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 route, the price of Glacier Express tickets (including which Swiss passes include the rail journey), where to buy your tickets and how to make your Glacier Express reservation.
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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 23||BUY HERE|
From prices based on 2nd class, low season for entire journey from Zermatt to St. Moritz or vice versa.
*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 1605 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 4000 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 1366 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 1550 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 2033 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 1789 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 timetable sees trains run twice a day during the winter months and four times a day during the summer months, except for a short period between mid-October to mid-December where it doesn’t run at all.
During the winter months, the Glacier Express leaves Zermatt at 8.50am and 9.52am and arrives in St Moritz at 4.38pm and 5.38pm. The train also runs in reverse (St Moritz to Zermatt) leaving St Moritz at 9.15am and 10.20am and arriving in Zermatt at 5.10pm and 6.10pm.
During the summer months, while there are four trains along the route, Glacier Express only has two trains that run the entire journey from Zermatt – St. Moritz and in reverse. These trains leave Zermatt at 8.52am and 9.52am and arrive in St Moritz at 4.38pm and 5.38pm.
In reverse, the trains leave St Moritz at 9.15am and 10.20am, arriving in Zermatt at 5.10pm and 6.10pm.
Download a copy of the 2020 Glacier Express timetable here.
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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. 2nd 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 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 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 Excellence class tickets are the same price – 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 is included 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 travelling 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 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.
Making a Glacier Express Reservation
Unlike most other Swiss trains, all passengers (including children) must make a seat reservation in advance for the Glacier Express. Seat reservations start at 23 CHF for 2nd class in low season, right up to 43 CHF for 1st class in peak season.
For Excellence Class, a seat reservation is 420 CHF regardless of the season. Reservations for Excellence Class can only be made on the official Glacier Express website or train stations in Switzerland. (Excellence Class will not be available from 16 March to 5 April, 2020.)
The only exception to seat reservations is for children under 6 travelling in 1st or 2nd Class that don’t require their own seat.
Glacier Express seat reservations can be made for travel within the next 2 months. Due to the popularity of this train, it is recommended that you make your seat reservation as early as possible. The best way to make Glacier Express seat reservations is online – click here to make your reservation.
If you hold a Swiss Travel Pass or Eurail Pass that covers Switzerland, simply check the ‘I have a Pass’ box and select the Pass you hold in order to make a seat reservation. (See the image below).
Alternatively, you can make your Glacier Express booking for a seat at either the SBB website, mobile app or at the ticket counter at a station.
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!
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