The Glacier Express food service car

What is the Glacier Express?

The Glacier Express and Bernina Express are Switzerland's two most scenic train journeys - which has the edge?  Darned if I can decide, you'll just have to do both.  The Glacier Express is a regular scheduled year-round train service between Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn and St Moritz in the Engadin skiing area.  Billed as Europe's slowest express, its a narrow-gauge train which takes 7½ hours to cover just over 290 km (180 miles), at an average of around 24 mph.  But you won't mind, as spectacular Swiss mountain scenery unfolds outside the train's massive panoramic sightseeing windows while you eat lunch accompanied by crisp Swiss white wine (their Johannisberg white wine is particularly good).  The Glacier Express is run jointly by two private Swiss railways, the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB) and the Rhätische Bahn (RhB), who also operate the regular local trains and freight trains over the same route.  There are two daily Glacier Expresses in winter, but several daily trains in summer, although regular (usually hourly) local trains also operate over all sections of the Glacier Express's route.

Train times, fares & information...     

  What's it like on board the Glacier Express?

  Glacier Express timetable

  Glacier Express fares

  How to buy tickets

  If you have a railpass

  A journey on the Glacier Express

  A brief history of the Glacier Express

  Glacier Express escorted tours from the UK

  Other scenic Swiss trains:  Golden Pass Panoramic

 

On other pages...

  UK to Switzerland by train

  Bernina Express:  London-Zurich-Milan by scenic train

  The Jungfraubahn:  By train up the Eiger & Jungfrau

  Europe by train general information

  Railpasses - a beginner's guide...


What's it like on board the Glacier Express?

The Glacier Express uses modern panoramic coaches specially built for the service in 2006.  This train is a real pleasure to travel on, clean, comfortable, carpeted and air-conditioned, its most distinctive features are the huge panoramic side windows and glass skylights as well, so you don't miss any of the scenery!  In 2nd class, seats are arranged in bays of 4 around a table on each side of the aisle, in 1st class cars there are bays of 4 seats around a table on one side of the aisle and bays of 2 seats across a table on the other.  Apart from more space and less passengers per coach, seats are very similar and there is little to choose from between 1st and 2nd class as both are excellent.  There is a food service car, but staff come down the train taking orders for drinks, snacks and lunch.  You can pre-book a complete meal, which is served at your seat on real china with proper cutlery and tablecloth, with a choice of starters, main courses and desserts, accompanied by a wide selection of wines.  You can find sample menus and wine list at the caterer's website, www.rgswissalps.ch. Or feel free to bring your own picnic and your own beer or bottle of wine.

Click here for Glacier Express seating plan

The Glacier Express train in winter   Glacier Express first class seats

The Glacier Express in winter...

 

First class seats:  Glacier Express first class.

Glacier Express 2nd class seats   The Glacier Express seen at Brig, Switzerland

Second class seats:  Glacier Express second class

 

The Glacier Express at Brig...

Glacier Express timetable...

There is one daily Glacier Express in winter from Zermatt to St Moritz, but from May to October there are up to four four daily Glacier Expresses in each direction.

 Glacier Express eastbound

 

 Glacier Express westbound

 

Summer/Autumn 2014

 Winter

2014/5

 

Summer/Autumn 2014

 Winter

2014/5

km

Train number:

906***

900*

902

904**

902

Train number:

901**

903

905*

907***

903

0 km

Zermatt depart:

-

07:52

08:52

09:52

08:52

St Moritz depart:

08:02

09:02

10:02

14:02

09:02

45 km

Brig depart:

-

09:18

10:18

11:18

10:18

Davos Platz depart:

(08:31f)

(09:31f)

(10:31f)

(14:31f)

(09:31f)

113 km

Andermatt

-

10:54

11:54

12:54

11:54

Filisur

09:01

10:01

11:01

15:01

10:01

142 km

Disentis

08:44

11:55

12:55

13:55

13:27

Chur depart:

10:27

11:27

12:27

16:56

11:27

201 km

Chur arrive:

10:58

13:34

14:34

15:34

14:34

Disentis

11:27

12:27

13:27

18:11

12:37

252 km

Filisur arrive

12:01

15:01

16:01

17:01

16:01

Andermatt

13:08

14:08

15:08

-

13:54

|

Davos Platz arrive

(12:29f)

(15:29f)

(16:29f)

(17:29f)

(16:29f)

Brig arrive

14:40

15:40

16:40

-

15:40

290 km

St Moritz arrive:

12:58

15:58

16:58

17:58

16:58

Zermatt arrive:

16:00

17:00

18:00

-

17:00

Winter = 14 December 2014 until 8 May 2015.

