Picture a crimson train surging through the verdant valleys and snowy passes of the Swiss Alps, crossing hundreds of bridges as it goes.
Have a clear image in your head? Feeling a twinge of wanderlust? Good. You’re picturing the Glacier Express.
Everyone knows that the Alps are stunning — but not everyone has heard that the Glacier Express is the prettiest way to experience Switzerland. Between the jaw-dropping views, ample legroom, and on-board meals, you’re in for the ride of your life.
Marketed as the world’s slowest express train, the Glacier Express takes about seven and a half hours to go from Zermatt to St. Moritz. Although that’s a long ride, it’s worth it.
The scenery varies dramatically throughout the ride. From Zermatt to Brig, passengers drop more than 3,000 feet (914 meters) in elevation, while the next stretch to Andermatt takes the train through the Upper Rhone River Valley. Past Andermatt, the Glacier Express crosses the Oberalp Pass, and after departing Chur, it passes ruins and castles.
Since it crosses 291 bridges and thunders through 91 tunnels, the train is a real testament to modern engineering. At 6,706 feet (2,044 meters) in elevation, the Oberalp Pass is the highest point of the trip, but the Landwasser Viaduct is probably the most photogenic overlook on the itinerary.
To make the most of this ride, keep your eyes peeled and your camera handy!
The Glacier Express is designed for comfort, so whether you opt for a first- or second-class ticket, you’ll ride in style.
To help passengers soak up the views, the train’s cars are equipped with panoramic windows and skylights. The padded seats are grouped around tables, and each car is air-conditioned.
No one ever goes hungry on the Glacier Express. Servers move up and down the aisles to take orders for drinks, snacks, and lunch, and a food service car is also available. Guests can even order meals in advance or bring their own food and drinks.
Tickets aren’t cheap, but there are a few ways to save money on this train.
The going rate for a second-class ticket is 153 francs (269 francs for first class). However, Half-Fare cardholders (and passengers aged 6 to 16) are eligible for a 50 percent discount. The Glacier Express also accepts GA travel cards, Swiss Travel Passes, Eurail Passes, and Interrail Passes. And children younger than age 6 ride for free.
Unfortunately, the Glacier Express charges a reservation fee for all passengers older than 6.
On winter days, only one train moves in each direction; however, three Glacier Express trains move each way daily during the high season. The scenery looks very different throughout the year, so take that into account when planning your trip. Also, remember that the train shuts down every year between mid-October and mid-December.
Check the official timetable for dates and times.
All aboard the Glacier Express!
If anything should be clear by now, it’s that Switzerland’s trains are absolutely extraordinary, so we can’t wait to see you on board! For guided tour options, check out our Scenic Alps by Rail tour, where we embark on the Glacier Express, the Bernina Express, the Gotthard Express and several other iconic Swiss trains.
And for more information about Switzerland’s unbelievable trains, check out this blog post.
Cover photo by Tom Dempsey