After extensively traveling around Switzerland with the Swiss Travel System, an excellent network of trains, boats, buses, trams and cable cars, I can safely say that no trip to Switzerland is complete without a journey on a Swiss panoramic train (or two).
The country really does have a stellar network of public transportation thanks to the Swiss Travel Pass and with cities such as Geneva and Montreux offering overnight guests free travel using city cards. Switzerland not only makes it easy to travel by public transportation but also encourages you to do so by making it budget-friendly. It’s better for the environment and suits my style of independent travel, so I’m a big fan of their proactive approach to making tourism more sustainable or ‘swisstainable’ as they like to call it.
Swiss panoramic trains take you through some of the country’s most scenic routes, with your eyes feasting on breathtaking landscapes of shimmering blue lakes, charming hilltop towns, lush vineyards, and the mighty Swiss Alps, all through large panoramic windows in luxurious and comfortable coaches. I’ve recently had the opportunity to experience two of these – the GoldenPass Express between Montreux and Interlaken, and the Gotthard Panorama Express between Lugano and Lucerne, and it only makes me determined to experience other routes when I visit next.
The best part of course is that Swiss Panorama trains such as these, along with the famous Bernina Express and Glacier Express, are included in the Swiss Travel Pass (here’s my review). Most tourists and first-time travelers to Switzerland are likely to have this pass (and rightly should buy one) to get around the country on their holiday. All panorama trains are included in the Swiss Travel Pass though you might need to pay extra for a seat reservation on busy routes during the peak travel months.
In this post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the GoldenPass Express Panoramic Train (also referred to as GPX) that travels from Montreux to Interlaken (and vice-versa) in 3 hours and 15 minutes. Before you plan this trip, it’s worth knowing the history of this incredible engineering marvel. I’ll also share my own experience of traveling from Montreux to Interlaken in a First Class coach using my Swiss Travel Pass Flex.
What is the GoldenPass Express?
The GoldenPass Express is a luxurious panoramic train that starts in Montreux on Lake Geneva and ends in Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland, effectively connecting the Montreux Riviera with the mountainous region of the Bernese Oberland via a direct train and no changes in between.
The entire journey takes 3 hours and 15 minutes and you can also travel in the opposite direction from Interlaken to Montreux on the GoldenPass Express. GoldenPass Express is included in the Swiss Travel Pass, but you’ll need to pay extra for seat reservation during busy times. At the time of writing, there are no other direct trains between Montreux and Interlaken.
After spending 3 nights in Montreux this summer, we decided to take the GoldenPass Express from Montreux to Interlaken to reach our next base of Brienz, for a few days in the Bernese Oberland. I was thrilled to be taking a Swiss panoramic train after having traveled on the Gotthard Panorama Express the previous year, and I was glad that this train was included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
All coaches and classes (including 1st, 2nd, and the ultra-luxurious Prestige Class) offer panoramic windows through which you can enjoy the fantastic scenery of the Swiss countryside.
Thanks to its innovative technology, a first in the world, the GoldenPass Express is more than just any panoramic train.
History of the GoldenPass Express: A Long-Held Dream Realized
The roots of the Golden Pass Express lie in the late 19th century, originating from the desire to connect the Riviera, i.e. towns around Lake Geneva, and Gstaad with the lakes of Thun and Brienz in 1873, with the aim of linking Switzerland’s economic centres with the mountainous Bernese Oberland region.
But there was one problem: the railway network was developed with differing gauge widths: a metric gauge (1 m) between Montreux and Zweisimmen and a standard gauge (1.435 m) between Zweisimmen and Interlaken. After nearly a century of challenges from disparate gauge widths, and technological and financial impediments, the project came to fruition in December 2022.
So what changed? In 2008, MOB (the Montreux Oberland Bernois Railway) resurrected the project, opting to modify the coaches when the railway tracks could not be changed. Through the use of variable gauge bogies, a world first, and a gauge-adjusting ramp, the train seamlessly switches from metric to standard gauge, helping achieve this long-envisioned dream.
