Destinations

Europe

Top Best European Destinations to Visit by Train

1. Switzerland, 2. Italy, 3. Scotland, 4. France, 5. Germany, 6. Spain, 7. Manarola, 8. Mountain Rigi - Luzern, 9. Lisbon, 10. Jacobite Steam Train, 11. Sóller- Mallorca, 12. Stockholm. Nothing beats the experience of traveling through Europe by train. From the incredible views and comfortable onboard amenities to the ability to travel quickly and easily from city center to city center, many people consider rail travel to be the best way to see Europe and beyond. While nearly every country in Europe has fantastic train journeys, we have chosen those that provide an appealing combination of a well-connected network of trains in Europe, fast city-to-city lines, epic scenic trains, and the ability to see the best sights of the country by rail. Whether you're planning a bucket-list rail trip or just looking for a weekend getaway, here are the best European countries to visit by train!

  1. Switzerland
  2. Italy
  3. Scotland
  4. France
  5. Germany
  6. Spain
  7. Manarola
  8. Mountain Rigi – Luzern
  9. Lisbon
  10. Jacobite Steam Train
  11. Sóller- Mallorca
  12. Stockholm

Switzerland

One of the world’s most efficient and scenic rail networks is hidden within the small but incredibly beautiful country of Switzerland. The idyllic landscape, dotted with wooden chalets, snowy peaks, dramatic waterfalls, and mountain-fringed lakes, is entirely accessible by train, and at times spectacularly so. Take the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz, which crosses dozens of dramatic viaducts overlooking lush valleys. The Golden Pass scenic train from Lucerne to Montreux will take you through vibrant fields of wildflowers. Alternatively, slowly ascend to the ‘top of Europe’ at the continent’s highest train station near the summit of Jungfrau Mountain, marveling at the winter wonderland that surrounds you.

On this exciting rail vacation through Switzerland’s Lakes and Mountains, take the scenic trip of a lifetime. Beginning with overnight stays in Geneva and Montreux, travel along the Golden Pass Line to Interlaken. Travel to the highest railway station at the top of Jungfrau Mountain before taking the Glacier Express through the Swiss Alps to Chur. Finish this incredible journey with a day trip to Tirano on the Bernina Express, which travels across spectacular viaducts and past impressive glaciers.

This eight-night rail journey through Switzerland encompasses the best of what this wonderful country has to offer. Begin your Scenic Switzerland journey with a two-night stay in grand St Moritz, where you’ll board the stunning Bernina Express train. Enjoy the iconic Matterhorn Mountain via the Gornergrat Cog Railway after taking the spectacular Glacier Express train to historical Zermatt for two nights. Travel to lakeside Lausanne for a relaxing night before continuing on to the traditional Swiss town of Lucerne via the Golden Pass line. Enjoy three nights here with day trips to Mount Pilatus, the world’s steepest cogwheel train line, and the Jungfrau Railway, Europe’s highest railway station.

Peaks of Switzerland from Wengen, one of the most favorite scenic rail vacations, allows you to see some of Switzerland’s most beautiful peaks firsthand. Begin with a Eurostar ride from London to Paris, then on to Basel, where you’ll spend a night immersed in the cultures of this inviting city. Travel from Basel to Wengen, Switzerland, for five nights of relaxation and adventure in this idyllic alpine setting. Use your included Swiss Flexi-Pass to visit the Schilthorn, made famous in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Jungfrau, Europe’s tallest peak.

