If you’ve traveled by train in the U.S., you’re likely to have had a variety of experiences…some good, some not-so-good. But train travel in Europe is often much more thrilling and certainly more elegant, in many cases.
During the winter, a trip on the Glacier Express Train – which travels from Zermatt to Davos or Saint Moritz (or vice versa), is one of those unforgettable railroad journeys on the planet and one that will surely leave a lasting impression on your memory. It’s an excursion that will take your breath away as you climb incredible terrain, viewing some of Europe’s most majestic winter scenery including soaring mountains, tiny villages, and much more.
Taking the Trip
The trip aboard the wonderful Glacier Express Train takes about 7 hours total. It travels through a whopping 91 tunnels, some of them quite short and others much longer. The valleys along the way are picturesque as well and you can enjoy them while traveling across nearly 300 bridges. Truly, it’s the train trip of all train trips, appealing mostly to mature travelers who are simply looking for a slower and more laid-back way to get from one great ski resort to another.
Passengers can choose from 1st or 2nd class travel, both situated in panoramic view cars that are comfortable and spacious. The first class cars include 36 seats – six 4-seat compartments and six 2-seat compartments – each with a table. Similarly, the second class cars have 48 seats in a 12×4 arrangement. Both have a center aisle and are pleasantly climate controlled for a comfortable ride.
As the train attracts international travelers from the world over, and so that you can make the most of your trip, route information is available via headphones in a variety of languages, including English. Though most people don’t leave them in their ears throughout the entire trip, it’s a great way to learn about what you’re seeing outside the expansive windows.
Children are certainly welcome aboard the train and should be educated as to the particulars of train travel and should be good, calm travelers. Children under age 6 travel for free while those aged 6 to 16 are assessed 50 percent of the standard fare.
Wheelchair-bound travelers can be easily accommodated in the First Class section with advance reservations for the traveler and any companions. There are also, of course, handicapped toilet facilities on the train. The train personnel are quite attentive and helpful with disabled passengers and are happy to make whatever arrangements are needed for the comfort of that particular person.
Passengers can also travel with their small dogs, pending certain restrictions and regulations. But be aware that your pooch won’t be traveling for free or in First Class. You’ll be paying half the Second Class fare for your lap dog and – if you expect he/she will use their own seat – you’ll need to make a seat reservation at full fare.
Since traveling makes people hungry, the staff of the Glacier Express Train is ready and waiting to serve up a tasty three course lunch (in the dining car) or the designated “plate of the day”, which can be brought to you at your seat. The food is excellent and will certainly satisfy. Other options – soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, snacks, etc. – are available as well. Be sure, however, to indicate you’ll be taking advantage of the food offered when you make your reservation.
What You’ll See on your Trip
On the trip from Zermatt to St. Moritz (or Davos), passengers will pass through a number of towns at a variety of different altitudes. One of the highlights of the trip is the portion that takes passengers across the Oberalp Pass, which, at 6,670 feet, is the highest point of the journey and one of the most scenic and awesome moments you’ll experience on that thrilling 7-hour journey. You’ll also enjoy unsurpassed views of a number of the Swiss Alps’ best peaks, including the Matterhorn. Simply breathtaking!
For lovers of beautiful flora, you’ll see plenty of it on a summertime trip on the Glacier Express, including Switzerland’s iconic flower, Edelweiss. Animals, both large and small, can be captured on camera year round, including land mammals like elk and red deer as well as feathered friends that include the majestic golden eagle and the ominous-looking bearded vulture. Have your camera ready!
Obviously, what you see along the way will depend on what time of the year you visit but this trip is truly a treat whenever you go.
Schedule and Reservations
Note that the Glacier Express runs pretty much year round but is generally closed for the month of November and the first half of December. The train leaves in the mid-morning hours from either end, usually around 9 am, and reaches its destination just in time for dinner in your new location.
Reservations can be made up to 90 days before your excursion, so if you’ve got your schedule set and you’re heading to Switzerland in the next 3 months, go ahead and make your plans to ride the Glacier Express. You can wait until the day of your trip or a few days before to make your reservation, but you do indeed run the risk of not getting a seat, especially during peak ski season and busy summer vacation season.