Tailormade tour Grand heart of Switzerland mountains rail tour Switzerland

11 nights/12 days

GoldenPass Line • Glacier Express • Bernina Express • Lake Lucerne • Bernese Oberland • Saanenland and Gstaad • Lake Geneva • Zermatt • Lake Lugano • Bernina Pass

This panoramic rail holiday includes travelling on three of Switzerland’s most iconic railway journeys including the GoldenPass Line, the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express, as you trace the pattern of mountains around Switzerland on this grand tour by train. Included overnight stays near the Matterhorn, the Suvretta Mountain, the Jungfrau, the Gornergrat, Monte Tamaro, Rigi Mountain, and the Wispile. Navigate their dramatic relief on funicular railways, cable cars, and renowned trains.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from £3,060 per person.

Luxury Swiss grand touring holiday by train visiting the mountains of Switzerland by scenic iconic trains


Zurich • Lucerne • Lake Lucerne • Bernese Oberland • Grindelwald • Wengen • GoldenPass Line • Saanenland • Schoenried • Gstaad • Montreux • Zermatt • Glacier Express • Lugano • Bernina Express • St Moritz • Chur • Zurich

Day by day

Arrive in Zurich by air or travel by rail via Paris and Basel to Lucerne, depending on time constraints and preferences. If flying into Zurich immediately board the train to Lucerne. This short train journey leaves you plenty of time to explore the city before retiring to your choice of luxury hotel.

An essential visit on any stay in Lucerne is the Chapel Bridge, the city’s main landmark and the most photographed monument in Switzerland. Walk along the bridge, taking in the views of the Reuss River, the so-called Water Spike, and the Water Tower. For both historical significance and architectural beauty, visit the 17th century Jesuit Church, which overlooks the water and is topped by two droplet-shaped domes. Above the city is the Musegg Wall, a 14th century structure that once protected the city within. Though the city now sprawls outside of this wall, the nine defensive towers still remain, three of which are open to the public. Enjoy lunch in a pavement café on the Kornmarkt Square, beside the colourful Pfistern Guildhall, the Hirschenplatz Square, or the Weinmarkt Square, where Lucerne swore its federal oath with Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden. To see some exemplary Swiss culture, visit the prestigious KKL Luzern gallery, the Rosengart Collection of works by Picasso and Klee, the Wagner Museum in Tribschen, and the Swiss Museum of Transport. Finish your day with a sumptuous dinner in one of Lucerne’s many gourmet restaurants.

This touring itinerary takes you southwest from Lucerne into the Bernese Oberland. The train journey takes you along the western shore of Lake Lucerne, Lake Sarnen, Lake Lungern, and north around Lake Brienz. Change trains at Interlaken, perhaps spending an hour admiring the stunning location of this town and move on up the steeper cog railway to Grindelwald or Wengen, where you stay for 2 nights.

The enchanting chocolate box villages of Grindelwald and Wengen afford stunning views of the surroundings from your location at over 1,000m above sea level. The two nearby villages are connected by two cable cars, by bus, or by train, and both sit at the base of the Jungfrau. Your stay here is therefore perfectly placed for enjoying the most iconic attraction of the Bernese Oberland. Travel by funicular railway up to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe, to appreciate the stunning views. For hiking trails, take cable cars up to the Monch and the Eiger, or simply follow the softer trails that lead out of Grindelwald. The picturesque Lake Fallboden makes for idyllic and relaxing afternoon and evening walks. Complete or begin your stay in Grindelwald with a self-guided stroll between the rustic wooden chalet houses.

At lunchtime, board the train from Grindelwald back to Interlaken, on to Zweisimmen, and then to Schoenried or Gstaad along the first section of the GoldenPass Line. You stay in Saanenland for 2 nights.

On the border between the cantons of Bern and Vaud, the Saanenland marks the surreal convergence of five individual valleys. Schoenried itself sits on slightly higher ground than its famous neighbour, Gstaad. The area is known for its delicious Alpine dairy products, which are served in many of the 100 gourmet restaurants that line Gstaad’s main promenade in the form of fondue or raclette. The boutique shops and quaint cafes housed inside these iconic chalets are well worth a few hours of your time as they capture a great deal of Swiss authenticity. The Molkerei Gstaad allows visitors to taste a selection of the 3,000 cheeses produced in the Saanenland. We would recommend spending a few hours in the Saanenland joining the dots between the traditional farmhouses that surround the fields outside Gstaad, and perhaps venturing further out on one of the hundreds of Alpine trails and paths. Adventurous visitors will want to take a trip up to Glacier 3000 to take in the views of 24 of the surrounding mountains that measure above 4000m. In the evenings, retire to your hotel in Schoenried or Gstaad for a gourmet dinner and a drink beside the cosy fireplace.

In the late morning, board one of the panoramic coaches of the GoldenPass Line for the two- hour journey from Schoenried to Montreux. After Gstaad, the GoldenPass Line crosses the border into Vaud, stopping first in Rougemont, and then Chateau-d’Oex. Here the mountainscapes are dotted with quaint chalets, small churches, and petit castles; an image that is very typical of the Pays-d’Enhaut. The villages you will pass next all retain their own individual architectural character, emerging out of plumes of evergreen trees. In Rossiniere and Montbovon, passengers can view the startling translucent turquoise water that runs in rivers crossed by ancient wooden bridges. At Les Avants, the train begins to wind its way down the hillside towards Montreux, where you change trains to continue to Zermatt. This train journey takes about two and a half hours, passing Chillon Castle, Martigny, and pausing at Visp while you change trains. As you enter Zermatt, the area’s crowning glory will make itself apparent: the Matterhorn. Around it, over 400km of walking and hiking paths vein the landscape, allowing you to capture stunning panoramas of both Zermatt and the Matterhorn while uncovering more of the Alpine flora and fauna. You have three nights in Zermatt.

