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How to Make Seat Reservations for Panoramic Trains in Switzerland

February 16, 2024 Last Updated on February 16, 2024

If you’ll be exploring by rail, then it’s good to know that seat reservations on trains in Switzerland are not generally required.

For the majority of trains, you can just hop on and sit wherever you like in the correct class of travel. This is provided you have a valid ticket or pass for the journey, of course. 

With most panoramic trains in Switzerland, seat reservations are required, however. These premium services are an exception to this general rule.

This is because there are limited services per day – as opposed to the regular trains which often offer at least hourly services – and they are extremely popular.

When you need to know about reserving a seat on Swiss panoramic trains, then you must read this article. Covered here is all you should know about the Swiss trains booking procedure for premium panoramic rail journeys. 

Whether you’re interested in learning how to make Glacier Express seat reservations, if a GoldenPass express reservation is compulsory for first class travel, or when to make Bernina Express reservations, you can count on this guide to show you the way. 

Let’s get started by taking a look at what making a seat reservation really means for your journey. 

[This post may contain compensated links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.]

Bernina Express train travelling through mountainous Switzerland

What are seat reservations?

When a seat reservation is compulsory, you simply cannot travel on the train without one. Making this reservation guarantees you a specified seat on the train, at the departure time of your choice. 

A seat reservation is an additional fee that is required to be paid on top of the fare for the actual journey.  If you are travelling with a Swiss Travel Pass, for example, the fare for the journey on any of the panoramic trains is covered by the pass, however seat reservations must still be purchased.

🇨🇭 Learn more about Swiss rail passes in this article

Swiss rail seat reservations for the panoramic trains should be booked as early as possible, as they do sell out.

Though you can buy Swiss rail tickets right up until the date of travel, a seat reservation is often necessary long before that, due to the immense popularity of these routes. 

Each of the premium panoramic trains has its own rules regarding seat reservations. For example, you cannot make a Glacier Express reservation as far ahead as a Bernina Express seat reservation.

Read on to find out more about the rules for each panoramic train route. 

Luzern Interlaken Express travelling beside Lake Lungern in winter
Image courtesy Swiss Travel System

Do I need a seat reservation?

With the majority of Swiss panoramic trains, a seat reservation is compulsory, meaning that you cannot travel without one. There are, however, some panoramic train routes where reservations are recommended, rather than mandatory. 

If you don’t book a seat in advance, then there is no guarantee of being seated on the train of your choice.

Booking your seat ahead of time also means you’ll have a choice about where to sit – such as by the panoramic windows. 

Another point worth noting is that panoramic trains are an incredibly popular way to travel in Switzerland. Not least because travel is included with many rail passes, meaning all you have to pay on top is the seat reservation fee. 

If you want to travel on a specific date, then booking as far in advance as you can is a good idea. This particularly applies during the busiest months of July and August, and the summer season in general.

By not booking well ahead of travel, you may miss out on securing a seat reservation and be disappointed. 

Panoramic train seat reservations

Glacier Express seat reservations

Glacier Express crossing a bridge in winter
Image courtesy Swiss Travel System

Seat reservations are mandatory for every Glacier Express passenger – both adults and children. This applies to a Glacier Express seat reservation with a Eurail pass, a Saver Day Pass, or any other sort of Swiss rail pass.

The same can be said of stand-alone Swiss train tickets for this service.

When does the booking window open?

Glacier Express seat reservations online can be made up to 93 days before travel, for first and second class travel. You can book seats in Excellence Class up to 11 months before travel.

What are the seat reservation fees?

For passengers travelling in either first class or second class, the Glacier Express seat reservation price is CHF 44 for a short journey, or CHF 49 for the entire trip.

The same fees apply to children aged between 6 and 15, while kids under 6 travel free as they don’t require a separate seat. 

If you’ll be travelling in Excellence Class, the seat reservation fee is CHF 470. You can only book Excellence Class for the whole trip from Zermatt to St. Moritz, or vice versa.

If this seems a little steep, keep in mind that a 5-course meal with drinks is included in Excellence Class.

Interior of a 1st class carriage on Glacier Express

Where to book Glacier Express seat reservations

You can make a Glacier Express seat reservation via the official Glacier Express website. Click Book Online Now, then choose Classic for first or second class travel, or Excellence Class. You can then follow the steps to make your reservation. 

If you already have a pass or ticket, be sure to choose Reservation Only in the Reduction box. You can also select the Half Fare Card option, if applicable.

