Have you ever wondered what the best train journeys in Europe are?
Europe is a small continent, and it’s relatively well connected by railways.
Some of these are nostalgic – like the Orient Express – and have slowly been forgotten about over time, as budget flights become more common.
However, in today’s climate crisis, people are once again turning to trains, as they have a much lower carbon footprint than flights.
Night train routes have restarted, meaning that once again, you can go to sleep in one country and wake up in another.
There are plenty of other reasons to travel by train. Some routes are incredibly beautiful.
Plus, whether you are trundling through the Swiss Alps, taking a train trip around the coastline of Cornwall or venturing from Europe to Asia on the Trans-Siberian railway, each route is a completely unique experience.
Let’s have a look at some of the best rail journeys in Europe.
What are the best train journeys in Europe?
Here are some of the best train journeys in Europe:
- Palma to Soller train in Mallorca
- The Bergen to Oslo Railway
- The Red Arrow in Russia
- Schafberg Cog Railway in Austria
- Jacobite Train in Scotland
- Belgrade to Bar in Serbia
Best Rail Journeys in Europe
Spain: Palma to Soller Train (Mallorca)
One of the best things to do in Mallorca is to take the old fashioned 1920s train from Palma, the capital, to Soller.
This train harks back 100 years, when rail travel was very different.
However, its slow journey through the Tramuntana mountains makes it one of the most scenic things that you can do in the Balearics.
You need to buy your tickets at the Palma main station on the day you wish to travel.
You then board the train, and arrive, 90 minutes later, in the town of Soller.
This place is famous for its beautiful Cathedral and bountiful restaurants.
To complete your journey, hop on a tram to Port de Soller, which is one of Mallorca’s best unspoiled beaches.
UK: St Erth to St Ives Train
At 11 minutes, this is perhaps the shortest train journey on this list.
But it’s undoubtedly one of the most scenic. Hugging the Cornish Coastline from St Erth to St Ives, this route takes in perhaps the most tropical-feeling coastline in Britain.
After admiring the beaches, you’ll end up in the beautiful tourist town of St Ives, where there are plenty of things to do.
If you really enjoy the views, you could also walk back to St Erth along the coast path, which follows more or less the same route as the train and takes around an hour.
France and Spain: Paris to Barcelona TGV Train
If you love vibrant European cities, can’t decide between Paris and Barcelona and want to travel by train, the super-fast and comfortable TGV train between the two makes it easy to explore them.
Start your journey in Paris, the City of Light, where you’ll be dazzled by the French capital’s beautiful architecture, world-class art and amazing cuisine.
When it’s time to depart, head to Gare de Lyon in the east of Paris. If you have time, stop for lunch at the spectacularly ornate Train Bleu restaurant first.
From Gare de Lyon, you’ll board a double-decker TGV train (the top deck seats have the best view).
The train will race across France, reaching speeds of over 300km/hr until it reaches the south.
Here, the slower speeds between stops like Montpelier and Perpignan allow you to see some of the gorgeous French countryside and coast. Then, you’ll cross the Pyrenees mountains and enter Spain.
Before the final destination of Barcelona Sants Railway Station, the train also stops in Girona.
The whole journey takes just over 6.5 hours and is made pleasant by comfortable seats, onboard wifi and a café carriage.
And when you reach your destination, there are many wonderful things to do in Barcelona, including wandering the romantic Gothic Quarter, tasting tapas and marvelling at the bold and whimsical architecture of Gaudí, with sites like La Sagrada Família and Casa Batlló.
By Martha from May Cause Wanderlust
UK: The Caledonian Sleeper Train
The Caledonian Sleeper train from London Euston to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands is one of our favourite train journeys, not only in the UK but in Europe too.
Six days a week, the Caledonian Sleeper departs London in the late evening and winds its way through the English countryside before crossing into Scotland.
As the train travels further north, the landscape becomes wilder and more remote until eventually the next morning it pulls into the station at Inverness, capital of the Highlands.
There are various accommodation options, ranging from luxurious double rooms, ensuite rooms with twin bunk beds, classic rooms with twin bunk beds or, for those on a budget, comfortable seats.
For passengers booking sleeping accommodation, the Club car offers a seasonal Scottish menu which you can enjoy before retiring to your room.
The Club car is also a great place to meet and chat with fellow travellers making the trip to Scotland.
Waking up and peering out of the train window to see the Scottish countryside passing by is a magical experience, and the Caledonian Sleeper is the perfect way to enjoy views of Scotland’s dramatic and beautiful landscape.
