Travel across pristine lakes, secluded valleys and high mountain passes on this spectacular journey. Discover the many facets of Switzerland on this Grand Train Tour with a Swiss Travel Pass.
Most Swiss trains don’t require seat reservations. However, if you want to guarantee your seat on a panoramic tourist-orientated train such as the Bernina Express or Glacier Express you can buy a reserved ticket.
Gstaad, Switzerland is one of those resort towns whose reputation seems more myth than reality: the cultural lore of snow-covered chalets tucked into a stunning mountain landscape where wealthy and famous people (think Bernie Eccelstone, Valentino Garavani, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, and so on) spend their winters in a glitzy wonderland of luxury shopping, fine dining, and five-star hotels. Beverly Nguyen, the fashion stylist behind Beverly’s, a new homewares shop currently popping up at Nordstrom’s flagship store in Manhattan, recently visited this Alpine paradise for Christmas, and she was charmed by its quaint village vibes and winter sport scene.
During the ski season from December to February, the upscale resort town’s soaring mountains and prestigious international boarding schools make it a favorite among royalty and celebrities. But when the slopes shut down, Gstaad is quieter and arguably even more romantic.
The best way to get around the village is by walking, but you can also hop on a cable car to nearby ski areas such as Wispile and Rinderberg, which offer hundreds of miles of pistes for all levels of skill. And if you can’t afford to stay at the impossibly romantic Palace Hotel—which looks like a snowglobe on top of the mountain—you can still visit its bar, where Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald once sang and danced, or take in the view from Glacier 3000.
Gstaad is easily accessible by train from both Geneva and Zurich. Board the GoldenPass Line from either city to Montreux, then transfer to the Saanen & Gstaad rail line to Zweisimmen, where you change to the Gstaad-St Moritz railway to the village. The total journey takes about four hours from Geneva and three hours from Zürich.
The swanky lakeside resort of Montreux is a great base for exploring the area’s mountainous environs. The terraced vineyards of the Lavaux UNESCO World Heritage Site are a short train ride away. Take the aptly named Train de Vignes to explore this picturesque route.
In winter, the cog railway takes visitors to Rochers-de-Naye, a summit of the Swiss Alps with breathless panoramas and marmot colonies. It also offers the option of hiking up to the Grotttes de Naye caves. A nearby glacier accessed by the Glacier 3000 train is another fun excursion, offering panoramic views of the French and Swiss Alps.
Located in the heart of western Switzerland, Montreux is an easy and scenic train ride from Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, Gruyeres and Gstaad. It is also a convenient departure point for excursions to Zermatt and other high-alpine destinations.
Switzerland’s newest panoramic rail journey, the GPX (Golden Pass Express), is now in service, connecting Montreux with Gstaad and Interlaken. It’s a spectacular technological achievement, utilizing revolutionary trains that shift their wheel gauge from narrow to standard, while passengers remain comfortably seated and immersed in ever-changing vistas.
Travelers can choose between Second Class, First Class or, for 28 lucky travelers per trip, Prestige class accommodations. At regular intervals, staff come down the aisle to take orders for food and drink. A 2, 3 or 4-course meal can be served at your seat, and there is an onboard bar serving beer, wine and snacks.
A 90-minute train ride east of Montreux brings you to the international highlight of Geneva, a city known for its sports and cultural highlights, including the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. From here, it’s a short train ride to the Alps of central Switzerland, where you can embark on a rail journey to the awe-inspiring Jungfraujoch – or Top of Europe.
The Matterhorn’s twisted peak lures visitors to Zermatt, the southern Swiss resort town famous for its ski slopes and dramatic views. It’s also one of Switzerland’s most important mountaineering centers, with a dozen peaks over 4000 meters within easy reach. While many travelers visit in the winter for skiing, Zermatt is equally attractive in summer for hiking and scenic walks, as well as gondola rides and horse-drawn carriages.
The steep Gornergrat Railway takes you past cliff-top views of the Matterhorn, and you can opt to add a climb from Trockener Steg station to Hohtalli or Stockhorn in two successive cable cars (if you don’t suffer from vertigo). Another option is the Glacier Express, a privately owned narrow-gauge train that traverses the 168 mountainous miles between Zermatt and St. Moritz, crossing the Landwasser Viaduct en route.
