Please sign in to post.

Paris to Milan via Switzerland

Good morning all.

As part of a longer trip in the works for 2022 (postponed from 2020) we are hoping to travel from Paris to Milan. Originally considered doing the Paris-Milan fast train (around 7 hours). Now we are reconsidering whether we might stop in Switzerland. So I am writing which options you recommend:

Paris - Zurich - Milan
Paris - Geneva - Milan

We are looking for the more scenic route, as well as the city which would be best to see.

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
3207 posts

It sort of depends on what city you want to see. The fast trains between Zürich and Milan uses two huge tunnels under the Alps, the 57 km Gotthard base tunnel and the 15 km Ceneri base tunnel. So the views are limited. But there are slower trains that use the old routes. The direct trains from Geneva use the 20 km Simplon tunnel to cross the Swiss-Italian border but otherwise I think they mostly stay overground. So the train from Geneva would be a bit easier to book.

Posted by
16806 posts

I'd probably pick Luzern, an easy connection from Basel where many of the Paris-Switzerland trains arrive.
From Luzern, if you really want a scenic excursion, you can take the Gotthard Panorama Express. Starts with a 2 1/2 hour boat ride on the Vierwaldstaettersee to the far end of the lake to pick up the panorama train over the Alps to Lugano. From Lugano, it is a 1 1/4 hour direct train to Milan.
https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/panoramareisen/gotthard-panorama-express.html

Posted by
13085 posts

My response is the same as Sam’s: Paris to Luzern for an overnight (a smaller, more scenic city than Zurich). Then the Gotthard Panorama Express the following day. You start with the boat cruise down the lake from the dock right in Luzern, near the train station. Lots of nice hotel choices close to the station and boat dock, including some on the lakefront near the famous Chapel Bridge.

This train uses the Gotthard Pass route rather than the long and deep Gotthard Basistunnel. The route gains and loses altitude through the Alps with switchbacks and spirals. There is still a short tunnel near the top, but you get great views most of the way. You can see the difference in the two routes on this Swiss rail map——the tunnels are indicated with dashed lines.

https://cdn-doc.myswissalps.com/docs/default-source/rail-network-maps/swisstravelpass.pdf?sfvrsn=7788603a_52

The train route between Paris and Luzern is similar to Paris to Zurich in time and cost. Both use a TGV to Basel and you change there to a Swiss train to your destination.

Posted by
3207 posts

The train route between Paris and Luzern is similar to Paris to Zurich
in time and cost. Both use a TGV to Basel and you change there to a
Swiss train to your destination.

You can of course travel that way to Zürich if you want, but there are direct TGVs from Paris to Zürich.

Posted by
13085 posts

That is true, Badger. The schedule looks different now from what I recall from pre-covid days. And the best way to Luzern (with only one change en route) uses the same TGV that goes directly to Zurich (like the 12:22 departure). For Luzern, you change from the TGV to the Swiss train at Basel. But the total travel time is similar. And you end up in a nicer town to visit, with a good connection to a route that goes “over” the Alps instead of underneath via a tunnel.

Posted by
10055 posts

Here's an idea based on a trip we took a few years ago from an idea generated by The Man in Seat 61.

Travel from Paris to Chur, Switzerland, and spend the night. Take the early morning Bernina Express to Tirano then transfer to the connecting train to Milan. (We took time for lunch in Tirano before traveling on.)

The Man in Seat 61 lays this out as Option 4 on this page but we chose to stay in Chur, a lovely little town and the start of the Bernina Express.

Posted by
13085 posts

That is a great idea, Laurel. Why didn't I think of that? The Bernina Pass route is our favorite way to get to Italy. It uses the one train route that is fully over the Alps, with no tunnel at all.

And if Lake Como is in their Italy plans, they could go straight to Varenna on the lake, spending time there before continuing on to MIlan.

Posted by
16806 posts

It uses the one train route that is fully over the Alps, with no tunnel at all.

Well there is one fair sized tunnel between Preda and Samedan and lots of smaller tunnels. Some of them before Preda spiral inside the mountain so when you come out of the other end of the tunnel, you can look down and see the train tracks you were just on a hundred feet or so below you.

Posted by
13085 posts

Sorry for the inaccurate statement. I think of the “Bernina Pass route” as the section from Pontresina south, where it stays above ground over the pass itself and then winds its way down with switchbacks.

Posted by
3830 posts

With a stopover in Switzerland, the Bernina railway or the Gotthard Panorama route suggested above are the best options, my preference being the Bernina railway.

But to answer the original question: if you don't stop for the night, then out of the two routes, my preference goes for the Paris-Geneva-Milan route (or the Paris-Lausanne-Milan which can be quicker, but I have never done Paris-Lausanne so I don't know if it is pretty).
There is some great landscape in the last hour or so before Geneva, as well as from Lausanne all the way toward the Simplon tunnel. I have never been beyond Visp so I don't know about the scenery on the Italian section.
It is, overall, more scenic than the direct Paris-Milan train.

On the contrary, Paris-Zürich is very, very dull, and Zürich-Milan is much less scenic since the opening of the Gotthard base tunnel (you are left with views of Lake Zug, glimpses of Lake Luzern, and not-so-dramatic views of Lake Lugano).

Posted by
16806 posts

Zurich-Milan can still be done using the old route by-passing the new base tunnels, just takes an extra 1 1/2 hours to get to Milan. It is the same tracks as the Gotthard Panorama route, but skipping the lake cruise. Simply specify "via Goeschenen" on the SBB journey planner.