Where to stay for the Bernina Express

When I was planning my trip from Switzerland to Italy on the Bernina train line, I found it quite difficult to find out the best places to stay for the Bernina Express. Here’s everything I learned and experienced in one place, with advice on where to stay at both the Swiss and Italian ends of the Bernina line. I’ve also included some recommendations for the best towns and villages to stop at along the way.

About the Bernina Express train

The Bernina Express is a panoramic train which runs from Chur, in the Graubünden canton of Switzerland, to Tirano, just over the border in Italy.

The Bernina Express actually covers two UNESCO World Heritage railway lines. These are the Albula Line from Thusis, just south of Chur to St Moritz, and the Bernina Line from St Moritz to Tirano. The Bernina Express train from Chur to Tirano takes a direct route which misses out St Moritz.

The Bernina Express is just one train which runs on this route; there are also local trains which run from Chur to St Moritz and on to Tirano.

For tips for the Bernina Express and the local trains, see my dedicated post.

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Places to stay for the Bernina Express

The Bernina Express is only a 4 hour 21 minute journey so it’s easy to do in one day, but the panoramic train does set off relatively early (by my holiday standards!)

The morning panoramic train leaves at 08.28 from Chur and 08.06 from Tirano, so the most convenient place to stay if you’re taking the morning train is in either Chur (for southbound journeys) or Tirano (for northbound journeys from Italy to Switzerland).

Two Rhaetian Railway trains ready to depart at Chur station

In the summer months (mid-May onwards) there’s an afternoon train as well which leaves at 13.34 from Chur and 14.24 from Tirano, opening up the possibility of staying a bit further afield, in places like Zurich or perhaps Liechtenstein’s capital Vaduz instead of Chur, or Milan or Lake Como instead of Tirano.

My recommendation – staying in Chur

When I travelled on the Bernina line, I chose to stay in Chur, at the northern end of the Bernina Express route. I couldn’t find very much information about whether Chur was a good choice but the city was a very pleasant surprise.

Chur is a small but charming town, and the best place to stay for the Bernina Express

About Chur

Chur is the oldest town in Switzerland, although a series of fires in the 14th century mean very little survives from that time (although our hotel had!).

My first impression of Chur was of quite a modern town, well-served with shops and restaurants but not super attractive. That impression didn’t last very long though; within 5 minutes’ walk from the station, you’re in Chur’s very atmospheric, pedestrianised old town area. The narrow streets are framed by the low mountains that surround the city, and there are lots of pretty alleyways to get lost in.

One of the pretty squares in Chur’s old town

For food and drink, there are lots of bars and restaurants (we ate at Rätushof, a Swiss restaurant in the centre of town). There are also lots of grocery stores.

Things to do in Chur

I was only in Chur for an evening, but if you’re staying in town for a little longer, there are some interesting things to do in Chur.

  • Take the train to Arosa, a resort town in the mountains. Like the Bernina line, this 16 mile long railway line is very scenic. The first section runs through the streets in Chur.
  • Visit the Bundner Kunstmuseum, a small but interesting art museum housed in a historic villa with a striking modern extension.
  • Take the Chur-Brambruesch cable car from the city centre up to the mountain plateau at Brambruesch, for hiking and mountain biking in summer and skiing in winter.
  • Visit the Ratisches Museum for exhibitions on the history of the area, including some interesting archaeological displays featuring Chur’s long history.
  • See Chur’s beautifully decorated Roman Catholic Cathedral
  • Take a city walking tour

You might not make a special trip to Chur, but it’s very pleasant as a place to stay for the Bernina line, and I was very pleased with my choice.

We walked from our hotel in Chur to the station through the old town

My hotel in Chur – Ambiente Hotel Freieck

Like pretty much everywhere in Switzerland, Chur can be a pricey place to stay overnight. I’d also picked a date which coincided with a mountain bike race, so demand for hotels in Chur was really high.

Having breakfast at our hotel in Chur. The hotel building dates back to 1575 and is full of historic features like vaulted ceilings and thick walls.

I picked the Ambiente Hotel Freieck, which was a good balance of location and value, with a good breakfast that kept us full until we changed trains in St Moritz. The decor was more eclectic than I’d usually choose, but it was clean, comfortable and less than 10 minutes’ walk to the train station for our Bernina line train the next morning.

The bar area at Ambiente Hotel Freieck in Chur

Search for more hotels in Chur on Booking.com

Staying in Tirano

If you’re starting at the other end of the Bernina Express route, Tirano in Italy couldn’t be more different to Chur.

About Tirano

Tirano is in the Valtellina area of Lombardy and these days looks and feels very Italian, with palazzos and piazzas everywhere you look. That hasn’t always been the case though, as the important trading route through the Valtellina was fought over for centuries, changing hands several times.

A Bernina Line train passing in front of Tirano’s historic church

Tirano is a small town but has plenty of hotels, B&Bs and restaurants. We had a quick drink in the Café de la Gare’s lovely garden before catching our onward train to Lake Como; reviews online are a bit mixed but other people’s food looked good.

