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My wife and I will be in Zurich for a couple of days en route to Barcelona to board the Ruby Princess for a Greek Island Cruise. Switzerland is full of magnificent scenery but you can only do so much in a certain time frame. We will arrive mid afternoon to Zurich from Munich in early October, spend the night near the main rail station and in the morning head to Mt Pilatus to do the usual scenic tours there. We intend to head back to Zurich and spend another night there and then in the early morning head to Milano for a 1 night stop before our next 1 nighter in Monte Carlo with our final destination in Barcelona. I have heard or rather read that the train trip from Zurich via Chur, St Moritz, Tirano, Sondrio is extremely scenic and far better than the main line down the center as far as the scenic aspect goes. Am I correct with this and can you tell me how complicated it is as regards which trains to catch, the times the trains leave and the total time duration for this trip compared to the most direct route. Maybe someone has a much better idea as regards what to do with our time frame, from where we are coming from and to where we are headed. We are yet to book anything in Switzerland at this point in time. Kind regards Peter and Margaret, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Posted by
12015 posts

Hello Peter, First off I would suggest that you spend the night in Luzern after Your Pilatus trip instead of returning to Zurich. Luzern is smaller and more charming, and you can reach either the direct train to Milan,mor the train to Chur, etc. from Luzern without backtracking to Zurich. As for the route, the direct route via the Gotthard Pass is quite scenic, but there are a few tunnels, some of them spirals to gain or lose altitude. The trip to Milan takes less than four hours. The other route you mention is called the Bernina Express, but you can do it on regular trains as well as the named one. It is indeed very scenic, as you climb over the mountains instead of tunneling under the highest part. But it does take much longer. You can use the Swiss rail site,, to figure it out. I do know that once you reach Tirano, it is another 2.5 hours to Milan, and you may have to wait some time for a train. I encourage people to take the Bernina route when traveling between Zurich or Luzern and Milan, but I suggest they spend a night on the way to avoid a full day on the train.

Posted by
15826 posts

It will take about 10 hours going over Bernina Pass vs 3 hr 40 min using the EC train through the Gothard Tunnel. If you want to take the Bernina Express Panorama train, you will have to Leave Zurich at 7:37 am to get to St Moritz at 10:58. The panaorama train leaves at 11:22 and gets to Tirano at 13:26. There are normal Swiss trains that do the run frequently as well, but you need a reservation for the panorama train. The Swiss rail site is In Tirano you get a direct train to Milan. 2 1/2 hrs and it is all 2nd class unreserved. It does not show up on a lot of International schedules, but you can find it at
It goes once every 2 hours at 15:10, 17:10, 19:10. So you will have a wait in Tirano.