Six Of The Most Scenic Train Trips In Europe

Forget flying around Europe. At 30,000 feet it’s impossible to truly experience the continent’s remarkable landscapes. Rather than being shuttled around in a plane that only allows a birds-eye view, train trips immerse travelers in the terrain. There’s a reason why trains are often thought of as the most romantic mode of transportation: riding the rails makes you feel more connected and in tune than air travel ever could. Instead of feeling like a chore, as flying often does, train travel can be an experience in itself. In fact, there are plenty of scenic train rides in Europe that are worth the trip just for the view. The following are top rated train trips, and from the rolling hills of England to the craggy Alps of Switzerland, each one offers travelers something different.

6. United Kingdom
London to Edinburgh
The rolling, green hills and moors that are often associated with Yorkshire make this one of the most scenic train trips in Europe. When entering the northern parts of England, travelers will catch glimpses of the rugged coastline along the North Sea. During the 4 1/2-hour train ride, English speakers will notice a distinct difference in passenger accents as the train gets closer to Scotland. Although the common language is English, it can be hard to decipher as the Scottish brogue gets thicker and thicker.

[Flickr photo via boutmuet]

5. Holland
Amsterdam to Groningen (best in April)
In Holland, the most scenic train trip isn’t necessarily about being on the right track; it’s actually all about timing. Travelers will want to hop onboard in spring – particularly in April – to see the blanket of colors that results when the famous Dutch tulips are in full bloom. On the two-hour route between Amsterdam and Groningen, travelers will also be able to spot plenty of windmills, another quintessential part of the Dutch landscape.

[Flickr photo by Amy Bonner]

4. Italy
Rome to Verona to Venice
Train trips don’t get much more romantic than the ride from Rome to Venice, especially if you make a stopover in Verona. The train ride starts in Rome, the enchanting “Eternal City,” and then makes its way through the Tuscan farmlands to Verona, a pleasant city famous as the setting for Shakespeare’sRomeo and Juliet.” Make a day of wandering around the city’s lovely corridors (pictured above) and passing some time in a local cafe or bar. Then head to Venice, Italy’s famed “Floating City,” that is by far one of the most romantic destinations in the world. The train approaches through Venice’s lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, and upon arrival you can hop on a gondola ride for two – what could be more romantic than that? Another scenic train trip in Italy is the route from Venice to Trieste. On this trip, the train hugs the coast of the Adriatic Sea until reaching Trieste, a charming destination with beautiful sea views and several cafes and pubs for you to spend your days and nights in.

Balconies in Verona, Italy [Photo by Libby Zay]

3. France
Montpellier to Nice
The train ride through southern France from Montpellier to Nice is another visually stunning trip. From Montpellier to Marseille, travelers will see the typical Provençal landscape of red-colored soil, tall cypress trees and expansive fields of lavender and olives. As the train gets closer to Nice, the coastal scenery along the Mediterranean Sea comes in to view. Note that if you have a France Rail Pass, it’s possible to break the ride up to spend some time exploring small Provençal towns, such as Aix-en-Provence, the famous home of Paul Cézanne, or Nimes, with its stunning Roman amphitheater that is second only to Rome’s Colosseum.

[Flickr photo by paularps]

2. Germany

Black Forest Railway
The Roman’s gave this thickly wooded and mountainous region in Germany the name Silva Nigra (i.e. “Black Forest“) because the dense growth of trees blocked out most of the light inside the forest. Experience the spectacular scenery on the Black Forest Railway, part of the German National Railway that connects Offenburg and Singen. The 93-mile-long route ascends (or descends, depending on which way you travel) more than 2,000 feet as it passes through 39 tunnels and over two viaducts. The section between Hornberg, Triberg, and St. Georgen is particularly pretty. The stretch is also popular with locals, who use it as part of their regular commute between the towns they live in and larger cities. Tourists, however, will probably think it looks straight out of a storybook – so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Black Forest is the setting for the Brothers Grimm tale “Hansel and Gretel.” But don’t worry, you won’t need to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to get back home.