Significant train routes:

  • Lucerne to Zurich – 45 mins
  • Lucerne to Interlaken – 1h50 mins
  • Bern to Interlaken – 52 mins
  • Geneva to Bern – 1h42 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train

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top best european destinations to visit by train

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Italy

Traveling by train in Italy is faster, more convenient, and more relaxing than flying or driving. The high-speed train network connects nearly every major city, center to center, with no lengthy check-ins, baggage fees, or weight limits. Rome to Florence takes only 1 hour and 32 minutes, 3 hours and 45 minutes to Venice, 1 hour and 10 minutes to Naples, and 2 hours and 55 minutes to Milan. You’ll be seeing the country by train before you know it! Regional trains in Italy connect to city lines, rounding out the country’s excellent train network. Local, scenic trains provide an extraordinary glimpse into the true culture and flavor of the country and its people, from the iconic Bernina Express, which traverses southern Switzerland into Northern Italy in spectacular fashion, to the regional lines running along the colorful cliffs and crystal-clear waters of the Amalfi Coast.

Explore the cities to the fullest with included sightseeing tours and skip-the-line passes. Gondola rides down Venice’s canals, discovering artistic masterpieces in Florence, and marveling at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Travel by high-speed rail between the fascinating cities. This Italian adventure is not one to be missed! The Bernina Express and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express would be impossible to leave off this list. This fantastic European train vacation combines two iconic train experiences: the Bernina Express and the Venice Simplon-Orient Express en route to the enchanting Venice, Italy!

From your private compartment on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express, experience what it’s like to travel in luxury while taking in the breathtaking views. Explore the picturesque canals and history of one of the world’s most visited destinations in Venice. Then, take the Bernina Express through the Swiss Alps to St. Moritz, a lakeside resort town, for a relaxing two-night stay. This luxurious vacation to the beautiful Amalfi Coast includes stops in the fascinating cities of Geneva and Florence. Stay for four nights in spectacular Sorrento, overlooking the Mediterranean, on the Amalfi Coast via the Alps. In one of Europe’s most stunning regions, you can browse the chic boutiques for Italian souvenirs, stroll through orange and lemon groves, and take a boat trip to the breathtaking, prehistoric caves that dot the coastline.

  • Rome to Florence – 1h30 mins
  • Rome to Milan – 2h55 mins
  • Rome to Venice – 3h42 mins
  • Florence to Milan – 1h42 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train

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top best european destinations to visit by train

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Scotland

Scotland is an incredible destination at any time of year, thanks to its wild, vibrant, and majestic scenery, as well as its rich history and tradition. Traveling by train allows you to enjoy breathtaking scenery right from your seat. There is no better way to experience this part of the world than by train, from overnight train adventures to luxury sleeper experiences, and from cities to wide-open spaces. On the Grand Tour of Scotland, you’ll see Scotland in all its glory, visiting its most iconic landscapes and attractions over the course of ten days. This breathtaking itinerary includes unforgettable stops in Inverness, the Isle of Skye, Glasgow, Fort William, and Edinburgh.

Explore Inverness, the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, the magical Isle of Skye, and Eilean Donan Castle, as well as the West Highland line between Fort William and Mallaig. Enjoy the ever-changing scenery as you travel from city to city by visiting Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond, and Edinburgh Castle. The Caledonian Sleeper will take you to the Grand Inverness and the Highlands. Inverness is full of interesting places to visit, fantastic museums, and Highland charm. Explore everything the town has to offer. Explore the Highlands by visiting Glen Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness. Visit the legendary Isle of Skye for its unforgettable mountainous landscapes. Hello and welcome to the Scottish Highlands!

On the Belmond Royal Scotsman Highland Journey, enjoy faultless service and gourmet dining as you travel aboard the Royal Scotsman into the majestic scenery of the Scottish Highlands. Explore a 13th-century castle on the Rothiemurchus Estate, learn about the verdant scenery and fascinating history of the Culloden Battlefields, and then partake in a whiskey tasting at the famous Strathisla distillery. Relax in the opulent surroundings of the Royal Scotsman as the breathtaking Scottish landscapes pass by your window on this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

  • London to Edinburgh – 5h20 mins
  • Edinburgh to Perth – 1h24 mins
  • Dundee to Perth – 24 mins
  • Edinburgh to Glasgow – 1h10 mins
  • Perth to Glasgow – 1h7 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train

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top best european destinations to visit by train

Photo by Meatle on Pixabay

France

If you’re planning a trip to France and want to get a true sense of the country, taking the train is the way to go. Traveling by train between France’s iconic towns and cities is comfortable, scenic, romantic, and quick! The country’s world-famous TGV travels from city center to city center at up to 199 mph in quiet, relaxed comfort. Most of the country’s most popular cities can be reached in under three hours from Paris, including Lyon in just under two hours, Bordeaux in just over two hours, and Lille in just an hour!