From Zermatt, accessed by funicular, mountain railway and cable car, you can explore high up into the mountains, reaching 3000m above sea level. The Glacier Paradise cable car transports you up to Europe’s highest viewing platform. To extend both your experience of the railways of Valais and the mountains, take the Gornergratbahn up to the summit of the Gornergrat, from where you can bask in views of 38 mountain peaks and the Sunegga funicular. Consider visiting the Hornlihutte, where for decades climbers have famously stayed as they prepare to climb the Matterhorn, via the Hornli Ridge, the Zmutt Ridge, or the north wall. For something wholly unique, spend an hour or two at the Zermatlantis Matterhorn Museum, a faithfully recreated archaeological site. After a thrilling and busy day exploring this dynamic area, dine in one of Zermatt’s abundant gourmet restaurants or back at your chosen hotel.

Today you board one of the distinctive carriages of the Glacier Express to Andermatt, where you change trains on your way to Lugano. This short stretch of the Glacier Express takes you first through the enchanting village of St Niklaus, defined by its rustic chalet houses with peaked roofs, and then onto Brig, where the 17th century Stockalper Castle stands proudly at the centre of the Old Town, crowned by unusual onion domes. The Glacier Express then takes you through the Furka Tunnel of the Furka Steam Railway, past the ice caves of the Rhone Glacier, and over the bridge in Oberwald. At Andermatt, you cease journeying east and turn immediately south into the province of Ticino. Follow a single main valley as the environment becomes gradually more Mediterranean and the climate becomes warmer. Trickling waterfalls spill out of the mountainsides, and sparsely populated villages spread across flat valley floors. This train passes through Bellinzona, the most Italianate town in Switzerland. Here, three castles stand opposite each other on green bluffs, forming a single well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lake Maggiore is visible in the distance as you continue further south past Monte Tamaro towards Lake Lugano and your destination. Arrive in the afternoon and if possible take the funicular railway up to the summit of Monte Bre from Casserate, or simply sit back and enjoy the Mediterranean feel of the waterside in this colourful city.

You depart Lugano by yet another mode of transport: the Bernina Express coach. The Bernina Express bus from Lugano to Tirano in Italy leaves at around 10am, arriving three hours later and passing Lake Como and the picturesque villages of northern Italy on its way. In Tirano, you have an hour to enjoy the charming combination of Italian architecture and Alpine backdrop. Perhaps stop off at the Santuario della Madonna di Tirano on the quiet central square, or seek out the historic monuments and paintings dotted around the town. Then, embark on the final part of your Bernina Express journey, ready to arrive into St Moritz two hours later. This stretch takes you past thriving orchards and vineyards, over the unique Brusio viaduct as it spirals back on itself to compensate for the changing altitudes, and into Le Prese over the Swiss border. Continue on through the Bergamo Alps, through grand and regal Poschiavo and the Val Poschiavo, passing Alp Grum, the only restaurant to be exclusively accessible by rail. The Bernina Express now begins its ascent to the highest point on the Rhaetian Railway in Ospizio Bernina. Before arriving into St Moritz, you will pass two of the most famous sights on this railway: the Montebello Curve and the Morteratsch Glacier. The Curve itself allows you plentiful time to appreciate the views of the glacier. Arrive into St Moritz, perhaps using your time here to reach the best viewing point of the Suvretta Mountain by cable car, or to visit Lake Sils, Lake St Moritz, or the windy Lake Silvaplana. The neighbouring mountains, including the Piz Corvatsch, Chantarella, and Corviglia, can all be explored by rail.

Depart St Moritz in the morning for Zurich via the oldest town in Switzerland: Chur. This route takes you first to Chur, past the Cresta Run in Celerina, the Albula Railway Museum in Bergun, the towering Landwasser viaduct in the Domleschg Region, the popular resort of Davos, the stone bridges and ochre houses of Tiefencastel, and the sublime Ruinaulta, before arriving in the ‘Alpine City.’ Change to a direct train to Zurich, which takes just over an hour and skirts around Lake Walen and Lake Zurich on the way. Those planning to travel home by train are encouraged to spend an extra night in Zurich after the journey from St Moritz.

We had the most amazing holiday. We loved the location, hotels, train travel and food. All the trains were well planned and on time.
Mrs M, July 2018

Holiday price guide From £3,060 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for second class rail travel. First class supplement about £650 per person.

Holiday Code CHBR07

Luxury Swiss grand touring holiday by train visiting the mountains of Switzerland by scenic iconic trains

We had the most amazing holiday. We loved the location, hotels, train travel and food. All the trains were well planned and on time.
Mrs M, July 2018

Holiday price guide From £3,060 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for second class rail travel. First class supplement about £650 per person.

Holiday Code CHBR07

Our prices include ● Scheduled flights with British Airways, return from London to Zurich OR rail travel from London to Switzerland return via Paris (first class can be booked at a supplement)
● 8-day Swiss rail flexi pass (first class can be booked at a supplement)
● Journeys on the GoldenPass, the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express as described
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Classic double room at the Hotel Wilden Mann, Lucerne
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Double room at the Hotel Silberhorn, Wengen
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Classic double at the Gstaaderhof, Gstaad
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Standard double room at the Tradition Hotel Julen, Zermatt
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in a Comfort double room at the Hotel Lugano Dante, Lugano
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in a Corviglia double room at the Hotel Schweizerhof, St Moritz
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, usually between Swiss Francs 1 and 3 per person per night, and payable locally to the hotel
● Transfers in Switzerland station to hotel unless offered by your hotel
● Transfers in Paris if travelling from London to Switzerland by train

Luxury Swiss grand touring holiday by train visiting the mountains of Switzerland by scenic iconic trains

Expressions Holidays includes these hotels in this touring holiday as suggestions, but they can be substituted by others in the same region, if you have a preference to stay elsewhere.
Hotels included in this tour
Hotel Wilden Mann

Hotel Wilden Mann is a 4-star boutique hotel in an excellent central location. With gourmet cuisine and stylish, comfortable accommodation, the 500 year-old hotel balances its historic and old-world style with elegance and modern facilities.

