The ride on the Glacier Express through the Swiss Alps is an unforgettable experience. It was winter the last time we traveled on the Glacier Express. We rode through the middle of a snowstorm and because of the heavy snowfall, we haven’t really seen much of the beautiful landscape. All the more we are looking forward to ride on the Glacier Express through the Swiss Alps on this beautiful sunny summer day with crystal clear skies. Come along with us on our journey through the middle of the Swiss Alps.
Sometimes the Glacier Express is referred to as the “slowest express train in the world”. This is because the Glacier Express travels across the Swiss Alps from east to west and you don’t have to change the train once. The train ride connects Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn and St. Moritz in eastern Switzerland. Of course you can also hop on the train on other stations along the way and there is a much faster route to connect the two places but the Glacier Express is an unforgettable journey that you shouldn’t miss.
Since 1930, the Glacier Express is operated by the Rhaetian Railway and the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway. The train ride takes about eight hours for the 291 kilometres from Zermatt to St. Moritz. You will cross 291 bridges, ride through 91 tunnels and over the 2’033 meters high Oberalp Pass. The year-round operation of the Glacier Express was possible only by the opening of the Furka base tunnel in the year 1981.
Zermatt – Hiking from Zermatt to Sunnegga
Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn, the most photographed mountain in the world, is the Western starting point of the Glacier Express. Before we jump on board the panorama wagon of the Glacier Express, we still want to go hiking in Zermatt.
Zermatt is known throughout the world for its magnificent skiing area. The three areas of Sunnegga, Gornergrat and Klein Matterhorn unite some 360 kilometers of slopes and even in summer, you can ski on the glacier.
But Zermatt is also very popular in summer. The streets are full of visitors and especially Asian guests love to visit Zermatt and take a selfie of them in front of the majestic Matterhorn. Hiking and climbing is very popular during this time of the year. A vast network of 400 km of hiking trails and 38 four-thousand meter high mountain peaks in close vicinity attract hiking and mountaineering enthusiasts from around the world. Many cable cars operate in summer and transport guests closer to the mountains peaks.
If you plan your trip on the Glacier Express, we highly recommend you to include enough time in Zermatt. There are so many activities you can choose from in winter and in summer and you will not regret your stay in Zermatt.
The weather is great and so we decide to hike up to Sunnegga on the sunny side of the valley. The beauty of a walk on this side of the valley is that you can enjoy magnificent views of the Matterhorn throughout your hike. We start the hike in Winkelmatten, the part of Zermatt facing towards the Matterhorn. We could also take the cable car up to Sunnegga but walking is much nicer.
On the way to Sunnegga we pass the picturesque village of Findeln. The view from Findeln to the Matterhorn is simply fantastic. Some of the small wooden houses have been converted into holiday homes and of course there are restaurants with sun terraces from where you can enjoy the view of the Matterhorn.
If you are in Zermatt, we also recommend you to visit Gornergrat. The train up to Gornergrat is a cog railway, which in just over 9 kilometers, climbs up from Zermatt to the 3’089 meters high Gornergrat and overcomes 1’500 meters in altitude. The Gornergrat railway is the second highest train of Europe after the Jungfrau railway.
Highlights along the route of the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz
Zermatt: The next morning we hop on the Glacier Express in Zermatt at 8:52. We have reserved window seats in the first class panorama wagon. Thanks to the large windows of the panorama wagon, we can enjoy the view of the mountains, into the valleys and on to the fields during the ride perfectly. After leaving Zermatt, we ride through the narrow Matter valley to Visp.
Brig: Brig is a good starting point for exploring the region. The old town with its stately houses, cozy inns and the Baroque Stockalper Palace invites you to linger. From Brig the train follows the Rhone River through the Goms valley and the 15.4 km long Furka Base Tunnel until we reach Andermatt.
Andermatt: After Andermatt, the Glacier Express climbs the steep Oberalp Pass where we reach the highest point of our journey at 2’033 meters above sea level.
Time for lunch: It’s already three hours that we are sitting in the train and it’s time to have lunch. The timing couldn’t be better. Right in the steepest part of the journey, the lunch is being served and eating in the moving train is quite a challenge. You need to hold your dishes firmly, otherwise everything starts to slips away. I lost control over my knife in the first few minutes and it has fallen to the ground and slipped across the whole rail wagon.
Lunch is freshly prepared in the board kitchen of the Glacier Express. You can choose between a set menu or different meals and snacks. The menu for today is a salad as a starter, steak with noodles and carrots as a main course and for dessert we can choose between apple pie and cheese. On the drinks menu, there are non-alcoholic drinks, a selection of beer and wine as well as hot drinks.
