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Glacier Express Switzerland: Route, Cost, everything you need to know!

Headed to Switzerland? More than likely, then, you already know what’s in store. Anticipate incredible cheese, decadent chocolate… and some really epic views. I mean, the landscapes in Switzerland are nothing short of stunning. In fact, one way to really take in the views is to travel by one of Switzerlands trains. The Glacier Express happens to be one of Switzerlands most iconic. It’s a bucket list worthy experience. So, let’s talk about everything you need to know about the Glacier Express Switzerland: routes, cost and… possibly most importantly… what’s to eat.

Blue skies, green pastures and houses set on the foreground of a mountain range and scenic views on the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Some scenic views captured en route

All about the Glacier Express

The Glacier Express is a railroad company that runs the self-declared “slowest express train in the world.” In actuality, it’s one of the most perfect train rides I’ve ever experienced. Yes, it’s pure luxury for public transportation. Definitely, the views are spectacular. But, I believe it’s also the perfect pace. It effortlessly glides along its tracks where you almost feel like you’re floating. So, “slowest express train” or not, I feel certain you’ll find the pace to be just right.

The Glacier Express began operating in June of 1930. Its first route was Zermatt to St. Moritz. From its inception, it boasted elegant passenger and dining cars. Likewise, the Glacier Express Switzerland route remains distinguished up to today.

Glacier Express Switzerland Route Options

Simply put, the shorter your route, the less expensive your ticket will be. Thus, if you’re on a tighter budget you can always take a shorter trip on the Glacier Express for the experience.

We arrived in Switzerland at the Geneva airport. From there, we traveled to Zermatt (which, is incidentally one of my favorite places in the world). Zermatt is very walkable and has a large train station downtown – this is where my husband and I boarded the Glacier Express.

a snowy mountain range looking through the window of the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Leaving Zermatt in April – snowy mountainscapes
green pastures and Swiss houses looking through the window of the Glacier Express Switzerland route
A short while later… back to greenery and scenery

I hadn’t heard of the town of Chur a day in my life until I went to book tickets for the Glacier Express Switzerland route. Turns out, Chur is the oldest city in all of Switzerland. Who doesn’t love a city or town with historical relevance? Okay, even if you don’t appreciate historical relevance, Chur has lots of good food, cute cafes and photo worthy architecture.

The Glacier Express runs from Zermatt to St. Moritz and vice versa.

The route I took was Zermatt to Chur, which is about four stops before the end of the line.

However, you can purchase tickets for any portion of the total length of the route. Accordingly, the shorter your train route, the less expensive the ticket.

Tip: You can buy your Glacier Express tickets – here .

Blue skies, snowy mountainscape, traditional Swiss Alpine architecture in Zermatt on the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Zermatt, Switzerland
Blue skies and old school medieval Swiss architecture in Chur on the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Old Town – Chur, Switzerland

Glacier Express Route Options, Explained

Here is a brief overview of all the destinations that the Glacier Express travels through and to:

Zermatt: a quaint, scenic mountain town. Treat yourself to fondue, the après ski scene, a mountain lodge stay and see the star of the Swiss Alps: none other than the Matterhorn.

Chur: the oldest city in Switzerland. A town filled with German influence and food, medieval architecture, museums, lots of bars and history.

Davos: a Swiss Alps ski town located in the canton of Graubünden. If you’re interested in staying at a ski resort here, you can take the Glacier Express to this mountain town. Conversely, the Glacier Express can take you from Davos to the Matterhorn.

Brig: a charming Alpine town in the canton of Valais, located near the Italian border. Here, you can relax in thermal baths and tour a 17th century castle. Valais is also the largest wine growing region in Switzerland. So wine lovers, you know where to go!

Andermatt: a scenic village in the Swiss Alps. A similar atmosphere to Zermatt – quaint Swiss architecture, creeks and streams running through town. There’s cable cars that can take you to ski and snow excursions. It’s also a village that comes alive during the holidays with lots of festive activities.

St. Moritz: If pure luxury is what you seek… St. Moritz will likely fit the bill. It’s a destination with a long time legacy of glitz and glam. A favorite of the well-heeled. But, anyone who enjoys the finer things and a lavish atmosphere will appreciate and enjoy St. Moritz.

Tip: if you want to experience the full Glacier Express route, you should either plan to board the train in Zermatt and take it all the way to St. Moritz or vice versa.

Ticket Classes and Cost

Basically, like many luxurious experiences, the Glacier Express comes at a cost. Let’s start with the first expense: your seat reservation fee.

