WILHELM TELL EXPRESS
Cruise and Train from Lucerne
Okay, it’s not exactly an “express”. More the slow boat on Lake Lucerne then an express ride to Bellinzona. The Wilhelm Tell Express Tour is the most unique of the Swiss Scenic tour routes which come in a package. The route takes you from the docks of the city of Lucerne to Italian speaking Switzerland south of the Alps, ending (or beginning) in a choice of the three main cities, Lugano, Locarno or Bellinzona. Half the journey, time wise is the steamer cruise the length of Lake Lucerne, one of Switzerland’s most beautiful lakes, with high mountain peaks dropping strait to the waters’ edge. The train portion travels from Fluelen at the eastern end of the lake across the Gotthard Pass into Ticino and the Swiss shores of Lake Lugano and Lago Maggiore, where you can travel on into Italy.
After steaming the length of the lake, the train journey south in a panoramic coach on the Gotthard railway takes a long climb of sweeping twists and turns, where the famous church of Wassen passes the window view three times in different directions as the tracks sweep up the mountain slopes, making turns which are almost imperceptible except of the disconcerting shifting landmarks, then through the long Gotthard Tunnel until passing into the southern side of the Alpine range, where the mountain snows can suddenly turn to sunny palms of the Leventina Valley where Italian is spoken and the culture is decidedly influenced by its border neighbor.
In Lucerne, you board one of the elegant, historic paddle wheeler steamers,
welcomed into the upper level First Class deck with its elegant salon,
watch over by carved wood cherubs and flowers. The lake cruise takes
2 hours, 45 minutes, during which a lunch is served in the dining room,
where your seat is maintained for the full voyage, though you’re
like to want to venture out onto the deck for photographs of the stunning
scenery of passing mountains, and the carved rock commemorating Switzerland’s
national legend of Wilhelm Tell - the patriot crossbow archer who shot
an apple from his son’s head in defiance of foreign rulers and
inspired the formation of the Swiss Federation. The cruise and express
train route takes its name from the rock where the hero pulled himself
from the lake while making his escape, and the Schiller Stone dedicated
to Frederich Schiller, whose play fashioned the heroic legend in 1804.
The William Tell Express schedule is twice a day from the 1st of May through October, and can be taken in either direction, and does not run in winter months. The full trip takes 5 hours.
A ticket for the Wilhelm Express Tour can be purchased individually, or with a 1st Class Swiss Pass or Eurail Pass requires a supplement of 39 CHF, which includes the lunch meal served in the dining room and reserved 1st class seats on the train and the boat, plus a souvenier (spoiler alert: the souvenir is a Swiss Army Knife with the Wilhelm Tell Express logo). A 1st class ticket is required to board the boat in the upper deck. It is possble to take the boat and the train on the same route with second class tickets, but traveling on the lower decks and in the normal train coaches.
A new Wilhelm Tell Express Premium Tour offers the same route with a 3-course meal, a welcome drink and tour guide on board the train, plus some extras, for a 79 CHF supplement to 1st Class Swiss Pass.
Find the best travel and hotel deals in Lucerne on TripAdvisor
More on Switzerland By Rail:
Blanc - St Bernard
Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn
Lauvaux Wine Train
Lake Thun & Brienz
Scenic Switzerland By Train
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