Enjoy this romantic vacation to three beautiful French cities by booking the Grand Paris, Avignon, and nice trip. First, there are the iconic sights and sounds of Paris, as well as the beautiful gardens of Giverny and the magnificent Palace of Versailles. Avignon, famous for the stunning Palace of the Popes, is a city brimming with culture and delicious gastronomy. Spend three days exploring the city’s sights before taking the train from Avignon along the beautiful French Riviera to Nice. Spend three relaxing days exploring Nice, strolling along the Promenade des Anglais, which runs elegantly along the Mediterranean coast, visiting the charming markets, and dining on delicious seafood.

The Gastronomic Capitals of France is an experience to remember. This 11-day culinary adventure includes stops at locations synonymous with France’s food and wine. Travel in comfort aboard the world-famous TGV trains while sampling the regional specialties of each city. Pack lightly because you’ll be bringing a few items home with you at the end of this fantastic rail vacation. The beautiful Sacre Couer Church in Paris, the walled town of Beaune, the Cité du Vin complex, and much more can be seen on this trip.

On the Cote D’Azur: Nice and Cannes trip, discover the glamorous Côte d’Azur in the south of France, with its glittering Mediterranean coastline. The French Riviera is the ideal vacation destination, with everything from beaches to boutiques and the exclusive Principality of Monaco. Spend three nights each in Nice and Cannes, with train travel between cities and a day trip to Monaco.

  • Versailles to Paris – 12 mins
  • Mont St. Michel to Rennes – 47 mins
  • Rennes to Mont St. Michel – 47 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train
top best european destinations to visit by train

Germany

Rail travel in Germany is as fast and efficient as you’d expect, but what you might not expect are the breathtaking views along the country’s many scenic routes. Consider dense forests, snow-capped mountains, dramatic castles, and glistening lakes. One such train ride is also the shortest in Germany, lasting only 55 minutes along the Rhine River from Koblenz to Mainz and offering passengers fairy-tale castles and lush vineyards along the river’s slopes. It’s just a taste of the memorable train journeys that Germany is known for.

Discover four Imperial capital cities by train on the Grand Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest trip. Travel by high-speed train through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary, taking in breathtaking scenery along the way. You’ll be able to make the most of your stay in these wonderful destinations with city passes hop-on, hop-off tours, skip-the-line passes, and exciting extras all included.

On this six-night rail vacation, visit Munich, Vienna, and Prague. Spend two nights in Munich, the Bavarian capital, before taking the train to Vienna and exploring the city’s museums, imperial palaces, and baroque architecture. Then travel to Prague for spectacular sightseeing in one of the world’s most romantic cities.

On the Cologne, Munich, and Berlin trip, spend a six-night rail vacation visiting three exciting and historical German cities. Begin with an overnight stay in Cologne, where you can explore the Old Town and marvel at the Dom before continuing on to Munich, the capital of Bavaria. Explore this picturesque town’s Gothic architecture and sample some local beers at a traditional Bavarian tavern. Finally, take the subway to Berlin! Explore the fascinating history of the Berlin Wall as well as the diverse range of shops and restaurants available in this amazing city.

