Taking the train through Switzerland is a fine 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. Smart timetabling and impressive punctuality mean that trains normally connect perfectly at major junctions. If your journey extends beyond the tentacles of 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 unified ticketing system covers the entire country.
Switzerland enjoys excellent international links. You can speed from London to Geneva in just over 6 hrs, changing trains in Lille or Paris. The new direct service from Lille to Geneva starting in December 2014, with excellent connections with Eurostar in Lille, will be a big plus for passengers from Britain.
Switzerland’s three main rail hubs are at Basel, Zurich and Berne. All 3 cities have regular daytime trains to Paris, Berlin, Milan and other major cities across Europe. Zurich has particularly good connections with Austria, with trains leaving every 2 hrs 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 Direct overnight services from Switzerland to Italy, Spain, Poland, Russia and Denmark have however all been withdrawn.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. You might like to try the 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.
Trains in Switzerland
- Bernina Express
- InterCity Express (ICE)
- Intercity (IC)
- TGV Lyria
- Day/Regional Train
- Night train
- High-speed train
- Scenic train
Switzerland fact file
- Currency: Swiss franc
- Timezone: 1+ UTC
- Language: French, Romansh, Swiss-German, Italian