Glacier Express: the must-knows

  • The Glacier Express is a luxurious direct train between Zermatt and St. Moritz.
  • You’ll have 8 hours full of great scenery and impressive railway engineering.
  • 2nd and 1st class are comfortable with panoramic windows, catering and infotainment. Excellence Class is even more exquisite.
  • Book your obligatory seat reservations as early as possible.
  • If you want to travel just a small part of the route, regular trains are a good alternative.
Min. time required: 8:00
Season: early January to mid October and mid December to late December
Recommended season: early January to late February, early April to late June and early October to mid October
Max. altitude: 2033 m (6670 ft)

What is the Glacier Express? Copy link to clipboard

The Glacier Express is a comfortable train with high panoramic windows and on-board catering between Zermatt (Valais) and St. Moritz (Graubünden). The entire journey takes about 8 hours and crosses 300 km, with great views of the Swiss mountain scenery.

Glacier Express prices, tickets, reservations, and refunds explained Copy link to clipboard

2024 prices

Price 2nd classPrice 1st classPrice Excellence ClassMore informationApplies to the following ticket(s)
CHF 49CHF 49CHF 470more info and pricesSwiss Travel Pass or Swiss Travel Pass Flex + reservation (CHF 49 for 2nd and 1st class / CHF 470 for Excellence Class)
from CHF 78from CHF 98from CHF 519more info and pricesSwiss Half Fare Card and discounted Saver Day Pass (from CHF 29 for 2nd class / CHF 49 for 1st class and Excellence Class) + reservation (CHF 49 for 2nd and 1st class / CHF 470 for Excellence Class)
from CHF 101from CHF 137from CHF 558more info and pricesSaver Day Pass (from CHF 52 for 2nd class / CHF 88 for 1st class and Excellence Class) + reservation (CHF 49 for 2nd and 1st class / CHF 470 for Excellence Class)
CHF 128.50CHF 185CHF 606more info and pricesSwiss Half Fare Card + 50% discounted ticket (CHF 79.50 for 2nd class / CHF 136 for 1st class and Excellence Class) + reservation (CHF 49 for 2nd and 1st class / CHF 470 for Excellence Class)
CHF 208CHF 321CHF 742more info and pricesFull-fare ticket (CHF for 159 2nd class / CHF 272 for 1st class and Excellence Class) + reservation (CHF 49 for 2nd and 1st class, CHF 470 for Excellence Class)

How to book the Glacier Express

When using traveling in the Glacier Express, you have to pay for two separate things:

  • the route. You can cover this with a rail pass or ticket. You can get this at any time you want, even shortly before boarding. Most rail passes and tickets don't sell out.
  • the seats. These have to be reserved in advance. You can do so here. Seats can be booked from 3 months before your travel date. For the Excellence Class, the seat reservation also serves as a surcharge that includes the catering and all other services.

Your seat reservation is completely separate from the ticket or pass you use. So you don't have to get your pass or ticket before reserving your seats. As long as you've purchased both before boarding, you're ready to go.

What if I can't get hold of Glacier Express reservations?

The Glacier Express is popular, and seats can get sold out quickly. Annika has listed insider tips to secure your reservations here.

Glacier Express prices with a Swiss Travel Pass or Swiss Travel Pass Flex in 2024

If you have a Swiss Travel Pass or Swiss Travel Pass Flex, this counts as your Glacier Express ticket. You don't need an additional ticket. But you do need to pay the seat reservation of CHF 49 for 2nd or 1st class, and CHF 470 for Excellence Class.

Glacier Express prices with a Swiss Half Fare Card in 2024

The lowest possible Glacier Express price with a Swiss Half Fare Card is CHF 78 in 2nd class, CHF 98 in 1st class, and CHF 519 in Excellence Class.

The above price is based on a discounted Saver Day Pass at the lowest possible fare (from CHF 29 for 2nd class, from CHF 49 for 1st class and Excellence Class), and seat reservations (CHF 49 for 2nd or 1st class, CHF 470 for Excellence Class).

