Are you planning a trip to Switzerland? Or want to learn more about train travel in this beautiful country? Hop on a train in Switzerland and be wowed by the scenery that will pass your window – from glistening lakes to snow-capped mountains – rail journeys in this country are both breath-taking and reliable.
Whether you’re just starting your research or you’re ready to book, we’re here to help. Our guide to train travel in Switzerland explains the types of trains you’ll be travelling on, popular routes and destinations and how to find and buy cheap Swiss train tickets.
Travelling by train in Switzerland is simple thanks to the country’s national railway company SBB (Swiss Federal Railways). As Switzerland is a small country, train journeys between the main Swiss cities are generally fast and comfortable. The Swiss rail network is also connected with other European countries such as France, Germany, Austria and Italy – great if you’re visiting Switzerland as part of a larger trip.
If you’re planning on travelling around the country during your visit, moving between several cities by train is simple. In just a few days, you’ll be able to see elegant Geneva – the country’s gateway to Europe, Bern – the federal capital with a medieval atmosphere, and Zurich – financial capital with a historic centre of great value.
Our Swiss train map below highlights some of the major destinations in Switzerland and the main rail routes that connect them.
If you’re thinking of travelling from Switzerland to other parts of Europe, there are also frequent cross-border train routes to popular destinations across the continent from companies such as Trenitalia, TGV Lyria and Deutsche Bahn. You can find out more information about international travel on our trains in Europe page.
SBB has several types of trains that efficiently connect both the main cities in the country as well as the more isolated ones. Whether you’re looking for speedy journey times or scenic train routes, here are the different types of trains you’ll find in Switzerland.
There are a couple of trains that make up the regional network in Switzerland. The RegioExpress (RE) connects commuter areas to major cities, whereas Regio trains (R) travel only between stations in certain urban areas – offering more frequent stops.
For journeys between the largest cities in Switzerland, you’ll need to take an InterCity (IC) or InterRegio (IR) train. Some routes make more stops along the way, so journey times can be longer. If you’re looking for speed, the InterCity Neigezug (ICN) is Switzerland’s high-speed train service.
Switzerland is known for its breath-taking landscapes and the trains that travel through them. There are several scenic train routes you can take that cross some of the most beautiful regions.
To discover the mountains, we recommend two breath-taking trips. The first is the Glacier Express – This train travels through Switzerland with special panoramic windows to offer around eight-hours of mesmerising mountain views during its journey. The second is the Bernina Express – with climbs known to be the highest in Europe, you’ll be wowed by this train that runs into Italy.
As Switzerland is in the heart of Europe, there are several high-speed international trains you can take. The OBB Railjet connects the Swiss city of Zurich to Vienna, Austria. EuroCity and TGV trains also depart from Zurich, stopping at Basel and Geneva along the way before arriving in Milan (EuroCity) or Paris (TGV). ICE trains also travel to Germany and the Netherlands from Switzerland.
Find out more about high-speed trains in Europe.
Switzerland has several types of train tickets suitable for different travellers and types of journey. Generally, Switzerland train ticket prices are based on distance and not the type of train you travel on.
These are the standard train tickets in Switzerland – but their validity varies depending on where you purchase your tickets, either online or at a ticket office or machine.
All one-way tickets are valid for one day only. However, if you’re buying a return ticket for a distance over 115km, tickets bought online are valid for 10 days and tickets brought in person are valid for one day each way.
Suitable for one-off journeys or long weekends away.
This ticket offers a discounted price for six single journeys on a specific route and can be used for several passengers travelling together. You must validate this ticket before you travel, once validated it can also be used on public transport for four hours. Buy this ticket online or in person at the train station.
Suitable for groups travelling together or taking the same route multiple times.
This train ticket includes a one-day public transport pass from either your city of departure or arrival. Valid for one day, buy this ticket online, at station ticket offices or ATMs. If you want to use public transport in both your departure and arrival city, book a City-City ticket – valid in both destinations (only available online).
Suitable for exploring cities.
These discount tickets are available for many SBB routes and are up to 50% cheaper than regular ticket prices. Available to buy online 30 days before the departure date, there’s usually a limited number of tickets per journey, so book in advance to avoid disappointment. These tickets can’t be exchanged or refunded.
Suitable for travelling on a budget.
If you’re planning on travelling around Switzerland during your visit, a Swiss Travel Pass offers travel on all regular trains, buses and boats for a certain amount of days (3 to 15 consecutive days). You can also travel on the scenic Glacier Express with this ticket, get free entry to over 500 museums and up to 50% off some mountain railways, cable cars and eBikes.
Did you know the price of train tickets in Switzerland increases as the date of travel approaches? Our goal is to help you save money, so we’ve explained below how to find and buy cheap train tickets in Switzerland and all over Europe.
For more information, visit our cheap European train tickets page.
SBB tickets and those of the majority of European rail operators generally go on sale three months in advance. Try to book as soon as possible to find some of the cheapest tickets as they get snapped up quickly.
Try to avoid rush hours in major Swiss and European cities. At busy times, tickets are usually more expensive and the trains are more crowded.
There are a few discounts that can help save you money on ticket prices. For example, children under 6 travel for free, and those aged between 6-16 can purchase a half price ticket.
Boasting a prime location in the heart of Europe, Switzerland welcomes trains from many neighbouring countries and greets them with views of mountains, lakes, waterfalls and vineyards on their journey. We’ve recommended some of the top destinations to visit during your trip to Switzerland.
History / Culture / Architecture / Politics
Known by many as the headquarters of several international organisations, Geneva is a city that surprises its visitors. Tourists travelling by train to Geneva Cornavin station arrive at a recently renovated terminal featuring many shops and restaurants. You can easily reach the city centre in around 15 minutes on foot or by hopping on a tram or bus. The entire main area of the city is surrounded by the impressive Lake Geneva, easily recognisable by its 140m water jet – one of the highest in Europe.
Next, continue your visit to the Palais des Nations – European headquarters of the UN – take a wander around the large park that surrounds it, or visit the Cathedral Saint-Pierre or the district of the Baths, with its galleries and contemporary art shops.
Find out more about trains to Geneva.
Architecture / History / Culture / Gastronomy
The train ride to Switzerland's economic capital, located in one of the German- speaking cantons of the country, sees passengers alight at Zürich Hauptbahnhof train station. Known as Zurich HB, the station is the largest terminal in the country and connects Switzerland to major European cities. It also boasts a privileged location in the central district, between the Limmat River and Shil, directly opposite the Swiss National Museum.
One of the main advantages of travelling into Zurich station is that you’re within walking distance of most of the city’s main attractions. Be sure to take in the contrast between the modern avant-garde buildings and charming historical churches. Don’t miss out on a stroll around the lively Zurich Lake to admire its typical medieval middle-class houses.
Learn more about trains to Zurich.
Architecture / History / Nature / Politics
Often a lesser known destination than the previous two cities, Bern is the historic capital of Switzerland. Both domestic and international trains run frequent services through Bern train station, and although it’s a large building, everything is well signposted with lots of shops to browse before your journey. The terminal is also located in the heart of the city near to the old town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – so make this your first stop!
Wander through Bern and experience first-hand the medieval architecture of Europe. Check out the cobbled streets, charming fountains and the famous Zytglogge (Clock Tower) with astronomical spheres moving over time. The city also has a modern side though, which you can see by visiting the museum Zentrum Paul Klee – totally avant-garde and worth the detour.