The Glacier Express food service car

What is the Glacier Express?

The Glacier Express & 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 panoramic sightseeing windows while you eat lunch accompanied by crisp Swiss white wine (their Johannisberg white wine is wonderful).  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 hourly local trains over the same route.  There is one daily Glacier Expresses in each direction in winter, but up to three daily Glacier Expresses in summer.

  What's it like on board?      

  Glacier Express timetable

  Glacier Express fares

  How to buy tickets

  If you have a railpass

  A journey on the Glacier Express

  Travel tips & FAQ

  Brief history of the Glacier Express

  Glacier Express tours & holidays

 

On other pages...

  Train travel in Switzerland - a beginner's guide

  Swiss Passes, Transfer Tickets & Half Fare Cards

  UK to Switzerland by train - the civilised way

  The Bernina Express - another Swiss scenic train

  The Jungfraubahn - by train up 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 three daily Glacier Expresses in each direction.

 Glacier Express eastbound

 

 Glacier Express westbound

 

 Winter

2015/6

Summer 2016

 

 Winter

2015/16

Summer 2016

km

Train number:

902

900*

902

904**

Train number:

903

901**

903

905*

0 km

Zermatt depart:

08:52

07:52

08:52

09:52

St Moritz depart:

08:57

07:57

08:57

09:57

45 km

Brig depart:

10:18

09:18

10:18

11:18

Davos Platz depart:

(09:31f)

(08:31f)

(09:31f)

(10:31f)

113 km

Andermatt

11:54

10:54

11:54

12:54

Filisur

10:01

09:01

10:01

12:01

142 km

Disentis

13:27

12:27

13:27

14:27

Chur depart:

11:26

10:26

11:26

12:26

201 km

Chur arrive:

14:34

13:34

14:34

15:34

Disentis

12:37

11:37

12:37

13:37

252 km

Filisur arrive

16:00

15:00

16:00

17:00

Andermatt

14:08

13:08

14:08

15:08

|

Davos Platz arrive

(16:29f)

(15:29f)

(16:29f)

(17:29f)

Brig arrive

15:40

14:40

15:40

16:40

290 km

St Moritz arrive:

17:03

16:03

17:03

18:03

Zermatt arrive:

17:10

16:10

17:10

18:10

Winter = 13 December 2015 to 4 May 2016.

Summer = 5 May to 23 October 2016.

Trains 902 & 903 run every day all year round, except from 23 October to mid-December 2016 when the Glacier Express won't run at all.

* Trains 900 & 905 only run from 5 May to 9 October 2016.

** Trains 901 & 904 only run from 11 June to 18 September 2016.

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.

How much does it cost?

The Glacier Express is a real, scheduled train, even if it's aimed at tourists.  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:

 149 CHF (€149) 2nd class, one-way

 262 CHF (€262) 1st class, one-way

Glacier Express supplement:

(this must be paid in addition to

the basic fare or railpass)

 33 CHF (€33) in summer.

 13 CHF (€13) in winter.

Cost of lunch (optional):

 30 CHF (€30) for Plate of the Day.

 43 CHF (€43) 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

  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:

Custom-made tours including the Glacier Express...

Escorted tours on the Glacier Express...

If you have an InterRail, Eurail or Swiss pass...

More information...

A winter journey on 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.

The Glacier Express in the Mattertal valley...   ...the Glacier Express calls at Brig

3.  More scenery along the Mattertal Valley.  At the end of the valley the train calls at Visp, for interchange with mainline trains to and from Geneva, Bern, Basel & Zurich.

 

4.  Brig.  Brig is at the end of the Simplon Pass, and there is interchange here with the mainline trains to/from Milan & Italy.

Scenery seen from the Glacier Express in winter...   The Glacier Express passing a small Swiss village...

5.  From Brig, the train starts following the Rhône Valley.  Mountains, snow-laden fir trees and pretty Swiss villages line the route.  At this time of year, it's Narnia...

The Glacier Express at Andermatt...   Icing up!

6.  Andermatt.  The Glacier Express stops here for several minutes, time to get out and stretch your legs...

 

7.  We're icing up!  It's freezing outside but warm and snug on board the train...

Passing through a typical Swiss village...

8.  Whiteout in the Oberalp Pass...  Soon after 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.  Few people live this high up, and on this trip the pass was a wind-swept snowscape (above, left).  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.  And somewhere in the Oberalp Pass, the westbound Glacier Express passes us and disappears into the blizzard...

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

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

10.  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.

 

11.  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...

12.  Another picture of the Glacier Express snaking along the Rhine Gorge.  When it arrives at Chur it's just 585 metres above sea level.

 

13.  The Glacier Express passes the pretty village of Reichenau.  It stops here twice, on its way into Chur, which is a terminus, and again on its way south to St Moritz...

Hilltop castle between Chur & St Moritz

Hilltop castle.  The Chur-St Moritz line is part of both the Glacier Express & Bernina Express routes.

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

14.  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! 

 

15.  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 Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl.

View over St Moritz from the Hotel Muottas Muragl

The view over Samedan, St Moritz & the Engadin Valley from restaurant of the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl.

Watch the video:  A ride on the Glacier Express...

Travel tips & FAQ...

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.

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 Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl 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.  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...

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