Classic double room

Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern 5-star hotel

The Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern is a grand 5-star hotel with an imposing history situated on the shores of Lake Lucerne.

Style double room city view

Hotel Wengener Hof

Hotel Wengener Hof is a 4-star boutique hotel surrounded by beautiful grounds and natural views. Pampering saunas and delicious cuisine make it an ideal recuperate after exploring the Jungfrau and the valleys of the Bernese Oberland.

Double room

Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof Grindelwald 5-star hotel

Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof Grindelwald is a 5-star chalet-style hotel with an abundance of character and immense sense of privacy, perfect for couples or families travelling together. The style, ambience, service and cuisine offer a glimpse of authentic Swiss life.

Comfort double

Schoenried or Gstaad
Hotel Alpenrose 4-star hotel

Hotel Alpenrose is a 4-star boutique hotel with outstanding restaurant situated in a charming village near Gstaad, ideal for taking the train and cable cars to visit the surrounding mountains. Enjoy the panoramic views from the terrace over the valley with Gstaad below and the mountains all around.

Standard "Rellerli" double room

Park Gstaad 5-star hotel

The Park Gstaad is a 5-star, grand hotel in an alpine chalet-style situated on a slight hill above Gstaad enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and pastures.

Superior forest view room

Hotel Gstaaderhof 4-star hotel

The Hotel Gstaaderhof is a boutique, chalet-style hotel in the centre of the Alpine town of Gstaad. Two restaurants, hotel bar, extensive wellness centre.

Classic double

Tradition Hotel Julen 4-star hotel

Tradition Hotel Julen is a 4-star chalet hotel with a boutique Alpine ambience in a stunning location in Zermatt. Excellent dining and spa facilities and comfortable accommodation make it an excellent base from which to explore the area.

Chalet double room

Grand Hotel Zermatterhof 5-star hotel

Grand Hotel Zermatterhof is a stunning 5-star hotel in the centre of Zermatt. Gourmet cuisine and luxury spa facilities afford guests a luxurious Alpine retreat.

Hotel Lugano Dante 4-star hotel

Hotel Lugano Dante is a comfortable, 4-star hotel in the centre of Lugano. This hotel serves as a comfortable and welcoming base from which to explore the town, lake and surrounding rural area.

Comfort double room

Villa Principe Leopoldo 5-star hotel

The Villa Principe Leopoldo in Lugano is an elegant, historic hotel set on a hill above the city of Lugano. 37 suites, restaurant, two outdoor pools, winter garden, piano bar, spa.

Deluxe junior suite with balcony

St Moritz
Hotel Schweizerhof St Moritz 4-star hotel

Hotel Schweizerhof St Moritz is a 4-star boutique hotel in a beautiful location on the mountain slopes, and is an excellent base for enjoying the scenery of Grisons and the Engadine. It offers stunning views, gourmet dining and exceptional service.

Corviglia double room

Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains 5-star hotel

Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains is a 5-star luxury spa hotel in a beautiful Alpine location. Offering fine dining, extensive spa facilities and impeccably grand accommodation, it is an excellent spot to recuperate after a day on the slopes.

Resort room

We had the most amazing holiday. We loved the location, hotels, train travel and food. All the trains were well planned and on time.
Mrs M, July 2018

Holiday price guide From £3,060 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for second class rail travel. First class supplement about £650 per person.

Holiday Code CHBR07

Holiday prices

Holiday prices
Prices are per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room in 4 star hotels
Date By air and rail By rail throughout
1 Jan 2024-31 Dec 2024 £2,990 £3,060

Supplements are per person in total
Description Date By air and rail By rail throughout
First class rail 1 Jan 2024-31 Dec 2024 £270 £650

We had the most amazing holiday. We loved the location, hotels, train travel and food. All the trains were well planned and on time.
Mrs M, July 2018

Holiday price guide From £3,060 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for second class rail travel. First class supplement about £650 per person.

From about

Holiday Code CHBR07

Our prices include • Scheduled flights with British Airways, return from London to Zurich OR rail travel from London to Switzerland return via Paris (first class can be booked at a supplement)
• 8-day Swiss rail flexi pass (first class can be booked at a supplement)
• Journeys on the GoldenPass, the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express as described
• 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Classic double room at the Hotel Wilden Mann, Lucerne
• 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Double room at the Hotel Silberhorn, Wengen
• 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Classic double at the Gstaaderhof, Gstaad
• 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Standard double room at the Tradition Hotel Julen, Zermatt
• 1 night’s bed and breakfast in a Comfort double room at the Hotel Lugano Dante, Lugano
• 1 night’s bed and breakfast in a Corviglia double room at the Hotel Schweizerhof, St Moritz
• Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Luxury Swiss grand touring holiday by train visiting the mountains of Switzerland by scenic iconic trains

