Sailing through the heart of Europe, the Vienna to Zurich train ride is not only a journey that takes in 2 of Europe’s best cities, but also an incredibly stunning set of scenery along the way.
Often thought of as one of the world’s best train journeys, the train ride through the Alps here really is like no other, offering tour-worthy views for a fraction of the cost of what you’d expect to pay.
So if you’re looking to travel from Austria to Switzerland (or visa versa) and want to know the best way to go about it, read on!
This article contains everything you need to know about catching the train from Vienna to Zurich, as well as some tips for visiting both cities and ideas about where to head afterwards.
I’ll also discuss other ways to get between these 2 cities in case you’re looking for some options beyond the train although, with a journey this stunning, I don’t know why you would!
Let’s get stuck in…
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Vienna to Zurich Train: Which Direction?
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to discuss travelling from Vienna to Zurich i.e. in the direction of east to west, but please do bear in mind, you can absolutely travel the other way too.
All this information will still apply if you are travelling in the other direction, you’ll just have to follow it in reverse!
I often get asked in which direction I recommend people travel i.e. Vienna to Zurich or Zurich to Vienna, but my answer is always the same, it honestly doesn’t matter.
Just pick the route that works best given your timeframe, your bucket list must-sees and your itinerary in general.
If you’re flying in and out of Europe (or training on to another destination afterwards), then checking the prices of onward journeys may help sway your decision as to which city you finish in.
Distance & Services
On average it takes between 8 and 11 hours to travel a distance of around 600km between Vienna and Zurich by train (depending on the route you take and service you use).
In comparison, by road, the journey is over 700km.
Some trains are slightly quicker (at just under 8 hours) and some (including night trains) are slightly slower, so always check the journey time before you book a service.
In particular, trains on weekends and during public holidays can take longer.
It’s also worth ensuring you book a service without changes if you’re keen to keep the journey time and hassle to a minimum, as it goes without saying that those services with changes take longer and involve lugging bags on and off the train.
Plus they aren’t necessarily cheaper either, so I would def avoid them if possible.
There are around 17 services a day between Vienna and Zurich by train, but only around 5-6 daily that are direct, so definitely seek these out.
Direct train services between Vienna and Zurich begin around 5am and run until around 4pm.
In between these times you will be looking at night time services.
Comparing services is made super simple by Trainline, which handily has everything bookable in English.
This easy website, which works across multiple currencies and languages, plus the simple-to-use accompanying app, is why I always recommend them for booking train or bus travel across Europe
Rail Companies & Stations
There are 2 companies that make the direct journey by train from Vienna to Zurich, they are ÖBB (Austria’s national rail company) and Railjet which is the high-speed subsidiary of ÖBB.
Some of the services with stopovers involve heading into Germany where you’ll need to use ICE or DB services.
Railjet is seen as the premium service and travels of speeds up to 230 km/hr. It connects many Austrian cities with international cities in nearby countries such as Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy and, for the purposes of this article, Switzerland.
Any night Vienna to Zurich trains are operated by Nightjet – another arm of Railjet which, as the name suggests, caters specifically to overnight journeys!
There is also a Transalpin service that goes between Zurich and Austria.
This is a Eurocity train that makes the journey from Graz in Austria to Zurich, but doesn’t extend the whole way to Vienna.
For that reason, I’m not really going to cover it in this article, although more information is available here.
In Vienna, trains leave from Wien Hbf (the city’s main station) and arrive into Zurich’s main station – Zurich HB.
Wien Hbf is Vienna’s central rail hub and the station where all international trains now pass or connect through. Hbf stands for Hauptbahnhof, which means main station in German.
Both Wien Hbf and Zurich HB are centrally located in their respective cities and therefore very convenient to access using local public transport networks.
All Railjet and Nightjet services, as well as those non-direct options going through Germany etc, can be booked via Trainline, which immediately shows you the number of changes (if any), departure and arrival times, plus prices.
But it’s not just for ease and convenience that I suggest taking the direct train between Vienna and Zurich – it’s because this route is also going to give you the best views.
Yes honestly, the Vienna to Zurich train ride provides some of the most iconic scenery in the whole of Europe.
Threading right through the Alps, along the Arlberg Pass, this train ride skirts through the edge of Liechtenstein, with its fairy tale castles, before cruising past the shores of 2 long Swiss Lakes – the stunningly picturesque Zürichsee and the Walensee.
The Arlberg Railway is the most direct route between Austria and Switzerland and is one of the highest railway lines in Europe with a top elevation of 1,310m.
At the summit, you’ll also enter the Arlberg Tunnel, which takes about 5 minutes to pass through.
The way to ensure you don’t miss these gorgeous views – which is surely the main reason to travel between Vienna and Zurich by train- is to a) take a day train and b) ensure you get on a service that definitely goes via Innsbruck.
Accidentally booking a train that goes via Munich will have you missing out on this alpine glamour altogether and what a shame that would be!