You can also catch the Caledonian Sleeper to other destinations in Scotland including Fort William, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
From these stations, you can connect to other routes like the West Highland Line.
By Tracy from UK Travel Planning
Mr Henderson’s Railway
Mr Henderson’s Railway is the rail journey that connects Algeciras with the beautiful town of Ronda in Andalucia.
The route was built in the early 1890s. What was once an arduous and dangerous journey on horseback is now a delightful 90-minute trip that services some of the traditional ‘pueblos blancos’ (white towns) that Andalucia is famous for. These include Jimena de la Frontera, Gaucin, Cortes de la Frontera and Jimera de Libar.
The journey starts in the port of Algeciras and, as you leave the industrial city behind and head towards La Almoraima, you’ll spot storks nesting on telegraph poles.
This part of the journey passes through the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales so keep a lookout for the cork oak trees after which the area is named.
You’ll be able to spot them easily by the bare lower trunks where the cork has been stripped.
From the comfort of your seat, you can enjoy the spectacular views unfolding as you pass through orange and avocado groves, as well as fields of sunflowers or poppies, depending on when you travel.
As the train crosses rivers and cuts through ravines via sixteen tunnels and twenty bridges, you’ll also see oleander trees growing in the valleys of the mountain peaks.
Alison Nicholson from Alison in Andalucia
Pisa to Genoa
Some of the best scenic rail journeys in Europe are, surprisingly, just regional trains. On that is worth a mention is the route that travels from Pisa to Genoa. When journeying by high-speed train, this route takes about 1.5 hours.
Pisa is one of the most famous cities in Italy and Europe, fabled for its dramatic Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Besides that, it’s a student city and the atmosphere is incredible, with lots of restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Genoa, the capital of the Liguria region, is a much larger city than Pisa, and it is also a wonderful, yet much less visited place!
Because of this, you will feel more like a local when you go here. You can also find lots of local coffee bars in Genoa, and it is a great place to experience typical Ligurian food, such as pesto.
When travelling by train from Pisa to Genoa, you pass by the beautiful Cinque Terre. This is a collection of five colourful towns standing against the backdrop of the sea.
This is one of the most scenic train rides in Italy because of the incredible Cinque Terre vistas!
By Dymphe from Dymabroad
The Bergen to Oslo Railway
The Bergen to Oslo line in Norway is one of Northern Europe’s great railway journeys.
It’s also one of the most scenic, travelling 308 miles through forests, across frozen mountain plateaus, beside wild rivers, along the shore of serene lakes and through nearly 200 tunnels.
The journey on the Bergen Railway takes around seven hours on a comfortable electric train.
Look out for the cute Finse station, the highest station on the line and the highest point of the Norwegian railway system.
At the isolated Myrdal station, the Flåm Railway branches off at a precarious gradient on its way down to the Aurlandsfjord and the magnificent Kjossfossen waterfall.
One of the best ways to experience the Bergen railway is to travel on it as part of a Norway in a Nutshell tour, which is a tour company that offers rides on the Bergensbanen and the Flåm Railway. They will do all the planning for you!
You can take the Bergen to Oslo railway all year round, but the long daylight hours make summer the best time to take the trip.
By Helen from Helen on her Holidays
The Red Arrow, or Krasnaya Strela in Russian, is a luxury overnight train trip running between Moscow and St. Petersburg (and vice versa) every night.
It is the most comfortable and atmospheric sleeper train between these two smashing cities.
The historic train service started operating in 1931 and was initially reserved for only the communist party elite travelling between Moscow and Leningrad.
While the trains have been refurbished over the years to meet modern comfort and standards, the dark red carriages maintain their retro charm with wooden finishes and an air of nostalgia.
Today, everyday people like you and me can experience the best amenities, comfort and historic charm when travelling on the Red Arrow.
The train has sleeper cabins only, and travellers can choose between a first-class compartment with two berths or a second class compartment with four beds.
Bedding is provided, and the ticket also includes a breakfast delivered to your compartment before arrival the following day.
There is also a stylish restaurant car if you want to have a late dinner or get peckish at night.
Every night, the Red Arrow runs in each direction between Leningradsky Station in Moscow and Moscovsky Station in St. Petersburg. The journey takes about eight hours to cover the 600 odd kilometres.
By De Wet from Museum of Wander
One of the most incredible European train journeys is the small diesel train from Miskolc in Hungary through the Bükk Mountains.
