Riding the "world's slowest express train" from Zermatt to St. Moritz had been on my bucket list for far too long. The Glacier Express occupied a podium position for several years. Along with "spending New Year in Sydney" and "attending a sushi course" in Tokyo.
Sydney and Tokyo had soon been ticked off the list, leaving the Glacier Express to throne on the top of my list. Since January 3, 2022, a proud checkmark now also shines behind this world-famous panoramic train.
In this review about the Glacier Express, you'll be whisked away on a scenic train ride from Zermatt to St. Moritz and hopefully find some inspiration for your next trip. Because this train ride is worth it for anyone who wants to see the beauty of Switzerland from a different, more leisurely perspective. It can also be perfectly integrated into your Switzerland Itinerary if you have at least three days to visit our country.
By the way, there are other panoramic trains in Switzerland that are always worth a trip! But let's stick to the Glacier Express for now.
7 Highlights on the Glacier Express
- The panoramic train travels across 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels on the 291 km between Zermatt and St. Moritz.
- The relaxing journey takes about 8 hours on the panoramic train with spacious windows and impressive views of the Swiss mountains.
- Wonderful views of the two UNESCO beauties "World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch" and the winding "Albula Line of the Rhaetian Railway" near Bergün await you.
- The train passes through the Rhine Gorge, the "Grand Canyon of Switzerland", near Chur.
- The extensive culinary offer takes into account numerous special requests and allergies.
- Music accompanies the ride via cell phone using the digital infotainment portal.
- As soon as a highlight appears along the route, interesting information and facts are provided via headphones at the seat
Glacier Express route
The Glacier Express leaves the station in Zermatt on time at 08:52. What lies ahead is a ride across 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels on the way to St. Moritz in the Engadine. The Glacier Express takes me down to Brig, up to the Oberalp Pass, back down into the valley through the Rhine Gorge to Chur, and finally over the Albula line to the final destination of the day. Between Zermatt and Disentis, the train is repeatedly assisted by the cogwheel on steeper sections.
But one after the other..
1st stage: from Zermatt through the Mattertal valley to Brig
With one last, wistful glance at the majestic Matterhorn, I begin the roughly eight-hour train ride through Switzerland. First, the journey leads from Zermatt, 1604 m above sea level, through the Mattertal valley to Brig at 670 m above sea level. This section is partly too steep for the train to overcome without assistance. The rattling of the cogwheel is therefore a constant and reassuring companion on the way to the Rhone Valley.
My glance through the generous panorama windows falls on shining glaciers, steep rock faces, dreamy villages and wild larch forests. Meanwhile, a friendly voice explains to me via the on-board infotainment on my cell phone how the first ascent of the Matterhorn took place in 1865.
(To log into the infotainment, I connect to the on-board Wifi. This gives me access to a whole lot of exciting information about the route via the browser on my cell phone. But more on that later.)
After almost 1000 meters of altitude, we reach the first stopover in Brig. Here, in the capital of the German-speaking part of Valais, more guests board the train. Those who want to travel the Glacier Express in several stages have the opportunity to stop in Brig and visit the Rhone Valley for the next 24 hours before boarding the train again.
Brig is the starting point for great trips and hikes into the UNESCO World Heritage Jungfrau-Aletsch area. My personal tip for summer or autumn is a hike from Riederalp through the Aletsch forest. Here you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Aletsch Glacier.
2nd stage: from Brig through the Furka tunnel to Andermatt
The next climb through the Upper Valais is not long in coming. Shortly after Brig, the terrain rises again and only levels off briefly in Goms. Here the train passes through one of the largest cross-country skiing areas in Switzerland.
The more than 100 km of prepared cross-country trails are well attended. While I watch the eager athletes, the friendly voice explains to me through my headphones that raclette, a typical Swiss specialty was invented in Goms.
Before I can continue to concentrate on the cross-country skiers and the impressive mountain scenery in the background, the table in front of me is already being set for lunch. Then the great views disappear for the moment while the train disappears in the 15 km long Furka tunnel.
I only see the light again in the Canton of Uri, where the train soon makes its second stop. In Andermatt, the stopover is about 6 min for those who don't stay overnight. Some nicotine lovers indulge in a hectic cigarette before getting back on for the climb to the highest point of the Glacier Express.
A stay in Andermatt is worthwhile all year round. A popular destination is the Schöllenen Gorge with the legendary Devil's Bridge. The bridge is the historical landmark at the entrance to the Ursern Valley and thus also to the Gotthard region
3rd stage: from Andermatt over the Oberalp Pass to Disentis
From Andermatt, the Glacier Express climbs to the Oberalp Pass at 2033 meters above sea level. In serpentine lines, the train with its rattling cogwheel climbs to the highest point of the entire route. Here I'm served lunch, which I enjoy not entirely without incident.
