Luxury Train Travel in Switzerland
Published on: November 16th, 2018
Last modified: November 14th, 2023
The incredibly scenic country of Switzerland offers some of the best luxury train travel in Europe – and perhaps the world. Its most iconic railways pass through soaring mountains, steep valleys and lovely villages, from Gstaad and Ticino to Zermatt and St. Moritz.
Along the way you can visit iconic spots like Jungfraujoch – home to Europe’s highest railway station – and enjoy outdoor adventures and local cuisine. With so many luxury train journeys to choose from, it is easy to become overwhelmed by choice. To help you narrow down the choices, we’ve put together this expert guide on luxury train travel in Switzerland.
1. The GoldenPass & Gstaad
Gstaad is a quintessentially Swiss village, located near Alpine passes in one of the country’s most beautiful regions. In winter the village is blanketed in snow, whilst summer brings lush meadows and constant sunshine. Fresh mountain air, sky-high peaks and verdant landscapes have attracted many high-profile guests to Gstaad over the years, and it’s easy to see why.
Visitors can explore 300 kilometres of hiking trails, relax in winding cable cars, learn the traditional art of Swiss cheese-making or peruse boutiques, art galleries and shops. Intrepid travellers can also take a cable car up to hike the impressive Jungfraujoch glacier. After an adventure-filled day, stop for coffee or aperitifs at a chalet-style gourmet restaurant.
From Gstaad, board the GoldenPass train towards Montreux for a journey through breathtaking Alpine scenery. Leaving the German-speaking part of the country behind, the train winds its way down through narrow valleys and past the romantic Lake Geneva. Its panoramic windows offer sweeping views across verdant hills and snow-capped mountains.
2. Gornergrat Railway & Zermatt
With the dramatic peak of the Matterhorn towering over it, Zermatt is a fairytale village in every sense of the word. Wooden shutters adorn the windows of picturesque pine lodges that stretch up the side of the valley, making the town feel lost in time. Combustion engines are banned here, so horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the default forms of transport.
For some of the finest views in Switzerland, board the Gornergrat railway. Gornergrat is the highest open-air railway in Europe, offering sweeping views over scenic Zermatt. At the Riffelberg stop, passengers are rewarded with a spectacular view of the Matterhorn, as well as the lesser-known Monte Rosa massif and its glaciers.
Add to this unforgettable train journey by taking two successive cable cars up to Hohtälli and Stockhorn for breathtaking panoramas over the Alpine countryside. Travellers who don’t suffer from vertigo can find even more thrilling views on a narrow mountain path between Gornergrat and Hohtälli.
3. The Glacier Express & St. Moritz
The Glacier Express is affectionately known as ‘the slowest express train in the world’ – which is probably for the best, considering the stunning views, luxurious comfort and gourmet meals that you’ll enjoy while on board.
On the first half of the journey from Zermatt to Andermatt, you’ll cross hundreds of bridges and pass through dozens of tunnels in just under four hours. In Andermatt, you’ll find narrow streets lined with traditional chalets, as well as the Devil’s Bridge, an architectural wonder that spans the vertiginous Schöllenen Gorge.
As you travel east from Andermatt towards St. Moritz, the Glacier Express’ route becomes increasingly scenic. The five-hour journey will take you through rolling hills and across the awe-inspiring Landwasser Viaduct.
A stay in the lakeside town of St. Moritz is a fitting end to this picturesque journey. Here, breathtaking forests are blanketed in snow and dramatic peaks pierce cobalt blue skies. Attracting royalty and esteemed guests for over 150 years, St. Moritz knows how to please holidaymakers looking for luxury.
4. The Bernina Express & Ticino
One of the most popular ways to see the Alps is by taking the Bernina Express from St. Moritz to Tirano, Italy. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this route crosses 196 bridges and traverses 55 tunnels. It also links regions with different languages and cultures, allowing travellers to discover multiple sides of Switzerland.
From Tirano you can cross back into Switzerland to explore the Italian-speaking region of Ticino: the only place in the country where Italian is the sole official language. Forested mountains surround two transfrontier lakes and the Ticino river, whose deep blue waters are fringed by colourful towns and snow-capped peaks.
