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Grindelwald to Lake Como

Hi. In June, we are doing a 10 day tour in Europe with 1 night Zurich, 2 nights Lucerne, and 3 nights in Grindelwald. After Grindelwald, we would like to spend the remaining 3 nights in the Lake Como area because we will be flying out of Milan. Although Lake Lugano is beautiful, we are trying to stay on the Italian side because we want lots of authentic Italian food.

I am overwhelmed with the best way to get from Grindelwald to the Lake Como area. I have not yet booked a hotel/area of Lake Como (i.e., Bellagio, Varenna, etc.) because I want to figure out the travel first. When I look at train options, there seem to be multiple connections involving trains, boats, and even buses. We are a family of 4. Would you recommend us hiring a driver/car service to get directly to the area?

Posted by
5048 posts

Given the driving distance and time required, hiring a car/driver would be very, very expensive. I took a very quick peek at the Sbb website (the Swiss rail company) and on an arbitrary date in April it showed several trains with only 3 connections going to Varenna. That's really not bad, providing you aren't schlepping a mountain of luggage. Train stations aren't like airports; it usually only takes a few minutes to get from one train platform to another. Plus train travel can be much more comfortable compared to being crammed into a car for 5 hours and needing to stop for pee breaks, meals, and gas.

Posted by
1166 posts

CJean gave you great information.

Look at thetrainline.com for the train connections. It looks like 3 changes and about 7 hours versus 11 hours if you did a train and ferry (rome2rio.com). I did Grindelwald to Varenna.

Again, trains are so easy and scenic. Just make sure that you only travel with a carryon and/or backpack. You will be taking stairs in the train stations, but you will enjoy the experience!

Posted by
33140 posts

Are you aware that Lugano is in the Canton of Ticino where everything is Italian including the language - but keeping Swiss punctuality and cleanliness and order?

The trains you could take are Grindelwald to Interlaken Ost ( a reverse of the way you got there ) and a reverse of the way you got from Luzern to Interlaken over the scenic route, and then in Luzern get a direct train south to Milan and try not to get one with a change in Arth Goldau - there are some which go direct - and either get off in Lugano if you have second thoughts or Milan (Milano Cantrale station) where you can change for a train which goes direct to Varenna.

There are other choices but that's simplest. And scenic.

Posted by
897 posts

Check the Austrian rail site - ÖBB https://fahrplan.oebb.at/bin/query.exe/en?

You may find that rates are less expensive than booking on Swiss Rail. Presently, they do not have schedules up for June. But in checking May there are late morning journeys of 5.5 - 6.5 hours with 3 changes. One change is in Interlaken, as the train from Lauterbrunnen is a local. The next change is in Spiez, another local to a larger station. Plenty of time to change trains at these 2 stops. LAst change is Milano Centrale, with a comfortable change window. Then it is just an hour to Varenna. You can catch a ferry there to Bellagio if that should be your destination.

Keep in mind - the route I just mentioned was for a date in May, as June schedule is not up as of yet. And I do suspect that rates will be much less expensive via ÖBB rather than Swiss Rail. The ÖBB app is excellent, so be sure to download it.

Posted by
897 posts

One last thing - book hotel or other accommodation in Varenna and/or Bellagio NOW. They book fast and that is high season.

Posted by
16731 posts

I just checked the prices on both ÖBB and SBB (the Swiss rail site), for a random date in the future (May 24). Both offered tickets only as far as Milano Centrale, which is expected as the ticket from there to Varenna-Elsinore is on an Italian regional train.

The price on ÖBB for the journey Grindelwald-Interlaken Ost- Spiez -Milano Centrale was €91,40.

SBB showed the regular price at CHF 91, but also offered a Sparangebot (Special Offer) price of CHF 50. This is a special price for the international train between Spiez and Milan, usually available 3 - 4 months in advance. These tickets are non-refundable and good only for the specific route and trains booked, and are limited in number. But they are a great deal if you plan ahead.

However, I suggest you change the order of travel to make things easier and minimize train changes. Go from Zurich straight to Grindelwald first, then to Luzern. From Luzern there is a direct train to Milano with no changes: the EC 151 departs Luzern at 12:18 and arrives at Milano Centrale 3.5 hours later, at 15:50. The train to Varenna departs Milano at 16:20 and takes just over one hour. There should be Sparangebot tickets available for this route as well, if you look 4 months ahead. Right now the Sparangebot price for 7 June for the journey from Luzern to Varenna-Esino ( including the regional train from Milan to Varenna) is CHF 28.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you for all of your replies! Per your suggestions, I have changed the itinerary to reduce the travel and now we're doing Zurich->Grindelwald->Lucerne->Varenna. It looks like we can take a train directly to the Milan airport from Varenna. We were able to secure a small B&B in Varenna (after an exhaustive search!) but I'm hoping we can get into a hotel, if cancellations open up.

I much appreciate all of your feedback and thank you for taking the time to help me out.

Posted by
33140 posts

to go from Varenna to Malpensa airport you will take the local Trenord train from Varenna into Milano Centrale station and then catch the Malpensa Express to the airport. There isn't a direct train but it isn't complicated.