Aboard the Bernina Express...

The Bernina Express from Chur & St Moritz to Tirano, seen near Pontresina
 

The Bernina Express rolls through the fresh snow between Pontresina and St Moritz...

  First class panoramic car on the Bernina Express from Chur & St Moritz to Tirano.
 

First class leather seats inside one of the panoramic sightseeing cars on the Bernina Express...

  Second class panoramic car on the Bernina Express from Chur & St Moritz to Tirano.
 

Second class seats inside one of the panoramic cars on the Bernina Express.  A little less elbow room than in first class, but still very comfortable...

  The Bernina Express climbing up the Bernina Pass...
 

The Bernina Express climbing towards the summit of the Bernina Pass in winter.  In winter, local coaches are also attached, visible here...

  The Bernina Express descending towards Italy...
 

...and after summiting the pass, the Bernina Express descends towards Italy...  See the video

 

In the Engadin Valley...

View over the Engadin Valley from Muottas Muragl
 

Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl:  This is the view over St Moritz from the Muottas Muragl.  The Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl is the building just visible on the right, perched on the mountaintop.

 

On the Tirano-Milan regional train...

Italian regional train from Milan to Tirano about to leave Milan Centrale, to connect with the Bernina Express

This the 10:20 regional train from Milan to Tirano about to leave Milan Centrale, connecting with the Bernina Express to St Moritz & Chur...

  2nd class seats on the train from Tirano to Milan

2nd class seats on the regional train between Tirano and Milan.  1st class seating is also available, with 2+1 seats abreast & power sockets for mobiles & cameras.  But 2nd class is absolutely fine, as you can see here...

Introducing the Bernina Express...   Watch the video!

The fabulous Bernina Express is a narrow gauge train with panoramic sightseeing cars run by the Rhätische Bahn from Chur & St Moritz in eastern Switzerland south to Tirano, just across the border in northern Italy.  It's arguably the most scenic train ride of all through the Swiss Alps, although the famous Glacier Express competes for that title.  On this page I'll explain how to use the Bernina Express as part of a comfortable overland journey from London, Paris or Zurich to Milan, Florence, Venice or Rome.  You can travel inn summer or winter, indeed, it's a totally different experience in the Swiss winter wonderland as through the sunny Swiss meadows in summer, so why not try both!

Train times, fares & tickets...

  Southbound train times, London/Paris/Zurich to Milan via Bernina Express

  Northbound train times, Milan to Zurich/Paris/London via Bernina Express

  How much does it cost?

  How to buy tickets

  Tailor-made tours using the Bernina Express

  Bernina Express route map & video guide

What's a journey on the Bernina Express like?

A ride on the Bernina Express is a 4-hour, 144 km (90 mile) journey from icy Switzerland to sunny Italy, though 55 tunnels and 196 bridges, with Alpine gradients as steep as 1 in 7, on a railway that was built in 1896-1904 and has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Between Chur and Samedan near St Moritz, the Bernina Express shares the route with its sister train, the Glacier Express, crossing the famous Landwasser Viaduct from mountainside to mountainside, on which many of the Glacier Express's and Bernina Expresses publicity photos are taken.  South of Pontresina, the train climbs up to the Bernina Pass, past the Morteratsch Glacier, reaching its highest point at Ospizio Bernina, 2,253 metres (7,391 feet) above sea level.  Descending through the fir trees on the other side of the mountain, the train calls at the pretty village of Poschiavo.  Between Poschiavo and Tirano the train runs round the famous Brusio Spiral Viaduct, where most of the classic Bernina Express publicity photos are taken.  In Tirano, the Rhätische Bahn connects with Trenitalia regional trains to Milan, change in Milan for high-speed trains to Florence, Rome or Venice.  For more information about the Bernina Express, see the Bernina Express pages on the official Rhätische Bahn website, www.rhb.chWatch the Bernina Express video guide!

London, Paris or Zurich to Milan via the Bernina Express...

The Bernina Express isn't just a Swiss curiosity.  You can actually use it as part of a journey from London, Paris or Zurich to Milan, Venice, Florence or Rome, taking Eurostar from London to Paris, a TGV-Lyria from Paris to Zurich, a connecting train to Chur and the Bernina Express to Tirano with connecting local train to Milan.  This page explains how to do this and how to arrange your tickets.  Taking the Bernina route is much slower than using one of the fast mainline routes through the Alps direct from Zurich to Milan, but you really, really won't regret diverting via the Bernina Express!  See the route map here.

Southbound train times: London ► Paris ► Italy

Step 1, London & Paris to Zurich...

  • Day 1, travel from London to Paris by Eurostar, departing London at 13:31 (14:01 on Saturdays) arriving Paris at 16:47 (17:17 on Saturdays).  Cross Paris by metro to the Gare de Lyon.

  • Day 1, travel from Paris to Zurich by 200 mph TGV-Lyria train, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 18:23 and arriving Zurich at 22:26.

  • By all means catch an earlier service from London to Zurich so you arrive in Zurich in time for dinner, see the Switzerland page for full details of all the London-Zurich Eurostar+TGV options.  Both Eurostar and the TGV-Lyria have a cafe-bar.

