The Glacier Express is the window to the Alps, a train snaking past snow-capped peaks, lush Swiss meadows and chocolate box towns. Not only is the scenery absolutely fantastic, but the train’s amenities are too, offering gourmet three-course lunches, clean, comfortable carriages and panoramic views.
The route takes you from Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn to St Moritz, the most glamorous resort in Switzerland, running in both directions in both winter and summer. In winter there is one Glacier Express from Zermatt to St Moritz, but in summer there are three trains daily in each direction. Along with the Bernina Express, the Glacier Express is Switzerland’s most scenic rail journey, and the full eight hours (180 miles) should be completed.
Prices from: CHF 152
Departing from: St Moritz, Zermatt
Journey length: 8 hours
Glacier Express route
The Glacier Express runs all year round, apart from 14 October to 12 December, where no trains are available. The most popular and scenic journey to take is between Zermatt in the Canton of Valais to the elegant holiday resort of St Moritz in Graubünden, a total of eight hours on board. Views on offer include the breath-taking views of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, the Albula Line with the Solis and Landwasser viaducts and spiral tunnels and the Rhine Gorger – known as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland.
In summer, passengers will see lush Swiss meadows and glistening lakes, while in winter views are are akin to a snowglobe wonderland. The full eight hours is highly recommended, but you can also opt for a segment and board at Visp, Brig, Andermatt, Disentis or Chur.
Glacier Express train
Emulating the Swiss flag, the train has a fetching livery of red and white and uses panoramic coaches purpose built in 2006. Inside, the train offers passengers three classes of travel to choose from, first class, second class and the all new Excellence Class, all being clean, comfortable, carpeted and with air conditioning. In both second and first class, seats are arranged in bays of four with a table in the middle, and apart from more space in first there are few differences.
Introduced in 2019, an Excellence Class ticket will get you access to a special deluxe panoramic car with plush cream leather armchairs arranged in face-to-face booths of two. A cocktail bar exclusive for Exclusive passengers only is on one end of the car and luggage is locked away in a separate luggage car. A separate catering carriage for first and second class is on hand for drinks, snacks and lunch, and a wheelchair compartment and a disabled toilet is located in the first-class section of every train.
Food and drink on the Glacier Express
Guests are able to purchase food on board the train, choosing from a ‘plate of the day’ (CHF30) or three-course lunch (CHF43). All food is freshly prepared on the train, hence the high price, and meals can be paired with wines from an extensive list featuring many Swiss wines. For those not opting for the meal, a catering car is also on hand for tea, coffee and snacks, and (as with other European train), passengers can bring their own food and alcoholic beverages on board.
In Excellence Class passengers are treated to a complimentary five-course regional menu with wine, along with complimentary coffee, juice, snacks and champagne. Meals are available to book in advance, but there is no need as they are the same price on the day.
There is no official dress code on the train, but passengers should wear comfortable clothing and keep in mind that the train is air conditioned.
Despite the name, the Glacier Express is not a fast way to travel, so most other passengers will be tourists on board for the experience alone.
First and second-class passengers have only their seat included in the fare, and must pay an additional cost for lunch, snacks and drinks. Those travelling in Excellence Class have a host of perks covered by the cost of their ticket, including a five-course course lunch, all drinks (including champagne), snacks throughout the day, afternoon tea, a free souvenir and use of a luggage porter.
Pros and cons
The views on this train are truly magnificent, and passengers will see some of Switzerland’s most famous sights – like the Matterhorn. Unlimited luggage and the option to bring food and alcoholic on board are also huge pulls. The train does not allow animals on board.