Swiss Half Fare Card holders can pay for the ride with several products. The options are:

Glacier Express fares with other rail passes

Find a full overview of rail pass discounts here. In all cases, you'll have to add the required seat reservation costs.

Glacier Express prices without a rail pass in 2024

Without a rail pass, the lowest possible price for the Glacier Express is CHF 101 in 2nd class, CHF 137 in 1st class, and CHF 558 in Excellence Class.

The above price is based on a Saver Day Pass for the lowest possible fare (from CHF 52 for 2nd class, from CHF 88 for 1st class and Excellence Class) and seat reservations (CHF 49 for 2nd or 1st class, CHF 470 for Excellence Class). A Saver Day Pass is usually cheaper than regular tickets, if bought well in advance.

Glacier Express seat reservations for 1st and 2nd class

Glacier Express reservations are obligatory. You'll have to pay reservation fees regardless of the rail pass or ticket you travel with. Prices in 2024 are:

  • CHF 44 for a short journey: Zermatt-Chur (or any other stretch between these stations) and Brig-St. Moritz (or any other stretch between these stations)
  • CHF 49 for a long journey: all rides longer than the short ones mentioned above

Glacier Express Excellence Class: reservation and supplement

Reservations for the Excellence Class cost CHF 470 per person and single journey, regardless of the traveled distance and season. This includes both seat reservations, as well as catering and all extra services. You also need a 1st class pass or ticket.

What else you should know about seat reservations

  • You can best book your seats as early as possible. You can usually do so about 3 months before your travel date. Find more Glacier Express reservation tips here.
  • The reservation includes a supplement for the extra services of the Glacier Express.
  • It needs to be paid per person and per single journey.
  • The reservation fee is the same for 1st and 2nd class.

Glacier Express upgrade tickets for 1st class and Excellence Class

If you have a 2nd class pass or ticket, but want to travel by Glacier Express in 1st class or Excellence Class, you can buy an upgrade ticket. This costs CHF 113 for Zermatt - St. Moritz or the other way around. It's 50% discounted for Swiss Travel Pass (Flex) and Swiss Half Fare Card holders: CHF 56.50.

Glacier Express tour packages

You can choose to book a 1-day or multiple-day tour that includes the Glacier Express. In most cases, all tickets and reservations are included. Always check the exact terms and conditions. See our list of Glacier Express travel packages, plus the pros and cons of such trips, here.

The Glacier Express cancellation policy

Reservations for Swiss trains are mostly not refundable. That goes for the Glacier Express too. The only exception is proven incapacity to travel. If that's the case, you can fill out an online form to request for a refund.

The rules for group reservations, rail passes or tickets, and travel packages may be more flexible:

  • Groups of 10 people or more can cancel their Glacier Express reservation for free up to 30 days in advance. After that, a cancellation fee is deducted, which increases the closer in advance you cancel.
  • Your rail pass or ticket may be refundable. It depends on what you're using to pay for the train ride. For example: the Swiss Travel Pass can often be cancelled at a 15% cancellation fee, and some vendors even offer a full refund. Products that can run out, such as Saver Day Passes, are mostly not refundable.
  • If you book a package, you'll have to check the cancellation conditions provided by the operator you're buying it from.

Get your Glacier Express tickets, reservations and tours Copy link to clipboard

If you don't have a rail pass that allows free traveling on the Glacier Express, you need to get tickets. You always need a reservation, regardless of the pass or ticket you're traveling with.

If you book a Glacier Express tour instead, tickets and reservations are usually included. But do check this before you book.

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Compose your own Glacier Express travel package
Compose your own Glacier Express travel package
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Offered by Official SBB shop: swissrailways.com

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  • Free cancellation until 1 day before travel, if you choose the FLEX OPTION. No questions asked.
  • Extra Support: MySwissAlps can answer most questions regarding your order as well.
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Embark on a self-guided train tour through the scenic wonders of the Swiss Alps with our Glacier Express journey from St.Moritz to Zermatt 1st class. Enjoy a train ride as you traverse alpine landscapes, charming villages, and iconic landmarks. Marvel at the breathtaking views through large panoramic windows on one …

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Promotions Copy link to clipboard

Switzerland Travel Centre travel packages promotion
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Scenic rail journeys (with guaranteed seat reservations), self-drive holidays, journeys to famous mountain peaks, and more. Choose your preferred hotels, number of nights, and excursions in each town. Apply the promo code AFFMYSWISSALPS for a 5% discount.

