Bernina Express on Brusio Viaduct
Transport

Bernina Express | Fares, Timetables and Info [2021]

April 15, 2021 Last Updated on August 6, 2021

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If you want to get a picture-perfect view of the Alps, why not climb aboard the Bernina Express, one of the most panoramic trains in Switzerland? 

Travelling in both directions and traversing the highest railway in the Alps, the Bernina Express Route links northern and southern Europe, connecting Switzerland and Italy. The scenic journey travels along both the Albula Line and the Bernina Pass and covers 122 kilometres. 

Passengers can sit back and take in the stunning backdrop, as well as sample a variety of cultures and languages. When you ride on the Bernina Express, Switzerland’s many highlights – both natural and man made – will leave you breathless.

And best of all – travel on the Bernina Express is FREE* if you hold a Swiss Travel Pass or Swiss Half Fare Card or a Eurail Pass (*seat reservation fees apply). Read on to find out more.

In this guide, we cover all the information you need to know about planning and booking your ride on the Bernina Express.

Everything you need to know about the Bernina Expres

Bernina Express Route

Bernina Express route map
Map © Swiss Travel System AG

The Bernina Express crosses the picturesque canton of Graubünden, following the classic route of Chur to Tirano in Italy via the resort town of St. Moritz.  

Travelling between Chur and Tirano takes just under four and a half hours whilst the shorter Bernina Express Tirano to St. Moritz journey, (or vice versa), takes around 2.5 hours.

The Bernina Express will take you through the Bernina Pass and the Albula Pass, a railway journey that has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Alpine landscapes line the journey as the train passes under 55 tunnels and over a staggering 196 bridges along the way. 

There are steep gradients to negotiate, too. The Bernina train climbs as high as 2,253 metres to reach Ospizio Bernina Station, located on the banks of Lago Bianco. As you would expect, the views from here are spectacular. 


Lake Bianco and the Bernina Express
Lake Bianco provides a stunning backdrop. © Swiss Travel System AG

Joining the Bernina Express from other European destinations

You can connect with the Bernina Express from Milan and other cities such as Zurich. Bernina Express passengers will need to travel from their city of departure to Chur or Tirano and board the Bernina Express there. A few options: 

  • Zurich to Chur: Direct Intercity (1hr 15min) to Chur or a direct regional train
  • Milan to Tirano: Bernina Express passengers can take a direct regional train to Tirano (around 3 hours)
  • Vienna or Salzburg to Chur: Train to Sargans (Switzerland) then change trains and board one to Chur
  • Paris, Munich or Cologne to Chur: Train to Karlsruhe (Germany) or Zurich (Switzerland), then change trains and board one to Chur


The Bernina Express Bus 

The original Bernina Express Bus began operating back in 2010, transporting thousands of passengers annually and travelling in both directions between Tirano and Lugano. 

The bus, which takes passengers on a scenic journey through vineyards and along the shores of Lake Como, is easily recognisable as it is the same colour as the unmissable red train Bernina Express. 

Journey time aboard the Bernina Express Bus between Tirano and Lugano is three hours, and the service does not operate during the winter season.

TIP: If you are travelling from Switzerland to Italy or vice versa, remember to carry your Passport.


Bernina Express Route Highlights 

The Bernina Express train crossing the Landwasser Viaduct.
Crossing the Landwasser Viaduct is one of the many highlights of a trip on the Bernina Express. © Swiss Travel System AG

The Bernina Express takes you on a memorable journey, and you will see some wonderful sights along the way, including:

Landwasser Viaduct

Sandwiched between Thusis and St. Moritz, on the Albula stretch of railway, the Landwasser Viaduct is a majestic sight. An impressive feat of engineering and construction, the viaduct was built in 1902 and features pillars that stand at a towering 65 metres.

Nowadays, Landwasser is admired by railway enthusiasts and tourists alike and is considered one of the most famous railway overpasses in the world.  

Alp Grüm

Located on the southern side of the Bernina Pass in Poschiavo (one of Switzerland’s most beautiful villages), Alp Grüm can only be accessed by train or on foot. The station provides impressive panoramic views, sweeping across the Poschiavo Valley and drawing your eye to the Bergamasker Alps beyond.

Glacial waters tumble down the rocks, forming glistening icy pools of turquoise. Take a moment to enjoy nature in all its glory! 

Bernina Express train passes the alps
Spectacular scenery awaits you at every turn on the Bernina Express.

Ospizio Bernina

As mentioned above, the Ospizio Bernina railway station, which sits between Poschiavo Valley and Engadin, is located at 2,253 metres above sea level and is the highest point on the journey.

Valposchiavo

Located in the southern canton of Graubünden, the valley of Poschiavo (Val di Poschiavo) offers dramatic panoramas of mountain peaks. Highlights of the main town, Poschiavo, include its Mediterranean climate and Italian-influenced architecture. 

Brusio Circular Viaduct

Opened back in 1908, the Brusio Circular Viaduct – or the Viadotto elicoidale di Brusio, as they refer to it in Italy – is a well-known feature on the world-heritage listed Bernina railway.

The stone, nine-arched spiral railway viaduct features a single track and was erected to curb the railway’s incline and ensure it stayed within the specified 7% gradient. 


Bernina Express Timetable 

Bernina Express near Morteratsch
From glaciers to palms – the Bernina Express route is a scenic link between northern and southern Europe. © Swiss Travel System AG

During summer, there are two daily Bernina Express services between Chur and Tirano (and vice versa), one of which operates year round.  There are three summer services daily between St. Moritz and Tirano (and vice versa).

For bus connections between Tirano and Lugano, one daily service operates in each direction from early May until 31 October.

> Click here to see the timetable.

The Bernina Express winter timetable is more limited with just one daily service between Chur and Tirano and one service between St. Moritz and Tirano.  The same applies in the reverse direction.