It travels to Lillafüred – here, you can find some of the most exciting things to do in Miskolc including waterfalls, cave systems, gardens, and the tranquil Hámori Lake where you can float around in a wooden rowboat.
The train ride itself only takes about half an hour each way, but the views are spectacular.
It takes you out of the city, through thick forest that casually opens up to mesmerizing views of the valley, crossing bridges and negotiating narrow tunnels in the mountains.
The conductor shuffles on the outside of the train checking tickets, but they must find shelter through the tunnels!
The Lillafüred forest train runs during summer and on the weekends in autumn – which is the absolute best time of the year to go due to the autumn colour show that nature provides.
To get to the train, take tram number one to Laev and buy tickets in the ticket office.
The train runs regularly throughout the day, but you should head there early so that you can get the most out of the day in Lillafüred before catching the train back.
By Linn Haglund from Brainy Backpackers
Venice to Florence Train
Taking the train from Venice to Florence allows you to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in St Mark’s Square and be in Florence in time to watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo.
Ride in comfort aboard the Frecciarossa or Frecciargento high-speed train or take the slower scenic route that takes you through three of Italy’s most picturesque regions, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany where you’ll catch a glimpse of the beautiful rolling hills and cypress tree alleys.
If you have some extra time on your hands, take a break en-route and stopover in the historic city of Bologna, a foodie paradise known for its Bolognese sauce, meats, and wine as well as its striking piazzas and architecture, most notably its two towers.
By Samantha from The Wandering Wanderluster
Isle of Man Steam Train
Taking a trip on a steam train is always a special adventure for young or old. The smell of the coal, the old-fashioned carriages and the certain clickety-clack during your journey are all so evocative.
The steam train railway in the Isle of Man is only 15.5 miles long. The three-foot narrow-gauge track is the longest narrow gauge steam line in Britain.
Running between the capital town, Douglas and the town of Port Erin in the south of the island, the line runs from the Spring through to the autumn. It is a popular attraction for tourists, but also for islanders travelling between villages.
During the summer, the sound of the whistle can be heard across the south as the white puffs of smoke float across the countryside. The journey takes around an hour and passes through fields, villages and along the coastline.
Built in 1874, the Isle of Man Steam Railway still has four original engines. The oldest engine, Caledonia, was built in 1885. The carriages are beautifully maintained with vertically sliding windows which are lowered to open the doors.
You can book the 1905 Dining Car for dinner and sample some Manx fine dining in the Pullman style dining car.
By Larch from The Silver Nomad
Belgrade to Bar
The Belgrade-Bar Railway is one of the longest and most scenic train lines in the Balkans.
Spanning 476 kilometres (296 miles), it connects the Serbian capital with the small town of Bar on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast.
The line was constructed between 1958-1975 when Montenegro and Serbia were part of Yugoslavia.
It’s an absolutely spectacular ride, passing through more than 250 tunnels and over no fewer than 435 bridges and viaducts.
The mountain scenery is breathtaking, especially as you approach the highest point (1,000 metres above sea level) near the town of Kolašin.
But the highlight is riding over Skadar Lake, the largest lake in the Balkans and one of the most beautiful places in Montenegro.
The train takes a narrow rail bridge, so you almost feel as if you’re skimming over the surface of the marshy waters.
All up, the journey from Belgrade to Bar takes 13 hours.
If you don’t have a full day, an alternative option is to board at Podgorica and ride down to Bar – it only takes an hour and it includes the beautiful lake portion of the ride.
Either way, it’s recommended to take the day train (rather than the overnight train) so you can soak up the beautiful views. Tickets cost around €25-€40.
By Emily from Wander-Lush
Schafberg Cog Railway
The Schafberg Railway is a beautiful nostalgic red cog railway in Austria. It runs from St. Wolfgang at Lake Wolfgangsee to the top of the Schafberg Mountain.
There are only two stops, the first at Schafbergalpe at 1363 meters and the second at the top station at 1732 meters.
The railroad line is only 5.85 km long, but the ride has stunning scenery and provides a unique experience.
With the nostalgic red rack railroad, you drive up a height difference of 1188 meters. All in all, the ride takes about 35 minutes.
While driving up the mountain, you enjoy a great view of Lake Wolfgang and the surrounding mountains.
Once you reach the summit, a mountain panorama like something out of a travel magazine awaits you. From there you can see the many glittering lakes in Salzburg and Upper Austria.
The red Schafbergbahn looks back on a long history, as the railroad has been around for more than 130 years. Construction work began already in April 1892 and the railroad was opened as early as 1893.
