This review covers my journey on a Swiss InterCity (IC) train from Chur to Zurich and Basel.
However, I didn’t intend to stay in Chur for long, as I was planning to catch the first train to Zurich.
According to the online timetable I consulted a few minutes before my arrival in Chur, this happened to be an InterCity train which had Basel as its final destination, which would stop in Landquart, Sargans and Zurich on its way.
Changing trains at Chur
With its large glass roof, the station of Chur felt bright and modern.
The platforms are all connected to an overhead concourse above the tracks via escalators and lifts, so even if you travel with heavy luggage of have mobility issues you can easily move through the station.
Everything is clearly signposted, and on an overhead departure screen, I immediately noticed that the first train to Zurich was departing from the other side of the platform where my Bernina Express arrived.
I simply walked across the platform, took a seat on a bench and waited for my connecting train to arrive.
On board a Swiss InterCity train
About 15 minutes before departure, my train rolled into the station of Chur.
Since this Swiss InterCity train (abbreviated as IC in timetables and on departure screens) originates in Chur, it remains stationary for quite some time before its departure.
This did however give me a good opportunity to have a look inside the still-empty wagons of this train.
The InterCity train I took from Chur to Zurich and Basel was composed of numerous first and second-class carriages, along with a dining car.
Seating in both first and second class was arranged in open-plan saloon cars, with first-class seats having a 1-2 configuration and second-class seats placed two abreast on both sides of the aisles.
Swiss InterCity trains feature power sockets at every seat and are equipped with Wi-Fi internet, although using the ‘FreeSurf’ system and app requires a Swiss SIM card or e-SIM, which is not convenient at all for foreign travellers.
However, the seats on these Swiss InterCity trains are highly comfortable in both classes, and I certainly appreciated the extra space and shoulder room of first class.
Although it is possible on most Swiss InterCity trains to make a seat reservation for 5 CHF (€5.20), it is not obligatory and very few people seem to be doing so on normal domestic train services based on my travels through the country.
You can simply board the train and select any seat you want, provided that it does not have a little reservation paper posted next to the seat number.
Throughout the entire journey, the train was never more than two-thirds full in both classes, so there was always plenty of space left.
If you travel from Chur to Zurich or Basel, I would however strongly advise you to take a seat on the right-hand side of the train (left-hand side in the reverse direction from Basel/Zurich to Chur) as the best scenery is on this side.
Chur to Zurich by Swiss InterCity train
Train IC 572 – Departure: 1.08pm – Arrival: 2.22pm
Duration: 1h14m – Distance: 116 kilometres
Departure from Chur
We departed right on time from Chur for our 1-hour-and-14-minute journey to Zurich.
During the initial stretch from Chur to Landquart, the railway line runs parallel to a motorway in a wide mountain valley.
Although the distant mountain views are pretty, they of course pale to those on the famous scenic railway lines of Switzerland such as the Bernina Railway or Albula Railway.
A meal in the dining car
Just before we reached Landquart, I had already settled into a seat in the dining car of the intercity train for lunch.
It was still rather quiet inside as only two other passengers were seated in the dining car, both drinking a coffee.
For lunch, I ordered the Hörnli, which is Swiss dining car classic.
Hörnli is basically macaroni with minced beef and fried onions, and in Switzerland the dish is served with apple sauce.
Inside a bowl, I also got some bread and a package of grated Sbrinz cheese.
It certainly made for a highly tasty meal and I really enjoyed the fabulous setting of the Swiss InterCity dining car.
The meal cost me 21.50 CHF (€22.50), and I paid 6.40 CHF (€7) for a weizen (wheat) beer.
When you are used to prices on board Austrian or German trains, the Swiss dining car might sound expensive.
However, don’t forget that Switzerland is an expensive country to begin with, and compared to what you would pay for food in a Swiss restaurant, the dining car prices are actually very reasonable.
Landquart to Sargans
While I was enjoying my food, the train continued its way towards the next stop of Sargans.
Sargans is an important junction station and you can change trains here to Buchs, as well as Feldkirch and Innsbruck in Austria.
Departure from Sargans
Just after departing from Sargans, you can spot Sargans Castle perched on a hilltop on your right-hand side, rising high above the town.
The mountain forming the backdrop behind the castle and the town of Sargans is 1,830-metre high (6,000 ft) Gonzen, which is part of the Appenzell Alps.
The mountains appear to get more rugged and craggy as the train approaches Lake Walen.
