The Alpine beauty of Lucerne and Lugano, the Renaissance glory of Venice, and the Belle Epoque romance of Paris
In a little over a week, it is possible to experience the Alpine beauty of Lucerne and Lugano, the Renaissance glory of Venice, and the Belle Epoque romance of Paris. Travelling by train means the journey becomes part of the pleasure, as you pass through snowy mountain gorges, past meadows of wildflowers, by shimmering lakes and rocky waterfalls, arriving for breakfast in the heart of Venice, one flight of steps from the Grand Canal. This holiday is a jewel-box of lifelong memories, linked by shimmering water - the silvery mists of Lucerne, Lugano’s amethyst lake, the first sight of Venice’s ancient palaces reflected in the sunlit canals…it is a week of travel to inspire the mind and soothe the soul.
Have a relaxed breakfast in one of the chic cafes at the beautifully refurbished London St Pancras , then board the Eurostar for Paris. There is a buffet card on board, and an executive upgrade means food service at your table, a quieter carriage, more spacious seats and a plug socket and free wifi.
Alight at the Gare du Nord, then cross Paris by RER D or Taxi, to the Gare de Lyon, to board the early afternoon train to Basel. There is a hot buffet on board, or buy a picnic at the station. The TGV Lyria trains have interiors designed by Christian Lacroix and are modern, spacious and relaxing, with screens detailing journey information.
Change at Basel for Lucerne, and arrive early evening. The change at Basel is easy but you will pass through passport control as you leave France and enter Switzerland. It’s just a short walk to The Hotel, or a short bus or cab ride to The Montana Hotel, then a ride on the world’s smallest funicular to its entrance.
The hotel restaurants are excellent, so relax on your first night and eat in one of them.
Days 1 - 2
Spend the morning sightseeing in Lucerne- cross the ancient Charles Bridge, and wander the narrow streets of the Old Town, where many houses are still decorated with murals. Have lunch in one of Lucerne’s lakeside restaurants, or take a picnic to the benches overlooking the lake.
In the afternoon, take the boat across the lake and ascend Mount Pilatus by unique cogwheel railway or cable car, for astonishing views. Spend the night at the 4* Pilatus Kulm Hotel, and wake to the sight of mountains lit by sunrise beneath your windows.
After breakfast, take the William Tell Express to Lugano. The traditional paddle steamer crosses Lake Lucerne in slightly under three hours, and this gentle journey undoubtedly ranks as one of the most beautiful in the world.
From Fluehen station on the far side of the lake, the train travels through the glorious Gotthard Pass- a panoramic coach with huge windows allows spectacular views of the mountains, waterfalls and valleys on the way to Lugano.
Spend the afternoon sightseeing in Lugano- stroll through the beautiful park by the lake, visit the Renaissance cathedral, and enjoy the Italian atmosphere of this Swiss city. In the evening, eat at Osteria Penel, and take an evening stroll through the lively town back to your hotel.
Check out of your hotel after breakfast, take the short funicular up to Lugano station, and board the late morning train for Venice. Journey through the Alps into Italy, through spectacular scenery, before arriving at Milan for the connection to Venice. It's an easy change as there are no lifts or escalators to negotiate as the Venice train leaves from a nearby platform. The architecture of Milan station is beautiful, as is the station roof. Once you're settled into your seat on the Venice train, you'll see a different landscape to the Alpine one you've just left. It's flatter, but you'll pass through enticing towns and cities such as Verona on the way. Perhaps take a picnic for the journey, to save you having to make your way to the buffet car.
Days 4 - 7
When you arrive at Venice Santa Lucia take the Vaporetto, from the front of the station, or walk to your hotel and check in your bags and enjoy dinner overlooking the Grand Canal.
On your first morning in Venice, walk or take the waterbus to San Marco, at the heart of Venice. Spend the day exploring the square with its famous bell tower, the Doges’ Palace, and the waterfront of the Grand Canal between the Ponte Vecchio and the Ponte dell'Accademia, a walk forested with wonderful churches, galleries and gondoliers. Have lunch at an osteria, the little Venetian bars which throng the tiny streets behind San Marco, or celebrate with afernoon tea at the exquisite Caffe Florian. An evening gondola ride, followed by dinner, closes your first, full day in Venice.
On your second day, spend the morning examining the glories of Venice more closely- at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Accademia, or in any of the city’s great galleries and churches. This water-bound city can be warm, so take a gentle approach- have lunch at Il Figli Delle Stelle, on the shady island of Guidecca, looking back towards San Marco, or escape to the cooler backstreets towards Santa Croce which offer plenty of traditional trattorias. In the afternoon, wander the canals, or take a vaporetto down the Grand Canal towards The Lido to see the glorious, fading facades of the ancient buildings glowing in the setting sun.
On your last day in Venice, breakfast in a pavement café, before further sightseeing- visit the beautiful Museum of Musical Instruments, or shop for souvenirs of wooden carnival masks or croquantes, the local sweet, in the little shops behind San Marco. Have lunch at a pizzeria, and explore the narrow streets, or take a waterbus to Murano or Torcello.
Collect your luggage, or use the Railbookers concierge service, and return to the station to catch the night train to Paris just before 8pm. Take a picnic on board, or eat at an osteria before leaving, then settle down to remember all you’ve seen and done as the Thello train rushes you through the night towards France.
The train arrives into Paris from Berlin at around 9.30am, so there’s time for coffee and croissants and a few hours’ sightseeing. Leave the bags at left luggage at Gare de L'Est, and take a petit - dejeuner at one of Paris’s charming pavement cafes.
You can then either head back to the Gare Du Nord by foot (it's only a ten minute walk), Metro or taxi and catch a mid-morning Eurostar back to London, arriving early afternoon for your onward journey home- or enjoy a relaxed Parisian lunch in the Marais and perhaps take a stroll along the Seine to leave you with memories of the city’s marvels, before taking a mid afternoon Eurostar and arriving back in London just as the sun sets over Big Ben.
Or you could stay an extra night in Paris and travel back to London the following day. CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR PARIS PAGE
If you're coming from Gare de Lyon (or Gare D'Austerlitz and Gare Montparnase) you'll need at least 90 minutes to allow for check-in time at Gare du Nord. Gare De L'Est is much closer, just a 10 minute walk.
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