Lonely Planet Writer

Switzerland's Glacier Express train just got even more spectacular

When it comes to countries offering scenic train rides it doesn’t come much better than Switzerland. With an efficiency that would make most other nations blush with shame and views that are hard to beat (did someone say the Alps?), the Swiss could justifiably rest on their railway laurels and nobody would complain. But keen to always be improving the services, this March saw the national carrier introduce a new, even higher standard of travel on the country’s most famous route.

Alpine view from Excellence Class, Glacier Express. Photo by: Clifton Wilkinson

The Glacier Express, running to/from St Moritz and Zermatt since 1930, is on every train enthusiast’s wishlist. A wonderful journey through some of Switzerland’s legendary landscapes, it starts off in the uber-chic snow resort of St Moritz and, some eight hours later, arrives in equally glitzy Zermatt, with a view of the iconic Matterhorn thrown in for good measure. Between those two towns, the track runs through several sections of genuinely world-class scenery, highlights being the stretch from Disentis to Andermatt, across the Oberalp Pass, the highest point of the trip, and the Landwasser Viaduct, a six-arched, 65-metre high feat of engineering completed in 1902.

The Glacier Express is every rail enthusiast’s dream. Photo by: Cliff Wilkinson

Passengers could previously enjoy all this Swiss splendour from comfortable second-class carriages and very comfortable first-class carriages, but now, for the ultimate Glacier Express experience, there’s a new class on the block, Excellence Class. Started in March 2019, the Excellence upgrade gives you (and 19 other exclusive passengers) a window seat for full panoramic appreciation, a seven-course meal with champagne, access to the Glacier Bar (with a gold-plated ceiling compass in case you need to know which direction you’re travelling), a tablet with lots of route information, and the services of a concierge because why not?

Experience the beauty of the Swiss Alps on the Glacier Express’ Excellence Class. Photo by: Clifton Wilkinson

All this luxury inevitably comes with a price – the one-way journey from St Moritz to Zermatt in Excellence Class will set you back some 688 Swiss Francs (around US$693/€608) but for a once-in-a-lifetime train journey, especially if rolling on the rails is your thing, it’s undoubtedly worth it. All aboard!

You can book your Excellence Class journey independently or let someone else take care of the logistics by using Vacations By Rail.