Thanks to the incline, gravity inevitably makes itself noticeable. So I have to tear my concentration away from the passing landscape and focus on my beef stew. Just when I think I have the steady flow under control, gravity strikes again. My cell phone, which I've placed on the tray by the table, slips into my lunch and makes itself comfortable in the ragout.
One embarrassing incident on such a long trip is okay, right? After a few teething problems, however, I suceed in multitasking. So I manage to enjoy the food on the one hand and the view of the Uri Alps on the other.
Due to the mild weather, there isn't nearly as much snow on the Oberalp Pass as typically at this time of year. Normally, a path has to be cut through walls of snow, some of which are several meters high, to allos the Glacier Express to pass. On my trip, however, with an estimated 30 cm of snow, this is definitely not necessary. Nevertheless, there is something enchanting about the snow-covered Oberalpsee.
What surprises me up here is the 14-metres-tall, red lighthouse enthroned in the middle of the snow. It was built as a symbol of the connection between the beginning and the end of the Rhine. Access is only granted to those who make a donation of CHF 100 or more and receive a key in return.
After this strange encounter, a steep descent follows in the direction of Graubünden, where a somewhat longer break is taken in Disentis/Mustér. Here we are in the largest Romansh-speaking community in Switzerland. If you want to learn more about the languages of Switzerland, read our article on the subject.
Since there's no more cogwheel line between Disentis and St. Moritz, there is a locomotive change in Disentis. So the hectic cigarette in between turns out a little less hectic for my nicotine-savvy fellow travellers.
You have the opportunity to make a stopover in Disentis and continue your journey the next day with the Glacier Express. In this case I recommend you to visit the monastery from the 17th century. It's the oldest Benedictine abbey in Switzerland and is located just behind the Disentis train station.
4th stage: from Disentis through the Rhine Gorge to Chur
The continuing descent leads to the Rhine Gorge, which is also known as the "Swiss Grand Canyon". In summer, the raging river here is perfect for all kinds of water sports. In particular, river rafting is popular.
On the left side of the train, the view of the Rhine Gorge is very impressive thanks to the large panoramic windows. The Ruinaulta, as it is called in Romansh, meanders for 14 km in the direction of Chur. The white rock walls rise up to 350 m in height and provide a great play of colors depending on the incidence of light.
After the Rhine Gorge, the terrain opens up again and we soon arrive in Chur, the oldest city in Switzerland. Travellers who spread out their trip on the Glacier Express over several days could visit numerous nearby destinations. Not far from Chur, for example, Heidiland awaits with great activities and hiking opportunities. Spending a day in Chur is also possible thanks to the suggestions in the Glacier Express app.
In spring, summer or fall, the trail through the Rhine Gorge is perfect for a day trip from Chur. My personal favorite is the section between Versam and Valendas. By the way, the steep and barren rock formations of the Rhine Gorge are just as impressive from the above as they are from below. The best view of the Rhine Gorge is undoubtedly from the platform "Il Spir" between Flims and Trin. From here, the enchanting Lake Cauma isn't too far away.
5th stage: from Chur via the Albula line to St. Moritz
After Chur, we start the last leg of the Glacier Express and head back towards the Rhine Gorge. However, the train turns off before the gorge and climbs up to Bergün. On the way, we cross another highlight of the route - the Landwasser Viaduct. The special thing about this 142 m long and 65 m high structure is the fact that it opens directly into a tunnel.
What follows after Bergün is a winding ride to the Albula tunnel. With its three helical tunnels, the Albula line is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The line, which is harmoniously embedded in the landscape, is a showpiece from the time of the railroad pioneers. It is fascinating how the landscape changes sides again and again and a new view of Bergün below opens up.
After a ride through the almost 6 km long Albula tunnel, we reach the wide and enchanting Engadin. The mighty Engadine stone houses have always fascinated me with their ornately painted facades. But before I can indulge in my childhood memories, the announcement comes that our final stop is imminent. So my long but eventful day ends just before daylight in St. Moritz.
Another panoramic train departs from St. Moritz. The Bernina Express goes over the Bernina Pass through the Puschlav to Italy. So if you haven't had enough after the Glacier Express, more views of glaciers, mountains, viaducts, mountain lakes and even palm trees await you here.
Glacier Express Infotainment
To ensure that I don't miss any important information or highlights during my journey on the Glacier Express, I use the infotainment via my cell phone. This can be opened with the on-board Wifi via the browser and tracks the journey on an interactive map. Whenever new information about a region or place is available, a sound plays on the train. That's the signal that it's time for the next portion of knowledge.
