In this review we take a Railjet train from Zurich, Switzerland to Feldkirch, Austria.
A Railjet journey
After a gorgeous afternoon walk through the old town of Zurich it was time to move onward to Croatia.
To get to the Croatian capital of Zagreb, I had to take a total of four trains, starting with the Railjet train to Feldkirch just across the border in Austria.
Railjet is the brand name of the premium high-speed trains operated by the Austrian Railways (ÖBB).
These Railjet trains can reach speeds of up to 230 kilometres per hour (143 mph) and can be found on the most important intercity routes inside Austria as well as on international routes from Austria to Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
From Zurich’s main train station (Zurich HB, the abbreviation of Zurich Hauptbahnhof) there are multiple Railjet trains each day to Austrian destinations such as Feldkirch, Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna.
There even is a daily Railjet departure from Zurich all the way to Budapest in Hungary!
Zurich HB is just a short walk away from the Altstadt (old town centre) of Zurich, so if you have time to spare in between trains you can easily hop into the city.
Being Switzerland’s largest and busiest station, Zurich HB is certainly impressive in size. Zurich HB has all the facilities you might need such as luggage storage lockers, shops, restaurants and supermarkets.
Zurich HB has its own free WiFi network, although you need to be able to receive a text message with a login code to your phone.
If you don’t have mobile roaming in Switzerland, there are a couple of shops in the underground shopping centre with open WiFi networks which don’t require a login with text message.
The departure platforms of Zurich HB are spread out over multiple floors.
You can find the platform for your train departure by looking on the large departure board at the end of the main station hall, or by searching your connection on the Swiss Railways website.
On the ground level of Zurich HB you can find platforms 3 to 18 under the 1930s trainshed.
These platforms are all terminus platforms located under the 1930s trainshed and this is where the Railjet trains to Austria will depart.
Platforms 21 and 22, 31 to 34 and 41 to 44 are all one or even multiple levels underground and can be a bit more tricky to find, although the station is generally well-signposted.
For a full Zurich HB station guide, I recommend you to check the great railway website of Seat61.
Railjet Zurich HB to Feldkirch
Train RJX 369 – Departure: 6.40pm – Arrival: 8.09pm
Duration: 1h29m– Distance: ~913 kilometres
Boarding the Railjet train
At around 6.20pm – some 20 minutes before the scheduled departure of my train – I made my way to the platform and boarded the Railjet train.
This train, Railjet Express (RJX) number 369, links Zurich with Salzburg in Austria, although I would only take it as far as Feldkirch.
I’ve written a separate guide about the Railjet train and all its travel classes, seat options, on-board facilities and much more information, so do check it out if you want to learn more about these premium trains.
Tickets from Zurich to Feldkirch on the Railjet train start at just 14.90 euro in second class and 29.90 euro in first class (non-flexible, non-refundable saver fares) if you book in advance.
The standard ticket price (walk-up fare) is 38.40 euro in second class and 67.40 euro in 1st class.
On Railjet trains a seat reservation is optional (3 euro extra per seat), so technically tickets can never sell out. If you don’t have a seat reservation you can just take any available seat you want.
As I was travelling at a time when COVID-19 was hitting most of Europe quite hard and lots of travel restrictions were still in place, I figured that I wouldn’t require a seat reservation as the train would probably be rather empty anyway.
This turned out to be exactly the case as in each carriage there were perhaps some 10 people seated at most.
You are highly advised to take or reserve a seat on the left-hand side when travelling from Zurich to Feldkirch, as from this side of the train you have by far the best views.
I will let the pictures to the talking a bit further down into this Railjet trip report.
Personally, I find seats in second class of Railjet comfortable enough.
These seats are in a 2+2 configuration and have a decent amount of legroom and are fitted with power sockets.
In first class, you find leather seats in a 1+2 configuration – obviously a step up in terms of comfort and space.
At 6.40pm on the dot the Railjet train pulled out of Zurich’s central station.
Although the first part of the journey is rather uninspiring, with the train speeds through the Zurich suburbs which are hardly visible due to noise barriers built along the railway track, it soon becomes a lot better.
Just outside of Zurich, the Railjet train rides down the railway line right along the eastern and southern shores of Lake Zurich (Zürichsee).
Judging by the large lakeshore houses and all the boats in the water it must be quite an affluent area in a country which is already known for its high standard of living.
A first visit to the dining car
Each Railjet train has a proper dining car where you can get drinks, snacks and hot meals.
I was immensely looking forward to sit down in the restaurant carriage of my Railjet train as personally I think there aren’t many better travel experiences than enjoying some good food and a glass of beer or wine while watching the scenery pass by.
Unfortunately, due to Swiss COVID-19 restrictions the dining car was only allowed to serve takeaway meals and drinks.
Even though nobody was allowed to actually sit down in the dining car, you were allowed to bring your food back to your seat in the normal passenger carriages where you could take off your face mask and consume it.
What the logic was behind the rule is a mystery to me – but of course I had no choice but to comply.
Even though eating a takeaway meal from a carton box with throwaway cutlery is not exactly the same experience as sitting down in the restaurant wagon and eating from proper plates, it was still good to have a snack and a drink on board the train.
I opted for the macaroni with minced meat (unfortunately rather bland and unremarkable) which I washed away with a decent Austrian beer.
Alps in sight
After a while, the Railjet train leaves Lake Zurich behind and rides through some fields and pastures with the Alps looming up in the distance.
With the Swiss cows grazing in the grassland and the snow-capped mountains getting closer and closer, it’s a fine prelude to the most spectacular bit of the journey.
Just before Ziegelbrücke station, the train line crosses the bridge over the Linthkanal (Linth Channel) which links Lake Walen with Lake Zurich.
