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Wilhelm Tell Gets a View - Cruise and Train Lucerne - Ticino

Gotthard Panorama Express Train CarIn 2017, the Wilhelm Tell Express becomes the Gotthard Panorama Express, with the arrival of new panoramic window train cars on the portion from Fluelen to Locarno. The paddle steamer portion of the route on the lake remains the same, but large window rail coaches allow a more scenic view over and through the Gotthard Pass. Despite the new name, the new train does not go through the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, but still follows the same old route through the shorter old Gotthard Tunnel. 

Wilhelm Tell Express Paddle SteamerThe Gotthard Panorama Express 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 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.

Wilhelm Tell Express Dining Room CherubIn 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 Gotthard Panorama 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. Seat reservations are required on the panoramic cars. A new phone app provides route information about the towns and sights along the way.

William Tell Express Steaer Lake ViewA ticket for the Gotthard Panorama Express Tour can be purchased individually, or with a 1st Class Swiss Pass or Eurail Pass, and reserved 1st class seats on the train and the boat. A 1st class ticket is required to board the boat in the upper deck. It is possible 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..

Tickets Gotthard Panorama Express

William Tell Express Route Map image


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