If you are travelling from Vienna to Zurich i.e. westwards, then you’ll want to sit on the left-hand side to get best views of the Pass as you leave Austria and then move to the right-hand side of the train to get the best views of the lakes once you enter Switzerland!
As I mentioned before, Railjet is ÖBB’s high-speed subsidiary, offering quick connections between Vienna and Zurich, as well as other destinations such as Salzburg, Budapest, Munich and Prague.
It should be obvious by now, but I’ll make the point again – you want to take Railjet’s service through Innsbruck (not Munich) if you want the best views.
Railjet offer economy, 1st class and business seats, with prices scaling accordingly.
Even their economy services are very good and more than suitable for most travellers needs with wifi, power outlets available to all seats and a restaurant car onboard too.
Travellers in 1st and business class will have food served to them.
Seats in these classes are more luxurious too – usually reclining and leather.
That said, economy class has always been totally fine for me and I wouldn’t really recommend paying more for a better class unless it’s a special treat!
Nightjet is ÖBB’s night time train service and serves countries including Germany, Italy, Poland, Croatia and, of course, Switzerland.
If you opt for a night time service between Vienna and Zurich you’re going to miss the views, but you are going to save money on a night’s accommodation.
As with Railjet’s daytime service, there are different classes on a Nightjet train and you can choose from the cheapest option (which is a slightly reclining seat called a couchette) through to a cabin, which allows to you sleep horizontally.
Cabins can be shared or private – it goes without saying private cabins will be the most expensive, but they do have washroom facilities if that’s something which interests you.
All classes get served a light breakfast just before arrival.
Buying Tickets for the Vienna to Zurich Train
So now that we’ve covered the basics about travelling from Vienna to Zurich by train, it’s time to cover how to buy tickets for this service.
As is commonly the case when booking trains in Europe, you can book direct through the national railway site. In this instance, that is ÖBB for direct services or Deutsche Bahn for ICE or Eurocity trains that change in Germany.
However, I very often find these sites hard to decipher and confusing to use.
Which is why I always book my European trains using Trainline.
Often the prices here are just as cheap and the website is so easy to use in English (or an array of other languages) that it’s a no brainer for me.
You can pay using international cards and you can change the currency to view converted prices.
They also have a great app, which allows you to not only book tickets on the move, but also store your e-tickets (doing away with the need to print anything out) and check their journey planner – which essentially lets you know if the train is on time, late etc.
Trainline essentially uses ÖBB’s and Deutsche Bahn’s website infrastructure, so when you go to book via Trainline it’s the services these companies run that are available to you.
However Trainline formats the info into a much simpler layout, translates it into English, and lets you pay using the card and currency you need.
As discussed, Trainline also allows you to store all your eTickets in one place (meaning you don’t have to mess around with collecting tickets at a station) and it also has a live journey planner, so you can follow along during your journey to learn how far away your stop is.
This is a great thing if you don’t speak German!
For the small booking fee involved (which is never more than €1-3), I honestly can’t recommend Trainline enough and always use this great website to book all my train travel in Europe.
Getting the Best Priced Tickets
As usual, you’re going to get the best price on your Vienna to Zurich train by booking as far in advance as possible.
With Trainline, tickets are available 6 months in advance and I’d certainly advise booking at least a month ahead to find the best deal.
As soon as tickets release, Trainline has them for sale, so just check their app or set up a price alert with them to be notified on any deals.
If you book in advance, you can grab Vienna to Zurich trains for as little as €30 per adult.
Otherwise, you can also buy tickets right up until the day of travel, remembering the closer to the departure date you get, the more expensive they are likely to be.
As an example, a ticket bought on the day at the station can cost as much as €120 – quite the jump from the advanced fare!
Another great tip when it comes to saving money on your train tickets is to avoid peak times i.e. 6am – 10am and 4pm – 7pm, when commuter travel bumps prices up.
Travelling off-peak therefore i.e. the times in between these 2 slots are likely to offer the best prices.
To secure the cheapest train tickets for Vienna to Zurich, booking non-refundable options with no seat reservations is another way to get the best prices.
When you book with Trainline, you can upgrade to ensure you have seat reservations for an extra €4. You may want to do this for the views.
You can also buy semi-flexible fares, which allow for some changes or refunds in the form of vouchers. This type of ticket costs an extra €6.
You can also buy fully flexible tickets, which are significantly more.
As a budget traveller however, I’d always opt for a standard ticket with no seat reservation and no flexibility.
If you book early enough and get a decent priced ticket, then the hassle of making changes (should you need to) outweighs the small cost of just getting another ticket if you need to change.
That said, with night trains, I definitely recommend a seat reservation.
Boarding the Train
As with the vast majority of trains in Europe, there’s no need to check-in for your Vienna to Zurich train ride.
You simply enter the station and survey the information boards for the platform number your departing train will leave from.
Then you just find the platform, board the train and sit in your reserved seat or a free seat in the correct carriage class if your ticket is unreserved.
