The Glacier Express trains are world-renowned as they offer views of some of the most stunning landscapes the Swiss Alps has to offer.
The Glacier Express is the slowest express train in Europe and the world, taking around 8 hours to go just 180 miles (290 km). But, by being the world’s slowest express train, you get to take in stunning views along the way.
It runs between two of the most famous mountain resorts in Switzerland, Zermatt, and St Moritz, plus it also has a link to Davos. The Glacier Express stops along the way too, so you can board it at one of the stops along the way.
Fitted with panoramic coaches with world-class service, a trip on the glacier express is mind-blowing. Join me as I run through everything you need to know about riding the Glacier Express from all the stops to booking tickets and more.
Table of Contents
Glacier Express Route
Zermatt to Brig
The Glacier Express train begins its journey in Zermatt, the stunning mountain resort with views of the Matterhorn. Spending a night or two in this beautiful car-free village before boarding the Glacier Express is well worth it.
Once the Glacier Express departs Zermatt it begins its journey to the next stop, Brig. Along the way, you will see incredible mountain landscapes including huge cliffs that rise up to 4,000 meters above sea level.
It drops down into the Mattertal Valley and the Mattervispa River which provide stunning vistas from the train on both sides.
Brig to Andermatt
From Brig, the Glacier Express moves on to its next stop, Andermatt. Along the way, the train follows the beautiful Rhône Valley which provides some magical views of snow-capped peaks and rural alpine villages.
The train then rises up to Oberwald where it climbs to 1,366 meters above sea level and then rolls into the Furka Tunnel at 1,550 meters above sea level.
The Farka Tunnel is 15.4 km long as it cuts through the mountains. Before it was opened in 1982, the Glacier Express would have to go over the top of the pass and could only run in summer.
From Brig to Andermatt, the views are magical and just as good on either side of the Glacier Express train.
Andermatt to Chur
From Andermatt to Chur, you want to be sitting on the left side of the train. This section has some of the most stunning views the world’s slowest express train has to offer.
After leaving Andermatt, the train climbs to its highest altitude as it goes over the Oberalp Pass reaching 2,033 meters above sea level.
If you are traveling between November and April, you will have views of a snow-covered wonderland with stunning peaks.
The Glacier Express then drops down into the Rhine Valley and along the Rhine Gorge. You will see a massive canyon that looks like a scar across the landscape with giant cliffs on either side. This section is also filled with forests and wildlife.
Before arriving in Chur (the oldest town in Switzerland), you will descend down to 585 meters. This section of the Glacier Express has the biggest altitude change and is the most beautiful.
Chur to St. Moritz
Between Chur and St Moritz, the Glacier Express route also stops at Tiefencastel, Filisur, and Samedan.
The Glacier Express follows the Albula line, known for its twists and turns, and this section is also home to a lot of viaducts and tunnels that the Glacier Express is famous for.
The Glacier Express also passes through the beautiful Domleschg Valley which is full of old ruins and castles.
You will cross the Landwasser Viaduct, the most famous viaduct on the Glacier Express. It is 65 meters high and 142 meters long and is a marvel of engineering worth seeing.
After the viaduct comes the Albula Tunnel and at this point, the Glacier Express route climbs in altitude into the Upper Engadine Valley and then reaches St Moritz.
St Moritz is the last stop on the Glacier Express route and is a Swiss mountain resort known for its luxury.
Chur to Davos (Alternative Route)
The alternative Glacier Express route is to take the Glacier Express from Chur to Davos, changing at Filisur.
Along this route, you can expect more beautiful mountain scenery and to cross the incredible Wiesner viaduct before arriving in Davos.
Glacier Express Class Options
The Glacier Express offers numerous classes you can book for your journey including Excellent, 1st, and 2nd class.
Excellence class isn’t available on all trains, only the 902, 903, and 923. It is the most expensive class, as you’d expect, but comes with a lot of benefits.
In Excellence Class, you travel in a special deluxe car of the Glacier Express. There is one seat on each side of the car and you have a table with a seat facing you, making it perfect for couples and everyone has a window seat to see the views.
When traveling in Excellence Class, you get a seven-course meal served to your seat with wine and complimentary champagne. Your luggage is taken from you at the station and given to you on the platform when you leave the train – the service is outstanding.
The car has its own exclusive cocktail bar and a host to ensure you have what you need when you want it. You also get afternoon tea, coffee, snacks, and soft drinks included in the price.
1st Class cars have 2 seats on one side of the train and one on the other. This creates a booth of 4 seats on one side with a table and 2 seats on the other with a table.
If you are traveling as a couple, make sure your seat reservation is on the side with 2 seats facing each other so you both have a window seat.
The seats are larger than 2nd class and you get free earphones to plug into the info media that describes the trip along the way.
2nd Class has 2 seats on each side of the train with a table in the middle creating a booth of 4 on each side. The seats are very comfortable and almost the same as first class. You also get free earphones to listen to the information about the trip.
The only downside to second class is that you can not sit as a couple alone with your own table which is why 1st might be better.
The Glacier Express Cost
To travel on the Glacier Express you have to first buy a ticket for your chosen class and then buy a Glacier Express seat reservation on top of that.
