6. Swiss Intercity Lutetia: Geneva, Lausanne, Brig - Milan
"Lutetia" has an enchanting, intimate air small with especially comfortable open corridor cars and is best among a number of interesting trains which travel this pleasurable route. It was formerly famous as a TEE (Trans Europe Express), reserved exclusively for first-class passengers. Although later modified to include second-class cars, it has retained its distinctive appearance as well as the TEE logo.
Traveling south from Geneva, lakeside views during the early portion of the ride are followed by a mountainous ascent and passage through the 12-mile Simplon Tunnel which divides Italy and Switzerland. On a recent trip, the small dining car was run by a single attendant who hurried aboard with fresh croissants, then served continental breakfast and a light lunch ($20-35) on the four and a half-hour journey. Reservations required.
- IC 330/3 Lutetia Schedule: Lv Geneva 1034 a.m. (Airport 10 minutes earlier) Arr Milan 2:40 p.m. Lv Milan 9:10 a.m., Arr Geneva 1:16 p.m. (Airport 10 minutes later).
- Rating: Accommodations 8/10; Food and drink 7/10; View 8/10; Total Score 23/30.
7. German ICE Panda: Zürich and Basel - Hamburg
With its separate diner and wide, comfortable and very quiet coaches, the 167 m.p.h. German ICE is our favorite among European fast trains, the only one where it is possible to eat restaurant-style meals in a location separate from ones seat (others have small snack bars and serve in-place meals). Coaches combine corridor seating large armchairs with soft head-cushions and glassed-in compartments seating five. Commodious and secure spaces are provided for carry-on luggage. Panda is one of three daily runs of these luxurious trains between Zürich and Hamburg. ICE trains also serve Munich, Frankfurt, and other major German cities.
Well before departure, on a recent morning trip from Zürich, tables in the dining end of the restaurant/bistro car were set with white linen and orange-accented china. Decor is strikingly modern and deceptively spacious-looking with pale-tinted walls, an arched wood lattice ceiling, enlivened by wooden trellises and brass trim. A kitchen in the center served both the diner and bistro. Breakfast included orange juice, scrambled or boiled eggs, ham and cheese, a basket of fresh croissants, coarse-grained bread and pumpernickel rolls. Reservations advised.
- ICE 76/7 Panda Schedule: Lv Zürich 6:45 a.m. (Airport 20 minutes earlier), Basel 7:51 a.m., Arr Hamburg 2:34 p.m.. Lv Hamburg 12:37 p.m., Arr Basel 7:11 p.m., Zürich 815 p.m. (Airport 20 minutes later).
- Rating: Accommodations 9/10; Food and Drink 9/10; View 5/10; Total Score 22/30
8. French L'Arbalete: Zürich and Basel - Paris
The two fast trains on this route, L'Arbalete and Le Corbusier, have traditional compartments as well as corridor-style seating for first-class passengers. But L'Arbalete carries a sleekly modern French restaurant car while Le Corbusier serves distinctly mediocre airline-style, in-place meals. L'Arbalete is the clear choice, with its restful ambiance and gracious service, and excellent though expensive French meals ($40-50 per person including main course, dessert and a small bottle of wine). Reservations advised.
- EC 114/5 L'Arbalete Schedule: Lv Zürich 7:12 a.m., Basel 8:23 a.m., arrives Paris Est 1:12 p.m.. Lv Paris Est 5:00 p.m., arrives Basel 9:40 p.m., Zürich 10:47 p.m..
- Rating: Accommodations 6/10; Food and Drink 9/10; View 6/10. Total Score 21/30.
9. Swiss Bernina Express: Chur - Tirano, Italy (narrow gauge)
Sharing a portion of its route with Glacier Express, this ride of nearly 90 miles twists back and forth up a glacier past treeless slopes between 11,000 foot mountains, then descends to the lovely town of Poschiavo, before continuing into Tirano, which has a rail connection to Milan. The coaches are comfortable, albeit conventional in design. Food service is from a cart.
Except for Bernina Express, which runs once per day each way, service over this route consists of separate hourly segments with convenient transfers. Although Eurailpasses are valid on this privately-owned railroad, a prior reservation and payment of 6 Sfr. is required prior to boarding.
- Bernina Express Schedule: Lv Chur 8:57 a.m., Arr Poschiavo 12:03 p.m., Tirano 12:40 p.m. Lv Tirano 3:05 p.m., Arr Poschiavo 3:52, Chur 6:55 p.m..
- Rating: Accommodations 5/10; Food and Drink 5/10; View 10/10; Total Score 20.