The Black Traveler’s Guide to Switzerland’s Top Luxury Train Experience

Sometimes, you just want to take things slow. In this case, though, we aren’t talking about relationships but the way you experience a destination while visiting. Luxury train travel has risen in popularity as a means of taking in the views and surrounding landscapes of a place. It’s also an excuse to treat yourself in the process. 

Switzerland has some of the world’s most picturesque views, in large part due to its towering Alps. Travelers near and far choose to get a glimpse of the mountain ranges via the country’s Glacier Express train service. 

If luxury train travel or Switzerland has been on your list for some time, we’ve curated this expert guide on everything you need to know before your first experience. 

Booking your luxury train ride

Galcier Express_Switzerland
Glacier Express. Image: Stefan Schlumpf.

We highly recommend reserving your Glacier Express ride well in advance of your actual trip. The brand offers multiple classes in their respective train cars: excellence, first and second class. Excellence class is the crème de la crème of luxury train travel, but there are only a very limited number of seats available each day. People snag seats three to four months in advance to ensure their spot. As for first and second class, there are significantly more seats in the respective cars, and you’ll have a little more wiggle room on how far in advance you need to reserve. 

The train class that you choose will ultimately sway your experience. In excellence class, it’s an 8-hour experience, complete with a five-course meal and wine pairings along the way. Unfortunately, you can’t shorten the time of the experience and would have to commit to the full day ride. With first and second class, you can opt for a half-day ride (4 hours), and you can prepay for a three-course meal in first class. Both first and second also offer an à la carte menu, too.

What happens during the ride

Excellence class bar. Image DeAnna Taylor.
Excellence class bar. Image DeAnna Taylor.

The full, daily Glacier Express route starts in Zermatt and ends in St. Moritz, Switzerland. For the half-day experience, you can catch the train in Brig and then get off in the town of Chur. Wherever you decide to start, you’ll want to make sure you arrive at the proper train stop at least 30–45 minutes early to account for any hiccups. 

This is a slow train, so don’t expect an adrenaline rush. The experience is meant to be savored, in a sense. There’s not really any entertainment, so be sure to pack your favorite book or pre-downloaded shows/podcasts if you need something to pass the time. Each car and class features panoramic views, so simply being able to go through the different elevations and even get up close with the snow-capped mountains and icy glaciers is an experience in itself. And yes, it’s absolutely stunning. 

If you travel in the summer, there will be an opportunity to let down windows in certain train cars to take photos. Also, on longer routes, you can physically get off the train to take in the views as well. 

Other need-to-know things

DeAnna Taylor in Switzerland
Image: DeAnna Taylor.

If you’re doing this luxury train ride for Instagram or social media aesthetics, be sure to pack your phone charger, tripod or anything else you’d need to make sure you capture the best content. The trains are climate-controlled, so you won’t necessarily need to layer up in the winter—except for your coat. 

There are electric sockets and Wi-Fi; however, the internet may not always work, so don’t bank on that. 

Finally, go in with the mindset that you are there to relax. There are no TVs or entertainment (although excellence class riders are given a tablet for the duration of their journey). Take a journal and document the experience, or simply use the time to disconnect from the busyness of city life. Either way, we guarantee it’ll be a journey you’ll remember for years to come. 

Updated: April 30, 2024 — 12:01 pm