  • Stay the night in Zurich.  You can search for hotels here.  For something special, look no further than the superb Hotel Schweizerhof, located right next to Zurich station.  One of my favourite hotels, they'll even send a uniformed commissionaire to meet you at the station and carry your bags across the road.  For something cheaper but also near the station with great reviews, try the Hotel du Théatre or Hotel St Gotthard.

Step 2, Zurich to Milan via the Bernina Express...

  • Day 2, travel from Zurich to Chur by Swiss InterCity train.  In winter when the Bernina Express leaves Chur at 08:58 (see next paragraph for dates), you leave Zurich by InterRegional train at 07:12 arriving Chur at 08:43.  In summer when the Bernina Express leaves Chur at 08:32, you'll need to leave Zurich by InterCity train at 06:37, arriving Chur at 07:52.  This is a scenic trip in itself, along the Zürichsee & Walensee lakes and into the mountains.  In Chur, you'll find the Bernina Express waiting for you on the other side of the platform, a quick & easy interchange.

  • Day 2, travel from Chur to Tirano on the famous Bernina Express

    In winter from 21 Oct 2013 to 9 May 2014 and 27 Oct 2014 to May 2015, the panoramic cars of the Bernina Express run attached to ordinary local trains, leaving Chur at 08:58 Mondays-Fridays or 09:31 on Saturdays & Sundays, arriving in Tirano at 13:12 Mondays-Fridays or 13:26 Saturdays & Sundays.

    In summer 10 May to 26 Oct 2014, the Bernina Express consists exclusively of panoramic sightseeing cars, seat reservation is obligatory, departing Chur every day at 08:32 and arriving at Tirano in northern Italy at 12:36.

    You should check times at the official Rhätische Bahn website, www.rhb.ch, as it varies on certain dates.  A refreshment trolley comes down the train selling hot and cold drinks, snacks and souvenirs.

    Tip 1:  Going South, the best views are on the right hand side of the train, including the best views of the Landwasser Viaduct, the Ospizio Bernina area and Brusio Spiral, although unfortunately you cannot reserve a seat on a specific side.

    Tip 2:  The Bernina Express panoramic carriages have a small luggage vestibule at the opposite end to the entrance door, this has a small opening window, ideal for taking photographs without reflections.

  • Day 2, travel from Tirano to Milan by regional train.  In summer when the Bernina arrives at 12:38, you can leave Tirano at 13:10 and arrive in Milan Centrale at 15:40.  In Autumn and winter when the Bernina arrives at 13:12 or 13:27, you leave Tirano at 15:10 arriving Milan Centrale at 17:40.  In Tirano, the Trenitalia and Rhätische Bahn stations are right next door to each other, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants near the stations.  You may have time for a beer at Margy's bar across the road, or you could catch a later train to Milan and have lunch.  You can use www.trenord.it to find schedules, but pick a date within the next 7 days to see prices.  Bring your own food and drink if you want any, as there is no catering on board the train.  No reservation necessary or even possible for Tirano-Milan trains, just buy a ticket at the station and hop on, remembering to validate your ticket in the little yellow machine at the platform entrance.  This is a pretty run, through more mountains and along the shores of Lake Como calling at Lecco, Bellano and Varenna (for the ferry to Bellagio), handy if you're staying in the Lake Como area.

  • Day 2, change in Milan for inter-city trains to Florence, Rome, Verona & Venice - use www.trenitalia.com to find trains departing Milan any time after 16:20 (summer) or 18:20 (winter), to allow time for any delay to the train from Tirano.

Other options...

  • Overnight in St Moritz area instead of Zurich?  If you'd prefer to stay overnight in the St Moritz-Pontresina area, you can leave London on the 09:17 Eurostar (09:31 Saturdays, 09:23 Sundays) and travel all the way to the St Moritz or Pontresina on day 1 as shown here.  Consider staying at the fabulous Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl, an amazing hotel perched on the top of a mountain, with clean simple and (for Switzerland) inexpensive rooms.  Formerly called the Muottas Muragl Berghotel, it's reached via the Muottas Muragl funicular railway (opened in 1907) from Punt Muragl station, half way between St Moritz and Pontresina.  On day 2, there's a separate Bernina Express St Moritz portion leaving St Moritz at 09:29 and Pontresina at 09:52, arriving Tirano at 12:02 (for winter times see www.rhb.ch).  In fact, in winter, when the Bernina Express runs attached to a regular train, it will stop at Punt Muragl on request, just signal the driver.  Then carry on to Milan on the 13:10 local train arriving Milano Centrale at 15:40.  To reach the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl, simply use www.sbb.ch to search from Zurich or Chur or any station in Switzerland to a destination listed as 'Muottas Muragl', this will give you precise combined train+funicular times & prices.

  • For a more leisurely journey, it could be spread over three days instead of two.  Why not stop off for a second night at Poschiavo, a pretty town on the Bernina Express route?

