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Montreux to Zermatt via Swiss Federal Railways

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

After a few fantastic days in Montreux it was time for us to head off to our next stop, Zermatt. Thankfully today was a slower and less chaotic day than our 5 train trip from Badenweiler to Montreux.


Our train was departing from Gare de Montreux, across the street from our hotel, at 11:35a. We enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast before grabbing our bags and heading over to the station. Our train was running a few minutes late and pulled into the station at 11:40a.

An InterRegional SBB CFF FFS train arrives in Montreux
Our train to Visp arriving in Montreux

Boarding was quick and thankfully the 2nd Class cabin was relatively empty. With open seating we managed to find a pair together easily and the train remained roughly 1/3 full throughout our trip. A minute later, we were off and passed by the Chillon Castle on our way out of town.

View of Chillon Castle from a passing Swiss Federal Railways Train
Chillon Castle departing Montreux

In Villeneuve, the lake ended and we paralleled the Rhône River as we headed west. The terrain started off with a narrow valley flanked by steep cliffs before the valley opened up and gave way to flat land with the mountains off in the distance.

As we entered Sion, I was surprised to see a decent sized airport with a few private jets parked on the tarmac. The closest major airports to Zermatt are Geneva and Zurich, with the train ride between either of these to Zermatt taking around 3 hours. Sion does offer some charter services but is mainly used for military and private aviation.

Sion Airport as seen from a Swiss Federal Railways train
Sion Airport

Roughly an hour after leaving Montreux we were nearing Visp. The terrain had become more mountainous once again and it was here that we would switch over to the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn railway that would make the climb up to Zermatt.

View of the Rhône River approaching Visp
Rhône River approaching Visp

We had almost 10 minutes to change trains, which is more than enough time at most Swiss railway stations, and we found our train waiting on Track 3. Fortunately for us, we had one of the newer trainsets with cars featuring massive glass windows to allow us to take in the view. This train was also relatively empty so there was plenty of space for luggage.

Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn train at Visp Station
Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn train in Visp

The railway up to Zermatt is quite steep and parallels the Vispa River. While it is operated by traditional looking trains, there are some cog sections which would assist on some of the steeper sections. We took seats on the right side of the train which would give us the best views of the Vispa River and the valley.

Vispa River near it's confluence with the Rhone
Vispa River departing Visp on our way to Zermatt

We departed Visp and made an immediate left turn to start our journey up the mountain. The train crosses the river multiple times giving riders on both sides views of the riverbed below. It was hard to photograph given the glare from the windows but the views were impressive.

The train made several stops along the way serving the villages between Visp and Zermatt. Some of the stations were only by request while others were scheduled. There was one that advertised yak sightseeing and another that I assume is the Summer residence of Santa Claus.

While many of the stations are small, there is one large one along the line. Since Zermatt is car free, anyone driving up to the town must park in Täsch and board the train there. From Täsch, it was a short ride up the rest of the way to Zermatt. We even passed something I wasn't expecting in this narrow valley, a golf course.

We arrived at Zermatt station just after 2:00p and followed the station signage to the exit. There were some electric taxis and hotel shuttles available for those with lots of luggage or heading away from the center of town. Our hotel was close so we decided to walk instead.

All in all, this was a much simpler and more scenic travel experience when compared to others on this trip. I highly encourage everyone to take the train when visiting Zermatt because, you really don't have a choice!


Summary

When traveling to Zermatt at some point you're going to have to take the train, as no cars are allowed in town. While there is a small airport in Sion, it only serves a limited number of smaller flights and general aviation traffic. Most visitors would likely fly into Geneva, the closest major airport, and rent a car/take the train. With the punctuality of Swiss trains and the gorgeous views, sign me up for the train every time!


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