The Wilhelm Tell Journey: Gotthard Panorama Express

The Wilhelm Tell Express is a train that goes from Lucerne to Ticino and passes by a bunch of historic sites that are important to the Swiss national hero.


The boat leaves from the dock in front of Lucerne station, crossing Lake Lucerne and zigzagging to give you the best views.


The first big basin, the Kreuztrichter, has a great view of the Pilatus (right) and Rigi (left) mountains. The second basin is Gersau, which was once an independent republic. Then you reach Treib, an isolated and romantic region.


The boat veers to the right and enters the Canton of Uri. A monolith protruding from the lake is dedicated to the poet Schiller, author of the epic that recounts the deeds of Wilhelm Tell.


The rocky wall overlooking the water at Rütli, covered by a huge red-cross flag, reminds us of the spot where, on 1 August 1291, the cantons of Uri, Unterwalden and Schwyz confirmed the pact that later became the Swiss Confederation. A small chapel was erected a little further on, on the other bank, where Tell would have landed after escaping from his jailers.


The boat part of the journey ends in Flüelen. A few steps away is the railway station on the historic Gotthard line. In Wassen, the line winds through tunnels, and the town can be seen from three perspectives. To notice it, look for the bell tower, which stands out tall and Gothic.


Göschenen is the last German-speaking village before the Gotthard tunnel: 15 km into the Canton of Ticino. The landscape changes; the valley gets wider and brighter, but then closes in at the Biaschina gorges. The Ticino valley is called the “Riviera” from Biasca to Bellinzona, where the three Viscontei castles (Unesco Heritage) stand out on the left side of the line.


From here, the journey can continue in the direction of Lake Maggiore towards the final destination of Locarno, or, with a change, up to Lake Lugano.