Nature enthusiasts will find plenty to do here, whether hiking over 4,000 kilometres of trails, wild swimming in the Valle Verzasca, boating or mountain biking through rustic villages.
5. The GoldenPass Express
The GoldenPass Express took its first journey in December 2022, connecting Interlaken, Gstaad and Montreux. Although it follows a similar path to the original Golden Pass, it’s a much faster and more convenient journey, lasting just 3 hours and 15 minutes. The train itself is outfitted with the latest technology and incredible luxury, plus panoramic windows for immersive views.
The best way to experience the GoldenPass Express is undoubtedly in its Prestige class. This exclusive section of the train features heated seats that are 40 centimetres higher to further enhance the views. They’re also designed to rotate so that each passenger is always facing the same direction that the train is travelling.
6. Jungfraujoch Railway
Near Interlaken, you’ll find Jungfraujoch: a glacial pass that boasts Europe’s highest railway station at 3,454 metres above sea level. The historic route starts in Kleine Scheidegg and tunnels through the Eiger and Mönch mountains, offering unforgettable views through windows carved out of the rock.
It only takes 35 minutes to reach the summit, where you’ll find an astronomical observatory, historical exhibits, an ice palace, a snow park and a heavenly chocolate shop. But no attraction can compare to the jaw-dropping views of snowy peaks, glaciers and – on a clear day – Germany’s Black Forest and France far in the distance.
Although the journey up the mountain is relatively short, it takes a couple of hours to reach the starting point by train from Interlaken. You can shorten the trip by taking a 15-minute ride on the Eiger Express cable car from Grindelwald to Eigergletscher, where you’ll board the train.
Our favourite train journeys around the World
The Blue TrainAdopt the romantic spirit of adventure, the opulence of the past and the finest service of today aboard the majestic Blue Train. Sometimes there is no better way of seeing a country than rolling along its tracked arteries. The Blue Train’s luxurious carriages and car suites take you from Cape Town to Pretoria (and back) through breath-taking countryside of semi-desert, savannah, winelands and more. Bedecked in all the elegant splendour of the locomotive era, all the carriages, suites and lounges are panelled in wood with the familiar brass fittings, large panoramic windows and comfortable furniture. Gourmet food prepared by a top chef and fine regional wines are served by uniformed waiters in the smart dining car where tables are dressed in white linen tablecloths, sparkling cutlery and crystal glasses. There is nothing more sublime than watching the landscapes flit by over a lunch of oysters, Karoo lamb and a reserve bottle of Vergelegen wine. Dinner orders a strict dress code too: dinner jackets for the gentlemen, elegant evening wear for ladies. All the suites come with en-suite bathrooms with showers plus all the customary in-room amenities. There are also deluxe suites available and usually six luxury suites which come with bathtubs. There are two trains with differing capacity which operate along the scheduled routes of Cape Town to Pretoria (going via Durban sometimes) or they can be chartered for unusual itineraries or even hired for exclusive private use. Our team of expert travel designers can help you incorporate the Blue Train in your personalised itinerary along with maybe a safari stay, perhaps a beachside break or a spell at an authentic wine lodge. We’re here to give you exactly the trip you want.
Belmond Andean ExplorerBelmond’s Andean Explorer travels between Cusco, Lake Titicaca and Arequipa along one of the world’s highest train routes in unmatched style and comfort. En-suite cabins accommodate up to 48 passengers, with double, twin and bunk bed configurations. Interiors are inspired by Peru’s traditional hand-woven fabrics and the soft tones of alpaca wool. The lounge car features a baby grand piano and is the perfect place for guests to come together and enjoy a drink from the bar. There are two dining cars serving contemporary cuisine using seasonal, local produce from the Peruvian Andes, and masterminded by the team at the Belmond Hotel Monasterio in Cusco. There is also an observation car from which to enjoy the breathtaking scenery while sipping on a Pisco sour.
