While long train journeys are often taken out of necessity, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the ride. One of the main pleasures of catching the train is sitting back, relaxing and soaking up the scenery – but which European train journeys are best if you feel like taking the scenic route?
Travelling by Train in Europe
Europe is home to a reliable, cost-effective and increasingly energy-efficient rail network that has made crossing borders on the mainland easier than ever before. Due to the relative comfort and convenience afforded to rail users on the continent, increasing numbers of both tourists and commuters tend to favor the train over air travel – at least 8.2 billion passengers travelled by rail in the EU in 2019.
Glacier Express, Switzerland
This iconic train route links two of Switzerland’s most well-known ski resorts, Zermatt and St Moritz. While the full 291km/180-mile Glacier Express route is likely to take up to 7.5 hours, the picturesque views on offer here will ensure that you’re in no hurry to get to your stop – as you snake your way through the majestic Swiss Alps, expect to see memorable sights such as the enormous Landwasser viaduct.
West Highland Line, Scotland
Immortalised in the Harry Potter movie franchise as the route of the Hogwarts Express, the West Highland Line is one of Britain’s most treasured train lines. Providing unparalleled views of rolling hills, tranquil lochs and ancient castle ruins (not to mention the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct as seen in the movies), the West Highland Line runs from Glasgow to Mallaig, with an expected journey time of 5.5 hours for the full 264km route.
Bernina Express, Italy and Switzerland
This trans-alpine train journey is included in the itineraries of countless European tours for good reason – running 163km from Landquart in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy (and passing through two world heritage sites along the way), the Bernina Express is a shining example of a beautiful inter-country European train route. Dramatic sights to look out for during your 5-hour journey include the Brusio Spiral viaduct and the 2,253m-high Bernina Pass, often referred to as the gateway to Italia.
Bergen Railway, Norway
Running from Oslo to Bergen in Norway, the Bergen Railway route offers a glimpse of stunning Scandinavian scenery including dense forests and lakes, towering mountain passes and the iconic, snow-swept Hardangervidda Plateau. If you’re taking the full route and you feel like breaking up the 7-hour, 342-mile journey, consider stopping off at Finse, the highest train station in Norway at an impressive 4010ft!
Venice Simplon Orient-Express, UK, France & Italy
As a modern variation of the classic Orient Express route to Venice, the Venice Simplon Orient-Express stays true to its 1920s and 1930s roots. If you feel like taking a luxurious train journey in style, consider jumping on the OE in London and embarking on the three-leg journey to Italy via Folkestone and Calais. This could be a great choice if you’re an international tourist looking to soak up European culture and tradition.