Is the Glacier Express worth it? Glacier Express Review
The Glacier Express is a popular train ride that takes passengers through the Swiss Alps. It is one of the most scenic train rides in the world, and many people wonder – is the Glacier Express worth it for its price tag? Stretching from Zermatt to St. Moritz (and vice versa), this unforgettable journey takes you through some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the world. Here’s a detailed Glacier Express review and a look at what makes this train journey so special!
Is the Glacier Express worth it? Glacier Express Review
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Scenic train rides are becoming increasingly popular as travelers are looking for ways to slow down and really savor their surroundings.
If you’re looking for the most scenic train ride in all of Europe, look no further than the Glacier Express.
The Glacier Express is probably the most iconic and luxurious Swiss scenic rail journey there is.
With undisputed views of the country’s most dramatic scenery, you can hop on this ride in winter or summer and still be impressed!
The train winds through mountains, gorges, and valleys providing stunning views at every turn. If you love scenic landscapes, then this is definitely the trip for you.
Glacier Express Tickets: Prices with/out Swiss Travel Pass
The Glacier Express journey from end to end takes about 8 hours.
Departing from the resort town of Zermatt, the train slowly makes its way to St. Moritz, taking in some of the most stunning scenery along the way
- With 291 bridges and 91 tunnels, the journey is a real feast for the eyes.
- You can disembark at specific stations and leave the Glacier Express to explore more of the city or resort.
Tickets can be purchased online, and you have the option of buying it
- With or without the Swiss Travel Pass (which is the All-in-One Swiss Transportation Pass)
- You can choose between first or second-class tickets
- Or, for a truly special experience, opt for an Excellence class ticket
- Meals (two, three, or four-course meal options) can be chosen online at the time of booking
- You can choose the seats when you select the tickets. There is a seating arrangement (window view, etc.) and other options shown online such as departure times, compartment information, etc.
Here is what you have to pay to go on this ride from end to end, and ‘get off stations’ on this route,
|2nd Class||1st Class|
|St. Moritz – Zermatt||152||268|
|St. Moritz – Brig||114||201|
|St. Moritz – Andermatt||84||147|
|Davos – Zermatt||145||255|
|Davos – Brig||107||188|
|Davos – Andermatt||77||134|
|Chur – Zermatt||119||210|
|Chur – Brig||81||143|
|Andermatt – Zermatt||73||129|
A first-class ticket to Glacier Express from end to end is 268 Swiss Francs (or CHF) per person.
A second-class ticket is 152 CHF per person.
Plus you have to pay a seat reservation fee. This fee is between 29 CHF to 49 CHF (cheaper during the low season, and expensive in the peak/high season).
The meals are extras and not required if you do not wish to eat on board.
We 1000% recommend buying the Swiss Travel Pass for the duration of your Switzerland itinerary and then using one day to experience the Glacier Express.
The ticket to this panoramic ride is included in the Swiss Travel Pass, and everyone pays the seat reservation fee!
We had a first-class ticket to the Glacier Express with our Swiss Travel Pass (8 day), and we paid 39 CHF per person for our seat reservation.
We also paid for a three-course meal (47 Swiss francs per person), and ordered drinks onboard.
The Swiss Travel Pass is sold for 3, 4, 8, and 15 days. For an overall Swiss experience, we recommend a 4-day pass, this way you can cover the following
- Day 1 – cover trip from Zurich airport to Old town, and sightseeing (free access to 500 museums + airport ride included) in a local train or tram
- Day 2 – use it to travel to Zermatt or St Moritz by train (included), and explore the resort town/city
- Day 3 – ride the 8 hour Glacier Express (reservation fee extra), and arrive in either Zermatt or St Moritz
- Day 4 – use it to travel back to Zurich (or any other city like Basel, Chur) from Zermatt or St Moritz
Click to grab your Swiss Travel Pass here!
We will share money-saving tips below, and if you should opt for second or first-class tickets. So keep reading!
What is the Glacier Express? Is Glacier Express a luxury train?
The Glacier Express is a special train that operates all year round (except from late October to mid-December which is their maintenance period) and makes for a breathtaking way to see the Swiss Alps.
The train has large windows so that you can see the beautiful scenery as you travel.
