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Voralpen-Express

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Must knows about the Voralpen-Express

  • The Voralpen-Express is a relaxing train journey between Central and North-Eastern Switzerland, passing green hills and charming villages;
  • the trains cross two viaducts close to St. Gallen, including the 99-meter high Sitter viaduct which is Switzerland’s highest one;
  • you can make many great side trips, for example to Rigi or to the abbeys of St. Gallen and Einsiedeln.
St. Gallen Cathedral

The Cathedral in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

A relaxing train journey between Central and East Switzerland

The Voralpen-Express, or 'Prealps-Express' in English, is a unique train journey in Switzerland from Lucerne to St. Gallen, or the other way around. It’s an excellent way to travel between Central and North-Eastern Switzerland without having to navigate Zurich’s busy main train station.

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Details of the Voralpen-Express route.

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A journey with the Voralpen-Express

The Voralpen-Express doesn’t feature the impressive mountain views of some other famous Swiss rail journeys, like the Glacier Express or Bernina Express. Instead, it shows the rolling green hills and charming villages of Switzerland’s Central and North-Eastern regions. In about 2 hours and 20 minutes, you’ll travel from Lucerne to St. Gallen with the Alps (including Rigi and Säntis) as your backdrop. You’ll also pass a couple of impressive viaducts.

The Voralpen-Express train

Essentially, the Voralpen-Express is a regular regional train used by both commuters as well as tourists. It runs hourly and provides 1st and 2nd class compartments. The modern copper-coloured 'Traverso' trains offer large windows and a range of attractive options for all types of travelers. There’s a family compartment with room for pushchairs and prams, and large tables for children’s toys. The trains also feature two bistro zones where you’ll find coffee and snack machines, and even some alcoholic beverages. A digital information system and power outlets add to your comfort.

Regular trains via Zurich versus the Voralpen-Express

The mountain ranges between Central and Eastern Switzerland make direct traveling between both regions challenging. Most trains between these areas therefore don’t use the Voralpen-Express route, but travel via Zurich instead, where travelers have to switch trains. Connections from Lucerne to St. Gallen via Zurich take a bit over 2 hours, meaning they’re only marginally faster than the Voralpen-Express. So for a unique view of Switzerland we'd recommend taking the Voralpen-Expess.

Travel suggestions from Lucerne or St. Gallen

If you’re based in Lucerne or St. Gallen, you can board the train there and stay seated all the way. Then travel back to your base town, using either the Voralpen-Express route again or a somewhat quicker connection via Zurich.

Travel suggestions from Zurich

If you’re based in Zurich, you can consider one of the options below:

  • a nice circular route is Zurich - St. Gallen – Voralpen-Express to Lucerne - Zurich. Alternatively, you can deboard the Voralpen-Express at Arth-Goldau and then head back to Zurich. This saves about 45 minutes compared to traveling via Lucerne. The section St. Gallen-Arth Goldau still contains the two impressive viaducts on the Voralpen-Express route: the Sitter viaduct and the Weissenbach viaduct, which both are close to St. Gallen;
  • would you like to include an excursion into the mountains? An option for an extended trip would start like this: Zurich - St. Gallen – Voralpen-Express to Arth-Goldau. In Arth-Goldau, you can switch to the cogwheel train to Rigi. Take a cogwheel train down to Vitznau, travel by boat to Lucerne and travel back to Zurich by train. The total traveling time for this suggested route would be about 6 hours, not including time spent up at Rigi and connection times.

Combine the Voralpen-Express with other trips

The Voralpen-Express can be combined with several interesting side trips:

  • include a trip up to Rigi near Lucerne. Other activities near Lucerne can be found here;
  • visit the monastery of St. Gallen, with its beautiful cathedral and impressively large library. It’s a 10-minute walk from the rail station of St. Gallen to the abbey precinct, which is an official UNESCO world heritage site;
  • there’s an abbey in Einsiedeln was well, where monks have been living for over a thousand years. Einsiedeln can be reached by local trains from Biberbrugg, one of the rail stations along the Voralpen-Express route;
  • get out at Rapperswil and spend some time in this charming town, also known as the “City of Roses”. In a 10-minute walk, you can get up to the Rapperswil castle, which dates from the 12th century;
  • visit the nature park and zoo in Arth-Goldau;
  • get out in Herisau, which is close to St. Gallen, and travel to the mountain of Säntis. This is one of the main viewing points in North-Eastern Switzerland.

Please find recommendations for combining this trip with other panoramic train routes here.

What’s the best season?

The Voralpen-Express is a convenient route between Central and Eastern Switzerland at all times of the year. In terms of scenic views, we would recommend late spring to early fall for the best experience of the green hills, orchards and valleys along the route.

Insider tips about the Voralpen-Express

  • While views are good from both sides of the train, we prefer sitting on the right side from Lucerne to Wattwil, and on the left side from Wattwil to St. Gallen;
  • make sure you carry along Swiss francs, euros or your credit card if you want to use the beverage and snack machines in the trains’ bistro zones;
  • reservations aren’t required. Just board this comfortable train with any valid rail pass or ticket and you’re ready to go.

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