  • Berlin to Munich – 6 hours
  • Berlin to Frankfurt – 4h10 mins
  • Berlin to Hamburg – 1h45 mins
  • Berlin to Cologne – 4h30 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train

Photo by Didgeman on Pixabay

top best european destinations to visit by train

Photo by Thorsten1970 on Pixabay

Spain

If you want to see the sights of Spain’s Andalusia region, take the Al Andalus Express train. The opulent train, with its polished wood carriage interiors and gleaming etched-glass windows, transports you to a grand train journey from the past. The six-day tour passes through the historic towns of Seville, Cordoba, Granada, and Jerez, as well as hills of olive and citrus trees and the stonier Sierra Nevada foothills. Along the way, you’ll see the massive 8th-century mosque-turned-cathedral Mezquita, the Alhambra, and Spain’s oldest bullring, the Ronda.

With a trip to Spain, you can explore pristine coastlines and immerse yourself in some of the world’s most vibrant cities. Spain, the largest country on the Iberian Peninsula, is a destination known for its spicy culture, incredible arts, and world-renowned culinary scene, all of which have a distinct Mediterranean flavor. Explore the splendor of this country with a vacation package from Vacations by Rail. Itineraries in Spain can take you through northern Spain or to well-known destinations in the south. You can spend a week in Spain on its own or combine it with a trip to neighboring Portugal or other European countries for a well-planned multi-country vacation.

Spain’s highlights are presented in each city as visitors explore with guided tours and inspired excursions. Visit Barcelona, a bustling city with centuries-old architecture and sites dating back to the medieval and Roman periods. The sandy beaches and magnificent parks here, of course, are simply breathtaking. Travel from Barcelona to Madrid, Spain’s capital city, and explore attractions such as the Prado Museum, one of the world’s most famous art museums, and the Royal Palace, which dates back to the 18th century. Travel south to Cordoba, a Moorish-influenced city with a historic Jewish Quarter.

In Granada, you’ll be surrounded by imposing medieval structures, including the world-famous Alhambra, and breathtaking mountain vistas. Taste your way through Seville, the birthplace of tapas, and stroll through the Santa Cruz Quarter’s white-washed buildings. Relax on the Costa del Sol’s sun-kissed beaches in Torremolinos and Marbella. Enjoy the delicious locally produced wines and delectable cuisine that make Spain one of the best places to visit in the world as your tour progresses.

  • Algeciras to Ronda – 1h36 mins
  • Barcelona to Madrid – 2h45 mins
  • Madrid to Málaga – 3h10 mins
  • Valencia to Cádiz – 5h38 mins
  • San Sebastián to Santiago de Compostela – 10h26 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train

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top best european destinations to visit by train

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Manarola

Following the masterpieces of art and architecture in the Tuscan capital, travel to the Ligurian coast for equally breathtaking land and seascapes. The following is a comprehensive guide to taking the train from Florence to Cinque Terre-Manarola. The postcard-perfect fishing villages, dramatic coastal cliffs, and scenic hiking trails of Italy’s Cinque Terre have made it a popular tourist destination. Although this journey can be done as a day trip from Florence, it is best to stay at least overnight to truly explore the area and do any hiking. The train is the best way to get there no matter how long you stay.

One of the Cinque Terre villages, Manarola, is only 111 miles (179 kilometers) from Florence. The short distance between the towns leads visitors to believe that driving between the towns is the best option, but driving to and around the Cinque Terre is complicated by both the mountainous terrain and the small size of the towns, which are largely closed to vehicles. It is far more convenient to take the train directly from Florence’s center to Manarola’s center.

There are approximately 11 trains per day from Florence to Manarola, the second smallest of the Cinque Terre towns. Because Manarola is so small, there are no direct trains to its two-track station overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and nearly all trains are Regionale for part or all of the journey. Because Manarola is on the local line that runs from La Spezia, all trains from Florence require at least one change of train. Some trains make two stops, usually in Pisa or, more rarely, in Florence’s Campo di Marte station, and then in La Spezia. Make sure to double-check your itinerary to ensure that you connect at the correct station. The trip takes 2.5-3.5 hours, and tickets range from $20 to $28. Also, try to sit on the left side of the train from La Spezia to get the best views of the sea along the route that follows the coast. Remember that weekends and holidays often result in less frequent service and, on occasion, longer travel times.