The seats are very comfortable and there is plenty of legroom. Every inch of the train is specially designed to give you the best possible experience while you travel.
There is a dining car on the Glacier Express where you can order meals and drinks. The menu includes both Swiss and international dishes.
You can choose to have a meal or just a light snack.
There is also a bar where you can get alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
The Glacier Express is a luxury train for the experience and its price tag (and all the extras that come with it).
The entire journey from Zermatt to St Moritz takes around 8 hours, making it the perfect way to spend a leisurely day traveling through some of Switzerland’s most picturesque landscapes.
If you’re interested in learning more about Swiss culture and history, there are also audio commentary systems in various languages, providing interesting facts and stories about everything you see along the way.
History of the Glacier Express: Worlds slowest express train
The Glacier Express first started running back in 1930 and was originally operated by two different railway companies.
In 1980, however, these companies merged to form the MGB (Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn), which is still responsible for running the Glacier Express.
Despite its name, the Glacier Express actually doesn’t travel over any glaciers—but it does take you past 291 bridges and 91 tunnels, including the famous Landwasser Viaduct, which is considered one of the most impressive feats of engineering in all of Switzerland.
Glacier Express Route and travel options
The Glacier Express connects the mountain resorts of Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn to St Moritz in Switzerland. It covers a distance of 290 km (180 miles) with an average speed of 24 mph.
Called the ‘world’s slowest express train’ you will ride the journey for 7.50 to 8 hours and will be welcomed to stunning landscapes from mountain views, greenery, bridges, and tunnels.
You can take the journey from Zermatt or St. Moritz and vice versa, and this is a scheduled train service, operating a few times in the day.
To start for this route, you have to be in either Zermatt or St Moritz the night before and then disembark at one of the arriving stations.
You can choose to join the train journey mid-way, and get off at any of the stations. These stations include
- From Zermatt to Andermatt (cheapest ride)
- From Chur to Brig
- From Chur to Zermatt
- From Davos to Andermatt
- From Davos to Brig
- From Davos to Zermatt
- From St Moritz to Andermatt
- From St Moritz to Brig
The prices of the ticket depend on the route chosen.
How do you get to Glacier Express from Zurich? Day Glacier Express Self Guided Tour from Zurich
For many international travelers to Switzerland, Zurich is a great starting point. It is home to a charming old town and one of the busiest airports in the country (a Swiss Air hub as well).
Once you are in Zurich, you have to get to either Zermatt or St. Moritz to hop on the Glacier Express.
If you are traveling by train, this is the duration of your trip,
- Zurich to Zermatt: 3.25 to 4 hours
- Zurich to St. Moritz: 3.50 to 4.50 hours
From Zurich, Zermatt is a popular destination, and the Matterhorn is clearly the showstopper here.
So if you are interested in exploring Zermatt, we recommend arriving there a day or two before the Glacier Express trip. Trains leave as early as 06:00 am from Zurich, so you can surely maximize your day in Zermatt.
Basel to Zermatt by train is another option. They take the same time as Zurich.
In the winter, St. Moritz is popular for skiing opportunities and it takes around the same time to get there from Zurich, roughly 3.50 to 4.50 hours.
If you wish to cut the travel time from Zurich, then consider visiting Chur. Zurich to Chur is one hour by train.
And the Glacier Express stops at Chur (Swiss City) so you can hop to get to either Zermatt or St. Moritz from here. The route to St. Moritz from Chur is particularly stunning!
You can also do the opposite.
Zurich > Zermatt (start the Glacier Express) > 5.50 hour train ride > Chur (get down) > Zurich
Disembarking in Chur is also a great way to experience the Glacier Express and then get back to Zurich – if you wish to cut the trip shorter (instead of finishing in St Moritz you will get off the train in Chur).
Glacier Express Guided Tour from Zurich
If you prefer a guided tour, here is a private excursion from Zurich to get to the Glacier Express and back, and in ONE day!
