There are many ways to see Europe, but one of the easiest and stress-free is by rail. Here are some of the best train experiences every traveller should see at least once on their European holiday.
1. The West Highland Line – The Jacobite Steam Train
When people think of the fictional Hogwarts express it is almost hard to believe it exists in real life. It does but by it’s muggle name, the Jacobite.
Whether you are a diehard Harry Potter fan or not, this iconic train offers an incredible journey through some of Scotland’s most stunning landscapes. Many travellers have even described this as the greatest railway journey in the world.
Rugged highlands and isolate lochs, flashes of coastline, and Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, feature along this 67km scenic route. Don’t miss the tasty seafood in Mallaig along the way.
2. Strathspey Steam Railway
Restored in 1971 by enthusiasts who wanted to bring the nostalgia of 1950’s steam railways back to Scotland, the Strathspey Railway is enjoyed by passengers from around the world.
Travel over heathery moors and the River Spey, the scenery of the Cairngorm National Park provides the perfect backdrop. Wildlife and endangered animals of the Scottish mountains on a drive can also be discovered in the Highland Wildlife Park nearby
Journey down memory lane with these scenic steam rail journeys on Strathspey Steam Railway and the Jacobite Steam Train in one great tour that has the added value of an expert Rail Discoveries tour manager, local guides, meals, central accommodation and a handcrafted itinerary with all the must-see sights.
3. The Bernina Express, Switzerland
In 2008, UNESCO classified the small network of the Swiss company Rhaetian Railway as a world heritage site because of its contribution to opening up the communities of the high Swiss Alps. Now, the narrow-gauge line south from Saint Moritz is mostly used by tourists, many of them in a train built for observing the scenery – the Bernina Express.
Starting in Chur, the bright red, narrow-gauge train trundles through the Engadin Alps for 144km through chic St Moritz until it crosses the Bernina Pass and descends to Tirano just over the border in Italy.
The mountains are glorious – either covered in snow in winter or in lush meadows in spring and summer – and the train’s passage along the Landwasser viaduct is breathtaking.
4. Glacier Express, Switzerland
It’s probably the slowest “express” train you’ll find – more than seven hours – but the Glacier Express rivals the Bernina Express for the most scenic train ride in Switzerland.
Starting in the shadow of the Matterhorn, the train makes its leisurely way from exquisite Zermatt to St Moritz on a narrow-gauge track over 290km. Most of the carriages have panoramic windows and glass skylights so you can admire the Alpine vistas in comfort.
5. The Centovalli Railway, Switzerland
This scenic train between Locarno and Domodossola runs through the magical Centovalli – or “Hundred Valleys” - It offers some of the most beautiful views in Europe and shows another kind of Switzerland: rocky gorges, quaint stone villages, and many waterfalls.
Running across 83 bridges, 31 tunnels and along numerous waterfalls as it winds its way through the narrow valleys in the region. You will be whisked across sky-high viaducts, sheer cliffs and dense forests. The narrow-gauge track is the most picturesque route to Lake Maggiore.
To experience all three of these incredible scenic journeys in one, well planned tour, we recommend TravelGlo’s Scenic Switzerland tour from Zurich as an easy and value packed way to enjoy both, along with an expert guide and meals for a personalise experience.
6. The Russian Metro
Rail splendour is not all about the journey and in Russia the underground stations are next level glam.
Forget smelly subways and garbage strewn tubes. Cut glass chandeliers, marble columns and gold-framed frescos will have you mistaken in thinking you’ve entered another palace when you discover Russia’s metro stations. Stalin’s visions are reflected in the décor and he commissioned all the sculptures, mosaic and artwork.
For the best value rail tours across Europe, Travel Therapy recommends TravelGlo’s newest range of itineraries across Italy, Russia, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Scandinavia and Scotland.