The luxury Glacier Express trains with panoramic windows connect Zermatt and St Moritz via some of the most spectacular Alpine scenery in Switzerland. Ticket prices are the same as for regular trains on the route but obligatory seat reservations are extra.
The Glacier Express trains from Zermatt in the Valais Alps travel up the Rhone Valley, cross the Alps at Oberalppass, travel down the Rhine Gorge to Chur (and Davos) before riding the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed Albula Line to St Moritz in the Alps of the Upper Engadin in Graubünden. Tickets for the Glacier Express are pricey due to compulsory seat reservations but discounts are often available. Children under 16 travel for almost free.
Glacier Express Panoramic Train in Switzerland
The Glacier Express is probably the most famous and most luxurious of all the Swiss panorama trains. It revels in the claim that it is the slowest express train in the world. Passengers ride this train with its panoramic windows and at-seat restaurant service for the journey and not just to arrive, even though Glacier Express destinations such as Zermatt, Davos, and St Moritz count amongst the most popular and most glamorous Swiss Alpine resorts.
The complete Glacier Express route between St Moritz and Zermatt takes around 8 hours. En route, the trains cover 291 km, cross 291 bridges or viaducts and pass through 91 tunnels.
The Glacier Express trains run usually three times per day in each direction during summer and once per day in winter.
Luxury Glacier Express Trains from Zermatt to St Moritz
From Zermatt (1604 m) with the famous Matterhorn, the trains go down to the Rhone Valley (Brig at 670 m). Since the completion of the Furka base tunnel, the Glacier Express can operate year-round. It no longer travels through the Furka pass and travelers no longer see the Rhone Glacier, after which the train is named.
The historic Furka Steam Train still makes the journey on special trips during summer.
However, the Glacier Express soon climbs the Alps again. It uses a rack-and-pinion system to both climb and help brake the train en route to and from the highest point on the route – the Oberalp Pass (2033 m).
The Rhine Gorge (Rheinschlucht) is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. This beautiful valley with bizarre rock shapes and white cliff walls can only be traveled by train, boat, bicycle, or on foot.
Some Glacier Express passengers alight at Chur (585 m), the historic capital of Graubünden. However, most stay on the train as it starts to climb the Alps again via the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed Albula railway line, also used by the Bernina Express trains.
Passengers for Davos change trains in Filisur (1032 m), or in summer may take the Glacier Express Bus from Chur via the Lenzerheid to Davos (1540 m).
Glamorous St Moritz (1775 m) is the final terminus of the Glacier Express trains. Travelers can overnight here in famous and luxurious hotels or descent down the Alps again on the Bernina Express trains to Italy or Lugano.
Travel Classes and Ticket Prices on the Glacier Express
The Glacier Express is famous for its comfortable wagons with panoramic windows allowing travelers unhindered views of the spectacular Alpine scenery that the train travels through. These panorama cars are used for excellence, first, and second-class travel.
Seats in second class on the Glacier Express are usually grouped to form seating for four with two seats on each side of the aisle. In first-class, seats are slightly wider with one side of the aisle having single seats and the other side two. Seating is mostly face-to-face with a table in the middle. Excellence Class is even more exclusive and pricey: here only single seats are used to guarantee a window seat and a gourmet meal is included in the hefty surcharge price.
The Glacier Express trains offer meals served at the seat in all classes. The train is without a restaurant car but a Glacier Express Panorama Bar usually separates first and second-class wagons. Smaller snacks and drinks may be enjoyed here. Travelers may bring their own picnics too, which is a good idea as it is a long ride.
Meals may be reserved in advanced to guarantee availability. Meals are not cheap but also not really pricier than in a good Swiss restaurant. Drinks have a huge mark up.
Ticket Prices and Seat Reservations for the Glacier Express
Tickets for the Glacier Express are available from any outlet selling Swiss railway tickets, including RailEurope in the USA. Seat reservations are obligatory for all travelers, including children, and are not discounted in any way. Seat reservations for the Glacier Express currently range between CHF43 in summer and CHF23 during the winter season – this booking fee is the same for first and second class.
For the luxury excellence class, a first-class ticket is required plus a surcharge of CHF420.
Sample ticket fares on the Glacier Express, excluding seat reservations, are:
|Journey||Second Class (CHF)||First Class (CHF)|
|St Moritz to Zermatt||153||269|
|Davos to Zermatt||145||255|
|Chur to Zermatt||119||210|
|To / From Brig – deduct||-38||-67|
All regular discount fares and tickets for Swiss Railways are valid for the Glacier Express – discounts are calculated from these base fares before the obligatory reservation fee is added.
Regular trains also operate on the same railway tracks and at the above prices without the seat reservation surcharge. However, it is usually necessary to change trains en route — if the budget allows, the Glacier Express trains really are special.
- Tips on Discounted Tickets and Savings Fares for the Glacier Express – savings deals are often available with families saving most when using a Junior Card for children.
- Travel on the Bernina Express Train – from glaciers to palm trees: after the Glacier Express probably the best-known panorama train in Switzerland (and on into Italy).
- Glacier Express on Rail Europe