The Bernina Express — a Swiss Alps classic for rail lovers

Bernina Express: circular viaduct near Brusio

If Switzerland is famous for anything, it’s the country’s efficient trains and colossal mountains. And while several rail routes show off the gorgeous scenery, the Bernina Express is one of the very best options.

So if you’d like to zip over alpine landscapes, cross towering viaducts, or thunder through tunnels, this is your chance. Here’s everything you should know about the Bernina Express.

The Bernina Express crosses a viaduct on a snowy winter day.
Photo by swiss-image.ch/Andrea Badrutt

The Bernina Express: Route

The Swiss rail companies love to boast about this train. They brag that the Bernina Express goes from glacier-ridden landscapes to palm-friendly climates in a matter of hours. They talk enthusiastically about the 7,638-foot-high Bernina Pass. And they can’t hold back from mentioning the line’s impressive tunnels and viaducts.

And to be honest, the rail companies have earned those bragging rights. After all, this incredible train provides one of the most scenic ways to explore the country.

The Bernina Express begins its journey in Chur, Switzerland, and goes all the way to Tirano, Italy. It takes about four hours to travel the full line, but passengers can also board in Davos or St. Moritz. From Davos, the ride lasts a little less than four hours, and from St. Moritz, it’s only two hours long.

Along the way, the scenery never fails to floor the passengers. Some of the natural wonders include glaciers, lakes, peaks, and flora and fauna. But you’ll also want to ogle the man-made sights on the line, including 196 viaducts and 55 tunnels.

For many people, ascending the beautiful Brusio Circular Viaduct is the highlight of the journey. Engineers built this 360-degree viaduct so the train can safely make a steep climb at a controlled 7% gradient. At its highest point, the viaduct is nine stories tall!

Luckily, each rail car has panoramic windows so that everyone can get a good look at the scenery. Want an insider tip? You’ll enjoy the best views by sitting on the right side of the train!

The Bernina Express crosses a viaduct in the summer.
Photo by swiss-image.ch / Andrea Badrutt

The Bernina Express: Tickets

Wondering when you should embark on this train ride? The Bernina Express is stunning all year long! If you love the snow, then winter is definitely the season for you. (Just remember that fewer trains run during this time of year, so you should book well in advance.) Spring is perfect for glimpsing white mountains behind green valleys, and summer is ideal for anyone who wants to enjoy wildflowers and warm temperatures.

Tickets are expensive, but several rail passes entitle passengers to a substantial discount. Make sure you do your research on reservations and prices!

The Bernina Express ascends the circular viaduct.
Photo by swiss-image.ch/Peter Donatsch.

All aboard the Bernina Express!

Of course, we’d love nothing more than taking you on all of Switzerland’s best trains. Join us on our Scenic Alps by Rail tour to embark on the Bernina Express, the Glacier Express, and more!

Cover photo by swiss-image.ch/Marcus Gyger

2 Replies to “The Bernina Express — a Swiss Alps classic for rail lovers”

  1. Writer’s comment: On Bernina-Express “sit on the right side.” My question is where do you get on the train if the right side is the best side?

    1. Hi Ellen,
      Yes, that is confusing. Face the direction of travel and sit on the right side of the train. Ideally, with your right shoulder next to the window. Hopefully, that helps.
      -The Alpenwild Team

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