Let’s face it, travel on a train is an experience of its own. Seeing the heartwarming ever-changing vistas of the countryside out the large windows alone is worth giving this mode of travel a go. And with thousands of miles of rail tracks in Europe the possibilities for a memorable trip, as opposed to a simple airplane connection, are endless. In this piece, learn about the best European routes to complement your journey.
Scotland: Magical Glenfinnan Viaduct
Opening the countdown of Europe’s most breathtaking train routes is, of course, the legendary Scottish train route from Fort William to Mallaig. Even those who aren’t Harry Potter film fans have surely seen at least an image of the Jacobite Steam Train passing the gorgeous arched bridge called the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This is indeed the most popular way to travel to northern Scotland and apart from the bridge, the train smoothly runs by numerous lovely villages and spectacular locations of the Scottish Highlands in a mere 1.5 hours.
2. Norway: Scenic Flamsbana Railway
Speaking of jaw-dropping vistas, the iconic Norwegian Flam to Myrdal route cannot be left unmentioned. Often labeled as “the most scenic railway journey in the world”, the Flamsbana line is as short as 20 kilometers (12.5 miles)! It is also among the steepest railroads too, winding its way in the mountainous area high above the sea level. Apart from passing through the many tunnels, the most special part about it are the views of Norwegian fjords, waterfalls, rivers, valleys, and petite towns with charming red houses - surely a highlight to spice up your Norway tour. Plus, the duration of the ride itself is as little as 55 minutes.
3. Switzerland: Mountainous Glacier Express
Swiss cheese, high-end ski resorts, and incomparable nature: Switzerland is inspiring any time of the year. Although relatively small, the country offers much to discover, needless to say, that the Swiss Alps rank high on the must-do’s list while there. One of the most unforgettable ways to get to them is by hopping on the Glacier Express train from St. Martiz up to Zermatt. Despite the name “express”, the train travels at slow speeds, thus providing the opportunity of 5 and a half hours to enjoy the Swiss scenery, mountains like Matterhorn, valleys, lakes, and more.
4. Spain: From Costa Brava to Costa Azahar
In case Spain is on your travel agenda, consider taking a Barcelona - Valencia train. This sunny route along the Spanish coastline surely won’t disappoint as the train makes its way from the “Wild Coast” in Barcelona to the so-called “Coast of the Orange Blossom”. The train ride is about 3 and a half hours long on a quiet, modern high-speed train and the views of the Mediterranean, natural parks, and popular resort towns along the way are certainly already a reason to explore both of these cities in Spain.
5. Italy: From Eternal Rome to Tuscany Florence
Ask anyone who has been to Italy, it is impossible to see this country in one trip, giving many grounds to come back here again and again. Among the most authentic and true Italian regions worth a visit is, without a doubt, Tuscany, home to splendid hilly vineyards, hundreds of historical wineries, and such gems as Florence and its Renaissance heritage and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The direct bullet train from the capital city, Rome, to Florence is as short as 1 hour and 30 minutes and passes Lazio, Umbria, and Tuscany regions - what a great way to see central Italy, right?
6. Portugal: From Lisbon to Porto
Homeland of the Discoverers, Portugal is another European gem to put on your wishlist. The two most-visited by tourists destinations are Lisbon, the capital, and the hometown of Port wine, Porto. Taking a train is a very smart option if you plan to visit both of these cities, the trip takes less than three hours from one city center to the other and the route is rich in simply adorable destinations like Coimbra, allowing to take a glimpse at real Portugal. In case you’re wondering, this train doesn’t cross Porto’s famous Dom Luis I Bridge but stops not far from it on the banks of the Douro River which open the best old town panoramas.
7. Russia’s Trans-Siberian: The World’s Longest Railway
Last but not least, the biggest railroad on the planet, the Trans-Siberian, has become a bucket-list adventure for thousands of travel enthusiasts. Crossing Russia from east to west on such a train will take 7 days non-stop, it covers one-third of the world with a length of 9288 kilometers (about 5771 miles)! The wiser globetrotters split the route from Moscow to Vladivostok and spend time not only on board the train but also several days in the cities and destinations along the way such as Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. Planning such an itinerary on your own is definitely a challenge, especially keeping in mind that getting a Russian visa in the official consulate requires lots of paperwork and time. So, getting a package tour for such a program is a wonderful solution. For more information about pre-planned programs on the Trans-Siberian put together by pros, visit https://www.thetranssiberianexpress.com/tours.html.
A couple of tips to conclude the above, mind that it is recommended to book European train tickets in advance of your trip as well as to print out the e-tickets. Also, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the luggage regulations for trains you are going to take and to take care of all your documents prior to the start of your trip, i.e. check whether citizens of your country need visas, if your passport has enough empty pages and a validity of at least 6 months after your arrival date. We hope that this was helpful and wish you a memorable rail experience in Europe!