Scenic trains in Europe are, in my opinion, one of the best way to explore the continent. Train travel allows a chance to take in the countryside as the miles slide and see more of the places your visit. Why not add one of these fantastic train rides to your next European holiday and explore the world as early travellers did.
My love of trains began when I was eleven years old, and my mother took me on the first of several long train rides into regional Australia. We explored most of NSW and up and down the east coast by train, which was by far the most affordable way to travel at the time. These days along with inducing warm feelings of nostalgia, train travel is a fabulous way to slow down your journey and take in your surroundings.
Today we have asked our fellow travel-loving bloggers to share their favourite journeys with us. We hope to be able to say we have tried all of these in years to come!
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The Flam Railway – Norway
Melissa from Parenthood and Passports takes us on a train ride that includes a visit to a waterfall and some folk dancing!
The Flam Railway is often considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world. This two-hour train ride between the Norwegian villages of Flam and Myrdal winds through the majestic mountains of Central Norway and passed countless waterfalls.
The vintage, green train stops briefly at the Kjosfossen waterfall, where passengers are allowed to step out onto a viewing platform to take photos of the impressive waterfall. During the shortstop, beautiful folk music starts to play, and a woman cloaked in red emerges from the forest near the waterfall and begins to dance atop a cliff. The dance is a depiction of an old Norwegian legend of the Huldra, a beautiful forest spirit that lures men into the woods to seduce them. While some may consider the performance a bit touristy or even cheesy, it is without a doubt one of the most memorable parts of the train ride.
The Flam Railway is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Norway, with more than half a million visitors every year.
Santa Claus Express – Finland
Diana from The Elusive Family took a ride to see Santa Claus.
The Santa Claus Express train is one of the most unique and wonderful train experiences in the winter. Typically travelling from early evening until the following morning, the Santa Claus Express runs from Helsinki to northern Lapland, with a stop in Rovaniemi, Finland, the official town of Santa Claus. Many visitors get off at Rovaniemi, as it is a main attraction for travellers worldwide. If you are headed to Lapland with kids, or even without, be sure to read about our experience there.
The experience of the Santa Claus Express train is what makes it worth the ride. Lapland is beautiful and snow covered in the winter. In December, the Santa Express Train has holiday decorations inside, and the excitement is in the air, where most travellers are eager to train over to northern Finland. In the early evening and morning, you can see the beautiful Finnish Lapland countryside pass by, a region filled with evergreen trees, snow, and beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
Compartments are comfortable and bunk style, with either a shared bathroom or private bathroom option. Cars, pets and inexpensive seats are also options on the Santa Express Line, and a food car is always there for late night snacks and early morning treats.
Bernina Express – Switzerland
Arzo from Arzo Travels takes us on one of Switzerland’s most scenic train rides.
One of the most beautiful train rides in the world is the Bernina Express Route. If you are in Switzerland you should do what it takes to go on that train (ideally on a sunny day) – and you can do that train ride at any time of the year.
Do not be mislead by the word “express” – this train ride is anything but fast. But given the fantastic window views, you will enjoy the slow train ride as it will ride in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. It surely is a spectacular way to cross the Alps. The train ride takes you from Chur / Landquart / Davos / St. Moritz – Valposchiavo – Tirano (Italy) and links up regions with different languages and cultures.
That is a train ride full of superlatives: Passing 55 tunnels, 196 bridges, and inclining of up to 70 per mille with ease in the Swiss Alps. One of the most beautiful and interest parts is when you reach the highest train station in the world (which is reachable with a regular train): at 2,253 meters above sea level, you will find the Ospizio Bernina station next to the beautiful Lago Bianco.
The train ride comes with a price tag but it is one of the most memorable train rides in the world! And the best – the window views are great in the spring, summer, fall, as well as in the winter.
Glacier Express – Switzerland
Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor takes on a magical ride on one of the slowest trains in Switzerland.