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Glacier Express discounts with your rail pass Copy link to clipboard

The rail passes below offer a discounted or even free trip with the Glacier Express. That does not include seat reservations.

PassDiscount
Adventure Card Free:
  • Zermatt to Disentis (train)
More information:

Disentis to Chur (train): 50% discount. Chur to St. Moritz: no discount. Seat reservations: no discount.

Day Pass Free:
  • Entire route
More information:

Seat reservations: no discount.

Eurail Global Pass Free:
  • Entire route
More information:

Seat reservations: no discount.

graubündenPASS Free:
  • Oberalp Pass to St. Moritz (train)
More information:

Zermatt to the Oberalp Pass: no discount. Seat reservations: no discount.

Interrail Switzerland Pass Free:
  • Entire route
More information:

Seat reservations: no discount.

Saver Day Pass Free:
  • Entire route
More information:

Seat reservations: no discount.

Swiss Half Fare Card Discount 50%:
  • Entire route
More information:

Seat reservations: no discount.

Swiss Travel Pass Free:
  • Entire route
More information:

Seat reservations: no discount.

Swiss Travel Pass Flex Free:
  • Entire route
More information:

Seat reservations: no discount.

The Glacier Express route in detail, with map Copy link to clipboard

The Glacier Express is a direct train between Zermatt and St. Moritz. It's available in both directions. You can ride the entire route or just a section of it. You can board in Brig, Andermatt, Disentis or Chur for example.

The route can be divided in 4 main sections, each with their own unique scenery.

Section 1: Zermatt to Brig

The journey starts near the Matterhorn, in the car-free mountain village of Zermatt, at an altitude of 1605 m. The Matter valley leads to the town of Visp and is quite narrow at many places, with massive rock walls rising up to well over 4000 m.

The highest peaks of the Swiss Alps can be found in this region. Once Visp has been reached, the train has decended to 651 m. A short flat stretch leads to Brig.

Section 2: Brig to Andermatt

The train crosses the river Rhone a few minutes after departure from Brig, and continues its way east into the Upper Rhone valley. The V-shaped valley is very narrow sometimes. At end of the valley, in Oberwald, the train has reached an altitude of 1366 m.

Since 1925, a railroad across the Furka Pass leads from Oberwald to Realp. The mountains caused quite some engineering difficulties to this stretch, and it couldn't be crossed in winter.

In 1982, a tunnel to Realp was opened to bypass the pass, making the train service much more reliable. The old pass railway was closed, but it was reopened in 2010 for touristic steam trains. The Glacier Express uses the tunnel.

From Realp, a fairly flat stretch leads to Andermatt.

Section 3: Andermatt to Chur

Andermatt, at 1436 m, is where the Oberalp Pass begins. The Glacier Express winds its way up to 2034 m, the highest point of this journey.

This is where the river Rhine rises. The bare landscape up here can be covered in snow from November to April. The road is closed during that period.

Next up is a long descent along the Rhine valley to Chur, at 585 m. Chur is the lowest point of the route. The landscape looks very dramatic in the Rhine gorge between Ilanz and Reichenau, where the river carved deep into the white rocks.

This region is also referred to as the 'Swiss Grand Canyon'. After Reichenau, the train will reach Chur, the capital of the canton of Graubünden and the largest town along the route.

Section 4: Chur to St. Moritz

The final section overlaps with the first section of the Bernina Express. The Glacier Express changes direction and heads for Reichenau again. There it bends to the south, towards Thusis and Tiefencastel. This Domleschg valley is known for its many ruins and castles.

