On our recent Glacier Express ride from Zermatt to St. Moritz we took the opportunity to document when and where all the best sights would be seen from the train. Everyone wants to get this right, so a little preparation can help you succeed to get the best seats.
Which Side of the Glacier Express is Best For Views
From Zermatt to St. Moritz the views are best out of the right side of the Glacier Express. Travelling the opposite direction, the views would be reversed. I would estimate 85% of the things we wanted to see were on the right side.
A tricky situation occurs in Chur though. The train pulls into Chur going straight and the backs out of the station going the other direction. So, in the direction from Zermatt to St. Moritz you’ll switch sides from the right to the left after Chur. This is a problem for anyone wanting to see the Landwasser Viaduct which is viewed from the right.
So to recap, everything is viewed from the right, but your seat will switch sides in Chur. In our opinion the best views are still to start out on the right hand side in Zermatt and to be on the left after Chur. There are areas of the train you can go stand in to see the Landwasser Viaduct, I found an empty hallway to get my pictures. (Allie took the pictures you’ll see below from our seats).
Additionally, if you are doing other trains in the area, like the Bernina Express, you’ll get multiple shots at seeing the Landwasser Viaduct, and only one shot at the other portion of the Glacier Express route.
How Do I Book Seats On The Right Side of the Glacier Express
The seats are not guaranteed to be on any particular side, but I can tell you what we did and what happened. We were a group of two so since we were in first class we decided to take the side with just 2 seats on it and hope for the best. From Zermatt to St. Moritz, this ended up being the right side.
On the booking website we picked seats on the bottom of the screen, and they were on the right side leaving from Zermatt, for example, seats 11 & 12 in this picture.
Tips For Buying Glacier Express Tickets
To ride on the Glacier Express you need 2 things, a seat reservation and a ticket. You can buy them together at the same time or separately. If you are planning on buying the Swiss rail pass, you only need the seat reservation, as the rail pass counts as your ticket. This is our recommended way to do it.
To get a good seat you’ll need to book your seat reservation months in advance, so the best thing to do is to buy the seat reservation and then wait until closer to your trip to buy your rail pass, if you don’t want to commit all of your funds up front. We bought our seat reservations in advance and then bought our rail pass the night before we entered Switzerland, as those do not sell out.
As you can see below, the seat reservation is a much smaller charge, CHF 39, compared to the ticket price of CHF 268. So go ahead and get your seat reservation as early as you can. Prices for the seat reservations change mildly depending on the season, they are CHF 39 in winter and CHF 49 in summer.
To purchase just a seat reservation you’ll need to select the Swiss Travel Pass under reductions, which will let the system know you’ll be buying a Swiss Travel Pass later and only need the seat reservation now.
Should I Pre Book Food on the Glacier Express
We did not pre book our food on the Glacier Express and recommend that you do not do so. We were offered a menu when we got on the train and ordered food that actually came before those who had pre booked. We split one big plate which ended up costing CHF 28.
Our food was delivered to us at 11:43, perfect timing, since we were up early to catch the train.
Glacier Express Route Guide with Timestamps
To give you an idea of what you’ll see and when, I’ll show the pictures we took with timestamps. This train runs like clockwork, so you’ll be in essentially the same place we were at the same time. This again is leaving from Zermatt at 8:52am. If you are on the later train just add an hour to the time. For reference, our train ride was on February 22nd.
It was a very sunny day, almost too sunny, which brought a lot of glare, so understand your views out of the windows will likely have much less glare than these pictures do, but we wanted to document it anyway.
8:21 – Glacier Express pulls into Zermatt and we are allowed to board, 31 minutes early.
8:25 – We find our 1st class seats, which look really impressive
9:16 – Randa, Switzerland (Right Side)
9:47 – St. Niklaus, Switzerland (Right Side)
10:36 – Landschaftspark Binntal (Right Side)
10:49 – Bellwald, Switzerland (Right Side)
11:00 – Goms, Switzerland (Right Side)
11:59 – Andermatt, Switzerland (Right Side) This part started the most beautiful section in our opinion.
12:00 – Andermatt, Switzerland (Right Side)
12:02 – Andermatt, Switzerland (Left Side) This was the first picture we took out of the opposite side. The views are great on both sides right here.
12:21 – Hospental, Switzerland (Right Side)
12:32 – Andermatt, Switzerland (Right Side)
12:37 – Tujetsch, Switzerland (Right Side)
12:52 – Tujetsch, Switzerland (Right Side)
1:19pm – Disentis, Switzerland (Right Side)
1:26pm – Sumvitg, Switzerland (Right Side)
2:05pm – Valendas, Switzerland (Left Side) The views were better from here to Chur on the left side through the canyon. On the right side the train just faces the canyon walls, and is too close to see much.
We have now left Chur, so the train is moving in the opposite direction and we are sitting on the left side.
2:53pm – Bonaduz, Switzerland (Left Side)
3:41pm – Landwasser Viaduct (Right Side) We are on the left now, and as you can see the Landwasser Viaduct needs to be seen from the right. We weren’t too concerned though as we had tickets on the Bernina Express later in the week. We ended up going through this about 4 times, as the regional trains even go through it.
4:01pm – Parc Ela (Right Side) The views south of Chur are continuously better on the right side than on the left side.
4:27pm – Bever, Switzerland (Left Side)
Should You Book 1st or 2nd Class on the Glacier Express
If you are traveling as a group of 2 or a couple, 1st class is worth the upgrade so you can have access to you own side of the train. If you were in a group of 4, you might be fine in 2nd class as the views and windows are the same, but the seats are slightly smaller.
Seat size and service were not big factors in our decision, but having our own space to spread out made 1st class worth the upgrade. If you are on the Swiss Travel Pass, you can purchase a 1st class travel pass and it will be good for every train you ride.