The cost of the Glacier Express tickets is CHF 152 for 2nd class and CHF 268 for 1st class, for the whole route one way.
If you book in advance, you can get much cheaper tickets as a Saver Day Pass is around CHF 52 for 2nd class and CHF 88 for 1st class.
Children between 6 and 16 can pay half plus the adult supplement and kids under 6 are free.
Swiss Pass and Swiss Rail Tickets are also valid on the Glacier Express but you still have to buy the extra seat reservation.
For Excellence Class, you need a 1st class ticket (CHF 268) and an Excellence seat (CHF 420), making the total cost CHF 688.
Other seat reservations start at CHF 29 and go up from there. The more affordable reservations are available in the low season between Dec and May.
You can also make your tickets more affordable by doing a shorter route on the Glacier Express train.
The Glacier Express Timetable
The Glacier Express train runs all year round except for between the end of October and the middle of December.
Between December and April, there is one train per day from Zermatt, leaving at 8.52 am and arriving in St Moritz at 4:37 pm. In April, a second train leaving Zermatt at 9:52 am is added to the Glacier Express schedule.
During December and April, the Glacier Express also runs from St Moritz to Zermatt, leaving at 9:50 am and arriving in Zermatt at 6:10 pm.
In the summer from May to October, there are 2 trains per day in both directions. You can only travel in Excellence class on the first train leaving St Moritz or Zermatt.
Where to Buy the Glacier Express Tickets
You can buy your tickets for the Glacier Express online here. They are only available 92 days before the date of travel, so if you are looking for a cheaper ticket, be sure to book exactly 92 days in advance.
Reservations are compulsory on the Glacier Express and the train can be booked up, so be sure to get your ticket and seat reservation early.
You can also book the Glacier Express at any Swiss railway station.
How to Make Seat Reservations in the Glacier Express
Making a seat reservation on the Glacier Express is very easy and is a part of the ticket booking process.
Make sure you book a window seat for the views and I would recommend traveling on the left side of the train from Zermatt and the right side of the train from St Moritz for the best views.
Also, book a coach in the middle so that you get bigger views along the way.
Essential Tips for Riding the Glacier Express
- Bring all the food and drinks you like with you if you are on a budget
- Travel in May to see the Swiss Alps in spring with snow-capped peaks
- Travel in October to see the amazing autumn colors
- The same route is available on normal trains if you can’t afford the Glacier Express
- Spend some time at the towns where you get on and off the Glacier Express, they are beautiful
- Travel on the left side of the train from Zermatt for the best views
- Travel on the right side of the train from St Moritz for the best views
- Excellence Class is worth it if you can afford it
Frequently Asked Questions About the Glacier Express
Is the food free in the Glacier Express?
In general, the food is not free on the Glacier Express. However, if you are traveling in Excellence Class, then a 7-course meal with wine pairings, complimentary champagne, coffee, tea, soft drinks, and snacks are included.
If you are in 1st or 2nd class, you have the choice to order food from the food service car for your journey that will be brought to your table.
You can order a 3-course meal for CHF 47, the dish of the day for CHF 34, or order from the a la carte menu too. The food comes on china plates with silver cutlery and is served on a tablecloth – it is high-end service.
If paying for a meal on board is a little out of your budget, you can bring your own picnic along with wind, beer, and champagne with you.
Can you hop on & off the Glacier Express?
No, the Glacier Express is not a hop on and hop off service. You have to travel according to your seat booking with the Glacier Express. So if you have booked a seat from Zermatt to St Moritz, you have to stay on that train. You can’t get off at Chur and then get on the next train.
You can, however, book a ticket to match where you would like to get on and off for example, Chur to Zermatt instead of doing the whole route.
When is the best time to ride the Glacier Express?
No matter when you travel on the Glacier Express, the views are beautiful. But, the best time is either in May when you will see lush green valleys and wildflowers with snow-capped mountain peaks.
Or, in October when the leaves all change colors and the higher altitude peaks start to have snow on them as well.
For a full winter and snow experience, I would recommend you travel in January or February as everything should be white by then.
Is the Glacier Express worth it?
Yes, in my eyes the Glacier Express is 100% worth it and is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There is no better way of seeing the incredible mountain scenery of the alps than on the Glacier Express.
You can do it in mega luxury in Glacier Express Excellence Class or on a budget by booking way in advance and bringing a picnic.
Does the Glacier Express only go one way?
No, you can break the journey up into parts or go in different directions. So, although the Glacier Express is actually a complete route from St Moritz to Zermatt, the exact journey you take is up to you.
Can you sleep on the Glacier Express train?
No, there is no possibility to book a sleeper cabin or bed on the Glacier Express. However, you are free to take a nap on the comfy first-class seats anywhere along the way!
Which route of Glacier Express is most beautiful?
It is hard to rate the most beautiful section of the Glacier Express, but here are some of the highlights – Chur to St. Moritz includes the stunning viaduct-style bridges and tunnels, Andermatt to Chur includes the breathtaking Rhine Gorge, Zermatt to Brig includes the whole Mattertal valley with 4000m peaks.