Key milestones include the development of the EV09 variable gauge bogie in 2010 and the subsequent creation of a more intricate and weightier bogie, the EV18, by Alstom in 2018. Successful preliminary tests on the gauge-adjusting ramp in Zweisimmen took place in 2019. The inaugural commercial journey on the GoldenPass Express occurred on December 11, 2022.
What Makes The GoldenPass Express Special?
The GoldenPass Express is historic, a feat of technology over a decade in the making: It’s the first train in the world that shifts from metric gauge to standard gauge while moving, thanks to the bogies seamlessly adjusting gauge width within seconds while passengers are on board.
The transition also involves a shift in voltage, transitioning from 900 V direct current to 15 kV (16.7 Hz). The 62.43-kilometer metric gauge section extends from Montreux to Zweisimmen, while the remaining 52.91 kilometers adopt the standard gauge of 1,435 mm between Zweisimmen and Interlaken. MOB’s design, developed by Alstom, is unique in its extensive gauge adjustment and coach elevation from 350 mm to 550 mm—the only system of its kind.
Upon arrival at Zweisimmen station from the metric gauge tracks, the train traverses a gauge-adapting ramp at 15 km/h. Flaps are raised to facilitate the coach’s positioning, relieving the bogies’ weight and allowing their wheel width to expand from 1000 mm to 1435 mm. Simultaneously, the coach’s body is elevated from 350 mm to 550 mm to match the platform height.
Due to the voltage difference, a locomotive change is necessary. The entire gauge width transition takes eight minutes – seconds for the ramp crossing, and the rest of it for locomotive changes and associated checks. Then, the train continues towards Interlaken on the standard gauge track.
This technological innovation means that the GoldenPass Express trains are the only direct trains between Montreux and Interlaken.
Plan Your Trip on the GoldenPass Express
From Montreux to Interlaken
The GoldenPass Express is an excellent way to travel the scenic route between Montreux to Interlaken or vice-versa. It offers a convenient and absolutely beautiful 3 hour 15 minute direct connection between the Lake Geneva region/Montreux Riviera and the Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland where you’ll find the stunning mountain landscapes of the Bernese Alps. These famous locations lie within reach of Interlaken (such as Jungrafuoch, and the villages of Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald). The GoldenPass Express eliminates the need for a change of trains between Montreux and Interlaken.
GoldenPass Express Train Timetable
Currently, the train schedule of the GoldenPass Express offers four trains daily from Montreux to Interlaken Ost, at 7.35, 9.35, 12.35, and 14.35. From Interlaken Ost to Montreux there are daily trains at 9.08, 11.08, 14.08, and 16.08. You can double-check the current GoldenPass Express timetable on the official website. These are denoted by PE (for Panorama Express) on the SBB Mobile app, which is a great public transportation app to have on your smartphone for your Swiss holiday.
GoldenPass Express Classes Explained
The GoldenPass Express trains offer 1st Class, 2nd Class, and Prestige Class coaches, with all coaches of all travel classes having large panoramic windows that lend a feeling of being immersed in the surrounding landscape that you’ll travel through.
Both 1st and 2nd class coaches on the GoldenPass Express are just as comfortable, the main difference between them is in the seat layout. In 1st class, you’ve got a layout of a pair of seats on one side and a single seat on the other side of the central aisle. In 2nd class, you’ve got pairs of seats on both sides of the aisle. In both classes, there are seats in both the direction of and against travel.
If you’re after a splurge, then consider the Prestige class which offers exceptionally cozy, heated leather seats, that are oriented in the direction of travel. These can be rotated 180 degrees on request. The elevated Prestige zone in this new travel class is lifted by 40 centimeters and really makes you feel like you’re sitting or rather gliding through the landscape itself. A perfect place to enjoy a glass of champagne and caviar!
How to Buy GoldenPass Express Tickets and Seat Reservations
- If you have the Swiss Travel Pass, whether 1st or 2nd Class, then good news: it includes the GoldenPass Express and you do not need to buy additional tickets.
