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Catching the Bernina Express – Switzerland

Catching the Bernina Express – Switzerland


I love train travel and the opportunity to catch the Bernina Express Switzerland which is described as one of the most scenic train routes in the world (as well as passing through a UNESCO World Heritage designated landscape) was one I couldn’t miss. As usual I consulted The Man at Seat 61 for information about the service – always a good place to start when planning any train travel around the world.

The Bernina Express route runs starts/ends in Italy/Switzerland depending on which way around you take the trip. We were catching the train from Italy to Switzerland so this article will help you if this is the route you are planning to take (though do take a look if you are going the other way as it will give you a great insight into what to expect)


If you are in Milan the first thing to do is to catch a train to Tirano (HOT TIP – do not get mixed up with Turino!!)

Although I had pre-booked our tickets it is quite easy to buy tickets on the day for this regional Trenard service. The trip from Milan to Tirano takes 2 1/2 hours and is a beautiful train ride too along Lake Como!


our train from Milan to Tirano


Views from the train on the way to Tirano



The Bernina train leaves from a different station (the Rhatische Bahn) than the one you arrive at from Tirano but no panic it is just next door and easy to locate. Walk out and look left and you will see the station for the Bernina service.


The Rhatische Bahn where the Bernina Express departs from


Tirano – Margy Bar is on the right!

If you arrive in Tirano for a few hours to spare there are restaurants and shops to look around. We had a lovely lunch at the Margy Bar which we recommend!



What is the Bernina Express route and how long does it take?

The trip takes a little over 4 hours from Tirano to Chur (or vice versa) and takes you over 122kms of track, through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges and viaducts. It is a feat of engineering brilliance and was built between 1896 and 1904!!

If you are considering a trip around Switzerland by train definitely include this trip – for other ideas check out Janet’s post – A Grand TrainTour of Switzerland.

We had booked window seats on the train. Reservations are compulsory and I would recommend window seats so you can thoroughly enjoy the views. As you can see the windows are made for viewing!

HOT TIP – get on and sit at your seat! We had a rather unpleasant gentleman actually assault my niece in an attempt to take her pre-booked window seat.


Refreshments are served and souvenirs on sale by the train staff who will move through the train periodically. A glass of prosecco while enjoying the magnificent scenery? Why not!

cheers - a glass of champagne on the Bernina Express

As I mentioned the journey takes 4 hours  and after leaving Tirano travels through beautiful towns and areas of amazing beauty before arriving in Chur. On the train you will find the Bernina Express route travel guide. This includes a map of the journey and details of highlights of the trip.

guide to the Bernina Express

useful guide book!

map-detail of the Bernina Express route

In the guidebook is this map which details the route including the heights to which you will be ascending and descending

The scenery is spectacular. Unfortunately as I was using my phone a lot of the pictures have reflections back of the inside of the train. Hopefully it will still give you a flavour of this beautiful journey.


St Moritz

bernina express in switzerland

just left Tirano

moutain-view from the bernina express

trees from the bernina express


On arrival at Chur you are met by the train to Zurich on the opposite platform (I knew this as the man at seat 61 had said it would!)



If you are planning to take this beautiful train journey you may wish to book accommodation along the way. Take a look at my recommendations for great hotels in Milan, Tirano and Zurich.


I would recommend staying near to the main train station. I always do as it makes me more relaxed the night before knowing it is a short stroll to catch my train!

In Milan we stayed at the GLAM MILANO a lovely 4* hotel directly opposite the station. The rooms are elegantly decorated and the breakfast very good. We would stay at this hotel again if we are travelling by train as its location is unbeatable!

Make a booking at HOTEL GLAM MILANO


Although we caught the train from Tirano the same afternoon it is possible to stay in Tirano and enjoy Italian hospitality for one more evening!

Make a booking in TIRANO


I am lucky to have family in the Zurich area but there are lots of beautiful hotels to choose from in this Swiss city,

Make a booking in ZURICH

Do you enjoy train travel? Is this a journey you would like to experience? I can highly recommend it!


Top 10 amazing train journeys to take around the world

A Swiss train journey to the top of Europe

20 of the best gifts for train lovers young and old

UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world



The Bernina Express one of the most scenic train journeys

I will end with a little video (only 9 seconds worth) of part of the journey!




  1. Fiona
    September 26, 2016 / 9:26 pm

    Wow. Just wow!

  2. September 27, 2016 / 11:18 am

    This looks right up my street – I’ve just decided I’m a big fan of scenic train travel having taken the Amtrak train from Chicago – Seattle. It was a fantastic way to travel and I’m now looking out for others I can add to my wishlist. This is going straight on it! I particularly like the helpful map and the prosecco, of course. Pinned!

    • September 27, 2016 / 6:38 pm

      We really want to do the Chicago- Seattle train!! We did Seattle – San Francisco – LA last year and loved it. I love train travel – it is always my preferred transportation option! There is a post coming soon on a trip up Mt Pilatus in Switzerland – that involved train, boat, cog railway, cable car and then bus! It was amazing!

  3. September 28, 2016 / 4:41 pm

    That looks like such a fabulous journey! I love train travels and I bet this particular journey would be even more stunning during winter when there’s tons of snow around, right?!

    • September 28, 2016 / 5:43 pm

      Hi yes it would be amazing in winter too! My Mum lives in Switzerland so I get to travel there quite often – I may do the journey over winter so will share pictures if I do!