The lunch on the Glacier Express is really delicious and fresh. You can reserve your meals along with the seat reservation or directly order in the train.
Disentis / Mustér: In Disentis the train stops for about 30 minutes because the locomotive has to be changed. The Matterhorn Gotthard Railway locomotive is decoupled and from Disentis to St- Moritz the locomotive of the Rhaetian Railway is taking over and will pull the train composition to Chur and St. Moritz.
The village of Disentis, located high up in the Rhine valley, is dominated by the Benedictine monastery that dates from the 17th-century. The roots of the monastery dates back to the 8th century, where the monk Sigisbert, together with the Rhaetian Placidus, formed a cell in Disentis. The first monastery was built in 720 by the Bishop Ursicin over the tombs of Saints Sigisbert and Placidus.
From Disentis to Chur the railway line follows the glacial waters of the Rhine along the impressive cliffs of the Rhine gorge.
In Chur our journey on the Glacier Express ends. From Chur you can travel on to Davos or St. Moritz. Especially the route from Chur to St. Moritz on the Albula line is very impressive. This part we already drove with the Bernina Express a few days ago.
Chur: Chur has a beautiful old town with nice shops and a stroll through Chur is worthwhile. When leaving Chur on the Glacier Express, the first few 100 meters feel a bit like riding on a tram. The train line follows the streets through the middle of the city. After Chur the Glacier Express winds through tunnels, galleries and viaducts along the Albula line to St. Moritz.
St. Moritz: The swanky winter ski resort of the rich and famous. This is where the international jet set stays in one of the posh hotels.
Trip information for the Glacier Express
- Distance (St. Moritz / Davos – Zermatt): 291 km
- Highest point: 2’033 meters above sea level (Oberalppass)
- Lowest point: 585 meters above sea level (Chur)
- Gradient: up to 179 parts per thousand
- Number of tunnels: 91
- Number bridges: 291
Useful travel information for the trip with the Glacier Express
How do you get to the Glacier Express?
The journey by train from Zurich takes an hour to Chur and around three hours to St. Moritz or Zermatt. These are the starting points for the trip on the Glacier Express but you can jump on board on other stops as well.
Timetable of the Glacier Express
There are three trains of the Glacier Express starting in each direction during the summer schedule from St. Moritz at 7:57, 8:57 and 9:57, and three trains in the opposite direction from Zermatt at 7:52, 8:52 and 9:52. The entire trip on the Glacier Express takes around 8 hours. If that is too long for you, you can only do part of the journey. We drove from Zermatt to Chur and shortened the travel time to 6.5 hours.
How much does a single ticket for the Glacier Express cost?
The entire trip from St. Moritz to Zermatt costs CHF 149 in 2nd class and CHF 262 in 1st class. The seat reservation is mandatory and costs CHF 33 during the summer schedule.
The ride on the Glacier Express takes eight hours and you will certainly get hungry. That’s why we recommend you to reserve lunch on the Glacier Express. Lunch is freshly prepared and costs CHF 43. The reservation for lunch is highly recommended and is free. You can also order directly on the train and there are snacks and drinks on the menu card as well.
Where can I buy tickets?
You can buy the tickets for the Glacier Express online through the websites of the Glacier Express (www.glacierexpress.ch) or the Rhaetian Railway (www.rhb.ch).
If you are a visitor to Switzerland and not a resident, we recommend you the Swiss Travel Pass. The Swiss Travel Pass is an all-in-one ticket to travel by rail, road and waterway throughout the whole of Switzerland. In addition to that, many panoramic trains and public transport in about 75 cities are included. In this all-in-one ticket, the train ride on the Glacier Express is included. You only need to pay the reservation fee for the panorama car.
Swiss Travel Passes are available online at Swiss Travel System. There are also outlets throughout the world. Information on the individual countries and sales outlets can be found on the website Swiss Travel System: www.swisstravelsystem.com
Yes, the ride on the Glacier Express is an unforgettable experience
We really enjoyed the ride in the first class panorama coach of the Glacier Express. Through the huge windows we could watch the scenery of the Swiss Alps passing by. The whole trip takes about eight hours. This is long, but the landscape is so diverse and it’s not getting boring. The food on the train was a fine experience.
Have you done the trip on the Glacier Express through the Swiss Alps? What time of year would you most like to take a ride?
The journey on the Glacier Express was supported by Swiss Travel System and lunch was offered to us by the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway. Thanks a lot for this.
We assure our readers that we write about our personal experience and opinion.