- However you will need to pay extra 20 CHF for seat reservation, something I recommend if you’re traveling during peak travel season (like summer) and if you want a specific seat or pair of seats in the coach.
- If you have a Swiss Half Fare Card, then the 50% discount applies to the ticket fare, whether 1st or 2nd class, when you buy a ticket for the GoldenPass Express. This is why if you don’t have a Swiss Travel Pass, you should at least have a Swiss Half-Fare Card to get 50% off on public transportation fares all over Switzerland. To be clear: with a Swiss Half-Fare Card, you will need to buy a ticket for the GoldenPass Express.
- If you need to buy a ticket, it’s easy to do so on the SBB Mobile App. After doing a schedule search, look for the trains marked PE.
- If you want to book a Prestige Class Seat, you need to have a 1st class ticket, and will need to pay a supplement including seat reservation of 35 CHF at the time of writing. This means the Prestige Class is simply an upgrade to a First Class seat.
- Seat reservations (and ticket purchases also) can be made on the official GoldenPass Express website. When buying a seat reservation, it’s understood that you are doing so while you already hold a valid ticket.
Review of the GoldenPass Express
Swiss Travel Pass, Tickets and Seat Reservations for the GoldenPass Express
Let me give you the details on how we booked tickets and got seat reservations on the GoldenPass Express. You’ll also find answers below about how far in advance to book and what to expect while booking.
- Ankit had a Swiss Half-Fare Card, so we used it to get a 50% discount on a First Class ticket on the GoldenPass Express from Montreux to Interlaken. With the 50% discount thanks to the Swiss Half-Fare Card, we paid 46.50CHF for his First Class ticket. We booked this on the SBB Mobile App.
- I had a 3-day First Class Swiss Travel Pass Flex, so I simply activated it for my day of travel, which meant that I could use it to take the GoldenPass Express from Montreux to Interlaken.
- Now of course, we wanted to sit together in specific seats, so we made seat reservations for 20 CHF each on the official GoldenPass Express website. But if you’re traveling in the off season or shoulder season (such as the fall season), I don’t think you’ll need to make seat reservations. Just be sure to arrive about 15-20 minutes before your train’s departure time.
- We traveled in early September – so not quite peak tourist season – and bought our seat reservations just two days before our journey on a weekend. I suggest reserving your seats at least a week or two in advance if you’re traveling in summer.
Onboard the Golden Pass Express
How early should you arrive to take the GoldenPass Express?
We arrived 15 minutes before departure time at Montreux station, Gare de Montreux in French, to take the 12.35 train from Montreux to Interlaken.
15 minutes gave us exactly enough time to get to the right platform, locate our coach, store our luggage, take some photos with the GoldenPass Express, and settle down in our seats.
There are cafes around and at Montreux station if you want to pick up a coffee or snack for your trip. I highly recommend Arctic Juice & Cafe in the area for a healthy sandwich and smoothie if you’re looking for a filling breakfast, wrap, or sandwich before you board the train. Delicious and massive portions!
The Route from Montreux to Interlaken
The GoldenPass Express stops at 12 stations between Montreux (where it begins) and Interlaken Ost (where it ends). These are Montbovon, Château-d’Oex, Gstaad, Schrönried, Saanenmöser, Zweisimmen, Boltigen, Erlenbach im Simmental, Oey-Diemtigen, Wimmis, Spiez, and Interlaken West. You can get on and off at any of these stations along the way. You can also take the train in the opposite direction from Interlaken to Montreux.
Panoramic Views of Scenic Landscapes
Have you ever looked at landscape photos and videos and wondered how much the saturation must have been turned up for the sky to look that impossibly blue and the trees to look that bright shade of green? Well, looking out the large panoramic window of the GoldenPass Express for nearly the entire 3 hour 15 minute journey was just like that: except, the realisation that the Swiss landscape is just that unbelievably beautiful and bursting with color.
