Glacier Express | Swiss Tour 2020
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Discover the most famous train in Switzerland: The Glacier Express. Are you ready to pass through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges?
We did something a bit different a couple of weekends ago and travelled entirely by train!
The first destination on our itinerary was Andermatt so once the children were all collected we began our journey at the train station in Nyon. We were very lucky to have been given first class tickets and were in a spacious and peaceful carriage with plenty of room for us all.
Before leaving we had had a number of logistical concerns about train travel with the children, particularly Elio who can’t sit unaided. We decided to leave his big heavy pushchair at home and took the lighter MacLaren which is easier to fold and lift. We were expecting to have to remove him from his pushchair in the train but in fact there was enough space for him to remain snoozing in it as we put him in the middle of an arrangement of 4 seats where the rest of us were sitting so this worked really well and allowed him to sleep, and for Jean and I to keep our hands free to manage the other children.
The first part of the journey went really quickly and took us through some beautiful scenery and we were soon at Brig where we would change for Andermatt. We hit a bit of a hiccup here as there was a problem with the train but it was quickly solved with a replacement bus which arrived shortly after the train was due. We piled on the bus and found seats at the back. We were a bit worried about this as our last traumatic bus trip was from Lyon to Geneva in the middle of the night when Elio and Alba cried a lot, but miraculously Elio fell asleep again in my arms and the children didn’t grumble at all. The bus soon dropped us off at Fiesch where we could retake the train to Andermatt. This train was a bit more basic and rather hot but the journey was relatively short and took us through the countryside to Andermatt.
We had never been to Andermatt and were immediately completely under the spell of its charm. We were staying at the hotel Bären which was a short walk away from the station and the route we chose took us through the pretty and beautifully maintained village. The hotel was a welcome sight after our journey and we received a warm welcome on arrival and were shown up to our room which was spotless you clean and well organised for us all with bunk beds for Jude and Alba and a baby bed for Elio. We had time to clean ourselves up a bit before we headed down to dinner. We had read that the hotel has a very good restaurant so we were really excited to see it for ourselves. We were all hungry and the food didn’t disappoint with delicious flavours and generous portions. After sleeping rather a lot in the train, Elio was very noisy in the restaurant, shouting and screaming which is always extremely stressful for Jean and I as we try to keep him quiet but the staff and other diners were very tolerant and understanding which helped a lot.
We were soon falling into bed where we had a good nights sleep before the most exciting part of our trip the following day.
We woke up quite early and headed down to the restaurant for a delicious fresh breakfast then we set off to explore Andermatt. It’s a really beautiful peaceful spot and we had a lovely sunny day to enjoy our walk which took us past pretty little shops, beautiful streets and along the river.
Back at the hotel and we packed up our suitcase and headed to a playground we had seen opposite the train station to wait for our train. We took the opportunity to give Elio an early lunch so that he was comfortable for the next part of our adventure which was a trip on the Glacier Express!
I remember seeing pictures of this iconic train passing over an incredible viaduct in the snow not long after I moved to Switzerland and thinking that it really encapsulated everything I had dreamt about Switzerland so it was an absolute joy for us to have the chance to see it for ourselves.
We were really impressed that a member of staff came to say hello on the platform and advised us where to stand to get in the right carriage to find our seats. This sort of thing really helps when you have children, pushchairs and suitcases to haul onboard.
When the train arrived we were so excited and rushed to find our seats in the beautiful panorama train with its extra high windows offering unparalleled views. Alba and Jude decided to sit at a table for two opposite the rest of us. We were eating lunch on the train and the table in the middle meant that we couldn’t put the pushchair between but instead we could leave it just next to me, tucked in from the main walkway. As we set off, the movement of the train meant that Elio was soon asleep (again :-)).
We were in first class again for the Glacier Express but there is also a 2nd class and an Excellence class available. Once we were settled, someone came to take our orders for drinks while we looked at the menu. You can choose the menu of the day or things like salad from the à la carte menu. We chose a couple of cheese and charcuterie plates for us all to share and sat back in our seats to enjoy the view as we climbed higher.
As you might imagine, the scenery is breathtaking and there is something wonderfully serene and peaceful about the gentle movement of the train forcing you to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the surroundings. Even Jude and Alba were happy just to sit and look out of the window which really surprised us.
The members of staff we encountered were friendly and helpful and we enjoyed a delicious selection of local products washed down with a regional beer. Jude and Alba were really excited about the novelty of eating in a restaurant on a moving train and were really impatient to try everything on their plates.
Passengers are given some earphones to plug in and when you hear the alert over the speakers, it means that there is some information to listen to. We really enjoyed this as it gave us some interesting facts about the areas we were passing and Switzerland in general. Jude especially enjoyed this and we chatted about the things we had learned and he asked lots of questions.
Our destination was Chur which was about 2.5 hours from Andermatt and we found that the journey went really quickly with plenty to keep us occupied.
After our posts on Instagram, a lot of people asked us if this trip was enjoyable for the children and we’d have to say that yes, in our case, the children loved it. The journey was short enough that they didn’t get bored and we didn’t even have to resort to breaking out their games and toys, the meal also really helped to break the journey and keep them busy. It's such a novelty that they were excited and happy to look out of the window and enjoy the journey. Our advice would be to choose a manageable journey length and take games and things to keep them busy if needed. We had been worried about the possibility of having to change Elio's nappy and in fact this wasn't necessary this trip but if it was required we would have taken him to the space between carriages and put his pushchair in a flat position to change him.
The other question we were asked a lot was how much it cost, and people were generally surprised! For this journey (Andermatt - Chur) in the Glacier Express, you need a normal train ticket (CHF 51.- in 2nd class, CHF 89.80 in 1st class). In addition, you have to do a seat reservation which costs for this short route between CHF 23 and CHF 33. It depends on low and high season.
It’s a unique experience and a really wonderful way to soak up the best of this beautiful country.
All too soon we were arriving in Chur. We had driven through the town on our way to Arosa earlier in the year and it looked so lovely, we were really happy to have the chance to return and explore. We walked through the town for about ten minutes to reach our hotel which was the Hotel Stern located on a quiet street near the town centre. The hotel is cosy and we had been given an apartment room with two separate bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living area. We were keen to explore so we set down our bags and immediately went back into town. It’s a bustling place with lots of shops and restaurants. We went to visit the old town first where we saw the beautiful cathedral and lots of pretty streets to explore.
Back at the hotel and we decided to have an early dinner. The restaurant is cosy and was nicely busy when we arrived. We had the set menu for dinner which was good and the children were delighted to be given a pack of games and colouring sheets which kept them occupied the whole time we were at the table. The service was very helpful and friendly and we felt very well looked after.
We were awake much earlier than we had anticipated the following morning and since our schedule was clear we decided to the the train at 7.09 from Chur back to Nyon.
This was a really wonderful weekend and we were pleasantly surprised at the ease of making the trip on the train with the children who were wonderful. It was much easier for us to manage with Elio than we had anticipated and we all really enjoyed the experience. The Glacier Express is a magical journey and one we absolutely recommend as a must-do in Switzerland!
Railservice Glacier Express
Phone:+41 (0)81 288 65 65