Switzerland has an excellent railway network especially as a means to get to the picturesque mountains. The glacier express is the only way to get to Zermatt which is car free – there are only electric operated buses and taxi’s (in miniature size!)
I took the Glacier Express train from Chur to Zermatt. It departed at 11:30am and arrived at 5:10pm (approx. 6.5hrs) with some spectacular scenery along the way!
What you’ll see / best time of year
I visited the first week of May after a long harsh winter so there was still plenty of snow with green hills in the foreground – very scenic! If you want to see everything when it’s white, you’ll need to brave the cold and visit during the northern hemisphere’s winter – around December / January. To see the leaves change color in autumn, visit around October. To see green rolling hills and no snow, travel in summer (June / July).
You’ll see lots of mountains, cute villages, the river, bridges and tunnels!
The train stops at various points along the way and there was also a 5 minute photo stop so you could take a picture of the snow capped mountains.
The train has panoramic windows – half of the roof is windows. One of my frustrations with travelling on a bus is that there is scenery on both sides but you can’t see out the other window – you can only see part of the snow-capped mountains if they are on the other side of the bus. With the train you can see everything on the left and right sides of the train a lot clearer, plus you can get up and move to the other side of the carriage to take photos.
With so many windows there was a lot of glare on my pictures from the glass and the lighting. To avoid this I used my iPhone and put it right up against the glass (as I do when I’m on a bus).
After doing a bit of research, I found a few people commenting that in second class you can open the windows which would give better photos without the glare. If I had done the train journey myself and not through an organized tour, I definitely would have booked 2nd class tickets to get better photos.
You can take luggage with you – there is luggage store on the train.
There is a toilet on board which was similar to a plane toilet.
The seat configuration is single seat, aisle and double seat. For the journey from Chur to Zermatt I got lucky with a seat on the left hand side seat which had the best views – much better than the right side! The seats were comfy, but not really comfy enough to fall asleep in and they don’t recline.
Was 1ST class worth it?
You can choose from a 1st class or 2nd class ticket. Visiting Zermatt and taking the Glacier Express train to get there was included in a Globus tour I took (I’m not affiliated with them, I paid for the tour myself). The ticket included was a 1st class seat.
The 1st class seats were quite roomy – which was definitely appreciated on the 6.5 hour train joinery from Chur to Zermatt.
I didn’t see what 2nd class looked like but personally I don’t think 1st class was worth it. I checked the prices and 1st class is double the cost of 2nd class.
Food on the Glacier Express
A 3 course meal on the train was included with the Globus tour I took. To be honest, the food wasn’t very good. The entrée was a tasteless asparagus soup. The main meal was beef with rice and carrots which tasted ok. Dessert was a brownie which needless to say, was my favorite of the 3 courses!
The meals are served at the start of the journey. I presume it’s to try and get you to buy snacks later in the journey when you’re bored…
I was glad I had my own water bottle as no drinks were included with the meal – not even water. I found this a bit ridiculous considering the 3 course meal is 43 CHF (at the time of writing this in 2018).
The cost of drinks and snacks on board if you don’t buy the proper meal is ridiculous – bring your own or buy a pastry in the train station before departing.
Overall, I recommend the train, but in my opinion 1st class is not worth the splurge and you’ll probably get better photos from 2nd class anyway.
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