The Bernina Express: Arguably The Best Train Journey in Europe!

Image credit: Wasif Malik

Train travels are becoming increasingly popular, especially for those who can spare the time to enjoy cruising on the rails in carriages pulled by steam engines. Even those who find time hard to come by will find the appeal of taking a day trip on the train. For those of you planning a trip to Europe, here’s a train ride you won’t want to miss out on — The Bernina Express!

Image credit: shaochu7588

Bernina Express is a panoramic train ride from Tirano, Italy to Chur, Switzerland, taking you on a sightseeing tour through the amazing Swiss countryside. Not only that, but the railways on the Abula and Bernina lines are also actually part of a UNESCO Heritage Site!

The whole journey takes about four hours one-way, bringing you to the magnificent mountainous landscapes of the Swiss Alps as well as the luscious greenery and blooming flowers of the Poschiavo valley. If the journey is made early enough in the summer, it may even be possible to see snow on some parts of the train ride!

While there are other regional trains plying the same route almost every hour, the Bernina Express is the only direct train between Tirano and Chur, and the only one with panoramic carriages where riders can experience the full glory of the sceneries.

Climbing the stone viaduct | Image credit: Alain Rouiller

Panoramic view at Alp Grum | Image credit: Elliott Brown

Here’s how you can make the journey from Milan to Tirano, Italy:

Milan, Italy is the biggest and closest Italian city to Tirano. It’s also where you can hop on the Bernina Express train going to Chur, Switzerland. From there, you can proceed to Zurich, Switzerland.

Image credit: Paolo Gamba

From Milano Centrale train station, take the Italian regional train to Tirano. The regional service between Milan and Tirano runs every two hours and takes about 2.5 hours to reach Tirano, so the latest train you should take, if you want to reach Switzerland in the same day, leaves Milan at 10.20am. No booking is required so just purchase the ticket on arrival at the station and hop on the train. This underrated leg of the journey runs through the Italian countryside, passing by the scenic Lake Como along the way.

Image credit: Wasif Malik

Image credit: Luigi Rosa

How to get from Tirano, Italy to Chur, Switzerland

When you finally arrive at Tirano, the train station for the Bernina Express is right across the yard from the Trenord station. There’s just enough time to grab a quick bite from one of the cafes around town before the Bernina Express leaves for Chur. Otherwise, there is a refreshment trolley on the train where you can get coffee, tea, snacks and other souvenirs on board.

During the summer season, which lasts from 15 to 29 October, there is only one Bernina Express train running northbound daily to Chur. The train departs Tirano at 2.26pm. In winter, the service runs slightly later on weekdays, leaving Tirano at 3pm instead. The weekend trains run at the same time as in the summer.

While it is not necessary to book your tickets in advance on the Bernina Express, you can save some money by reserving a seat online. The regular ticket from Tirano to Chur bought at the station costs CHF64 (about €60), though this is not inclusive of the connection from Chur to Zurich.

In comparison, the online ticket booked through German Railways can cost as low as €39 if booked early enough, and this is inclusive of the connection from Chur to Zurich. For this offer to be valid, the final destination on the ticket has to be within Germany, but nobody is going to stop you from alighting early at Zurich. So go ahead and purchase the cheaper priced ticket.

Hop on the Bernina Express with your ticket and enjoy the gorgeous journey through the Swiss Alps!

What the views on the Bernina Express look like!

Inside the panoramic cabin | Image credit: Emanuele

The world famous Brusio Viaduct | Image credit: Hans-Rudolf Stoll

Snowcapped even in the summer! | Image credit: Elliott Brown

Highest stop on the Bernina Express | Image credit: Elliott Brown

Image credit: Alain Rouiller

Landwasser Viaduct. Yet another icon on the journey. | Image credit: Vasile Cotovanu

Arriving at Chur station for transit to Zurich | Image credit: Gerard-Nicolas Mannes

Travelling from Chur to Zurich

Swiss intercity trains run from Chur to Zurich every 30 minutes at the same station, and no reservations are required. So just hop on the train on the next platform and sit anywhere you like for the hour-long journey into Zurich.

Image credit: Pedro Szekely

Arrival at Zurich marks the end of an epic seven-hour journey from Milan to Zurich, which includes the train ride of a lifetime on the Bernina Express. With sceneries to die for, there is no doubt that it’s one of the most beautiful train journeys you can experience in one day. Be sure to check it out on your next trip to Europe!

By Prajval

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