The Belmond Eastern and Oriental ExpressWinding its way gracefully through Southeast Asia, the Belmond Eastern and Oriental Express takes you past vibrant cities, wild jungle, rural villages and ornate pagodas on a luxury journey. You can choose to board in either Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok as it can start in any of these cities. Each of the four categories of cabins, the Pullman Single, the Pullman and the State and Presidential are fully air-conditioned with en suite bathrooms, decorative marquetry and fine fabrics that exude an atmosphere of warm elegance. You’ll feel looked after at every step of the way by the train’s staff, perfectly trained to be attentive yet discreet. After a gourmet dinner in the Dining Car, sip a cocktail in the colonial-style, teakwood Observation Car at the rear of the train while admiring unforgettable exotic views. Retire to the saloon car and relax with a book or magazine from the library or browse through the train’s boutique for a memento of your journey. The Bar Car is open until late in the night with a resident pianist and a full aperitif and cocktail menu.
The GhanThe Ghan is named after the cameleers who used to travel into Australia’s Red Centre over 150 years ago. Many were migrants from what is now Pakistan, but back in the 1800s they were believed to have come from Afghanistan and were known as Afghans, or Ghans. The original line followed the route of explorer John MacDouall Stuart, from Adelaide to Alice Springs, but now the track stretches for almost 3,000km and finishes in Darwin. Passengers can choose to do the entire journey or break it down and travel between Darwin and Adelaide, Darwin and Alice Springs or Adelaide and Alice Springs. Cabins serve as a lounge area during the day and are converted into comfortable bedrooms come evening. Gold level guests will enjoy an en suite cabin with upper and lower berths while those travelling in Platinum will bed down in extremely spacious suites with a double or twin beds. Large windows allow you to take in the beautiful scenery as you relax in your cabin. Dine on delicious local cuisine in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant Car, which is bursting with old-world charm and grab a drink and exchange stories in the Outback Explorer Lounge. All meals and drinks are included in the tariff. Platinum guests will also enjoy exclusive access to the Platinum Club with its leather banquette lounge seating, brass fittings and timber flooring.
Rovos RailTravel through South Africa’s epic landscapes in the romantic refinement of the Edwardian era and five-star luxury of today. You cannot see such breath-taking terrains in as much high comfort and style as Rovos Rail travel. Now with a fleet of four trains restored to their 1920s and 1930s glamour, with mahogany panelling, white-cloth-and-crystal dining cars, silver service, observatory cars, and sumptuous lounges and elegant suites. There are several weekly to annual journeys across South Africa (some to Namibia and Zambia) from which to choose: The weekly route between Pretoria and Cape Town sees you journey over 1,600 kilometres of scenic wonders. This journey takes 55-hours as you travel slowly and make stops and off-train excursions in Kimberley and Matjiesfontein. There is the iconic 4 day journey between Pretoria and Victoria Falls, one of ten Wonders of The Natural World. Journeying between Pretoria and Durban, with game drives in the Nambiti Conservancy and Spionkop Nature Reserve and an excursion to Ardmore Ceramics near Pietermaritzburg. The Golf Safari Train calls at some of South Africa’s most beautiful golf courses in between game viewing and sightseeing. For some really extraordinary African locomotive adventures there are annual and tri-annual journeys from Cape Town to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) for fourteen days (6100km) with off-train excursions along the way. There’s also the annual 3400km journey to Swakopmund in Namibia in May for nine days.
The Hiram Bingham TrainNamed after the first American to discover the Incan hilltop citadel in 1911 and owned by Orient Express, the Hiram Bingham is a world-class luxury train. Travellers on the train are driven to Poroy station just outside Cusco to board the exclusive blue and gold painted carriages and for just over three hours you are resplendently transported to Aguacalientes, the town beneath the ruins. Aboard, the 1920s Pullman carriages reflect the opulence of the locomotive era bedecked in polished brass, wood panels and rich, comfy seating. There is also a period observation car at the rear. Brunch on the outward journey and dinner on your return are included. These are taken in the elegant dining car replete with white-linen tablecloths, clinking crystal, and you are looked after by the smartest team of waiters. Whilst feasting on fine Peruvian cuisine the steamy forest scenery unfolds right in front of you and there’s a great bar car that often has live music on the return leg, or you can just simply relax into a snug armchair in one of the carriages. Escorted to the Lost City of the Incas there is a small-group guided tour included, but for those who would like a more exclusive visit we can easily arrange a private one for you.