The Bernina Express

IMG_0889One of the highlights of our trip was the train ride through the Swiss Alps into Italy on the Bernina Express, which is considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the world!

Reaching a height of 2,253 metres (7,392 ft) above sea level, it is the highest railway crossing in Europe and the third highest railway in Switzerland.

We had booked our tickets about 6 months ahead of time, because the closer to your date the more expensive train tickets are.  I used the Man in Seat 61’s excellent workaround tips and it does make a heck of a price difference! You will have to go to the Swiss rail site to pay to reserve your seats.  If you’re traveling in a group/pair I would suggest doing this.  But when we travelled in early October, we found the first 2 cars were full, but the ones at the end were empty.   We had reserved ahead so we had window seats, as Shawn and I like sitting across from each other, both at the window.

Fair warning, the seat plan posted on the train walls was incredibly confusing for pretty much everyone but myself.  We heard many arguments about who was supposed to sit where, and got into an amazing fight with the stodgiest British couple after they passive aggressively accused us of stealing their seats.  Spoiler alert, I won 🙂

The train leaves Chur just after 8:30am, so it was another early morning for us. Jetlag does help with that. We had arrived to Chur at sunset, so this was a nice surprise from the bathroom window!  IMG_0782


The Chur train station

We lucked out with the weather, what was supposed to be a cloudy rainy day gave way to a beautiful sunny morning and afternoon.  Our views from the train were completely unobstructed. 

We had paid extra to sit in the glass domed car for better views.  Honestly, in the dome car, it really doesn’t matter where you’re sitting, your eyes are in for a treat from any of the seats.  However, you can’t take glare free photos, so if you are interested in taking the best photos, the regular train cars are the place for you, as you can open the windows.

Now, here’s those killer photos you came for:




The Bernina Pass!


The train stops at Alp Grum, which has an elevation of 2,091 m, for a chance to stretch your legs and get some more killer photos.  IMG_0881


Serving up shots at 2,091 m!


Shawn enjoying his grappa


Carly enjoying her schnapps

Once we got back on the train we decided to explore the cars at the end of the train.  They ended up being empty, so we left our terrible seat mates (honestly our entire train car was filed with horrible Brits and American retirees) and headed to the empty train car for a very quiet and much more enjoyable ride down the mountains.

Lago di Poschiavo

Lago di Poschiavo

Quite possibly the most spectacular part of the entire trip on the Bernina Express comes near the end, the Brusio Railway Viaduct – of which I have ZERO photos! I was using Shawn’s phone to take a video of us going around it, sorry! It really was spectacular.

The train pulls into Tirano around 12:49 pm and you can rush across the tiny town square to the Italian train station and buy a regional ticket to Milan for the 13:08 train.  Or you can stick around Tirano for another 2 hours, have a nice lunch and explore this quaint town before moving on.  Which is exactly what we did.


Zurich and Chur, a stopover on the way to the Bernina Express

When we started planning this trip and decided we would try and get from Paris to Malta without planes I decided we should probably take a scenic train through the alps.

Turns out that can be very expensive. Switzerland ain’t cheap. Thankfully the Man in Seat 61 has a killer workaround for getting tickets on the Bernina Express for cheap!

We followed his advice but decided to spend our overnight stopover in Chur instead of Zurich for a bit of a sleep-in.

We left Paris at 7:30 and arrived in Zurich at 8:45. A very quick and cheap train ride into the main station later we were ready to explore. Fun fact! Nothing is open on Sunday’s in Switzerland. No clothing stores or other shops. Only a few restaurants and bars. It was a weird tourist ghost town.

After a quick breakfast we decided to hit the art gallery. And if you have a Sunday in Zurich, you should really visit. It’s so quiet. It was the most chill experience ever. We got to actually enjoy the art. And get up close!

We did struggle to fill the rest of the day. Which is really not that bad. We did some wandering, ate some bratwurst, wandered more. And then found Oktoberfest at the train station! Perfect way to wait for your train!

We grabbed our train to Chur, which took about an hour and a half. The scenery was gorgeous, mountains set against lakes.

We got into Chur just before 7pm. And it was like the town that feared sundown. There was no one out. No restaurants open. We checked into our hotel and then set our for food. And came up short. A Swiss Bierhalle was open but they didn’t have a great menu. So we kept winding our way through the tiny streets, becoming more and more disheartened until we finally found a kebab shop! And it was open and they were massive and amazing.

We stayed at the Ambiente Hotel Freieck, would recommend. Easy walk to and from the train, large rooms, great breakfast!