The Glacier Express is a ridiculously scenic alpine train journey crossing the Swiss Alps from Zermatt to St Moritz, where, due to its steep and winding terrain, the high-speed train is famous for being “The Slowest Fast Train in the World” (average speed of 24MPH).
The entire journey takes around 7-8 hours between the two alpine resorts, with just one stop at Chur, as most passengers are otherwise travelling solely for the Swiss Alp scenery along the way.
To share some highlights from the Glacier Express Route, there is the Oberalp Pass, the highest point of the journey, the Rhine Gorge which is the start of the River Rhine, and the iconic, postcard picture of the train journey at Landwasser Viaduct (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Like Switzerland, however, it can be expensive, although it is fortunately covered on the Interrail/Eurail Pass, making it more accessible and really great value for money on a wider itinerary. An overnight stay in the resort town of Zermatt, beneath a backdrop of Switzerland’s famous Matterhorn, is also a must on this journey.
Jungfraujoch – Switzerland
Carolyn of Holidays to Europe has taken a ride that is at the top of our to do list and shares the details and some great photos here.
One of the best train trips I have done in Europe is the train trip to the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland. This iconic train journey, which was opened in 1912, attracts travellers from all over the world and is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.
Most passengers start the journey in Interlaken but it’s also possible to board at Lauterbrunnen, Wengen or Grindelwald. Local trains cover the journey to Kleine Scheidegg, passing stunning scenery along the way as they wind their way up the mountain. Waterfalls, lush green fields, and snow-capped peaks flash past the windows as you climb towards your destination.
Once at Kleine Scheidegg, passengers transfer to the Jungfraubahn to reach the highest railway station in Europe at Jungfraujoch. The entire trip from Interlaken takes two hours.
During the final 30-minute leg of the journey, the train passes through a 7-kilometre tunnel that has been carved through the middle of the mountain. It’s an amazing engineering feat given the high altitude and difficult conditions workers must have faced.
When you’ve reached Jungfraujoch, not only are you rewarded with incredible views of the Aletsch Glacier, you can also visit an ice museum, try snowboarding and sledding (summer months only) or enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants.
The Jungfraujoch train ride is one of the best train trips in Europe.
If you are planning a trip to Switzerland then check out this Switzerland Travel Planning Facebook group for more ideas.
Bar to Belgrade – Serbia
Mel from TravelingMel.com took a ride along the Adriatic Coast.
One of the most scenic train rides, and most memorable, is the train from Bar, Montenegro to Belgrade, Serbia. It is ridiculously beautiful the whole way and a cultural experience to boot.
The train starts on the Adriatic Coast of Montenegro and follows the coastline a bit before turning inland. It isn’t long before we were surrounded by craggy, limestone mountains and formidable cliffs.
It’s a 12-hour ride with no food service, so bring your own. The dining car does serve beer and locals toss their empty cans out the window, so the tracks are littered with cans. Just beyond the tracks, the landscape is riveting.
The route covers 475 kilometres, crosses 435 bridges, and goes through 254 tunnels. It also travels through a small section of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The most exciting part of the journey is in Montenegro (including 500-meter Mala Rijeka viaduct – the tallest railway viaduct in the world). In Serbia, the landscape is more rural and dotted with farms.
Read more of Mel’s train journey which extended all the way to Austria.
Irkutsk and Moscow – Russia
Ron and Michele Legge from Legging It have some pretty serious train miles under their belts. They share one of the highlights with us today.
One of the highlights of our train adventure from Kuala Lumpur to London by train was the stretch between Irkutsk and Moscow in Russia. We travelled in Spring so the scenery was a stunning mixture of snow-covered villages along with areas where the rivers were starting to melt and spring colours were bursting through.
In a journey that is 5200kms long and takes 3 days, it is hard to choose a specific highlight but for me, I loved how it truly gave you an indication of the size of modern day Russia and the opportunity to see glimpses some of the smaller more rural villages. It showed how important the train system is for locals in such a large country where not everyone has access to their own transport.
