Great Scenic Train Rides in Europe
Austria"I just thought of a couple of mountain railways in Tyrol in western Austria - Jenbach up to Pertisau on the Achensee and Jenbach up the Zillertal to Mayrhofen. These sometimes have steam locos." —thursdaysd
France"Personally I think most any ride in France is scenic in what I consider Europe's most scenic country as a whole outside of Switzerland . . . there is always it seems a small village punctuated by a soaring steeple of the village church crowning a hillock in the distance. But in terms of dramatic mountain scenery not on mainlines but yes on the Chemins de Fer de Provence that goes from Nice towards Digne . . . following river valleys into the rugged hinterlands of Provence and the Maritime Alps." —PalenQ "Bayonne to St. Jean Pied-a-Port IS in France...The Nice to Digne line isn't bad, either, Nice to Marseilles is good, and I seem to remember Lyon to Annecy was also good." —thursdaysd
Germany"The train to Mittenwald via Garmisch is scenic. Take the mountain train up the Zugspitze; it’s probably the most scenic line. All are rather scenic south of Munich however." —PalenQ Facebook fan Jo A. says "For trains, the trip along the Rhine on either side of the river is my favorite train trip. All the stops in the little towns that tempt you to get off the train and explore, the beautiful scenery, the ships floating past and the myriad castles sitting atop vineyard covered, craggy slopes." "The IC/EC and regional trains throught the Rhine Valley are very scenic, especially the section between Bonn and Mainz or Frankfurt. Total riding time is about 2:30, with splendid views of the river, the river gorge, castles and picturesque towns. You may stop in some towns and explore them more deeply . . . Another scenic train ride is the regional train from Freiburg to Seebrugg. It goes through the Höllental (Hell's Canyon) and into the Black Forest. Total riding time is about one hour." —Echnaton Germany Train Travel Guide
Denmark"I will say the ride from Germany up to Copenhagen is quite nice and at a certain point, the train actually rides directly onto a ferry w/rails and then goes by boat to the next rail attachment in Denmark." —Fodor's editor Maria_H Twitter user wnoonthego agrees "Hamburg to Kobenhaven (on the ferry) is one of my fav Europe train trips." Denmark Train Travel Guide
Italy"Here's one train option in Turin – small and strictly recreational: Sassi-Superga Cog Train" —Fodor's editor Matt_L Twitter user wnoonthego also likes "from Ventimiglia to Milano; Venice to Vienna." "Florence to Cinque Terre - from memory this was quite good." —nz101 Italy Train Travel Guide
NorwayFacebook user Ted S. likes the journey from Bergen to Flam and fodorite Marija says "The train ride from Oslo to Bergen across the 'spine' of Norway is beautiful." Norway Train Travel Guide
Portugal"Our journey from Porto [in Portugal] was marked with tunnels cut from the mountainsides and wonderful views of vineyards, small villages nestled into the valley sides, and the blue Douro River. Unfortunately my journey came to an end at Régua; next time I’d go further." —Matt_from_England Portugal Train Travel Guide
Spain"The one from Madrid to Toledo, as I recall was very beautiful." —Fodor's editor Caroline_T "Seville to Madrid to Barcelona was awesome." —Fodor's editor Molly_M Twitter user grantspass78 likes "Sitges! Fantastic and easy to get to from Barcelona." Spain Train Travel Guide
Switzerland"The train ride from Interlaken to Lucerne is one of the most scenic in Switzerland. From Interlaken-Ost you board the narrow-gauge Brunig Pass train that putzes first along the shores of idyllic Lake Brienz to Meiringen, where it reverses to begin the climb up and over the Brunig Pass. The line is so steep at points that the train has to use cogs to climb and then later descend at safe speeds. After the pass you pass some large Alpine lakes." —PalenqueBob "The Bernina Express is famous for its most spectacular alpine crossings; departs daily from Switzerland’s R Chur and travels through the Alps arriving in the small Italian town of Tirano." —TrainRider2011. The Bernina Express is also one of the favorites of editor Jess_M, plus fodorites bobthenavigator, scatcat, and gruezi (who has taken it 3 times!). Though some of you are divided on the Glacier Express: TrainRider2011 summarizes: "Glacier Express is a 7 ½ hour journey across the Western Swiss Alps and is famous for its panoramic views of the Alps and for its exceptional hospitality; especially attractive for families and adventurers; operates between St. Moritz, Chur or Davos (summer only) and arrives in Zermatt" while Palen_Q says it’s the "most overhyped scenic train - a daylong marathon that bores most folks after an hour or so." "Jungfrau region to Lucerne to Zurich—beautiful!" —Fodor's editor Maria_H
United Kingdom"The one along the Southwest coast to Plymouth is pretty good with the sea breakiing close to the line. Then the one north of Newcastle to Edinburgh is glorious. And finally the steam train through the North York Moors is lovely." —bilboburgler "The Fort William to Mallaig route . . . has been voted one of the top railway journeys in the world."—The Big Man "For trains, there is the See Our Ireland by Rail Itinerary
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These train rides look fantastic. I think that this would be a fun way to see those countries. There are such beautiful landscapes there. It would be nice to sit back and just take it all in from the train.
GLACIER EXPRESS: While I agree that 7.5 hours on the Train can be a bit much, I went on a Glacier Express "ski safari" last winter with Epic Europe (www.epiceurope.com), and we used the scenic train ride as transport to access different ski areas along the route; Zermatt, Andermatt and Disentis, St Moritz and Arosa (which is a little detour, but worth the trip for the uncrowded slopes and Tschuggen Grand Hotel). This was a true romantic train trip of days gone by.
Brings back fond memories of taking the train across Sardinia with my sister
I love riding the train on vacations, so relaxing and scenic. I'm excited to be taking a couple of trips in the UK in August, including the North York Moors, York to Edinburgh and then down from Scotland to Leeds via the Carlisle to Settle route which I heard was spectacular.
@Shevloff - I have always wanted to do a train ride through the Canadian Rockies, thanks for the tips.
A Swiss Pass is all you need to travel all of Switzerland - generally less expensive than renting a car even for a couple or a family with children. Everyone gets to see the views and it includes boat, bus, and city trams as well as admission to most Swiss museums and big discounts on the mountain excursions - taking boat son Lake Lucerne and Lake Zurich were a great way to relax and get to other places near the cities. We used the Swiss Saver pass for the two of us a few years ago for our most relaxing travel experience ever and we are about to do it again later this month with 2 more generations of our family. Raileurope.com has the details.
The trip from Lugano, Italy to Lucerne, Switzerland on the William Tell Express is a lovely one with delightful small cities on each end. If you think you keep seeing the same village with it's storybook church over and over, it's because you are in a spiraling tunnel that gives you the same marvelous view at least three times. Wonderful trip through the heart of the Alps.
CANADA - Additional routes on the Rocky Mountaineer.
CANADA - Rocky Mountaineer from Banff to Vancouver through the Canadian Rockies is spectacular. It's a 2-day trip during daylight hours with a hotel stay overnight in Kamloops (they roll out a red carpet as you descend the train and bus you to the nearby hotel) The trip is narrated and the train slows down for photo ops.