Summer = 10 May to 26 October 2014.

Trains 902 & 903 run every day all year round, except from 27 October to 13 December 2014 when the Glacier Express won't run at all.

* Trains 900 & 905 only run from 10 May to 12 October 2014.

** Trains 901 & 904 only run from 14 June to 21 September 2014.

*** Trains 906 & 907 only run from 31 May until 21 September 2014.  No catering on 906 or 907, 2nd class seats only.

All trains now use the superb modern panoramic Glacier Express cars built in 2006, with hot meals served at your seat from a modern service car.

f = To/from Davos, you must change trains at Filisur, using the hourly branch line train between Filisur & Davos.  Read the paragraph below:

Travelling to or from Davos?  Read this important advice!  In previous summers, the Rhätische Bahn have run a direct Glacier Express between Zermatt & Davos.  Unfortunately, this is discontinued for 2014.  Instead, they've laid on a Glacier Express bus (yes, a bus!) between Chur and Davos, connecting into/out of the Glacier Express.  I have not shown it here, because I strongly recommend avoiding this bus, firstly because a perfectly good train service is available with a simple change at Filisur, so there's no need to spend an hour & a half in a bus, and secondly, you'll miss out on the key scenic section of the Glacier Express route between Chur & Filisur, including the famous Landwasser Viaduct on which many of the publicity photos are taken.  Instead, if you are travelling to or from Davos I recommend booking the Glacier Express between Zermatt and Filisur, and using the hourly branch line train between Filisur and Davos.  The timetable above shows the arrival/departure times at Davos of this branch line connecting train.  If you book at a ticket office, make clear that you don't want the bus, you want the train all the way via Filisur.

How much does it cost?

The Glacier Express is a real, scheduled train, not an expensive tourist train.  Ordinary Swiss rail tickets can be used on it, including railpasses (if you have a railpass see here).  However, a supplement must be paid in addition to the normal fare which includes the seat reservation fee.  You can choose to pay a higher supplement which includes lunch, and this is highly recommended as the food is very good.  The wine list is also extensive!

 Glacier Express fares...

Zermatt - St Moritz, basic fare:

 145 CHF (€117) 2nd class, one-way

 254 CHF (€206) 1st class, one-way

Glacier Express supplement:

(this must be paid in addition to

the basic fare or railpass)

 33 CHF (€27) in summer.

 13 CHF (€10.80) in winter.

Cost of lunch (optional):

 30 CHF (€25) for 'Plate of the Day'.

 43 CHF (€35) for 3-course lunch.

Children under 6 go free, children aged 6 to 16 pay half fare but must pay the adult supplement.

Buy tickets online at www.glacierexpress.ch

You can buy tickets online at the official Glacier Express website, www.glacierexpress.ch and collect the tickets at the station.  Although the regular hourly or half-hourly trains that run over various sections of the Glacier Express route operate on a 'turn up, buy a ticket, hop on' basis like most trains in Switzerland, the Glacier Express trains themselves are amongst the handful of trains in Switzerland that are 'reservation compulsory'.  They do get full at peak times, for example high summer, so if you're sure of your travel date I'd recommend pre-booking at www.glacierexpress.ch rather than waiting till you get to Switzerland.  Once in Switzerland, you can of course buy tickets and make reservations at any Swiss railway station.

  In the UK, you can buy Glacier Express tickets:

In the USA & Canada, you can buy Glacier Express tickets:

  In Australia, you can buy Glacier Express tickets:

      In other countries:

Have your whole trip professionally arranged for you...