Highlights of the Bernese Oberland

As a place of incredible natural beauty and the birthplace of skiing, the Bernese Oberland is a destination with a host of possibility for active and cultural activity. Essential to any visit to this region is the Jungfraujoch glacier, known as the Top of Europe, accessible via the narrow cog railway (Jungfraubahnen) up to the Jungfraujoch train station, standing at 3,454m above sea level. The Peak Walk suspension bridge, crossing between two peaks above Glacier 3000, reaches a thrilling 107m long and affords walkers magnificent views of the Matterhorn, the Mont Blanc Massif, the Eiger, the Monch, and Jungfrau. We also recommend visiting the area around Grindelwald, from which it is easiest to board a rail trip to Jungfraujoch, to see the Aletsch Glacier, the longest glacier in Europe, and begin a hike or mountain walk through the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The adventure sports centre of Interlaken is perfect for lake swimming, boat cruises, hiking, biking, horse-riding, and water sports. One of the area's quirkier landmarks is the Big Pintenfritz, Europe's longest toboggan run, reaching 15km in length and descending a total of 1,631m.

Festivals in the Bernese Oberland

The festivals and celebrations in the Bernese Oberland tend to revolve around the prominence of winter sports, such as the AUDI FIS Ski World Cup in Adelboden and the International Lauberhorn ski races in January; yet, during the summer and autumn months, there are many more that celebrate Swiss culture and tradition. Unique in the winter months, however, is the Belle Epoque week in Kandersteg, when the Belle Epoque era is embodied in a series of sporting and social events. In July and August, the Lake Thun Festival brings the peaceful lakeside alive with musicals and productions from all over the continent. In October, the AlpKultur Festival in Lenk im Simmental pays homage to all aspects of the region's traditions for a period of two weeks, with an Alpine festival, Hornussen tournaments (a type of Swiss ball game), and a range of interactive workshops.

Gastronomy in the Bernese Oberland

Like much of Switzerland, cheese makes up a large part of the regional food production. The Diemtigtal, in the west of the Bernese Oberland, is the largest Alpine cheese-making area in Switzerland, and so is the optimum place to visit an authentic mountain dairy. Many farms will serve breakfast or lunch alongside a cheese-tasting, or allow visitors to watch the cheese as it is made. The organic dairy on the Schwarzenberg Alp in the Wiriehorn area is one such as this. The AlpKultur Festival in Lenk in Simmental offers visitors the opportunity to briefly live life as a mountain farmer: helping with milking, cheese-making, looking after the animals, visiting farmsteads, and sleeping in the Alps.

Luxury Swiss grand touring holiday by train visiting the mountains of Switzerland by scenic iconic trains

Highlights of Lake Geneva

Montreux, on the most eastern point of the lake is most famous for the Montreux Jazz Festival, which is held in international esteem. One of the most iconic sights, for both Switzerland and Montreux, is of Chillon Castle, jutting out on a rocky outcrop into the lake waters. This castle cannot be missed because of its fairy-tale beauty. You can also begin to explore the landscape around Montreux by rail. One railway takes you across Alpine meadows to Rochers-de-Naye at more than 2000m above sea level, from which you can sometimes see the Jet d'Eau in Geneva. The Swiss Chocolate Train, adorned with lavish Belle Epoque carriages, travels to the village of Gruyeres, where characterful old cobbled streets are lined with townhouses containing cafes and three museums. An imposing medieval castle sits at the top of the village. You can also reach the Maison Cailler on the Chocolate Train, where you learn about traditional Swiss chocolate-making and even make some of your own. The Vineyard Train (number S31) will take you through the 800 hectares that make up the Lavaux Terraced Vineyards from Vevey to Puidoux-Chexbres. The vineyards are the largest living cultural site in Switzerland and a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further west from the Lavaux Vineyards is Lausanne, home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, but perhaps best known for simply being a particularly romantic and beautiful Swiss town. Gardens, promenades, and lakeside pathways ensure that your days here are as picturesque as they are cultural. At Lausanne's heart stands the Cathedral, believed to be one of Europe's most beautiful Gothic monuments. The purple and orange hues of its two main spires are visible throughout the town. It was originally built in the 12th and 13th centuries. In contrast with the Cathedral, immersed in the history of the cobbled Old Town, a new Olympic Museum has recently opened. Interactive displays illustrating the colourful history of the games are spread over three levels and include more than 1,000 objects and 150 screens. One of the highlights of the museum, however, is the Olympic Park. The artworks, sports sculptures, and beautiful patches of well-maintained nature provide a stunning setting for this modern cultural venture. From here, you can wander down the promenade at Ouchy, an area that is unrelentingly popular with residents. This promenade takes you to the Haldimand Tower, the Bellerive Swimming Pool, the Chateau d'Ouchy, and the port.

Cultural highlights of Lake Geneva

Any stay on Lake Geneva remains incomplete without a visit to the city that gives it its name. One of the key features of Geneva's cultural heritage is its place as the origin of fine watch-making. Workshops, boutiques, and museums all provide an insight into this prestigious craft. Even the Jet d'Eau fountain bears some connection, as it originally harnessed the power of the Rhone for the craftsmen of Geneva. Today, it acts as a captivating, animate monument to the skills, craft, and natural forces of the city. Geneva is also home to the Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the UN. Guided tours take visitors through the building, which seems to blend geometric modern design with classical, palatial style. Geneva's Old Town, or Vieille-Villa, is the largest in Switzerland, laced with narrow alleyways and charming squares, and centred around the St Pierre Cathedral. 157 steps will take visitors to the top of the cathedral tower in order to appreciate the remarkable views over the fascinating jumble of unique townhouses. A very unique feature of Geneva is the Flower Clock in the Jardin Anglais. This precise and beautiful clock has the longest second hand in the world. Visitors interested in Swiss art and modern culture should spend an afternoon in the Quartier des Bains, wandering around the MAMCO and the Centre d'Art Contemporain before enjoying dinner in a chic bistro. Mediterranean Carouge is Switzerland's gateway to the south, with abundant Sardinian style. Finish your exploration with one of the four world-exclusive museums: the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Le Musee International de la Reforme, the Patek Philippe Museum, and the Bodmer Foundation Library and Museum.