Location: Italy

  • Manarola to La Spezia Centrale – 7 mins
  • Manarola to Monterosso – 11 mins
  • Manarola to Florence – 1h52 mins
  • Manarola to Riomaggiore – 2 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train

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top best european destinations to visit by train

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Mountain Rigi – Luzern

The Rigi, with its breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views, provides a first-rate mountain experience in any season. The cog railways from Goldau and Vitznau, as well as the cable car from Weggis, allow for a variety of round trips that can be combined with a boat ride on Lake Lucerne. Since 1871, it has been transporting guests comfortably from Vitznau up to the impressive heart of the mountains as Europe’s first mountain railway. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the lake landscape while riding the cog railway for 30 minutes to nearly 1,800m above sea level, passing grazing cows, traditional farms, and colorful wildflower meadows.

New vehicles will join the historic fleet in the spring of 2022. The design of these new trains pays homage to the world’s oldest cog railcar, No. 6, which was built in 1911 and still runs on the Goldau-Rigi Kulm line. The smart white and bronze color scheme gives the new carriages a timeless look while also connecting them to the service’s roots as Europe’s first mountain railway. Unlike the current fleet, which uses the braking energy generated while traveling downhill to heat the carriages, the new trains will feed this power back into their own network as electricity, saving resources for the uphill journey. Rigi Railways thus takes another significant step toward greater sustainability.

Location: Switzerland

  • Lucerne to Rigi – 2h10 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train

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top best european destinations to visit by train

Photo by suju-foto on Pixabay

Lisbon

Lisbon is one of the most appealing capital cities in Europe. It is beautifully situated, extending over the hills that line the Tejo Estuary. Lisbon is easily accessible by train from London, Paris, Madrid, and other European cities, but the journey is lengthy. Lisbon serves as the hub of Portugal’s small but efficient rail network. There are several stations in the city, but two are particularly popular with visitors. Santa Apolónia is a long-established rail terminus just east of the city center. In 1998, Oriente debuted a showpiece new station. Even if you don’t want to take the train, its futuristic architecture makes it worth a visit.

Long-distance domestic trains from the south of Portugal (for example, from Faro and Beja) serve Oriente station in Lisbon. Trains from the north, such as those from Braga, Porto, Evora, and Entroncamento, stop at Oriente before proceeding to Santa Apolónia. Both Oriente and Santa Apolónia are served by overnight trains from Madrid and other Spanish cities. It should be noted that there are no direct daytime trains from Spain to Lisbon. The journey from Vigo (on the Galician coast of northwestern Spain) to Lisbon is perfectly feasible during the day, but a train change in Porto is always required.

There are numerous local suburban rail services in Lisbon, some of which depart from locations other than Santa Apolónia or Oriente. Trains to Belém, Cascais, and Estoril, for example, depart from Cais do Sodré station, while local services to Sintra depart from the charming Lisboa Rossio station, which served as the city’s main railway hub until the mid-1950s. You can also take the ferry from Cais do Sodré station to the terminus Cacilhas, where a bus will take you to see the Christ Roi.

Location: Portugal

  • Lisbon to Porto – 3h10 mins
  • Lisbon to Madrid – 9h19 mins
  • Lisbon to Seville – 9h43 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train

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top best european destinations to visit by train

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Jacobite Steam Train

This 84-mile round trip is described as one of the greatest railway journeys in the world, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct and offering a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The Jacobite Steam Train begins near Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, and travels along part of the legendary West Highland Line between Fort William and Mallaig, passing through a number of impressive locations, attractions, and natural features. You’ll travel along the shores of Loch Eil, past Loch Morar, Scotland’s deepest freshwater loch, and on to Mallaig, where a ferry service to the Isle of Skye is available.

