Like any continent, Europe is full of diverse cultures, delicious foods, and incredible landscapes. Vacation across the Atlantic is hardly enough time to see what any continent offers, but you can certainly try your best. When your goal is to explore as much of Europe’s natural beauty as possible, taking to the tracks for a luxury train journey is the only way to go.
Still, Europe is huge, and its selection of rail trails is much more expansive than anything you’ll find in the United States. That’s why we came up with this list of Europe’s most scenic train rides. See which are close to your destination, and ensure you see these historic views!
Train Rides in Europe
1. Scotland: West Highland Line
Views from the West Highland Line are some of the most distinguishable in the world, and its bright red train cars are most well-known as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter series. This five-and-a-half-hour trip from Glasgow to Mallaig gives you a clear view of Scotland’s moors, lochs, and castle ruins — it can’t help feeling a bit magical!
2. Spain: El Transcantábrico Clásico
Thousands of Christians make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela every year. If you’re interested in Northern Spain’s breathtaking views, you can enjoy your own journey in luxury. Spend up to a week exploring Spanish strongholds like the Guggenheim Museum and the Picos de Europa National Park.
3. Germany: Rhine Valley Line
Find yourself in the excellent region between the Rhine river and some of Germany’s greatest vineyards on the Rhine Valley Line. This train ride is perfect for lovers — if you’re lucky, you may even hear the song of the siren Lorelei as you pass through.
4. Switzerland: Glacier Express
Switzerland’s Glacier Express is perfect for cold-weather fanatics who stay up all night watching the first snow of the season. Spend almost eight hours travelling through the snowcapped peaks between Zermatt and St. Moritz, and reward yourself at either end by skiing down the slopes.
5. Norway: Bergen Railroad
Travel across the widest part of Norway, from Oslo to Bergen, in about six and a half hours. Whether you prefer lakes, mountains, plateaus, or forests, this journey will let you see it all.
6. Hungary: Children’s Railway
When traversing Eastern Europe with your family, the Children’s Railway in Budapest, Hungary, is a must-see. Show your kids they can do anything they put their minds to with this locomotive run by children! This short, hour-long trip provides an excellent tour of Hungary’s capital city. It even reaches Jánoshegy, the highest point in Budapest.
7. Greece: Odontotos Rack Railway
Another short and unique train ride your whole family will enjoy is the Ondontotos Rack Railway, which runs on the world’s narrowest gauge at just .75 meters. Travel a little over 20 kilometers from Diakopto to sea-faring Kalavrita and cross nearly 50 bridges and hand-carved tunnels.
8. England to Italy: The Orient Express
The Orient Express is another iconic rail line made famous by cinematic highlights and classic, elegant decor. Go from high-class London to romantic Venice and experience how the 1% traveled in the late 19th century.
9. Hungary to Turkey: The Danube Express
Go the road less travelled and see the gems of Eastern Europe on Golden Eagle’s Danube Express. Along with viewing the castles of Romania and villages of Bulgaria through this seven-day journey, you’ll have a view of the second-longest river in Europe, accompanied by soft piano music and classy sleeper cabins.
10. Bonus: Romania – Mocanita Steam Train
How about a change of speed and scenery? The Mocanita Steam Train in the region of Maramures, Romania is famous for its slow riding speed that will take you through picturesque valleys with incredible sceneries. Powered by a classical locomotive using coal as fuel, on this 2h ride you’ll also stop at beautiful spots so you reconnect with nature. Going on a trip to Maramures region to ride the steam train is one of the best things to do in Cluj Napoca which is Romania’s second largest city.
Now that you have some ideas for your next — or first — trip to Europe, make sure you’re prepared to travel so your journey can be as seamless as possible. Before you head to the airport:
- Check that your passport and ID are up to date: For international travel, most countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months following the end of your trip. If you have another form of identification, like your driver’s license, keep that on hand in case the host country raises any questions.
- Invest in travel health insurance: If something goes wrong while abroad, travel health insurance gives you peace of mind that you’re covered. Travel insurance can cover anything from urgent care and prescription costs to emergency travel expenses or even lost luggage.
- Register your trip with the US Embassy: Register your trip online at your host country’s US embassy. Doing this ensures you get important local announcements abroad, and the Department of State can contact you in an emergency.
- Order universal chargers: Most likely, your chargers won’t work when you go abroad. If you need to stay connected through your phone or computer, order a universal charger — or a few — before you leave the country.
Once you’ve prepared, you’re ready to take a trip back in time and see the best natural views in Europe.
Any of these train rides are sure to satiate your curiosity and make you fall in love with the continent as millions before you have. See if you can fit one in your travel itinerary or plan your whole vacation around the world’s most well-known tracks — however you do it, any of these routes are sure to be a highlight of your trip.
The Excellent Guest post is submitted by Beth Rush from Body+Mind