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

Summer holidays are around the corner and if you plan to remain in Europe and visit nearby destinations, train travel from Switzerland is a convenient way to get around. This is where you can travel in just a few hours.

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

Given the number of flights that are being cancelled or re-scheduled, the general chaos reigning at European airports, and 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.

READ MORE: Which flights have SWISS airlines cut ahead of summer season?

READ MORE: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

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.

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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The five most beautiful Swiss villages to discover by boat

Switzerland has beautiful villages and lakes which makes it a perfect country to discover and admire by boat. Here are five towns worth exploring from the water fronts.

The five most beautiful Swiss villages to discover by boat

Switzerland has 6 percent of Europe’s freshwater reserves, and to confirm this you only have to look at the huge number of lakes dotting the Confederation.

Each of these lakes possesses a unique flair, and to discover them to the fullest we recommend a boat tour, starting from these 5 beautiful villages, all members of the “The Most Beautiful Villages in Switzerland” network.

1. Gersau – Lake Lucerne (SZ)

In the heart of Switzerland we find Lake Vierwaldstättersee, commonly called Lake Lucerne. Here, in a gentle green patch of land, lies the hamlet of Gersau. In ancient times this municipality was a tiny independent state, remaining the world’s smallest republic until 1817, when it was annexed to Canton Schwyz. This region enjoys a Mediterranean micro climate, so it is not surprising to find a rich vegetation of exotic flowers and plants.

Gersau swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

From Gersau it is possible to take an unforgettable boat tour on Lake Lucerne to other neighboring villages such as Beckenried and Kehrsiten or directly to the city of Lucerne.

Gersau swiss village

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

2. Saint Saphorin – Lake Geneva (VD)

In the Lavaux region, one of Switzerland’s UNESCO sites, the charming old village of Saint-Saphorin can be found among the vineyards. A few houses gather compactly around the church of Saint Symphorien, which gave its name to the village, which was once called Glerula. The square in the old town invites tourists for a stop, perhaps to enjoy an excellent fish dish and sip a glass of local wine.

saint saphorin lake Geneva Swiss villages
(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

Saint-Saphorin overlooks Lake Geneva, the largest lake in all of Europe that bathes the Swiss and French coasts. From here it is possible to reach the cities of Vevey and Cully by boat and even go as far as Lausanne.

saint saphorin lake Geneva Swiss villages
(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

3. Ascona – Lake Maggiore (TI)

Ascona is one of the most popular and well-known destinations in Switzerland, thanks to its mild climate and Mediterranean atmosphere. The lakefront is full of restaurants and bars where to enjoy an aperitif, while in the old town center we find many boutiques, stores but also museums and exhibition centers of some importance.

Going up the hill we then reach Monte Verità: a fascinating place that once served as a meeting place for those who followed an alternative life away from the hectic daily routine.

ascona lake maggiore Swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

From Ascona it is possible to take beautiful boat tours on Lake Maggiore to nearby destinations such as S. Nazzaro in the Gambarogno or to the Brissago Islands, which are home to the only island botanical garden in all of Switzerland.

ascona lake maggiore swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

4. Erlach – Lake Biel (BE)

Erlach is a unique village overlooking Lake Biel. In the upper part of the town we find the old castle, which now houses a museum and school, and beautiful houses that gradually descend to the shores of the lake, creating a picture-postcard view. All around, the vineyard takes center stage, and there is no shortage of several wine cellars where wine tasting can take place.

Erlach lake Biel swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

Lake Biel possesses a strip of land that stretches from Erlach for several kilometers to the island of St. Peter (now in fact turned into a peninsula), which was home for some time to the well-known philosopher Rousseau. From Erlach it is possible to reach by boat the beautiful villages of Le Landeron and La Neuveville, both members of the same network of “The Most Beautiful Villages in Switzerland”.

erlach lake Biel swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

5. Grandson – Lake Neuchâtel (VD)

On the romantic Lake Neuchâtel, it is impossible not to notice from afar the small town of Grandson. Of great note are its colorful houses and the old St. Baptist Church, a national historic monument. Walking through the narrow lanes we will find ourselves in many small squares and nooks that are decorated and well-kept and all with jaw-dropping views of the lake. Grandson’s star is its immense 11th-century castle, which houses an outstanding collection of arms and armor.

grandson lake Neuchatel swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

Lake Neuchâtel is an ideal summer destination for cooling off in its clear waters. In Grandson, for example, there is certainly no shortage of lidos and green areas to relax. On board the boat you can take part in tours and discover the secrets of the lake’s preserved shores.

grandson lake neuchatel swiss villages

(Photo by Christian Guerra / @swissvillages)

You can find out more about these 5 villages and many others by downloading the official “Beaux Villages” app for iOS and Android.