Interrailing is an easy way to see the continent. We plot itineraries that cover the Med, the Alps and an affordable version of the Orient Express
Lakes and mountains
Suggested duration 15 days
Stops Lausanne, Annecy, Chamonix, Zermatt, Lucerne, St Anton, Zell am See, Innsbruck, Bern
Shortcut Head straight to Zermatt to make it an 11-day trip
Best Interrail pass 15 days within two months (337 youth/439 adult/395 senior/under 12s free) or the tighter 10 days within two months (274/357/321/free). Plus train reservations
The sight of a gleaming railway snaking over an Alpine pass or hugging a lake has long inspired travellers, and both are well served by rail routes. This itinerary weaves from France through Switzerland to Austria, with spectacular views that will glue you to the train windows.
At Lausanne, be sure to take an early morning dip at Plage de Pully, watching the sun rise over the Alps as you swim. Heading onwards, skirt Lake Geneva to the beautiful town of Annecy, and take the chance to paddle a canoe to La Cuillre Omble, a restaurant at the lakes southern end, serving local freshwater fish.
Eastwards, at Chamonix, take the cable car to the top of the Aiguille du Midi for lunch at the self-service cafeteria of Le 3842 Restaurant, named for its lofty altitude. The journey onwards to Zermatt takes in magnificent scenery as the train hugs the mountainside. The stylish Swiss resort has wonderful hiking terrain, overlooked by the Matterhorn.
At Lucerne, explore the cobbled alleys of the Kornmarkt and dine at the intimate, candlelit Grottino 1313 restaurant. From there, plunge onwards through the Arlberg valley to St Anton, home to some exhilarating ebike routes, after which you can take a deserved dip at the Arlberg Well spa. Continue east to lakeside Zell am See, where activities include paddleboarding, wakeboarding and waterskiing. Three times a week the free Magic Lake Show lights up the water.
The route home stops at Innsbruck, with its space-age funicular and gondola to the top of the Nordkette, at 2,256 metres, with a jaw-dropping view. Explore the historic old town and the Imperial Palace, with its opulence of the Habsburg dynasty.
Next, travel to Bern, whose old town was declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1983. The city is also home to the Einstein Museum. Thun makes for a scenic 20-minute side trip. Fast TGV and Eurostar trains will then speed you home.
Journey times for all five itineraries can vary depending on date and time of departure. These recommendations are for faster connections, though not necessarily the fastest possible, andgenerally leaving in the morning on weekdays. We have prioritised trains that: require no reservation; are known to be very comfortable (such as RailJet); or have good on-board services (such as the ICE).
London to Lausanne (Eurostar + TGV, 7 hrs 10 mins, stay one night); Lausanne to Annecy (regional + TER + TER, 3 hrs, stay two nights); Annecy to Chamonix (TER + TER + TER, 3 hrs, 10 mins, stay one night); Chamonix to Zermatt (TER + regional + InterRegio, 3 hrs 57 mins, stay two nights); Zermatt to Lucerne (regional + InterCity, 3 hrs 25 mins, stay one night); Lucerne to St Anton, (InterRegio + RailJet, 3 hrs 29 mins, stay two nights); St Anton to Zell am See (EuroCity, 3 hrs 15 mins, stay two nights); Zell am See to Innsbruck (Eurocity, 2 hrs, stay two nights); Innsbruck to Bern (RailJet + InterCity, 4 hrs 43 mins, stay one night); Bern to London (TGV + Eurostar, 8 hrs 22 mins).