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.
Details of the Voralpen-Express route.
The forum allows you to post your questions and discuss your plans.
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
The Voralpen-Express is a regular regional train used by both commuters and 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 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. That's why most trains between these areas don’t use the Voralpen-Express route, but travel via Zurich instead. Connections from Lucerne to St. Gallen via Zurich take a bit under 2 hours, meaning they're 20 to 25 minutes quicker than the Voralpen-Express. If you're not in a rush, we recommend the Voralpen-Express for its unique view of northern Switzerland.
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 the Voralpen-Express route again or a 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 get off the Voralpen-Express in 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 two impressive viaducts on the Voralpen-Express route: the Sitter viaduct and the Weissenbach viaduct, which are both close to St. Gallen.
- An option for an extended trip, including a mountain excursion, 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 at Rigi and connection times.
Combine the Voralpen-Express with other trips
The Voralpen-Express can be combined with lots of 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.
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. We recommend late spring to early fall for the best experience of the green hills, orchards and valleys along the route. In winter, chances of snow along the route aren't high. In clear weather you'll have amazing views of the snow-capped Alps in the distance though.