Generally, the Glacier Express requires a seat reservation fee to be paid for all passengers of all ages. The cost is priced as follows:

The exterior of the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Glacier Express exterior
The interior of the Glacier Express Switzerland route first class car
Inside the Glacier Express first class car

Excellence Class: CHF 470.00 (approximately $516.00 USD)

Long Journeys 1st and 2nd class: CHF 49 (approximately $54.00 USD)

Short Journeys 1st and 2nd class: CHF 44 (approximately $48.00 USD)

Tip: It’s important to note that paying for your reservation is not the same thing as purchasing a ticket. You must make a reservation for your desired class of travel, pay the seat reservation fee and purchase your route ticket.

Excellence Class

Excellence Class is a pricey, extravagant indulgence. I considered splurging for it for my birthday while in Switzerland, but it was not being offered during the ‘off season.’

All seats in excellence class are window seats. Additionally, there are many perks like a personal check in at the train station, an in-car concierge and more. Also, the food and beverage are a marked distinction between this class and first class.

Your experience starts with an aperitif in the Glacier bar car. Afterwards, you’ll enjoy a starter plate with Champagne. Following, a five course meal of regional Swiss fare with corresponding wine pairings. Later, an afternoon tea service with goodies. Snacks are available all day.

The First Class Experience

First class cars are a mixture of four top and two top tables. Thus, not everyone in first class will have a window seat. Perhaps, the window seat doesn’t matter to everyone because with the panoramic ceilings, it’s hard to miss the gorgeous views.

Unlike Excellence class, food and beverage is not included in your reservation fee. However, you can order from a full menu of cocktails, wine, coffee, tea, dessert, snacks or opt for meal service.

Salad servie on the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Salad service – comes with a generous bread basket
Chicken entree on the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Chicken entrée – main course
Tomato Dahl on the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Tomato-Lentil Dahl – main course

We ordered both main dish options and shared them. My take on the food: it’ll likely be the best meal you’ll ever have on any form of public transportation. It won’t compete with a fine restaurant, but it’s a really nice meal to have on a train. Additionally, the service is top tier and all the food and beverage is served in beautiful table and glassware.

Also, drinks cost extra and are priced à la carte. The tea selection and quality is divine, as well as the lattes.

Cheese course on the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Cheese course – with a few nuts and fruits
Dessert course on the Glacier Express Switzerland route
Dessert course and Coffee (coffee is a extra cost)

Tip: I highly recommend reserving your meal service in advance, if you intend to have a full coursed meal. This can be done during your ticket purchase. You can view the full menu: here.

Second Class

I have not experienced the second class car first hand, however, I come with good news. If you’re on a tighter budget, you don’t have to miss out on the Glacier Express experience. The second class car is very similar to first.

In fact, the scenery, the panoramic views, the in-car service and food options are all the same. The main difference is that the entire car is made up of four top tables versus the four top on one side and two seaters on the other.

Tip: In both first and second class, unless you reserve a two seater table a party of two can be sat with others at the four top tables. If you are traveling alone, you will more than likely be sat with other travelers.

Know Before You Go

Glacier Express Switzerland route tickets can only be purchased online six months in advance.

In First class and Excellence class, there is plenty of room to stow your luggage and personal belongings.

Have you experienced the Glacier Express Switzerland route? What was your experience like? Do you have any questions about traveling on the Glacier Express? Drop them in the comments!


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Travel Tips & Resources to Help You Plan an Epic Trip!

Going – I’ve subscribed to Going (formerly, beloved, Scott’s Cheap Flights) for awhile now and it’s an amazing resource for finding… did you guess cheap flights? Yes, you can set your preferences from airports to flight class and get destination deals right to your inbox. It’s fab! I use the Premium paid version, but they have a FREE version too. So what are you waiting for?! Let’s get Going!

Booking.com – the majority, if not almost all of my stays are booked on Booking.com. It’s a reliable site to book and manage your reservations. It’s a great way to find boutique stays and unique accommodations at the best rates! You can also easily communicate with your accommodation through the app.

Expedia – If I am looking for a flight to a specific destination for specific dates, I find myself booking many flights on Expedia. It’s user friendly and straight forward. I often find the most cost effective rates, while earning points for every flight I book (in tandem with the points I receive from the credit cards I pay with).

Viator – most of the activities, tours and excursions I book for my trips are booked through Viator. Whether you’re seeking a guide for the day, a group tour, a cooking class, Viator has you covered!

Get Your Guide – this is another great marketplace to find tours, excursions and activities to book for your upcoming trip.

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