When you arrive in Mallaig, soak up the atmosphere, life, and culture of a true fishing village, and while you’re here, why not indulge in a tasty fish & chips where many vendors use fresh, locally caught seafood? The journey’s high point is when the train crosses the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, from which you can gaze out at the Glenfinnan Monument and Loch Shiel in the distance. This crescent-shaped viaduct is well-known throughout the world for its remarkable engineering and appearance in the Harry Potter films. It’s simply picture-perfect, and it’s no surprise that it’s regarded as one of Scotland’s must-see attractions. Immortalize the passage of the Jacobite Steam Train, a precious souvenir of your trip to Scotland. Experience an incredible experience and book your tour of the region today on board the Jacobite Steam Train.

Location: Scotland

  • Fort William to Mallaig – 2h15 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train

Photo by dkean271 on Pixabay

top best european destinations to visit by train

Photo by Eirik_Raudi on Pixabay

Sóller- Mallorca

The train conductor yells “All aaaaboard!” as the train slowly pulls away from Palma’s Ferrocarril Railway station in Mallorca. What are we going to do? The destination is the lovely town of Sóller. A thrilling journey begins when you look out the window of a 110-year-old wooden train. Keep that window seat open to take in the breathtaking views of the rail route. On your way to Sóller, you’ll pass through 13 tunnels and see stone viaducts, charming villages, and the imposing Tramuntana mountains as you cross the Valley of Gold, which is densely forested with ancient olive trees and orange groves.

The train ride from Palma to Sóller takes approximately one hour! So, if you’re looking for views that will take your breath away, hop aboard and embark on the 27-kilometer journey that begins in Palma, Mallorca’s capital. There are 1 to 6 daily rail crossings depending on the season. During the summer, the first train leaves Palma at 10:10 and the last train leaves Sóller at 19:40. A one-way ticket from Palma to Sóller costs around €18. It costs €25 to purchase a return ticket. So, get your ticket and enjoy the ride!

After an hour on the trail tracks of the old, narrow-gauge railway, you will arrive at Sóller station. This trip back in time to 1912 in an antique, wooden train surrounded by gleaming brown brass was a blast! But now it’s time to leave those gleaming, wood-paneled carriages behind and explore Sóller. The station has mood lighting, with old, rusted lamps pointing down at welcoming signs written in five different languages. Take the stairs down to the Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square) in the town center. There, you will get yourself in front of the most prominent building in Sóller, the imposing church of St. Bartomeu in Neo-Gothic style. The splendid square is surrounded by cute shops and cafés where you can enjoy a cup of coffee.

Location: Spain

  • Palma to Sóller – 1 hour

top best european destinations to visit by train

Photo by karsten_madsen on Pixabay

top best european destinations to visit by train

Photo by magnifiqus on Pixabay

Stockholm

Stockholm Centralstation is the city’s primary transportation hub. If you’re arriving by train or taking the Arlanda Express from Arlanda Airport, this is likely your final stop. The station is conveniently located and linked to the T-Centralen subway station. Some regional and national train lines also make stops at Stockholm Södra, Stockholm Odenplan, Flemingsberg, and lvsjö Stations. Train tickets can only be purchased at Stockholm Centralstation’s ticket dispensers or online; there is no staffed ticket office, but station hosts are available if you require assistance or assistance. However, Tour & Tickets in the main hall sells MTRX-train tickets, and you can purchase public transportation tickets at SL Center, which is located below the ground floor.

There are also several restaurants and shops, as well as luggage lockers. Stockholm Centralstation is also linked to the Cityterminalen bus depot, which serves as the primary hub for regional and international bus travelers. The Flygbussarna airport coaches stop here as well. By train, you can easily explore Stockholm and its surroundings. It is a gentle and environmentally friendly way to explore one of Europe’s most beautiful regions. Book the best Stockholm activities and hotels at the best prices in Sweden’s capital.

Location: Sweden

  • Stockholm to Copenhagen – 5h38 mins

top best european destinations to visit by train
top best european destinations to visit by train

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