The seat reservation fee can be seen in blue at the top right, just before you proceed to payment. You can ignore any prices that pop up before this stage. 

> Click here to read our step-by-step instructions for Glacier Express seat reservations

How are seat reservation confirmations delivered?

Your Glacier Express seat reservations will be emailed to you. You can then print these out to show the conductor. 

Are seat reservations refundable?

Glacier Express seat reservation fees are not refundable, and nor are any changes permitted after purchase.

🇨🇭 Read more: Complete guide to the Glacier Express

Bernina Express seat reservations

Bernina Express traveling through Graubunden

Seat reservations are compulsory for all adult and child passengers requiring a seat on the Bernina Express. This is the case whether you make a Bernina Express seat reservation with the Swiss Pass, a separate ticket or another type of rail pass. 

When does the booking window open?

You can book and pay for your Bernina Express reservation fee up to 12 months before travel.  (Note that the official website states 3 months but in many cases bookings can be reserved up to one year in advance).

What are the seat reservation fees?

With the Bernina Express, seat reservation fees differ according to the date of travel. There are high and low season charges, meaning it costs a little more to book your seat during the peak summer season. 

Between 1 May and 31 October, seat reservations cost CHF 36 each way. Outside of the high season period, the equivalent charge is CHF 32.

Every passenger reserving a seat receives a gift, consisting of iced herbal tea and Lindt chocolate hearts in a Bernina Express branded souvenir gift box.

Again, the same reservation fees apply to kids aged between 6 and 15, while those under 6 who don’t need a seat can travel for free. 

Couple admiring the scenery from the Bernina Express train in Switzerland
Image courtesy Rhaetian Railways

Where to book Bernina Express seat reservations

Seats for the Bernina Express should be booked on the Rhaetian Railway website. Click Book Now to proceed. You can ignore the fare displayed in blue until the final stage, and can also choose applicable options from the dropdown menu in the Reduction box. 

> Click here to read our step-by-step instructions for Bernina Express seat reservations

How are seat reservation confirmations delivered?

Rhätische Bahn AG or Bernina Express will email your seat reservation to you. You should print these out to show the ticket inspector.

Are seat reservations refundable?

Seat reservation fees are not refundable with the Bernina Express. Changes are not permitted after purchase, either.

🇨🇭 Read our complete guide to the Bernina Express

GoldenPass Express seat reservations

GoldenPass Express
Image courtesy MOB

A GoldenPass Express seat reservation is recommended – but not compulsory – in first and second class. However a seat booking is compulsory in Prestige Class. 

When does the booking window open?

GoldenPass panoramic train reservations can be booked up to 11 months in advance of travel.

What are the seat reservation fees?

With this service, the reservation fees apply per sector. GoldenPass Express seat reservations between Montreux and Interlaken – or vice versa – cost CHF 20 for first or second class travel, and CHF 35 for Prestige Class. 

Children aged 6 to 15 pay the same charge as adults. Children under six years old who don’t require a seat don’t pay a GoldenPass train seat reservation fee. 

Interior of 2nd class carriage on GoldenPass Express train
Image courtesy MOB

Where to book GoldenPass Express seat reservations

You can book your seat on the GoldenPass Express via the GoldenPass Express website. Click on the Buy tab to begin. Once more, you can choose Only Reservation under Reduction.

When selecting any applicable passes, do note that the SwissPass for residents is not the same as the Swiss Travel Pass for tourists.

> Click here to read our step-by-step instructions for GoldenPass seat reservations

How are seat reservation confirmations delivered?

Look out for an email from Montreux-Berner Oberland-Bahn (MOB). Your seat reservations will be attached, in PDF format. You should print these out to show the ticket inspector on the train. 

Are seat reservations refundable?

No, seat reservations for the GoldenPass Express are not refundable, and no changes are allowed after purchase.

🇨🇭 Read more: Complete guide to the GoldenPass Express

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Gotthard Panorama Express seat reservations

Gotthard Panorama Express train beside Lake Lucerne
Image courtesy Switzerland Tourism

The seat reservation fee for the Gotthard Panorama Express is often referred to as a ‘mandatory supplement’. In this case, the fee applies to first class travel on the train only, as this is the only class available for the rail sector. 

The Gotthard Panorama Express route also includes a boat trip between Lucerne and Flüelen, or vice versa.

When does the booking window open?