If you want a compete tailor-made trip to Switzerland including the Glacier Express with all your rail travel expertly booked for you and good quality hotels arranged, I recommend Railbookers.  Just tell them what you want, and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you, hassle-free.  They get very positive reviews and take good care of their guests.

  www.railbookers.com, in the UK call 020 3327 0761. 

www.us.railbookers.com, call toll-free 1-800-408-3280.

www.railbookers.com.au in Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526.

  In New Zealand see website or call toll-free 0800 002 034.

Take an escorted tour on the Glacier Express...

If you'd prefer to go to Switzerland to travel on the famous Glacier Express on an escorted tour with a convivial group of travellers rather than travelling solo, here are the two UK companies which arrange escorted tours by train from the UK to destinations all over Europe on various dates through the year, including popular trips taking in the Glacier Express and equally famous Bernina Express.  Both companies are part of the same group.

  Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com, 01904 730 727...

  Great Rail Journeys, www.greatrail.com, 01904 527 120...

If you have a railpass...

Swiss rail passes:  The Swiss Pass covers the whole Glacier Express journey from Zermatt to/from St Moritz as it covers both the Rhätische Bahn (RhB) and the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB), although you still need to make a reservation and pay the Glacier Express supplement, see the supplement prices above.  Glacier Express point-to-point tickets cost more than a days-worth of free train travel using (say) a 3-day Swiss flexi rail pass, so if you're going to travel by train within Switzerland on another two days or more, a rail pass may be the best bet.  To buy a Swiss Railpass, use these links:  Buy a Swiss railpass from a UK agency  Buy a Swiss railpass from a US agency  Buy a Swiss railpass from an Australian agency.  You can check regular train fares for any journey within Switzerland at www.sbb.ch to compare with the cost of a pass.

InterRail & Eurail passes:  InterRail & Eurail passes cover the Rhätische Bahn (RhB) between Disentis and Chur, but do not cover the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB) between Zermatt & Disentis.  So you'll need to buy a separate ticket for the Zermatt-Disentis part of the journey, as well as paying the Glacier Express supplement/reservation charge for the whole journey.  The Zermatt-Disentis ticket costs about CHF 80 (£49), you can check this price at www.sbb.ch, just ask for the 2nd class fare from Zermatt to Disentis.  You can buy this at any Swiss station before you travel, along with your Glacier Express supplement/reservation.  Youth InterRail passes (but not adult passes) give a 50% reduction on this Zermatt-Disentis ticket.

More information...

The Glacier Express has its own official website, www.glacierexpress.ch, where you can check up to date times & fares.  On-board catering is provided by Gourmino, and you can find sample menus and the wine list as www.rgswissalps.ch.

A winter journey aboard the Glacier Express...

The Glacier Express about to leave Zermatt...   ...the Glacier Express heads up the Mattertal valley between Zermatt and Brig

1.  Departure from Zermatt.  Zermatt nestles in a valley at the foot of the stunning 4,477 metre Matterhorn, astride the Mattervispa River.  Zermatt is car-free, and you can only get there by train.  Electric 'johnny cabs' are used as taxis and to ferry people and luggage between hotels and the station, which is right in  the centre of town.  The day before this particular Glacier Express journey, it started to snow.  And snow, and snow...

 

2.  The Glacier Express winds its way along the Mattervispa River, descending the scenic Mattertal valley from Zermatt, which is 1,804 metres above sea level, to Visp at just 650 metres and Brig which is not much higher.  The steepest sections of this line have a toothed rack placed between the rails which is engaged by a cogwheel under the locomotive so as to maintain its grip.  Brig lies at the end of the Simplon Pass, and there is interchange here with mainline trains to/from Geneva, Bern, Basel & Zurich.

Scenery seen from the Glacier Express in winter...   The Glacier Express at Andermatt...

3.  From Brig, the train starts following the Rhône Valley.  Mountains, snow-laden fir trees and pretty villages line the route...

 

4.  Andermatt.  The Glacier Express stops briefly at Andermatt, where there's a few minutes to get out and stretch your legs...

Lunch on the Glacier Express, served at your seat...   ...the food is very good...

