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Zentralbahn vs Bernina Express (Switzerland - Italy)

  • 28 April 2024
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Hi there! I need recommendation on which panoramic train/(s) to choose from in Switzerland as eurail holders (travelling at 23-26 July): here is our rough planned itinerary for now (the one colored blue are the one we’re going to activate our eurail passes)

The one trip i am most indecisive with panoramic train i think would be our last trip from interlaken to Venezia Mestre. I’m considering this routes:

  • Interlaken - Lucerne (Zentralbahn) reservation optional, 16 euro 
    • then followed by Lucerne > Bellinzona > Milan Central > Venezia Mestre
  • St. Moritz - Tirano (Bernina Express) reservation 33 euro
    • then followed by Tirano - Colico > Milan Central > Venezia Mestre 

my questions are:

  1. I heard the Zentralbahn route is also really nice with the Lake Brienz view. So is Bernina Express worth it for that price to hop on in summer? (will we pass through icy glacier alps and snowy panorama? We are from tropical country so snowy panorama would be very nice. We’re okay with spending a bit more as long as the price is still reasonable and it is indeed worth it.
  2. In interrail, we can’t find the trip from Tirano to Mestre Venezia. The whole trip only shows Not in Pass Network, although TrenItalia has it already (Tirano > Milan Centraal > Mestre) . Can we just make our own route? But i’m not sure if it requires reservation or no? and is it really covered with interrail?
  3. Looking at other days on my itinerary, are there any other possible panoramic train routes that is worth hopping on to? Maybe Glacier Express or others? If the reservation seat is covered by eurail it would be a lot nicer. I really want to try seeing the Belle Epoque train but not sure in which route/day i can fit that into

 

for consideration: we’re thinking of just paying extra for one really nice panoramic train, and maybe additional shorter panoramic train that requires no reservation fee.

 

Any help would be appreciatedd

 

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Best answer by thibcabe 28 April 2024, 19:19

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Some confusion: Bern city ≠ Bernese Oberland. Interlaken, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen,... are in the middle of the Berner Oberland region while Bern city is well outside.

You're trying to do too much: how could you in a single day go to Bern, Blausee, Zermatt + watch the sunset there and still be back in Interlaken for the night? Impossible.

Zermatt is a long day trip so leave early, be there by midday, go to Gornergrat and then take the train back to Interlaken before sunset. Otherwise spend the night there.

No, you won't travel through snow on any of these routes. You might see snowcapped mountains but they'll be far away. The nearest to snow will be in Gornergrat: you'll see snowy and rocky landscapes.

Looks like the works timetable has indeed just been published on Trenitalia. When the company sends the data to the European database it will appear a few days later on Rail Planner.

The Bernina route is stunning but it's impossible to do it in a day and continue to Venice. Take the fastest route via Brig - Domodossola or the Zentralbahn to Lucerne, still beautiful.

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The Belle Époque trains runs twice a day between Zweisimmen and Montreux, you don't really have time for it. They're not old carriages but rather reconstructions. :)

Personally to get to Venice I'd go via Lucerne and Zentralbahn:

- hourly Interlaken Ost - Lucerne: reservation optional but not necessary, simply arrive a bit early. 08:04 - 09:55

- IC21 Lucerne - Lugano 10:18 - 12:48 -> scenic route via the Old Gotthard Railway

- RE Lugano - Milano Centrale 13:02 - 14:17

- FR Milano Centrale - Venezia Mestre 14:45 - 17:00 13€

Exactly the same option 2 hours later.

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Thank you for the inputs! I might change my 25/07 day to just include Interlaken-Zermatt thenn :) (or does interlaken - blausee - zermatt still possible?) if i’m not planning to go up to zermatt, just exploring the village

 

But for the interlaken to venice, after looking at the raileurope website and inputting the trip one by one, i found 2 possible options, the bernina still look achievable although we would only arrive at 11 at night..

 

any inputs would be appreciatedd..

 

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Blausee is a tourist trap: there are so many more beautiful lakes in the Swiss Alps for free.

I would only go to Zermatt. Travel one-way via the old slow route and back with the fast Lötschberg Base Tunnel.

- Spiez - Brig hourly RE (via Kandersteg) -> slow

- Visp - Spiez IC train -> fast

For a true high mountain rocky/snowy experience you should go to Gornergrat. It's the only time possible during your trip.

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The Bernina railway might be doable but will it be a pleasant experience? The railway is stunning but after 15h on trains will you remember anything good?

I wouldn't stop in St. Moritz. Definitely do not pay extra for the loud and full panorama carriages. Either board the regular carriages at the front of the Bernina Express or simply the hourly regional trains along the same route.

Note the engineering works between Tirano and Milan. The full timetable isn't online yet. Check back in a week or two and decide at that point.

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Thank you!

What kind of activity would you suggest in Gornergrat? Do we go there from Zermatt? and it is included in the interrail?

 

I wouldn't stop in St. Moritz. Definitely do not pay extra for the loud and full panorama carriages. Either board the regular carriages at the front of the Bernina Express or simply the hourly regional trains along the same route. > what does this one mean?

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No, Gornergrat is not included in Interrail. No discount either. Views are incredible so you simply walk around a bit on the rocks.

If you don't want to pay you could walk a bit from the village but it won't be the same: the village is at the bottom of the valley.

Last note: you do not have to decide in advance. Tickets have a fixed price and cannot sell out. So you could travel to Zermatt by train in the morning, check the little village and decide if you want to go up (considering it costs hundreds of CHF extra*).

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The panorama carriages (those with big windows) on the Bernina Express require a 36 CHF reservation. They are always full and loud. Instead my suggestion (and I'm not alone!) is to either:

- board the regular carriages attached at the front: reservation-free, less busy, pull-down windows = better for pictures!

- or the hourly regional trains along the same route: same pull-down windows

Bernina is doable but it will be a long day and you should leave early. There will be replacement buses between Tirano and Colico but times aren't available yet. Upgrading works for the 2026 Olympic Games.

*the money you save with the Bernina Express reservations could be spent towards Gornergrat tickets! :)

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Thank you so much! Will reconsider my trip especially on the day 3! :)

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