No Swiss visit is complete without a train ride but with so many to choose from, it’s hard to know which ones are worth the time and money. Switzerland’s impressive train network reaches right into, and under, the mountains so the best bet is make a day of it and see the Alps in all their glory.
The stunning Golden Pass train ride is almost Switzerland in miniature, running from the historic centre of Geneva along the shores of western Europe’s largest lake and up into the mountains of the Bernese Oberland. Truly a Swiss classic.
The Classic Carriage © Golden Pass
The first part of the trip uses the normal train line that hugs the north shore of Lake Geneva. Sit on the right-hand side of the train to get the best views across the water to the French Alps on the far shore. It might be a regular train line (ie not classed as a tourist route) but couldn’t be more scenic, especially once it reaches the stepped vineyards of the Lavaux, with row upon row of vines marching down to the lake.
Related: Swiss hiking trails: around Geneva
Change trains in Montreux for the start of the Golden Pass line itself. Depending on the timetable, you can opt to travel in a panoramic train, with extra large windows, but I actually prefer the normal train; it covers the same route (but stops more often) and has windows that actually open – far better for taking photos. Either way it’s a memorable trip through the Alps.
© My Switzerland
It’s slow progress at first, winding up through the steep slopes behind the lake, which slowly disappears from view. The higher you go, the lumpier the landscape, and it couldn’t be more Swiss if it tried. Chalets and cows populate the lush green pastures, with craggy rock-faces providing the dramatic backdrop. The line meanders on through chic Gstaad and more down-to-earth Zweisimmen, where a quick change of train is necessary. Then it’s on down to Lake Thun and finally Interlaken, at the heart of the Bernese Oberland.
One special treat is to travel the section from Montreux to Zweisimmen in a classic carriage, dating back to the Belle Époque Era. It feels like the film set for a period drama, with its miles of polished wood and brass fittings, upholstered seats and rope-net luggage racks. The classic train runs every day, with vintage carriages in both First and Second Classes; look out for the symbol in the timetable.
Retro Train © Golden Pass
Geneva to Montreux takes about an hour, then Montreux to Interlaken another 3 hours with a change in Zweisimmen. The return journey is faster via Bern.
All Swiss train passes are valid and advance seat reservations are not obligatory, but are advised in high season.
For an extra fee you can reserve the VIP seats right at the front of the panorama train for an unforgettable viewpoint on the whole journey.
For more info, timetables and bookings see www.goldenpass.ch