Ziegelbrücke is an important regional interchange station as the main Zurich-Sargans railway line on which we have travelled so far is joined here by the line connecting Rapperswil with Linthal.
Although the Railjet train rides non-stop through Ziegelbrücke station, you’d better pay attention as this point marks the beginning of the most beautiful part of this railway journey.
The ride along gorgeous Lake Walen (called Walensee in German) is the most stunning bit of the Railjet train journey between Switzerland and Austria.
The railway line hugs the southern shore of the Walensee and you have some absolutely amazing views over the lake and the craggy mountains on the lake’s northern side.
These peaks, which steeply rise from the lake’s water level of 419 metres up to 2,306 metres above sea level, are part of the Churfirsten mountain range in the Swiss Canton of St. Gallen.
Make sure you are seated on the left-hand side of the train when coming from Zurich or at the right-hand side when travelling to Switzerland’s largest city as you really do not want to miss this stretch of scenery!
Leaving the Walensee behind, the Railjet continues its journey towards the town of Sargans, an important interchange station where the train makes a short stop – it’s first after the departure from Zurich.
Before we reached Sargans I made another trip to the dining car for a tasty dessert and another beer.
From Sargans, it’s a short 12 minutes to the station of Buchs, where the Railjet train makes another stop.
On this stretch the railway line follows the course of the River Rhine, which at this point forms the border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Unfortunately the railway track is a bit too far away from the river to have any good views of the Rhine.
The fact that a motorway lies between the tracks and the river doesn’t help either.
That said, views on this short stretch are still pretty.
Buchs itself is another important interchange station as you can connect here to trains running north towards St. Gallen and Lake Constance.
At Buchs, the Railjet train reverses and takes the railway line across the bridge over the River Rhine into Liechtenstein.
Although there is a train station in Liechtenstein called Schaan-Vaduz, the Railjet and other InterCity (IC) and EuroCity (EC) trains do not stop here and travel non-stop through the microstate.
Only local trains making the short hop between Buchs and Feldkirch actually call at Schaan-Vaduz.
If you are heading to Liechtenstein it’s actually faster and much easier to get out at Buchs and to take one of the frequent local buses there to destinations all across the microscopic principality.
Wedged between Switzerland and Austria, the double-landlocked country of Liechtenstein is extremely small in size. Before you even realise it, the Railjet train will have left the territory of this microstate already.
Normally there aren’t any border checks on the Railjet train between Buchs (Switzerland) and Feldkirch (Austria) as both countries are inside the Schengen Zone.
That said, I was firmly expecting some checks this time around as due to the COVID-19 pandemic Austria had imposed some travel restrictions and strict entry regulations.
Although I was exempted from all restrictions as I was merely on transit through Austria being on my way to Croatia, arriving passengers staying in Austria had to self-isolate on arrival and do a PCR test.
Reason enough you would say for some border guards to board the train and to check everyone’s documents and to make sure they comply with the rules, but to my great surprise there were no checks at all.
When the Railjet pulled into Feldkirch station, I was one of the few passengers to get off the train as most others seemed to continue their journey towards Innsbruck and Salzburg.
Even as I waited for a while longer on the platform snapping some pictures of the Railjet train, I still couldn’t see any sign of border guards entering the train for a document check.
Would the rest of my travels across Europe really be as easy as this in practice?
I would find out soon enough, as after a few hours waiting in Feldkirch I would continue by train to Slovenia and Croatia.
The Railjet train journey between Switzerland and Austria is a pretty one as you have some scenic views from the moment the train leaves Zurich.
In Switzerland, the Railjet train rides along the shores of Lake Zurich and Lake Walen, with the latter being especially picturesque with its soaring mountains on the other side.
Although I got out of the train at Feldkirch, you would have some more scenic views if you stay on board longer as deeper in Austria the Railjet crosses the famous Arlberg Pass.
The Railjet itself is a comfortable train no matter in which travel class you sit.
Although the restaurant wagon in the train was unfortunately open for take-away only, it normally is a great place to sit down for a proper meal and a couple of drinks.
When you are visiting Austria and Switzerland, you are certainly well-advised to take a ride on a Railjet train as it’s the fastest and most comfortable way to travel between the major cities.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Across Europe by Train: Interrail in the Age of Corona‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: LOT Polish Airlines Economy Class Bucharest to Warsaw (Embraer ERJ-175)
2. Walking Through an Empty Warsaw in Corona Lockdown
3. Review: Four Points by Sheraton Warsaw Mokotow
4. Review: LOT Polish Airlines Economy Class Warsaw to Zurich (Boeing 737 MAX)
5. A Stopover Walk Through the Old Town of Zurich
6. Review: Railjet Train Zurich to Feldkirch (current chapter)
7. An Evening in Friendly Little Feldkirch
8. Review: Nightjet Train Feldkirch to Graz
9. A Short Walk Along the Sights of Graz
10. Review: Emona EuroCity Train Vienna – Ljubljana – Trieste
11. Zidani Most: Europe’s Most Picturesque Train Station
12. Review: Ljubljana to Zagreb by EuroCity Train EC 1211 ‘Sava’
13. Flying With Trade Air on a Let L-410 Turbolet Across Croatia
14. Review: Palace Derossi, Trogir, Croatia
15. A Visit to the Tranquil Island City of Trogir, Croatia
16. Cycling on Ciovo: A Trogir Day Trip by Bike
17. Split: Croatia’s Bustling Seaside City Full of History
18. Review: Croatian Railways ICN Train Split to Zagreb
19. Review: Esplanade Hotel, Zagreb, Croatia
20. Zagreb: A Guide to Croatia’s Underrated Capital City
21. Review: EuroCity Train “Croatia” Zagreb to Vienna
22. Review: Dacia Night Train Vienna to Bucharest