Festivals in Lake Geneva

Much of the canton of Geneva's culture is built around a celebration of its history and traditions. Perhaps one of the liveliest celebrations is the Oktoberfest, though many more unusual festivals prove equally enjoyable. In the first two weeks of February, the Antigel Festival brings a variable programme of music, dance, and other performances to the less likely stages. In March, the International Geneva Motor Show, largest of its kind in Europe, unveils a range of new innovative designs at the Palexpo Exhibition Centre. Similarly, in April you can visit the International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques, and Products in the same venue. On specific dates of the year, usually mid-May, a selection of museums stay open for the whole night, an event that is also celebrated in a number of bars. Also in May is a Day of Open Wineries, where upwards of 90 wineries open their doors for free to wine-touring visitors. A charge of 5CHF at one winery will enable you to taste wines at every other winery for no further charge. In June and July, parks, gardens, and secluded outdoor spots on the lake shores play host to a range of live music and DJ sets at the Ecoutes au Vert Festival. In the middle of June each year, Lake Geneva is transformed into the largest sailing regatta in Europe, with over 500 boats competing. Geneva's largest music festival is the Geneva Music Festival in late June, specialising in a range of musical genres, and accompanied by an array of food stalls. Impossible to forget is the Montreux Jazz Festival, founded in 1967, that brings an eclectic range of performances to the lakeside stages, not limited to Jazz. The Cine Transat, hosted in one of Geneva's parks, features a series of French and English films. The Prelude to the Geneva Festival and the Geneva Festival itself take place from the middle of July until the first week of August and are widely believed to be the highlight of summer in the region. Carnival rides, concerts, stalls with Swiss delicacies and street food, parades, and variety performances take over the lake shores, topped off with unique firework displays each and every night. The Festival de la Batie from the end of August to mid-September exhibits the works of many local artists from a range of disciplines in Batie Park. The Nuit des Bains sees several galleries in the Quartier des Bains open their doors for free. For a taste of Geneva's history, watch l'Escalade in the Old Town in the second week of December, which commemorates that defence of the city against the Duke of Savoy in 1602.

Gastronomy in Lake Geneva

With over 1,000 restaurants, Geneva is recognised as the capital of culinary delicacies in Switzerland. For decadent dining, choose one of the hotels that line the lake shores; for foreign cuisine, head to the Paquis district; for traditional Swiss dishes, dine in Geneva's Old Town; for Italian restaurants and French cafes, go to Eaux Vives; and for experimental, chic restaurants, eat in Carouge. Some ingredients to look out for in particular are cheeses from Gruyere, oil from Severy, charcuterie, perch, fera, char, and leeks. Vaud, the region in which Lake Geneva sits, is Switzerland's largest wine-growing region, and the most prominent grapes are Chasselas, Pinot Noir, and Gamay. You may also discover some Tartiflette, which originated over the French border in Haute-Savoie, made with Reblocohon cheese.

Luxury Swiss grand touring holiday by train visiting the mountains of Switzerland by scenic iconic trains

Highlights of Lake Lucerne

Begin your exploration of the Lake Lucerne Region with the famous city itself. To get your bearings, wander along the river or lakeside, stopping first at the Chapel Bridge, Lucerne's main landmark and the most photographed monument in Switzerland. This bridge gets its name from St Peter's Chapel, which stands nearby, and was built in the early 14th century, making it a true testament to its ingenious structure. The Water Tower that stands partway along the bridge once formed part of the city walls, and has served a number of functions, including that of an archive, prison, and torture chamber. Also part of the city's fortifications is the Spreuer Bridge, which, again, stretches across the Reuss, but with an unusual ochre design characterised by the small red turrets attached above the bridge's supports. The so-called ‘Water Spike,' which regulates the water level in the Reuss River, is recognised for being a truly unique sight, due to the specificities of its engineering. For more stunning, historical structures, visit the 17th century Jesuit Church, with its grand, regal Baroque façade, which was the first large sacral church to be built in Switzerland. High above the city is the Musegg Wall. Built in the late 14th century, the wall remains remarkably well preserved, as do the nine towers, of which three are open to the public. For a taste of traditional Swiss life, visit one of the historical squares hidden down the city streets and enjoy a light lunch or drink in one of the cafes. The Town Hall and Pfistern Guildhall, which is artfully painted, are situated on the Kornmarkt Square; the Hirschenplatz Square is named after an inn that dates back to medieval times; and the Weinmarkt Square is the site on which Lucerne swore its federal oath with Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden in the early 14th century.

