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Train trips around the world offer a leisurely ride through scenic landscapes. In Europe, there’s no better way to take in the incredible sights. Riding the rails offers the chance to get a glimpse of some of the continent’s most spectacular places while you kick back and enjoy the ride. For a memorable adventure, these are the best train trips in Europe.
Oslo to Bergen, Norway
This jaw-dropping journey may be Europe’s most spectacular train trip of all. Passengers roll through craggy mountain landscapes and across the gorgeous Hardangervidda Plateau to the highest station in Norway, Finse, at over 4,000 feet in elevation. And, from Myrdal to Flam, you’ll go straight up the steepest railway line in the world. You’ll rise from the shores of Aurlandsfjord as the train makes the steep climb – steeper than any other normal-gauge railroad on the planet. You’ll see rivers cutting through deep ravines, a multitude of waterfalls that plunge down the sides of snow-capped mountains and you’ll twist through tunnels that spiral in and out of the mountain too. It travels slowly so that you can take it all in, and stops at some of the most scenic places like the Kjosfossen waterfall, which cascades for over 300 feet.
Budapest, Hungary to Istanbul, Turkey
Go back in time on the Danube Express, where you’ll cross cultural, political and religious conflicts that span not just centuries, but millennia. Carriages bring passengers between Budapest and Istanbul, winding from the Bosporus on Asian shores, over the dramatic Carpathian Mountains and across vast Hungarian plains. You’ll have the chance to experience the region’s impressive architecture in both capital cities as well as the legendary Transylvania countryside in between, stopping at famous sights like Bran Castle, better known as Dracula’s Castle, and Sighisoara, said to be the birthplace of Dracula.
The Matterhorn Railway, Switzerland
This journey in the heart of the Swiss Alps has some of the most stunning views of the world-renowned Matterhorn, a majestic mountain near the resort village of Zermatt, Switzerland. The train is the highest open-air rack railway in Europe and takes passengers on a short ride from the center of Zermatt to the summit of Gornergrat Glacier – the second-longest glacier in the Swiss Alps. While it’s just a quick 40-minute trip up the slopes, this train offers some of the best views of one of Switzerland’s most incredible destinations, and once you reach the top, you’ll be able to see up to 29 mountain peaks. This train runs year-round, so you can enjoy the panoramic views of green meadows in the spring and snow-capped slopes in the winter.
The Black Forest, Germany
The Black Forest was named as such because the woods were so thick that the sun couldn’t penetrate the pine trees. It stretches west to the Rhine River and south into the Alpine foothills in Switzerland, and the southwest corner of Baden-Württemberg offers some of Germany’s most stunning natural landscapes. It’s the stuff fairy tales are made of, and they have been, quite literally, as this ancient forest was the very setting, and inspiration, for Brothers Grimm fantasies. There’s arguably no better way to experience this region than by a trip on the Deutsche Bahn’s Black Forest Line, which begins at Offenburg, traveling to Konstanz, and Freiburg to Seebrugg. Highlights include the Lakes of Titisee and Schluchsee, traditional farms and charming half-timbered villages, and the extraordinary stretch from Hornberg to St. Georgen.
The Andalusia Region, Spain
The Al Andalus Express train is a great trip to take if you want to see the sights of Spain’s Andalusia region. The luxurious train, with its polished wood carriage interiors and glistening etched-glass windows, makes it feel like you’re on a grand train journey from the past. The six-day tour travels through the historic towns of Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Jerez, and meanders through hills of olive and citrus trees, as well as the stonier foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to gaze at the massive 8th-century mosque-turned-cathedral Mezquita, the Alhambra and the Ronda bullring, the oldest in Spain.
Munich, Germany to Innsbruck, Austria
They say the only way to go if you want to experience some of Europe’s best mountain landscapes, is to ride the train between Munich and Innsbruck via the Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Along the way, you’ll take in sparkling lakes, soak up views of the highest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze, and be mesmerized by dramatic mountain peaks along the Mittenwaldbahn between Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck. Once in the beautiful capital of the Tyrol region, the town’s position high in the Alps will provide more majestic views. You’ll have the opportunity to visit a castle, tour the Imperial Palace, and more.
London, England to Venice, Italy
The Orient Express, inaugurated in 1883 by Belgian entrepreneur Georges Nagelmackers, became the most famous train in the world. Over the decades, it’s appeared in countless films, television shows and novels, exemplifying the romance, intrigue and mystery of long-distance, international train travel. While it initially ran only between Paris and Istanbul, new routes, including this London to Venice route, were eventually developed. Today’s Orient Express may not be exactly like the original, but it still offers sophistication and luxurious comfort, carrying passengers across Europe in the style of a bygone era, with its glamorous carriages, fantastic cuisine and impeccable, personal service. For those who want the best of the best, along with the chance to experience a wide variety of destinations between England and Italy, this is definitely your trip.
Belgrade, Serbia to Bar, Montenegro
This 10-hour journey explores the heart of former Yugoslavia. It begins in Belgrade, sometimes referred to as Europe’s “up and coming capital,” known for its exuberant nightlife and glitzy club scene. Along the way, you can hop off at any of the multiple stops to shop, see the sights or even overnight, before boarding a later train and continuing to the ancient town of Bar, located on the sun-soaked Adriatic. Offering an alluring mix of old and new, this port town is incredibly clean and offers numerous attractions, like the old town of Bar, the Haj Nehaj Fortress, with remnants from the 15th-century fortress itself and the castle of King Nikola. There’s also an old olive tree that’s said to have been alive for over 2,000 years, and Skadar lake is home to one of the largest bird habitats, along with a significant number of monasteries and churches.
Inverness, Scotland to Gwynedd, Wales
If you’ve always wanted to see fairy-tale castles, this may be your ultimate trip. Over the 15-day journey, you’ll discover many of Britain’s historic fortresses, and get entry to nearly 600 attractions, which can be experienced at numerous stops along the way. It begins in the Scottish Highlands at Inverness, near-legendary Loch Ness, where passengers get to tour Urquhart Castle. Afterward, the train rolls south to Stirling Bridge, where William Wallace triumphed over the English in 1297, and then on to breathtaking Edinburgh Castle. Some of the most popular sights in England include Dover Castle, with its wartime tunnels, and in the final destination of Gwynedd, Wales, you’ll tour Caernarfon Castle, a World Heritage site where the investiture of Prince Charles was held.
Bernina Express, Switzerland and Italy
The Bernina Express is a hypnotic adventure that brings passengers through awe-inspiring snow-capped mountains aboard bright red carriages. It passes dramatic gorges, glistening glaciers, frozen lakes, more than 200 bridges, and through over 50 winding tunnels. You’ll embark on the journey at Chur, Switzerland’s oldest city, and the trip concludes in the picturesque town of Tirano Italy, hugging the mountains that straddle the border between the two nations. The narrow-gauge, vertigo-inducing train somehow manages the seemingly impossible switchbacks, including one point in which the train’s engine trundles across a bridge while the tail of it is still underneath.
Kristinehamn to Gallivare, Sweden
The Inlandsbanan (Inland Line) is a scenic train route in Sweden that offers the chance to travel through the Arctic Circle. The over 800-mile-long journey begins in Kristinehamm in the south and travels to Gallivare in the north, with summer departures only, from mid-June through the end of August. Along the way, it crosses some of Scandinavia’s wildest, most breathtaking terrain, and you may be able to catch a glimpse of elk, bears and moose too. In northern Sweden, while traveling through the dense forests, be sure to keep an eye out for reindeer. The train crosses the Arctic Circle and continues through the Laponian area, a region dominated by mountains and lakes in Lapland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.