Look closely for one of the viaducts trains along the Black Forest Railway pass over in Hornberg [Wikimedia photo by Prolineserver]

1. Switzerland
Wilhelm Tell Express (May to October only)
Switzerland is known for some of the most stunning scenery in all of Europe. This trip from Lucerne to Locarno connects two of the prettiest parts of the country, central Switzerland and the Italian-speaking Ticino region. While in Lucerne, travelers can opt to take a boat ride on a vintage paddle steamer where they can enjoy lunch or dinner. When the boat reaches Flüelen, step onto a panoramic train that will whisk you past lone cottages on pine-covered hills, glistening streams, cerulean lakes, vast valleys covered in green, and craggy, snow-covered peaks, as it makes its way to Ticino. If you get a chance, make a stop in the tiny town of Bellinzona, an easily walk-able place that is well worth a day trip in order to explore one of their three medieval castles. Switzerland has some of the most fantastic scenic train trips in Europe with the Golden Pass and Glacier-Express also offering awe-inspiring views through panoramic train windows.

[Photo by Libby Zay]

Photo of the day – Cours Saleya candy

Cours Saleya is a big public market in Nice, France, where all sorts of things, including the bright candy pictured here, can be purchased. I like this image, snapped by Flickr user Kumukulanui, for its bright colors and composition. Plus my teeth ache when I look at it. How often does an image engender such a visceral response?

Upload your images of sweet things to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. If we see an image of something we want to eat there’s a decent chance that we’ll then want to feature said image as a future Photo of the Day.

White Collar Travel: Three perspectives on business travelers and their miles

What would you do with 300,000 frequent flier miles in your account – not to mention enough hotel points to get you 10 days in the blissful destination of your choice? Your imagination is probably running wild, as mine did when I got my first travel-intensive gig a decade ago. I had visions of southern France: soaking in the Mediterranean sun, roulette in Monte Carlo and smoking Cuban cigars from a balcony overlooking the ville.

Six months later, I fantasized about sleeping in my own bed for three nights in a row, in a one bedroom apartment I shared in a suburb of Boston. Eventually, I did burn most of my miles, some of them to Nice and Monaco, but not under the circumstances I expected. Along the way, I saw three major attitudes that business travelers had toward the points and miles they’d collected.1. Points are to be amassed, not used
Among the hardcores, this was the norm. We were all engaged in an unspoken race, the point of which was to make the numbers ever higher. Strangely, this exercise was separate from status. Points are for “winning,” status is about comfort. As far back as 1999, a client mentioned to me that he’d overheard two guys in a restaurant swapping astronomical numbers. He asked me, “Will they ever use those miles?” I just shook my head “no” and let out a mouthful of smoke.

2. My day will come
Road warriors who have plans to leave the life at some point think about consumption. In a few years – when they get “normal” jobs – they’ll take a few mind-blowing trips … in style. Exotic locations, first class seats and unimaginable luxury are the salient objective, and there may be plans for the girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse who tends to materialize shortly after life on the road comes to a close. The major risk is burnout: these folks need to get off the road before they find the prospect of travel under any circumstances utterly loathsome.

3. Go away instead of getaway
I ran into a few people who had but one dream: watching it all expire. They miss their families and crave a normal life. I remember one of my bosses reflecting, “The only thing better than watching ’em get higher will be sitting back and watching ’em expire.”

Be sure to check out Episode 5 of Travel Talk TV, which features a Santa Cruz beach adventure; explains why Scottish money is no good; shows how to cook brats the German way; and offers international dating tips!

Photo of the Day (8.9.09)

Imagine renting a seaside studio in the South of France. Each morning, you throw open the windows of your balcony to a jaw-dropping view of the seaside village below, punctuated by tiny sailboats and the luminous yellow-orange glow of the early morning sun. If this was your vision, it’s been fulfilled by Flickr user Michael Joseph Goldst …etc. My favorite element of this image is the sunlight – that surreal fiery orange color gives everything a magic glow.

Have any photos of the South of France? Or maybe just from South Florida? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Photo of the Day 3.23.09

I love this shot — not just because it’s so beautifully saturated with colour, or that it tells a story of that beautiful day in Nice, France, with the ice cream vendor below and the person looking through the window over her aired laundry, above — but because it seems so typically French. It looks like a scene right out of Amélie. Thanks so much for sharing it in our Gadling Flickr pool,!

If you’ve got some great travel shots you’d love to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day.