Last Updated on August 18, 2023 by Nicole
Are you looking for the best train holidays in Europe? Then you’re in the right place. Traveling by train across Europe offers a captivating fusion of history, beauty, and cultural immersion. Navigating the intricate railway systems, finding the best routes, and ensuring comfort might feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. I spent four months journeying across 26 European countries solely by train. In the process, I found some of the most scenic train journeys in Europe and gathered some of the best tips and tricks to help make your European train vacation a wonderful experience.
Ready? All aboard for an unforgettable adventure!
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Other European Destinations
There are many wonderful destinations in Europe. Almost all of them offer rail connections to many other amazing places in Europe. Sometimes, these destinations are best explored during certain seasons, or a great holiday spot if you are looking for an inexpensive vacation. If interested in learning more about these getaways, please see the following:
- 28 Cheap Places In Europe For Best Summer Vacations;
- 26 Amazing Summer Weekend Getaways In Europe;
- 24 Best Places To Visit In Europe For Mild Summer Weather;
- 27 Best Cheap Cities In Europe For A Fantastic Vacation; and
- 22 Best Cheap Countries To Visit In Europe.
Best Train Holidays in Europe
In the following article, I highlight some of the most beautiful train trips in Europe. They include destinations that offer quick routes that would work for a weekend getaway to multi-stop train vacations that would be best to enjoy over a week or longer.
In addition, I include maps highlighting the train journey. Some of the maps show the actual rail routes while others only show the route by car, supplying a general idea of the geography of the area. If the train route is supplied, make sure you click on all the marked paths. Often times, there is more than one rail route from which you can choose.
Regardless of whether you only have a few days to spare or are planning an epic train adventure, you will discover some of the most scenic rail vacations in Europe.
London to the Highlands of Scotland
This beautiful rail holiday commences in the vibrant metropolis of London, where the hustle of modern life plays out against a backdrop of iconic landmarks.
As your train pulls out of the station, the urban landscape gives way to the picturesque English countryside, setting the scene for a remarkable journey.
Enter the Caledonian Sleeper, your overnight passage to the Highlands. As darkness falls, the train transforms into a moving hotel, providing a unique and comfortable journey through Britain’s heartland.
Awaken to the sight of the dramatic Scottish landscape unfurling before you, a panorama of untamed wilderness, shimmering lochs, and misty mountains.
Arriving in the Scottish Highlands, you’re welcomed by the breathtaking vistas that have inspired poets and artists for centuries.
The wild beauty of Glencoe, the mythical aura of Loch Ness, and the majesty of Ben Nevis are a world apart from London’s bustling streets.
London to Paris
Begin in the bustling heart of London, a city where centuries-old history seamlessly blends with modern dynamism.
From Buckingham Palace’s regal splendor to the London Eye’s iconic silhouette, the British capital leaves a vivid impression as you embark on your European scenic rail getaway.
As your train sweeps into the Channel Tunnel, a marvel of modern engineering, it marks the transition from the rolling green landscapes of Kent to the idyllic French countryside.
The seamless transformation of the view outside your window underscores the incredible diversity of European landscapes.
On arrival in Paris, the City of Light welcomes you with its unmistakable allure.
From the imposing grandeur of the Eiffel Tower to the artistic treasures nestled within the Louvre, Paris offers an array of experiences that have captivated travelers for centuries.
The train journey from London to Paris is more than a transition between two cities.
It’s a captivating experience that unites the distinct cultures of Britain and France, offering travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the historical and scenic richness that each city and the journey in-between holds.
Paris to Zurich
Your beautiful rail trip in Europe begins in Paris, a city with charm, romance, and culture from every corner.
From the architectural splendor of the Eiffel Tower to the artistic riches of the Louvre, the French capital’s allure leaves a lasting impression as you settle into your train seat, bound for Switzerland.
The voyage to Zurich presents a unique spectacle of Europe’s diverse landscapes. As Paris’ cityscape recedes, the rolling French countryside morphs into dense forests and picturesque towns.
Beyond lies the awe-inspiring beauty of the Swiss Alps, where snow-capped peaks rise majestically against cobalt-blue skies.
On arrival in Zurich, the city greets you with its fusion of modern sophistication and rich history.
