Swiss Bliss! Sightseeing Switzerland by Train
The easiest way to explore Switzerland’s majestic Alpine Scenery. Year-round between St. Moritz/ Davos and Zermatt (except November – Mid December), The Glacier Express Switzerland drives through some of the most spectacular landscapes. Even though the train is called an Express, it travels on a leisurely speed through valleys, along rivers and climbs mountain passes thanks to cog rails. It’s proudly called the “World’s slowest express train”.
Why not take a Panoramic train trip on the Glacier Express from St. Moritz or Chur to Zermatt through the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. This breathtakingly scenic journey lasts 7:30 hours passing through Alpine heartland crossing 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels and over the Oberalp Pass at 2032 meters (6,669 feet).
Each year, more than 250,000 people take the route from St Moritz to Zermatt or vice versa. It is called the slowest express train in the world. It has to be with about 180 miles through rugged Alpine landscapes. On your way, you will not only discover the diverse physical landscape, but also the cultural and linguistic one.
Facts and Figures
- The Glacier Express Switzerland launched in 1930 and operated between Zermatt and St. Moritz only in the summer season.
- 1982, the Furka tunnel (15km / 9.3mi) opened and made this trip year-round possible.
- In 2008, the Rhaetian Railway stretch in the Albula/Bernina landscape became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Since 2009, all trains are equipped with first and second-class panorama coaches.
- The Glacier Express crosses 291 bridges, runs through 91 tunnels, and climbs up to 2’033m (6,670 ft) above sea level.
- Non-smoking train.
- The “World’s slowest Express Train” takes 7 ½ hours to travel from St. Moritz to Zermatt.
- Summer season Mid May to End of October: 3 daily trains between St. Moritz and Zermatt and 1 daily train between Davos Platz and Zermatt and visa versa.
- Winter season Mid December to Mid May: 1 daily train between St. Moritz and Zermatt (change in Filisur for Davos Platz), and 1 daily train between Chur and Visp and visa versa.
- The Glacier Express does not run from November until Mid December.
- Travel time: 7 ½ hours.
- Although the train stops frequently, one can only board and deboard at certain stops.
- Seat reservation obligatory. It can be made online or on any train station in Switzerland and most of the major railway stations abroad, preferably a day ahead; high season as early as possible but not more than 90 days before departure.
- Both classes offer practically the same service:
1st class more room – 2 seat on one side; 1 seat on the other side
2nd class offers 4 seat compartments (2 seats each side of the aisle)
- Headphones: Information available in six languages and a music program throughout the journey.
- Group travel: Discounts available for groups of more than ten people.
- Wheelchair accessible: For questions and to let the operator know that you travel by wheelchair, contact the Glacier Express by email.
Tickets and Railpasses
- Regular tickets one way or return available, reservation fees apply plus meals if you wish to dine in the Glacier Express.
- Rail Passes valid (Swiss Pass, Swiss Flexi Pass, Swiss Youth Pass, Swiss Saver Pass).
- Eurailpass: 25% discount on the regular fare.
- Half-fare card: 50% discount on the regular fare.
- With the ‘General Abonnement’ (GA): free
- 1-Day Travel Pass with Half-fare card: free.
- Junior or Grandchild Travel Card, Family Card: Children between 6 and 16 years travel free if accompanied by a parent or grandparent with a valid ticket.
- Children up to six years of travel free.
- Children 6 – 16 years pay half price.
- Seat reservations: applies to any pass, full or discounted ticket. From CHF (Swiss Francs) 13.00 and 33.00 depending on the season.
- Catering: Plate of the day CHF 28.00; Three-course lunch: CHF 41.00; soft drinks, tea/coffee and alcohol available as are other small items like soup and sandwiches.
- Dogs welcome: tickets cost 50% of the regular fare and seat reservations have to be made (and paid for) as well.
Glacier Express Switzerland Tips
- In peak seasons, the 1st class is maybe a little less crowded.
- Pack your own snacks, drinks or lunch if you don’t want to pay the relatively high price for the meals served on board.
- If you are a bit pressed by time, consider traveling only certain sections, for example, St. Moritz- Brig, St. Moritz – Andermatt, Chur – Brig and so on. Check online or ask at any train station in Switzerland when you make your seat reservation.
- If you ask me (smile), fall and winter are the two most beautiful seasons to travel with the Glacier Express.
- Combine a ski holiday in St. Moritz or Davos and Zermatt and take a day off while you travel between these Swiss resorts.
- The brilliant colors of fall – golden larch and deep blue sky combined with a magical light – make the trip even ‘more awesome’.
- Regular trains operate on the same route. You won’t enjoy panorama windows, but you experience the same views only with way fewer tourists on board. No reservation is necessary. What’s more, you can stop along the route and enjoy a few hours in the countryside or stay at a particular village overnight and then continue to your destination. Let the conductor know if you want to interrupt the journey so you can use the same ticket to continue later.
- My recommendation for breaking the journey: Chur is a lively city; the old part of the city is car-free. Great shopping, excellent restaurants, and hotels for every budget. Concerts, museums, entertainment, and many heritage buildings. No matter which way you travel with the Glacier Express – Zermatt to St. Moritz or the other way around – Chur is an ideal city to break the journey, stay overnight and continue the next day.
- If you travel in winter, consider combining a city break in Chur with an exhilarating and fun sledding experience between Preda and Bergün. Tickets available at the train station in Chur.
- If the Glacier Express is part of your Swiss travel vacation, and you are planning to take more than one train ride, consider buying one of the Swiss Passes