The Glacier Express Train (or Gletscherexpress in German) is considered one of the most scenic Swiss Railway journeys in the country.
Often referred to as the “world’s slowest express train”, this Swiss Alps train runs between St. Moritz and Zermatt and passes some of Switzerland’s most stunning landscapes including mountains, streams, impressive rock formations and, if you travel during the colder months, plenty of snow.
A Glacier Express tour is often a highlight of many travellers’ trips to Switzerland.
Everything you need to know about the Glacier Express Train
If you’re considering taking the Swiss Glacier Express during your Switzerland trip, then this is the perfect guide for you.
In this guide, I cover everything you need to know about taking the Glacier train, including the Glacier Express Switzerland route, Glacier Express Switzerland price (including which Swiss passes include the rail journey) and where to buy your tickets.
We also provide step-by-step instructions for how to make your Glacier Express seat reservation.
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A brief history of the Glacier Express
The Glacier Express first began operating on 25 June, 1930. The route connected Zermatt and St Moritz, and four of the finest vehicles owned by the three local Swiss railways involved were used. A brand new dining car was also added.
The initial trips between Zermatt and St Moritz took just under 11 hours each way. Electricity was supplied to most of the route, apart from the section between Brig and Disnentis.
Steam power was used here for over a decade, until electricity was introduced during the summer of 1941.
During the first two months, the new service proved to be incredibly popular, and about 20,000 passengers had used the Glacier Express by September 1930.
Though the service was suspended during the Second World War, it was given its red livery in 1968. From 1982 it operated all year round.
The early 1980s saw the Glacier Express being heavily marketed to American and German audiences.
By 1985, two more trains were needed to cover the summer season, and by the mid 1990s, over 250,000 passengers per year were travelling on what was nicknamed ‘the slowest express train in the world’.
Around this time, new cars were also purchased to upgrade the service. Some 25 years later, for the 90 year anniversary in 2020, every panoramic car was also fully overhauled and updated once again.
Today the Glacier Express is one of the best-loved panoramic train journeys in the world. Now, passengers can also book the superior Excellence Class with sweeping views from every window seat.
Selected windows can also be opened on the train once more to allow for better views and photography.
Quick Summary of Glacier Express Fares
|Individual tickets||Price from CHF 152||BUY HERE|
|With Swiss Travel Pass||Included||BUY PASS HERE|
|With Swiss Half Fare Card||Price from CHF 76||BUY CARD HERE|
|With Eurail Pass*||Included||BUY PASS HERE|
|Seat reservations||From CHF 29||BUY HERE|
From prices based on 2nd class, low season for entire journey from Zermatt to St. Moritz or vice versa (excluding day trip option which includes travel on the Glacier Express between Chur and Brig only).
*Eurail Pass must include Switzerland
Learn more about the Swiss Travel Pass and Swiss Half Fare Card in this article.
The Glacier Express Route
The Glacier Express runs between the two major Swiss mountain resorts of St. Moritz and Zermatt and takes you through the three cantons of Valais, Uri and Graubünden.
Throughout the almost 8-hour journey, passengers are rewarded with some of the most beautiful landscapes in all of Switzerland, including crossing a staggering 291 bridges and passing through an impressive 91 tunnels.
While the journey can be taken across an entire day, it’s best to think of the trip in sections.
This way you can choose whether you do all sections in the one day, or over a few days, allowing time for exploring the various Glacier Express stops along the route.
Following is a brief overview of each section:
Zermatt to Brig
The Glacier Express Switzerland train journey starts in the alpine village of Zermatt, which is at the end of the Alpine Valley, just below the world-famous Matterhorn.
Zermatt is a gorgeous car-free mountain village which sits at an altitude of 1,605 metres above sea level and offers fantastic views of the Matterhorn.
From Zermatt, the Glacier Express train route heads to the town of Visp. Along this part of the journey, expect to pass between narrow sections with massive rock walls rising to heights of around 4,000 metres.
The train then descends 651 metres towards the town of Brig, where it makes its first stop.
For this section of the journey, either the left or right side of the train has brilliant views.
Brig to Andermatt
From the town of Brig, the train crosses the river Rhone and winds its way up through the Upper Rhone Valley. Soon the train reaches Oberwald at an altitude of 1,366 metres.
The train then travels through the Furka Tunnel. This tunnel is 15.4 kilometres long and, at its highest point, sits at an elevation of 1,550 metres.
After the tunnel, the train follows a relatively flat stretch of track into Andermatt, which is the second stop.
For this section of the journey, either the left or right side of the train has brilliant views.
Andermatt to Chur
From Andermatt, the train climbs upwards through the Oberalp Pass. The track reaches an altitude of 2,033 metres – the highest point of the entire journey. During November through to April, expect the area to be covered with snow.