The old town’s narrow lanes, brimming with medieval houses and towering church steeples, contrast with the contemporary buzz of the Bahnhofstrasse, one of the world’s most exclusive shopping streets.
The train journey from Paris to Zurich is more than a voyage between two cities. It’s a delightful exploration of contrasting landscapes and cultures, providing a unique vantage point to witness Europe’s captivating beauty and diversity.
Venice to Rome
Begin in Venice, a city where time seems to stand still amid winding canals and romantic gondolas.
The charm of St. Mark’s Square, the iconic Rialto Bridge, and the mesmerizing Grand Canal create a fairy-tale atmosphere that lingers as you step onto your train, ready to traverse Italy’s heartland.
The beautiful train journey to Rome unfolds like a scenic movie reel, showcasing Italy’s captivating landscapes.
Witness vine-clad countryside, rolling hills, and picturesque towns flash by your window, each a snapshot of Italy’s bucolic charm and a testament to its diverse geography.
As your train glides into Rome, the grandeur of the ancient city unfolds. The Eternal City, a living testament to history and culture, welcomes you with iconic landmarks from the majestic Colosseum to the awe-inspiring Vatican City.
Walking along ancient Roman streets, tasting traditional cuisine, and basking in Rome’s energetic atmosphere provide a memorable finale to your journey.
Almafi to Palermo
Embark on an unforgettable and beautiful vacation by train from the stunning Amalfi Coast to the historic heart of Palermo in Sicily, all from the comfort of your train seat.
Start in Amalfi, a gem of Italy’s southern coastline where pastel-colored houses cascade down to a sparkling azure sea.
After soaking in the sun-drenched beauty, step aboard your train, ready to witness a parade of coastal splendors unfold.
The train ride down the ‘boot’ of Italy is a visual feast. Panoramic views of picturesque seaside towns, rugged cliffs, and turquoise waters offer an endless carousel of photo-worthy moments.
As you traverse the regions, you’ll appreciate the ever-changing landscape, oscillating between tranquil coastal vistas and the rustic charm of the Italian countryside.
Upon arrival in Palermo, Sicily’s buzzing capital, the city’s pulsating energy greets you. Its diverse history, manifested in Arab-Norman palaces, bustling markets, and Byzantine mosaics, is a vivid testament to its multicultural past.
Exploring the city’s historic quarters and savoring the famous Sicilian cuisine form a fitting conclusion to your rail journey.
Balkan Rail Adventure
Embark on an exhilarating Balkan rail adventure in Europe and unlock a treasure trove of cultural richness and breathtaking landscapes.
From the cobbled lanes of old-world Sarajevo to the sun-soaked beaches of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, train travel in the Balkans is an experience like no other.
Traverse Serbia’s rugged wilderness, punctuated by monasteries steeped in history. Take a moment to admire Macedonia’s Lake Ohrid, a sparkling jewel amidst the mountains.
Onward to Bulgaria, where ancient Sofia awaits with its awe-inspiring blend of Roman, Ottoman, and Soviet influences.
Meandering across these regions by rail immerses you in the authentic Balkan experience and provides ample opportunities for impromptu encounters and personal connections with the warm, hospitable locals.
Each rattling carriage and echoing tunnel marks an exciting chapter of your journey, underscoring the essence of a true Balkan rail adventure – a journey that’s as much about the ride as it is about the destination.
Alpine Lakes and Scenic Trains
Immerse yourself in the tranquil serenity of alpine lakes and scenic trains, a sublime journey through Europe’s heart that perfectly blends the grandeur of nature with the allure of European travel by train.
Picture yourself aboard the panoramic carriages of the iconic Glacier Express or Bernina Express, as each bend reveals a mesmerizing vista of snow-capped peaks reflecting onto mirror-like lakes.
In Switzerland, Lake Lucerne and Lake Geneva offer an enchanting spectacle of shimmering waters set against the backdrop of towering Alps, a sight made even more breathtaking through the train’s expansive, gleaming windows.
On the Italian side, Lake Como’s dramatic scenery unfolds as you meander through tunnels and over viaducts, with glimpses of villas and terraced vineyards dotting the hillsides.
The rhythmic rumble of the train on the tracks, the cool Alpine air, and the gentle lapping of the lakes against their shores create a symphony of sensory delights, encapsulating the magic of an alpine lakes and scenic trains adventure.
