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Suggestions for day we take train from Zurich to Milan. A stop in Bellinzona? Or other?

Hi Everyone—

Here’s a little background info. first. My sister, brother-in-law and I will arrive in Zurich from Chicago in April where we will stay for 2 nights to get over jetlag, see Zurich and Lake Constance, and then take the train to Milan to spend some time in northern Italy. We will then return to Switzerland to see Lauterbrunnen, Bern, and Lucerne.

As the train from Zurich to Milan is approximately 4 hours, we are trying to decide what to do the rest of that day. I originally thought we’d stop in Bellinzona to see the castles as that is one of the train stops, but after watching some videos, I’m wondering if there’s a better option. We pretty much like anything except for museums. We will spend some time at Lake Como when in Italy, so I’m thinking Luguno would be somewhat duplicative—we’re trying to have as many different experiences as possible.

One option is to leave our luggage with out hotel in Zurich and spend half the day near there before getting on the train. I’ve had my eye on Stein am Rhein. Is that worth the train ride to only spend a few hours there? Would the Rhine Falls be worth a short visit? Rapperswil? We have no problem getting up early to start the day. Any thoughts and suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much!!


P.S. I'm staring to think we should have taken the train to Milan as soon as we landed in Zurich, but i thought that would be too much for one day. There were no nonstop flights from Chicago to Milan and we thought a nice train ride thru Switzerland would be a better option than dealing with a connecting flight. This is our first trip to Europe, so everything is a learning experience.

Posted by
15693 posts

A gentle suggestion, go directly from the airport to Luzern and rest up there, rather than Zurich. It is only about 1 hour from the airport on a direct hourly train. Much prettier town and lake. You'll also be about an hour closer to Milan than from Zurich.

Another suggestion, instead of taking the mainline train to Milan, which uses the new 35 mile long Gothard Base Tunnel, take a more leisurely route over the Alps (mostly) rather than completely under the Alps. It will take a bit longer, but a whole lot more scenic. Find the route at by putting via Goeschenen in the search box. Then you will go Luzern to Erstfeld, change to the train to Lugano that goes over the Alps except for the older, shorter, Gothard Tunnel. You could stop in Lugano for a short visit, then continue by train to Milan.

Another option is to take the Gothard Panorama Express. Same basic route, but starts from Luzern with a boat ride to the far end of the lake (Vierwaldstaettersee) to meet the train to Lugano. Train has panorama viewing cars in 1st class. But it does not start until April 18, so timing has to be right.

Posted by
105 posts

Thanks Sam!! I should have mentioned that the hotel in Zurich is already booked. We're leaning towards a breakfast at Sprüngli and then taking the train right to Milan. I'm starting to think that if we try to do stop anywhere along the way, it will be too much. We're just so excited and we want to see it all!! :)

Posted by
1568 posts

When we arrive in Europe in the morning, we almost always take a short break in the airport to get freshened up and then get on the train to our first destination. You can't check in to most lodgings until at least mid afternoon anyway, and you're (we're) too wiped out for any major sightseeing that day. Just relax on the train (where you can at least walk around), get a glass of wine from the bar car, then get to your next place, check in, find a nice dinner somewhere, and go to bed. It works well for us.