5.  Lunch is served...  On the newest summer Glacier Expresses and on the only winter one, lunch is served at your seat by friendly stewardesses.  The food is good, and the wine list quite extensive - the Johannisberg Swiss white wine is excellent, for around 41 CHF for a bottle.  Given the scenery, it could just be the best restaurant in Switzerland..!  But if you're on a tight budget you're equally free to bring your own food, drink and even bottle of wine.

The Glacier Express climbs through a whiteout in the Oberalp pass...   Passing through a typical Swiss village...

6.  The Oberalp Pass.  Shortly after calling at Andermatt, the Glacier Express starts its ascent up to the dramatic Oberalp Pass, 2,033 metres above sea level and the highest point on the line.  There's little habitation this high up, and on this trip the pass was a wind-swept snowscape (above, left).  The westbound Glacier Express passed us here, flashing past and disappearing into the blizzard.  Until the opening of the Furka base tunnel in the early 1980s, trains had to climb over the top of the pass, and it was impossible to keep this section of line open all winter.  So the Glacier Express only became a year round service in 1982..!  A preserved railway now runs steam trains in summer over the old line by-passed by the tunnel.  Car-carrying trains shuttle road vehicles through the Furka tunnel, you'll see the car loading terminals as you pass through.

The locomotive is changed at Disentis...   Glacier Express in the Rhine Gorge

7.  The Glacier Express descends to Disentis.  Here, it is handed over from the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn (MGB) to the Rhätische Bahn (RhB) and an RhB locomotive takes over.  The Glacier Express is electric-powered throughout its journey.  You've time for a wander on the platform.

 

8.  The Rhine Gorge.  After leaving Disentis, the train joins the wonderful Rhine Gorge.  A sort of miniature Grand Canyon Swiss-style, the train snakes along the rock-strewn river between the steep valley sides which are dotted here and there with caves.

Glacier Express running through the Rhine Gorge...   The pretty village of Reichenau...

9.  Another picture of the Glacier Express in the Rhine Gorge...

 

10.  The Glacier Express passes the pretty village of Reichenau.  It in fact stops here twice, as it stops on its way into Chur, changes direction in Chur station, then it doubles back and stops at Reichenau again on its way south to St Moritz.  Chur is just 585 metres above sea level.

Glacier Express crossing the Landwasser Viaduct   Landwasser Viaduct, with a St Moritz to Chur local train crossing

11.  The Landwasser Viaduct.  The train follows the Albula Valley all the way to St Moritz.  Just before reaching Filisur, it crosses the famous Landwasser Viaduct where most publicity shots of the Glacier Express are taken.  The railway runs along a cliff-edge on one mountain, then leaps across the viaduct straight into a tunnel through another mountain.  The left-hand photo shows regular Rhätische Bahn coaches which are attached to the Glacier Express between Chur & St Moritz.  The Glacier Express thus forms part of the regular hourly train service over this section of line.  In the right-hand photo, a St Moritz-Chur train has container wagons attached to the back, transporting food to local supermarkets! 

 

12.  St Moritz.  After a steady climb, the Glacier Express finally reaches St Moritz, 1,775 metres above sea level.  If you don't find accommodation that suits you in St Moritz, try nearby Samedan or Pontresina, or for a real top-of-the-mountain experience, take a local train a couple of stops from St Moritz or Samedan to Punt Muragl, then the funicular railway up the Muottas Muragl mountain to the wonderful Moattas Muragl Berghotel, with cheap (for Switzerland) clean and simple rooms.

Glacier Express - watch the video...

A brief history of the Glacier Express...

After the first world war, Switzerland steadily gained popularity as a winter and summer holiday destination for those who could afford it.  Railways grew up to support this tourism, and through services between Brig, Chur and St Moritz started in 1926.  But it was in June 1930 that the first Zermatt to St Moritz 'Glacier Express' started running, initially summer only, and run jointly by the BVZ (Brig-Visp-Zermattbahn), FOB (Furka Oberalp Bahn) and RhB (Rhätische Bahn).  It could not run all year because of the impossibility of keeping the line over the Oberalp pass open in winter.  Construction of the Furka base tunnel started in 1973, and at long last in 1982 all-year operation was inaugurated between Zermatt and St Moritz.  BVZ and FOB merged in 2003 to form the MGB (Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn).  The Glacier Express has been progressively developed as a premier tourist attraction in its own right, and rightly so, though it continues to form an integral part of the Swiss transport network.

