What is the Bernina Express?    Watch the video    Buy tickets

It's arguably the most scenic Swiss train ride train of all - although the Glacier Express competes for the title.  Indeed, it's one of the most scenic train rides in Europe, or for that matter, the world, and a personal favourite too.  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.  You can travel in 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?  On this page I'll also explain how to use the Bernina Express as part of a civilised & scenic overland journey from London, Paris or Zurich to Milan, Florence, Venice or Rome.

  What's the Bernina Express train like?

  What's the Bernina Express journey like?    

  Train times & fares

  How to buy tickets

  Bernina Express travel tips & FAQ

  Bernina Express video

 

  Train travel in Switzerland - a beginner's guide

  Swiss Pass, Swiss Transfer Ticket & Half Fare Card, explained

  London to Switzerland by train - in comfort by Eurostar & TGV

  The Glacier Express  Switzerland's other great scenic train

  The Jungfraubahn  By train up the Eiger & Jungfrau

  Europe by train general information

  Top tip:  How to travel on the Bernina Express for just €29.90 - And kids go free!

  How to travel from London, Paris or Zurich to Milan, Florence, Venice or Rome via the Bernina Express

  Tours, vacations & holidays on the Bernina Express

What's the train like?

Bernina Express panoramic cars at Tirano   2nd class seats on the Bernina Express train

Bernina Express at Tirano...

 

2nd class seats...

First class seats   Bernina Express panormaic cars

1st class leather seats...

 

Bernina Express panoramic carriages...

The refreshment trolley     About to leave Tirano

Refreshment trolley adorned with a large cuddly ibex...

 

Baggage area in each car with opening window...

 

The Bernina Express is hauled by an Allegra unit which also operate the hourly local trains.

What's a journey on the Bernina Express like?   Watch the video

A ride on the Bernina Express is a 4-hour, 144 km (90 mile) journey between icy Switzerland and sunny Italy, though 55 tunnels and 196 bridges, with Alpine gradients as steep as 1 in 7, on a railway built in 1896-1904 and now 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.ch

Step 1, from Milan to Tirano by Trenord regional train... 

In these photos we'll go northbound from Milan Centrale to Zurich, but the journey & scenery are exactly the same in either direction.

Modern Trenord train from Milan to Tirano   Seats on the Trenord train from Milan to Tirano

The Bernina Express is an excellent way to travel between London, Paris or Zurich and Milan, Florence, Rome or Venice, but its Tirano-Milan connection is very poorly advertised by the Rhätische Bahn, and many travel agents seem ignorant of its existence.  In fact, excellent modern Trenord trains link Milan Centrale with Tirano every two hours, no reservation necessary, just buy a ticket and hop on.  First class is virtually identical to the 2nd class seats shown here, but with grey seats not blue.

Journey along Lake Como to Tirano   Towards the mountains

Trenord introduced its new air-conditioned Milan-Tirano trains in 2015, very smooth-riding with clean toilets, video information screens & power sockets at all seats.  A pleasure to travel on, and it's a nice ride as the train speeds along Lake Como and heads towards the mountains...

Step 2, from Tirano to Chur by Bernina Express...

Trenord (left) and Rhatische Bahn (right) stations in Tirano   The Bernina Express leaves Tirano through the streets

In the photo above left, the Trenord station is on the left & the Rhätische Bahn station is on the right, just yards apart.

Trenord (left) and Rhatische Bahn (right) stations in Tirano   The Bernina Express leaves Tirano through the streets

Soon after leaving Tirano station, the Bernina Express starts running through the streets, pictured above right.  Cars are held at traffic lights to let it pass...

The Bernina Express climbs up the valley from Tirano   The Brusio Spiral

The train climbs up the valley out of Tirano...

 

...and rounds the famous Brusio Spiral...

Passing Lake Poschiavo

The train passes Lake Poschiavo...

Clinging to a mountainside

...then it climbs & climbs, eventually clinging to a mountainside thousands of feet up.  Those clouds on the mountain opposite are actually below us...

Alp Grum   Ospizio Bernina - the summit

The vast valley to your left at Alp Grum station - you're now at 2,091m (6,860 feet) above sea level.

 

Ospizio Bernina, the summit at 2,253 metres (7,391 feet) above sea level.

In the Bernina Pass

Beyond Ospizio Bernina, the train heads through the bleak Bernina Pass...

The train descends from the Bernina Pass

The Bernina Express descends from the Bernina Pass...

The Landwasser Viaduct   Scenery

The famous Landwasser Viaduct...

 

There's still more mountain scenery...

More scnery, on the way to Chur

And yet more mountains on the way to Chur...

The Bernina Express arrives in Chur to connect for Zurich

Step 3, change in Chur for Zurich...  Chur is a terminus.  The Bernina Express has arrived on the right, the train to Zurich is waiting on the left, it's a simple cross-platform interchange that only takes two minutes.

Step 3, from Chur to Zurich by SBB InterCity or InterRegional train...

