Glacier Express

The Glacier Express isn’t a fast train, and proudly so, but it is direct. In stunning style, this train journey takes passengers on an 8-hour journey through breathtaking scenery between Zermatt and St. Moritz. With huge panoramic windows and a full lunch service, you can relax and see an array of Swiss sights all from the comfort of your seat.

This is Switzerland’s signature scenic train ride that travels over 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels, linking Zermatt with St. Moritz (and nearby Pontresina). While it’s a fantastic train journey and definitely worthwhile, I’m fairly neutral on the Glacier Express, and don’t feel that it’s an automatic must-see attraction for a trip to Switzerland. The scenery is quite nice, but no better than it is anywhere in Switzerland’s Alps. On the down side, the Glacier Express is often crowded, it’s expensive, 8 hours on a train is a long time, and (ironically) you don’t see many glaciers from the train.

On the other hand, the Glacier Express is a very convenient way to link Zermatt and St. Moritz, the trains are roomy and comfortable with big windows, air conditioning, recorded info, and waiters bringing you just about anything you want.  The scenery is peaceful and relaxing, and I think the many loops and bridges on the eastern half of the trip (between Chur and St. Moritz) are especially fun.

Switzerland offers a lot to see and do, and you just need to decide if this is how you want to spend a day. I’d suggest it if you’re planning on visiting both Zermatt and the Engadine region anyway, or if you absolutely love train rides. Otherwise, most people will be happy with the beautiful scenery from the normal trains as they go from place to place. Normally 2nd class in Switzerland is fine, but consider a 1st class upgrade for the Glacier Express so you’ll have a bit of room to stretch on this long travel day.

copyright Troy Haines 2015

Reservations are a must for the Glacier Express.  There are only 2-3 departures per day (in each direction), and you’ll need both a rail pass or ticket and a reserved seat.  Reservations are available 90 days before your travel date, and you really want to get them as soon as possible.

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