Europe is so much better by train. From capital city termini to remote village halts, almost every corner of Europe is reachable by rail. It's even easier with the EuroRail, which offers incredible passes and deals on tickets to help you hop around Europe on the cheap. Here are 7 European destinations you must get to by train.
The Swiss do rail travel better than anyone else in Europe, and they don’t let something as insignificant as a mountain stand in the way of connectivity. Jungfraujoch has the distinction of being the highest railway station in Europe. Travellers pass close to the Eiger, Jungfrau, and Mönch mountains before their train dives into a tunnel. At the summit, 3454 metres above sea level, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the Bernese Oberland and snow on the ground even in the height of summer.
The two busiest stations in Europe are both located in the French capital, making this city a must for every train enthusiast. Eurostar links Gare du Nord – top of the list – to London. This high speed service makes a twin centre city break a tempting possibility. Tick off the Eiffel Tower, cruise along the Seine, and take in the view from Sacre Coeur before emerging from the English Channel to tour St Paul’s Cathedral, ride the London Eye, and watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
One of the most beautiful rail journeys in Europe – and probably the world – is the one that links Flåm and Myrdal in western Norway. Beginning beside the Aurlandsfjord, the train climbs past tumbling waterfalls and icy glaciers to the mountains, condensing the country’s most dramatic vistas into one incredible hour’s ride.
Nothing screams luxury train travel like the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express. Step back in time to a glamorous age of train travel which has captured the hearts and imaginations of all those fortunate to have boarded its exquisite Art Deco carriages. In Venice, alight to explore a magical city riddled with waterways leading to a plethora of churches, palaces and hidden squares.
When it comes to greenery, Atocha Station in Madrid surpasses all others. This delightful station is likened by some to an indoor botanical garden, with verdant palms and lush planting interspersed by platforms and commuters. Catch the high speed AVE service to Sevilla and Cordoba for Moorish architecture, flower-adorned alleyways and sultry late night flamenco.
For something off the beaten track, catch a train across Ukraine to the beautiful city of Lviv. Modern, high speed trains make easy work of the distance, taking five hours to link the two in contrast to the slow overnight sleepers that were the traditional method of travel. Cafe culture’s king, but first, climb to Lviv’s mountaintop High Castle for panoramic views across the city and beyond.
For a truly epic European rail adventure, why not begin in Asia? The Trans-Siberian railway is a must for any bucket list, but travel east to west and you’ll be saving the best for last. Moscow is bold, brash and buzzing with energy. Get around by metro and you’ll see some of the most splendidly decorated stations in the world – with mosaics, stained glass and bronze sculptures, Moscow’s underground feels more like a museum than a transit network.
Have you taken a train ride in Europe? Share with us your favourite journeys – we’d love to compare notes.
Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.