The Bernina Express bus between Tirano and Lugano (and vice versa) operates Thursday to Sunday during November and there are no services from 28 November until early May.  


Jungfrau Region Travel Guide

Bernina Express Tickets – First Class or Second Class? 

You can choose to travel first or second class on the Bernina Express. Here’s what each class has to offer: 

Bernina Express Second Class 

  • Large panoramic windows offering spectacular views 
  • Sights described in a variety of languages via loud speaker, including English 
  • Reserved seat in a bay of 4 seats (2×2 seats adjacent to the corridor) 
  • Tables provided for each seat 
  • Info(t)rainment: personal digital tour guide available to download to your smartphone or tablet

Bernina Express First Class 

  • Large panoramic windows offering spectacular views
  • Sights described in a variety of languages via loud speaker, including English 
  • Quiet ambience
  • Spacious seating 
  • Reserved seat in bay of 4 seats (2 seats opposite each other and, 2+1 seats adjacent to the corridor)
  • Tables provided for each seat 
  • Info(t)rainment: personal digital tour guide available to download to your smartphone or tablet

*Headphones available from the mini bar for CHF 2.00.


Facilities onboard the Bernina Express 

The Bernina Express passes Lago Bianco
As the Bernina Express travels between Alp Grüm and Ospizio Bernina it passes the picturesque Lago Bianco.

The Bernina Express offers a number of facilities to its passengers. The modern panoramic carriages provide unspoiled views of the Bernina Railway’s Alpine surroundings. 

If you can tear yourself away from the vistas, enjoy a drink or sandwich from the refreshment trolley. The helpful staff also have souvenirs for you to browse, so you can pick up a memento to remind you of the journey. 

A relatively new addition to the Bernina Express is free onboard WiFi, but with the stunning scenery outside your window, you’re not likely to spend much time looking at your mobile device! 


Bernina Express ticket price 

Regular ticket prices* for the Bernina Express are as follows:

Single
2nd cl.
Single
1st cl.
Return
2nd cl.
Return
1st cl.
Chur – TiranoCHF 63CHF 111CHF 126CHF 222
Chur – PoschiavoCHF 56CHF 98CHF 112CHF 196
St. Moritz – TiranoCHF 32CHF 56CHF 64CHF 112

*Prices are per adult and do not include seat reservation fee


Bernina Express discounts

Discounts apply to the regular Bernina Express price for holders of the following travel passes:

>> Swiss Travel Pass – Travel on the Bernina Express is included with the Swiss Travel Pass however a seat reservation is required (see section below) at an additional cost. > Click here to buy your Swiss Travel Pass

>> Swiss Half Fare Card – Holders of a Swiss Half Fare Card receive a 50% discount on the regular ticket price.  Seat reservation fee is additional.   > Click here to buy your Swiss Half Fare Card

>> Eurail Pass – If you hold a Eurail Pass that covers Switzerland, travel on the Bernina Express is included, however seat reservation fees apply. > Click here to buy your Eurail Pass


Where to buy Bernina Express tickets 

Ready to make your Bernina Express booking? We recommend you purchase your tickets well in advance of your travel date.  As one of Switzerland’s five premium panoramic trains, tickets on the Bernina Express sell out quickly, so to avoid disappointment, book your Bernina Express tickets online.  (You only need to purchase an actual ticket if you don’t hold one of the travel passes mentioned above.)


Making a Bernina Express seat reservation 

The Bernina Express in winter
The Bernina Express runs year round. © Swiss Travel System AG

Due to its popularity, seat reservations are compulsory for all travellers on the Bernina Express and the Bernina Express Bus, and differ slightly in price depending on when you travel.  

Regardless of whether you hold a travel pass or are purchasing a point-to-point ticket for your trip on Bernina Express, you must purchase a seat reservation.

Current prices are:

  • Summer: 1 June to 30 September – CHF 16.00
  • Shoulder: 1 March to 31 May and 1 October to 31 October – CHF 14.00
  • Winter: 1 November to 11 December – CHF 10.00

Prices are per sector.  For example, if you are travelling on both the Bernina Express train and bus during season A, you need to pay CHF 16.00 per person for each sector, totalling CHF 32.00 per person.

No reductions apply to seat reservation fees.

Bernina Express reservations open three months before the travel date and it is recommended that you reserve your seat as early as possible. > Click here to make your Bernina Express seat reservation.

If you hold a Swiss Travel Pass, Swiss Half Fare Card or Eurail Pass, you can purchase your seat reservations > here.



Taking luggage on the Bernina Express

The Bernina Express has no luggage restrictions as the train has luggage racks near the doors that are suitable for big suitcases. You will also find useful wardrobes next to the doors where you can hang jackets and coats.

Valuables and smaller bags can be taken with you to your allocated seat where you will find a space for storage.  


Bernina Express or Glacier Express?

The Glacier Express is another very well-known Swiss panoramic train and takes passengers from St. Moritz to Zermatt. The Glacier Express route is certainly scenic, but many would argue that the Bernina Express offers a more breathtaking route.

With the many highlights along the way, the Bernina Railway will provide you with a four-hour journey you won’t forget in a hurry. 

And, if you are a little short on time, the shorter duration of the Bernina Express ride compared to the Glacier Express’ 8-hour journey time, can also be a deciding factor.


Final Thoughts

Bernina Express beside Lake Poschiavo
Lake Poschiavo is just one of the lakes that the Bernina Express route passes. © Swiss Travel System AG

If you are looking for a magical journey through awe-inspiring Alpine scenery, you won’t be disappointed with your trip on the Bernina Express. 


Podcast

Learn more about the Bernina Express in our podcast (around 16:34). Click the green arrow below to listen.


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Bernina Express guide

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