A cog train from Grindelwald leads to Europe’s highest train station, the Jungfraujoch, where awe-inspiring mountain scenery is the backdrop to an incredible array of glaciers. Then, board a different train for the final stretch to Zermatt. You can purchase tickets for both the Jungfraujoch and Gornergrat in a single day with the Peak2Peak ticket.
You can also take a panoramic MOB train from Visp to Tasch, where you’ll change to the line to Zermatt using rack and pinion on the Mattertal Valley section. This is a more comfortable way to travel than changing trains at Visp, but it will take longer as you’re traveling in the opposite direction to Zermatt.
From Zermatt, you can hike to Hornlihutte on the trail that marks the base of the Matterhorn – an unforgettable excursion that will make your trip even more memorable. Or, if you’re feeling a little less ambitious, enjoy a day hike along the Matterhorn Panorama Trail.
The picturesque town of Interlaken is a gateway to the magnificent lakes and mountains of Switzerland. Located on flat alluvial land in the bodeli area between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, Interlaken is famous for its stunning vistas. It is also an important transportation hub, with routes extending to nearby vantage points along famous mule trails, as well as to peaks higher up in the Bernese Oberland, such as the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.
Interlaken is also home to two funicular railways that provide easy access to nearby vantage points. The Harderbahn, for example, leads visitors to the summit of Interlaken’s own mountain, Harder Kulm (1322 m/4337 ft), in just ten minutes, where a glass platform offers views over the entire region.
From the soaring mountains of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau to the pristine glaciers and serene lakes of the Swiss Alps, Interlaken is Switzerland’s original tourist hotspot. In addition to its own charming peaks and attractions, the town is also home to a variety of hotels and restaurants, making it the ideal base from which to explore the spectacular scenery of the Swiss Alps.
National Geographic’s Traveler experts can create the perfect rail journey through Interlaken, combining it with other iconic destinations on our Best of Switzerland tour. Travel along three of Switzerland’s most iconic railways—the Glacier Express, the Gornergrat Bahn and the Bernina Express—with a National Geographic Expert and enjoy insider insights and memorable experiences throughout your trip.
The Montreux Oberland Bernois Railway’s stylish new GPX panoramic trains offer an uninterrupted journey between Montreux and Interlaken via Zweisimmen and the Bernina Pass. The new train combines both First and Prestige Class service, which includes at-seat service of locally produced drinks and snacks, with comfortable leather seats and spacious cabins. It has a unique capability to switch between meter-gauge and standard gauge tracks within seconds, eliminating the need for passengers to change trains en route.
Located at the southern tip of expansive Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), Switzerland’s French-speaking capital is a compact, classy and cosmopolitan hub with views of dramatic Mont Blanc. It’s a global city of diplomacy, hosting the headquarters of Europe’s United Nations and Red Cross along with more than 180 international organizations. French influence is widespread, from the language to gastronomy and bohemian districts like Carouge.
From here, your journey takes you alongside secluded lakes and rugged mountain vistas on the GPX, an awe-inspiring railway adventure that crosses Switzerland’s grain. After traversing a linguistic divide between French-speaking Canton Vaud and Swiss-German cantons, the train passes through sparsely populated highland country on its way to Zweisimmen, where the line crosses complex gauge-changing equipment for the final leg of your journey.
Here, the GPX begins its ascent into the Bernese Alps and the famous railway station of Jungfraujoch — the ‘Top of Europe’. Whether you opt for a train ride, modern cable car or a combination of both, enjoy panoramic 360-degree vistas and take in the sheer magnitude of the Swiss Alps. Returning to the GPX, your train transitions into the adventure-filled haven of Interlaken and then into Lucerne, an epicenter of central Switzerland.
During this section of your trip, you’ll be traveling on an all-new GoldenPass Express train that offers the ultimate in comfort and convenience. Instead of requiring a transfer between different trains, this new GPX train provides seamless transportation between the popular tourist hotspots of Gstaad, Montreux and Interlaken. This means you’ll spend more time enjoying your surroundings and less time worrying about the logistics of getting to your next destination. Your National Geographic Expert will be on hand throughout the journey to ensure that all goes smoothly and that you get the most from your journey aboard Switzerland’s most iconic rail routes.