We also enjoyed the chance to speak to people along the way, while many Russians do not speak English they are more than willing to try and communicate. We even had one man texting his children who were learning English to try and have conversations with us trying to learn a little about where we were from and the big question what we thought of Russia.
The Bulgarian Narrow Gauge Railway
Sarah from A Social Nomad takes us on a local train with great views.
The Narrow gauge railway between Dobrinishte and Septemvri
The narrow-gauge railway that runs from Septemvri to Dobrinishte in Bulgaria’s mountains is the last remaining narrow gauge track in the country.
Four trains a day still run in both directions as the train passes through the countries highest railway station at Aramovo at 1267 metres above sea level.
It’s a slow train – taking some 5.5 hours to run the 125 kilometres of tack at an average of 25 km/hour – but it’s a fabulous view on life in the Bulgarian mountains.
This isn’t a tourist train, although it does stop at the largest ski resort, Bansko, it’s mainly a train of locals. There are usually just three carriages, sometimes only two and there are no facilities bar toilets.
The train doesn’t stop long enough anywhere for food to be purchased, so it’s worth bringing a picnic (and a good bottle of wine to enjoy!)
You pass through rather grand stations, both manned and unmanned, and snake around the mountains, sometimes overlooking valleys, sometimes it’s the road, but mostly it’s just glorious countryside. You’ll pass grazing animals, beehives situated right next to the track and each stationmaster will carefully don his hat before whistling and waving you off to the next station.
See more about this trip on Sarah’s blog
Odontotos Rack Railway – Greece
Helena from Just For One Summer takes us on a journey through the Vouraikos Gorge in Greece.
When travelling through the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece, make sure to include the historic Odontotos Rack Railway into your itinerary. This 60 minutes long ride through the otherwise inaccessible Vouraikos Gorge will introduce you to a different side of Greece full of mountain views, charming traditional villages, and picturesque monasteries.
The journey starts at Diakopto, a seaside settlement lying on the northern coast of Peloponnese, and ends after only 22 kilometres in the pretty mountain town of Kalavryta, best known for its eponymous ski centre.
The Odontotos Rack Railway starts gently passing through a broad valley just outside of Diakopto. However, soon enough, the canyon becomes narrower and deeper, and the little train’s climb more and more difficult. At one point, the solid ground disappears altogether just to be replaced by a series of tall rickety bridges mixed with tunnels and galleries cut into the rock face. At Portes (Gates), the train reaches the canyon’s narrowest point and stops for a short photo break. Look left to see an old pedestrian bridge balancing precariously above the rushing river underneath.
For a bit of sightseeing along the way get off the train at Zachlorou station and walk to the Mega Spilaio Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in Greece (about 45 minutes one way). Or, if you are an avid hiker with a sense of adventure, return to Diakopto on foot following the railway tracks.
Hiking through the Vouraikos Gorge is an unusual experience requiring plenty of caution, but it’s also the best way to enjoy the striking landscape of the gorge and the unique Odontotos Rack Railway up close.
Naples to Sicily – Italy
Radhika from Nomllers has taken the train to Sicily that spends part of the journey in the belly of a ferry.
The train ride from Naples to Sicily is one of the most unique journeys I have taken yet. What makes it special is that the entire train goes inside a ferry.
To give you a little background, Sicily has Europe’s largest active volcano called Mount Etna and the rest of the island is either hilly or mountainous. It lies separate to the mainland of Italy and thus making it very distinct from the rest of Italy.
To travel to Sicily by train, you can take direct trains from Naples where the entire train is transported on a ferry across the Straits of Messina. When in ferry you can either sit in the train carriage or head up on the deck to see Sicily from far away. The train is inside the ferry for 30 minutes. Although do remember that moving a train on a ferry is quite a task and due to this the train might be delayed by an hour.