The Glacier Express continues south through a mostly narrow valley, crossing the spectacular curved Landwasser viaduct just before it reaches Filisur.

After Filisur, several spiral loops help it gain height until it reaches the entrance of the Albula tunnel, at 1789 m. This section of the route is very interesting to explore on foot as well.

The Albula tunnel leads to the high Upper Engadine Valley. The Glacier Express will reach its destination St. Moritz after another 20 minutes.

Glacier Express map: the complete route between Zermatt and St. Moritz

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Operation dates, schedules and timetable Copy link to clipboard

Glacier Express: 2024 operation dates

  • The Glacier Express runs from 9 December 2023 until 3 May 2024 (winter timetable) and from 4 May to 12 October 2024 (summer timetable). There's a maintenance break from 13 October to 13 December 2024.
  • The Excellence Class is available on all operation dates mentioned above, except for 25 March to 12 April 2024.

Planning your Glacier Express journey with the timetable

You can consult the Glacier Express schedules here. The train can also be found in the general Swiss timetable:

  • Enter your departure and destination stations along the Glacier Express route.
  • You may have to add a via-station to make sure the timetable shows the Glacier Express trains, and not other (quicker) routes. For example, add "Andermatt" when searching for connections between Zermatt and St. Moritz.
  • The direct trains labeled "PE" ("Panorama Express") are Glacier Express trains.

Best seasons for the Glacier Express Copy link to clipboard

The best months for a Glacier Express ride are early January to late February, early April to late June and early October to mid October:

  • Spring (April to June) is our personal favorite, as it offers the perfect combination of green valleys and snowy mountains.
  • We love autumn (especially late September to late October) because of the brilliantly colored autumn trees.
  • The special touch in winter (especially January and February) is the snow on the Oberalp Pass, and mostly in the valleys too.

As for other months:

  • July and August are perfectly fine. There's less snow on the highest peaks though, and therefore less variety in the scenery.
  • Glacier Express trains do not operate from late October to mid-December.

Weather info and forecast Copy link to clipboard

Sunny weather is ideal for your Glacier Express trip. It will get you the best views of the beautiful scenery. Clouds are no problem. Low clouds, fog and rain can partially block the views though.

As it's recommended to book your seats early, you can't tell what weather will be like at your travel date. Rest assured that your ride will be spectacular and comfortable though!

Find the current 5-day forecasts for Andermatt (half-way along the train route) below.

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The best side of the Glacier Express train to sit on

If it’s not too busy and you can move around in the train, these are the suggested sides for each section of the Glacier Express route:

  • Section 1, Zermatt-Brig: whether you sit on the left or right side of the train does not matter much.
  • Section 2, Brig-Andermatt: the view from the right side of the train is slightly better, but there’s no major difference.
  • Section 3, Andermatt-Chur: sit on the left side for the best views in the Rhine Gorge.
  • Section 4, Chur-St. Moritz: you can best sit on the right side of the train to enjoy the view on the Landwasser viaduct.

If you make reservations, you usually can’t choose seats in a particular driving direction or on a specific side. You’ll have great views on either side though!

What to expect on board the train

1st and 2nd class

Traveling on board the Glacier Express is comfortable.

  • Both 1st and 2nd class coaches have panoramic sealed windows all the way to the roof.
  • The train is air-conditioned.
  • Free power sockets and wifi are available and you’ll have access to the infotainment system using your smartphone or tablet.
  • You’ll receive an exclusive board magazine and brochure about the route. You’ll also get headphones through which information is available in 6 languages.
  • The windows of the entrance doors can be lowered, allowing you to take great pictures without reflections.
  • The 1st class seats are more spacious as there are only three seats across, versus four in 2nd class.
  • Food and drinks will be served at your seat. Reservations are not obligatory, but if you want to enjoy a warm lunch, we recommend making reservations no later than 48 hours before your trip. If you have specific diet wishes and restrictions, you’d best pass this on no later than 10 days in advance.

Excellence Class

If you want to splurge to have the most exclusive ride, you can book a seat in the Excellence Class coach.