  • Travel London to Chur via the scenic Rhine Valley?  Again spreading the London-Milan trip over 3 days, how about a morning train from London to Cologne or Koblenz on day 1 from €59 (see the London to Germany page), spend an afternoon and night there, then on day 2 take one of the direct EuroCity trains from Cologne & Koblenz along the scenic Rhine Valley past the famous Lorelei Rock to Chur, from €39 booked at www.bahn.de.  Stay in the little town of Chur overnight before taking the Bernina Express to Tirano in the morning on day 3?  This route also saves having to cross Paris.

  • My own top choice for a journey from London to Italy spread over 3 days would be (a) London-St Moritz on day 1, taking a good book and an equally good bottle of red, (b) two nights at the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl giving a full day to wander around the area and relax, then (c) the fabulous 'Bernina Express' over the Bernina Pass into Italy on day 3.  If you do this, staying at the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl and use the Bernina Express, do email me to let me know how absolutely right you think I am (!).

Northbound train times:  Italy ► Paris ► London

Step 1, Milan to Zurich via the Bernina Express

Step 2, Zurich to Paris & London...

Other options...

 

Route map...

Route map:  London to Bucharest & Romania by train

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

You can book the whole trip online, with cheaper fares for key sections if you book ahead.  However, it takes several bookings on several websites, so take a note of the specific individual trains you want to book on which specific dates, and first do a dry run on each site to check prices and availability.  Then book for real.  Booking opens 92 days ahead, you can't buy tickets until booking opens.  Here's how to arrange your trip:

Tickets by phone,...

In the UK, you can buy tickets for all of these trains from International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.

Have your whole trip professionally arranged for you:  Railbookers...

If you want a compete tailor-made trip to Italy via the Bernina Express with all your rail travel expertly booked for you and good quality hotels arranged, try Railbookers.  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 Bernina Express...

If you'd prefer to go to Switzerland to travel on the famous Bernina 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 Bernina Express & Glacier 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...

Useful links...


Bernina Express - The video guide

A guide to the journey from Milan to Zurich, by regional train Milan-Tirano, the fabulous Bernina Express to Chur and InterCity train to Zurich...


Swiss railpasses & Swiss transfer tickets

Point-to-point tickets are the best bet for the straightforward Bernina Express journey recommended above.  But if you plan to make additional side trips whilst in Switzerland, consider getting a railpass.  Switzerland is one of the few remaining European countries where relatively high point-to-point rail fares and the lack of compulsory reservations & supplements makes railpasses both good value and convenient.  You can buy your passes online from the Switzerland Travel Centre, a subsidiary of Swiss Federal Railways.  The Swiss Travel System people can also make the seat reservations necessary for the few panoramic sightseeing trains that require them, such as the Glacier Express.

A Swiss Transfer Ticket covers one return journey from your point of entry into Switzerland (an airport, frontier or the first stop inside Switzerland of any TGV-Lyria train from Paris) to anywhere within Switzerland, using Swiss Federal Railways, private railways and even post buses.

A Swiss Pass gives unlimited travel across the Swiss travel system for varying periods.  Swiss rail fares are expensive, so a pass can save money.  You can compare the pass price with point-to-point fares checked at www.sbb.chMap of Swiss routes showing which routes are covered by a Swiss rail pass and which only give a 50% discount for passholders.

 

 

 


Find hotels in Switzerland...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.


Tailor-made tours & holidays on the Bernina Express

 

020 3327 0761 (UK)

1-800-408-3280 (USA)

1300 971 526 (Aus)

0800 002 034 (NZ)

 

01904 730 727 (UK)

 

01904 527120 (UK)

 
 

020 7619 1080

Pls quote 'seat61'

Get a train travel specialist to arrange your trip!

If you want someone else to do the legwork, arranging all your train tickets & hotels, several specialist companies do just that.  Railbookers & Erail offer tailor-made individual holidays with departure on any date you like, whereas Rail Discoveries & Great Rail Journeys offer escorted tours with specific departure dates.

Railbookers tailor-made tours & short breaks by train....

Railbookers are a train travel specialist who can tailor-make a European tour or short break to Switzerland, with train travel, transfers & hotels all arranged for you, for however long you like, leaving on any date you like.  They can easily book travel on the Bernina Express to or from Italy or as part of a tour of Switzerland.  They take good care of their clients, and I highly recommend them.

  UK call 020 3327 0761 or see www.railbookers.com

Call toll-free 1-800-408-3280 or www.us.railbookers.com.

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

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

Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com, 01904 730 727:  Escorted tours...

Rail Discoveries offers several train-based tours to Switzerland, with 3* hotels and travel from London by Eurostar and high-speed TGV.  Check details at www.raildiscoveries.com, then book online or call 01904 730 727.

Great Rail Journeys, www.greatrail.com, 01904 527120:  Escorted tours...

GRJ offers five-star inclusive tours to Switzerland, with 1st class train travel and 5* hotels.  Tours depart regularly throughout much of the year.  Check the tour details online, then call 01904 527120 to book or use their online booking form.

Erail, www.erail.co.uk, 020 7619 1080  (please quote 'Seat61.com' when you call)...

If you prefer to travel on your own unescorted with departure on any date you like, Erail offers tours to Switzerland by train from the UK.


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