The train then makes a long descent along the Rhine Valley. On this section, you will pass the Rhine Gorge where the river is carved into the rocks. The gorge is a stunning canyon, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland.
The area is surrounded by cliffs several hundred metres high and the region is covered with forest and is full of wildlife.
You will then arrive in Chur, which at 585 metres, is the lowest altitude of the train journey. Chur is the oldest town in Switzerland and the largest town on the Glacier Express route.
On this section, the train makes a stop at Disentis and Chur.
For the best views, it is recommended to sit on the left side of the train for this section.
Chur to St Moritz
This section of the Glacier Express route is also covered by the Bernina Express route. On this section, the train heads in the direction of Reichenau, followed by Thusis and Tiefencastel in the Domleschg Valley. This area is known for its castles and ruins.
The train continues passing through the narrow valley before arriving at the spectacular Landwasser viaduct.
The Landwasser Viaduct is a stunning 136 metre long and 65 metre high, single track, six-arched (each arch spans around 20 metres) limestone viaduct which crosses the Landwasser between Schmitten and Filisur.
After Filisur, the train takes several spiral turns as it ascends 1,789 metres to the Albula Tunnel. The tunnel takes you even higher up the Upper Engadine Valley before reaching the final destination of St. Moritz.
St Moritz is one of the swankiest alpine towns in all of Switzerland. This is where the rich and famous come to holiday. As well as being well known as a top class ski resort, it’s also an excellent base for hiking, thermal baths, fine dining and luxury shopping.
On this section, the train makes a stop at Tiefencastel, Filisur, Samedan and St Moritz.
There is also an option for passengers to disembark at Filisur and take a connecting train to Davos in the east.
For the best views, it is recommended to sit on the right side of the train for this section.
The Glacier Express Timetable
The Glacier Express operates year round expect for a short period from late-October to mid-December when it doesn’t run at all.
During the winter months (10 December 2022 to 12 May 2023), the Glacier Express leaves Zermatt at 8.52am and arrives in St Moritz at 4.37pm. There is also an additional service one hour later from 6 April, 2023.
The train also runs in reverse (St Moritz to Zermatt) leaving St Moritz at 8.51 am and arriving in Zermatt at 5.10pm. An additional train departs St. Moritz at 9.50am, arriving in Zermatt at 6.10pm from 6 April, 2023.
Note: Excellence class is not available on the first services of the day from 27 March to 14 April, 2023.
During the summer months (13 May to 15 October 2023), there are two services per day covering the entire route. These trains leave Zermatt at 8.52am and 9.52am, and arrives in St Moritz at 4.37pm and 5.37pm.
In reverse, the trains leave St Moritz at 8.51 am and 9.48am, arriving in Zermatt at 5.10pm and 6.10pm.
Excellence class in only available on the earlier service (in both directions).
Click here to see the 2023 Glacier Express timetable.
Glacier Express winter recess
There will be no Glacier Express trains running between 16 October and 9 December, 2023.
Classes Available on the Glacier Express Switzerland
There are three different class options available on the Glacier Express Swiss Alps train, including 2nd class, 1st class and Excellence Class (this class is only available on selected services).
Regardless of which class you book, you can expect the following facilities onboard:
- Panoramic windows all the way to the roof of the carriage.
- Information about the routes – in 1st and 2nd class this is provided by way of headphones.
- Air conditioning.
- Food and drink available to be served at your seat.
- Access to an onboard restaurant and bar.
The main differences between 1st class and 2nd class is space. Second class carriages have a seat configuration of 2 and 2, whereas the 1st class carriages have 2 seats on one side and 1 seat on the other. You may also find it quieter in 1st class due to there being less passengers.
If you really want to splash out though, another option is the brand-new Excellence Class – this takes 1st class to a whole new level.
This is what you can expect in the Glacier Express Excellence Class carriage:
- Only one seat per window – so everyone gets a window seat.
- Spacious and luxurious lounge seats.
- Five course lunch with accompanying wines.
- Snacks throughout the day as well as afternoon tea.
- Tablet with Bordinfotainment.
- Lockable luggage compartment.
- Personal concierge to answer your questions and provide information en route.
- Limited of 20 passengers per carriage.
- Private bar area.
Glacier Express Price
The Glacier Express ticket price varies depending on what sections of the journey you take, however for the entire trip from Zermatt to St Moritz the Glacier Express cost is CHF 152 for 2nd class and CHF 268 for 1st class and Excellence Class.
Yes, you read that correctly the 1st class and Glacier Express Excellence class prices are the same – however, the price difference comes in the seat reservation – see below for details.
Read more about Switzerland’s fantastic rail network in this article.
