What is the Bernina Express?  Watch the video   Buy tickets

The fabulous Bernina Express is a narrow gauge train with panoramic sightseeing cars run by the Rhätische Bahn between Chur in Switzerland and Tirano in northern Italy, see the route map here.  It's perhaps the most scenic Alpine train ride train of all - although the Glacier Express competes for that title - and one of the most scenic train rides in the world, a personal favourite.  It forms part of an alternative slow scenic route between Zurich & Milan, and on this page I'll explain how to use the Bernina Express as part of a scenic overland journey from London, Paris or Zurich to Milan, Florence, Venice or Rome.  You can ride it all year round, a completely different experience through Alpine snows in winter and through sunny green meadows in summer.  So you should probably ride it more than once!

COVID-19 UPDATE:  The Bernina Express was suspended back in March due to COVID-19 but resumed running from 8 June 2020 and is now running normally.  Face masks required.  See COVID-19 travel information.

  What's the Bernina Express train like?

  What's the Bernina Express journey like?    

  Train times & fares

  How to buy tickets

  How to make a reservation

  Route map

  Travel tips & FAQ

  Watch the video

 

  Train travel in Switzerland - a beginner's guide

  Swiss Travel Pass & Half Fare Card explained

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

  Train travel to Switzerland from other European cities

  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 under 15 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

The Bernina Express at Tirano...

 

2nd class seats...  Larger photo.

First class seats   Bernina Express panormaic cars

1st class leather seats...  Larger photo.

 

Bernina Express panoramic carriages...

The refreshment trolley     About to leave Tirano

Refreshment trolley with cuddly ibex.  Larger photo.

 

Baggage area with open window.  Larger photo.

 

The Bernina Express is hauled by an Allegra unit with unreserved seats.  Allegras also operate the hourly local trains.

What's the journey like?   Route map   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 Trenord regional trains to Milan Centrale, 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

Here I'll describe a northbound journey from Milan Centrale to Zurich, but the scenery is exactly the same in either direction.  It's an excellent way to travel between London, Paris or Zurich and Milan, Florence, Rome or Venice, but the Tirano-Milan connection is poorly advertised by the Rhätische Bahn, and many travel agents seem ignorant of its existence.  In fact, excellent Trenord trains link Milan Centrale with Tirano every two hours, no reservation necessary, just buy a ticket and hop on.

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

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

Milan to Tirano regional trains run every 2 hours, no reservation necessary, just turn up, buy a ticket and hop on.  Above right, 2nd class seats.  1st class is almost identical to 2nd class, but with grey seats not blue.

Journey along Lake Como to Tirano   Towards the mountains

Trenord introduced new air-conditioned Milan-Tirano trains in 2015, smooth-riding with clean toilets, video information screens & power sockets at all seats.  A pleasure to travel on, and it's a pretty ride as the train speeds along Lake Como 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 uses the famous Brusio Spiral to gain height.

The Bernina Express on the Brusio Spiral

On the Brusio Spiral.  Here, the front of the train passes over the track it has just used to enter the 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....

Looking down from above the clouds

...those clouds over the valley are actually below us.

Alp Grum station

Alp Grüm station at 2,091m (6,860 feet) above sea level, almost at the summit...

Alp Grum   Ospizio Bernina - the summit

The valley on the left at Alp Grum with views of the Palü Glacier...

 

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

In the Bernina Pass

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

In the Bernina Pass

The train snakes through the Pass...

The train descends from the Bernina Pass

...then starts to descend towards Pontresina.

Entering the tunnel immediately before the Landwasser Viaduct...

Between Samedan & Filisur the train passes through the 6km (3.7 mile) Albula Tunnel.  Above, just north of Filisur, the train is about to enter the tunnel before the Landwasser Viaduct...

Bernina Express & the Landwasser Viaduct

Looking back after the Bernina Express has crossed the Landwasser Viaduct from tunnel to cliff, just north of Filisur.

More scnery, on the way to Chur

More mountain scenery between Filisur & Chur...

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...

The lakes between Zurich and the Austrian border

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.

 

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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Bernina Express timetable Read downwards...

