Not only is travelling by train a great way to see more of your chosen destination, it also scores points for sustainability. And Europe has some of the most scenic train journeys in the world.
Discover five of the best train journeys for exploring the continent – from tracks that wind around the snow-capped peaks of the Alps, to rail journeys through Norwegian mountains past vast, navy blue fjords.
The Glacier Express, Switzerland
Board the Glacier Express for an unforgettable train journey through the spectacular Swiss Alps
Even though the Glacier Express moves at snail’s pace through the Swiss Alps, it's impossible to feel bored for a second because the scenery is hypnotising every inch of the way. It runs from Zermatt to St. Moritz and passes through steep valleys, gorges and tunnels, over bridges, past snow capped peaks, and through flower-filled meadows (we recommend going in summer).
As the train seems to climb ever higher into the mountains on this seven-hour journey, hop off at various stops to enjoy endlessly photogenic Alpine old towns and hike stunning mountain passes. Stay at Riffalp Resort 2222m in Zermatt for incredible views of the Matterhorn mountain that’ll get your trip off to a good start.
Oslo to Bergen, Norway
Discover the untamed grandeur of Norway's nature on the train journey from Oslo to Bergen
High up on Norway’s Hardangervidda plateau rests one of the world’s most impressive railways; Oslo to Bergen. It travels from the Swedish capital through a wilderness of mountains, tumbling waterfalls and navy blue fjords so still they appear like mirrors. Hop off the train for a cultural evening in Oslo’s grandiose waterfront glass and marble Opera House.
Or disembark for a few days of wild swimming in clear mountain springs and hiking through green forest-cloaked valleys. There’s also the possibility to stop and cross-country ski on the way, and the chance to visit a fish market founded in the 13th century. Book yourself a stylish suite at Clarion Hotel The Hub while in Oslo.
The West Highland Line, UK
Travel by train and immerse yourself in the ethereally beautiful Scottish Highlands
Soaring, rugged mountains, expansive lochs, magnificent glens and famous bridges have earnt Scotland’s West Highland Line a place among the best railway journeys in the world. The train starts in Glasgow, travelling north through historic villages and ending in the coastal village of Mallaig.
Get a flexible train pass, so you’ll be able to hop on and off and explore various highlights of the Scottish Highlands along the way – whether you’re more interested in windswept coastal walks or historic architecture like the Glenfinnan Viaduct (featured as the route of the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films). Start your day with a hearty breakfast while staying at Seton Guest House in Glasgow.
Venice to Salerno, Italy
Hop aboard the train from Venice to Salerno to take in art, history and Mediterranean views
Travelling through Italy from top to bottom, along the Venice to Salerno train route, you’ll see Tuscan vineyards transform into rolling Umbrian hills. Begin your journey amid Venice’s Gothic palazzos, taking a gondola tour around the city’s maze of canals.
Board again before getting off at Padova, home to medieval frescoes, the 13th-century Byzantine-style Basilica of St. Anthony, and one of the oldest universities in the world. Don’t miss stopping in Bologna to try an authentic Spaghetti alla Bolognese in the city in which the recipe originated. Or visiting Florence’s great Renaissance art collections in the Uffizi Gallery, the Palazzo Pitti and the Medici Chapel.
Next, order a pizza in this beloved dish’s birthplace, Naples, before moving on to the capital, Rome. End your unforgettable Italian adventure on the irresistibly pretty coastline of Campania, with a stay at B&B Vicolo dei Sartori.
The East Coast Main Line, UK
The train journey from London to Edinburgh is a showcase of British heritage and natural beauty
Travel from London to Edinburgh by train on the East Coast Main Line and you’ll watch the scenery change slowly but dramatically; from gentle hills, country lanes and cottages, to the romantic wilderness of the Scottish mountains.
On the way, enjoy nightlife, a unique Norman cathedral, and the winding, cobblestone alleyways of York – this ancient walled city has a multitude of important landmarks to visit, numerous charming tea rooms and pubs for some refreshment before getting back on board.
Round off your trip nicely with a night in Edinburgh at BrewDog DogHouse Edinburgh, a Victorian sandstone building-turned-hotel by the Scottish craft brewery of the same name.