Glacier Express Tickets and Swiss Rail Passes
The Glacier Express Train Switzerland is included in full or discounts are available in the following circumstances:
- You will receive half-price tickets on the Glacier Express if you hold a Swiss Half Fare Card – click here to buy the Half Fare Card.
- The Glacier Express train cost is covered is in full if you hold a Swiss Travel Pass or Eurail Pass that covers Switzerland – click here to buy a Swiss Travel Pass | click here to buy a Eurail Pass.
- If a child is traveling with a parent and they hold the Junior Card or Family Card, they will travel for free.
Please note that regardless of the pass you hold (including children), seat reservations are mandatory – see below.
Where to buy Swiss Glacier Express Train Tickets
If you don’t already hold a Swiss Travel Pass (you can buy one here) or don’t intend to buy one, you can purchase tickets for the Glacier Express online. Click here to buy your ticket.
Glacier Express Seat Reservation Fees
Unlike most other Swiss trains, all passengers (including children) must make a seat reservation in advance for the Glacier Express. Seat reservations for the entire journey cost CHF 39 for 2nd class in low season and CHF 49 for 1st class in high season.
For Excellence Class, a seat reservation costs CHF 470 regardless of the season.
The only exception to seat reservations is for children under 6 travelling in 1st or 2nd Class that don’t require their own seat.
When can you make Glacier Express Seat Reservations?
Glacier Express seat reservations (1st and 2nd class) can be made for travel within the next 3 months. Excellence Class seat reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance. Due to the popularity of this train, it is recommended that you make your seat reservation as early as possible.
How to make a Glacier Express Seat Reservation
The best way to make Glacier Express seat reservations is online using the following instructions.
Visit the Glacier Express website and select the Booking option on the bottom left.
Select the service you wish to travel on. In most cases, this will be the Classic Glacier Express option shown on the left.
Enter your departure and arrival stations, the date of travel and your preferred class of travel. Then click Next.
Enter the number of passengers and select the service (time) you wish to travel on. At this point, you can disregard the prices that are displayed in the blue box on the top right.
Select the seat/s you wish to reserve. (Available seats are light green.) Then click Next.
Add the name and date of birth of all travellers. If you only wish to purchase the seat reservation as you already have (or will have) a valid Swiss Travel Pass, choose Reservation only from the dropdown menu in the Reduction box.
If you have a Half Fare Card, choose the appropriate option, and if you have no travel pass and wish to purchase your ticket and seat reservation, choose None.
The applicable seat reservation fee and/or fare will now display in the blue box in the top right.
You can now continue to the next page to complete your payment details.
You will receive a confirmation email from Glacier Express with the details of your seat reservations. You should print out the seat reservations to show the ticket inspector onboard.
Note: seat reservations are non-refundable and cannot be exchanged.
Glacier Express day trips
If you’d prefer to take a private guided day trip on the Glacier Express, you can check prices by clicking the links below:
- Glacier Express day trip from Bern
- Glacier Express day trip from Lucerne
- Glacier Express day trip from Zurich
Glacier Express FAQs
Is the Glacier Express worth it?
The Glacier Express is so worth it! Firstly, you get to experience one of the world’s greatest panoramic train trips in an incredibly scenic country. You can also travel from A to B – or in this case from Zermatt to St Moritz, or vice versa – in a convenient, stress-free way.
How long does it take to ride the Glacier Express?
Today, the full trip between Zermatt and St Moritz takes about seven-and-a-half hours. You can break the Glacier Express journey into shorter sections, though, if you prefer. Zermatt to Brig, Brig to Andermatt, Andermatt to Chur and Chur to St Moritz are examples of shorter sections.
Where does the Glacier Express begin and end?
The Glacier Express begins (or ends) in Zermatt, where the majestic Matterhorn can be found. Skating, hiking, skiing and hiking are popular in this Swiss town.
The panoramic train journey ends (or begins) in St Moritz, an upmarket Swiss ski resort where the shops sparkle as much as the snow does.
Does the Glacier Express have WiFi?
The infotainment system on board the Glacier Express provides a WiFi connection. Every seat has this, plus a power socket. The system also gives passengers information about the train and its route.
Which Glacier Express route is best?
The section of the Glacier Express regarded as the most scenic is between Andermatt and Disentis. This section includes the Oberalp Pass, where you can see snow-capped mountains in winter or emerald-clad slopes in summer.
For the best views throughout the journey, sit on the right when travelling from Zermatt to St Moritz or the left when travelling in the opposite direction.
I hope you’ve found this Glacier Express guide helpful and you can now book your Glacier Express train ride with confidence.
Enjoy your journey on the world’s slowest express train.
🇨🇭Don’t forget – the Glacier Express fare is fully covered with the Swiss Travel Pass. Get yours here!
Learn more about the Glacier Express in our podcast. Click the green circle below or click this link to listen.
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