 Zurich Milan by Bernina Express 

 

 Milan ► Zurich by Bernina Express

 

Winter

2019/20

Summer

2020

 

Winter

2019/20

Summer

2020

Km

 Swiss intercity train...

Daily

Daily

 Italian regional train...

Daily

Daily

0

 Zurich HB depart:

07:07

07:07

 Milan Centrale depart:

10:20

10:20

116

 Chur arrive:

08:22

08:22

 Lecco, Lake Como

11:02

11:02

Km

Bernina Express...

951

951

 Varenna, Lake Como

11:24

11:24

0

 Chur depart:

08:32

08:32

 Bellano, Lake Como

11:29

11:29

41

 Tiefencastel

09:18

09:18

 Tirano Trenord station arrive:

12:52

12:52

89

 Pontresina

10:19

|

Bernina Express...

950

950

110

 Alp Grum

10:59

10:59

 Tirano RhB station depart:

14:25

14:25

290

 Poschiavo

12:01

12:01

 Poschiavo

15:09

15:09

144

 Tirano RhB station arrive:

12:49

12:49

 Alp Grum

15:45

15:45

 Km

Italian regional train...

   

 Pontresina

16:15

16:15

0

 Tirano Trenord station depart

13:08

13:08

 Tiefencastel

17:32

17:33

81

 Bellano, Lake Como

14:31

14:31

 Chur arrive:

18:19

18:19

84

 Varenna, Lake Como

14:36

14:36

Swiss intercity train...

   

106

 Lecco, Lake Como

14:58

14:58

 Chur depart:

18:39

18:39

156

 Milan Centrale arrive:

15:40

15:40

 Zurich HB arrive:

19:53

19:53

 

Notes...

How much does it cost?

 

  Alternatively, check out holidays & tours on the Bernina Express

How to buy tickets...

The clever way to buy cheap Zurich-Tirano tickets...

  Bernina Express booking southbound
 

This is what you're looking for in the search results!  It may be the 2nd or 3rd option down the list.  Click for larger image

To buy tickets southbound from €29.90, use this special link

  Bernina Express booking northbound
 

This is what you're looking for in the search results!  Click for larger image

To buy tickets northbound from €29.90, use this special link...

How to make a Bernina Express seat reservation...

Making a Bernina Express reservation-only booking

If you've a Eurail, InterRail or Swiss Pass...

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Route map...

Bernina Express route map

 

Click for larger map

Yellow highlight = Zurich - Chur - Tirano - Milan via the Bernina Express.

Green = scenic sections of line.

Orange = bus

On this map you can also see the mainline route used by the fast direct Zurich-Milan EuroCity trains via Bellinzona, Lugano & the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

Reproduced from the excellent European Rail Map with kind permission of the European Rail Timetable people.

I recommend buying a copy of the European Rail Map for your travels, www.europeanrailtimetable.eu with shipping worldwide.

Bernina Express travel tips & FAQ...

The Muottas Muragl Berghotel in winter

The Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl in winter, with views over St Moritz & the  Engadin Valley.  The upper station of the funicular railway up the mountain from Punt Muragl station is adjacent to the hotel.  See Muottas Muragl train route map.

Useful links...

Google Streetview covers the Bernina line...

Unreserved seats in the Allegra unit...

Allegra unit hauls the Bernina Express

This is the 3-car Allegra unit, coupled up to the panoramic cars of the Bernina Express (on the left).  The yellow stripe above the windows indicates 1st class, the Allegra has a 12-seat 1st class section at both ends.

1st class in the Allegra unit   1st class forward view from the Allegra unit

1st class unreserved seats in the Allegra, blind down...

 

Forward view, blind up!  Photos courtesy of Discoverbyrail.com

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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 or Paris to Milan, Venice, Florence or Rome.  This section explains how to how to arrange this journey and buy tickets.  It's much slower than using a direct EuroCity train from Zurich to Milan via the Gotthard route, but you really won't regret taking 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...

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...

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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 0207 864 4600, 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.

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Hotels in Switzerland

Personal recommendations...

My favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all 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 feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.


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