10 Awe-Inspiring European Train Trips You Need to Add to Your Bucket List Right Now Slideshow
10 Awe-Inspiring European Train Trips You Need to Add to Your Bucket List Right Now
When people think of traveling, it is usually in terms of the ultimate destination and less often about the journey itself. You may point out cruises as an exception — but cruises are different in the sense that companies have created ships so packed with activities, attractions, and specialty dining that even cruise ships have become destinations themselves.
Trains, however, are much different. They strip away all the extra distractions and focus on only a few things — dining, sleeping, and luxury comfort — leaving the natural beauty of the passing surroundings to do the heavy lifting in terms of visual entertainment. Some journeys can last as long as two weeks with stops in various cities, such as the Golden Eagle Danube Express’ Treasures of Eastern Europe tour, or as short as an hour and a half, such as the Western Highland, which takes you to Mallaig (or possibly Hogwarts) from Glasgow by way of the Glenfinnan Viaduct on Scotland’s west coast.
On the Bergen Railway you’ll be traveling on the highest-altitude train route in Europe, from Oslo to Bergen. It’ll take about 7 hours from the beginning to the end of the ride, but looking out at Norway’s landscape is worth the experience any time of year — and even more than once if you’d like to see how the seasons change the mountainous panorama.
Bernina Express offers a spectacular four-hour tour through the Swiss Alps, where you’ll wind through the mountainous landscape as you head toward Tirano, Italy, from Chur, Switzerland. The route, from beginning to end, has 25 stops that will take your through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges — quite the scenic journey.
Golden Eagle Danube Express
The Golden Eagle Danube Express is described by the Golden Eagle website as “your luxurious hotel-on-wheels,” and that is truly what this long-distance train is. It features restaurant cars, a first class bar lounge, and sleeping cabins that transform from daytime seating to beds in the evening. Tours on the Golden Eagle Danube Express range from 11 days on the Balkan Odyssey (which takes you through seven countries from Budapest to Venice) to 14 days on the Treasures of Eastern Europe tour.
Travel through the historic La Robla Railway of Northern Spain on the Transcantábrico journey from Santiago de Compostela to either León or San Sebastián. This luxury train provides ultimate comfort, whether you’re passing through Oviedo and Bilbao to León or taking in the gorgeous views of Picos de Europa on your way to San Sebastian. On this eight-day trip, the train will be stationed at nights to give you the best possible sleeping conditions. In the morning, breakfast is served onboard, while the other meals will be eaten at local restaurants when stopped in cities throughout your ride.
Transnational Majestic Imperator
The Flåm Railway
One of the steepest railways in the world, with incredible scenic views, the Flåm Railway was named on the top 10 train journeys in Europe by National Geographic Traveler Magazine. The two-hour trip takes you 867 meters above sea level from Sognefjord in Flåm to the mountain top in Myrdal.
The Royal Scotsman
You can experience the Royal Scotsman for anywhere from two nights to an entire week onboard — just make sure you travel on it at least once. There are several travel options for this train that departs from Edinburgh, with the two-night Highland Journey taking you through the stunning Scottish Highlands; the three-night Western Journey through Loch Lomond, Morar, Ben Nevis, and the Isle of Bute; any of the four-night trips to various castles, villages, estates, and outdoor adventures; or the ultimate, seven-night Grand Tour of Great Britain that takes you through it all.
This luxurious and romantic 24-hour train journey is one for the books — and certainly for your bucket list. You’ll ride on two historic trains during your travels: the British Pullman from London to Folkestone and then the Continental Wagons-Lits (sleeping-cars from the 1920s) for the second leg of your trip, from Calais to Venice. All the while you’ll see the beautiful changes in landscape and scenery outside your window, passing through Paris, Innsbruck, and Verona before finally reaching Venice.
West Highland Line
This short 90-minute train ride is nothing to dismiss. Consider it a quick way to check an experience off your bucket list en route to Mallaig from Glasgow. Enjoy the serene scenery of Scotland’s western coast as you travel north and across the bridge made famous by Harry Potter, the magical Glenfinnan Viaduct.