The Swiss rail network is renowned for its efficiency, the mountain views are dramatic, and many destinations are accessible in a day’s travel from London ... there are many reasons why you should travel to Switzerland by rail.
The Vaudoise Alps
Reaching the Vaudoise Alps east of Lake Geneva is easy. After a reasonably early departure from London St Pancras, you arrive in Paris in the late morning, with ample time to reach the Gare de Lyon for the direct TGV service across Burgundy and through the mountains of the Jura which straddle the border between France and Switzerland. At Lausanne, just north of Lake Geneva, you change to a Swiss Rail service for the final, hour-long leg into the Vaudoise Alps, the scenery becoming ever grander as you near your destination.
The Bernese Oberland
To reach Bern from Paris, there is a choice of three routes: via Geneva, via Lausanne or via Basel. In terms of journey times, we recommend Lausanne – it takes just over ten hours from London, including connection times, meaning that, by setting off from London at 7am, you can arrive in Kandersteg, for example, just in time for dinner. For the best scenery, however, we recommend Geneva, as this involves a picturesque section along the northern shore of its eponymous lake. Regardless of the route you take to reach Bern, you then head southwards from the Swiss capital, the dramatic mountains whetting your appetite for the walking or cycling that lies ahead.
You can depart London St Pancras at the civilised time of 9.30am and still be in Lucerne by just after 7pm, having changed in Paris and Basel. The connections don’t work so well on the return journey, but you do have time for a leisurely lunch in Basel.
Considering that this journey entails travelling via the French capital, across Burgundy, over the wooded ridges of the Jura, along the eastern shore of Lake Geneva, through central Switzerland, past the vineyards of the Rhône Valley and deep into the mountains that separate Switzerland and Italy, it is quite impressive that it only takes eleven hours. The last leg is by postbus, which is equally as reliable as the Swiss trains, with plenty of space for your luggage.
Despite its location in easternmost Switzerland, the Engadine Valley can be reached in a day from London, though it takes twelve hours and involves three changes after leaving Paris. Bearing this in mind, we recommend that you spend a night (or more – there is no restriction) in Paris, which not only has the advantage of omitting one of the changes, but also means that you can appreciate the mountain scenery of the final part of the journey in daylight.