In many ways, trains are simply the best way to travel. They are more environmentally friendly than flying, more relaxing than driving and more comfortable than buses. You have space, can move around, and (if available) go for a bite in the dining cart.
And is there anything more romantic than travelling by train? Train travel conjures up images of elegance and class, of leisurely making your way through beautiful scenery and watching the landscape roll by. With train travel, it’s all about the journey, not just the destination.
Some train rides are an event in their own right. They take you through breathtaking landscapes filled with mountains, valleys, rivers, and picturesque villages. And all you have to do is sit back, look out the window and enjoy the ride.
From the Orient Express to the Trans Canadian Railway, the world is filled with famous train rides. Trains have always been an essential means of transport in Europe, so it no surprise that you can find some of the most impressive and awe-inspiring train rides here. From old steam locomotives that take you through green hills to cute regional lines along the coast, each of these train rides has something unique to offer. So if you’re planning your next trip to Europe, consider booking a ticket for one of these beautiful train rides in Europe.
1. Semmering Line in Austria
Austria, with its rolling hills, impressive mountains, elegant cities, and quaint towns, has plenty of spectacular views to offer. While most of them require a car and a long hike to reach, the Semmering Line allows you to experience some of the best views in Austria from the comfort of a train.
The Semmering Line runs from Wiener Neustadt to Bruck an der Mur in the southeast of Austria. It’s a historic train line, built between 1848 and 1854, and one of the greatest feats of railway engineering. The tracks run through tunnels and over viaducts to create a continuous connection over 41 km of mountainous terrain. The train line even earned a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The result is a gorgeous train ride with stunning views of the mountains, lakes and alpine resorts along the way.
- Route: Wiener Neustadt to Bruck an der Mur.
- Runtime: About 1.5 hours of scenic joy.
- Schedule: The train runs very regularly, every half hour or hour, even on Sundays.
- Best time of year: Enjoy the lush mountain scenery year-round, riding through green hills in the spring and summer, or a chilly wonderland in the winter.
- Price: From 9 EUR for a single fare with fixed time and date when booked in advance, 23 EUR for a flexible ticket.
- Tickets: You can buy your ticket for the Semmering Line at the train station on online at oebb.at/en. Eurorail Pass and Austrian Railway Pass are valid; no reservation or supplement required.
2. Cinque Terre in Italy
Cinque Terre, meaning “five lands,” is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Italy. The collection of five villages, perched on the cliffs of the Ligurian coast, seems to have been built for postcards. The colourful buildings, blue ocean, and dramatic views draw millions of visitors every year.
Cars are useless in Cinque Terre, as no roads connect the villages. Instead, there are hiking trails through the National Park as well as a railway. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful stretches in not only Italy but also Europe. It’s not a long ride, it takes about 20 minutes from one end to the other, but the views are spectacular.
Make sure you get a window seat to enjoy the landscape of the National Park, the bright blue ocean and the cliffs. The villages, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Portovenere, dot the narrow coastline like colourful sprinkles on a dessert. They are the cherry on top of an already gorgeous view. You can get off at each of the towns, explore, and then get back on the train to the next.
- Route: Levanto to La Spezia.
- Runtime: 20 minutes on the fast train and 30 minutes on the slow one.
- Schedule: Trains run regularly, at least once an hour, every day of the week.
- Best time of year: A tourist hotspot like Cinque Terre is best enjoyed on the shoulder season. Avoid the heat and crowds of July and August and opt for the fresh greenery in April, May, and June or pleasant afterglow in September and October (when it will still be warm enough to swim).
- Price: From 3.60 EUR for a single fare. But if you want to stop at the different villages, you’re better off buying a Cinque Terre Card for 16 EUR, which gives unlimited access to the train and the hiking trails.
- Tickets: You can buy your ticket at the train station or through the Trenitalia website (trenitalia.com) or app. Remember to validate your ticket on the platform! Eurail Pass is accepted. No reservations are possible.
3. Flam Railway in Norway
The Flam Railway from Myrdal to Flam is not a long trip, It only takes about an hour, but it’s still pretty spectacular. The railway runs alongside some of Norway’s most impressive fjords and offers fantastic views.
Fjords are the natural pride of Norway, a unique landscape feature created by glaciers during the Ice Age. As you sit back and relax, you can see the cliffs out the window.
- Route: Myrdal to Flam.
- Runtime: 1 hour.
- Schedule: Multiple departures a day.
- Best time of year: Go in the summer for the best weather, May to August. Or opt for snowy views in winter.
- Price: From 430 NOK one way.
- Tickets: Not only can this train be booked with a Eurail Pass, but you’ll receive a 30% discount! No reservations are necessary. Tickets can be bought at the train station or online at www.vy.no/en.
4. Rhine Valley Line in Germany
Though Germany is famous for its Autobahn and quality cars, the country also has a great train network. Although locals love to complain about the state of the railways and frequent delays, train travel in Germany is a fairly comfortable affair.
It’s a relatively affordable way to explore the country while enjoying the varied landscape of the German countryside through the window. Although there are many stretches of the railway that offer beautiful views, none can beat the Rhine Valley Line.
The Rhine Valley is one of Germany’s most beautiful regions. While most tourists enjoy the picturesque views from the river on a boat cruise, the train offers another option. Feast your eyes on the green hills, covered in vineyards with castles perched on top and the blue water of the river below.
If you take the slightly slower regional train, you can stop and get off at any of the charming villages along the way. There are also lots of great hiking trails along the Rhine Valley if you feel like stretching your legs.
- Route: Koblenz to Mainz.
- Runtime: About 1 hour for the intercity train and 1.5 hours on the regional train.
- Schedule: This train runs very regularly, almost every 30 minutes with fewer trains on Sundays and holidays.