  • There are no more than 20 passengers in Excellence Class, and they all have window seats.
  • There is a bar area.
  • You’ll get personal travel guidance from the Excellence Class concierge.
  • A premium 5-course lunch with wine is included. So are champagne and an aperitif platter, soft drinks, coffee, and water.
  • Your luggage will be carried from and to the platform.

If you can afford the additional costs, you’ll definitely have a once-in-a-lifetime train journey.

Glacier Express trains versus normal trains

Can I travel the Glacier Express route with normal trains?

Yes, there are regular train services on the Glacier Express line too. You can see the landscape just as well.

I feel that local trains are a good alternative to cover only part of the route, or to do the entire route in multiple days. And they’re a good option if you’re traveling when the Glacier Express has its yearly operational break. In other cases, I’d prefer the Glacier Express.

What’s the difference between Glacier Express trains and regular trains?

Differences between Glacier Express trains and normal trains are:

  1. Regional trains don’t offer high panoramic windows, catering, extra comfortable seats, and information about the route.
  2. The regular trains are local trains, so you would have to switch trains 3 or 4 times to cover the whole route. This can be inconvenient if you’re traveling with luggage.
  3. In high-season periods, such as June-August, the normal trains can be busy. There are more tourists on these trains, for example because they weren’t able to get Glacier Express seat reservations but still want to enjoy the route. Seats in these trains are not guaranteed, and reservations are mostly not possible.
  4. The Glacier Express is the only direct train from Zermatt to St. Moritz. Realistically, the Glacier Express is the best way to see the route if you plan to do it in one day.

Glacier Express luggage options

You can bring your luggage on board the Glacier Express, but there are restrictions. In addition to your hand luggage, you can carry one larger piece of baggage per person. Mid- to small-sized suitcases and backpacks are perfectly fine. You can’t store very large suitcases, skis, snowboards, bicycles, or electric scooters in the Glacier Express though.

Bringing along more luggage than you can reasonably handle isn’t only annoying for yourself, but may also take up too much space meant for other travelers’ baggage. If you need to transport large pieces, or several pieces per person, I recommend you look into Swiss luggage transport services.

Make sure to keep an eye on your luggage at all times. Even though there’s quite some personnel on the Glacier Express trains, they can’t be held responsible for everyone’s baggage.

Glacier Express versus Bernina Express: how to choose

The Glacier Express is better if:

  • it fits your plans to travel between Zermatt (Valais) and St. Moritz (Engadine);
  • you like a full-day scenic trip;
  • you prefer a high level of comfort and extras, such as on-seat dining during your journey.

The Bernina Express is better if:

  • you’re staying in Graubünden for several days and can make a Bernina Express day trip from your base town;
  • the journey fits your itinerary, for example if you leave or enter Switzerland from Italy, or if you want to travel between Graubünden and the Ticino;
  • you prefer a shorter journey with lots of variety.

Of course, there are many more scenic train rides in Switzerland.

How to combine the Glacier Express with other scenic trains

We’ve created several sample itineraries that include the Glacier Express as well as other scenic trains. You can book tour packages that contain multiple scenic ride as well. In addition, consider the below options.

How to combine the Glacier Express and Bernina Express

The routes of the Glacier Express and Bernina Express partially overlap. So you can easily switch between both trains, for example in St. Moritz or Chur. It’s best to take at least 2 days for such a combination.

How to combine the Glacier Express and Gotthard Panorama Express

It’s possible to combine parts of the Glacier Express and Gotthard Panorama Express. The Glacier Express stops in Andermatt. From there, a short ride in a cogwheel train gets you to Göschenen, which is a stop of the Gotthard Panorama Express.

The below routes can be done in one day. Check the timetable when planning: you may need to leave early to catch the panoramic trains, and in low season options can be limited.