In addition to exciting stories about the passing landscapes and the short video series "meet the locals" , the app is equipped with two playlists. One focuses more on music from the pop scene, while the other focuses on traditional pieces. Thus, I let myself get sprinkled by songs like "Heimweh", "I han es Zündhölzli azündet" and "Venus vo Bümplitz". Somehow it fits to Switzerland, even if these songs aren't usually playing in my Spotify.
For people without a cell phone, there are headphones and two different music channels available next to the seat. The same information gets played there and it's possible to switch between different channels.
Gastronomy on the Glacier Express
On a long journey, of course, food plays an important part. The culinary offers in the Glacier Express are very extensive and offers something for everyone. The menu includes regional dishes and classic dishes. There's also something for vegetarians, vegans and allergy sufferers without prior reservation.
With dishes such as a hearty cheese platter, a Grisons barley soup, a delicious chicken tikka masala or a typical Grisons capuns, no wishes are left unfulfilled. The selection is also tempting for dessert. The menu includes classics such as Engadin nut cake, Valais apricot cake, a selection of sorbets and much more.
A wide range of drinks help against thirsty moments. Starting with the typical Swiss drink Rivella and ending with the exquisite sparkling wine. It's a good thing the trip is so long. This leaves you with enough time to study and try out the menu at leisure.
Incidentally, the current menu can also be viewed online.
|Plate of the day||36 CHF|
|2-course menu||42 CHF|
|3-course menu||49 CHF|
|4-course menu||55 CHF|
Glacier Express Timetable
The Glacier Express operates almost all year round. The summer schedule runs from mid-May to the end of October, while the winter schedule runs from mid-December to mid-May.
Glacier Express Timetable Winter
|Route||Departure Winter||Arrival Winter|
|Zermatt - St. Moritz||08:52||16:37|
|Zermatt - St. Moritz||09:52||17:37|
|St. Moritz - Zermatt||08:51||17:10|
|St. Moritz - Zermatt||09:50||18:10|
Glacier Express Timetable Summer
In summer there is an extended offer of trains. There are twice as many trains as in the winter season. However, some of them only cover part of the route to/from Chur and Brig.
|Route||Departure Summer||Arrival Summer|
|Zermatt - Chur||07:52||13:24|
|Zermatt - St. Moritz||08:52||16:37|
|Zermatt - St. Moritz||09:52||17:37|
|Brig - St. Moritz||14:18||21:00|
|St. Moritz - Brig||07:02||13:40|
|St. Moritz - Zermatt||08:51||17:10|
|St. Moritz - Zermatt||09:48||18:10|
|Chur - Zermatt||14:26||20:10|
Glacier Express prices
How much does the Glacier Express cost? This is a good question. The price is made up of two components. On the one hand, I need a train ticket for the route, and on the other hand, there's the cost of the seat reservation.
Glacier Express prices 2023
All Swiss rail tickets are valid on the Glacier Express. The prices in the table are for adults without discount.
|Route||2nd class (CHF)||1st class (CHF)|
|St. Moritz - Zermatt||152||268|
|St. Moritz - Brig||114||201|
|St. Moritz - Andermatt||84||147.80|
|Chur - Zermatt||119||210|
|Chur - Brig||81||143|
|Andermatt - Zermatt||73||129|
- With the GA, the Swiss Travel Pass, the Eurail and the Interrail, the journey is free, except for the surcharge for the seat reservation.
- With the Swiss Half Fare Card there's a discount of 50%.
- Children up to and including 5 years travel free of charge. (Does not apply to the Excellence Class)
- Children between the ages of 6 and 16 travel at half price.
- With the Junior Card, children up to 16 years of age travel free when accompanied by a parent.
Reservation Glacier Express
A reservation is required in any case, even if you don't need to buy a ticket with certain railway passes. Prices for seat reservations vary depending on the season and cost the same for 1st and 2nd class.
|Season||Long Distance (CHF)||Short Distance (CHF)|
|Low Season (10.12.22 - 12.05.23)||39||29|
|High Season (13.05.23 - 15.10.22)||49||39|
One luxury I'll save for another time is travelling in Excellence Class. It's one of the most exclusive tourist highlights in Switzerland. Excellence Class passengers travel on comfortable lounge seating and get the best views thanks to a guaranteed window seat. They also have access to the exclusive Glacier Bar, which invites you to linger. The centerpiece of the Glacier Bar is the gold-plated compass on the ceiling, which indicates the direction of travel. Especially during the helical tunnels, this is a highlight.
During the entire ride, the concierge and the experienced crew take care of the guests' well-being. A 7-course menu with selected wine accompaniment is included.