Seat reservations can be booked from December onwards for travel during the following year. The Gotthard Panorama Express train only runs between 20 April and 20 October, 2024.

What are the seat reservation fees?

The Gotthard Panorama Express seat reservation fee is CHF 24. This is for first class, as this is the only option with this train.

Children aged 6 to 15 pay the same price as adults, and kids under 6 who don’t need a seat travel free of charge.

If you hold a second class travel pass, do note that you’ll also need to pay a fee to upgrade to first class. 

Train conductor chatting to passengers onboard the Gotthard Panorama Express
Image courtesy Swiss Travel System

Where to book Gotthard Panorama Express seat reservations

You can make seat reservations for the Gotthard Panorama Express via the official website

Every passenger requires a ticket valid for first class travel. If you have a second class travel pass, you also need to pay for a class upgrade for the train. So make sure you tick the boxes to select this.

> Click here to read our step-by-step instructions for Gotthard Panorama Express reservations

How are seat reservation confirmations delivered?

Seat reservations are sent via email. It’s best to print these out, so you can show them to the conductor on board.

Are seat reservations refundable?

Gotthard Panorama Express seat reservation fees are both non-refundable and non-changeable.

🇨🇭 Read more: Complete guide to the Gotthard Panorama Express

Luzern-Interlaken Express seat reservations

Luzern Interlaken Express beside Lake Lungern

For the Luzern (Lucerne) to Interlaken Express, seat reservations are recommended, but they’re not compulsory as with other panoramic trains.

When does the booking window open?

Seats for the Luzern to Interlaken Express can be booked up to 90 days in advance of travel. 

What are the seat reservation fees?

Seat booking fees for the Luzern to Interlaken Express are CHF 16 in the summer season between early May and late October, or CHF 12 at other times. This applies to first or second class travel, and to children aged 6 to 15, as well as adults. 

Though not compulsory, making a reservation will guarantee your seat. It also means you can select a window seat, subject to availability. 

Interior of 1st class carriage on Luzern Interlaken Express

Where to book Luzern-Interlaken Express seat reservations

You can book your seat on the Luzern to Interlaken Express via the Luzern Zentralbahn website

Even if you have a pass or ticket already, proceed as if you don’t. You’ll be able to select Only Reservation in the Reduction box at the later stages. You’ll also need to change the class of travel to first class if required.

When you have entered the first passenger’s details, click Add Traveller to add more passengers. 

> Click here to read our step-by-step instructions for Luzern to Interlaken Express reservations

How are seat reservation confirmations delivered?

Seat reservations for the Luzern to Interlaken Express will be delivered to you in PDF format, via email. You can then print these to show the train conductor. 

Are seat reservations refundable?

No refunds are available with Luzern to Interlaken Express seat reservations, and no changes are allowed after purchase.

🇨🇭 Read more: Complete guide to the Luzern-Interlaken Express

Scenic Swiss trains that don’t require seat reservations

Voralpen Express
Voralpen Express. Image courtesy Swiss Travel System

Whether you use a separate ticket, or some sort of European or Swiss travel pass for panoramic trains, they are probably the most popular mode of transport in the country. 

With stunning views of Switzerland’s spectacular scenery, they offer so much more than a way of getting from A to B. 

Not everyone is able to plan far enough in advance to secure a seat, however, especially when travelling in summer. Or perhaps your budget won’t stretch to paying extra for seat reservations. 

If either of those statements rings true, then there is an alternative. A number of other scenic trains operate in Switzerland, and reservations are not necessarily required with these services. 

These include regional trains, the GoldenPass Belle Epoque and Panoramic services, the Treno Gottardo route, and several others. 

🇨🇭 Read more: Alternative scenic trains in Switzerland that don’t require seat reservations

Final Thoughts 

Glacier Express train

As you have learned in this article, seat reservations are not required for the majority of trains in Switzerland.  However, if you are planning on travelling on any of the panoramic trains in Switzerland, seat reservations are, in many cases, compulsory.

In order to guarantee travel on one of the premium panoramic trains in Switzerland, we recommend booking your seat reservation as early as possible

As we have mentioned above, the booking window for seat reservations varies depending on the train you’d like to travel on. 

We therefore suggest if you would like to travel on any of the panoramic Swiss trains, booking your seat reservation early is essential to avoid disappointment. This can be done on the official website of the train or train operator.

🇨🇭 LISTEN: How to use public transport in Switzerland


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