Today, it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the region and a must-see when travelling to Salzburg or Upper Austria.
A ride on this nostalgic steam locomotive, one of the oldest in the world, is an unforgettable experience!
By Martina from PlacesofJuma
Jacobite Train in Scotland
The Jacobite Train ride in Scotland is one of the most scenic train journeys in Europe. This steam train is popularly known as the Hogwarts Express as it passes over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, featured in the Harry Potter films.
This 84-mile round-trip train journey starts at Fort William, the outdoor capital of the UK and terminates at Mallaig – a fishing port.
It takes about 2 hours on each leg of the journey with around 1 hour 45 minutes to roam around in Mallaig.
Throughout the journey, you get to admire the stunning beauty of the rugged West Highlands Coast of Scotland.
While the train slows down at the 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct, gaze out to the Loch Shiel and soak up the beautiful scenery.
You can buy a 1st or 2nd class ticket for this train. First Class carriages are beautifully ornated and have a more comfortable seating arrangement.
You can pre-order an afternoon tea on this scenic train journey if you fancy it! On Standard Class carriage, you can buy sandwiches, crisps and hot and cold beverages from the trolley.
The Jacobite Train operates daily between April and October. The tickets sell out quite fast, so booking well in advance is recommended.
By Moumita & Sankha from Chasing the Long Road
Switzerland is almost unrivalled when it comes to scenic train journeys in Europe, with the magnificent Swiss Alps making for the backdrop of many of the region’s most breathtaking journeys.
One of the more famous of these is the Glacier Express, a high-speed train line that traverses through Alpine scenery as it connects the ski resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz.
Also known as ‘the slowest fast train in the world’, due to the time it takes to navigate the mountains, valleys and peaks of the alps, this one-way journey takes roughly seven hours of travel between the two destinations with just one stop along the way at Chur.
You’ll find some of the most scenic spots in the 2nd half of the journey, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Landwasser Viaduct’ and the Rhine Gorge which marks the beginning of the River Rhine.
But Zermatt itself is possibly the biggest attraction of the journey. It’s set beneath the backdrop of the famed Matterhorn which is probably the most iconic peak in Switzerland, if not the world.
The Glacier Express is also included on the Interrail/Eurail and various regional passes however seat reservation is necessary as places will fill up quickly during peak season (in the Alps, this is winter and summer).
Swiss Railways are generally very clean and punctual, and the Glacier Express is no exception.
By Allan from Bangorni
Bucharest to Chisinau Train
There’s an overnight train from Bucharest to Chisinau, Moldova, that is possibly unlike any other train in Europe: partway through the journey, it stops, and the wheels get changed.
Romanian and Moldovan train tracks are of different widths, so trains cannot circulate between the two countries without this swap.
It’s quite the experience since passengers must stay in the cars while the switch takes place. It is an incredibly noisy affair of screeching metal!
The wagons are uncoupled from one another, and each is hydraulically lifted a meter or so into the air. One set of wheels is removed, rolled away, and replaced by another set, and the wagon is slowly lowered.
Not only is the swap unusual, but this is one of the few Soviet-era trains still on the rails in Europe. It’s not designed for luxury or, frankly, even comfort, with thin, hard bunks.
But the plastic flowers and crepe curtains hark back to a time long ago, as does the Cyrillic lettering on the doors and the samovar that sits at the end of each railway car.
It may not be a luxury ride, but it is like few others.
By Leyla from Women on the Road
Overnight Train From Frankfurt to Copenhagen With a Surprise
Travelling overnight by train from Frankfurt, Germany, to Copenhagen, Denmark, is more of an adventure than you’ll expect!
You’ll leave Frankfurt around midnight when it’s dark out, so you could try to get some sleep. It’s a challenge though since people get on and off at each stop, one of which is the large city of Hamburg.
Somewhere between Hamburg and Copenhagen, your train will decide that it wants some time off and gets onto a “Ferry!”
Once the train gets on the ferry, you’ll need to disembark and climb to the upper decks of the boat.
You might catch the sunrise as you cross the water, which is beautiful – albeit a bit strange, as you’ll have been expecting a train journey!
After watching the sunrise, it’s time to get back on the train. Make a note of your cabin when you get off, so you know the right one to get back onto!
The train doesn’t wait around for that long, so make sure you jump up on time before the conductor alerts you that the train is leaving.
You’ll eventually pull into the glorious city of Copenhagen, home of the Little Mermaid and the Danish Royal Family.
