfall, the Rhine Falls, which stretches 150 metres wide.
Pass through medieval town of Schaffhausen and the 400-year-old Fortress of Munot, and look out for the 13th-century Hohenklingen Castle at Stein am Rhein. At Untersee, on the western part of Lake Constance, watch sailing boats skim across the water, and travel through fruit orchards and plantations to end up in the town of St Gallen, where books from the 9th century can be found in the Abbey of Saint Gall (Journey time: 2 hours 50 minutes).