Passing the Zurichsee   Passing the Zurichsee

Swiss Federal Railways IC or IR trains run from Chur to Zurich HB every 30 minutes, taking you alongside the shores of the Walensee and then the Zürichsee...  No reservation required, just hop on and sit where you like.  Some of the IC trains are ICN tilting trains, like that in the photo of Chur platform above.

 

Watch the videoMilan to Zurich by Bernina Express...

The video shows an old Trenord train between Milan & Tirano, smart new trains were introduced in 2014, see the photos above.

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Practical information...

Bernina Express timetable.  Read downwards...

 Zurich Milan by Bernina Express 

 

 Milan ► Zurich by Bernina Express

 

 Winter

2016/17

Summer

2017

 

Winter

2016/17

Summer

2017

Km

 Swiss intercity train...

Mon-Fri

Sat, Sun

Daily

 Italian regional train...

Mon-Fri

Sat, Sun

Daily

0

 Zurich HB depart:

07:37

07:07

07:07

 Milan Centrale depart:

10:20

10:20

10:20

116

 Chur arrive:

08:52

08:22

08:22

 Lecco, Lake Como

11:02

11:02

11:02

Km

Bernina Express...

953

951

951

 Varenna, Lake Como

11:24

11:24

11:24

0

 Chur depart:

08:58

08:32

08:32

 Bellano, Lake Como

11:29

11:29

11:29

41

 Tiefencastel

09:47

09:18

09:18

 Tirano Trenord station arrive:

12:52

12:52

12:52

89

 Pontresina

11:04

10:21

|

Bernina Express...

954

950

950

110

 Alp Grum

11:40

10:57

10:57

 Tirano RhB station depart:

15:00

14:26

14:26

290

 Poschiavo

12:22

12:00

12:00

 Poschiavo

15:37

15:09

15:09

144

 Tirano RhB station arrive:

13:00

12:45

12:45

 Alp Grum

16:13

15:44

15:44

 Km

Italian regional train...

 

 

 

 Pontresina

16:52

16:16

16:16

0

 Tirano Trenord Stn depart

13:08

13:08

13:08

 Tiefencastel

18:14

17:31

17:31

81

 Bellano, Lake Como

14:31

14:31

14:31

 Chur arrive:

19:03

18:20

18:20

84

 Varenna, Lake Como

14:36

14:36

14:36

Swiss intercity train...

 

 

 

106

 Lecco, Lake Como

14:58

14:58

14:58

 Chur depart:

19:09

18:39

18:39

156

 Milan Centrale arrive:

15:40

15:40

15:40

 Zurich HB arrive:

20:23

19:53

19:53

 

Notes...

 

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets, the regular way...   Or buy cheap tickets the clever way

Bernina Express from €29.90: How to book cheap tickets & kids under 15 go free!

How to buy €29.90 tickets southbound:  Use this special link

How to buy €29.90 tickets northbound:  Use this special link...

How to add the Bernina Express seat reservation...

If you have a Eurail, InterRail or Swiss Pass...

How to make a Bernina Express reservation if you already have a ticket or railpass...

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Bernina Express travel tips & FAQ...

Useful links...

Google Streetview films the Bernina line...

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How to use the Bernina Express to go from London, Paris or Zurich to Italy...

 

Route map:  London to Bucharest & Romania by train

The Bernina Express is no mere Swiss curiosity.  You can use it as the ultimate scenic route from London, Paris or Zurich to Milan, Venice, Florence or Rome.  This section explains how to how to arrange this journey and buy 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 (see the London to Italy page), but you really, really won't regret diverting via the Bernina Express!

  Southbound train times London & Paris to Italy

  Northbound train times Italy to Paris & London

  How much does it cost?

  How to buy tickets

Southbound...

Step 1, London & Paris to Zurich...

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

Step 3, Milan to Florence, Venice or Rome...

Other options...

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...

Northbound...

Step 1, Rome, Venice or Florence to Milan...

Step 2, Milan to Zurich using the Bernina Express

Step 3, Zurich to Paris & London...

Other options...

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 involves 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.

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Tours, vacations & holidays on the Bernina Express...

Railbookers custom-made tours....

Railbookers are a train travel specialist who can custom-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.  They are not ticket agents, they create a package for you and manage the whole process.

In particular, check out two of their top sellers:  Their 8-day Switzerland's Lakes & Mountains tour (link to their UK site) or Swiss Lakes & Mountains tour (link to their US & Canada site) which includes both Glacier Express & Bernina Express trains, and their shorter 5-day Classic Bernina Express & Glacier Express tour (link to their UK site) or Classic Bernina Express & Glacier Express tour (link to their US & Canada site) which also combine these two classic Alpine routes.

  UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.co.uk

  US call free 1-888-829-4775, www.railbookers.com.

  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910, www.railbookers.com.

  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, see website

  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 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.

TrainTours4U, www.traintours4u.co.uk, 020 7619 1080...

If you prefer to travel on your own unescorted with departure on any date you like, TrainTours4U offers tours to Switzerland by train from the UK.

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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 has been named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site in the World Travel Awards and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling the same hotel at a cheaper rate.

►► My recommended booking site:  www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site, and unless HotelsCombined throws up major price differences I prefer doing my bookings in one place here. 

You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a great feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.


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