Ensure you then have your tickets (or e-tickets) to hand for when a conductor or inspector passes by.
Worth pointing out here that the Trainline app has a handy Journey Tracker section that allows you to see when your correct departure station is coming up.
The great news is that the train from Vienna to Zurich is electric, which means it has a very low carbon footprint.
If you are trying to travel in a more sustainable way, the train is a great option to go for.
Given the fact that it’s also fast, pleasant, stress-free and relatively good value, means it’s an all-round superb option for travelling between these 2 cities.
In terms of practical information for what to expect from the train journey, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no restrictions on luggage with either Railjet or Nightjet.
As long as you can carry your bags onto the train, there’s usually ample rack space at either end of the carriages as well as above the seats for smaller bags.
They may be room for bikes to be taken onboard too, although these will need to be booked in advance and may incur a separate fee.
If you need to arrange luggage storage in either Vienna or Zurich, then I highly recommend LuggageHero – a great left luggage app I’ve used myself across Europe.
All train services running between Vienna and Zurich have toilets, although as is often the case with trains in Europe, it pays to be prepared with your own paper, wipes and antibacterial hand gel in case there’s not any of these things to hand!
Time in Vienna
When it comes to Vienna travel inspiration, I think this post from Two Scots Abroad is super useful.
I also recommend Hostel Ruthensteiner Vienna for budget travellers looking for accommodation in this city – it’s a gem of a find.
Time in Zurich
When it comes to Zurich travel inspiration, I think this post from my friend Vicki over at Make Time To See the World is super useful.
Certainly not the cheapest city in the world, you can however find well-priced and decent accommodation at Zurich Youth Hostel.
Alternative Methods to Travel from Vienna to Zurich
In case you’re wondering whether there are other transport methods apart from the train to get between Vienna to Zurich (or visa-versa), the answer is yes.
Here’s my lowdown on the other alternative methods of doing just that…
Vienna to Zurich by Bus
The Vienna to Zurich bus is definitely a cheap way to travel between these 2 cities, especially if you are booking last minute.
Prices start from under €40 with my euro bus travel fav – Flixbus.
These guys offer services that run either via Munich or Stuttgart, as well as direct night time services – again great for saving on those accommodation costs if you really are travelling on a tight budget.
You’ll miss the views on a bus it must be said and they also take longer – 10 hours for the direct service and up to 16 hours if you go via Germany – but it’s hard to argue with the price!
Buses from Vienna to Zurich both depart from and arrive into the respective city’s central bus stations, meaning they often hit the city traffic.
Although this sounds annoying, it’s actually a welcome relief that they leave centrally when you have to get to the station with all your luggage from your accommodation!
Flixbus has free wifi, free power sockets, as well as free luggage allowances, onboard toilets and their app is great for storing eTickets and checking the location of your bus live.
I’ve used Flixbus as a budget traveller across Europe and can I highly recommend their efficient and safe services.
Get more info and prices for the Vienna to Zurich FlixBus journeys here.
Vienna to Zurich by Air
Although a very short journey, and very bad for your carbon footprint, you can book a flight from Vienna to Zurich.
Direct services take just over 1 hour and start from around €100 without luggage.
After you factor in the time of getting to and from the airport, as well as the check-in time, a flight may not prove any quicker than the train, but some people still prefer to opt for it.
If you want to check prices and departures for flight from Vienna to Zurich, then I highly recommend using Skyscanner as they include budget airlines in their searches and therefore offer some of the best deals around.
Vienna to Zurich by Car
And finally, the last way you may consider travelling from Vienna to Zurich is via 4 wheels.
Either this may involve renting a car and driving the distance yourself, or trying out a carpooling service like BlaBlaCar.
If you want to rent a vehicle then check out Thrifty Car Hire for some of the best deals around.
The pros to renting a car are flexibility and the ability to truly take in the scenery and landscape you’ll pass through.
The cons are the expense, organisation and having to drive in a foreign country.
The drive is also long and likely to take around 9 hours depending on traffic.
Rental a vehicle is altogether better if there’s a group of you, because you can share the costs and the driving duties.
Carpooling is great for budget travellers, as you share lifts with other people driving the same direction – it’s normally a good way to meet locals and keep costs down.
Usually, you’ll also be taken straight to the door of where you are staying, which makes life easy.
Just use common sense and exercise caution in terms of safety as always.
Continuing on Your Journey
Don’t forget that after your time in Zurich (or Vienna), the fun doesn’t have to stop there!
The Slovakian capital of Bratislava can easily be access from Vienna in a few hours and is well worth a few days exploring.
Budapest is also close to Vienna and another amazing city.
If you’re enjoying a European tour, these are all great cities to call in on and any of the transport methods mentioned above in this post can be used to get there.
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And there it is, my guide to everything you need to know about catching the train from Vienna to Zurich
Have you made this journey?
Which method of transport did you use?
Please leave any information about your journey that may help fellow travellers in the comments box below…