Radhika explored Italy solo and shares here Italy solo backpacking itinerary to help you plan your own adventure.
Railway of Sóller – Spain
Clare from Epic Road Rides rode the Ferrocarril de Sóller and shares the experience with us.
We love the old wooden train that runs from Mallorca’s capital, Palma, to the beautiful town of Sóller. It dates back to the early 1900s and was built to transport citrus fruit from Sóller to Palma. Though Sóller is still a hub of citrus fruit production, today the train’s cargo tends to be tourists rather than citrus fruit.
The Palma to Sóller train has its own station in Palma (near the main train and bus station). It takes around an hour to reach Sóller. The best thing about the journey is the scenery that you pass along the way, which includes viaducts, bridges and 13 tunnels.
Sóller itself is also a great destination. It’s a pretty old lovely town, with an impressive main square dominated by a huge stone cathedral. Pull up a seat at one of the bars on the Plaça de sa Constitució, grab a freshly squeezed orange juice and watch life go by. Once you’ve spent some time ambling around the town’s old streets, you can always hop on the old tram and continue the journey down to the sea at Port de Sóller.
Clarie explored Mallorca on a cycling trip of Spain
Snaefell Mountain Railway – Isle of Man
Angela from Reading Inspiration takes us on a historic electric railway that dates from the Victorian Era.
The Snaefell Mountain Railway in the Isle of Man takes you from the village of Laxey to the summit of the island’s mountain. It is a historic electric railway which was built and opened at the height of Victorian tourism in 1895. It is a fascinating journey, whether you are a rail enthusiast or love dramatic scenery.
The railway passes the impressive red and white structure of the Laxey Wheel, the largest working water wheel in the world. The train winds up the mountain of Snaefell, and you can alight at the top to see great views across the Isle of Man and – on a clear day – across the Irish Sea to Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. Of course, it is not always a clear day, but if the mists (of Manannan) descend over the mountain, it can make for an atmospheric journey too.
We loved the fresh mountain air and the chance to use a historic railway – it’s an excellent experience for all ages. The island is a great destination for rail enthusiasts; you can also take the Manx Electric Railway from Laxey around the coastline to Ramsey or Douglas and travel on the Isle of Man Steam Railway to Castletown.
Follow Angela’s travels on Instagram.
Glasgow to Mallaig – Scotland
Laura from Miss L J Beauty takes us on a journey from Glasgow.
The Scottish highlands is one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you are looking to find the best variety of Scottish scenery via a train journey. Then you need to get on the Glasgow to Mallaig Train.
You start your trip at Glasgow queen street station an leave the hustle and bustle of the city of Glasgow behind. In 99 miles time, you will reach your destination. This is a gorgeous little fishing village on the west coast of the Highlands. You will step off your carriage to a view of the Scottish islands.
The full journey is 5 hours and 16 minutes. Which may sound like a long trip but you pass through some of the best landscape in Scotland. You will see some of Scotland’s most famous scenery. Starting with the Loch Lomond to Rannoch Moor stretch. Where you are miles from the nearest road or village. You will pass through mountain ranges and glens. There really is no better train journey in Scotland. Enjoy the solitude. As you pass through Fort William where you will see the highest mountain in Britain Ben Nevis. This signals your last part of your journey.
Fort William to Mallaig. Here you will be passing over Glenfinnan viaduct made famous by the Harry Potter films. If I have not convinced you yet. Did I mention there is a fantastic stream train journey between Fort William and Mallaig The Jacobite steam train? So Why not end your journey in style and hop on the steam train. Nothing is better than hearing the sounds of a steam train as you steam into Mallaig.
The Jacobite Steam Train – Scotland
Vanessa from Wanderlust Crew took her family of 6 on one of Scotlands most famous trains.
No one does beautiful train rides like Europe and one of the most stunning and memorable rides you can take is the Jacobite train through the highlands of Scotland! It has even been nicknamed “The greatest railway journey in the world.”