Amsterdam to Budapest by Train
Embarking on a picturesque holiday in Europe by rail from the vibrant city of Amsterdam to the historic charm of Budapest is like opening a living storybook of European culture, history, and landscapes.
Begin in Amsterdam, a city alive with a rich tapestry of art, history, and a unique canal-strewn cityscape. Aboard the train, the Dutch countryside unfolds beyond your window, your first taste of the breathtaking scenery to follow.
The journey offers more than just a ride; it’s a portal into the soul of Europe.
You’ll traverse vibrant cities, like Berlin’s dynamic heartbeat and Vienna’s imperial elegance, each stopping a unique narrative in your continental odyssey.
Upon arrival in Budapest, you are greeted by the city’s historic charm. Budapest is a stunning finale to this epic rail journey from the striking Parliament building to the therapeutic thermal baths.
A trip from Amsterdam to Budapest provides a means of travel and an immersive cultural experience, making it much more than a train ride.
Barcelona to Rome
Imagine stepping aboard a train in Barcelona, a city pulsating with rich Catalonian culture and Gaudí’s unmistakable architectural masterpieces.
As the train pulls away, you bid adios to the shimmering Mediterranean Sea, setting off on an unforgettable journey across the diverse tapestry of Southern Europe, destined for the historic splendor of Rome.
Your scenic getaway in Europe by rail presents a unique opportunity to savor the changing landscapes, from the rugged Spanish countryside and the sun-kissed Provençal vistas of southern France to the azure coastlines of Italy’s Cinque Terre.
The scenery unfurls like a moving painting in every direction, a beautiful blend of the region’s natural and cultural delights.
As your train glides into Rome, the ‘Eternal City’ welcomes you with an intoxicating mix of history and urban vitality. From the ancient Colosseum, steeped in millennia of history, to the awe-inspiring Vatican City, Rome is a grand finale to your voyage.
This rail journey from Barcelona to Rome isn’t merely about reaching a destination but embracing the scenic odyssey, where every moment adds to an unforgettable European narrative.
London to Bordeaux, Basque Country, and Costa Brava
Begin your adventure in London, where centuries-old traditions meet cosmopolitan vitality.
Stepping aboard the Eurostar, you’re whisked away from the heart of the British capital, bound for a stunning rail journey across landscapes that epitomize the beauty of Western Europe.
Your first stop is Bordeaux, a city synonymous with vineyard-clad hills and a rich wine-making heritage.
Breathe in the distinct aroma of ripe grapes as your train winds through the picturesque French countryside, then explore the city’s charming old town, before embarking on your next leg of the journey.
Next, discover Spain’s hidden gem – the Basque Country. Between the mountains and the sea, its unique culture, language, and gastronomy create an experience that’s a world away from the familiar Spain.
Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum and San Sebastián’s golden beaches are just a taste of the region’s allure.
Finally, let the train guide you to the edge of the Iberian Peninsula, where golden beaches await.
From the Costa Brava’s rugged beauty to the Atlantic Coast’s surf hotspots, the sound of crashing waves marks a perfect end to your journey.
A trip from London to the beach via Bordeaux and Basque Country is more than a train journey – an unforgettable European adventure.
A Grand Rail Adventure: Milan, The Alps, and Vienna
Set off on a grand European rail adventure from Milan, where Italian style and sophistication reign supreme.
As you leave behind the city’s impressive Duomo and high-end fashion streets, the train carves a path northward, inviting you on an enthralling journey across the heart of Europe.
Soon, you find yourself immersed in the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Alps. Snow-capped peaks tower above the train, while the valleys below present a patchwork of pristine lakes and charming alpine villages.
The scenic journey through these mountain ranges is a testament to the magic of train travel, offering unrivaled vistas and a connection to nature’s majestic grandeur.
The grand finale of your beautiful European trip by rail arrives as you reach Vienna. A city steeped in imperial history and world-class music, Vienna greets you with open arms.
From the stunning Schönbrunn Palace to the melodious strains of Mozart at the State Opera House, the Austrian capital presents a glorious end to your journey.
Embarking on this scenic escape by train from Milan through the Alps to Vienna is not just about the destinations; it’s a tribute to the timeless charm of European train travel.
London, Paris, and Amsterdam
Begin your European train vacation in the heart of London, a city where history and modernity coexist.
