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Five European cities you can reach from Switzerland in less than five hours by train

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Five European cities you can reach from Switzerland in less than five hours by train
You can't see these views from an airplane. Photo by Peter Wormstetter on Unsplash

Train travel from Switzerland is a convenient and popular way to get around. This is where you can travel in just a few hours.


Given the ever-increasing cost of air travel, you might be tempted to stay closer to home, while still experiencing different cultures, foods, and general ambience.

Train travel may be just the ticket.

Switzerland has efficient and mostly punctual trains that can, either alone or in partnership with foreign railway networks, transport you pretty much everywhere in Europe.


Unlike air travel (and quite aside from the hassle of getting to and from airports which are often distant from city centres), trains allow passengers to sight-see, as many parts of Europe are quite scenic.

And if you don’t want to venture too far, you can choose destinations in neighbouring countries that can be reached in under five hours.

OPINION: Trains in Switzerland are excellent - so why are cars still king?

These are some of them:

From Lausanne / Geneva to Paris

There are very few people in the Geneva / Vaud region who have not taken, at least once in their lifetimes, the high-speed TGV train that whizzes passengers from Lausanne or Geneva straight to Gare de Lyon in the centre of Paris in just over three hours.

Such a short travel time means that you can go to Paris for just weekend, or, if you don’t even have this time to spare, you can take the 6:29 am train from Geneva, arrive in Paris at 9:42, am, and head back at 20:18, arriving at 23:45.

It’s cutting it close but it’s doable.

You can see this in a day. Image by Nuno Lopes from Pixabay

From Zurich to Munich

The capital of Bavaria can be reached from Zurich’s main station on a direct train in just 3 hours 30 minutes which, just as is the case with Paris, allows for short stays.

And if you leave from St. Gallen, your travel time to Munich will be mere 2 hours and 30 minutes, about an hour less that travelling from the northeastern Swiss city to Geneva.

Bird's eye view of Munich. Photo: Pixabay

From Lausanne / Zurich to Milan

Depending on the train you take, you can get from Lausanne to Italy’s fashion capital in just over three or just under four hours.

From Zurich, the travel time takes just over three hours as well.

Before 2016, when the Gotthard Base Tunnel was opened to rail traffic, a trip from Zurich to Milan took an hour longer.

Milan Cathedral. Image by 昕 沈 from Pixabay 

From Basel to Innsbruck

Sure, there are plenty of mountain destinations in Switzerland, but the Austrian city of Innsbruck is pretty as well and worth a visit, especially as the train ride takes just four hours and 41 minutes.


Whether you are still in Switzerland or have already crossed the border, you will see spectacular views, although the question of whether Austrian Alpine scenery differs much from the Swiss is debatable.

Innsbruck in Tyrol. Image by Lichtenfels from Pixabay 

From Lugano to Venice

The advantage of boarding a train in Lugano is that Ticino borders Italy, so several Italian cities are easy to reach from there (Milano, for instance, is just over an hour away).

A trip to Venice takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes, so it is certainly a reasonable trip to make to one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

To get to the water you mist first take a train. Photo: PIxabay

This is what else you should know if you want to travel to these five cities (or other European destinations) by train:



Fares depend on several factors, such as time of the day and day of the week when you travel. While a rock-bottom cheap fare may be available on one day in the morning, it won’t necessarily be offered the next day (or week) in the afternoon, or vice-versa.


If you have a general or half-fare travel card, they will be valid only on Swiss territory. This means that in case of Geneva it can’t be used at all, and only for a very limited distance (about 20 km) in case of Lugano.

It will however, lower your ticket price somewhat if you are departing from other cities.

You can find more pricing information (including discounts) and timetables on the website of Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) .

If you are interested in travelling farther afield, including with night trains, these articles provide more information:

Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

OPINION: Trains are in fashion so why is rail travel across Europe still so difficult?


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