The vintage steam train carries its passengers between Fort William and Mallaig, through the gorgeous mountains and moors of the Scottish countryside where you’ll see the tallest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, past the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar, and finally arrive at the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis!
This steam train may look familiar to you! If you’ve seen Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone you’ll easily recognize this train as The Hogwarts Express!
No Scotland itinerary is complete without this memorable experience. If you want to ride the breathtaking Jacobite Steam Train, be sure to book several months in advance as it sells out very quickly!
York to Edinburgh – Scotland
Sinead from Map Made Memories tells us of her favourite Scottish train journeys.
There are many scenic railway journeys in the U.K but one of my favourites is from the three hour trip from the city of York to Edinburgh in Scotland. Starting in the 19th century York rail station, the train travels through the rolling North Yorkshire countryside before passing through the historic city of Durham.
Sit on the right-hand side of the train for a fantastic view of Durham’s hilltop UNESCO World heritage cathedral. After the vibrant river city of Newcastle, the train joins the Northumbrian coast at Alnwick. The track continues to hug the beautiful coastline of Northumberland with its endless sandy beaches and ancient shoreline castles. Look to the right for a glimpse of the Holy Island and its iconic 16th Century Lindisfarne Castle. Crossing an impressive Stevenson viaduct into Berwick Upon Tweed, the train soon terminates in lively Edinburgh.
You will not read a book on this journey, there is just too much to look at out of the window!
Grosmont to Pickering – England
Faith from XYUandBEYOND shares a train ride that was a childhood dream come true.
It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid and read the Railway Children the dream was to ride a real steam train through the Moors of England. My dream came true on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) that operates steam trains that run in North Yorkshire from Grosmont to Pickering.
NYMR operates entirely with volunteer staff, which is just so impressive. Standing on the platform watching the trains shunt back and forth feels like you’ve stepped out of time. Then I learned that not only was I going for a ride on a vintage steam train but we would be headed for Hogsmeade, sorry Goathland Station.
As you stand on the platform and see those steam trains shunting back and forth and finally your train arrives it really it a moment out of time. We began the journey at Grosmont Railway station where you can completely immerse yourself in the history and heritage of the steam train in this picturesque village.
The trains run from March until November and they are a brilliant way to see the Yorkshire Moors and view some of the prettiest old railway stations in England. The trains begin in Grosmont and the first stop is Hogsmeade. At this station, everyone jumps off the train to get those all-important I was there photos and a quick run into the station cafe for a bacon buttie and a cup of tea.
From Goathland, the trains steam through the Moors to Newton Dale Halt and Levisham and the final stop is Pickering Station, before returning to Grosmont.
Prior to becoming a feature film star in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Goathland was made famous in a British TV show called Heartbeat. The ride costs £27.00 for adults and a child’s fare is £13.50.
Dartmouth Steam Railway – England
Chris from More Life in You is taking us on a steam train ride that passes Agatha Christie’s home.
Dartmouth is a beautiful harbour town situated at the mouth of the River Dart in Devon. It is one of the most picturesque towns in England and makes a lovely place to have a relaxing break.
One of the best things to do in Dartmouth is to take a ride on the Dartmouth Steam Railway. The station is actually just across the river in Kingswear so your journey begins with a short ferry ride. Once across the river, you can enjoy a station maintained in its original Victorian glory.
The train ride itself will see you pulled by a steam engine upstream beside the River Dart for some glorious views back towards Dartmouth. Soon, rolling green hills dominate the view as you pass by Agatha Christie’s Greenway home (open for visitors).
The train line then cuts across the peninsula before you are brought our immediately beside the sea for a spectacular stretch of track that runs along the cliffs and seafront to Goldington Sands and on to the terminus at Paignton.
It is a wonderful, short train journey that takes in some glorious scenery and also transports you back to the glory days of steam travel. Highly Recommended.
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