You can check out the day tour here
Buying Glacier Express Tickets Prices Reservation
You can find current standalone Glacier Express tickets online on this website. Bookings are to be done here
On the booking page, you will find
- Routes > starting/departure and ending/arrival stations and dates
- Available seat layout
- Addons like meals
- Pay for seat reservation
If you are using the Swiss Travel Pass, then pay for the Pass here (choose the desired trip duration for your overall Switzerland itinerary)
- After buying the Swiss Travel Pass, use this link to book the seat reservation and other extras
- You will see the same options such as departure and arrival stations, dates, available seat layout, etc,
- Once you select the seats you will have to select option ‘reduction’ and choose Swiss Travel Pass (or any discounted travel cards like Eurail Global Pass to get the discount)
- When the – Swiss Travel Pass – is selected, the total comes to just the seat reservation fee
- Next, you may choose meals, or any other add-ons prior to finalizing the order
Tickets will be delivered electronically to the email address that you used during the booking process.
Do print a copy of the ticket, or save it on your phone to show the QR code to board the train.
How to Save Money on Glacier Express Tickets
So if the Glacier Express is on your bucket list, here are some tips for saving money,
Get the Swiss Travel Pass to save on train travel overall. In the Glacier Express, the first or the second class doesn’t matter much as long as you reserve a seat early and pick a window seat!
You can save money on the Swiss Travel Pass by booking in advance (at least 60 days prior to your trip).
Look for special promotions and discounts. Swiss Travel Pass had deals and promotions in the month of October when we traveled – it was around 25% discounted.
They offer a variety of discounts throughout the year, so it’s worth checking their website periodically to see if any apply to your desired travel dates.
Pick the right time of year to travel. Seat reservation prices for the Glacier Express are highest during peak season, and slightly lower during the low season, which runs from mid-December to mid-May.
If possible, plan your trip for shoulder season. Seat reservation starts at 29 CHF, and is required for all travelers.
Now, the Glacier Express standalone ticket price varies by the length of the journey. The journey from Zermatt to Andermatt was very picturesque and this can be booked on its own at 73 francs (second class) which is way cheaper.
This is a great way to experience the Glacier Express without spending on the entire trip or a Swiss Travel Pass.
You can save money by not ordering any food.
Taking the Glacier Express is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should definitely be on your bucket list if you’re planning a trip to Switzerland.
By following these simple tips, you can save money on your tickets.
Glacier Express First Class vs Second Class
There are 3 ticket options for the Glacier Express – First, Second, and the luxurious Excellence class.
The main difference in all three levels is their price tag – the more lux you go, it is pricer!
We will cover the first and second classes here. So with regards to ticket prices, if you bought a first class Swiss Travel Pass, you will be riding the first class in the Glacier Express – no extra charges (except for the seat reservation which is required).
If you have a second-class Swiss Travel Pass, you will be in the second-class compartment.
Meals can be ordered on both. Luggage storage is available on both.
Now the seating setup is a bit different on both.
In the first class, you have an option of choosing between 1-1, and 2-2 seat layouts (facing each other), as long as they are available.
In the second class, there are four seats per row – 2-2 on one side, and 2-2 on the other side.
We delayed booking reservation tickets for our Glacier Express trip and ended up in a 2-2 layout in the first class compartment. But thankfully it was just the two of us.
My guess is that people want to sit with their group and because you can see the seat availability when booking, others may not have chosen to sit next to occupied seats (totally get it, when you pay so much for the Glacier Express, you do want that relaxed vibe).
I entered the second-class compartment to take a look, and sure that was crowded – all seats were occupied and a few had bags on the ground. This is something we have observed in regular Swiss trains as well – the second class is always packed, and first-class was almost empty!
The 1st Class tickets were a splurge, but worth it! 🙂
Service on Board the Glacier Express
There is food available for purchase online when booking your tickets/seat reservation. It is recommended to buy your meal of choice prior to your trip.
Food or meals are not included in the ticket price, and they are additional.
And there are no discounts, you still pay the same if you decide to buy a meal on-board.
The food on board the Glacier Express goes beyond the meals, it also includes drinks (tea, coffee, alcohol) that can be purchased on the day of the trip.
Do bring your credit card for payment.
The Glacier Express Menu (available online for purchase)
- Plate of the Day: Starts at 36 CHF
- 2-course meal: Starts at 42 CHF
- 3-course meal: Starts at 49 CHF
- 4-course meal: Starts at 54 CHF
We ordered a 3-course meal online and got rice with lentils and vegetables along with soup, and a chocolate dessert onboard.