A tablet is available at each seat to discover the highlights along the way. The ticket for a trip in Excellence Class costs CHF 420. It consists of the seat reservation and a valid 1st class ticket for the route. Excellence Class is available on the earlier of the two trains covering the entire route.
Seraina's Tips for the Glacier Express
Make use of the daylight
If you're travelling on the Glacier Express in the winter like I did, I recommend taking the earlier train in the morning. Since the days are rather short in winter, you'll be travelling during daylight hours. At the end of my trip in St. Moritz, it got dark shortly after arrival.
Reserve your meal
It's best to reserve your meal when you buy your ticket. This way you can enjoy the ride without worrying about food. Of course, there's also the possibility to order à la carte on the train.
Sit on the left side (starting from Zermatt)
The view from the Glacier Express is undoubtedly magnificent, regardless of which side you sit on. In the Rhine Gorge and at the Landwasser Viaduct, however, the view on the left side (when starting in Zermatt) is somewhat better.
Travel from Davos
You have the possibility to travel the Glacier Express from Davos instead of St. Moritz. To do this, you change trains in Filisur and take the Rhaetian Railway between Davos and Filisur.
FAQs about the Glacier Express
When is the best season to travel with the Glacier Express?
- You can make this trip all year round. If you prefer snow-covered mountain peaks and wintry landscapes, winter is certainly the best time. For an awakening of nature with melting snowfields and sprouting forests, travel in spring. In summer, you'll see bustling cow pastures, sparkling mountain streams and rich vegetation. With its colorful forests, autumn is a wonderful time to travel on the Glacier Express.
Is a ride on the Glacier Express worth it?
- Absolutely! A ride on the Glacier Express is a unique experience, even if you might already know Switzerland quite well. The combination of luxury, coziness, culinary delights and the stunning views with the exciting information from the on-board infotainment make for the perfect day or multi-day trip.
Between which places does the Glacier Express run?
- The Glacier Express runs directly between Zermatt and St. Moritz. There's also the option to make the trip from/to Davos. For this, you catch the RhB to Filisur and change onto the Glacier Express. But be careful, not every Glacier Express train stops in Filisur.
How long does the trip with the Glacier Express take?
- The duration of the trip depends on which direction you're going. From Zermatt to St. Moritz, the journey with the Glacier Express takes 7:45 h. From St. Moritz to Zermatt, it's 8:19 h.
How much does the Glacier Express cost?
- A ticket for the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz or vice versa costs CHF 152 for adults in 2nd class without a Swiss Half Fare Card. In the first class the price is 268 CHF. With the Swiss Half Fare Card you travel with a 50% discount.
Is the Glacier Express included in the GA?
- Yes, the ticket for the Glacier Express is covered by the GA. However, you need a seat reservation for the journey. This varies between CHF 29 and CHF 49 depending on the season and route.
Is there enough space for luggage on the Glacier Express?
- Yes, there's storage space for your suitcase, bag or backpack in every carriage.
Are dogs allowed on the Glacier Express?
- No, dogs aren't allowed on the Glacier Express.
Can bicycles be transported on the Glacier Express?
- No, it's not possible to take your bike on the Glacier Express.
Is the Glacier Express wheelchair accessible?
- Yes, in every Glacier Express train, there's a wheelchair space in the 1st class and a handicapped accessible toilet. Also the boarding is assisted by the train staff with a mobilift on the platform.
Can you open the windows on the Glacier Express to take pictures?
- No, the windows on the Glacier Express are closed. However, there's a lowering window in the on-board bar that can be opened. Here you can take photos of the scenery without reflections.
Who is the Glacier Express suitable for?
- The Glacier Express is suitable for both tourists and locals. If you want to experience Switzerland in its most beautiful facets in a comfortable way, the Glacier Express is for you. It's suitable for connoisseurs, train fans, solo travelers, groups and families with older children.
**Who is the Glacier Express not suitable for?
- If you don't have much time or are traveling with children who can't sit still for 8 hours (are there really children who can do that?), you won't be able to enjoy the Glacier Express to the fullest. In this case, you have the option to do the trip in seperate stages or just one section of this panoramic train.
My conclusion about the Glacier Express
A trip on the Glacier Express is a highlight that I definitely saved for too long. Even though Tokyo and Sydney had earned their place on my list, this panoramic train ride definitely holds a candle to them.
The Glacier Express ride was especially worth it, as I usually only take the train to get from one place to another Switzerland. As quickly as possible. The Glacier Express was the perfect opportunity to shift down a gear and enjoy the view. The interesting information about the route brought previously unknown places in Switzerland closer to me.
I can highly recommend a ride on the Glacier Express if you want to experience a decelerated day in an impressive landscape.