For much of the journey, the shimmering blue of Lake Geneva was the dreamy backdrop to red-roofed houses, trees wearing the first reds and oranges of the season, and vineyards dotted with medieval estates. Through the panoramic windows we admired the beautiful blue skies above us that made us feel like we were immersed in the landscape. Soon enough we left the chimneys, chalets, and chapels of towns and villages behind for farmland and alpine meadows speckled with grazing Swiss cows and forests of pine and cypress. Looking over them, rocky silver gray peaks served as a reminder that in Switzerland, the mountains are never too far away.
To imagine that you could see all of this beauty just seated in the comfort of a Swiss panorama train, while sipping on a fresh cappuccino served to your seat. What luxury and what a privilege!
Things To Know: GoldenPass Express Amenities
You’d not expect anything less than careful attention to detail in a Swiss train and the GoldenPass Express is just another example of Swiss excellence. Modern trains with a gray and blonde wood interior, seats with armrests and cushioned headrests (in First Class), coat hooks and aptly-sized tables for each seat ensured the journey was comfortable and luxurious.
Seats are properly spaced out in all the coaches and you always have adequate private space. Upcoming station names are announced and displayed on screens a few minutes before arrival, so you know when to get up and get ready with your luggage.
There are luggage compartments and ski racks in the coaches, but I did see travelers with far too many suitcases struggle to fit their suitcases in Prestige Class. Take my advice: One big suitcase and a cabin bag or day pack per person is ideal. We traveled like this and had no problems fitting our luggage comfortably.
There are also toilets in the coaches on the GoldenPass Express. As expected, they’re clean and well-maintained.
At the time of writing, these coaches are not suitable for wheelchair users and bicycles cannot be transported on the GoldenPass Express. But this is expected to change in 2024 when low-floor coaches are introduced. If accessibility is a requirement, check whether the specific train you want to take is accessible or not, before you book your ticket. The train information on the SBB Mobile app indicates whether or not coaches are accessible and suitable for wheelchair users.
Catering service is available onboard, so you can order coffee, drinks, and food, to be served to your seat. You’ll need a debit card or credit card to pay for it. The menu includes beer, wine, champagne, juices, hot chocolate, coffee, biscuits, croissants, chips, caviar, and aperitivo boards, but not everything will be available unless you’ve pre-booked it.
It’s a good idea to pre-book one of their aperitivo or veggie platters or the breakfast box. These platters feature specialities sourced from local producers in the Bernese Oberland, Swiss Caviar from Frutigen (Bern), and charcuterie from Gstaad. The wine comes from Lavaux and the beers from Interlaken. Note that champagne and caviar are available exclusively in First Class and Prestige Class.
We hadn’t pre-booked any meals and ate just before boarding the train, but we did order coffee which was promptly served to our seats. Of course, you’re welcome to bring your own food, snacks, and beverages to enjoy during your trip.
Overall Impressions of the GoldenPass Express
We couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable journey from Montreux to Interlaken than the one we experienced on the new GoldenPass Express. The 12.35 train from Montreux goes directly all the way to Interlaken without the need for any changes in between. As there are no other direct connections between these two cities, this is the best, most time-efficient way to travel between them. The entire route, being as beautiful as it is, is a lovely bonus.
Were you to take the famous GoldenPass Belle Epoque train, known for its romantic coaches, you’d have to get off in Zweisimmen, which is the last stop and board another train connection to Interlaken. Next time, I hope to take that one, but only if I don’t intend to go all the way to Interlaken, and more for the experience of the train itself.
GoldenPass Express Tips for Travelers
- For travelers who aren’t interested in or able to go hiking or do adventure activities, Switzerland’s panorama trains are a solid experience that reveals spellbinding landscapes – some of the brightest greens, yellows, and blues you’ll ever see.
- As such, the GoldenPass Express and other panorama trains are fairly popular in summer (busiest), spring, and fall. If you’re traveling in summer I recommend making seat reservations at least a week to 10 days in advance. For the rest of the year, you might be okay without a reservation (let’s say you want to save on seat reservation fees which can add up), depending on how busy the route is (but keep checking the seating plan to see how quickly it’s filling up), or make a reservation a day or two in advance.