  • Zermatt to Lucerne: Zermatt – Andermatt (Glacier Express), Andermatt – Göschenen (cogwheel train), Göschenen – Lucerne (Gotthard Panorama Express);
  • St. Moritz to Lugano: St. Moritz – Andermatt (Glacier Express), Andermatt – Göschenen (cogwheel train), Göschenen – Lugano (Gotthard Panorama Express);
  • Lugano to Zermatt: Lugano – Göschenen (Gotthard Panorama Express), Göschenen – Andermatt (cogwheel train), Andermatt – Zermatt (Glacier Express);
  • Lucerne to Zermatt: Lucerne – Göschenen (Gotthard Panorama Express), Göschenen – Andermatt (cogwheel train), Andermatt – Zermatt (Glacier Express).

How to combine the Glacier Express and Lötschberg Mountain Railway

Switching between the Glacier Express and the Lötschberg Mountain Railway is possible in Brig.

How to make a Glacier Express day trip from towns far away

For the best experience, I recommend doing the full Glacier Express ride and spending at least one night in both Zermatt and St. Moritz. But if you’re based in other towns such as Interlaken, Lucerne and Zurich you can enjoy parts of the Glacier Express route in one day. I feel that a Glacier Express day trip from most other popular towns isn’t realistic.

Glacier Express day trip from Interlaken

Take a train to Brig and board the Glacier Express there. Get off the train in Chur. Then take a train back to Interlaken. This day trip takes 9 to 10 hours.

Glacier Express day trip from Lucerne

Take a train to Chur and board the Glacier Express there. Get off the train in Brig. Then take a train back to Lucerne. This day trip takes 9 to 10 hours. If you get off the Glacier Express in Andermatt instead of Brig the trip takes 7.5 to 8.5 hours.

Glacier Express day trip from Zurich

Take a train to Chur and board the Glacier Express there. Get off the train in Brig. Then take a train back to Zurich. This day trip takes 8 to 9 hours. If you get off the Glacier Express in Andermatt instead of Brig, the trip takes 6.5 to 7.5 hours.

Glacier Express FAQ

  1. Is the Glacier Express worth it?

    My answer is a firm “yes”! Even after several times, I still enjoy the ride. It’s a varied and scenic route that shows many of Switzerland’s natural highlights. The seats and large windows are comfortable, and I really appreciate the on-seat lunches and snacks.

    The info provided about the towns, regions and railway lines is interesting as well. This is especially true if it’s your first (or only) time you travel on this route.

    I also prefer the direct Glacier Express train over regional trains when traveling the long distance between the Valais and the Engadine. It’s more convenient than switching trains a few times.

  2. Why is the Glacier Express so famous?

    The Glacier Express is well known because of the stunning scenery, even though you won’t see many glaciers. The route offers lots of variety and allows you to see many sides of southern Switzerland, all in one day.

    The engineering is impressive: the train squeezes its way through the Alps, through narrow valleys, tight curves, 91 tunnels, and across 291 bridges.

    In addition, Zermatt and St. Moritz are famous mountain resorts.

  3. What’s the scenery along the Glacier Express route like?

    The Glacier Express is a direct train from Zermatt in the canton of Valais to St. Moritz in the canton of Graubünden, and vice versa. Due to the name of the train, you might suspect that you will see one glacier after the other while on board. However, the glaciers are up in the mountains. They are close but you can hardly see them from the train.

    The glaciers are getting smaller due to global warming. The scenery is still stunning though, with many mountains, fierce streams, impressive rock formations and snow in winter. Read all about the route here.

  4. What’s the best leg of the route?

    All sections are beautiful in their own way. To Annika and me, the Oberalp Pass is a highlight, but most of the route is really worth it. We feel that only the tunnels and the areas around Visp/Brig and Chur are less pretty. In all that’s perhaps an hour of the total trip.

    If you don’t have the time to do the complete Glacier Express route, just pick the section that is closest to your base town.

Other websites of interest

Schedules

Prices

Sample itineraries that include the Glacier Express Copy link to clipboard

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Arno
Page author: ArnoI have visited Switzerland countless times since 1997. I've explored most of the country, but find myself staying in the Bernese Oberland and Graubünden most frequently. The alps and the rail network remain very impressive, even after all these years.