Trains to Switzerland
National rail operator
Facts about Switzerland
- Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF)
- Timezone: 1+ UTC
- Language: French, Swiss-German, Italian, Romansh
Taking the train through Switzerland is a great way to explore the country. No other European nation can quite match the Swiss when it comes to running a railway efficiently. So it was no surprise, perhaps, that Switzerland swept the board when Loco2 ran The Great Train Comparison in 2018 to identify Europe's star operators. There is a dense web of interconnecting rail routes. Smart timetabling and impressive punctuality mean that trains normally connect perfectly at major junctions. If your journey extends beyond the rail network, you’ll find that trains usually connect seamlessly with buses, ferries and cable cars.
The main national rail operator is the state-run Swiss Federal Railways (abbreviated to CFF, SBB and FFS in French, German and Italian respectively). There are over a dozen other operators, but one ticketing system covers the entire country.
Switzerland enjoys excellent international links, with cross-border trains serving one or more of the country's three main rail hubs - Basel, Zurich and Berne. All three have direct TGVs to Paris, ICEs to a clutch of German cities and Eurocity trains to a range of destinations in northern Italy. The opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in late 2016 gave a boost to Swiss-Italian links, but being a long tunnel it's not a route for those looking for great views of the Alps.
Zurich has particularly good connections with Austria, with trains leaving every two hours for both Salzburg and Vienna. New for 2019 is a daily direct train from Zurich to Bratislava in Slovakia. Geneva has very good links into the French TGV network, with direct daytime trains to the Rhône Valley as well as Paris, while Zurich has a wide choice of night train departures, with services leaving every evening for Berlin, Budapest, Hamburg, Ljubljana, Prague, Vienna and Zagreb.
Switzerland is, more than any other country in Europe, a place where train journeys are well worth making in their own right. So consider a trip on the panoramic Bernina route from Chur and St Moritz to Tirano in Italy. It is the only north-south route that travels over the Alps rather than tunnelling through them. Other classics include the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz and the Golden Pass route from Lucerne to Montreux via Interlaken.