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]

5 train trips everyone should experience

the blue train in south africa While some train routes can seem long and boring, there are many that allow for great views of unique landscape or luxury service. Still, there are some train rides that go above and beyond your wildest imagination. Check out these five train trips that everyone should experience in their lifetime.

The Blue Train
South Africa

The Blue Train travels approximately 1,000 miles between Pretoria and Cape Town and is one of the most luxurious train journeys in the world. Some of the amenities include butler service, two lounge cars (one smoking, one non-smoking), an observation car, and sound-proofed carriages with gold-tinted picture windows, full-carpeting, an en-suite bathrooms (many of which include a full bathtub). Both kings and presidents have made this journey, as the train is marketed as a “magnificent, moving 5-star hotel”. Along with luxury, the Blue Train also takes passengers through unique countryside scenery. Rolling vineyards, pristine coastline, and jagged mountain faces are all right outside your luxurious, gold-tinted view.the west highland lineThe West Highland Line
Britain

The West Highland Line links the ports of Mallaig and Oban and is thought to be one of the most scenic train routes in Britain. In fact, in 2009 the West Highland Line was voted the Top Rail Journey in the World by Wanderlust Magazine, just beating out the Trans-Siberian and Cuzco to Machu-Picchu lines. The West Highline Line not only accesses the remote west coast of Scotland, but also views of numerous sea loches including Gareloch, Loch Long, Loch Lomond, and Glen Falloch. See Rannoch Moore, a National Heritage site, Loch Treig, a steep, freshwater lake, and the narrow Monessie Gorge.

the glacier expressThe Glacier Express
The Swiss Alps

This express train links the two major mountain resorts of St. Moritz and Zermatt in the Swiss Alps. For the main portion of the journey, the Glacier Express passes through the Rhaetian Railway, a World Heritage Site in the Albula/Bernina regions. Passengers will also get to see untouched mountain landscapes, lush meadows, seductive vineyards, deep gorges, refreshing lakes, quaint hamlets, and impressive valleys while traveling through 91 tunnels and across 291 beautiful bridges. Some specific Swiss Alps mounains travelers will encounter include the Matterhorn, one of the highest peaks in the Swiss Alps, and the Dom, the tallest mountain to sit entirely on Switerland soil.

machu picchu PeruRail
Peru

The scenic PeruRail lines make trips from Cuzco to Machu Picchu with three choices of train for passengers to choose from. If you’re looking for a sensory experience there is the Vistadome, surrounded entirely by glass and giant panaramic windows for a closer connection with nature as well as opportunities for amazing photographs. For the luxury traveler there is the Hiram Bingham, with cozy intertiors, elegant upholstry, two dining cars, an observation wagon, a bar, and a kitchen. The service includes brunch, dinner, entrance to Machu Picchu, afternoon tea at Machu Picchu, and a guided tour in the citadel. For adventure travelers, there is the Expedition, with backpack racks, seating designed for interaction and mingling, and Andean music to fill the car with cheer. For travelers wanting to visit Lake Titicana from Cuzco, there is the Andean Explorer, a luxurious train ride featuring an observatory car to see mountainous and rolling plain landscapes and Andean entertainment on board as musicians and dancers create a lively atmosphere.

southwest chief trainThe Southwest Chief
The United States

Ever wonder what it must have felt like to live in the Old West? The Southwest Chief can give you a taste of what you’ve seen in classic films. Running daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, passengers will traverse through the mighty Mississippi, take in the Grand Canyon, pass by wheat fields and ranches, ride over dessert landscape, photograph mountains, and see pueblos right outside the train window. Lounges, sleeper cars, and sightseeing decks enhance the journey just that much more.