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Ride the BLS

I just go back from Switzerland and I took the BLS train from Brig to Spiez on the way to Luzern. People here often post about traveling between Zermatt and the Berner Oberland region, so I thought I would post about using this scenic route as an alternative to using the fast trains from Visp to Spiez that use the Loetschberg Base Tunnel.

I started from Zermatt taking the 9:13 am train to Brig. The schedules with the BLS are not well co-ordinated, so the train arrives in Brig 3 minutes after the BLS train has departed, meaning a 57 minute wait for the next train. Also, the train from Zermatt arrives at the platforms in front of the station, so there is a little walk to the crossing point then across the street to the main station. In fact standing in the main station watching the departure board waiting for my train to show up with the platform information, two young men approached me and asked if I spoke English. They must have been coming from Italy and were quite flustered that they could not find the platform for the train to Zermatt. I took them outside and pointed out the street platforms where I had just come from. They were from Chile and primed for some skiing. So after giving them a quick update on current snow conditions (very good) they were on their way.

There is a very nice Italian restaurant in the Brig station for coffee, breakfast, beer, wine, pizza and pasta. In good weather, they have outdoor sidewalk cafe type seating as well. Anyway, I killed the rest of my wait time drinking coffee there, then it was off the Spiez on the BLS.

Before the Loetschberg Base Tunnel was completed in 2007, this was the main route from Brig to Bern and Zurich. Now it is used much less, but is has great scenery. In this direction, sit on the left side as it climbs the "ramp" along the south facing slope of the Bernese Alps. You can see many of the high peaks of the Pennine Alps, but unfortunately not the Matterhorn, which is shielded from view. The train begins to turn north into a steep valley surrounded by cliffs. At Goppenstein, it enters the old Loetschberg tunnel, which at almost 15 km, is still a long tunnel. You can see on the Goppenstein station platform, the carved memorial to workers who were killed during construction in the early 1900's.

Emerging from the tunnel you enter the beautiful Kandertal and the town of Kandersteg. The route makes a very long "S" loop as it descends and views are great on either side of the train. Finally, at Frutigen, it joins the line emerging from the Loetschberg Base and in short order you arrive in Spiez.

This route is covered by the Berner Oberland Regional Pass and the fast route is not. There is a Bistro Car on the train, but unfortunately it is unmanned with a vending machine for coffee, and another for snacks and water and soda pop. They only work with a "tap" credit card, but that was no problem for me. Speaking of credit cards, you can buy almost anything in Switzerland these days with a credit card. All the station lockers I saw were credit card operated, but they now charge extra for anything over 6 hours usage. You only pay the minimum to start, and you have to pay again on a graded scale if you exceed 6 hours. Your ticket is a paper slip with a QR code you scan to open the locker. Instructions are in all the major languages including English.

I thought of posting this on the Trip Reports Forum, but decided to post it here as it is so specific to Switzerland.

Posted by
28 posts

Thanks for posting this. I am headed from Florence to Lauterbrunnen with a group of 7, and I think I would rather do the trains via Domodossola. We will all be getting the BO Pass and Swiss Half Fare Cards, so I kind of like this Brig to Speiz original, more scenic train option versus paying more for the longer, quicker tunnel out of Visp to Spiez. I hope it is self-explanatory when we get there, but I will try to plug routes into the laptop websites as the time gets closer (June 26, 2024).

Posted by
20480 posts

Actually, the RE 1 is direct from Domodossola to Spiez via Kandersteg every other hour from 5:58 am onward to 19:58.

Posted by
1 posts

Eddie and Sam
I’m interested in how your trip went. I am planning on a train trip from Florence to Zermatt and then on to Lauterbrunnen via Spiez in two weeks. I was worried because I have seen on other websites that the train is not currently running the complete route between Domodossola and Visp/ Brig and is also not running between Visp and Zermatt and it requires a bus as an alternative. Was this the case when you traveled?

Posted by
20480 posts

Yes, there is currently a track rebuild project between Arona and Stresa that has shut don the rail line. There are train replacement buses between Milano Centrale station and Domodossola. Check the schedule at https://www.trenitalia.com/en.html

Also a freak rainstorm in Zermatt caused the rail line to get damaged between Taesch and Zermatt. Currently there are train replacement buses for this section of track. Check schedule at www.sbb.ch/en