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 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 hourly local trains over the same route.  In 2017 they formed a separate company to operate the Glacier Express, Glacier Express AG.  There is one daily Glacier Expresses in each direction in winter, but up to three daily Glacier Expresses in summer.

COVID-19 UPDATE:  One daily Glacier Express train resumed running on 20 June 2020.  Face masks required.  More COVID-19 travel info.

small bullet point  What's it like on board?      

small bullet point  Glacier Express timetable

small bullet point  Glacier Express fares

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  If you have a railpass

small bullet point  Excellence class - New from 2019!

small bullet point  A journey on the Glacier Express

small bullet point  Travel tips & FAQ

small bullet point  Route map

small bullet point  Brief history of the Glacier Express  

small bullet point  Glacier Express tours & holidays

 

On other pages...

small bullet point  Train travel in Switzerland - a beginner's guide

small bullet point  Swiss Passes, Transfer Tickets & Half Fare Cards

small bullet point  London to Switzerland by train - the civilised way

small bullet point  Train travel to Switzerland from other European cities

small bullet point  Train travel from Switzerland from other European cities

small bullet point  The Bernina Express - another Swiss scenic train

small bullet point  The Jungfraubahn - by train up Jungfrau

small bullet point  Europe by train general information

small bullet point  Railpasses - a beginner's guide...


What's it like on 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 Glacier Express website, www.glacierexpress.ch under Travel planning then Gastronomy. Or feel free to bring your own picnic and your own beer or bottle of wine.

See Glacier Express seating plan

The Glacier Express train in winter   Glacier Express first class seats

The Glacier Express in winter...

 

1st class seats on the Glacier Express.  Larger photo.

Glacier Express 2nd class seats   The Glacier Express seen at Brig, Switzerland

2nd class seats on the Glacier Express.  Larger photo.

 

The Glacier Express at Brig...

Excellence classIntroduced 2019...

  Excellence class on the Glacier Express
 

Excellence class.  See larger photoCourtesy of James Morris

Glacier Express timetable...

There is one daily Glacier Express in winter from Zermatt to St Moritz, but from May to October there are additional Glacier Expresses, as shown below.

 Glacier Express eastbound

 

 Glacier Express westbound

 Read downwards

Winter 2020/21

Summer 2021

 Read downwards

Winter 2020/21

Summer 2021

km

Train number:

902

900

902

904

906

Train number:

923

901

903

905

907

0 km

Zermatt depart:

08:52

07:52

08:52

09:52

-

St Moritz depart:

08:51

07:02

08:51

09:50

-

45 km

Brig depart:

10:18

09:18

10:18

11:18

14:18

Davos Platz dep.

(08:31f)

(07:31f)

(08:31f)

(09:31f)

-

113 km

Andermatt

11:54

10:54

11:54

12:54

15:54

Filisur

09:49

08:01

09:49

10:47

-

142 km

Disentis

13:11

12:24

13:11

14:11

17:11

Chur depart:

11:06

09:25

11:06

12:14

14:16

201 km

Chur arrive:

14:15

13:34

14:13

15:15

18:24

Disentis

12:37

10:37

12:37

13:37

15:37

252 km

Filisur arrive

15:41

-

15:41

16:41

20:00

Andermatt

13:54

12:08

13:54

15:08

17:08

|

Davos Platz arr.

(16:29f)

-

(16:29f)

(17:29f)

(20:29f)

Brig arrive

15:40

13:40

15:40

16:40

18:40

290 km

St Moritz arrive:

16:38

-

16:38

17:38

21:00

Zermatt arrive:

17:10

-

17:10

18:10

20:10

COVID-19 UPDATE:  The Glacier Express is running normally.  It was cancelled back in March due to COVID-19, but resumed on 20 June 2020.

Summer = 8 May to 24 October 2021.  Summer trains 904 & 905 will in fact start running on 11 April 2021.

Winter = 6 December 2020 to 7 May 2021.

There is no Glacier Express service at all from 12 October to 6 December 2020 or from 25 October until early December 2021.

Trains 902 & 903 run every day all year round except 12 Oct to 6 Dec 2020.

f = To/from Davos, you change trains at Filisur, using the hourly branch line train between Filisur & Davos.

How much does it cost?

Ordinary Swiss rail tickets & railpasses are valid on the Glacier Express (if you've a railpass see here), but a reservation fee must be paid in addition to the normal fare.

 Glacier Express fares

Zermatt - St Moritz, basic fare:

 152 CHF (€135) 2nd class, one-way

 268 CHF (€237) 1st class, one-way

Glacier Express reservation fee:

(to be paid in addition to

the basic fare or railpass)

 39 CHF (€38) in winter

 49 CHF (€29) in summer

Children under 6 go free, children aged 6 to 16 pay half fare but must pay the adult supplement.

For the cost of travel in the new Excellence class, see above.

Buy tickets at www.glacierexpress.ch

Vacations & holidays on the Glacier Express...

If you've an Interrail, Eurail or Swiss Travel Pass...

More information...

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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 4,477m Matterhorn, on the Mattervispa River.  Zermatt is car-free, you can only get there by train.  Electric 'johnny cabs' are used as taxis to ferry people & luggage between hotels and station in  the centre of town.  The day before this particular Glacier Express journey, it started to snow.  And snow, and snow...

 

2.  Mattertal Valley...  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...

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

...the Glacier Express calls at Brig

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.  Rhône Valley.  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...

Scenery seen from the Glacier Express in winter...

6.  Furka Tunnel...  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.

The Glacier Express at Andermatt...   Icing up!

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

 

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

Passing through a typical Swiss village...

9.  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.  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...

10.  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

11.  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.

 

12.  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...

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

 

14.  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.

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

 

15.  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!
Scenery approaching the Landwasser Viaduct

16.  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 MuraglSee rail access map.

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.

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Watch the video:  A ride on the Glacier Express

 

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Travel tips & FAQ...

Route map...

Glacier Express route map

European Rail Timetable and mapClick for larger map

Yellow highlighted = Zermatt-Brig-Chur-St Moritz by Glacier Express.  Green = scenic sections of line.   Orange = bus

Dashed railway line (e.g. around Fiesch) = section where train uses rack-&-pinion to grip because of steep gradient.

Dotted railway line (e.g. Furka Tunnel) = 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.

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 on he metre-gauge line 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.  More info at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glacier_Express.

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 at booking.com, anything with a review score over 8.0 will be great.

But I suggest something special:  The Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl near St Moritz is an amazing hotel opened in 1907, perched on a 2,454m high mountain with spectacular views over the Engadin Valley.  I have never seen any view as spectacular out of a hotel window over breakfast.

To reach the Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl, take a local train from St Moritz to Punt Muragl Staz, see Muottas Muragl train route map, or you can get off the Glacier Express at Samedan (the stop before St Moritz) and take a local train to Punt Muragl.  It's then a 250m walk from either of these unstaffed halts to the lower station of the funicular railway which climbs up the mountain to the Hotel Muottas Muragl.  To check train times, simply use the journey planner at www.sbb.ch and run an enquiry from anywhere in Switzerland to Muottas Muragl, that's the name of the upper station of the funicular right next to the hotel.

The Muottas Muragl Berghotel in winter

The Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl in winter.  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.


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