10 of the best train journeys in Europe
There is something very exciting about taking a train journey through a country or a new region. Sitting back in a comfortable train seat and watching the world slip by is a wonderful experience.
During a train journey, I love seeing the countryside and coast, as well as spotting Scottish wildlife. (During a recent trip on the West Highland Line to Corrour, I was lucky enough to see red deer roaming remote Scottish moorlands.)
Through a train window, you’ll also catch a glimpse of new views of urban settlements. Train lines cut through areas of villages, towns and cities that you might not normally see from a car or when on foot. It’s a great opportunity to see new sights.
A train journey will often start and finish and interesting locations, especially cities, and take in a variety of other locations en route. This means there is plenty to see and do before alighting the train and after the journey. So, you can turn the train ride into a longer holiday.
This blog reveals 10 of the best train journeys in Europe, some of which are day trips and others that are better suited to rail holidays.
1 The Orient Express
If you think of famous European train journeys, it’s the Orient Express that most people will imagine. Agatha Christie’s famous book has made the route even more famous.
The train has covered various routes over its long history and today’s most popular route takes passengers from London to Venice (or Venice to London) and a number of other continental routes in style and comfort.
This train journey is a real treat and one that many people look forward to – and save up for – for years before booking. The scenery is breath taking and the life on board the rain is extraordinary.
For example, the bar carriage alone is an experience and will transport you to the opulent 1920s, complete with cocktails, as well as music provided by the resident pianist on a baby grand piano.
The train compartments are not replicas of the originals, but are the carefully restored originals. They feature oak panels, luxurious linens and rich upholstery, all in the Art Deco style of the early 20th century.
There is a choice of cabins, from the Grand Suite, to a single cabin. The trip is not chap but many who have travelled on the Orient express will tell you it is well worth the cost.
2 The Glacier Express
Express is the wrong word really because this train route is actually known as “the slowest express train in the world”. It takes almost eight hours to cover the distance between Zermatt and St Moritz in Switzerland.
Because of the superb scenery it’s well worth taking the slow train through 200 miles and fully enjoying vistas across the Swiss Alps.
This journey also takes in a climb to the Oberalp Pass, more than 1800m above sea level, and then down to St Moritz.
3 Flåm Railway
The Flåm Railway journey in Norway is only an hour long but in that time it climbs from the sea-level village of Flåm, at the edge of the Sognefjord, to an altitude of 867m at the Myrdal mountain station. You’ll enjoy amazing views of fjord and mountain peaks.
From here you can connect with other trains between Bergen and Oslo.
4 Brenner Pass Route
The Brenner Pass is one of the most famous and popular rail journeys in Europe and travels between the German city of Munich and Venice, an Italian city famed as a romantic destination.
The railway undulates through picturesque Alpine landscape. Did you know that the Brenner Pass has one of the lowest altitudes for mountain passes in this area, so the valleys are usually very green and verdant.
Look out for beautiful scenes of cows grazing in summer pastures and vast forests.
5 Madrid to Seville
Travel by high-speed AVE trains through Spain from major city to major city. En route you’ll enjoy the fantastic scenery of hilly Andalucia and stop off at another city, picturesque Cordoba.
Wildlife spotting is also possible and you might see wild pigs (yes, really!) and deer. You will definitely catch sight of olive groves, too, as you travel at up to speeds of 190mph.
6 Elbe River Valley train journey
Running between Berlin in Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic, this train journey runs alongside the Elbe River and overlooks the vast valley, fringed by rugged cliffs and dotted with villages, farms and terraced vineyards.
A top tip is that you should sit on the left side of the train for better views, especially to the south of Dresden, a place that is known as Florence on the Elbe.
The cities at the start and finish are well worth exploring. You’ll know already, I’m sure, that Prague is famous for Czech beer.
7 Moscow to St Petersburg
Take the Sapsan Bullet Train, which can reach speeds of up to 150 mph, between the Russian cities of Moscow and to St Petersburg.
You’ll see wonderful countryside, some beautiful Russian homes and enjoy strolling around two historic cities at either end of the trip.
The journey will take up to about 3.5 hours. Why not extend the break by spending time in Moscow at the start of the rain journey and St Petersburg at the end?
Thee are plenty of things to do in Moscow.
8 The Bernina Express
The Bernina Express travels by train line from Chur and St Moritz in the Graubünden region of Switzerland, to Tirano, just across the border into Italy.
It is possible to make an early start in the morning, have lunch in Italy, and return in the afternoon to Chur. You can also catch a train from Tirano directly to the shores of Lake Como at Varenna or Colico.
The engineering of the Bernina track, with many the tunnels cutting dramatically through the mountainsides, and viaducts that cross vast gorges, offers many impressive sights as you travel by train.
9 Bohinj Railway
A lesser-known train journey but one that easily makes this list because it offers a combination of historic and scenic attractions.
Located in Slovenia, the Bohinj Railway allows you to travel by modern train or the more historic steam train – catch this if you can – that runs once a week on a Saturday.
Slovenia truly offers lots of historical interest and natural beauty of landscape and cities.
The train leaves Jesenice to travel to reach the Italian border. You’ll travel through the Soča river valley towards the Julian Alps, passing through tunnels and over viaducts in a spectacular mountain terrain.
10 West Highland Line
Travelling from Glasgow to Oban or Fort William and Mallaig, the West Highland Line in Scotland is considered by many to be one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world.
The train leaves the vibrant city of Glasgow – Scotland’s largest city – and travels to the dramatic west coast passing through stunning Highland’s scenery en route.
Take the West Highland Line to Mallaig to travel over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which was used in the Harry Potter films for the Hogwarts Express.
You’ll also pass through Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. The line splits at Crianlarich, carrying you past Loch Awe to Oban, or high up to Rannoch Moor, through remote wilderness and on to Fort William and Mallaig.