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If you’re exploring the jagged wilderness of the Swiss Alps and its many glorious lakes, there’s one activity you shouldn’t pass up. With its breathtaking landscape, Switzerland and scenic trains go hand in hand, but there’s one that’s miles ahead of the rest.

This isn’t to say the other Swiss trains aren’t worth it — they definitely are, but the Glacier Express train has it all. The towering Matterhorn Mountain, quaint towns, and friendly locals make exploring the southern region on your Switzerland trip a no-brainer.

This European country is an expensive destination, but you can still see it on a backpacker’s budget. You can start packing your bags and booking tickets because the Glacier Express train is calling out your name.

Bernina Express, Switzerland

All the Facts About Glacier Express Trains

Time to cover all your bases before diving straight into the top sights during your trip on the slowest express train in the world.

Total Distance of This Magical Rail Journey

This track of pristine vistas and lakeside views meanders from St. Moritz to the Alpine village of Zermatt. The trail spans a total distance of 180 miles (290 km).

If you make it a round trip (definitely worth a thought), you’ll travel across 360 miles (580 km) of the wonderful Swiss countryside.

The Travel Time of the Slowest Express Train

The Glacier Express is the slowest express train in the world, so the journey isn’t quick. With an average speed of 24 mph (38 kph), you’ll get from Zermatt to St. Moritz in around 7 hours and 30 minutes.

Remember that this travel time only includes the 10-minute stops at each town. To get the whole experience of the Glacier Express stops, you’ll want to stay at each town for an hour at least.

Don’t worry; you won’t get left behind, as four trains travel this route hourly in summer and two in winter.

Zermatt at night, Switzerland

What You Can Expect to Pay for Your Glacier Express Train Ticket

Technically you can start from any station on the Glacier Express Route, with prices altering accordingly. But you’re not joining this majestic scenic train for half the journey.

To get the full experience from St. Moritz to Zermatt, you can expect the cheapest (2nd class) fee to be in the region of $161 (CHF152).

Alternatively, you can get the Swiss Travel Pass, which grants you free access to this and other scenic routes like Bernina Express Trains. Swiss passes are extremely helpful as they grant you free access to local trains, transportation, and over 500 museums.

Keep in mind the Swiss Travel Pass doesn’t include the compulsory seat reservation fees, which range from $30 (CHF29) to $51 (CHF49) depending on the time of year.

Top Tip: Get your Swiss Travel Pass ahead of time at a discount when you book here.

Bernina Express train interiors

The Difference Between 2nd Class, 1st Class, and Excellence Class

If you’re using the Swiss Travel Pass, then the seat reservation fee is where you choose between 2nd class, 1st class, and Excellence class train tickets. The price difference from 2nd to 1st class isn’t too bad, but it does get extremely pricey when you move into Excellence class.

In 2nd class, you’ll find two rows of four seats with two on either side of a table. When you move up to 1st class, the seats are slightly more spacious, with one row of four chairs at each table and another row with only two seats at each table.

Excellence class is where all the space is, as there are only two rows of two chairs at each table. Despite this, you’ll enjoy the same panoramic window views and toilet amenities throughout all the classes.

So is the Excellence class worth the $498 (CHF470) price tag? Honestly, you’re better off saving some bucks on a 2nd or 1st class train ticket, as you’re here more for the scenery than the seating.

Zermatt iconic mountain

Why Travel in the Summer Season and Not Winter

Although Switzerland is a winter wonderland, there are a few reasons why it’s worth biting the hypothetical bullet and traveling in summer. Yes, it may be busier as it’s the high season for tourism, but the price range is similar throughout the year.

As amazing as winter is, the chances of seeing the fantastic scenery are much lower than in summer. Snowfall means visibility is nye impossible in some sections in winter, whereas the spring/summer climate brings clear blue skies.

To make things even better, you’re more likely to enjoy the wildflowers that fill the mountains. This is just one of the many reasons why Switzerland is one of the best places to visit.

Lastly, visiting the quaint villages at each stop is much nicer in summer as you won’t freeze your bum off.

Important Note: Glacier Express trains don’t run from October 16th until December 9th. You can have a look at the Glacier Express timetable at this link.

All 6 Stops on the Glacier Express Route

It’s time to dive straight into what you can expect to see on the Glacier Express route. Whether you start your train journey in Zermatt or St. Moritz is up to you, but either way, it will be an unforgettable experience.

Zermatt in Switzerland

1. Zermatt

Zermatt is a quaint Swiss village surrounded by towering Alpine mountains. The Matterhorn is the most famous peak here, and there’s no better place to capture that perfect photo of it than at the Sunnegga Sun-Terrace Restaurant.

PS. They also serve delicious Swiss cuisine, so it’s not only about the views.

There are also stunning hikes for you to explore through Dossen Glacier Garden and Gorner Gorge. But once you’ve had your fill of tobogganing down Gornergrat, it’s time to join the Glacier Express.

What to see between Zermatt and Brig:

  • Admire the towering rock walls and sweeping vistas of Matter Valley.
  • Take in the sights of the small town of Visp.
  • Enjoy wildflowers and grassy fields from Visp to Brig on a relatively flat stretch.

Suggested Stay in Zermatt: You may spend a night or two in Zermatt, so book a room at Hotel Continental, a 3-star budget-friendly stay near the city center.

Brig, Switzerland

2. Brig

You simply have to stop here, if not for the magnificent architecture, then do it for the scenery. Brig is a part of the UNESCO World Nature Forum thanks to the breathtaking Jungfrau-Aletsch Alps.

If that’s not enough to sway you, how about visiting the iconic Stockalper Palace? You can also discover some unique history at the Swiss Guard Museum.

Simply put, there’s plenty to see at this fantastic stop.