The highlight of a journey aboard the InterCity train between Chur and Zurich is undoubtedly the scenic stretch along Lake Walen, which is called Walensee in German.
The railway line runs directly along the southern shore of the Walensee and you have some absolutely stunning views over the water and the mountain peaks on the lake’s northern side.
These mountains belong to the Churfirsten range of the Alps, and they rise almost vertically to a height of 2,306 meters (7,566 ft) above sea level.
It’s a highly impressive sight and from your train you have some great views over all of it – just be sure you sit on the right-hand side of the carriage when travelling to Zurich and Basel, or your left-hand side when going to Chur.
Right after passing Lake Walen, the railway line runs between meadows and agricultural fields before eventually reaching another large lake.
This is the Zürichsee, or Lake Zurich, the same body of water on which Switzerland’s largest city of Zurich is located.
Again, the railway line hugs the southern shore of this lake, although the views over Lake Zurich aren’t as scenic as those over Lake Walen.
Arrival at Zurich
Just before reaching the outskirts of Zurich, our InterCity train entered a long tunnel, only to submerge again just outside the station of Zurich HB.
Zurich HB (the HB stands for Hauptbahnhof, which means ‘main station’ in German) is the largest railway station not only in the city of Zurich, but of the entire of Switzerland.
The main station of Zurich is built on multiple levels, with through tracks underground and terminus platforms above ground.
As we came to a stop at the terminus platforms above ground, it became clear that our Swiss InterCity train would reverse and continue in the opposite direction for the final stretch towards Basel.
If you initially had a forward-facing seat on the right-hand side while entering the station, you will now be seated in the opposite direction, facing backward and looking out over the left-hand side, for the remainder of the ride.
However, I wasn’t staying on board until Basel and disembarked the InterCity train in Zurich.
With my journey on the Swiss IC train from Chur to Zurich coming to an end, let’s examine the ticket costs.
The price you pay for a train ticket from Chur to Zurich or Basel depends on how far you buy it in advance.
A second class ‘super saver ticket’ from Chur to Zurich starts at 12.40 CHF (€13), while the least expensive super saver ticket from Chur to Basel start at approximately 23.40 CHF (€24.50).
Usually, the farther in advance you book, the greater the discount you’ll receive on your super saver ticket, although there are instances where you can still find good deals even if you book a few days or weeks ahead.
The full price second class ticket from Chur to Zurich costs 41 CHF (€43), while you’d pay 68 CHF (€71) for a full price ticket between Chur and Basel.
Do note that a super saver fare is valid exclusively for the train departure listed on your ticket, whereas with a full-price ticket, you have the flexibility to choose any train on that day and can even make stopovers along the route.
With the half-fare travel card (“halbtax”), which is held by most Swiss residents and popular among tourists as well, you’ll enjoy a 50% discount on any train ticket you buy, be it a super saver fare or a full-price one.
You can book your ticket online on the website of Swiss national railway company SBB.
I was travelling with an Interrail pass, which meant that I could freely take any SBB train without having to pay any supplement or seat reservation costs.
Swiss InterCity (IC) trains are highly reliable, offer comfortable seating in both 1st and 2nd class, and make for a great way to travel across the country.
My ride on the InterCity train from Chur to Zurich was extremely pleasant, and I especially enjoyed the fine views over Lake Walen.
Make sure to visit the dining car of your Swiss InterCity train to sample some good food and drinks, as it’s a highly pleasant place to linger for a while and watch the scenery go by.
The only drawbacks of these Swiss InterCity trains are the challenges in connecting to the Wi-Fi network with a foreign SIM card and the high walk-up fares.
It can be worthwhile to invest in a half-fare travel card (“halbtax”), book heavily discounted Super Saver Tickets or a Swiss Day Pass in advance, or to research the option to buy a travel pass such as Interrail or Eurail when you plan to travel a lot by train through Switzerland.
1. Bergamo: A Visit to Lombardy’s Beautiful Hilltop Town
2. Travelling From Bergamo to Milan by Train
3. From Milan to Varenna and Tirano By Trenord Regional Train
4. A Varenna Visit: A Day Trip to Lake Como’s Most Beautiful Town
5. Tirano: The Italian Gateway to the Bernina Railway
6. Bernina Express Train: Guide to Switzerland’s Most Scenic Railway
7. Review: Swiss InterCity (IC) Train Chur to Zurich and Basel (current chapter)
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **