Zurich 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.

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

Overview: Navigating Swiss Trains

To begin, you can go to SBB’s website:  www.sbb.ch.

You can put your departure and arrival destinations on the website. 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 at  www.sbb.ch. Your discount card allows you to travel and board most trains throughout Switzerland for half the price.

Are There Direct Trains From Zurich to Lugano?

As of the time of writing (October 2021), there are direct trains from Zurich to Lugano.

The two direct train lines from Zurich to Lugano are the following:

  • Eurocity trains departing Zurich and heading to Genova, Como S. Giovanni, Venezia S. Lucia, Milano Centrale
  • Intercity trains departing Zurich

How to Get From Zurich to Lugano

Image of Lugano Lake by Andreas from Pixabay

Aside from the direct trains departing from Zurich Train Station, you can also take the trains that go via Arth-Goldau.

Zurich Airport to Lugano

There are no direct trains from Zurich Airport to Lugano.

From Zurich Airport, you can take any train which will lead you to Zurich Train Station. From Zurich Train Station, simply board the next train heading to Lugano. There are two to three trains per hour.

If you want to find out which train platform you need to go to and what time, you can check the screens and boards inside Zurich Airport. 

How Long Is the Train Ride From Zurich to Lugano?

In December 2020, the 15.4-kilometer Ceneri Base Tunnel was opened to the public. It reduced travel time from Zurich Train Station to Lugano to less than two hours.

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 Zurich to Lugano:

Zurich Airport – Zurich Train Station – Lugano (fastest)2 hours 10 minutes
Zurich Train Station – Lugano (Eurocity)1 hour 57 minutes
Zurich Train Station – Lugano (Intercity)1 hour 53 minutes
Zurich Train Station – Arth Goldau – Lugano (Intercity)1 hour 53 minutes

The train ride from Zurich to Lugano will take about the same amount of time, regardless of whether you take the Intercity or Eurocity, or whether you change at Arth-Goldau.

I recommend simply hopping on the next train going to Lugano. But there is also the option to wait for the next direct train to Lugano from Zurich Train Station if that is what you prefer. 

Is the Train Route From Zurich 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.

In any case, you will still see parts of Lake Zurich during your trip from Zurich to Zug. You will also see Lake Lucerne as you travel towards Arth-Goldau. 

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 Zurich to Lugano Cost?

As of the time of writing (October 2021), here are the train ticket prices from Zurich to Lugano:

RouteFull Fare (CHF)Half Fare (CHF)
Zurich Airport – Lugano65.0032.50
Zurich – Lugano70.0035.00

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.