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Geneva - Chur - Bernina Express

Our Fall plan for traveling in Europe will begin in Geneva. We are planning to stay a night or 2 there, at Lausanne, Vevey or Montreux. From there we will take the train to Chur to catch the Bernina Express to Tirano, IT. We are considering staying in Chur for 2 or 3 nights. I would love to hear from fellow travelers who have been to any of these places. What were your impressions? Did you take worthwhile side trips? How many nights would you recommend at Chur?

Thank you.

Posted by
20309 posts

You could go the fast boring way through Zurich, or the slow scenic way with the Glacier Express. If you did do that, might as well stay on to Samedan, just before St Moritz, and take the short connecting train to Pontresina and stay there for 2 or 3 nights. Take the Bernina Express from there. The Glacier Express and Bernina Express travel the same route between Chur and St Moritz and are pretty much identical experiences.

Chur is a city in a valley, Pontresina is in the mountains. Take your pick.

Posted by
4528 posts

That clever Man in Seat 61 not only has videos about the GE and the BE, he recommends hotels and restaurants in cities like Chur.

Posted by
16683 posts

I would not spend 2 nights in Chur; I would spend them in Pontresina or Samedan as Sam suggests. But taking the Glacier Express as Sam suggests. Take a look at the rail map of Switzerland and you will see how this works:

https://www.mystsnet.com/en/download/swiss-travel-system-map-en-2023/?wpdmdl=14294&masterkey=63a023c8da36c

However, Lausanne or Montreux to Pontresina with the Glacier Express would be a very long day, and I would want an intermediate overnight along the way. Maybe Kandersteg, or even Luzern if you take the Golden Pass route and then after Luzern connect via the Gotthard Pass route to the Glacier Express at Andermatt. Lots of options.

But looking at your other posts, where you say you have an AirBnb booked in Como, I am wondering if the Bernina Express is a good option for you. That will take you to Tirano and on to Varenna, which is on Lake Como but a long say from the Town of Como. A long ferry ride, or you go by train to Milan and transfer at Milano Centrale to a different train going to Como.

Can you please clarify your plans? There is a better, shorter, equally scenic way to get to Como if that is your destination in Italy.

Posted by
81 posts

Lola, I think you must have been looking at a post I did a year or so ago. We visited lake Como in Spring of 2023. On this trip our tentative plan after arriving in Tirano is 3 nights in Bergamo and then on to Genoa.

The Glacier Express is tempting, but as you say would make for a very long day of train riding and may be more time than we want to give. I will take a look at the rail map . Thank you.

Posted by
81 posts

Phred, The Man in Seat 61 is a great website. Thanks for reminding me about it.

Posted by
1070 posts

Chur is underrated. We really liked it. We only stayed one night and wish we could have had a full day there. Stayed at Hotel Freieck in the Aldstadt (old town), and liked it. Easy 10 minute walk to the station. https://www.freieck.ch/en/

Posted by
16683 posts

Donna, you are correct—-I did no look at the dates on your post about Lake Como.

Are you planning to go all the way from Chur to Bergamo in one day? That is also a very long day on trains.

Posted by
81 posts

Darren, Thank you for the feedback about Chur and for the hotel recommendation. I took a look and it seems nice and as you said, convenient.

Posted by
81 posts

Lola, it does look long. 4 hours on the Bernina Express to Tirano and another 3 1/2 to Bergamo. We may want to rethink that.

Posted by
16683 posts

And you have to add the time you would spend at Milano Centrale between arrival of your train from Tirano and departure of your train to Bergamo. It could total 8 hours or more.

You might look at the Treno Gottardo or Gotthard Panorama Express instead of the Bernina route. These trains connect Luzern with either Locarno or Lugano. You would not have to travel as far east as Chur to catch the train, and you end up closer to Milan than Tirano is. I find the Gotthard Pass train just as scenic as the Bernina Pass route, and much more convenient if one is not going to Varenna.we will be heading to Bergamo from Switzerland ourselves in September, and will be using the Gotthard Pass route.

Posted by
81 posts

Lola, That sounds like an interesting alternative. I had not heard of the two trains you mentioned. I took a look at the Gotthard Panorama Express and don't see how it would save time. The website indicates the trip from Lucerne to Lugano is 5 1/2 hrs. and then it is 2 1/2 hours to Bergamo; another 8 hour journey. We were thinking about flying in and out of Geneva which is 3 hours from Lucerne. It is a good thing I am planning so far in advance. There is so much to consider. I appreciate your suggestions and am definitely pondering the alternatives.