Holidays by train from the UK to the Swiss Alps, including a trip on the Glacier Express...

If you'd like a holiday to Switzerland, professionally organised for you with travel from the UK by train not plane and a trip on the famous Glacier Express included, two good companies offer this.

Places to stay before or after a journey on the Glacier Express...

There's no shortage of hotels in Zermatt or St Moritz (I recommend searching for hotels using www.hotelscombined.com), but one place deserves a special mention as it's both cheap (at least by Swiss standards) so will save you money, and somewhere really special.  The Muottas Muragl Berghotel is near St Moritz, reached by local train to Punt Muragl then funicular railway up the mountain to the hotel, perched at 2,456 metres overlooking the Engadin Valley.  See the Muottas Muragl website, www.muottasmuragl.ch.  To reach the hotel from St Moritz, take the hourly local train 2 stops to Punt Muragl Staz (6 minutes), walk 200 yards to the funicular station and take the funicular railway to Muottas Muragl station (10 minutes).

The Muottas Muragl Berghotel in winter   The view from the Muottas Muragl Berghotel near St Moritz

The Muottas Muragl Berghotel in winter...

 

Sunset over the Engadin Valley, from the hotel...

Other scenic Swiss trainsThe Bernina Express

The Bernina Express is another of Switzerland's amazing narrow-gauge scenic trains.  It runs once a day from Chur (for mainline connections from Zurich) & St Moritz to Tirano, just over the Italian border.  The train from Chur has a bus connection in summer from Tirano to Lugano.  You'll find timetables for all these trains at www.rhb.ch.  The Bernina Express is composed of panoramic sightseeing cars, seat reservation required and a small supplement is payable on top of the normal fare or a railpass.  As with the Glacier Express, ordinary scheduled trains run over exactly the same route either hourly or every 2 hours throughout the day with no reservation required and no supplement to pay, in fact the Bernina Express itself runs coupled to a local train, so half the train is for locals with no reservation or supplement required, the other half is panoramic sightseeing cars with reservation required and supplement to pay.  It's your choice, the scenery is the same from both halves of the train, but those panoramic cars are very nice!  It's an incredibly scenic train ride, in fact some people prefer the Bernina Express to the Glacier Express.  It's a very different route, climbing along a remote plateau, summiting a pass then descending towards Italy on the other side. There's more information at the official site, www.rhb.ch.  If you want to incorporate the Bernina Express into a train journey from London or Paris to Italy, see the Bernina Express page.

2nd class seats on the Bernina Express   Bernina Express at Pontresina

2nd class seats on the Bernina Express...

 

The Bernina Express at Pontresina...

Other scenic Swiss trains:  The Golden Pass Panoramic...

The Golden Pass route runs from Montreux through the ski resort of Gstaad to Interlaken & Lucerne (Luzern), across the heart of Switzerland.  It's actually three trains, run by three rail companies, a narrow gauge train from Montreux up the steep mountainside from Lake Leman, through the Gstaad plateau to Zweisimmen, a second standard-gauge train from Zweisimmen to Interlaken and a third connecting train to Lucerne.  Mareketed jointly as the Golden Pass Line, some trains carry special panoramic sightseeing cars and are marketed as the 'Golden Pass Panoramic', seat reservation required and small supplement payable.  There are always normal no-reservation-required cars on these trains, though.

The Golden Pass Panoramic at Montreux   On board the Golden Pass Panoramic train, 2nd class seats

The Golden Pass Panoramic at Montreux, awaiting the connecting train from Geneva...

 

On board the Golden Pass Panoramic.  These are 2nd class seats, 1st class just gives you a bit more room...

A pretty Swiss church...   Ski run at Gstaad...

A pretty Swiss church...

 

A ski run at Gstaad...

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