Cologne to Switzerland Along the Rhine Gorge
If you’re travelling to Switzerland from the UK and you have the time, taking the train over a couple of days with a stunning journey along the Rhine Valley is highly recommended. It’s possible to get to Zurich, Basel or Interlaken in one day, but this route is far more scenic.
Heading across to Cologne in one day is exceptionally easy, first boarding a Eurostar across to Brussels and changing trains there, with onward travel across to Cologne from the adjacent platform. Both journeys are around 2 hours and typically will have you from London to Cologne in around 4 hours 30 minutes.
The following day is where the fun begins, as you board EuroCity 7 bound for Interlaken Ost. The train has already come from Hamburg that day, starting at a very early hour up in the Hanseatic City. The train pulls into Cologne shortly before 9am in the looming shadow of the impressive Kölner-Dom (Cologne Cathedral), and sets off on its journey south, calling first at the former West German capital Bonn, and then Koblenz – look out for the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers here.
It is after Koblenz that the scenery really starts to hot up. Between here and the city of Mainz there are no stops, but the train hugs the western embankment of the famous watercourse on a stretch of river adorned with castles and vineyards, carefully protected by UNESCO since 2002.
Passing through towns such as Boppard and St Goar, you’ll notice various working barges plying the route up and down the river as they have since the industrial revolution, and cars and bikes seemingly racing the train as you all twist and turn in time with the mighty river. Look out for trains on the other side of the river too, as well as ferry crossings delivering passengers and cars from one side to the other on this bridge-less stretch of river.
Arguably the highlight of this route is the fabled Loreley Rock, which you’ll get a fantastic view of as you pass right around it from the opposite side of the river. You’ll then notice more and more vineyards as you make your way through the small town of Bingen – opposite you will see the town of Rüdesheim am Rhein, famous for its quaint cobbled streets and Riesling wine production.
If you more time, you can choose to take a stopping train along the route and spend a couple of nights in one of these famous Rhineland towns. Our Romantic Rhine and Moselle Rivers holiday gives you an idea of how this could work. You can, of course, adapt this holiday and continue down to Switzerland after stopping in Boppard.
After Bingen, the train then veers away from the Rhine and heads into the city of Mainz, then further south towards Mannheim and before long you are running rapidly along the wide floodplain with the hills of the Black Forest to your left and the distant hills of the Alsace in neighbouring France to your right.
At this point you may fancy a trip to the restaurant car – something I would heartily recommend. Sipping a cold beverage, tucking into a hot meal all while watching the landscape pass from the comfort of your seat is one of the great joys of travelling by train. Orders are taken at your seat, there is waiter service and proper cutlery and crockery, so a wonderful place to pass the time and enjoy a leisurely lunch.
Your last stop in Germany is the “gateway to the Black Forest”, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, where the train rests for a few minutes, before continuing towards the Swiss border. You probably won’t even notice crossing the border, save for the ping of a text message welcoming you to Switzerland!
The train soon slows to pull into Basel Bad Bahnhof, a quirky oddity as it is actually a station run and operated by German Railways, but on Swiss soil. Beyond here, the train is now firmly on Swiss territory as it rumbles on through metropolitan Basel, crossing the Rhine and stopping at the main station, known as Basel SBB.
You can alight in Basel if you want to head east to Zurich or Chur, the northern staging post of the famous Bernina Express line, or you can stay right where you are and watch as the rolling hills of northern Switzerland transform into altogether more dramatic landscapes once you have parted company with the capital, Bern.
As Lake Thun comes into view on your left and glimpses of the Jungfrau, Eiger and Monch mountains on your right, this is a superb way to end your journey and sets you up for a refreshing stay in the clean air of the Bernese Oberland.
To tailor make a rail holiday including the Rhine Gorge route, simply give us a call on 020 3322 7741 or drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your dates and plans.