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Train Across Alps - Confused

My family and I will be in Paris before New Years Day and would like to take our son across the Alps and back. We're looking for some scenery but for budgetary reasons will probably not stop in Switzerland. We would be happy to cross into Italy, though have visited Italy a few times. Salzburg?

Someone suggested we go to Basel and take a couple day trips as an alternative.

I've had very little luck figuring out which Eurail routes would be most scenic. I'm confused and just don't think I know enough to ask the right questions.

Thank you all greatly.

Posted by
2013 posts

go to the man in seat 61 and you'll find all the train info there is in the entire world. also recommended train travel agents if you'd rather go that route (pun intended). also be aware for speed reasons most trains these days seem to go through the Alps, not over.

Posted by
2452 posts

I get the feeling that you are new to train travel in Europe? (Since you use the expression "Eurail route", Eurail is a ticket, not any routes.) In that case, The Man in Seat 61 is a good start.

However, if you want a train trip across the Alps from France and avoid Switzerland, your choices are few. I'd say your best (only) option is to take the TGV from Paris to Turin (or even all the way to Milan). It mostly goes through the Alps so the views between Lyon and Turin are great. Just note that there are limited hours of daylight in December. A short video of the route: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B09t_WJz_mM

Posted by
4 posts

Hi Badger and phred,

Yes, that's what I meant by I don't know what questions to ask. Seat 61 is exactly what I need.

Thank you both!

Posted by
16878 posts

You have to route yourself deliberately to the Alps. The direct trains running Paris-Milan don’t pass through Switzerland at all, nor much high- Alpine scenery. Detouring through Switzerland (connecting at Basel or Geneve) on an almost-direct route to Milan adds more scenery.

But the most scenic ride-by routes such as the Golden Pass Line or Glacier Express run West-East within Switzerland and will require staying at least a night there. Within France, you also can make Chamonix/Mt Blanc your mountain destination, again with an overnight, and can cross into Switzerland with more connections.

Basel is usually the fastest connection point between Paris and any part of Switzerland. Rick’s Switzerland guidebook covers the scenic train options well, along with stay-awhile destinations. For a quick overview of Swiss train routes, see the map at https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/switzerland-rail-passes.

Posted by
26402 posts

don't rule out Switzerland stops based on budget until you've actually looked (maybe you have).

I travel to Switzerland regularly and by being careful I find I don't spend significantly more than elsewhere....

Posted by
5697 posts

Christmas a few years ago we took a train from Colmar, France to Zurich, spent a few hours admiring the indoor Christmas market in the station, and connected to Inbsbruck, Austria. Beautiful snowy mountain scenery (but after a few hours I fell asleep ... )

Posted by
935 posts

Are you looking for a scenic train ride or mountain views? Across the Alps and back or to the Alps/mountains? Seat 61 may be helpful either way. Yeah, day trips from Basel may be a choice vs an extensive train ride.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all.

Debbie, Nigel, Laura, We are looking to view some cute villages with snow on roofs and some mountains with snow. I looked at Basel-Pilatus and back for a day trip, but the cost was going to exceed $1000 for the day, so I need to continue my research. Currently exploring the ones below. I'll get Rick Steve's Switzerland book. Especially interested in "stay-awhile destinations."

We will be in Paris Dec 28 - Jan 1 and are considering moving to Colmar with a day trip to Strasbourg. We're hoping the Christmas lights will still be up.

One option would be to go to Milan from there, but we would then need to cross back over the next day, heading back to Paris.

Someone suggested Basel-Brig with an overnight in Lausanne or Geneva, which would put us easily back in France the next day.

Laura, I'll look at Colmar-Zurich-Innsbruck.

You are all so considerate to help.

Posted by
2452 posts

I looked at Basel-Pilatus and back for a day trip, but the cost was
going to exceed $1000 for the day, so I need to continue my research.

Where did you look for tickets? Going up the mountain is not cheap, but you can get a ticket from Basel to Luzern for 17 francs.

Posted by
26402 posts

The absolutely most expensive Golden Round Trip ticket - train then cable car then excursion at the top, then cogwheel train, then ship, all in first class is only CHF 117 per adult. Kids 6-16 half that, and under 6 free.

That's for the whole kit and kaboodle. In First. You can do less and go less posh for a whole lot less.

How did you get to $1,000? How many are in your family, 100?

Posted by
26402 posts

my reply sounds rude, sounds like I'm saying you have 100 in your family. That's the name you chose for yourself, so I'm trying to be friendly not rude.... just not used to people with numbers instead of names.....

Posted by
6172 posts

100, dont be fooled by the map. Some of these places look close to each other but are really long distances (especially in the mountains). Look closely at the rail itineraries (use bahn.com - the German rail company, not Eurail site) and see how long these trips are.

Sometimes it takes a lot of monotonous rail travel, looking at telephone poles and other tracks, to get to the scenic parts.

Posted by
4 posts

Hi Nigel,
You're not being rude at all. I appreciate you taking the time to help me. My name is Gurdon. The "100" was applied automatically by the forum because it is the beginning of my email address.

I have Basel to Pilatus rail - $261.00 Round Trip for 3 of us (2 Senior/1 youth)
And $210 RT to the top.
Add a meal @ $50? each? $150.00?
Other $?

So, I'm not sure how I got the $1000 that I mentioned to my wife last night. It may only be $600+.

"The absolutely most expensive Golden Round Trip ticket - train then cable car then excursion at the top, then cogwheel train, then ship, all in first class is only CHF 117 per adult. Kids 6-16 half that, and under 6 free."

Where do I find this? I'm apparently really bad at this.

Thanks much!

Posted by
6172 posts

100 I believe that golden fare is based on starting in Luzern. You see, there are a couple of different ways to get up to the top of Pilatus, involving trains, bus, ferry, gondola, etc. Several changes to get up and then down. I'd really just stay in Luzern rather than Basel so you can go up first thing in the morning, when the weather is more likely to be clear. Luzern much more scenic than Basel anyway.

Posted by
2547 posts

Hi,
I see you mention "Eurail". They sell rail passes for European travel that are convenient and decent value in some countries, but quite bad in others.
Unfortunately, France falls in the second category: do not use a Eurail pass there. It will be easier and cheaper to buy just the tickets you need from the relevant railroad; Seat 61 explains how to do so in every European country.
Best to buy as far in advance as you can; bookings for after mid-Dec should open very soon by now.

Posted by
2013 posts

another helpful research site is rome2rio, a quick way to see how long a train, plane or auto trip would be and a rough idea of price