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. There is a dense web of interconnecting rail routes. And 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 serving one or more of the country's three main rail hubs - Basel, Zurich and Berne. All three have regular daytime trains - TGV to Paris, ICE to Berlin and Eurocity to Milan, among other major cities in Europe. Zurich has particularly good connections with Austria, with trains leaving every two hours for both Salzburg and Vienna. Geneva has very good links into the French TGV network, with direct daytime trains to the Rhône Valley and French Riviera.
Zurich has a wide choice of night train departures, with services leaving every evening for Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, Dresden, Hamburg, Ljubljana, Prague, Vienna and Zagreb. Direct overnight services from Switzerland to Italy, Spain, Poland, Russia and Denmark have however all been withdrawn.
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.
Image credits: Thun, Switzerland © Mihai-bogdan Lazar