The Bernina Express leaves Tirano even earlier than it leaves Chur, at 8.06 am. If you’re ok with taking one of the local trains rather than the panoramic Bernina Express, you could stay overnight in Milan (2.5 hours from Tirano) or Varenna or Bellano on Lake Como (both around 1.5 hours by train from Tirano). Alternatively, during the summer months there’s an afternoon Bernina Express train to Chur.

Things to do in Tirano

While Tirano is a small town, if you do stay overnight, there are quite a few interesting things to do in Tirano:

  • Visit the Santuario della Beata Vergine di Tirano (Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Tirano). The Virgin Mary appeared to a local farmer in 1501 and told him to build a church in Tirano; the current church dates from 1523. The Bernina Express runs through the piazza outside the church, so if you’re travelling on the train you’ll see it anyway, but it’s worth a visit in its own right.
  • Explore the over 500-year-old Palazzo Salis, one of the most beautiful palaces in the Valtellina. The Palazzo Salis has incredible frescoes and is set in a lovely garden.
  • Walk up to the Big Bench, a giant red bench set in the hills near Tirano. It’s part of the Big Bench Community Project, which encourages people to feel like a child again and feel the wonder of the landscape. There are currently 297 Big Benches, most of which are in Italy but there are some spread out across Europe.
  • Visit the vineyards and wineries around Tirano. The Valtellina is well-known for its wines, and several wineries offer tastings and vineyard tours.
Tirano is in the Valtellina area of Lombardy in northern Italy

Places to stay in Tirano

If you stay in Tirano for your trip on the Bernina Express, it’s best to stay near Tirano’s two stations. The Trenord station for Milan and Lake Como and the Rhaetian Railway station for St Moritz and Chur are right next to each other on Piazza delle Stazioni, so you don’t need to choose which one to be close to. The old part of the town and the Santuario della Beata Vergine di Tirano are both within 10 minutes’ walk.

The Bernina line and Italian railway stations are right next to each other, making this the best area to stay in Tirano

B&B Arcobaleno is just around the corner from Tirano’s stations and has impressive ratings on Tripadvisor.

The appropriately-named Hotel Bernina is on Piazza delle Stazioni itself and you can see both stations from the hotel’s front door – very handy!

More places to stay for your Bernina Line trip

If neither Chur or Tirano work for your trip, here are some other options for places to stay before or after your Swiss railway adventure.

Places to stay at the Swiss end of the line


If you’re flying in to Switzerland ahead of your trip on the Bernina Line, you’ll probably arrive in either Basel or Zurich. While Basel is well-served by low cost flights and I loved it as a city, it’s a little too far from Chur to be a realistic option for a Bernina trip.

Zurich is just about close enough to Chur to make it a potential place to stay before a Bernina Express trip

Zurich however, is just close enough to Chur (1 hour 15 minutes) to make it an ok choice, although you’d have to catch a train to Chur before 7am to get there in time for the morning panoramic train.

If you’re staying overnight in Zurich, you’ll want to be close to Zurich’s main station, the Hauptbahnhof (Zurich HB). Hotel Schweizerhof Zürich is a well-reviewed 4 star hotel right next door to the station, while Hotel Marta is a good-value 2 star, 5 minutes’ walk away.


Sargans is a small town on the main Zurich to Chur railway line, a couple of stops from Chur. It has a great castle that perches impressively above the town and you can catch a bus to Liechtenstein’s capital Vaduz.

Sargans is a small town with a great castle. It’s a decent choice if you’re visiting Vaduz before the Bernina Express and hotels in Chur are full.

There aren’t a lot of hotels in Sargans, but prices are a little lower than you’ll pay in the larger centres and it’s a good option for a stopover if you’re visiting Vaduz and hotel prices in Chur are a bit too high. The family-run 3-star Hotel Post is in the centre of town, a short walk from the station.


On my trip, we passed so close to Liechtenstein that it seemed rude not to visit! Vaduz, the tiny country’s tiny capital city is another possibility for somewhere to stay before a trip on the Bernina Express.

We took a day trip to Vaduz on our way from Basel to Chur

While there is a train station near Vaduz, most visitors using public transport will catch the bus from Sargans. The return bus from Vaduz to Sargans starts early enough that you could catch the bus from the centre of Vaduz to the station in Sargans and from there take a train to Chur.

The Residence Hotel is on the main pedestrianised street in the centre of Vaduz, very close to the main attractions in Vaduz and the bus stop to get back to Switzerland.

Bad Ragaz

If you’re looking for pure relaxation in beautiful surroundings before you set off on your Bernina Express journey, stay in Bad Ragaz.

Bad Ragaz is famous for its thermal baths

The valley above Bad Ragaz has been renowned for its hot springs since the 13th century, and today the village is one of Switzerland’s top wellness resorts. The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is a once-in-a-lifetime stay ideal for special occasions or a honeymoon.

If the Grand Resort is just too luxe, how about a castle instead? The Hotel Schloss Ragaz has historic castle rooms, its own spa and is close to the Tamina Terme, where you can bathe in the thermal waters.