Cultural highlights of Lake Lucerne

Lucerne is home to a variety of museums and galleries, including the KKL Luzern, the Rosengart Collection of works by Picasso and Klee, the Wagner Museum in Tribschen, and the most well-known of them all, the Swiss Museum of Transport. Once you have explored Lucerne's streets, restaurants, and shops, finish your tour with a visit to the Dying Lion of Lucerne. Commemorating the deaths of the Swiss mercenaries at the attack on the Tuileries at the end of the 18th century, this monument is one of the most moving in Europe. Follow the northern shore of the lake to the picturesque villages of Weggis and Vitznau. Weggis is recognisable from the water by the red-topped church spire at the village's highest point. The scattered houses in both are surrounded by green lawns, clusters of evergreen trees, and gently rising slopes. The Wilhelm Tell Express will take you by boat from Lucerne across the river to Fluelen, passing the iconic spots that feature in the legend of Wilhelm Tell, the best known folk character in Switzerland and the Swiss National Hero of Liberty. The meadows in Rutli, for example, are the setting of Friedrich Schiller's recounting of Tell's tale, and Tell's Chapel in Sisikon is built upon Tell's Slab, where he famously jumped from the bailiff's boat before pushing them back into the storm. Further inland, in the neighbouring cantons that claim sections of Lake Lucerne's shores, are several picturesque towns and villages with their own individual character. The town of Schwyz, in the canton of the same name, provides both a valuable connection with the cities and towns to the east of Lake Lucerne and an equally valuable insight into the traditions and atmospheres of small towns that have retained much of their historical air. The most popular and interesting part of this town, which is mainly characterised by its peaceful streets of chalet-style buildings, is the Hauptplatz. Here, you can admire the painted façade of the Town Hall while enjoying some food at the restaurant of the Hotel Wysses Rossli. Those looking to explore the landscape on foot or by cable car should head towards the two main peaks of the Lucerne area: Pilatus and Rigi. The former was once reputedly the home of a dragon and is now believed to be the final resting place of Pontius Pilatus, but most remarkable are the views across 73 Alpine peaks that can be appreciated from the top. Rigi is known as Queen of the Mountains, from the summit of which you can see 13 lakes, the entire Swiss Mittelland, and the borders into Germany and France. A cable car up to Rigi can be taken from Weggis. To enjoy the scenery by rail, take the funicular railway from Stoos to Fronalpstock or vice versa, the track of which is the world's steepest. Once on the mountainsides, you are at your leisure to embark on cycling tours and hiking tours to unveil the waterfalls and mountain streams, to take a once-in-a-lifetime skydiving or paragliding trip, or to take your time with a round of golf. The range of places and activities that surround Lake Lucerne is given its diversity by the stunning landscape, and by the coming together of so many cantons, each with their own unique culture. We would recommend staying long enough to try a little of everything to truly make the most of this fantastic and inspiring region.

Festivals in Lake Lucerne

Lucerne prides itself on being a city of festivals, a title that it lives up to through its blend of music, food, and theatrical celebrations. The biggest of these is without a doubt the Lucerne Carnival. Beginning on Fat Thursday before Lent begins, the carnival features three massive parades with masks, costumes, bonfires, and displays by the various societies in the area. Music festivals in Lucerne also include the World Band Festival at the end of September, the Lucerne Blues Festival at the beginning of November, the Lucerne Festival at the Piano in mid to late November, the two Lucerne Festivals (at Easter and in summer) which focus on classical music, and the Blue Balls music and art festival in late July. Sports enthusiasts might want to plan their visit in time with the Lucerne Regatta, on the 7th to 9th July 2017, and the Athletics Meeting, also in July.

Gastronomy in Lake Lucerne

The food around Lake Lucerne, like its history, is made diverse by the numerous cantons. Visitors can enjoy high-class gourmet food in stylish modern restaurants, or can enjoy traditional delicacies in smaller, family-run establishments. One example of a popular local dish is the Lozarner Churgelipastete, which comprises of veal and mushrooms cooked inside a puff-pastry casing. Those with a sweet tooth might wish to try the pear bread. To try some Swiss Alpine cheese, we would recommend ordering either the raclette or the fondue, as these are possibly the most typically Swiss dishes available. Finish off your culinary tour of Lucerne with some of the famous Swiss chocolate made by a local chocolatier.

Luxury Swiss grand touring holiday by train visiting the mountains of Switzerland by scenic iconic trains

Highlights of Saanenland

The Saanenland is based in the convergence of five valleys. Streams, lakes, forests, and verdant slopes therefore provide a 360 degree backdrop to your stay here. The isolated and little-known Lauenensee, for example, is a bubble of peace and tranquillity, with pathways around the lake shores that lead up to a waterfall that crashes between jutting rocks on its way down the mountainside. In the winter, the lake freezes over, and there is every chance you may be the first to leave your footprints in the snow. Gstaad is perhaps what makes the Saanenland so well-known and so deserving of its own individual place as a region in our overview of Switzerland. The traffic-free main promenade is lined with perfectly maintained, authentic Swiss chalets, complete with dark wood peaked roofs, shuttered windows, and balconies. These chalets contain intriguing boutique shops and some of Gstaad's 100 restaurants, which serve anything from Swiss raclette to gourmet, refined cuisine. In the landscape around Gstaad lie a huge range of summer sports opportunities. More than 300km of hiking paths take you up and around the mountains and deep into the valleys. Mountain-biking, paragliding, and golf also remain continually popular with seasonal guests. Schonried hosts a famous toboggan run, while exhilarating downhill scooter rides can be enjoyed from Wispile to Gstaad or Sparenmoos to Zweisimmen. On the River Saane, you can wrestle the torrent on a raft or in a canoe. Schonried, on the so-called ‘sun terrace' above Gstaad, is one neighbouring village that is of particular interest. Schonried is an excellent starting point for many hikes or long walks, due to its sublime scenery and many cableways and high-altitude railways. The picture-postcard village of Zweisimmen is known as the Gateway to the Saanenland. Most notably, however, it is an important station on the iconic route of the GoldenPass Line, and the railway line that links the Bernese Oberland to Montreux. You may wish to visit Zweisimmen for the Rinderberg cable car, which takes you up to one of the largest ski areas in the Saanenland in winter, and up to an intricate network of walking routes in the summer. Various themed trails take you through the different elements of the local culture, such as around the authentic farmhouses with their carved murals, or high up in the mountaintops. There are ten villages in total in the Saanenland, each of which is charming in its own right. Should you have time, we would not discourage visiting as many of these as possible to admire the scenery from multiple angles.