  4. September 28, 2016 / 7:21 pm

    I would definitely like to take a ride on the Bernina Express! Preferably when more of Switzerland is a bit more covered in snow 🙂 #WanderfulWednesday

    • September 28, 2016 / 8:01 pm

      Yes it would be lovely in the snow but Switzerland is also pretty in the summer! You may like the post on my blog about the train trip in Switzerland to the ‘Top of the World’ pictures are in the snow 😉

  5. September 28, 2016 / 11:23 pm

    This looks like an amazing trip! The views are just stunning and there is nothing better than train travel, in my opinion 🙂 I would love to see more of Switzerland as from what I’ve seen so far, it’s too beautiful!

    • September 29, 2016 / 3:50 pm

      Hi it was a lovely train journey through a very scenic part of Switzerland. If you get the chance the Geneva to Zurich route is lovely too as is the Zurich to Milan! I have another post on my blog about a train journey to The Top of Europe which is a designated World Heritage Site and the views are stunning. I am also writing up a post following our trip up Mt Pilatus just outside Lucerne so that will be worth looking out for. Thank you for stopping by and the lovely comment!

  6. September 30, 2016 / 5:35 pm

    This looks incredibly beautiful! What a great way to see some of the Italian and Swiss countryside! Lake Como looks heavenly! I’ve only been on a scenic train once (down from Machu Picchu and it was dark! Needless to say I didn’t get the full experience …. This looks like a great way to travel though and see something in the process:D

    • September 30, 2016 / 6:36 pm

      Hi Lauren – travelling by train is my favourite was to get about. I am not a great fan of flying so if I can I take a train. I love scenic train journeys and this is just one of a few I managed this year. I haven’t been to South America though and its such a pity it was dark on your train trip! I bet Machu Picchu was amazing though! Thanks for stopping by!

    • January 8, 2017 / 9:21 am

      It was really pretty – the windows certainly help you to appreciate the views!

  7. January 8, 2017 / 7:30 am

    Its a lovely trip isn’t it? We did the reverse Chur to Tirano last year (during winter to see the snow, but there wasn’t any). We really enjoyed train travel and did a lot throughout Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and much more. Definitely the way to do it.
    Lyn @ A Hole in my Shoe recently posted…Ljubljana – Europe’s greenest and most liveable cityMy Profile

    • January 8, 2017 / 9:18 am

      It is without doubt my favourite way to travel – we travelled Italy, Switzerland and then from Croatia to Slovenia and onto Switzerland (my Mum lives there so we ended both trips with her) – its so easy and a great way to see Europe!

  8. January 8, 2017 / 10:29 am

    What a spectacular train ride! I’m adding it to my list, for sure. And I’ll second the recommendation for seat61, it really is the go to source for all things train travel. Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!
    Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute recently posted…A Fateful Detour to Lucerne, SwitzerlandMy Profile

    • January 9, 2017 / 4:42 pm

      Thanks Jim its a great route to take – stunning scenery all the way!

    • January 9, 2017 / 4:41 pm

      Trains are so much better aren’t they – hope you get the Bernina Express some time its a fab train!

    • January 9, 2017 / 4:38 pm

      Yes do check out his site – for anywhere in the world for train travel – his is the go-to site! Europe is amazing to visit by train! So beautiful and the trains are excellent too!

  9. January 12, 2017 / 11:33 pm

    These photos are stunning! Doesn’t matter you used your phone and through the glass. The scenery is just spectacular! I can’t believe how many tunnels and bridges you went through and over. I would love to take that train journey! How much were the tickets?
    Kreete recently posted…Wine tasting in Mudgee Wine RegionMy Profile

    • January 13, 2017 / 10:02 pm

      Thank-you Kreete. My niece had a railpass and she only had to pay for the reservation – it isn’t as expensive as you may imagine. The railcard was very much worth it!

  10. Nathan
    January 16, 2018 / 1:50 pm

    Hi Tracy,
    Yes, I had the same trip…but I started from Venice.
    Every corner is picturesque. We loved it .

    • TracyJane
      January 18, 2018 / 9:36 am

      Great trip isn’t it! We had travelled from Rome up to Venice then Milan before linking up with the train!

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  12. Scott
    May 26, 2018 / 2:51 pm

    Tracy, before I found your site, we made reservations a couple months ago to ride this train. We spent a couple days in Milan, and now we are staying in Varenna for the rest of our 2week vacation.. My wife and I are leaving Varenna on Monday, May 28 by train to Tirano, then on the Bernina Express to St. Moritz. We will stay overnight and head back to Varenna. We decided to catch a train back to Milan the day before we leave to minimize our transportation risk to Malpensa airport the next morning. So, we are also staying 1 night at the Glam Hotel.
    It is great to find your site and feel more comfortable, as a pioneer has forged a path ahead of us. I will give your my feedback after the trip.

    • TracyJane
      May 27, 2018 / 3:33 am

      Sounds fantastic Scott. I can’t wait to hear how your trip goes! Enjoy the beautiful scenery of St Moritz. We had a lovely stay in the Glam Hotel – it is close enough to the station to not worry when you are travelling onward by train. Thanks for your feedback I love to hear from people who read and enjoy my writing and my travels 🙂 – Tracy

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Hello from Australia

Traveller, teacher, train lover, and milkshake connoisseur.Now living and working in my 7th country and experiencing life in Queensland, Australia.

I write to inspire others whatever their age to explore the world - near and far!

I have travelled for over 30 years including solo in my 20's , as a single parent in my 30's and now in my 40's and beyond with my husband. House sitter and aspiring grey nomad a life of location independence is my goal.

Over 40 years ago I dreamt of a life well travelled and that is the life I live!

Dream it, plan it, do it!!


“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life”
-- Michael Palin