Brig, Switzerland: A major rail connection worth exploring
Brig is one of those places through which every European traveler passes eventually. Strategically placed in Switzerland’s Valais region, this major transport hub lies at the northern end of the Simplon tunnel. It is served by major international express trains such as the services from Geneva and Basel to Milan and Venice. And Brig is a key way-station on the touristy Glacier Express route that links classy Zermatt with even classier St. Moritz.
Onwards to Italy
Even before the coming of the railway, Brig (or “Brigue” in French) held a commanding position in transport across the Alps. Napoléon had decreed that a carriage road should be built over the Alps, and over 5,000 workers struggled to build the Simplon Pass highway over the mountains to Italy.
When it was opened, travelers were surprised to find that in good weather a ten-horse carriage could make the journey from Brig to Domodossola in just 12 hours. Nowadays, sleek modern trains purr through the Simplon rail tunnel and reach Domodossola in just 25 minutes.
Brig is more than just a railway junction and the town certainly warrants a visit in its own right. Brig’s star building is the superb Stockalper castle with its handsome triple-tier arcade courtyard and stately cupolas. It is a mark of the town’s erstwhile wealth. That castle, a brace of fine churches and several good restaurants around a fine piazza all combine to make Brig the perfect place to linger.
A great base for exploring Switzerland
The town makes a fine base for rail-based holidays exploring central and western Switzerland. Few other European cities can claim to be as perfectly connected to key tourist destinations as Brig.
Top destinations by direct train from Brig include:
1. Kandersteg: one train per hour (travel time: 40 mins)
2. Stresa (for Lake Maggiore): every two hours (travel time: 55 mins)
3. Berne: two trains per hour (travel time: 1 hr)
4. Montreux: two trains per hour (travel time: 1 hr 20 mins)
5. Zermatt: one train per hour (travel time: 1 hr 20 mins)
6. Lausanne: two trains per hour (travel time: 1 hr 45 mins)
7. Milan: every two hours (travel time: 1 hr 50 mins)
8. Andermatt: one train per hour (travel time: 2 hrs)
9. Zürich: one train per hour (travel time: 2 hrs 10 mins)
10. Geneva: two trains per hour (travel time: 2 hrs 25 mins)
Holders of Eurail passes might just note that services to Andermatt and Zermatt are operated by the Matterhorn-Gotthard Bahn (MGB), a private mountain railway company that does not accept Eurail passes. But the Swiss Pass (sold by Swiss Travel System) is recognized by MGB.