We all know that trains are an eco-friendly way to travel. They have more leg room than airplanes, with free wifi, and they conveniently drop you off right in the city center rather than at an airport on the outskirts. While most countries in Europe and the UK have some form of high-speed rail connecting them, train travel can actually be SO much more than simply a way of getting from one destination to the next.
If you relish the journey itself and prefer to travel a little more slowly so you can soak in the beauty of the country you’re visiting, consider taking a scenic train trip. These trains won’t get you anywhere fast, but that’s not the point. They give you time to relax in luxury and hop on and off to explore tiny towns you might not have otherwise found. They can simplify multi-destination trips and they are the more sustainable and “green” travel option. Best of all, these trains are unique experiences in and of themselves that allow you to truly enjoy the beauty of the journey.
The Golden Eagle Danube Express
Journey: 11 days Distance: 1832km (1138mi)
Route: Venice, Italy to Istanbul, Turkey
This train is luxury on wheels. With lush sleeping cabins, a posh cocktail bar, and incredible restaurants, you’ll truly be traveling in style. While the Danube Express makes a few different itineraries, The Balkan Explorer route is a perfect way to explore much of Eastern Europe. Blending culture and ancient tales, you’ll have a personal guide through nine countries including Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Greece, and Turkey! This trip is classical elegance paired with modern convenience and curated travel.
[Photo credit: David Enzel via Unsplash]
Venice Simplon Orient Express
Journey:24hrs Distance: 1636km (1016mi)
Route: Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria & England
When traveling through Western Europe, this train is a delight. With many of the original carriages from its namesake, this train will transport you from the 2020s to the 1920s in elegance and style. On offer are martinis at the piano bar and lobster in the restaurant car as you wind your way through mountains and meadows. This sleeper train lets you travel between a variety of cities in sophisticated, luxurious comfort. Choose between Venice, London, Geneva, Paris, Verona, Florence, or Innsbruck as your starting and ending points for an unforgettable night and a unique, glamorous experience.
[Photo Credit: Belmond]
Journey: 7.5 hours Distance: 290km (180mi)
Route: Zermatt to St. Moritz Switzerland
Switzerland is known for its impressive mountains and awe-inspiring views, and its most famous train line does not disappoint. Traveling at only 38kph, this route is perfect for seeing Switzerland slowly. Spiral up mountains, across viaducts, and burrow through tunnels as you take the train from one luxury ski resort town to the next. The pace is slow and relaxing with panoramic windows so you won’t miss a moment. The train itself has on-board entertainment and a concierge to advise you on the best sights in the small towns you stop in.
[Photo Credit:Kevin Schmid via Unsplash]
Journey: 4hrs Distance 163km (101mi)
Route: St Moritz, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy
This trans-alpine journey loops through the Prattigau mountains before descending into the ravines of Italy below. With modern, panoramic cars and stunning views of the alps, lakes, and the famous Landwasser Viaduct ( a UNESCO world heritage site and a feat of engineering) this is a beautiful way to travel between the two countries. Traveling through snow-capped mountains and dramatic gorges crossing over 200 bridges and 50 tunnels, this trip will be a jaw-dropping 4 hours.
[Photo Credit: Alessandro Prato via Unsplash]
Linha do Douro
Journey: 3.5 hours Distance: 160km (99mi)
Route: Porto to Pocinho Portugal
More scenic than a day cruise from Porto, this train winds its way through the beautifully stunning Douro Valley. With terraced vineyards, steep hills, and the meandering river, the final section of this train trip is considered one of the most beautiful train lines in Europe. It offers plenty of time to stop in the quintessential small towns along the way to enjoy wine tastings, local food, and riverside walks. This is the perfect journey for a leisurely day trip in Portugal.
[Photo Credit: Eduardo Lages via Unsplash]
West Highland Line
Journey: 5.5 hours Distance: 265km (164mi)
Route: Glasgow to Mallaig Scotland
No list would be complete without this impressive train route made more famous by the Harry Potter films. Whether you take the featured steam train or the typical passenger rail, this route is one of the top train journeys in the world. It weaves its way through a variety of scenery from moorlands to forested lochs to castle ruins. You’ll travel alongside the river Clyde and be able to stop in Fort William for some of the most beautiful hiking in the region. Three trains leave each day from Glasgow to Mallaig. Once you arrive in the little port town you can begin an island-hopping adventure into the Scottish Highlands including the Isle of Skye!
[Photo Credit:Connor Mollison via Unsplash]
Every year, new train lines are opening up to make travel a little easier, a little more sustainable, and a little more enjoyable. Whether it’s sleeper trains from Amsterdam to Austria that opened this year or the GoldenPass Express with views over Lake Geneva set to open in December 2022, train travel through Europe is becoming easier and faster all the time.
If these trips have inspired you and you want to find out more, or if you want to work out how to build your own epic train journey – let us know! We can help keep everything on track so you never feel overwhelmed.