Festivals in the Saanenland

A lesser-known highlight of the area's winter sports opportunities is the Zweisimmen Snow Games in January, featuring a waterslide through the Rinderberg water, ski-cross races, downhill mountain biking, and freestyle parkour. February and March in Gstaad are made all the more enchanting by the Sommets Musicaux de Gstaad, a small classical music festival. The summer sees two large tennis tournaments come to Gstaad: the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad, and the Ladies Championship Gstaad. The Davidoff Saveurs Gstaad celebrates authentic local cuisine and wine in July. For more traditional celebrations, attend the Suufsunntig, an Alpine festival from July to August hosted on the nearby mountains. Also in the summer, from July to September, is the Gstaad Menuhin Festival, which honours the violinist and conductor after which it was named, with numerous performances of haunting classical music. The Hublot Polo Gold Cup Gstaad in August sees jockeys from all over the world racing Arab horses. Something a little different can be enjoyed at the Country Night Gstaad in September. Across the border into the canton of Vaud is Chateau-d'Oex, which hosts the International Balloon Festival, the most important balloon event in the Alps.

Gastronomy in the Saanenland

As in much of Switzerland, cheese plays an integral part in the local gastronomy of Saanenland. In Chateau-d'Oex and Rougemont, be sure to try the Etivaz cheese, which is made in the cauldrons of Alpine huts. In a quaint gourmet restaurant in Gstaad or on the lush rolling pastures of Schonried, try the fondue or raclette in the environment in which it was intended to be eaten. Local farms, particularly dairy farms, offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner service, with the opportunity to try some of their homemade produce and watch as the cheese is made.

Luxury Swiss grand touring holiday by train visiting the mountains of Switzerland by scenic iconic trains

Highlights of Ticino

Two of the main cities in Ticino lie quite close together in the south of the region: Locarno and Lugano. On the banks of Lake Maggiore, Locarno is rich with cultural treasure. Visit the 17th century Church of St Anthony, the 16th century Church of San Francesco, the mid-17th century New Church, or the late 15th century Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso to begin your tour of Locarno's beautiful and historic sites. Perhaps most noteworthy, however, is the Visconti Castle, in which there is a permanent exhibition of Roman glass. On Thursdays a market is held in the centre of the town, which always makes for an excellent place to enjoy Locarno at its liveliest, as well as to pick up a few delicacies. Venture outside Locarno to climb the Cadada Cimetta, from the top of which you can see both the Valais High Alps and Lake Maggiore, the highest and lowest points in Switzerland. Follow the paths of the Magic Valley or the Verzasca Valley to witness the turquoise-green, crystal-clear waters that flow there. For a more leisurely day out, enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Maggiore. As you leave Locarno and head west down the valley towards Italy, you will see the rocky gorges that prove so popular with cliff divers. Eerie tunnels and caverns have been carved out over time, providing ethereal little spots to stop off on your travels.

Cultural highlights of Ticino

East of Locarno is Bellinzona, a town remarkable in that it is the most Italianate town in Switzerland and capital of Ticino. The central medieval castle and its two neighbours are among Switzerland's best preserved, coming together to form a picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ramparts of the central castle run alongside the vineyards within, with lush grass carpeting the fortified walls. North of Locarno, you will come across Tegna, the site of some interesting prehistoric ruins. Continue along this route towards the Italian border on the Centovalli Express to discover the old wine press in the village of Cavigliano, the museum and cableway in Intragna, the cable car up to the solitary, traffic-free hamlet of Rasa from Verdasio, and finally, across the Italian border to Re, where the stunning, yet imposing, Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Blood stands on the very edge of a dramatic cliff. In eastern Ticino is Biasca, a town where a waterfall cascades down the mountainsides, under bridges and over rocks that have been smoothed by time. Towns and villages such as Airolo, Lavizzara, Acquarossa, Blenio, and Brione all offer alternative views on this beautiful region. Any visit to Ticino is incomplete without a few hours spent in Lugano. Famous for its eponymous lake, San Salvatore Mountain, and Monte Bre, Lugano is a quintessentially ‘Ticino’ town. Take the funicular railway from Casserate as high as possible up Monte Bre to witness the phenomenal panoramas and enjoy the traditional Swiss rail experience.

Festivals in Ticino

As with much of Switzerland, there is a high focus on dairy products in both the regional dishes and their self-identification. To appreciate Swiss dairy products in Ticino, head to Ambri Quinto in the Leventina Valley at the end of September to enjoy the Agriculture and Cheese Fair. The first weekend in October brings with it a celebration of autumn. In Lugano, this autumn festival focuses on local products, folkloric music, and small dramatic shows. In Ascona, the autumn festival celebrates the versatile chestnut, with jams, cakes, cheese dishes, and entertaining concerts. Ascona's unique carnival is celebrated on Mardi Gras on the lake promenade. In Muralto on the second Sunday of March there is a fish festival beside the water, involving a fishing contest, music, games, and food stalls. Beside the smooth rocks of Solduno, on St Joseph's Day in March, the streets are filled with the smell of the speciality Tortelli, a fritter whose recipe is strictly guarded.