- For a comfortable journey, bring water, beverages, and snacks, or you can buy them on the train. If you’re on a budget, I recommend buying sandwiches, snacks, and drinks at a supermarket like Coop, where you’ll find them to be cheaper than what you’d buy on the train.
- The scenery on the GoldenPass Express is unbelievably beautiful, so you could easily look out the windows and admire it for the entirety of the 3-hour journey, but if you need to be entertained, bring a book or headphones.
- I won’t say one side of the coach is better than the other for seating, because really the panoramic windows mean that there are no bad seats! On the GoldenPass Express, you’ll have front-row seats to Switzerland’s most beautiful landscapes no matter where you sit.
- I do have one tip for smartphone photography while on the GoldenPass Express or any other train in Switzerland for that matter: if you want to avoid blurry photos, getting your own reflection in the glass, or splotches of green light from lens flare, then be sure to keep your smartphone lens flat against the window, instead of holding it away from the glass in your hand, close to your face.
- Finally, don’t forget to get and activate your Swiss Travel Pass before your trip. You can save it as an e-ticket and load it into the SBB Mobile app. Here’s my review of the Swiss Travel pass.
After having departed from Montreux at 12.35, our GoldenPass Express train arrived in Interlaken right on time at 15.50. As this was the last station on the route, there was no need to rush and we could comfortably gather our luggage and depart the train in a relaxed manner.
Interlaken has plenty of amazing activities and experiences within reach which makes it a popular base for tourists in the Bernese Oberland, especially those looking to take one of the mountain railways to explore the majestic peaks of the Bernese Alps.
Interlaken can keep you busy for 3 days to a week, whether you’re after stunning peaks such as Harder Kulm (get there by funicular), or want to go paragliding or canyon swinging. For relatively less terrifying but equally fun adventures go night sledding with fondue dinner, kayaking on Lake Brienz, or a relaxed boat ride on Lake Thun.
Interlaken also connects you to the fairytale-like village of Grindelwald where you can take the cable car up to Grindelwald First to do the First Cliff Walk. If you’re visiting in winter, you can also learn to ski in Grindelwald. Otherwise, from Interlaken head to the famous Jungfraujoch, also known as Top of Europe.
Where To Stay in Interlaken
Carlton-Europe Vintage Adults Hotel I stayed at this beautiful hotel on my first visit to Interlaken and fell in love with the vintage decor and design of the rooms and common spaces. There’s also a restaurant and they do a nice breakfast buffet as well. The highlight here is the sauna and the wellness area that’s reasonably priced. Service is excellent too. It’s located within walking distance from the train station on the pretty Höheweg promenade.
Hotel Du Lac Interlaken is on the banks of the Aare River, within walking distance of the train station and centrally located. Aside from the stunning location, choose this hotel for its comfortable and elegant rooms with mountain or river views. A restaurant and terrace means you’ll never have to walk far for dinner after a tiring day of exploring.
Lake views and village charm in Brienz
For us, Interlaken was our connection to the lovely village of Brienz, on the shores of Lake Brienz. Here in the lovely little Seehotel Sternen, we spent 3 nights in a cabin with views of Lake Brienz, just ten steps out our front door, before heading to the mountains once again in Zermatt.
I’ve stayed overnight in both Interlaken and Brienz, and I have to say if it’s not your first visit, and you’re a slow, do-less traveler like I am these days, then choose Brienz for its quiet, laidback vibe on an overnight stay.
There’s a pretty lakeside promenade dotted with wood sculptures and the occasional ice-cream shop, just a handful of restaurants (and Brienz Express Pizza that deserves to be legendary), romantic streets where the balconies of wooden houses are dressed up with the prettiest flowers, and the possibility of sleeping with a lake view as we did at Seehotel Sternen.
Where To Stay in Brienz
After exploring Brienz and scouting some of the other well-located beautiful hotels, here are my suggestions for where to stay in Brienz.
Beaulac Penthouse is a spacious apartment with a balcony, lake views, living room, three bedrooms, full kitchen, and bathroom with a bathtub and separate shower. Centrally located close to the train station and supermarket. Perfect home away from home.