Drinks were purchased on the train.
Boarding the Glacier Express Train
We boarded the Glacier Express from Zermatt.
We arrived in Zermatt prior to our train ride and stayed at the Hotel Cheminee – a spacious room with views of the Matterhorn from our balcony.
There is only one train station in Zermatt, and it was a 5-minute walk away from the hotel.
There were 3 trips from Zermatt to St. Moritz, and we boarded the second one (after breakfast at Hotel Cheminee).
Upon arrival at the Zermatt train station, you will find info boards with platform numbers for the Glacier Express.
There are staff members who will guide you to your train compartment.
We had one large suitcase and 2 backpacks with us, and we were able to store them in the same compartment we were seated in. There is no luggage limit, and the rack was spacious for our items.
Once we stored our luggage, we headed to our seats and sat down comfortably. After a few minutes, a staff member came in to scan the tickets.
You will find dining hall staff/servers arranging cutlery and glasses, etc. depending on the chosen meal options. They are also available to answer questions if you need any assistance.
The boarding process was seamless – from being guided on the platform to inside the Glacier Express.
Glacier Express Pros & Cons
Here are some of the pros and cons of the Glacier Express
Glacier Express Pros
One of the things that make the Glacier Express so special is that the journey itself is an unforgettable experience.
The train winds its way through 291 bridges and 91 tunnels, providing riders with truly unique views at every turn.
You’ll see everything from waterfalls and gorges to glaciers and mountain peaks, making this one of the most varied and beautiful train journeys in the world.
You can relax in comfort:
Another reason to consider taking the Glacier Express is that it’s a very comfortable way to travel.
The train has large panoramic windows so you can really savor the views.
The seats are spacious and comfortable, and there’s a restaurant car on board serving up food and drinks. In other words, you won’t have to sacrifice comfort for an amazing experience.
In addition, the Glacier Express is a very well-run operation. The staff is attentive and professional, and the train itself is comfortable and clean.
It’s a great way to avoid road closures:
If you’re planning on visiting Switzerland during the winter months, taking the Glacier Express is a great way to avoid road closures.
Due to heavy snowfall, many roads in Switzerland are unusable during winter, which can make traveling by car difficult—and even dangerous.
By taking the train instead, you can relax and enjoy the views without having to worry about road conditions or closures. The Glacier Express showcases stunning views in the winter as well!
Glacier Express Cons
With that said, there are a few drawbacks to the Glacier Express that are worth mentioning.
First of all, the trip is very long—nearly 8 hours from start to finish. This can be a bit much for some people, particularly if you get motion sickness on trains.
I personally love train travel and enjoyed the Glacier Express. But I also have to admit that Switzerland’s landscapes are just so pretty that if you take a lot of trains or cogwheel rides, you will probably see a lot of beautiful views (depending on your route/journey).
The food on board—while not bad—isn’t great either. It’s a tad overpriced for the taste. However, the service was nice, it definitely made the experience very luxe and special!
If you are a budget traveler, it will be a pricey experience.
But…..again Glacier Express is a luxury. It is a bucket list item. You either check it off or you don’t!
Is the Glacier Express a photographer’s dream?
It is sort of. If you can reserve a seat by the window (for two) it will be easy to capture images of the panoramic windows, lovely seats, and the view outside.
You will find ample space to stand and frame your shot, and at a distance, you can also avoid any glare on the windows. This will also allow you to capture the ambiance of the train’s interiors and beyond.
I was able to take a lot of photos and videos (and also read a nice book) whilst enjoying the ride.
To capture the views outside from your seat, ensure you stick your camera or your phone on the glass window to avoid any glare. Here is a shot I took with my iPhone 13 pro from my seat (and brighten the photo using Lightroom).
Additional travel tips: Glacier Express Review
The Glacier Express train passes through some of the most stunning scenery in the Swiss Alps, making it an unforgettable experience.
But with so much to see, it can be hard to know which part of the Glacier Express is the best. Here are our top recommendations.
1. Zermatt to Brig: The journey on the Glacier Express starts in the picturesque town of Zermatt, at the base of the Matterhorn. From here, the train winds its way through tunnels and over bridges as it makes its way up to Brig. This section of the Glacier Express takes around 1.50 hours and offers views of glaciers, gorges, and waterfalls.
