Swiss trains - the Glacier Express

Marie-Madeleine & Giuseppe Renauld | Live the World

November 23, 2022

An environmentally friendly and effective way to discover Switzerland is travelling by train. The country offers such a diversity of landscapes that cannot be fully experienced while driving your car! We have already authored other stories about the great Swiss train services throughout woods, mainlands, up in the mountains, and by the lakes. The GoldenPass Line snaking from the Lake to the Mountains, The Matterhorn-Gotthard Bahn from Uri to Oberwallis, and many more: a dense network of perfectly on time, clean, comfortable services connect the whole country.

The slowest express train in the world

The most scenic and probably best-known service is the Glacier Express. Also called the slowest express train in the world, the entire ride takes approximately 8 hours for only 291 kilometers. Swiss trains usually ride faster! But onboard the Glacier Express, the tiredness of sitting the whole day is simply hard to imagine. The final destination is not the goal; the ride is simply fascinating. In a single day, passengers can go throughout all Swiss Alps, from the western spot of Zermatt, a posh ski destination right below the Matterhorn peak (4,478 meters), to St-Moritz, another fancy ski station in the eastern Alps. In between, perfectly preserved valleys, high bridges, hamlets, riding sometimes up- and downhill steeply will undoubtedly charm the explorers. Part of the route crosses a Unesco World Heritage: the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula and Bernina Landscapes.

© iStock/kvdB50

Swiss quality service

Several tourists from all around the world experience this great adventure; it is strongly advisable to book well in advance as the limited places are highly demanded. The red train is comfortable with wide panoramic windows. The special staff is always welcoming and makes great efforts to blend perfectly the sense of traditions with kindness. You can also eat traditional cheese specialties during the ride! The most authentic Switzerland.

© Marie-Madeleine & Giuseppe

A historical service

Like many other railways in Switzerland, the route served by the Glacier Express has a long history. The kick-off service in 1930 was made partly by steam locomotive trains taking 11 hours from Zermatt to St-Moritz! In addition to helping locals crossing the Alps quickly and safely, this train line contributed to boosting tourism in the beautiful valleys it serves.

© Marie-Madeleine & Giuseppe

Part of the service operated only in summer, as meters of snow high in the Alps blocked the connection. At the time, and until 1982, the trains used to climb up to the FurkaPass (2,429 meters) and go along the Glacier of the Rhone River. Today in summer, it is still sometimes possible to experience the historical service carried on by steam-locomotives along the original route. The opening of the Furka basis tunnel in 1982 and the refurbishment of the route allowed year-round services. Gradually afterwards, next to local transportation, a more organized touristic service was developed with panoramic coaches and excellent service: the current Glacier Express.

© Marie-Madeleine & Giuseppe

Our tips for a great experience

First recommendation: book in advance! As a flagship attraction in Switzerland, managing to get a seat on board of the Glacier Express service can be challenging. The Glacier Express website is a great source of information. Second, the Glacier Express is expensive. A no-frills single ticket from St-Moritz to Zermatt costs 185 CHF (currently approx. 175 €) but definitely worth its cost! Final and probably the most important point: do not forget that once you have arrived at the final destination (either in Zermatt or St-Moritz), it will be too late to go back to the point of departure. You should book in advance a place to spend the night.

© Marie-Madeleine & Giuseppe

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