Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

On my visits to Switzerland over the years I have been lucky enough to to enjoy a number of spectacular train rides in this picturesque country. Switzerland does train travel so well and with panoramic windows offering jaw-dropping views, it's no wonder this form of transport is so popular even though the country is relatively small.

Here are my thoughts on three of the Swiss train rides I have experienced.


The journey that takes you to Europe's highest railway station is an engineering masterpiece and what makes it even more impressive is the fact that in 2012, the railway is celebrating its 100th birthday. To reach the station at Jungfraujoch, you first board the Jungfraubahn in Lauterbrunnen or Wengen.

From there it's a short ride past picturesque landscape to Kleine Scheidegg at 2061 metres. Here you change trains for the 52 minute ride to Jungfraujoch, a journey which travels much of the way through tunnels carved through the mountain. But not only are you travelling through a mountain, you're also travelling up at the same time as the train steadily winds it way up to 3454 metres above sea level.

JungfraubahnJungfraubahn. Photo:

Just before the summit is reached, the train makes a couple of stops. Here passengers can disembark and look out the specially-situated windows on the platform, and on a clear day, take in the magnificent views of the Eiger and Monch.

Despite leaving a drizzly, overcast Lauterbrunnen at 9 in the morning, the weather when we reached the Jungfraujoch was superb. Clear blue skies shone over the alps and the massive Aletsch Glacier, and whilst it was certainly cold (as expected at nearly 3,500 metres), the day couldn't have been better.

There are plenty of things to see and do at the summit, including an Observatory, so even if you happen to strike a bad day weather-wise, your trip to the top won't be wasted. There's no doubt that a fine day offers one of life's most amazing views, though, and the incredible work that went into building the railway line 100 years ago has been rewarded by the 700,000-odd visitors who ride the rails every year.

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Bernina Express

The Bernina Express line runs from Chur in Switzerland's east to Tirano, just over the southern border into Italy, travelling from high in the Alps at 2253 metres down to sea level. Despite the lofty heights it reaches, the Bernina Express does not use a rack-and-pinion mechanism.

I only travelled part of the way - from Pontresina (near St Moritz) to Le Prese - but the variation in scenery was quite spectacular. Those experiencing the complete journey will travel through 55 tunnels and cross 196 tunnels, all within the space of four hours.


Bernina ExpressBernina Express. Photo:

The Morteratsch glacier and the white and black lakes (Lago Bianco and Lej Nair) are just part of what makes this a memorable trip. On reaching Ospizio Bernina, the highest point at 2253 metres, the train starts its descent towards sea level, the corkscrew turns of Alp Grum providing 360 degree views.

As we descended from Cavaglia, magnificent views of Poschiavo far below came into sight and the change in architecture alerted me to the fact that we were approaching the Italian border. The Bernina Express's slogan is 'From glaciers to palms' and you certainly experience the best of both worlds on this train ride.

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Gornergrat Bahn

Visitors to the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt who want fantastic views of the Matterhorn can board the Gornergrat Bahn, and I did just that. Since 1898 Switzerland's first electric cog railway has been transporting passengers to Gornergrat at an altitude of 3089 metres.

The 30 minute journey from Zermatt had me ooh-ing and aah-ing as it rounded every bend - wherever I seemed to look the towering Matterhorn was staring down on me. The train stops at four stations on the way to Gornergrat so the more energetic can walk for part of the way on any of the numerous walking trails.


Gornergrat bahnGornergrat bahn. Photo: Gyger

I stayed onboard, though, and on arrival at Gornergrat enjoyed magnificent views and even took the opportunity to have my photo taken with a St Bernard - with the Matterhorn in the background, of course!

The Gornergrat Bahn operates at least hourly between 7am and 9pm during summer and can be very busy. If you particularly want a window seat (some windows open) arrive at the station early.

You can check current fares and timetables by clicking here.

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Have you travelled on any of Switzerland's scenic trains?