From Switzerland’s snowy Alps to Italy’s sunny Cinque Terre, there are so many great train journeys to be had in Europe. Here are ten train trips that will have you dreaming about your next European rail adventure…
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Did you know that a railway can also be a UNESCO World Heritage site? The Rhaetian Railway, running through the alps, is exactly that. This mountainous railroad network connects Switzerland to Italy and runs through a spectacular landscape of deep alpine valleys and soaring snow-capped mountains. You can soak in the scenery on The Bernina Express, a train that takes you from Chur, Davos Platz or St. Moritz in Switzerland right across the border to Tirano in Italy. Unlike the local trains on these routes, The Bernina Express has panoramic windows for the best views.
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Connecting two popular mountain resorts, the Glacier Express starts in Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn and travels to St. Moritz. The train ride is known as one of the world’s most scenic. Like the Bernina Express, the carriages have panoramic windows that make for some epic viewing of the Swiss mountains. Although it is called an “Express”, it is not particularly fast with a journey time of approximately eight hours. During this time the train also uses part of The Rhaetian Railway, which the shorter Bernina Express travels along.
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If you’ve ever watched Harry Potter you will have seen The West Highland Railway many times, with a train trundling rapidly across the impressive Glenfinnan Viaduct. In real life, it’s not called The Hogwart’s Express, but it does take travellers through some of the most magical scenery of Scotland’s Western highlands. Running from Glasgow to Fort William then on to Mallaig, your train will pass sweeping moors, lochs and rivers before reaching its destination. Regular ScotRail trains run on this line, but you can also take a trip on the Jacobite Steam Train. This goes along the Fort William to Mallaig section of the railway in the summertime.
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The Bergen Railway is a scenic seven-hour journey linking Oslo to Bergen. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to see some of Norway’s most beautiful natural landscapes. Many visitors choose to stop before Bergen at Myrdal Station. From here they connect to the popular Flåm Railway. The Flåm train is one of the world’s steepest on a regular track, starting from a high plateau at Myrdal then travelling down a valley to the village of Flåm. A boat can then be taken from Flåm, which cruises through the fjords before reaching Bergen. Both the straight route from Oslo to Bergen or the latter detour offer spectacular views.
You can get to any of the five charming villages of Cinque Terre easily by train. The line connects Levanto to La Spezia Station and many of the trains stop at each of the five villages. Hiking is popular in the area. It is possible to follow trails from one village to another on foot and you can combine this with short train rides rather than walking between every village. By train it only takes a few minutes between each stop, making it a quick and convenient way to help you explore this pretty area of the Italian coastline.
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Known as Linke Rheinstrecke in German, meaning Left (bank of the) Rhine, this picturesque rail route follows the west (left) side of the river Rhine, from Cologne to Mainz. The section from Koblenz to Mainz provides especially good views of the Rhine Gorge and its surroundings. This is German wine country is a common stop for visitors on their way to visit the small towns and vineyards. Fast trains run from Cologne to Mainz too but taking a regular train (which is not much longer) will give you more time to enjoy the view.
Travelling between Madrid and Oviedo you’ll get to see some of the best of the northern Spanish countryside. Passing by rugged hills and tiny towns, the route from Spain’s capital to the Asturias region must be one of the country’s most beautiful. Closer to Oviedo, the train climbs higher as it makes its way through the Picos de Europa mountains. From Oviedo, you could continue your train travel into the Basque Country. A narrow-gauge FEVE railway runs along the northern coast from Oviedo to Santander.
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The Ffestiniog Railway is a narrow-gauge heritage railway in Gwynedd, Wales. The line is located mostly within Snowdonia National Park. It is not particularly well-known worldwide (even the name is hard to say if you’re not Welsh), but many train enthusiasts have heard of it. Founded in 1832, it is the oldest independent railway company in the world. In 1863, the railway introduced the world’s first narrow-gauge steam locomotives. The ride is not just for steam train fanatics. As it makes its way from the port town of Porthmadog to the historic mining town of Blaenau, the train passes quaint little villages and gorgeous natural scenery that anyone could fall in love with.
Travel from the Adriatic coast all the way to the Serbian capital on the Bar-Belgrade railway line. Bar is a major seaport in Montenegro and a transport hub with ferries connecting it to Italy and buses going to and from surrounding cities including Dubrovnik in Croatia. The train route features an incredible number of tunnels and bridges including the Mala Rijeka viaduct. It is a long ride, approximately 10 hours, but there are lots to see from impressive lakes to rivers and mountains. Once you’ve reached Belgrade, you are very centrally located in the Balkans.
Timing is key on this route from Groningen to Amsterdam in the north of the Netherlands. The train ride takes around two hours and goes by large fields which are filled with colourful tulips in spring. To catch the flowers in full bloom, the best time to visit is in mid-April. Amongst the tulips you’ll spot windmills too, creating a classic Dutch scene. From Amsterdam, trains and buses that go south towards The Hague will take you through another flower region, famous for the tulip-filled Keukenhof gardens.
So why take a plane when you can hop aboard these amazing train journeys? You will probably save yourself the hassle, some money and you’ll get to see a lot more of the country you’re visiting than you ever thought you would.
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