- Best time of year: Enjoy the fresh green hills and blue water in spring and summer, when the vineyards along the valley are green. Or catch the fall colours in late October and early November.
- Price: From 21 EUR for a single fare, but tickets get more expensive when booked last minute. Eligible for Eurorail Pass. No need for a reservation.
- Tickets: You can buy your ticket at either train station or through the Deutsche Bahn website (bahn.de) and app. No reservation required.
5. West Highland Line in Scotland
The West Highland Line in Scotland is better known as the Hogwarts Express. The old red Jacobite Steam Train was used in the Harry Potter movies. There is something profoundly mystical and enchanting about Scotland. And riding this train through the Scottish Highlands will make you feel like you’re on your way to the magic school.
You can make your way to Fort William by train from Glasgow, which is a beautiful ride as well. In Fort William, you can then get on the Jacobite Steam Train, a historic steam train in mint condition. This is an unforgettable experience for fans of Harry Potter and old trains alike. The old train gives the ride an added splash of romance and elegance.
As you look out the window at the sweeping landscapes with impressive mountains and deep glens, it will be impossible not to fall in love with Scotland.
- Route: Fort William to Mallaig.
- Runtime: 1.5 hours to 2 hours.
- Schedule: Runs twice a day from mid-June to late October.
- Best time of year: With Scotland’s fickle weather, your best bet is the summer. Take in the green landscape of the Scottish Highlands in July and August.
- Price: 36 GBP for a single adult fare and 43 GBP for a return ticket. Children under 16 get a discount. You also pay a 3,75 GBP booking fee.
- Tickets: You can buy tickets online through West Coast Railways (westcoastrailways.co.uk/book/jacobite/steam-train-trip). Do so in advance as they sell out fast.
6. Linha do Douro in Portugal
The Douro region in Portugal is most famous for the production of traditional port wine. The best port wines come from this area in the north of Portugal. The hills are covered in vineyards, and every village has cellars filled with the delicious sweet dessert wine.
Douro is the perfect destination for a day trip from Porto. And you don’t need to drive to explore the area, because there is a convenient train line that will take you to the heart of Douro. Although you can take the train directly from Porto, the first part of the journey isn’t all that exciting.
The Linha do Douro doesn’t really start until you’ve traversed the suburbs and reached Régua. From Régua to Pocinho, you are treated to the gorgeous landscapes of the Douro valley. Lush green hills with vineyards, charming old towns that are begging for you to stop and explore them. And with a total run time of 1.5 hours, you have enough time to do so. The train runs a few times a day, so you can make a few stops and have lunch in Pocinho before returning to Porto.
- Route: Régua to Pocinho.
- Runtime: 1.5 hours.
- Schedule: 5 times a day, every day of the week.
- Best time of year: This landscape is at its most beautiful when the vines are green, so from May to August.
- Price: From 6.85 EUR for a single fare.
- Tickets: Tickets can be bought online at cp.pt/passageiros/pt. The train conductor will check if the name of the ticket matches your ID.
7. Bernina Express in Switzerland
Switzerland undeniably has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. The Swiss Alps, with their snow-covered peaks and glaciers as well as lush green valleys, are absolutely breathtaking. Add to that the Swiss reputation for first-class engineering, and you won’t be surprised that there are several amazing train rides you can take.
But the Bernina Express tops the cake. The trip from Chur or St. Moritz to Tirano only takes 2 to 2.5 hours, but it offers a lifetime of memories. The view of the epic mountains, charming villages, and flower-filled fields is one you won’t soon forget.
And you don’t have to crane your head to catch those views, because the panorama windows on the train lets you take it in from all sides. Now that is what you would call a beautiful train ride.
- Route: Chur or St. Moritz to Tirano.
- Runtime: 2 to 2.5 hours.
- Schedule: Regular, at least once an hour.
- Best time of year: The train passes green hills and forests in spring and summer, but offers an icy wonderland view in winter.
- Price: From 16 CHF for a single fare.
- Tickets: Buy tickets online at sbb.ch/en/. They can also be booked with a Eurail Pass for a supplemental fee of 10-14 EUR.
8. Inlandsbanan in Sweden
Most of the train rides on this list are quite short and perfect for day trips or a quick detour. But the Inlandsbanan in Sweden is on a whole new scale. The 14-hour complete journey takes you from Kristinehamn in the south to the Arctic Circle!
Few people ride this train in one go, which is why the ticket is valid for 14 days. This means that you get on and off as often as you want and make a whole vacation out of it. Due to the popularity of the Inlandsbanan, you need to reserve a seat for every separate stretch.
The views from the Inlandsbanen are one of a kind. From fields of wildflowers, blue lakes and deep forests to the harsh frozen tundra of the arctic, no other train ride in Europe offers such a variety of landscapes. The Inlandsbanan is a unique way to experience Sweden, both nature and culture. So plan some overnight stops along the way to explore Swedish culture and history.
- Route: Kristinehamn to Gällivare.
- Runtime: A solid 14 hours, so settle in!
- Schedule: Daily departures in June, July and August, and December to April.
- Best time of year: The train doesn’t run year-round, due to the intense weather conditions on parts of the track. Enjoy the flowers in summer or the frozen landscape in winter.
- Price: A ticket for the Inlandsbanen costs 2195 SEK and is valid for 14 days, with 50 SEK reservation fee for every separate stretch that you travel. There is a 25% discount for people from 17-25 and two children up to 15 y/o travel with you for free!
- Tickets: You need to reserve a seat on this epic ride, for every separate stretch that you ride. You can buy your ticket online at inlandsbanan.se. They also offer package tours with cultural experiences along the way. Eurail is valid, but you still need to pay a 30SEK reservation fee for every stretch.
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