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Lakes, mountains and iconic railways: discover Switzerland

20 June 2019

Switzerland. Home of exquisitely crafted wristwatches, chocolate-box alpine views...and some of the world's best chocolate, whilst we're on the topic.

Given the Swiss tradition for top-notch timepieces, it's hardly a surprise that their railway system is known for running like clockwork even in the heights of the Alps, where conditions can be challenging. The ingenuity and ambition of Swiss engineering have bought the region several of the world's most scenic rail routes, not least the famous Jungfrau Express - whose end station is the highest in Europe.

An ideal country, then, for visiting by rail! With so much of Switzerland's beauty accessible by train, here's our guide to the country's rail-accessible must-sees and must-dos:

Travel to Europe's highest train station on the Jungfrau Express

We'll start with one of the region's biggest highlights, for mountain and rail enthusiasts alike.

Finally completed in 1912 after a solid 16 years of construction work, the Jungfrau railway is a metre gauge rack railway which ascends to Switzerland's snowy peaks largely through a tunnel under the North Face of the Eiger. If you think that that seems like a remarkable feat of engineering for the early 20th century, you'd be right.

There are two stops before the final Jungfraujoch station, where passengers can stop off to take in the panoramas on their way up. And once you do reach the summit, there are plenty of things besides the gorgeous, gorgeous scenery to enjoy. After taking in the views from the state-of-the-art viewing platform, those feeling adventurous can take a breathtaking 45-minute walk to the Mönchsjochhütte - the highest serviced alpine hut in the world.

Closer to the station, there's an Ice Palace to explore, as well as the Lindt chocolate experience - because what could be more Swiss than learning about the history of the country's most famous chocolatier on top of one of its most iconic peaks?

Be warned though - there's an extensive gift shop which you won't be able to resist spending a few too many Swiss Francs in. 

Enjoy Interlaken and its lakes

No trip to Switzerland would be complete without visiting one of the country's famously luxurious resort towns.

Nestled between the emerald-coloured waters of Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, Interlaken is among the most idyllic. Its popularity as a tourist destination began to boom in the nineteenth century with the development of the railways - and with its stunning setting in the Bernese Oberland, it's not hard to see why.

Not to dwell on the past though - today, Interlaken offers something for everyone. Outdoorsy types will fall in love with the abundance of hiking and skiing trails, but if you're  feeling a bit more sedate there are plenty of opportunities to take a cruise on one of the lakes, take in traditional timber-fronted houses buildings and do a spot of shopping and dining on the Höheweg - that's the town's central promenade.

A word to the wise - Swiss wine is good, but they don't export. Officially this is because they don't produce enough to do so, but we reckon it's because they're saving the good stuff for themselves. So...enjoy it whilst you're there! The Höheweg is a great place to put your feet up with a glass or two and watch the world go by.

Take a trip back in time with the Schynige Platte Railway

Trains were just nicer in the nineteenth century, weren't they?

If you subscribe to this view (and we can't say we blame you - there's an air of civility about early rail travel that you just don't find on the 09.47 to Basingstoke), you'll fall in love with the Schynige Platte Railway.

This Victorian cogwheel railway only travels seven kilometres - but takes an unhurried 50 minutes to do so. Passengers can sit back, relax and enjoy the view, all whilst travelling in genuine nineteenth-century rolling stock with wooden benches and - the icing on the cake - conductors in period uniform. 

Once you're at the top, there are some stunning views across the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains and plenty of walking trails too. Or, if you'd like, you can continue your Belle Epoque reveries with a genteel stroll around the Botanical Alpine Garden, which contains around 650 species of alpine plants.

And - if you fancy treating yourself - the restaurant at the peak offers a range of traditional Swiss dishes (think cured meats, potato rostis and all the cheese you can ever want). You'll be paying a tourist premium here, but one look at the restaurant's panoramic setting and all your worries will melt away.

Have any of these attractions piqued your interest? Find out more about our all-inclusive Jungfrau Express rail tour here.

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