All aboard! Europe’s most scenic train rides

I’ve always loved travelling by train. There’s something relaxing and mesmerising about watching the world go by through your window. Although planes are very efficient and airlines are competing to offer cheaper flights, travelling by train is a great way of experiencing a country. Europe is criss-crossed with rail tracks, so let us zoom in to a few of the most scenic train rides in Europe. All aboard!

Norway – Flåm Railway

7801060934_51ff2da1b3_zWho says you need to travel for hours to see gorgeous lush landscape? Built in the 1920s, the Flåm railway running between Myrdal and Flåm is only about 20 km long, but it is among the most beautiful you’ll ever seen. It’s one of the world’s steepest railway lines.

As the train rides down into the Flåm valley, Norway’s beautiful landscape unfolds from lush green landscapes, Nordic farmhouses, waterfalls, deep blue fjords to snow-capped mountains. A one way ticket costs 300 NOK with a 30% discount if you have an Interrail/Eurail rail pass. For more information visit the website.

Switzerland – The Bernina Express

Switzerland is home to many scenic rail journeys from the Golden Pass to the Glacier Express. The Bernina Express is a 125 km long train ride that takes you right through a UNESCO World heritage site, the Swiss Alps. You’ll travel via 196 bridges and viaducts, and 55 tunnels to the town of Tirano on the Italian border.

640px-RhB_ABe_4-4_III_mit_Bernina-Express_am_Lago_BiancoFrom Chur, the train gradually winds its way up to the top of the Bernina Pass. You’ll pass through pretty alpine towns before the Bernina Alps, and the magnificent Piz Bernina, the highest peak in the area at 4049 metres, come into sight. Then the train slowly climbs past glaciers, mountains and lakes, until it reaches its highest point of 2,253m near Ospizio Bernina. From here the train begins its dramatic descent into the Poschiavo Valley. It’s here where you’ll notice a difference in climate and landscape as you approach Italy.

A thing to keep in mind when buying your tickets is that the Bernina Express is made up of closed train cars with large, high windows offering panoramic views. However, the windows cannot be opened. Tickets cost a bit more and assigned seats are required. An alternative option is to take the normal Swiss red trains where there are no assigned seats. You can also open the windows meaning it’s ideal for photographers. More information can be found here.

Scotland – The West Highland Line

1187252340_8456354ec3_zWalk in Harry Potter’s footsteps by taking the West Highland Line over the stunning Glenfinnan viaduct in Scotland. It is over this viaduct that the Hogwarts Express travels in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. Voted the most beautiful rail journey in the world, The West Highland Line runs from Glasgow via Fort William to the harbour town of Mallaig, offering passengers stunning glimpses of crofters’ cottages, castle ruins, remote landscapes, gorgeous lochs and dramatic mountains before crossing the famous Glennfinnan Viaduct. The journey takes around 5 hours. In summer you can enjoy crossing the viaduct aboard on the Jacobite steam train which adds to the fairytale atmosphere.

Germany – Rhine Valley

9531033507_4274e1efe4_zFor a fairytale experience take the Rhine Valley train from Mainz to Koblenz. While passing through lush vineyards and picturesque towns, the train follows the Rhine river where an abundance of medieval castles and fortresses can be spotted on its river banks. One of the highlights of this train journey is the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein in Koblenz offering a panoramic view of the city. If you have a Eurail Pass, you can even hop on and off from the train to the riverboats which are operated by the KD Rhine line.

Have you ever been aboard on one of these scenic train rides? Or you want to tell us about another which shouldn’t be missed? We would love to hear your experiences and tips!

Images: [Konstantin Malanchev, Kabelleger, Rosh G. Strachan, Carmen Eisbar]

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