By Cynthia from Blue Bag Nomads
Taking the Eurostar high-speed train from London to Paris might not be a scenic train ride, but it is surely the most convenient journey in Europe – and it’s a bucket-list check for all train travel fans.
Hopping on a train in central London and getting off in central Paris just a bit over two hours later, that’s a Europe traveller’s dream coming true!
But wait, a train that connects the UK with the European mainland? Exactly. The Eurostar runs through a tunnel under the seabed of the Channel, the strait that separates the UK from France and the rest of Europe.
Since 1994, passengers can effortlessly visit two of the most splendid European cities in a wink of an eye. There’s also no need for tedious airport commuting as both train stations are located in the heart of the city.
From Gare du Nord in Paris, it’s only a short walk to beautiful Montmartre, and St. Pancras in London is equally close to Covent Garden.
Whether you are keen on spending a long weekend in Paris or even just going on a day trip, with Eurostar you easily do it.
A flakey Parisian Croissant for breakfast and authentic Fish and Chips for Lunch? Just hop on the train!
But don’t mistake it for a normal train ride, though. By crossing the Channel, you are leaving — or entering — the European Union, and certain requirements are in place.
Make sure to verify the needed paperwork before your trip and be there at least 45 minutes before departure.
By Lena from Salut From Paris
Munich to Fussen
Easily one of the best train journeys in Europe is the ride from Munich to Fussen.
Most people popularly take this route by taking a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich, as it’s only a short few hours through Bavaria.
Along the two-hour train ride, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views of the Bavarian Alps.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting around wintertime (or sometimes in March), there may even still be snow right out your train window.
You’ll be glued to the window for the whole ride because you won’t want to miss a thing!
The most popular way to take this train is to take the train right from Munich Central Station to Fussen.
You can purchase tickets at the train station, but if you’re visiting during a busy time of year like the summer, then you’ll want to secure yours online ahead of time.
Book for as early as possible, as during summer it gets very busy in the later morning and afternoon
Once you arrive in Fussen, your breath will truly be taken away as you explore the magical little town and its accompanying two castles.
By Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages
Tips for taking trains in Europe
Some of these trains are very speedy and are actually quicker than flying. But others take a long time – and the journey is part of the experience. This is slow travel at its finest!
Just make sure that you’ve packed plenty of essentials (food, entertainment and toiletries) for the journey – what exactly you’ll need depends on the length of the train journey!
Make sure that you book your train tickets in advance, particularly during peak season. Trains often either fill up or become extremely expensive during these seasons.
When booking a rail trip, make sure that you are aware of whether you have booked direct trains or trains that require a change. Sometimes the change can be quick, so be prepared!
Where to buy European train tickets
Usually, the best place to buy European train tickets is the rail service website for that country.
In England, this is National Rail. French Railways use SNCF, Austrian Railways have ÖBB and Czech railways have cd.cz.
However, it can be a bit difficult to purchase train tickets if you’re not a resident of that country and don’t speak the language.
This is because the website might not accept foreign cards and the translation could be difficult.
Instead, you could use a universal service like Trainline to book your tickets.
This is ultimately a train finder that you can use across the continent.
You can book international trains and domestic journeys with Trainline.
These convenient and scenic rail journeys are incredible ways to see Europe.
What is the longest train in Europe?
Unsurprisingly, the longest train in Europe is in Russia. But it’s not the Trans Siberian, as that train journey is mainly in Asia.
Instead, it travels from Adler on the Black Sea to Vortuka, which is close to the Arctic Circle, and takes a whopping three days!
Which European country has the best rail system?
Lots of countries in Europe have excellent rail systems, but Swiss Rail is widely regarded to be amongst the best!
What is the most famous train in Europe?
Lots of people consider the Trans Siberian to be the most famous train in Europe, but it’s actually mostly in Asia. As is the Eastern Express train, which connects Ankara to east Turkey!
One of the most famous trains in Europe was the Orient Express. It still runs, but its a nostalgic historical experience now, especially for train lovers, and not the route that you’ll take to get anywhere quickly!
Incredible train journeys in Europe!
These fascinating and beautiful train journeys in Europe are well worth taking! They’re great for the environment and provide a unique travel experience that you won’t find elsewhere!
There’s so much of a country that you miss by just flying in. If you take the train, you’ll see beautiful landscapes and experience a local culture that you just don’t find in an airport’s arrivals lounge.
Sure, travelling by train can be slower, but it’s a richer experience!
If you want to read more about scenic rail journeys, make sure that you check out the rest of my train travel posts!