What to see between Brig and Andermatt:

  • Cross the effervescent Rhone River and discover the V-shaped Rhone Valley.
  • Look into a different world at Furka Pass between Oberwald and Realp.
  • Gaze at the sweeping hillside to the right on the last stretch to Andermatt.
Andermatt Landscape

3. Andermatt

Switzerland has plenty of picturesque mountainside towns, but it’s fair to say Andermatt is spectacular. The iconic Suworow Monument is a stone’s-throw away, with the majestic Teufelsbrücke arching over the Schöllenen Gorge.

You may want to stick closer to the city center, though. In this case, Talmuseum Ursern is a unique patrician building where you can learn about Swiss life in the 18th century.

What to see between and Disentis:

  • Enjoy sweeping views from Oberalp Pass, the highest point on the train’s journey (6,673 feet).
  • Start your slow descent between the snow-lined hills of the Rhine Valley.
  • Arrive in the breathtaking resort town of Disentis.
Disentis in Switzerland

4. Disentis

Everyone loves the idea of an epic skiing adventure, right? Even if you don’t, wandering through Disentis is worth your time. Whether walking the cobblestone streets or taking a cable car up Spielplatz mit Grillstelle, you’ll quickly fall in love with this magical town.

One thing you shouldn’t pass up is a delectable meal at Stiva Grischuna. Its rustic charm compliments the hearty yet tastefully presented meals, while its terrace dining area is perfect for mingling with the locals.

What to see between Disentis and Chur:

  • Take in the sweeping views of the Rhine Gorge or “Swiss Grand Canyon” as you pass alongside the iconic river.
  • Snap some beautiful photos of Reichenau village.
  • Arrive in Chur, the lowest point of the trip.
Chur in Switzerland

5. Chur

Chur is possibly one of the most popular destinations for this unforgettable experience. Its Old Town has an allure that means you can spend ages exploring the cobblestone streets. You can learn about the city’s 5,000-year-old history on the red plaques scattered about here.

Walking up to Haldenhüttli, you’ll find the iconic photo spot of Arosastrasse, with lush vineyards and the mesmerizing city wedged between mountain peaks. And, of course, you can’t miss St. Martin’s Church’s glorious walls and stained glass windows.

What to see between Chur and St. Moritz:

  • Hunt for castle ruins in Domleschg Valley.
  • Prepare for heavenly views as you cross the Landwasser viaduct.
  • Admire the beauty of Filisur before entering the unique Albula Tunnel.
  • Enjoy the views of the Upper Engadine Valley, the last stretch before reaching St. Moritz.

Top Tip: Can’t do the whole route but still want a fantastic experience? There are plenty of tours from Zurich that start at Chur and travel to Brig. Book a tour on Viator or book on Get Your Guide.

St Moritz, Switzerland

6. St. Moritz

This epic journey takes you to the final location, the enigmatic city of St. Moritz.

The destination exudes Swiss beauty, with the St. Moritz Lake being the focal point. You can walk around the beautiful body of water where kayaking and windsurfing are in full swing in summer.

Or visit the Segantini Museum and Engadine Museum, and when you’re done, there’s more waiting outside. Take on the Blumenweg trail, where you can admire over 200 Alpine wildflower species.

There’s so much to see and do here; you may even decide to stay for an extra day. If you do, here are some fantastic accommodation options:

  • Hotel Roseg-Gletscher — For a budget-friendly option, this is a lovely hotel only 4.3 miles from St. Moritz.

Bonus Route: Chur to Davos Platz

The Glacier Express Switzerland has another option before you think it’s all over. Hop off at Filisur between Chur and St. Moritz and board the local trains to Davos Platz.

The train will pass over the spectacular Wiesner viaduct and allows you to explore the quaint town of Davos. Once you’ve had fun, it’s a 20-minute ride on a connecting train to St. Moritz.

Some Practical Tips For Your Glacier Express Train Trip

“What to see” may be ticked off the list, but there could still be some things on your mind. Let’s put them to rest.

Is Food Free on the Glacier Express Train?

The only way to get free food on board is with a Glacier Express Excellence class ticket. If you don’t get the Excellence class ticket, you can still order drinks and meals during the trip at an extra cost.

Rather get meals at your stops, as you’ll also have a more extensive range of options.

Oberalp Pass, Switzerland

What is the Prettiest Part of the Glacier Express Journey?

Arguably, the journey’s most picturesque and photo-worthy section is between Andermatt and Chur. You’ll pass the Oberalp Pass and the “Swiss Grand Canyon.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

That said, the Landwasser viaduct is a close second.

Next Read: You may want to snap some epic photos along the way. So why not read about the best travel cases for cameras to keep your memory-maker safe?

Does the Glacier Express Sell Out?

Put simply, yes. Avoid getting caught in the dark, and reserve your seat at least three months in advance.

Why Does the Glacier Express Seat Reservation Policy Exist?

The policy mainly exists to cater to the high demand for the train route, as it’s an extremely popular tourist attraction.

It also helps ensure tourists and locals alike get a seat. Eurail, Interrail, and Swiss Travel Pass holders don’t need to buy a ticket but will still need to reserve a seat.

Snowy mountains through train window in Switzerland

Are You Ready for an Adventure on the Glacier Express Train?

So, is the Glacier Express worth all the hype? Honestly, it’s worth every penny, especially when using a travel pass and booking a 2nd or 1st class seat.

With all this said and done, there’s only one logical thing left to do. It’s time to book your unforgettable Glacier Express train journey and live up to every moment.

If you’ve already started planning your Swiss escape, that’s amazing, but there may be one or two things you still need to consider. Cover all your bases and read this complete guide to using your Eurail Pass.

How to Plan a Breathtaking Glacier Express Train Trip in Switzerland
Adventure Awaits


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