Whether you are looking to explore city architecture or to enjoy spectacular country side scenery, there is no better perspective than from a railway carriage. Many train tracks traverse paths where other modes of transportation don’t go, so you get a front-row view to parts of Europe that are exclusive to you and your fellow travellers.
For all rail holidays from the U.K , you start your journey from London St Pancras or Ebbsfleet. St Pancras International is manageable and it feels small if we compare to most London airports. The trip by Eurostar is usually the first leg of the trip.You cross northern France to Lille or Paris, where you change trains to continue your travels. France is obviously a main choice for people travelling from the UK due to its proximity and the comfort of travelling on the Eurostar.However, North-east Spain and Switzerland are increasingly popular as they can be reached in a day. Italy, southern Spain, Austria, Denmark and the Czech Republic are also pretty feasible with a sleeper train or an overnight stay in a city en route.
Here are some scenic train rides to enjoy:
You can travel via Paris to reach Provence and the Alpes Maritimes, though most people prefer to change at Lille. Here, you board a high-speed line that crosses Burgundy and then goes down the Rhône Valley until it reaches Marseille. Whether you are travelling onwards from Marseille to the heart of Provence or to the Alpes Maritimes, the most captivating scenery is saved until last – either a ride through the Luberon Hills revealing quintessential Provençale landscapes, or a journey past the famous coastal resorts of the Côte d’Azur to Nice, followed by a trip on the Train des Merveilles into the mountains.
Delight in stunning wintry landscapes from the comfort of Switzerland’s favourite tourist train, the Glacier Express , one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. The whole route is a scenic delight that travels through deep lakes, silent forests and rolling meadows.The Glacier Express takes you up to 2,033 metres through scenery of incomparable grandeur.
Travel by rail and boat between Norway’s first and second cities, taking in spectacular Sognefjord – the longest and deepest fjord in Norway- and the iconic Flåm Railway along the way- an incredible train journey that takes you through a steep and narrow valley with views of waterfalls and mountain peaks-
While in Norway, enjoy a voyage on the famed Hurtigruten coastal steamer, showing you all that the Norwegian coastline has to offer and the best way to discover three very different Arctic Islands: The awe-inspiring island of Austvågøya, one of the largest in the Lofoten archipelago.The island of Senja, situated far above the Artic circle and the quaint island of Tromsøya.
The City Night Line takes you from Paris to Munich. It departs at around 8pm so by the time you wake up, the train will soon be approaching the Bavarian capital.Explore Munich before you catch a train southwards to the Bavarian Alps and Austrian Tyrol, south-eastwards to central Austria and Slovenia, or eastwards to the Czech Republic.
To enjoy city architecture by rail in Northern, Central or Southern Europe , here are some options:
Copenhagen,Stockholm and Helsinki
To savour Scandinavian city life you can consider Northern Europe main capitals and travel from Copenhagen to Stockholm and on to Helsinki by rail and boat. Copenhagen is the epicentre for Scandi cool. Old palaces, churches and warehouses share streets and waterways with bold contemporary architecture. Stockholm, a coastal capital that spreads across 14 islands, impresses you with its pretty medieval streets, immaculate parks and vibrant waterfront promenades. Hip Helsinki, on the other hand, is all about the fusion of grand architecture and contemporary design.
Explore city life in the Austrian cities of Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna. Start your rail journey in the capital of Austria’s Tirol region, Innsbruck. A city dominated by the majestic Alps. Picture perfect Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is dominated by castles, palaces and churches and it has a historic city centre that is a Unesco World heritage site. End your journey in Vienna while you enjoy its coffee culture and Imperial grandeur.There’s a never-ending wealth of things to do and see throughout the year in what is often described as Europe’s cultural capital.
For holidays in Castile, you travel from Paris to Madrid and once in Madrid you take a 30-minute high-speed train to Segovia. Beginning in Segovia, where Ferdinand and Isabella united the dynasties of Castile and Aragon, you travel westwards to Salamanca, an ancient university town with a historic city centre that has important Gothic, Moorish, Romanesque,Renaissance and Baroque monuments. And last but not least, is Madrid. Spain’s capital since the Golden Age. This is a historical and artistic voyage through the heart of Spain that explores the impressive cultural explosion that occurred in the country in the 16th century.
From Madrid you can take the AVE (a service of high speed rail in Spain) to Seville or Cordoba. Once in Andalucía, explore charming Seville, beautiful Córdoba and stunning Granada as well as Ronda, the most famous of Andalucía’s ‘white towns’. This region is home to many of the iconic cultural elements that make Spain stand out from the rest of Europe: Flamenco dancers, Tapas, Spanish Guitar, vibrant processions, impressive palaces and glorious sunshine.
Visit three of Portugal’s vibrant cities on a holiday by rail; Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra.
Coimbra is a charming and historic university town and one of Portugal’s oldest cities. It is also the home of one of the world’s first universities. Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, has grand architecture and a very lively culture. The city effortlessly blends traditional heritage, with striking modernism. Porto, on the steep banks of the Douro river, is renowned for a faded grandeur with its Baroque, Neoclassical and Belle Epoque architecture, all in varying degrees of preservation.
“The great trains are going out all over Europe,” wrote Ian Fleming in From Russia with Love. Indeed, they are!