From the grandeur of Buckingham Palace to the bustling streets of Covent Garden, London’s vibrant atmosphere sets the perfect opening scene for your adventure.
Board the Eurostar, and as the English countryside blurs past your window, you’ll soon emerge into the City of Lights.
Paris, a city synonymous with romance, art, and gastronomy, greets you with its iconic skyline dominated by the Eiffel Tower.
Meander along the Seine, explore the artistic wonders in the Louvre or lose yourself in the labyrinth of charming streets in Montmartre before embarking on the next leg of your journey.
The train whisks you away to Amsterdam, a city renowned for its idyllic canals, tulip-filled gardens, and renowned museums.
The city’s unique blend of history and culture is palpable as you explore the Anne Frank House or the expansive Van Gogh Museum.
Embarking on a train journey from London to Paris, then onto Amsterdam, offers more than just the convenience of travel. It weaves a narrative of cultural discovery, connecting three of Europe’s most captivating cities through the enchanting lens of scenic rail travel.
Berlin to Budapest
Commence your breathtaking rail trip in Europe in Berlin, where contemporary vibrancy meets a poignant past.
Explore the city’s rich history, from the iconic Brandenburg Gate to the remnants of the Berlin Wall, before boarding your train to start on an exciting voyage across Central Europe.
The journey is an invitation to unwind and savor the shifting landscapes – from the rolling fields of Germany, through the dense forests of the Czech Republic, to the striking panoramas of Slovakia.
This is more than a train ride; it’s a moving portrait of Europe’s varied landscapes and architectural styles.
As your train sweeps into Budapest, the Hungarian capital welcomes you with its compelling blend of East and West.
From the neo-Gothic majesty of the Hungarian Parliament building to the thermal baths harking back to Ottoman rule, Budapest is a city where history comes alive.
Stroll along the River Danube or climb Castle Hill for panoramic city views.
Tips for Traveling Europe by Train
- Plan Your Itinerary in Advance: Decide your must-see destinations and train routes accordingly. European train schedules are generally reliable, which makes planning easier.
- Consider a Rail Pass: If your journey involves multiple countries or numerous train trips, consider purchasing a Eurail or Interrail Pass. It can be a cost-effective and convenient option.
- Reserve Your Seats: Some train journeys, especially longer or overnight trains, require seat reservations. Make sure to check this in advance.
- Travel Light: Space on trains can be limited. A compact suitcase or backpack will be easier to manage and store.
- Pack Snacks and Entertainment: While many long-distance trains have dining cars, bringing your own snacks can save money. Don’t forget books, music, or other forms of entertainment for longer journeys.
- Arrive Early: Train stations can be large and confusing. Give yourself ample time to find the right platform and settle in before departure.
- Keep Your Valuables Safe: As with any form of public transport, keep an eye on your belongings at all times.
- Embrace the Journey: One of the joys of train travel is the scenery along the way. Don’t just focus on the destination, enjoy the journey too.
- Stay Flexible: Delays can happen. Keep your schedule flexible and be prepared for occasional hiccups.
- Learn Basic Phrases: Knowing some basic phrases in the local language can be helpful, particularly in smaller towns and regions.
Wrap Up: Rail Holidays Europe
Traveling Europe by train offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the rich tapestry of this diverse continent.
It allows for an immersive journey through the ever-changing landscapes, from the sun-soaked coasts of Italy to the rugged highlands of Scotland, and from the romantic cityscape of Paris to the historic charm of Budapest.
Whether it’s the ease and comfort of modern train travel, the scenic routes that meander through breathtaking locales, or the chance to rub shoulders with locals and fellow travelers, there’s a unique and compelling aspect to train travel that other modes of transport simply can’t match.
As you plan your train adventure, remember to stay flexible, keep an open mind, and embrace the unexpected moments.
The trains won’t just take you to your destination, they’ll also offer a window into the heart of Europe, its culture, history, and people.
So, it’s time to pack your bags and let the rhythmic lull of the train tracks guide you on an unforgettable journey. Europe awaits, ready to be discovered, one train ride at a time.
Fiona Boyle is the author of this article. She is an Australian Travel Blogger at Travelling Thirties. Fiona has volunteered in Thailand, lived in Scotland, jumped off cliffs in New Zealand, slept in treehouses and igloos in Finland and everything in between as she has spent the last ten years exploring the world.