LuxeGetaways Magazine – Fall 2016 | Train travel in Europe is, in many ways, the easiest form of transportation within its borders, and it is certainly the best way to take in the beauty of the countryside. In particular, Switzerland Federal Railways (SBB — Schweizerische Bundesbahnen) makes navigating your way along the pristine lakes and gorgeous mountains a stress-free, eco-friendly and hospitable experience.
Three Favorite Swiss Train Routes
1. Zermatt to St. Moritz on the Glacier Express Panoramic Train: I took the return part way, from St. Moritz to Davos and wished that I could have completed the entire route. If only to experience the amazing amenities offered, such as three-course meals and front facing cars with top to bottom windows for better picture taking. I found out why thousands of travelers rave about this particular route yearly – the magnificent sights. The original route is from Zermatt (home to the famous Matterhorn Peak) and it takes you through the Goms region, and the jaw-dropping 2044 meter high Oberalp Pass in the popular Andermatt resort. You will pass the beautiful Benedictine monastery, Disentis Abbey in the Canton of Graubünden; cross through the Rhine River Gorge called Switzerland’s Grand Canyon; and see the picturesque countryside and castles in the Domleschg Region. Part of the journey also includes the Albula Line of the Rhaetian Railway – a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the end of the line lies the uber chic destination, St. Moritz.
2. Chamonix to Zermatt: Chamonix, France is just across the border from Switzerland. I was headed to Zermatt and took the train with my hiking gear, photography paraphernalia and yes, too many shoes, but there was plenty of time to board and disembark with my luggage in tow. I did transfer between Interregional and region trains, but they were simple transfers, and very Swiss-like (on time). I had planned to catch a few winks, but the breathtaking scenery kept my eyes wide open, and my camera trigger finger at the ready. In the summer, the wine vineyards are in full bloom, and spectacular. To add to the raw beauty around every bend along this route, waterfalls were cascading down the steep embankments into luscious green foliage.
3. Zermatt to Geneva Airport: As much as I like to ski, I also love to hike in the Swiss mountains during the warmer months. The route from Zermatt to the Geneva airport is particularly easy by SBB train with only one brief stop in Visp, and it is so enchanting in the warmer months. This itinerary begins in the snow-capped mountains, and ends near the clear blue lakes in Geneva. I witnessed a range of seasonal landscapes in just shy of four hours from the comfort of the train car.
Three Favorite Amenities for SBB Train Travelers
1. Express Flight Luggage Service: For Americans making the trek with ski equipment or multiple wardrobe options seems like a daunting task, however SBB has a plan to alleviate travel strain with their luggage transportation services. Passengers can check-in cumbersome and oversized suitcases filled with skis, snowboards, or ridiculous amounts of shoes at the airlines when flying into Zurich or Geneva, and simply board the train with only hand luggage in tow. SBB makes sure that your items reach your final train destination, and can also include door-to-door service from hotel to hotel. Customs paperwork is filled out in advance saving you hassle and time. This was previously referred to as “Check-In and Fly Rail” Packages, and note that Rail Europe will also work with you to coordinate these services when booking with them.
2. Free WiFi: The work of a travel writer is never done – live social media postings, staying in touch with editors, and of course shooting over quick emails to family are important tasks of the day. SBB offers free Internet access at over 80 stations across Switzerland making it easy to work and play at the same time.
3. First Class Lounges: Both Zurich and Geneva railway stations have SBB Lounges. The exclusive area is reserved for passengers holding a 1st class GA travelcard, a 1st class ticket for an international service, or a Railteam frequent traveler card. Amenities include non-alcoholic drinks, newspapers and magazines, computer work stations with internet access attached to printers, free WiFi and customer service help with purchasing and exchanging tickets.
Is it worth it to upgrade to Business Class/First Class trains?
For shorter leisure trips you will be perfectly happy in the comfortable and affordable coach fare class cars. SBB trains are all very clean and relaxing. For business travelers, or those who are taking a longer route, Biz Zone seats on Intercity trains offer special incentives to upgrade like workspaces with tables, outlets for laptops/phones and reading lamps. They also have cloakroom and luggage storage areas. Certain sections in 1st class are marked Quiet Zones, where patrons are discouraged from conducting conversations, making phone calls and listening to music, even with headphones.
Regardless of the route you take or your reasons for travel, SBB will take you there and back with hospitably and reliably. Eco-friendly travel has never felt so good! The one route still on my bucket list is The Bernina Express, which reportedly has the most spectacular Alpine crossing with 55 tunnels, 196 bridges and stunning inclines. Start planning your own getaway in Switzerland with the Swiss Travel System or Rail Europe, and explore all of the many opportunities when visiting this lovely country. Here, traveling by train is much more than simply a way to get between your destinations, as it is truly an enjoyable part of every journey!