Places to stay at the Italian end of the line


It isn’t possible to get from Milan to Tirano by train in time for the morning Bernina Express, but if you’re taking a regional service or the afternoon Bernina Express service which runs at 14:24 in summer then you could choose to stay in Milan.

Milano Centrale station. Trains leave from here for Milan Malpensa airport, Lake Como and Tirano for the Bernina line.

As in a lot of cities, the area immediately around the central station in Milan isn’t the best, but there are a few options along the M2 and M3 metro lines, which will take you straight to Milano Centrale.

Search for hotels in Milan on Booking.com

Lake Como

The train between Milan and Tirano runs along the edge of Lake Como, so why not stay in one of the beautiful villages along the lake shore? A few villages on the right hand side of the lake have stations, but my pick for somewhere to stay for a trip on the Bernina line would be Varenna.

Beautiful Varenna on Lake Como

Varenna is a beautiful village with lots of lovely restaurants and a great ferry service to the rest of the lake. When I was in Varenna recently I visited the beach by the Royal Victoria hotel; the panoramic view across all three branches of Lake Como is absolutely stunning. The hotel also has its own gardens, swimming pool and wellness centre.

If you have trouble finding somewhere to stay in Varenna, try Bellano, one stop further up the line towards Tirano. It’s less busy but it has a lovely lakeside promenade, a few restaurants and a good ferry service. It’s also where you’ll find the very impressive Orrido di Bellano attraction.

Places to stay along the Bernina Line

The full trip along the Albula and Bernina Lines from Chur to Tirano takes just over 4 hours, so you might want to break up the journey with a stay in one of the towns and villages along the route.

St Moritz

St Moritz is at the end of the Albula Line from and the start of the Bernina Line, and around halfway through the journey so it’s a great place to break your journey. The Bernina Express from Chur to Tirano misses out St Moritz, so if you’re starting at Chur you’ll need to take a regional train for at least part of the journey. There are Bernina Express trains from St Moritz to Tirano and back though. St Moritz is also on the Glacier Express train route to Zermatt.

St Moritz in winter, with a Glacier Express train in the station

St Moritz is a legendary resort town, 1800 metres above sea level in the Engadin area of the Alps. It sits serenely on the St Moritzersee lake, surrounded by mountains. In winter, visitors can enjoy 88 skiing pistes along with other winter sports, while in summer you can go hiking or try paddleboarding on the lake.

Since this is Switzerland and St Moritz is pretty fancy even by Swiss standards, hotels tend to be pricey. The Hotel Arte is a good value option on the edge of town but within walking distance of both the centre and the station. The Hauser Hotel St Moritz is a little more expensive but rates tend to include breakfast so you can fill up for the day ahead, whether that’s continuing your Bernina train trip or taking part in activities around St Moritz. Hotel Schweizerhof St Moritz offers beautiful lake views from rooms and the terrace and free transfers to the station.

Filisur, Preda and Bergün

It’s tempting to experience the Albula and Bernina lines in one epic day, but do consider breaking your journey up and exploring the area around Filisur, Preda and Bergün. The three stations are just a few minutes apart and it’s easy to travel between them on the Albula line’s regular, comfortable and cheap regional trains.

At Filisur, leave the train and hike to a wonderful viewpoint for the Landwasser viaduct. For something that appears in so many publicity photos for the Bernina Express, I found that the Landwasser viaduct is a bit blink-and-you’ll-miss-it as you travel over it, so the short hike to see it properly is well worth doing.

Standing at the base of the Landwasser viaduct

At Preda, you can try winter tobogganing. Get off the train, pick up your sledge by the station and take to the 7km long toboggan run. Part of the sledging route runs underneath a viaduct; if you’re lucky you might see a train cross over as you race underneath.

In Bergün you can visit the Bahnmuseum Albula, which is a railway museum dedicated to the Albula Line and the Rhaetian Railway. Exhibits are labelled in German, French and English.

The railway museum at Bergün is right beside the station

The Hotel Weisses Kreuz has a great location in the centre of Bergün, only 300 metres from the station and railway museum. Its restaurant serves local specialities.

Alp Grüm

Only accessible by train for much of the year, the hamlet of Alp Grüm is a magical place to stay overnight. From the station, which also houses Alp Grüm’s restaurant and hotel (open mid May to November), you can see panoramic views of Palü Glacier and the turquoise lake below.

The station at Alp Grüm is only accessible by train during the winter. In the summer months it’s open as a restaurant and hotel for outstanding mountain hiking.

The Bernina Line begins its descent to Poschiavo in earnest at Alp Grüm; stopping off here for a meal or an overnight stay will give you the chance to watch the red train as it winds its way down the mountain.

Where to stay for the Bernina Express – conclusion

I hope you’ve found this list of places to stay for the Bernina line useful. I hope to take the Bernina line again sometime and I’ll definitely be breaking my journey up with a stay in Bergün for sledging and the railway museum!

For more tips for the Bernina Line, including a comparison between the Bernina Express and local trains, visit my other post.

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