Hotel Steinbock offers comfortable modern rooms with mountain or lake views, a restaurant that is pretty popular, breakfast buffet, garden terrace, and a central location. All floors can be reached by an elevator.
Holiday Apartment Alpenblick is a self-catering apartment located right on Lake Brienz. The apartment features a terrace, cable TV, free WiFi, living area, a fully equipped kitchen with dishwasher, and a bathroom with shower.
Overall, taking the GoldenPass Express from Montreux to Interlaken was very convenient, straightforward, luxurious, and beautiful. The experience ranks highly in terms of comfort, service, and views.
It’s also one of the highlights of any holiday in Switzerland. So, I highly recommend experiencing the GoldenPass Express, and any other panorama trains that you can, especially if you’ve got a Swiss Travel Pass. If you’re not short on time, you can also do a panorama train journey as a round trip over a single day.
If you’re visiting with kids or have a sweet tooth, you might also be interested in the famous Chocolate Train. Embark on a 7 hour 30 minute trip that begins with a journey from Montreux to the Gruyère region in vintage Belle-Epoque coaches (1st class only), to explore Gruyères, famous for its cheese and then continue by bus to visit a chocolate factory in Broc. The package includes a round trip, coffee, chocolate bread, free entry to “La Maison du Gruyère,” a Nestlé Cailler chocolate factory tour, and a guided experience. The good news is that the Chocolate Train is also covered by the Swiss Travel Pass.
Frequently Asked Questions About The GoldenPass Express
Is the GoldenPass Express worth it?
Absolutely, the GoldenPass Express is highly recommended for its scenic journey, providing breathtaking views of Switzerland’s landscapes, charming towns, and the majestic Alps. It’s a unique and unforgettable experience.
Where does the Golden Pass train start and end?
The GoldenPass Express starts its journey in Montreux on Lake Geneva and concludes in Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland but you can also travel vice versa from Interlaken to Montreux. The route offers a direct connection between the Montreux Riviera and the mountainous Bernese Oberland.
Is GoldenPass Express included in the Swiss Pass?
Yes, the GoldenPass Express is covered by the Swiss Travel Pass. However, during peak times, you may need to pay an additional fee for seat reservations.
What is the difference between GoldenPass Express and Golden Pass Panoramic?
The terms “GoldenPass Express” and “Golden Pass Panoramic” refer to the same scenic train journey between Montreux and Interlaken. The names are used interchangeably.
Is GoldenPass Express a panoramic train?
Indeed, the GoldenPass Express is a panoramic train, offering large windows in all classes, including First Class, Second Class, and the ultra-luxurious Prestige Class. Passengers can enjoy stunning views throughout the journey. It’s also sometimes called GoldenPass Panoramic.
Which side do you sit on GoldenPass Express?
Both sides of the GoldenPass Express provide fantastic panoramic views, so there’s no specific recommendation for which side to choose. Passengers can enjoy the breathtaking landscapes from any seat on the train.
Is GoldenPass train free with a Swiss pass?
The GoldenPass Express is covered by the Swiss Travel Pass, but seat reservations during peak travel times may require an additional fee. Here’s my view on whether or not the Swiss Travel Pass is worth it.
How much does the GoldenPass Express cost?
The cost of the GoldenPass Express varies depending on factors such as class, seat selection, and whether you have a Swiss Travel Pass, in which case it is covered. If you don’t have a pass, here’s how much it costs at the time of writing, and seat reservations involve an extra fee of 20CHF.
- A single one-way journey in Second Class costs 53 CHF but if you have a Half-Fare Card, second-class tickets cost 26.50 CHF (so literally half of the original fare).
- A single one-way journey in First Class costs 93 CHF but if you have a Half-Fare Card, it costs 46.50 CHF.
Disclosure: I was provided a 1st class 3-day Swiss Travel Pass Flex by Swiss Travel System, which I activated on the day I took the GoldenPass Express. All opinions as always are honest and independent.
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