Travelling on the Bernina Express train
At a glance
- Scenic train
Traversing the great Bernina range on the Bernina Express from Switzerland into northern Italy is undoubtedly one of the great highlights of rail travel in Europe. Operated by Rhaetian Railway and opened in 1910, the iconic red carriages of the comfortable, air-conditioned Bernina Express serve the narrow-gauge rail route between St Moritz and Tirano. There are also once-daily through services from Chur and in summer also from Davos. The rail route between Thusis and Tirano is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Slowly climbing from St Moritz towards the Bernina Pass, you enjoy superb Alpine views through panorama windows. The highest point on the journey is at Ospizio Bernina station, where at 2,253 metres snow lingers all year. After glaciers aplenty and a feast of wild mountain scenery, the line drops down steeply towards Poschiavo, wherely the demeanour is altogether more southern. This is by far the finest north-south route through the Alps, and the only one where the train goes over the mountains rather than tunnelling through them.
Trains branded as Bernina Express might solely consist of luxurious observation cars or of a mix of normal Rhaetian Railway carriages and the upmarket observation cars. In low-season the Bernina Express services are commonly combined with regular local services. A great photo opportunity is provided by the Brusio spiral viaduct between Poschiavo and Tirano. Seat reservation is obligatory on the Bernina Express (but not on the local trains following the same route) and is not included in the price of your ticket. Luggage racks are provided in every carriage.
Seating and sleeping on Bernina Express
Seating is arranged in pairs of seats across a central aisle, with each group of four seats sharing a table. You don’t need to upgrade to First Class in order to get a great view through panorama windows on the Bernina Express and the landscape that slips by is just as wonderful. Sit back, relax and enjoy the final run through the streets of Tirano.
Food and drink on Bernina Express
At some stage train staff will come through the Bernina Express with a trolley offering snacks as well as hot and cold drinks (and souvenirs). Of course you can always bring your own sustenance on board.