Gastronomy in Ticino

The varied and delicious specialities of Ticino may very well be the highlight of your trip, influenced by hearty Swiss cuisine, as well as Italy's Mediterranean flavours. One particular feature of dining here are the ‘grotto' restaurants. Usually housed in picturesque stone farmhouses, with abundant flower boxes, shuttered windows, and vast terraces canopied by views on which customers eat fresh, home-cooked food. Popular so-called ‘slow foods' include farina bona flour, cicitt sausages, Zincarlin cheese and shortbread biscuits. At the heart of many dishes you may come across are polenta and Merlot wine, which can also be sampled at a local winery. Originally cooked in a large cauldron like porridge, polenta is now best served alongside braised beef. Before leaving Switzerland, ensure you sample some of the world-famous fondue.

Luxury Swiss grand touring holiday by train visiting the mountains of Switzerland by scenic iconic trains

Highlights of Valais

During your stay in Valais, you will see lush meadows, rivers, and 4000m high mountain peaks topped with all-year ski slopes. Between these peaks, creaking, radiant-white glaciers mould to the gradients of the slopes and filter into the craggy valleys. The most famous mountain in Valais, and possibly the whole of Switzerland, is undoubtedly the Matterhorn. Its distinctive silhouette can be appreciated from miles around, but perhaps best from Zermatt. Take the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car from Zermatt up to 3883m, making it the highest cable car in Europe, to the Panoramic Platform to look out across the other neighbouring 4000m high mountains and glaciers. Before returning to ground level, admire the mesmerising ice sculptures hidden within the Glacier Palace, a series of stunningly carved ice tunnels. Zermatt is an Alpine village known for its winter sports, being as it is one of the most popular skiing destinations in Switzerland. In the summer, when some of the snow has melted, Zermatt is a peaceful community of chic bars and cafes and quaint and characterful chalets. It comes highly recommended to those who enjoy hiking, walking, or simply the sight of those dramatic Alpine panoramas outside your hotel window. Those looking to experience the undisrupted beauty of the landscape but without the strenuous exercise of the hiking routes may wish to take advantage of the excellent local railways and connections. The Gornergratbahn, for example, is Europe's highest cogwheel railway, and its characteristic red carriages take visitors up to stunning Gornergrat. From Zermatt you can also board the Glacier Express to St Moritz in Grisons, which is a continually popular and iconic route. In the north of the Canton of Valais is the Aletsch Glacier, the longest in the European Alps and with the greatest volume. Reaching from the Bernese Oberland to the Rhone River, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a vast expanse of twisted, mottled ice which navigates sharp spikes of rock and thick clusters of pine forest. Between Bettmeralp and Riederalp, to the southeast of the Aletsch Glacier, is the Aletschji-Grunsee Suspension Bridge. Over 124m of thrilling high-altitude metal bridge hovers above the Massa Gorge, affording the brave and adventurous among us phenomenal, unparalleled views of the glacier. Northwest of Zermatt, towards Martigny, is Verbier, a luxurious ski resort known for attracting very elite clients. If you have the chance, it is worth spending a night here so as to take the first Medran cable car up to the summit of Mont Fort at 3329m to see the sun rise over the mountaintops. At Saas Fee, the Mittelallin funicular railway climbs underground to 3500m, where a revolving restaurant looks out across the Allalin Glacier and others that sit at 4000m.

Cultural highlights of Valais

Sion, in the northern half of Valais, is home to chateaux and palaces galore. Chateau de Tourbillon has a magnificent hilltop position looking down over the Rhone Valley. After a fire in the 18th century, mainly the brooding exterior walls remain, though the site offers a breath-taking, intriguing place for a walk. Opposite the Chateau de Tourbillon, on an equally majestic hill, is the Chateau de Valere. Originally started in the 11th century, the castle was built around an ancient basilica. Today, the castle church holds carved stalls, an apse with beautiful frescoes, and the oldest playable organ in the world, which dates from 1440. While visiting, take a tour around the castle museum, and, in the summer, enjoy one of the concerts held here. Another small castle in Sion houses the Musee d'Art, exhibiting works by artists such as Oskar Kokoschka, Caspar Wolf, and Ernest Bieler. For even more prestigious art collections, visit the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny, which houses works by the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso, and the Fondation Pierre Arnaud, which is a strikingly modern building with a mirrored exterior and a dramatic mountainous location in Crans Montana.

Festivals in Valais

Popular destinations and cultural cities lend themselves to high profile celebrations and festivals, which crop up around Valais at various points in the year. In Sierre, the Marche des Cepages in early September sees residents and visitors walk through the vineyards around the town, while drinking the produce and socialising with the winegrowers themselves. From the middle of August to the middle of September, the Festival de Sion sees international classical artists perform at many local stages, violinists compete, and many smaller free-entry stages pop up. Two weeks at the end of July see Verbier truly live up to its sophisticated reputation with a classical music festival. During the summer months at the Chateau de Valere in Sion, in the evening the castle walls are lit up with colour as part of the fascinating sound-and-light show. Something more unique is the Foire au Lard in Martigny, otherwise known as the Bacon Fair. Held in December, this festival has been around since 1801. In Riederalp, an unusual but very traditional festival takes place, the Chuefladefascht. Local residents throughout history would smash up cow pats and spread it as fertiliser across their fields; now, the game is to strike as many with your weapon of choice as possible and pluck out tombola prizes written down on paper and hidden inside.

Gastronomy in Valais

Valais the largest wine-making region in Switzerland, with plenty of wineries and vineyards open for tastings and tours. Other speciality ingredients include the huge range of savoury spices that grow here, including saffron. These local spices ensure that every dish in Valais' many gourmet restaurants will be seasoned and spiced to perfection. As with much of Switzerland, a very popular dish is the raclette, made using the best Alpine cheeses. For a heartier, homelier meal, seek out a dish that utilises the rich flavour of the local chestnuts, or choose to begin your meal with some fresh rye bread.

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