2. Andermatt to Disentis/Mustér: This is one of the most gorgeous on the Glacier Express route and the beginning of the Oberalp Pass. Highlights include views of the Rhine Gorge—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Andermatt, the Glacier Express reaches the highest point of this journey.
3. Disentis/Mustér to Chur: From Disentis/Mustér, the train passes through tunnels to Chur—the capital of Graubünden canton and the oldest city in Switzerland. This region is also referred to as the Swiss Grand Canyon.
4. Chur to St. Moritz: This last leg of the Glacier Express overlaps the Bernina Express and treats you to the famous Landwasser Viaduct.
Departing from Zermatt to St. Moritz the views are best out of the right side of the Glacier Express. And when traveling in the other direction, choose the seats on the left side.
In terms of views outside the window, a 2nd class or 1st class doesn’t matter much as long as you are seated by the window.
When traveling as a couple, the 1st class upgrade is worth it as you can sit in the 1-1 seats by the window and have your own space vs 2-2 in 2nd-class cars. Seats are also spacious in 1st class.
When buying the Swiss Travel Pass, we highly recommend the 1st Class as they are never crowded, you will always find empty seats, quiet corners to read, get your work done or drool at the views outside – without people staring at you.
Washrooms are super clean as well, and you will find ample luggage space.
With the 1st Class Swiss Travel Pass, it is a brainer that you will ride the 1st Class on the Glacier Express!
Yes, you can. But the seat reservation fee is extra.
The Glacier Express operates year-round except from late October to mid-December when it doesn’t run due to annual maintenance.
Multiple trips are available from either station – Zermatt or St. Moritz.
All food and drinks/beverages are extras and not free. They are not included in the ticket or seat reservation fee. You can pick your meal choices online, and pay for drinks on board.
Above the First Class level seats are the Excellence Class. It is pricey, but it includes a few perks.
The train car has only 2 seats on either side, by the window – so you are guaranteed a window view and privacy for groups of two/couples.
Food is in fact included at this level. Food includes a six-course regional menu plus wine, coffee, juice, snacks, and champagne (Glacier Bar is available inside the car).
Your luggage will be stored in a lockable compartment.
To travel on the Glacier Express Excellence Class, a 1st Class ticket (standalone or Swiss Travel Pass) is required for the entire trip – St. Moritz – Zermatt or Zermatt – St. Moritz.
Plus a seat reservation for the Excellence Class, which costs around CHF 470.
Dates for 2023 Glacier Express Trains
The Glacier Express runs on different schedules during the year. Here are the dates for 2023,
- The Glacier Express is open right now to 12 May 2023 (running as per the winter timetable).
- From 13 May to 15 October 2023, it will operate as per the summer timetable
- There’s a maintenance break from 16 October to 9 December 2023, when the trains won’t run
Is the Glacier Express worth it?
I personally love train travel and I had always wanted to ride the Glacier Express. It is, after all, one of the most scenic train rides in the world.
When I finally had the chance to take the trip, I was not disappointed. The journey took me through some of the most breathtaking scenery I had ever seen. It was a Swiss bucket list item and I am glad to have checked it off.
We enjoyed the Glacier Express and the ambiance and the service were excellent and made the experience very luxurious.
But I also have to admit that Switzerland is just so pretty that if you take a lot of trains, you will probably see a lot of beautiful views (depending on your route/journey).
If you are just into beautiful landscapes, then a nice first-class seat on local trains might do it for you.
But…..again Glacier Express is a luxury. And this set journey ensures you have the BEST views of landscapes – mountains, rolling hills, cute towns, and ski resorts to treat your eyes!
As a bucket list item – you either check off the Glacier Express or you don’t!
So yes, it is worth it!
Whether you’re looking for an amazing journey or a hassle-free way to travel, taking the Glacier Express is a great option.
Read more posts from our Switzerland travel blog
- Swiss itinerary: 2 days in Switzerland | 5 days in Switzerland itinerary | 7 days in Switzerland itinerary
- Switzerland travel tips: Best time to visit Switzerland | What to wear in Switzerland | Where to stay in Switzerland