Geneva To Lugano Train: All You Need To Know

Located in the sunny canton of Ticino, Lugano offers a wide range of outdoor activities. It is one of the most popular weekend getaways and vacation destinations in Switzerland. A city full of charm and panoramic mountains, Lugano also has a serene lake, a historic old town, and a mild climate.

Image of Lugano Lake by Andreas from Pixabay

Geneva is the starting point for many international visitors. After all, it’s where Switzerland’s second-largest airport is located. There are a few specifics to be aware of if you are planning to travel via train from Geneva to Lugano.

How do I get from Geneva to Lugano by train? Is the ride scenic? How much does the ticket cost?

On this page, you can find all the information you need regarding the train journey from Geneva to Lugano.

Overview: Navigating Swiss Trains

You can start by visiting the SBB website: www.sbb.ch. Using the website, you can type in your departure and arrival destinations. It will then guide you to where and when you need to be. An app is also available for iOS and Android devices.

If you wish to pay half the fare for all your train rides in Switzerland, a Half Fare Discount Card is available on www.sbb.ch. This allows you to travel for half the price on all SBB routes and most other railways during the duration of your discount card.

How To Get From Geneva to Lugano

Image of Geneva Train Station by TouringSwitzerland.com

Geneva Train Station to Lugano

The fastest train route between Geneva and Lugano alternates between Olten and Zurich.  Please check sbb.ch to see whether you should go via Olten or Zurich. 

The best way to go from Geneva to Lugano is to do the following:

  1. Take the Intercity train to Olten or Zurich.
  2. In Olten or Zurich, take the Intercity train to Lugano.

Geneva Airport to Lugano

The fastest train route between Geneva Airport and Lugano alternates between Olten and Zurich.  Please check sbb.ch to see whether you should go via Olten or Zurich. 

The best way to go from Geneva Airport to Lugano is to do the following:

  1. Take the Intercity train to Olten or Zurich.
  2. In Olten or Zurich, take the Intercity train to Lugano.

Are There Direct Trains From Geneva to Lugano?

As of the time of writing (November 2022), there are no direct trains from Geneva to Lugano. You will have to go via Zurich or Olten.


How Long Is the Train Ride From Geneva to Lugano?

In December 2020, the 15.4-kilometer Ceneri Base Tunnel was opened to the public. It reduced travel time to Lugano significantly.

Ceneri Base Tunnel (Galleria di base del Monte Ceneri in Italian) is a Swiss railway base tunnel in Ticino. It runs under Monte Ceneri from Camorino in the Magadino Flat to Vezia near Lugano. The tunnel effectively bypasses the former high-altitude rail route. 

The following table shows the train ride duration from Geneva to Lugano:

RouteDuration (Fastest)
Geneva – Olten or Zurich – Lugano 4 hours 43 minutes
Geneva Airport – Olten or Zurich – Lugano 4 hours 53 minutes
Lugano – Olten or Zurich – Geneva4 hours 45 minutes
Lugano – Olten or Zurich – Geneva Airport 4 hours 54 minutes

Is the Train Route From Geneva to Lugano Scenic?

Despite not being as scenic as Bernina Express and Glacier Express, you will still experience scenic views. Nevertheless, the train will take a long time in the Gotthard Basis Tunnel, and there will be little to no outside view.

Fun fact: At At 57 kilometers, the Gotthard Basis Tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in the world.

Other Scenic Trains in Switzerland

In case you would like to check out other scenic trains, then there are more scenic trains recommended below. These are the Golden Pass Line, the Glacier Express, and the Bernina Express. Another interesting train is the Historical Train that goes from Davos to Filisur.

Image of Bernina Pass and Bernina Express by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay

Your other options in detail are the following:

  • Golden Pass – Golden Pass departs from Lucerne. You would take a train from Geneva to Lucerne, then change to Interlaken. This is sometimes referred to as the east end of this route. The Golden Pass has panorama coaches and is scenic.
  • Glacier Express – Glacier Express is a long journey that starts from Zermatt, home of Matterhorn. It then traverses 291 bridges and 91 tunnels before stopping in St. Moritz. Both Zermatt and St. Moritz are beautiful mountain resorts worthy of a longer stay. The Glacier Express passes by several idyllic mountain villages.
  • Bernina Express – Bernina Express is another train route that begins in Chur. Chur is the oldest alpine city in Switzerland and definitely worth visiting. This train route spans 196 bridges. It goes through 55 tunnels and passes 20 beautiful villages in Switzerland. 
  • Historical Train Davos to Filisur – May through October, vintage carriages are pulled by the century-old crocodile locomotive from Davos Platz to Filisur. The train line covers a total length of 4,200 meters through 14 tunnels and 28 bridges. Its scenic highlights include the Wiesen Viaduct and the Zügen Gorge.

If you would like to experience a more scenic train, I recommend going for either Glacier Express or Bernina Express.


How Much Will the Train Ticket From Geneva to Lugano Cost?

As of the time of writing (November 2022), here are the train ticket prices from Geneva to Lugano:

RouteFull Fare (CHF)Half Fare (CHF)
Geneva Airport – Lugano136.0068.00
Geneva – Lugano120.0060.00

As you can see, if you avail of the Half Fare Travel Card, you can definitely save on your fare for long train journeys. So this is definitely something to consider during your travel to Switzerland. You can do simple calculations and decide from there if it will be worth it for you.


Do You Need a Seat Reservation on the Train?

No, there is no need to reserve a spot on the train. But you can always add this option if that is your wish.


Am I allowed to travel from Geneva to Lugano?

Yes, there are currently no restrictions for traveling from Geneva to Lugano.

Can you drive into Lugano?

Yes, you may drive your car from Geneva to Lugano. You also have the possibility to rent a car from Geneva Airport if you wish to and drive this to Lugano. Check with the car rental agency for more details.

Is Lugano car-free?

As opposed to ZermattWengen, and Mürren, Lugano isn’t car-free. The city has a variety of transportation options: buses, bicycles, cars, and trains. 

If you are interested in visiting car-free villages in Switzerland, you can check out our article: 12 Charming Car-Free Villages in Switzerland.